CSC issues pay-day ultimatum to ministries

The ongoing dispute between the finance ministry and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) has heated up, after the CSC warned it would take legal action against any CSC member who prepares a wages bill with the reduced salaries.

A letter circulated among permanent secretaries urged them to send the salary sheets to the finance ministry with the restored levels, and said  employees who prepared the wage bill would have to bear responsibility both for the reduced salary and disregarding the CSC’s directive.

The finance ministry retaliated by threatening legal action against government payroll officers who failed to fill out a reduced salary sheet, while a highly-placed source in the government said political appointees rather than civil servants would fill out the salary sheets.

On 13 January the finance ministry issued a statement directing  all government institutions to make out the salary sheets according to the reduced amount, claiming that the three month period of reduced civil servant pay is to be increased until the government’s “special circumstances” are resolved.

The CSC has meanwhile announced that the finance ministry’s agreement to reduce civil servants’ salary for three months is now over, claimed that all civil servants must receive their full salary starting from this month.

The country’s political parties divided over the issue.

The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) claimed the finance ministry “has no right” to deduct the salary of civil servants.

DRP member Mohamed Hussain ”Mundhu” Shareef said the party was resolute that civil servants would receive the same salaries as before.

“When President Nasheed came to the administration, reducing the amount of civil servants to from 29,000 to 18,000 was not in his manifesto,” Mundhu said, accusing him “of torturing the people”.

Reducing, increasing and resolving civil servants salaries was in the hands of the CSC, he said, and that the finance ministry was unable to set the salary against the CSC’s wishes.

Maldivian Democratic Party  (MDP) MP Mohamed “Colonel” Nasheed said the salary crisis was a national issue and an “economic domino” waiting to fall.

“If the CSC is upset there are a lot of problems we face other than civil servants salaries,” he said.

Nasheed suggested that the government institutions involved needed to get together and come to an agreement.


MNC gathering international lawyers to pursue Gayoom in court

The Maldives National Congress (MNC) today claimed it was gathering a group of lawyers with the intention of bringing former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom before court, over allegations of human rights abuses under his administration.

President of the MNC Mohamed Naeem claimed Gayoom had killed “many innocent people” during his 30 years as president of the Maldives.

Furthermore, Naeem alleged that when MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed became president, “there was nothing left of the government’s money.”

“Otherwise, today Maldivians would be living very happily,” Naeem said.

The MNC’s legal team would include lawyers brought from abroad, he added.

Gayoom’s spokesman Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef replied that “even if the MNC brings in lawyers from space, they cannot charge Maumoon for something he did not commit.”

Mundhu further added that Gayoom intended to file a lawsuit against Naeem for spreading “untrue stories” about the former president.

“We don’t consider the MNC a political party,” Mundhu said. “They have no supporters. I can say this because I have never met a member of that party from any part of the Maldives.”

The MNC also demanded that Gayoom “must not receive a single penny from the Maldivian government.”

Opposition party DRP spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef responded that if President Nasheed was receiving his monthly salary, Gayoom should receive his allowance for being former president of the Maldives.

Shareef added the MNC “did not know what were speaking about” and that they “had gone crazy.”


Torture Victims Association to seek justice over human rights abuses

Frustrated with the performance of government institutions, a new NGO founded by MDP members, the ‘Torture Victims Association’ (TVA) has vowed to gather cases and take them to international courts in the pursuit of justice, if necessary.

On Saturday night at the first of a series of rallies calling for justice for human rights abuses committed under the former government, TVA founding member and parliamentary group leader of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said those who suffered grievously had waited “long enough”.

“But today I’m announcing, everyone stand up for your rights,” he said.

The rallies were attended by senior officials of the government as well as senior MDP members who spoke of their experiences in jail.

The first gathering on Saturday followed remarks by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on a live radio show where he denied ordering the torture of political opponents.

“No Maldivian citizen was unjustly punished that I was aware of or on my orders,” he said.

At a press conference yesterday, Moosa said the objective of the new NGO was to seek redress for injustices.

“Our main purpose is to bring an end to the torture that has gone on in this country for most of its history,” he said.

Former governments established “a culture of torture” in order to remain in power and suppress dissent, he said.

Moosa said the society was distinct from MDP as it was “100 per cent” comprised of victims and appealed to the media not to “twist” the association to portray it as a political endeavor.

