Reeko Moosa unveils plans to contest 2018 presidential primary

Deputy Speaker and Hulhu-Henveiru MP Reeko Moosa Manik revealed plans to contest the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) primary for the 2018 presidential candidacy.

While speaking at an MDP rally held in the carnival area last night, Moosa said the party would discredit any allegations that it has no internal democracy.

Moosa said his resignation as chairperson following the disappointing Majlis election results in March was intended to provide space and opportunity for young politicians to take charge.

“I took a step back from the front lines of the party in order to spend more time with my family after ten years of working tirelessly at the front lines of the party,” said Moosa while speaking about his absence from party activities in the recent months.

When stepping down, Reeko called upon fellow party leaders to follow his example. Former President Mohamed Nasheed made similar suggestions before standing uncontested for the party’s presidency in August.


Civil Court overturns EPA’s Rf100 million fine against Champa over Thunbafushi

The Civil Court has overturned the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)’s Rf100 million (US$6.5 million) fine against local business tycoon Mohamed ‘Champa’ Moosa.

The EPA fined Champa the maximum possible penalty in June and labelled him an “environmental criminal” for irreversibly damaging the island of Thun’bafushi and the marine ecosystem of Thun’bafalhu, notably conducting dredging and reclamation works in the area without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The Civil Court however ruled that the fine was not valid as the EPA had not given him the opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Judge Maryam Nihayath noted that under Article 43, “everyone has the right to administrative action that is lawful, procedurally fair, and expeditious.”

The judge said that the EPA had conducted many surveys in Thun’bufaru but had not shared the surveys with Champa, and that Champa was not informed of what actions had violated the law or what damage had been caused.

Judge Nihayath then ruled that the EPA had not completed “administratively fair procedure” that was required before any action against the accused could be taken, and invalidated the Rf100 million fine.

Director of the EPA Ibrahim Naeem told Minivan News today that the EPA had given all necessary documents to Champa and that he had been given “more than enough time to prepare his appeal.”

Naeem said the EPA had not been officially notified of the verdict and had yet to decide whether to appeal the decision in the High Court, or address any procedural issue and reissue the fine.

Naeem previously told Minivan News in June that the area had been irreversibly damaged and a large reef habitat destroyed.

“This was originally a reef ecosystem with a small sand bank in the middle, but he has been dredging the island without any clearance and the changes are now irreversible,” Naeem said at the time.

After three surveys of the area, the EPA had assessed the damage as amounting to Rf2,230,293,566 (US$144.6 million), not including the impact of sedimentation from the dredging which can smother coral kilometres from the site.

A foreign consultant who was involved in surveying the island had meanwhile told Minivan News that the area “seems to have been used as a dumping ground.”

“There were what looked like hundreds of used car batteries, waste metals and oil drums leeching into the marine environment,” the consultant said.
“We were looking at the effect of the dredging on sedimentation, and there were no water quality tests done. But you can just imagine what it would have been like with all the batteries and waste metals.”

Images of the island obtained by Minivan News showed discarded piles of rubbish and batteries, old earthmoving machinery rusting in the sun, and half a dozen reef sharks in a tank containing a foot of tepid water.

Several days after Champa was issued the fine in June, the then-Director General of the EPA Mohamed Zuhair suddenly resigned from the post, publicly stating on DhiTV – a private network owned by Champa – that his departure was due to “political interference” in the EPA’s fining of the tycoon.

Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam claimed that Zuhair had previously signalled his intention to participate in the government’s voluntary redundancy program three weeks before his sudden departure, which rendered him ineligible for the lump sum pay out.

Zuhair’s decision to apply for the program had caught the government by surprise, Aslam said at the time, explaining that he had met with the EPA’s Director General to try and retain him.

“His reason was that government pay was not meeting his financial needs, and he was looking to move to the private sector. We offered to move him to another department that would allow him to also work in the private sector – which is not allowed under the EPA’s regulations.”

Aslam said he became concerned when he pressed Zuhair for an explanation, “but he said on this matter he couldn’t tell us anything further.”

“We asked asked him then if this was a matter of national security, but he said no. So we respected his decision, and he submitted [the voluntary redundancy forms] with the Ministry of Finance, and we were just about to sign them – my signature was to be the last.”

