DRP denies holding coalition talks with President Waheed’s election rivals

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has rejected allegations it ever considered forming a coalition to back a candidate other than President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

Local media quoted senior figures in the Jumhoree Party (JP) of accusing DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali of unsuccessfully trying to become the running mate of its presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim, before opting to side with the incumbent in May this year.

JP candidate Gasim, one of the country’s highest-profile business figures, has since formed his own coalition with the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) after they both defected from President Waheed’s ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition in July.

“Last minute” decision

DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef today categorically denied that discussions had ever been held over backing any other candidate for this year’s election, claiming the decision to stand in a coalition with President Waheed has been made by the party’s council at the “last minute”.

“We were originally trying to run on our own [as a party] right up to the last minute,” he said. “However, it was decided to sacrifice [the party’s] ambitions for the sake of the nation.”

Shareef claimed that in comparison to the three other candidates preparing to contest this year’s election, President Waheed was not promising policies that could not be delivered under the current economy.

He accused Gasim, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed of being “very unrealistic” with their campaign promises.

“We are careful to make promises within the resources we have available and within the budget,” Shareef added.

Both the PPM and MDP have previously accused President Waheed of making development pledges outside the approved budget, while also alleging he had been using state resources to campaign for his own Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP).

According to Shareef, the ‘Forward with the nation’ also faced notable challenges in terms of limited party financing compared to other parties, accusing both the AP and DQP of defecting to Gasim’s coalition simply to secure an increased campaign budget.

“They went to the person who has money, while we are concerned with running an effective campaign,” he added.

Shareef said this year’s election was very much a “money game” that had affected the wider campaign atmosphere in the country, notably in how individual candidates were being portrayed in the media.

He expressed particular concern at the role the country’s media – often owned and controlled by political parties and business men – played in the electoral process.

Shareef argued that with media in the Maldives controlled by just a few powerful figures, it was difficult in the country’s fledgling democracy to effectively explain a candidate’s individual stand to the “ordinary public” and therefore allow them to make an informed decision and hold public figures to account.

On the campaign trail

A source in President Waheed’s campaign team told Minivan News that the defection of the AP and DQP from the ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition had required little change to the coalition’s campaign strategy, and that the party’s internal polling data suggested this had had a negligible impact on the coalition’s election chances.

The source said the departure of the AP in particular had actually increased the party’s support among the under 35 demographic.


PPM only party who can secure peace, investor confidence: Former Home Minister Dr Jameel

Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, running mate of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate MP Abdulla Yameen, has said ensuring peace and safety in the Maldives will be vital to ensuring economic progress following September’s election.

Speaking on the island of Dhuvaafaru in Raa Atoll on Thursday (June 28), Dr Jameel was quoted by Sun Online as saying that the PPM was the only party able to secure peace and safety in the country required to boost foreign investor confidence.

He also praised the PPM’s founder, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, for his efforts in trying to establish peace across the country during his time in office.

Dr Jameel said the former president had been able to attract major multinational companies and foreign leaders to the country due to the culture of “peace, solidarity and obedience that existed among the Maldivian people” during his rule.

Gayoom was the autocratic ruler of the Maldives for thirty years before being unseated by a coalition backing Mohamed Nasheed in the second round of the country’s first multi-party democratic elections in November 2008.

Dr Jameel’s claims were made after the PPM earlier this month accused President Waheed of ignoring the advice of his coalition government by abruptly terminating a US$511 million airport development contract with India-based GMR without holding talks with the company to first resolve the issue.

The PPM’s coalition partners later hit back by accusing the party of making “contradictory statements” regarding the decision to terminate GMR’s concession agreement, also claiming that its senior leadership tried to terminate the deal without discussion or following due process.

Dr Jameel, who served as home minister under the current coalition backing President Dr Mohamed Waheed, was dismissed from the role in May after announcing his intention to support MP Yameen’s campaign against the incumbent.


PPM dismisses legal wrangling ahead of tonight’s running mate unveiling

The government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) said it remains undeterred by legal disputes over the outcome of the party’s recent primary as it prepares to unveil the running mate of presidential candidate MP Abdulla Yameen.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that a “perfect running mate” would be announced tonight at the special event, which will be held from 9:00pm at the Dharubaaruge conference centre in Male’.