The association plans to contact and enlist the help of international human rights organizations and the UN Human Rights agencies.

A team comprising of “Maizan” Ali Manik, Ahmed Naseem, state minister for foreign affairs, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad, tourism minister and Dr Ahmed Shaheed, foreign minister, were working towards this end, he said.

At the press conference, Naseem said the impetus for forming MDP came from the unjust practices of Gayoom’s government.

Naseem characterised the work of the society as a “national task”because victims of torture have been incapable of speaking about their

Torture was “institutionalised” by the former government, he said,and families were destroyed when dissidents were targeted.

“If you walk down the road and meet 100 people, 40 of them would have been tortured at some point,” he said.

Naseem said if Maldivian courts fail to provide redress for injustices, the association would take the cases to international courts.

“Maizan” Ali Manik said the association would gather information and records and find a way to make the history of torture in the Maldives available to the public.

Not political

Naseem also emphasised that the new NGO was not political.

“The idea is to make sure these things do not happen again in the Maldives,” he said. “It’s nothing to do with what the government is doing. Today, young people have no idea what stocks are. At the turn of the century it was commonplace to use these things in the Maldives – they don’t know about medieval torture devices that were banned in 14th century Europe being used very recently in the Maldives.”

Government institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) had proven unsatisfactory and had made a lot of excuses, he said.

“I don’t know if it is a lack of passion, a lack of efficiency or a lack of will,” Naseem said. “Few such government institutions work very well in any country. A government offical will often just work for a salary; they may not have the same passion for their job as a private non government organisation.”

The NGO was “just one way” of addressing the situation, he said, noting that there were “various ways” including court settlements and the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“But there are criminals here who need to be brought to justice,” he said. “People can’t move ahead without justice.”

It was “amazing”, he said, “how people who were tortured by the regime still support it. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome – it’s very difficult for many people to talk about how they were abused. Some are very ashamed. I myself find it hard to speak about what happened to me. Women were raped and will not talk about it public. But many people have said they will speak in recordings, or without their face revealed. Many want [the process] to remain confidential.”

Naseem insisted the investigations “will not turn into a witch hunt. We are just trying to gather information.”

The NGO would seek international assistance and funding, he said, as “we don’t know how to go about these things in the Maldives.”

Opposition reaction

Gayoom’s spokesman Mohamed Hussein ‘Mundhu’ Shareef denounced the TVA as “another voodoo NGO in the Maldives.”

“We’ve seen this before: Moosa gets on a platform to do what he does best – level accusations at Gayoom. His sell by date is up.”

Mundhu accused the MDP of orchestrating the new NGO.

“The MDP needs to boost motivation among hardcore supporters to bring them out of the yellow haruge, and the thing that unites the MDP is Gayoom,” he said. “If you go to the root you’ll find it’s at the second floor of the president’s office.”

If the government wanted to investigate corruption, Mundhu said, “there is a constitutionally empowered body. If the police are overstepping their boundaries, what is the point of funding a body like the police integrity commission if it’s not going to be used? And how can they appoint a state minister like Mohamed Aswan to investigate police reform and expect him to be impartial?”

The DRP “has never had a problem with the police”, Mundhu added. “We’re not the ones complaining and sending letters. When one of our activists was recently arrested for defacing municipality property, when he came out he told me that while the food was not very good, the police treated him very well.”

Mundhu appeared less opposed to the prospect of a TRC, “but I do not believe any mistreatment happened with the direct knowledge of the previous executive.”


Organisers of the TVA rally accused the DRP of attempting to disrupt the association’s event on Saturday night, an action Naseem condemned as “disgusting”.

Mundhu rejected the claim.

“We’re not MDP, we don’t attack and disrupt [rallies],” he said. “At the same time, why is the MDP holding its gathering right outside the DRP office every night – is it designed to stop us holding our own rallies?”

The DRP was also concerned about state broadcaster TVM’s coverage of the event, he added.

“When we saw the live TVM coverage we rang to ask why the giving away airtime, and they said it was a new formula and they would be happy to sell us an hour of airtime for Rf22,000. We don’t have the money for that, but it was nice to know.”


Embezzlement accusations resurface amid World Bank investigation

Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, special envoy to the president, has renewed allegations that former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has US$80 million hidden in foreign bank accounts, including US$40 million in tsunami aid from the Emir of Qatar.

