President presents MIRA’s “Ran Laari” awards

President Abdulla Yameen presented the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority’s (MIRA) “Ran Laari” (golden laari) awards at a ceremony last night to 11 taxpayers that paid the highest amount of tax last year.

According to MIRA, taxes paid by the 11 recipients accounted for 17 percent of the MVR9.8 billion (US$636 million) collected as tax revenue in 2013.

The five private companies that paid the highest amount in taxes were Villa Shipping and Trading Company, Trans-Maldivian Airways, Crown Company, Kurehdhoo Holding, and Sunland Hotels.

Among government-owned companies, the award was presented to the Maldives Airports Company while the daughter of former Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen, Aminath Sheznee, the late Hussain Shakir, BHM owner Hussain Moosa, and Helegili resort operator Annie Mary Emmy were given the award in the individual category.

Speaking at the ceremony in Dharubaaruge, President Yameen said MIRA’s efforts were “credit worthy” and praised the authority’s employees.

The “litmus test” for MIRA’s success and efficiency should be how much the cost of administration declines every year, he added.

Yameen suggested that the authority’s target should be spending 10 laari for every MVR199 (US$13) collected as tax revenue.

MIRA’s work would have to be “amplified” in the future in conjunction with the government’s efforts to diversify the economy and broaden the tax base, he said.

The tax base, structure, terminology, and methodology would be very different from the current “simplistic corporate taxation” once new industries are introduced, Yameen explained, referring to a possible petroleum tax as an example.

A custom duty levied at the border for imported goods for the easiest tax to collect as opposed to value added taxes such as sales taxes, he noted, which involves a much higher cost of administration.

In the future, he added, all sales transactions should “ultimately” be viewable on a MIRA main frame as it would significantly lower administrative costs.

Taxation in any country inevitably involves “tax fraud,” Yameen continued, which involves tax evasion and deliberate fraud.

While the current administration did not wish to criminalise and prosecute businesses, Yameen said cases of tax evasion could not be disregarded.


Kuda Bandos will be accessible to locals after resort development, says government

Malé area picnic island Kuda Bandos will remain accessible to the public even after its development as a tourist resort, Deputy Minister of Tourism Hussain Lirar has said today.

“The island was given for development as per regulations and laws to be developed as tourist resort. But the developer has decided to allow public access to the island for picnics,” Lirar said.

Malé City Council yesterday passed a resolution against the development of Kuda Bandos, with Mayor Mohamed Shihab arguing that the island ought to remain as a picnic island as there was no other nearby for the capital’s 100,000 plus citizens.

“[Kuda Bandos] has remained the only picnic island for a very long time. Now people of Malé are losing that as well,” he said. “All nearby islands are being given as resorts,” Councillor Shamau Shareef today told Minivan News today.

Members of the council yesterday met senior members of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) including its leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Gayoom yesterday expressed his concern over the matter through his official twitter account, saying that hoped the news was not true.

Councillor Shareef reported that the response from the PPM leadership was positive and that they had assured the matter would be discussed with the government.

Council members will also meet leaders of other political parties to discuss the issue.

Picnic islands

Traditionally, picnic islands were leased at a very cheap rate for ‘tourism-related purposes’ by the government without any regulation as to how they were valued. Over time, however, the islands came to be utilised as any other tourist location, without being subject to the same taxes.

One example of this is Kaafu Kudafinolhu picnic island which was leased for five years to the Villa Group for an annual fee of just US$1,500 in 1998.

In 2010, the government allowed picnic islands to extend their leases by fifty years and to re-develop the islands into resorts by giving an extra fee to the government – twenty percent initially, the rest within a three year period – without a bidding process.

By 2013, procedures created under the Tourism Act allowed a company with at least a 10 percent share held by the state to develop a resort from land set aside for tourism use, such as a picnic island.

This regulation was criticised as excluding small and medium businesses by requiring joint venture partners to have a minimum financial worth of US$300 million, and to make a minimum initial capital investment of at least US$100 million.

Kuda Bandos itself was initially leased to former Vice President Waheed Deen – also the owner of Bandos Island resort- for an annual fee of US$6,000. Under his stewardship, the island has been made available exclusively for locals on Fridays, Saturdays, and public holidays.

The island was opened for bids in November 2012, with Waheed Deen – the sole bidder – winning the lease again for an annual fee of US$180,582, reported local media.

At the time, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said that a joint venture company would be established with the government to develop the island, though it is yet unclear if Waheed Deen is developing the resort with the government.

A wider issue

The response to the potential development of Kuda Bandos can be compared to reaction that met the decision to lease Kaafu Thanburudhoo for resort development in 2012.

Local surfers soon started a campaign to end exclusivity, and to allow free access to the island’s unique surf breaks.

After the campaign gained international support, the government last month amended the regulation on determining the borders of islands leased for tourism. Surfing areas and other tourist attractions near such islands are no longer considered part of it, even if they fall within the given borders.