“We have selected a political candidate who has the best interests of the country,” Nihan told Minivan News ahead of the ceremony, adding that the PPM was one of the few parties in the country currently in a position to be able to announce a presidential running mate.

Legal wrangling

Divisions have appeared between certain PPM supporters following March’s primary after MP Yameen was accused by Umar Naseer, his only rival in the contest of having controlled all of the party’s organs.  Yameen was alleged to have had full control of the PPM council and election committee, as well as being accused of having “rigged” the vote in his favour by ballot stuffing and falsifying the count.

Naseer, who has since been removed from the party after refusing to retract or apologise over the allegations, has sought to invalidate the outcome of the primary as well as the decision to revoke his membership.

He personally resubmitted the case to invalidate the PPM primary this week, alleging that thousands of voters were not officially registered with the party at the time they cast votes on their preferred candidate.

Naseer has declined to speak or provide information to Minivan News.

“Egotistical stories”

Despite the ongoing legal action, PPM MP Nihan dismissed Naseer’s allegations as “egotistical stories”, accusing the party’s former interim deputy leader of having lost whatever influence in the party he once had – even among his traditional supporters.

“Those aligned with him during the primary are working very closely with the current party leadership now,” he said.

Nihan added his belief that the PPM’s campaign work in the build up to September’s presidential elections was not being adversely impacted by the ongoing legal battles with Naseer, who himself had previously worked to outline the party’s strategy.

“I do not think there will be issues [from Naseer’s legal action]. The election work has already been done. Before he started telling his egotistical stories [Naseer] had called on Yameen to implement these plans,” he said.

Before former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom established the PPM back in 2011, Naseer previously served as a deputy leader in the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) before being dismissed in December 2010.

Naseer’s dismissal at the time led to an escalation of infighting in the DRP – the first political party formed by Gayoom back in 2005 – leading to an eventual split between the former president’s followers and those of current party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Nihan said he remained critical of Naseer’s commitment to individual parties following his dismissal from the DRP and later the PPM.

“After the primary, we began to hear these egostistical stories [from Naseer]. This was why the decision was taken by committee to remove him from the party,” he said. “[Naseer] is playing the the same old game he has always play, I do not believe there is a sports club or party in the country that he could belong to for more than a few months,” he claimed.

Manifesto plans

With the announcement of PPM presidential candidate Yameen’s running mate scheduled for tonight, Nihan added that the party continued to move forward with its elections plans, adding that the publication of its manifesto was expected “shortly”.

He added that the PPM was targeting a broad number of policies including trying to stabilise the national economy and provide opportunities “for the youth”, as well as previously announced focuses on developing a domestic oil industry would also be key stands for the party during elections.

Nihan also praised the party’s work in compiling demographic data based around polling during the previous presidential and parliamentary elections of 2008 and 2009 respectively.

“We have a great study on demographics that will help us identify trends and concerns of voters,” he added.

Nihan claimed that a notable concern already from such data was the anticipation by 2020 of the country having an increasingly ageing population that would put a greater burden on the state to ensure their care.

He also identified concerns over outdated data as another significant concern that MP Yameen and the PPM would hope to address to ensure that voters were being correctly.

Campaign trail

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – the country’s largest party in terms of MPs – has in recent months unveiled a number of detailed policies as part of its own election campaign.

These plans include the development of a mariculture industry in the country it has claimed could generate US$1.05 billion (MVR 16.19 billion) for local organisations, as well as a pledge to support and expand mid-market tourism through the country’s guesthouse sector.

The DRP, which is also in the process of drafting its manifesto ahead of September’s elections, claimed earlier this month that it offered the only “moderate” alternative to the “divisive” policies of the MDP and PPM.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom previously said that between the increasingly “polarised views” of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), his party represented an alternative viewpoint for voters and politicians alike.


Presidential candidates’ policy pledges threaten the environment: Environment Ministry

The Environment Ministry has ‘called out’ presidential candidates for making election pledges that threaten the environment, amidst civil society calls for government authorities to support NGOs’ sustainable development initiatives.

Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela noted that no policy on environmental protection has been articulated by candidates despite their numerous election pledges during her speech at the “NGO Forum on Environment and Sustainable Development 2013” held by the Environment Ministry and NGO Federation yesterday (May 5).

“Although all political parties are currently talking about their plans to govern the country for the next five years, none of their manifestos include policies on protecting the environment,” local media reported Shakeela saying.

“When you deeply consider these policies, I certainly haven’t heard of any plans to protect the environment. But on the other hand, we keep hearing of plans that can seriously threaten the environment of the Maldives,” she added.

Shakeela stated that despite the economic benefits which could be gained from finding oil or establishing a mariculture industry, these policies could pose grave threats to the environment, according to local media.

“Sometimes, although these plans gain a short-term gain, or some amount of money, they may cause great damages in the long run. It is very important that we give this due consideration,” said Shakeela.

Shakeela emphasised that civil society must hold the Maldivian government and policy-makers accountable when they “veer off course” and endanger the environment.

“Regardless of who prepares it, if the plans are such that they may harm the environment, it is the role of the civil society organizations to be vigilant over such matters and try to stop them,” declared Shakeela.

She also stressed that civil society organisations must identify the environmental threats posed by such policies on the behalf of Maldivian people.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has pledged to develop a mariculture industry in the country should former President Mohamed Nasheed be reelected in September 2013.

The potential for developing a domestic oil industry was launched as a campaign issue during a January 14 speech by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential prospect, MP Abdulla Yameen.

Leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, has also vowed to find oil in the Maldives should he be elected president.

NGOs issue government recommendations

The NGO forum was held to facilitate environmental protection discussions between civil society organisations, as well as implementation of sustainable development methodologies and policies.

“This is the only forum of this kind. Civil society did not previously get the opportunity to come together and discuss these issues,” NGO Federation President Ahmed Nizam told Minivan News yesterday (May 6).

Many NGOs work on environmental issues at the island and national level – particularly conducting advocacy and awareness programs – however they do not conduct adequate work on environment and sustainable development, according to forum participants.

Participants highlighted ongoing issues that narrow the opportunities available for Maldivian NGOs, which include legal challenges as well as government administrative procedures. NGOs also lack access to resources, such as well educated people and finance.

Given these limitations, the 15 participating civil society organisations presented a list of recommendations to the government, in line with the forum’s theme of enhancing NGO engagement in environmental governance and management.

The forum recommended the government provide NGOs with equal opportunities and “reveal their stand” to the organisations.

Participants also recommended the Environment Ministry establish a separate focal point to engage with NGOs and provide a common room for civil society organisations within the “green building” currently under construction for the ministry. Research grants for NGOs and environmental studies students should also be provided.

Organisations further recommended the government include NGO representatives in all delegations from the Maldives attending environmental and sustainable development meetings. These organisations also requested the government provide Maldivian NGOs opportunities to participate in environmental and sustainable development projects.

“Minister Shakeela’s response to the recommendations was very positive. She pledged to do everything possible to implement the recommendations,” said Nizam.

“However, she also said certain things might not be possible to implement immediately due to budget and planning constraints,” he added.

Nizam explained that the NGO Federation plans to take the discussion forum to a “different level” by ensuring dialogue and collaboration on environmental protection and sustainable protection continues.

He emphasised that the NGO Federation aims to hold conferences annually or biannually and will continuously seek improvement and additional NGO participation.

The Maldivian NGO Federation held a follow-up workshop today on NGO capacity building for advocating environmentally sustainable development, a project funded by UNDP’s Global Environment Facility, Small Grants Programme.


Umar Naseer dismissed from PPM, local media reports

Umar Naseer has been dismissed from the the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) over allegations made following his unsuccessful bid to become the party’s presidential candidate, local media has confirmed today.

The Sun Online publication today reported that Naseer has been sent an official notice of dismissal invalidating his PPM membership.

Following the PPM primary last month, Naseer alleged that his opponent MP Abdulla Yameen controlled all of the party’s organs, including the council and election committee, and had “rigged” the vote in his favour by ballot stuffing, falsifying the count and “pouring black money” to buy votes.