The last time the allegation was made, by Hassan Afeef, a former MP and now political advisor to the president, Gayoom successfully sued for defamation and Afeef was fined US$350.

Zaki insisted he “was only quoting what was said in newspapers in the UK in an interview with the Global Protection Committee (GPC),” describing it only as “an international NGO.”

The GPC’s leader, Michael Lord-Castle, told Minivan News during an interview in November 2006 “that we have been advised that between US$60-80 million has been transferred from Maldives’ governmental funds directly to various private bank accounts in favour of President Gayoom. Some of those funds we understand derive from donations made in respect to the tsunami disaster.”

When Minivan News asked ‘Commander’ Lord-Castle to disclose the countries and banks the money had been transferred to, he replied that “investigations are continuing and at this stage it is necessary to withhold certain information.”

Members of the controversial GPC, of which little record exists for an organisation “first formed in 1943 towards the end of the Second World War” and boasting “over 2,400 members ranging from ex-presidents, prime ministers and ministers of different countries”, travelled to the Maldives to observe the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s planned assembly for constitutional change on 10 November 2006.

Lord-Castle said the group had been commissioned to produce a report to the European Parliament on the political situation in Maldives, a claim denied by the European Parliament. He was deported from the Maldives together with four associates.

The GPC’s website has since disappeared from the web, while Lord-Castle’s current wikipedia entry describes him as a ‘well-known English businessman’ with varied involvement in an insolvency advisory service, a failed business-class airline, a vigilante ambulance service, and the supplier of a cleaning chemical called Vizexon promising to “kill all pathogens, including swine flu, H5N1, bird flu, SARS, influenza virus and HIV.”

Zaki said that he did not believe the accusation was defamatory “and if Gayoom feels he is getting defamed then he should file a suit against the GPC.”

“If [the accusation] proves true it will be fairly significant because first of all it was money from the National Treasury, secondly the money was for tsunami victims, and thirdly there would be reason to anticipate more [hidden money],” he said.

World Bank enlisted

Zaki pictured with members of the GPC in November 2006
Zaki pictured with members of the GPC in November 2006

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed announced in September he was seeking the help of the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) to recover a suspected US$2 billion in embezzled funds, stating that the money was needed to plug a budget deficit of 34 per cent of GDP.

“Many people have been in one way or another connected to this huge web of corruption,” Nasheed said, adding that international help was needed because of a lack of forensic accountancy skills in the country.

Gayoom’s assistant and former chief government spokesperson Mohamed Hussain Shareef (Mundhu) responded to the allegations by demanding Zaki “show us the evidence. If you have the details make them public, instead of repeating allegations. Maumoon has said, ‘go ahead and take a look, and if you find anything make it public.'”

“There is no evidence to link Gayoom to corruption,” he insisted. “What Afeef said was very slanderous. We threw the book at him, and showed in court that he had no evidence to back up his claim at all, not a single piece of evidence.”

He described the renewal of the allegations as “immature, especially dragging the Qatari government into this. We called them and they were as surprised as us – senior officals in their government had no clue about [the alleged theft of US$40 million in tsunami aid]. Anyone of intelligence knows that aid money is not passed across a table by leaders. Gayoom could obviously not just take off with donor or tsunami aid.”

Mundhu expressed confidence that the World Bank’s investigation “would find nothing untoward. I know for a fact that our tsunami aid accounting mechanism was far superior to that of many other countries. All the aid money went through one oversight body headed by the then UN representative and the auditor general.”

The source of the allegations, the GPC, were one of many “voodoo NGOs” around at the time, he said. “We tried to find out what they were about, and basically drew a blank. Nobody in the UK knew anything about them.”

The allegations were intended “to wipe Gayoom off the political map,” Mundhu claimed. “The MDP is a minority government. Nasheed himself as an individual has no more than 25 per cent support in the country. Gayoom is the most popular individual with 45 per cent and over 100,000 die-hard supporters – clearly people thought he did a good job. Nasheed could not beat him one-to-one, and that reality is very hard [for the MDP] to stomach.”

The accusations of embezzlement, he suggested, were the activities of “certain unpleasant elements in the MDP. I don’t branch Nasheed in this, but [the party] was so intent on bringing in people with grievances towards the [former] government that they brought in unsavoury elements that now even Nasheed cannot control.”