Around this time Zuhair was allegedly sent a letter containing a mobile phone SIM card and a slip of paper note requesting he use it to call Nawal Firaq, the CEO of DhiTV.

Minivan News understands the letter containing the note and SIM card, registered in the name of a Bangladeshi labourer, was delivered to Zuhair’s flat on Friday morning but instead found its way to police.

Firaq denied knowledge of the letter when contacted by Minivan News in June. In the police inquiry subsequent to his resignation Zuhair cooperated with police but denied any knowledge of receiving the letter.

“This is Champa building his court case by attempting to question the independence of the EPA,” Aslam alleged at the time, noting that as the EPA’s Director General, Zuhair’s signature was on all the correspondence with Champa, including the notice informing him of the fine.

“Thun’bafushi has been an issue long before we took office,” Aslam told Minivan News, explaining that the previous administration had initially rented the island to Champa for Rf 100 a year (US$6.40) under an agreement that stipulated that he “not do anything detrimental to the environment – he was allowed to grow trees and monitor the shifting of the islands. He was not allowed to reclaim or extend the island.”

However Champa had conducted these works without ever submitting an EIA, Aslam alleged at the time.

“The area has been surveyed 2-3 times now, and last year the Director General attended himself a survey to assess the cost of the damage.”

The government had on several occasions asked Champa to explain himself, and he had corresponded with the EPA, Aslam said.

“Champa disputes he has done anything illegal, and states that has done everything according to the initial agreement.”

Champa had not responded to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


JP asks Supreme Court to declare Kaashidhoo seat vacant

Jumhooree Party (JP) Youth Wing leader Moosa Anwar has filed a case in the Supreme Court of the Maldives requesting that the Kaashidhoo seat in parliament be declared vacant, and Elections Commission (EC) hold a by-election to reelect an MP for the seat.

The Criminal Court last week sentenced Independent MP for Kaashidhoo, Ismail Abdul Hameed, to one year and six months banishment after he was found guilty of abuse of authority for financial gain to a third party.

Under article 73(c)(3) of the constitution, MPs found guilty of a criminal offence “and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months” would be stripped of their seat.

Article 78 of the constitution meanwhile states that “whenever there is a vacancy among the members of The People’s Majlis, an election shall be held within sixty days from the date of the vacancy. A by-election shall not be held within six months prior to a general election.”

Moosa said that that the Supreme Court could determine whether Hameed should be given 90 days to appeal or if the seat should become vacant immediately following the lower court’s ruling.

“It is uncertain whether the seat is vacant. I believe that the seat is vacant following the Criminal Court ruling on 29 August and that the Elections Commission should have announced the by-election within five days as stated in the Parliamentary Elections Act,” he said. “But the commission has not, so the confusion over the vacant seat has to be cleared up by the Supreme Court.”

In other democratic countries, he noted, MPs would resign on their own when criminal charges were made against them with clear evidence, describing it as “best practice”.

The Prosecutor General pressed corruption charges against Hameed alleging that he had abused his authority as the former Director of Waste Management at the Male’ municipality to financially benefit a Singaporean company named Island Logistics in a deal to purchase a barge.

Deputy Elections Commissioner Hassan Fayaz told Minivan News at the time that the EC will begin preparations for the by-election when parliament officially informs the commission that a seat is vacant.

“I think it will take some time because he has the right appeal the verdict in superior courts,” he told Minivan News at the time.


Moosa misleading public over court’s ruling on Isthafa’s arrest, alleges High Court

The High Court has issued a statement regarding condemning comments made by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Parliamentary Group Leader and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, concerning its decision to order the release of former chief prison warden ‘Isthafa’ Ibrahim Mohamed Manik following his arrest in a torture inquiry.

The High Court accused Moosa of falsely stating that the court had ruled that Manik was innocent, in an attempt to mislead the public.

High Court said it had only ruled on a case filed in the court claiming that the court warrant issued by Maafushi Court, in Kaafu Atoll Maafushi, to extend Manik’s detention was unlawful.

‘’He was released by the court as there was no witness or evidence presented to the court that the court could weight in favor of keeping him in detention, and the court finds that the warrant issued by Maafushi court was against the Supreme Court’s procedures followed in such situations,” said the High Court.

The High Court also stated that the court wanted to make it clear to the public that the trial was not conducted to determine whether Manik was guilty of a crime or not, and asked for the public to respect its rulings.