He further alleged that Yameen, half-brother of former autocratic ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was fully backed by the former president’s family and PPM parliamentary group, as well as criminal gangs, convicts and drug smuggling “networks”.

A case against Naseer was heard by the PPM’s internal disciplinary council on April 14 over the nature of possible action taken against him after he refused to apologise to Yameen or defend himself at the subsequent disciplinary hearing.

When contacted by Minivan News today, a spokesperson for Umar Naseer refused to confirm if such a notice had been received.

“I’m sorry, but we do not give interviews to Minivan News,” the spokesperson said.

PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof was meanwhile not responding to calls from Minivan News. Fellow MP Ahmed Nihan had his phone switched off at time of press.

“Not in the mood”

Nihan told Minivan News earlier this week that Naseer had failed to respond, either verbally or in writing, during a seven day period provided by the PPM’s disciplinary hearing to retract the allegations he had made.

“It seems he was not in the mood to follow the party’s charter,” Nihan added, pointing to several media reports that Naseer had taken a role in discussions to form a broad coalition of government-aligned parties behind current President Dr Mohamed Waheed ahead of the presidential election scheduled for September 7 this year.

However, local newspaper Haveeru has reported that Naseer himself has questioned the legality of any action to remove him from the PPM while the Civil Court is in the process of hearing a case on whether to invalidate the outcome of the PPM primary.

PPM member Rahma Moosa lodged the case earlier this month claiming 8,915 people who were not officially registered as members of PPM had been allowed to vote in the primary.

The PPM has previously said that although the additional persons had not been registered at the Elections Commission by March 10, they were allowed to vote as they had submitted membership forms to the party.

PPM formation

The PPM was formed by former President Gayoom back in 2011 together with a breakaway faction from within the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

The DRP – the first political party formed by Gayoom back in 2005 – was split into two factions of supporters backing former president Gayoom and those supporting his successor as DRP Leader, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Infighting in the party had intensified from back in December 2010 after Umar Naseer was dismissed as the DRP’s Deputy Leader following a vote by the party’s disciplinary committee.


New footage of Feb 7 shows Yameen, Gasim inciting demonstrators, police

Private broadcaster Raajje TV on Friday aired previously unseen footage from February 7, 2012, before the controversial resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed claimed that he resigned “under duress” after elements of the police and army joined opposition protesters and attacked the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) headquarters following a police mutiny in Republic Square.

The new footage shows government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim – both presidential hopefuls – address the protesting police, army officers and opposition supporters.

“The Indian government is with the Maldivian people,” Yameen announced to the assembled police and anti-government demonstrators. He was however cut short by police appealing for cooperation from the crowd.

After MNDF officers were pegged back and forced inside military headquarters following a confrontation with the mutinying police, the Republic Square – or the “green zone” where gatherings are prohibited – was overrun by opposition supporters and police officers.

The PPM parliamentary group leader reportedly arrived at the Republic Square after a meeting at the Indian High Commission.

Business tycoon and JP presidential candidate Gasim meanwhile praised mutinying police and army officers for their “sacrifice” and “jihad for the nation.”

In March 2012, Raajje TV aired video footage of political party leaders inside police headquarters before the resignation of President Nasheed. Upon receiving news of President Nasheed’s decision to resign, Gasim is heard to say that it was “fortunate that this ended without going to military rule.”

Gasim is a member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), which has appointed the three-member panel of judges overhearing Nasheed’s trial in the Hulhumale Magistrate Court.

Meanwhile, in the more recent footage televised by Raajje TV, a police officer announces that “ [state broadcaster] MNBC has been brought under control” and that the security forces were in the process of “arresting those we have to take into custody.”

Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim and Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz are also seen active in the area outside military headquarters, with one of the clips showing the latter carrying President Nasheed’s resignation letter.

Both ex-servicemen under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were civilians at the time of the transfer of power.

In other videos that emerged at the time, Nazim is seen announcing to the mutinying police and army officers that President Nasheed had been told to resign “unconditionally”.

Nazim also announced that he was “in charge of the army” and would soon appoint senior officers.

One of the previously unseen videos aired by Raajje TV further showed President Nasheed exiting the military headquarters in a car surrounded by MNDF officers and being driven the short distance to the President’s Office.