One surfer who led the campaign as then president of the Maldivian Surf Association told Minivan News that the Thanburudhoo and Kuda Bandos cases were part of a bigger problem.

“This really should not be about just Kuda Bandos. That island is not enough to cater for the huge population in Malé,” said Ahmed Fauzan

“It is part a bigger problem – the same thing is going on with public spaces like parks being leased for businesses, even within Malé.”

He said that the issue is already spreading to other central atolls, with the majority of the islands being given away for tourism.

“It is part of our culture to go on picnic to the nearby island – we still have that right. There should be proper planning and consultation with locals. Just giving away every single bit of island and reef just like that is unsustainable and wrong,” said Fauzan.

More than sixty islands in Kaafu atoll are developed – or under development – with no uninhabited islands excluded.


Vice president praises Chinese significance to Maldives development

Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen spoke yesterday at a ceremony marking 63 years since the People’s Republic of China was founded, expressing gratitude for the technical and economic assistance the Maldives had been provided and pledging further cooperation between the two nations in the future.

At the special reception held at Trader’s Hotel in Male’ yesterday, the vice president also praised the speed and nature of democratic development within China – something he hoped to see emulated in the Maldives.

“I have no doubt your country is going in the right direction and leading the world,” he told attendees, which included business figures, senior government representatives and diplomats.

“Even if you look at the political changes in china they have proved that they are taking patient, calculative, constructive and very objective directions and I believe that is how the democracy must be developed, not very hastily.”

The vice president, a local philanthropist and owner of the Bandos Island Resort and Spa, also praised the growing economic significance of China to the Maldives in terms of trade and tourism income.

“I am pleased to note that China is currently the number one tourist market for the Maldives and I hope that the number of Chinese tourists travelling to the Maldives will continue to increase,” he said. “In addition, trade between the Maldives and China has increased significantly in the past few years and China remains one of the largest trading partners of the Maldives.”

The reception was the first of its kind to be held by China in the Maldives since the country opened its first full diplomatic mission in Male’ last year.

According to the vice president, 2012 also marks 40 years since China and the Maldives first established diplomatic ties.


MDP denies involvement in Hulhumale’ demonstration against VP, pledges commitment to talks

The Maldvian Democratic Party (MDP) said it remains committed to ceasing street demonstrations in order to facilitate talks with government-aligned parties, playing down fears that protests by a number of “individuals” against the vice-president on Thursday could derail negotiations.

MDP spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed today that the party had not been behind demonstrations held Thursday (August 9) on the island of Hulhumale’ during a visit by Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen. Ghafoor added that there had been no official communication from the government so far following these demonstrations with regard to stopping talks between the country’s political leaders.

Since the controversial transfer of power that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan into office on February 7, former President Mohamed Nasheed has alleged he was removed from office in a “coup d’etat”. The allegations have lead to months of political uncertainty across the nation, resulting last month in the indefinite suspension of parliament.

Less then 24 hours after welcoming the MDP’s decision to suspend ongoing street protests against the government to “facilitate meaningful political dialogue” with the coalition government, the President’s Office yesterday told local media it might reconsider participation in talks following demonstrations held Thursday (August 9) in Hulhumale’.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was quoted by the Sun Online news service as saying that the government’s decision to participate in fresh talks had “to be reconsidered”, alleging the MDP had been directly involved in the protests that reportedly saw offensive language used against the vice president.

Both Abbas and President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad were not responding at time of press.

Thursday’s demonstrations were directly targeted at a visit by Vice President Deen, who was in Hulhumale’ to attend the opening ceremony of the State Trading Organisation (STO)’s new futsal field.

Police spokesman Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that eight people had been arrested in relation to the incident, with seven having been released at the time of press. Haneef said that the suspect’s had been arrested over charges including blocking the vice-president’s car, and “disobeying and disturbing” police as they performed their legal duties.

However, MDP MP Ghafoor claimed that the party had not been involved in organising demonstrations against the vice president, contending that the reaction of Abbas in local media had been a “knee-jerk response to a minor incident”.

“I have read comments about this in the media, but we have not heard anything official from the government on [stopping talks],” he said. “It appears that a sporadic incident has been used as an excuse by some to criticise us because of a couple of angry activists. We have stopped our street demonstrations as we promised, but individuals will still get upset in the current political environment.”

Ghafoor added that he believed it was unlikely that the actions of independent demonstrators would set back wider-efforts to attempt to find a resolution the present impasse between the MDP and government-aligned parties.

“This is not a culture we have had before 2008, but people are now free to come out and speak their mind about concerns they have,” he said. “This just appears to be people being over-sensitive regarding minor incidents.”

Demonstration concerns

The unity government’s insistence on an end to the MDP’s continued demonstrations before discussions could resume had been outlined in the agenda of the all-party roadmap talks. Of a six point agenda agreed upon by participants, public order and stability were one of the first points to be addressed.

However, during the most recent round of all-party talks in June, the list of demands presented to the MDP by government-aligned groups were claimed to be lacking in seriousness. The 30-point list presented to the opposition party included demands to desist from using “black magic” and “erotic tools” as well as walking in groups of more than ten.

