President Waheed appoints housing, environment ministers

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has appointed Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as Islamic Minister, and Dr Mohamed Muiz as Environment Minister.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s daughter, Dhunya Maumoon, was also appointed State Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Sheikh Shaheem was ranked one of the world’s top 500 most influential Muslims in 2010 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISC) in the Kingdom of Jordan.

He resigned from his post as State Minister of Islamic Affairs under former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government, in December 2010.

His resignation followed the burning of the Israeli flag in Republic Square over opposition to a visiting delegation of Israeli eye surgeons, whom Islamic NGOs had accused of coming to the Maldivies to illegally harvest organs. Shaheem was one of the speakers at the event, along with current Vice President of Gayoom’s Progressive Party of he Maldives (PPM), Umar Naseer, voicing anger at the acceptance of aid from Israel.

Former Press Secretary for Nasheed, Mohamed Zuhair, told Minivan News at the time that in light of a recent number of protests against government policy allegedly involving Shaheem, “it was possible that the State Minister may have decided his position was untenable”.

Sheikh Shaheem was subsequently employed as a lecturer at Villa College, owned by Jumhoree Party (JP) MP and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

Shaheem has been an outspoken proponent of the study of comparative religion at higher secondary level, stating that “it is important for both Muslims and non-Muslims to compare their religions and cultures, and to compare philosophies.”

However he also warned against a move by the Education Ministry to make Islam and Dhivehi optional at higher secondary level.

Presenting himself as the face of moderate Islam in the Maldives, in early 2010 he became the first Islamic scholar from the Ministry to visit the UK with a government delegation.

He attended discussions on counter-terrorism with a range of relevant authorities, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Cabinet Office, Home Office and heads of counter-terrorism in the Justice Ministry, and met with Abbas Faiz of Amnesty International.

“The main objective was to discuss rapidly growing concerns around extremism and terrorism with relevant stakeholders in the UK,” Shaheem told Minivan News at the time: “There was a lot of discussion on ideas, such as how to fight ideologies and radical ideas. It was a very nice trip.”

More recently, he was accused of sexual misconduct in a video broadcast by Raajje TV, although the allegations were never clarified as Raajje TV claimed the station could not release further footage “in the interest of public decency”.

Shaheem responded at the time that he did “not wish to comment on matters regarding my private life while I am waiting for evidence. I will issue my comment when the time is appropriate.”

Cabinet appointments

All but a few of the cabinet ministers remain to be appointed by President Dr Waheed, and will need approval from parliament when it resumes on March 1.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused Dr Waheed of replacing the cabinet with mostly Gayoom supporters and senior opposition figures, particularly to the positions of Defence Minister (Mohamed Nazim), Police Commissioner (Abdulla Riyaz), Youth/Human Resources Ministry (Mohamed ‘Mundu’ Shareef, Gayoom’s spokesperson), Attorney General (Azima Shukoor, Gayoom’s lawyer), and Home Minister (DQP member Dr Mohamed Jameel).

Dr Waheed has dismissed the claims as misleading, saying that “Anything other than President Mohamed Nasheed’s government is now being painted as the old government, as a return to the old regime. In this country most of us grew up and got education during the last 33 years, and most of the well educated people in this country worked in government. The government was the biggest employer in the country and continues to be so.

“Therefore don’t be surprised that some people served in President Gayoom’s government. That doesn’t mean that anyone seen in the last 33 years has allegiance to a particular person. This is a very narrow way of looking at it. If you look at cabinet you can see I have been very careful in my selections.”


MDP to petition for removal of Prosecutor General

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) intends to file a petition with parliament to remove Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz from office.

The petition was announced during a party rally last evening at MDP headquarters during which MP Mohamed Shifaz requested MDP Chairperson MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik “do this on behalf of our members who are always calling for a better judicial system”.

Shifaz said there are “many reasons why we don’t have confidence in the PG, and why many politicians have legal issues with the PG not sending cases to court.”

“Also he has good relations with [Chief Criminal Court Judge] Abdul Ghazee, people say they are always having coffees. We believe they shouldn’t have this kind of relationship in public.”

Calling for the PG’s arrest, Fuvahmulah MP Shifag Mufeed accused Muizz of incompetency in investigating corruption cases.

“To be honest, it’s the PG’s obligation to investigate the alleged US$800 million corruption case and the fact that he has failed is testament to his incompetence and violation of constitutional law”, Mufeed told local media earlier today.

The corruption case implicated former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen for alleged involvement in an international money laundering racket involving the Burmese oil trade.

PG Muizz could not be reached at time of press.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem has said the PG Office has not been contacted by MDP, but noted that nothing required the party to communicate with the accused.

“To remove the PG a party would have to first send the motion to a committee, which would forward the motion to the Parliament floor, where the motion would only be passed with a two-thirds majority,” Shameem explained.

“But previously the PG’s position has been that if the government files a ‘no confidence’ vote in Parliament, he will resign.”

Shifaz told Minivan News that the petition would be available for signing at MDP Haruge after 8:00pm this evening, and that all citizens of any party are invited to sign.

“Our main aim is to build a better judicial system. What happened in the past, we don’t want to see again,” Shifaz said, adding that the party hoped for 5,000 signatures. He said the matter still needed to be discussed by MDP’s parliamentary group.

Local media has reported that the party intends to submit the petition to Parliament within the next two days. Parliament is currently on recess until March. However, Parliament’s petition committee president and MDP MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed has been requested to expedite the process.

Nasheed said, “if I get any petition I will go according to house rules.”

MDP’s motion comes 24 hours after the PG sided with the High Court and Supreme Court in requesting the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested on January 16 for corruption and for “allowing his judicial decisions to be determined by political and personal affiliations and interests”, according to a statement by Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem.

The courts subsequently cancelled hearings, and the Supreme Court ordered the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) to release the judge. The MDNF today confirmed that the judge was still being held and no decision had been made regarding the court order.

PG Muizz yesterday told media that police are required to consult the PG before taking a judge into custody.

Article 223 of the Constitution requires the PG to “(a) to supervise the prosecution of all criminal offences in the Maldives” including “(d) to oversee the legality of preliminary inquiries and investigations into alleged criminal activity; (e) to monitor and review the circumstances and conditions under which any person is arrested, detained or otherwise deprived of freedom prior to trial.”

Police provided crowd control outside judge’s home at the time of the arrest.

MNDF confirmed that their officers had taken the judge into custody but did not wish to comment on matters concerning their level of obligation to the PG.

Meanwhile, in a hearing of the case filed by the judge against the police summon Deputy Solictor General Ahmed Usham said MNDF does not have the authority to make arrests related to criminal offences, reports local media.

Ushaam alleged that the Attorney General’s (AG) Office had received no details of the arrest except from what had been reported by local media.

The Criminal Court also ordered the PG to prosecute the the Chief of Defence Forces within the next three days, along with others involved in “contempt of court”.
A group of lawyers filed a similar case at the High Court yesterday after MNDF ignored orders from both the High Court and Supreme Court for Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s immediate release.
Shifaz maintained that MDP’s petition “has nothing to do with the Chief Judge’s arrest”.