Moosa made his remarks during a special rally held last night, where former opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Abdu-Raheem signed with the MDP.

Speaking at the rally, Moosa said the day that MDP won a majority in parliament would be a day “that members of the independent commission members and judiciary should bear in mind.”

The High Court bench, consisting five judges, was appointed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in March this year.

The five judges included the lawyer of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Abbas Shareef, former Juvenile Court Chief Judge Shuaib Hussein Zakariya, former Law Commission member Dr Azmiralda Zahir, Former Civil Court registrar Abdu Rauf Ibrahim, and Former Civil Court Chief Judge Ali Sameer.


Moral in the political plight of former President’s classmates, says MDP

The collapse of longstanding dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, leaders of which were classmates of former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, carried moral lessons for the Maldives, claimed Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

”Today the citizens of Arab countries have stood up against their leaders – classmates of [former President] Maumoon, in fact – who were practicing dictatorship like Maumoon,” said Reeko Moosa. ”Take a look at the situation in Tunisia, take a look at the situation in Egypt, where Maumoon received his education.”

Moosa said the citizens of the Maldives should “see the moral” in the situation in these countries.

”The citizens of the Maldives should see the moral in the situation in these countries, ahead of the local council elections, and should not let Maumoon’s regime reinstate their power,” Reeko Moosa said. ”I call citizens of the Maldives to take a look at the situation in these Arab countries  as an example.”

Minivan News attempted to contact DRP MP Ahmed Nihan for a response, but he had not replied at time of press.

If the opposition won the local council elections, Moosa claimed that the situation of the Maldives was likely to become that of Tunisia and and Egypt. If the citizens wished to uphold democracy and not let a dictatorship return in the Maldives, people should vote for MDP in the local council elections, he contended.

President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile spoken to opposition leader in Egypt, Mohamed El Baradei.

”Egyptians would have taken note of the lessons learnt from the Maldives, in their own struggle for democracy,” Nasheed said.

The President’s Office said that during the conversation Nasheed spoke about the struggles Maldivians endured to hold the country’s first  democratic elections in 2008.

”President Nasheed said he was deeply concerned to hear that Mr El Baradei remained in detention under house arrest in the Egyptian capital, Cairo,” said the President’s Office. ”The President pointed out to Mr El Baradei that Maldivians have always loved freedom and thus Maldivians will always support those who are peacefully advocating for political freedom in Egypt.”

Police conclude investigation into Reeko Moosa alcohol bust, send case to PG

Police have concluded an investigation into an incident in which 168 bottles of  whiskey and menthol gin were discovered in a car registered to Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Parliamentary group leader and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

Following the incident in February, Moosa claimed his driver was bribed to put “cheap alcohol” into his car in an attempt to frame him for the crime. The MP was in Singapore when the driver was arrested, the same day controversial liquor licensing regulations were unveiled by the Ministry of Economic Development.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the police would not declare whether Moosa had any connection with the bottles, and instead sent the case to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office.

‘’We  cannot declare whether Moosa should stand trial in this case,” Shiyam said. “The Prosecutor General’s Office will look into the matter and decide.”

He declined to disclose further information of the case.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

Following the incident in February, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News he had spoken with police about the incident “and it looks like a set up.”

“Whoever brought that booze out from their warehouse knew it would be confiscated. The brands are not what you would call hot sellers – it was menthol gin and watered-down whiskey.”

Zuhair told Minivan News at the time that he suspected expatriates had been bribed “and were connected to certain political opponents of Moosa Manik, owing to the fact he is currently in Singapore.”

DRP Deputy leader Ibrahim Shareef told Minivan News that he was “not surprised” at the case, “but I doubt it will go very far.”

In September Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Noonu Atoll wing leader Mohamed Abbas was arrested and charged for possession of a bottle suspected to contain alcohol.

Online newspaper based on Noonu Atoll, Velidhoo Online (VO), reported that three bottles of alcohol were discovered inside Abbas’s backpack, discovered by police when the three were checked on their arrival from the Ranveli Resort.


Reeko Moosa calls for end of peace talks with DRP

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and parliamentary group leader Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik has called for ceasation of cross-party peace talks with the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

Moosa’s appeal to MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi and President Mohamed Nasheed to quit the peace talks were made following amendments presented by DRP to parliament during its last sitting two days ago.