Since that time, the MDP has continued regular demonstrations, particularly in the capital Male’, where consecutive nights of protests in July resulted in violent clashes between protesters, security forces and journalists.

The immediate aim of inter-party discussions, however, would be to agree upon an arrangement which might allow the reopening of the People’s Majlis, which was suspended last month after angry confrontations between opposing MPs and the Speaker of the House.

The Speaker Abdulla Shahid invoked his authority to suspend sessions indefinitely if he felt dialogue between party leaders was necessary to restore calm to proceedings. Government-aligned parties have been critical of the role they allege MDP MPs played in stymieing the work of the People’s Majlis.


“This is not a democracy”: Vice President Deen

Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen has demanded that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) take responsibility for the murder of Lance Corporal Adam Haleem, following the stabbing murder of the police officer last night.

Speaking to local media following the murder, Deen claimed the country’s situation had gone “beyond tolerable levels”, and said the Maldives was “no longer a democracy”.

Referring to attacks on police during MDP’s ‘direct action’ protests, Deen claimed that the party was “preventing the democratic process” of the country.

“Now the [situation] in this country has gone beyond tolerable level. This is not democracy, this isn’t democracy at all,” he said.

“I believe those who are encouraging people to carry out attacks on the police are now trying to prevent and obstruct the democratic process of this country. Therefore I do not believe in the activities that [the MDP] are carrying out,” he added.

Deen said that he condemned the “cowardly and ruthless” attack on lance corporal Haleem on strictest terms.

Dean also told the local media that following the incident, a meeting of Crime Reduction Taskforce would be held today to decide against whom action would be taken.

He said that the government would not step back following such actions and reiterated that the government would not be deterred from bringing those that were behind the crime to justice.

“I want to encourage the police officers, don’t you back down! There are some wrong perceptions of the Maldivian police and the military in the international community. But we will face that as well and we will take necessary measures. This is the country of the Maldivian people. This government will not allow any international party to unduly influence this country,” Deen assured.


26 year-old Lance Corporal Adam Haleem was stabbed to death on Kaashidhoo island in Kaafu Atoll on Sunday night.

According to a police statement, the incident took place around 12:00am while Haleem was on his way to report for duty.

The person suspected of killing the police officer is now under arrest, the statement reads. However, police have not identified the suspect or revealed any further details surrounding the murder.

Local media meanwhile has identified the suspect as Samah, a person with prior criminal record, and has reported that he was released to house detention on Sunday following a two day arrest over an assault case.

Health officials from Kaashidhoo Health Center have told local media that Lance Corporal Haleem suffered serious nine-inch deep stab wound to the chest in the attack.

They also confirmed that he was alive but in critical condition when brought to the hospital, and that he died soon afterwards while undergoing treatment.

The process is underway to move the police officer’s body to capital Male’.  Haleem, from Kethi house on the island Kaashidhoo, was a husband and father of a one year-old baby.

Haleem’s body has been brought to capital Male’ this morning for further analysis and the police has said that an official funeral will be held in Male’ to bury the deceased.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik condemned the attack on Twitter.

“Strongly condemn the killing of a policeman while on duty. Enough of hate mongering against officers of the Law.” He tweeted.

Dr Waheed added in another tweet that there should be “no excuses to kill anyone let alone policemen on duty. Shame on cowards hiding behind anonymity and inciting violence.”

He has also ordered the national flag to be flown at half staff for three days in honor of the slain police officer.


Following the death of lance corporal Haleem, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and Police Integrity Commission (PIC) issued statements condemning the attack and called on the authorities to take action to ensure the killer is brought to justice.

HRCM condemned the attack on “strictest terms”.

“It is understandable that this attack will impact the security services of this country. This commission extends condolences to Maldivian Police Services and also encourages the police to stay determined in their legal duty.  We also call on the authorities to investigate the attack and ensure those responsible are brought to justice as soon as possible,” read the statement.

HRCM also highlighted the importance of all the authorities jointly working towards preventing such attacks in the country and called on people not to encourage such attacks against police.

The PIC in a short statement condemned the attack and conveyed condolences to the family of the victim.

The opposition MDP has also condemned the attack in a statement released today.

The party also described the politicising of the attack by some political figures as “cowardly”, and called on them to stop using it for political gain.

“This party sees the attempts by some political figures to politicise the attack on lance corporal Haleem for political gain as a cowardly act. We call on the authorities to investigate the matter properly and ensure that those behind this attacks be brought to justice and given the strictest punishment,” read the MDP statement.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed also joined President Waheed in condemning the attack.

“[I] Condemn the tragic murder of the policeman in K.Kaashidhoo in the strongest possible terms,” he tweeted.

The incident has also lead to many individuals condemning the attack on social media and conveyed condolences to the family of the murdered.

Funeral prayers for Lance Corporal Haleem are to be held today after the Asr prayers in the Islamic Centre. He will be buried in Galolhu cemetery after an official funeral ceremony.