Following Nazim’s appeal to those gathered to refrain from violence, former Deputy Commissioner of Police Mohamed Rishwan is also seen addressing the crowd atop a military vehicle and appealing for cooperation and nonviolence.

Rishwan had reportedly denied any involvement in the events of February 7, 2012.

Meanwhile, in an interview with government-aligned radio station DhiFM on February 8 this year, Defence Minister Nazim claimed that President Nasheed would have been mobbed and killed if he was not escorted to the President’s Office under military protection.

“I would say in truth, given the level of hatred from the public, President Nasheed would not be in this world today if we had not taken him out and to the President’s Office under our protection. [Former President] Mohamed Ameen comes to mind. The people would have mobbed [Nasheed] just like that,” Nazim was quoted as saying in local media.

He added that video clips from the day would show “the extreme level of hatred from the public”.

Similar remarks were made by PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer days after the transfer of power. Naseer claimed at a PPM rally that Nasheed’s only options were to either “resign after bloodshed or resign peacefully”.

On August 30, 2012, the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) formed by President Dr Mohamed Waheed however concluded that there was “no coup, no mutiny and no duress” in President Nasheed’s resignation.

February 8

Raajje TV has also aired a video clip from the day after the transfer of presidential power following a brutal police crackdown on a walk across Male’ by supporters of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

In the wake of the crackdown near the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) building near Republic Square, President Nasheed along with MPs Mariya Ahmed Didi and ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik took refuge in a shop and were dragged out by riot police.

The new footage shows President Nasheed surrounded and manhandled by the Specialist Operations (SO) officers before he manages to wriggle free and run. According to media reports on February 8, Nasheed rejoined supporters at the area and was taken to safety.

MP Yameen addressing crowd

MP Gasim addressing crowd

“MNBC has been taken under control”

President Nasheed exits MNDF headquarters

President Nasheed walks to Muleeage after resignation

Riyaz carrying resignation letter

Mutinying police and army officers calling for president’s resignation

Nasheed escapes SO officers on February 8, 2012

Nasheed rejoins supporters

Nazim demands “unconditional resignation” of President Nasheed


PPM would pursue oil exploration, foreign investment: Abdulla Yameen

The potential for developing a domestic oil industry was launched as a campaign issue during a speech on Monday (January 14) by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential prospect, MP Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen proclaimed “when the PPM comes to power” it will conduct oil exploration, attract foreign investment and create 26,000 tourism jobs.

However, the Maldives’ environmental image and commitments are no obstacles to oil industry development, according to Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb – currently standing for nomination as the PPM’s vice president.

Adheeb told Minivan News the Maldives was “a big nation, and places not in marine protected zones or tourism areas could be explored for oil, like in the less developed north.”

“Oil exploration is a term and [we] cannot conclude something with out the details. Regulations and more planning need to be done,” he said.

The ‘Draft Maldives Fourth Tourism Master Plan’ released January 9 by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture emphasises the need for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and renewable energy as part of its five-year strategic plan.

“The tourism sector is expected to contribute to the carbon neutral goal by introducing measures over the next eight years for energy efficiency and replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy,” the report states.

The plan contains various strategic actions aimed at “developing and enforcing” management plans for [marine protected areas] and sensitive environments. This includes “implementing a low carbon program for the tourism industry”.

“A long-term focus on adopting reliable and affordable energy from renewable resources (like sun, wind, sea and biomass) provides an opportunity to enhance our tourism development model, already well known for its sustainable practices. A low carbon path for development has been identified as key development strategy in Maldives as a whole,” the report notes.

“[Economic] diversification is in line with the tourism master plan,” Adheeb told Minivan News.

“[The] first priority should be tourism [however] the economy needs to be diversified and protected,” he said.

Yameen pledges oil exploration

During the launch of the PPM ‘Team Yageen’ campaign, Yameen declared his platform would focus on foreign investment and the creation of job opportunities, local media reported.

“Given the current economic situation, local businessmen alone cannot create enough job opportunities. We must welcome foreign investors for the benefit of our nation,” Yameen said, according to Haveeru.

Yameen’s proposals include searching for oil, prioritising the tourism industry, and creating a cargo transit port.