“The bill on Courts was presented to the parliament’s floor following discussion with opposition and independent MPs, after coming to an understanding,” said Moosa. “After agreeing not to propose any amendments, all of a sudden they started proposing them.”

Moosa claimed that Speaker of the Parliament and DRP MP Abdulla Shahid dismissed the sitting while MDP MPs were calling for the bill to sent back to committee.

The amendment that triggered uproar and the cancellation of the sitting was a proposal to prevent the courts from conducting trials related to activities of the former government. The amendment also obstructs the retrial of controversial cases.

“The opposition intends to hide the big crimes committed by the former government,’’ Moosa explained. “DRP’s parliamentary majority is not a reason for MDP to beg the opposition.”

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom said the last sitting of the second session “was ruined” by MDP MPs when the session “was not going the way MDP MPs wanted.’’

“We have the right to propose amendments; all the things they are saying are excuses,’’ said Mausoom. “MDP MPs just do not like following the due procedure of the parliament.’’

‘’Our amendments were proposed to broaden the bill and to frame it in such a way that the courts can perform their work best,’’ he said. ‘’All the amendments were presented after discussion with [DRP’s] parliamentary group.”


Private channels are run with “ill-gotten” money, claims Moosa

Parliamentary Group Leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik, has claimed that private broadcasting channels in the Maldives are operated with “ill-gotten” money.

“These TV channels misuse freedom of media to assassinate the characters of political figures whose minds do not coincide with theirs,’’ alleged Moosa.

Moosa criticised the country’s private channels for “never speaking about anything done right by the current government.”

“Everything we do: these TV channels will talk about it wrongly as if it was bad for the people,’’ Moosa claimed.

“Even though we construct a mosque on an island, they will speak about it as if it was not good for the people,” he said.

Moosa accused Villa TV (VTV), owned by leader of the minority opposition Jumhoree Party (JP) Gasim ‘Buruma’ Ibrahim, and DhiTV, owned by Hassan ‘Champa’ Afeef, of misleading people by hiding all the development projects conducted by the government. The announcers of the channels “who cooperate with these organisations should be ashamed to do so,” he claimed.

“Freedom of expression is not only for the benefit of the media – if the media is falling from the right path, people have the right to express opinions against the media,’’ Moosa said.

Editor of DhiTV, Midhath Adam, said that Moosa’s remarks were obviously aimed at the owners of VTV and DhiTV.

‘’If Moosa was referring to the DhiTV news, that technically means he is attempting to narrow freedom of expression,” Midhath said.

“Whether Moosa likes it or not, we have to broadcast the different opinions and ideas of different people,’’ he said. “Anyway, this is just Moosa’s point of view. We can digest criticism and we are not outraged because of these comments,’’ he said.

In a press statement last week, the Maldives Journalists Association “strongly condemned” remarks made by Moosa on August 17, when the MP publicly threatened “action” against VTV for “repeatedly misleading and broadcasting news in a way that smears respect for MDP”.

“MJA also sad to note that a senior official of MDP – a party known for voicing free media – has repeatedly slated the media… and incited public hatred against journalism,” the MJA said.

In a retaliatory statement, Moosa claimed “some TV stations were established with the intention to cause civil unrest among the citizens, smear the respect of political figures in the country, and bother their personal life.”

“I am astonished that the MJA is silent about this matter,” he said, adding that the fact media were airing such claims was evidence that media freedom existed.


MDP needs Adhaalath, says Reeko Moosa

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) could not govern the country without the religious conservative Adhaalath party, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader “Reeko” Moosa Manik has said.

Addressing supporters at the MDP rally on Monday night, Moosa said Adhaalath party has played an important role in the government and had overseen religious matters capably.

“MDP will not sever ties with Adhaalath. That will not happen,” he said. “It would be very difficult for us to carry on with our good governance without the Adhaalath party.”

Moosa apologised to the religious scholars of Adhaalath as he could “say anything when I get too excited”.

“Because we hear every other day someone from the coalition say, ok, we’re leaving now,” he said.

Earlier this year, Moosa attacked senior officials of the Islamic ministry for publicly criticising the government while still “turning up for work every day and regularly collecting pay checks”.

In March, the Islamic ministry came out against regulations revised by the economic development ministry to authorise sale of alcohol in hotels.

The revised regulations were scrapped following public outcry and demonstrations.