Previous oil exploration attempts in 1980 found the cost of retrieving the oil was too high compared to the US$20 (MVR 308) price per barrel at the time. However the present price of US$125 (MVR 1925) per barrel made further exploration feasible.

“It is very possible oil might be found in the Maldives,” Yameen said.

“[The PPM] have a very close relationship with tourist resort owners. The [economic] benefits of the tourism industry are creating job opportunities through the [tourism goods and services] tax,” he added.

Team Umar’s stance

‘Team Yageen’s opposition for the PPM leadership, ‘Team Umar’, played down the proposal.

PPM Interim Vice President Umar Naseer said it was not acceptable for people in responsible portfolios of the government to talk about things that they could not do while they were in power.

Yameen’s proposal to search for oil in the Maldives was not new, Naseer claimed, noting that Yameen had plenty of time during the Gayoom administration to pursue such an agenda.

”Fifteen years is enough time for someone searching for oil to find it. ‘Team Umar’ will not make empty talk; if we are to search for oil, then we will find it and sell it,” said Naseer.

”These words are not new to us. If they had been new words they would have impressed ‘Team Umar’ as well,” he added.

Government biosphere and renewable energy commitments

The development of an oil industry in the Maldives would be an apparent reversal of President Mohamed Waheed’s declaration during the Rio 20+ UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 that the Maldives would “become the first country to be a marine reserve”.

During the conference, Waheed highlighted the 2012 establishment of the first UNESCO Biosphere reserve in Baa Atoll, as well as the Maldives’ commitment to carbon neutrality and sustainable development.

“Our tourism sector is a sustainable one, relying on the preservation of our magnificent coral reefs, beautiful beaches and our rich and diverse marine life,” Waheed stated.

The Maldives is meanwhile participating in the 3rd General Assembly of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which started this week (13 January 2013).

Minister of Environment and Energy Dr Mariyam Shakeela has also highlighted the ongoing renewable energy activities undertaken by the Maldivian government and the necessity of renewable energy for mitigating climate change.

Shakeela recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Diesel Replacement Project of the Clinton Climate Initiative’s Clean Energy Initiative, a program of the William J Clinton Foundation.

The focus of this program is to enact “projects and policies that directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions” including renewable energy projects to reduce dependency on diesel fuel.


Government agreed to waive taxes for Nexbis, reveals Parliament’s Finance Committee

The Maldivian government agreed to waive taxes for Nexbis as part of the controversial border control agreement signed with the Malaysia-based mobile security provider, parliament’s Finance Committee has revealed.

The People’s Majlis secretariat explained in a statement yesterday (December 11) that the committee has sent a letter to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik noting the findings of an inquiry to determine the possible financial burden on the state due to the Nexbis deal.

“The Finance Committee told the President that the ties and cooperation between state institutions necessary for the border control system was non-existent,” the Majlis press release read.

The Finance Ministry meanwhile informed the public accounts oversight committee on November 13 that it has yet to receive a copy of the border control agreement.

The committee observed that the government had “not considered” that tax exemption was within the legislative powers of parliament.

Moreover, the committee noted that “no government department has to date” initiated any effort to approve waiving taxes for the Malaysian company.

The Finance Committee also informed the President that the relevant government authorities lacked “authentic and valid information” of the border control project.

The committee further noted that the relevant authorities did not offer “adequate cooperation” in providing information for the inquiry.

In a letter to the Finance Committee on November 1, the Immigration Department explained that the border control system agreement was signed before the Business Profit Tax (BPT) came into effect.

However, the government agreed to exempt Nexbis from the tax with a final decision to be made by the Finance Ministry, the Immigration Department said.

Nexbis deal

Speaking at a rally last month, parliament’s Minority Leader MP Abdulla Yameen called on the government to “immediately” terminate the agreement with Nexbis and contended that the project was detrimental to the state.

The parliamentary group leader of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) also criticised the government’s “hesitancy” to cancel the agreement despite the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC’s) findings of alleged corruption in the deal.

Local media meanwhile reported that the Finance Committee had decided during a closed-door session last month to instruct the executive to halt the project.

The decision would however have to be approved through a vote on the Majlis floor following consideration of a report by the committee.

In September, the ACC informed the committee that the deal would cost the Maldives MVR 2.5 billion (US$162 million) in potential lost revenue over the lifetime of the contract.

Following its investigation into alleged corruption in awarding of the contract to Nexbis, the ACC requested the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) press criminal charges against former Controller of Immigration Ilyas Hussain, brother-in-law of President Waheed.

Almost a year after the case was forwarded to the PGO however, no charges have been pressed against the former immigration chief to date.

The ACC alleged that Ilyas Hussain had abused his authority for undue financial gain.

Ilyas – a senior member of Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ihtihad Party (GIP) – was transferred from the post under former President Mohamed Nasheed when the corruption allegations first surfaced.

His successor Abdulla Shahid expressed concern with both the cost and necessity of the project, calculating that with continued growth in tourist numbers, Nexbis would be earning US$200 million in revenue over the 20-year lifespan of the agreement.

Following Dr Waheed’s swearing-in as president on February 7, Ilyas was reappointed controller of immigration. He was however replaced in May with Dr Mohamed Ali and appointed State Minister for Defence.

Former President Nasheed meanwhile alleged in a rally last month that Dr Waheed’s GIP’s Deputy Leader Mohamed ‘Nazaki’ Zaki was complicit in any alleged corrupt dealings in his role as Ambassador to Malaysia.

“Before the [border control] system was established, before there was even a contract in effect, I later heard that equipment was kept in some warehouses in Male’,” he said, claiming that the warehouses were owned by Nazaki Zaki.

Nasheed added that he “agreed completely with Yameen” that the allegations should be investigated.

The border control system is now up and running at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), after a Supreme Court ruling in September in favour of Nexbis ended almost two years of efforts by the ACC to block the project.

Under the ‘build operate and transfer’ (BOT) agreement with Nexbis, the government is obliged to pay the security firm US$2 for every foreign passenger processed and US$15 for every work permit for the 20 year lifespan of the contract. Nexbis remains responsible for the upgrading, servicing and administration of the system.

Nexbis has continued to dismiss accusations of corruption within its deal with the Maldives government. The mobile security solutions vendor last year threatened to take legal action against any party in the Maldives alleging that the company was involved in corruption. Nexbis claimed at the time that the speculation over corruption in the deal was “politically motivated” and had “wrought irreparable damage to its reputation and brand name.”


Fisheries Ministry asks Majlis committee to determine if fuel subsidy is fundamental right

Parliament’s Finance Committee has decided to summon officials from the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture to a meeting on Wednesday over issuing MVR 100 million (US$6.4 million) allocated as fuel subsidies for fishermen in the 2012 budget, after the ministry asked the committee to determine if the subsidy could be considered a fundamental right.

The Finance Committee on October 17 approved guidelines for providing the fuel subsidy directly to boat owners and informed the Fisheries Ministry of the decision.

However, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim questioned the legality of issuing the subsidy, suggesting that it could be in violation of the Public Finance Act.

Under amendments brought to the Public Finance Act in 2010, “any relief, benefit or subsidy by the state” must be given in accordance with laws passed by the People’s Majlis.

The ruling coalition has sought to reverse the changes voted through while in opposition.

Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shafeeu told local media last week that the subsidies could not be released until the legal issue was resolved but expressed hope that it could be done before Thursday (November 15), leaving one and a half months for the ministry to release funds to 1,053 vessels registered for the subsidy.

Following legal advice from the Attorney General, the Fisheries Ministry asked the Finance Committee to determine if the fuel subsidy could be considered a fundamental or basic right.

Attorney General Azima Shukoor had advised the ministry that the subsidy could be issued without specific enabling legislation if the financial assistance to fishermen was considered a fundamental right.

Azima told newspaper Haveeru that in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling, the subsidy could be issued without a specific law if it is deemed a fundamental right.

At today’s meeting of the Finance Committee, Parliamentary Group Leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), MP Abdulla Yameen, reportedly insisted that a law would be needed to issue the subsidy.

Dhivehi Rayyithung Party (DRP) MP Visam Ali meanwhile suggested that the Fisheries Ministry should consult with the Attorney General’s Office to determine if the fuel subsidy was a fundamental right.