Plunge in youth pursuit of higher education “worrying” say education officials

Recent statistics from the Education Ministry show that only six percent of Maldivian youth aged between 17 to 25 are pursuing higher education.

The statistic comes from two reports on higher education, which are currently being compiled with assistance from the World Bank and the United States. The first report is investigating the status of higher education in the Maldives, as well as plans for its improvement. The second report is examining financial assistance.

Maldives National University Chancellor Dr Mustafa Luthfy said that six percent is “a worrisome number.”

“If they are qualified enough to go into a higher institution, they should,” he said. It was not difficult to find a public college in the Maldives, Luthfy noted, although he acknowledged that private institutions were costly.

The challenging transition between grades 7 and 8 is one explanation for the dropout rate, said Luthfy. He added that if students were unable to keep up with secondary school material, then they would not be able to get into higher institutions.

“We have to be very very careful about criticizing enrollment,” Luthfy said. “If we are going to offer more degree-level courses, we need students who achieve higher A and O levels in high school.”

A recent Juvenile Justice Report suggests a correlation between academic success and relationships with a parent or guardian. Juvenile Justice records say that of the offenders reported between April 1 and June 30 this year, 95 percent dropped out in 8th or 9th grade, and few lived with parents or guardians.

When asked if this contributed to low enrollments in higher education, Luthfy replied that “schools and parents are working very hard to improve the quality of education, and improve graduation rates.

“The Maldives has a small population, we want everyone to be an educated person,” he said.

O-level results for 2010 improved on previous years, with particular gains in science subjects, however the pass rate for the 6700 who sat the international standardised high school exams was 35 percent – up from 32 percent in 2009, and 27 percent in 2008.

Most major subjects showed a positive trend in results except for arts, geography and history, Deputy Education Minister Dr Abdulla Nazeer stold Minivan News at the time, “subjects which are only taken by a few students.”


Leaked audio implicates MDP MP in secret deals with Thasmeen

A leaked phone call between MP Mohamed Musthafa and Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim discussing a bill proposed by the former to cease state benefits to ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has emerged in local media, suggesting a secret relationship between the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and embattled Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

In the leaked audio clip, Musthafa explains that while he did not believe that former President Gayoom deserved financial benefits after returning to active politics, he had considered withdrawing the bill but was dissuaded by Thasmeen.

Moreover, the MP for Thimarafushi claims that Thasmeen had offered financial assistance to his campaign in 2009 against Gassan Maumoon, son of the former President.

Musthafa told Minivan News today that he would not comment on the leaked audio clip.

”It was Gayoom who leaked the phone conversation, he has a phone tracing machine, which was once in [presidential palace] Theemuge during his administration. He took it with him when he left,” alleged Musthafa. ”He has violated our privacy.”

“Because of him, Thasmeen and I had to go into a verbal quarrel. Thasmeen was very concerned,” he continued. ”We can’t even sleep with our wives now because of Gayoom.”

Neither Thasmeen nor minority opposition People’s Alliance MP Nazim has responded to Minivan News at time of press.

In July 2009, Musthafa told Minivan News that one of the “five richest MPs in DRP” had secretly helped his campaign.

Meanwhile, in his letter condemning Thasmeen’s leadership last week, Gayoom accused Thasmeen of not participating in any DRP trips to Thaa atoll for Gassan’s campaign.

In July 2010 both Musthafa and Nazim were arrested on charges of bribing a Civil Court judge with US$6000 and a two-way plane ticket to exert influence on a court case; however Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed ruled there was not reasonable grounds to extend the detention of the two MPs.

Translated transcript of the leaked phone conversation:

Nazim: You know that bill on Maumoon you submitted, the one about terminating benefits? That’s coming up, either tomorrow or the day after, it’s going to come…so how did that come about? I’m asking because you submitted it.

Musthafa: Yes, that. Well, a lot of people know why it has been submitted, right? Even whom it was that asked [me] to submit it. In truth, I proposed it during those days when I was saying I am going to sue Gayoom. And he came back to politics and it looked as if things were going to go back to the way they were, it was round then that I did it. It’s not something I approve of in any case – resigning, announcing to the whole country that he was stepping aside from politics, and then coming out again and taking to stages, that’s really not good. So that’s why I submitted it – on the notion that he did not deserve those benefits.

But in fact it wasn’t just me who backed it. I did it because some people asked me to do it. But afterward, when [others were telling me] to amend it or withdraw it, they told me ‘Musthafa, we’ve heard about this, why would you want to take it back, don’t withdraw it.’ And the person who said this is someone who has always given me great assistance and support.

But, when two others requested that I withdraw it, I asked him again, what should I do, I’m facing pressure from your party. They’re telling me to pull it out.

Nazim: MDP is asking you to withdraw it?

Musthafa: Er, now, it’s not just MDP alone. You know these so-called Maumoon factions?

Nazim: Hmm.

Musthafa: It’s some of them. It was mainly Mahlouf who talked to me about it, asking me to take it back. After he met me about two or three times, I changed my mind and thought about withdrawing it, thinking that I did not really want to pressurize someone so advanced in age. I was going to take it back and asked that side.

Nazim: What is this ‘side’ you’re talking about? How would I know when you say ‘that side’?

Musthafa: You know very well that it’s Thasmeen. Anybody would know. He is someone who has helped me a lot with this even in the past. For example, during Gassan’s campaign – it’s even noted in that letter Maumoon sent. Whether it is Maumoon or anyone else who says it, it is a fact. [Thasmeen] never once went to Thimarafushi. He was in Fonnadoo near Thimarafushi once but he wasn’t going to go to Thimarafushi to campaign against me and challenge me, right? That is how it is.

Nizam: By help do you mean he gave money to your campaign? But then, he’s not going to give Musthafabey money when there’s someone from DRP [contesting].

Musthafa: [Laughs] That’s a big misunderstanding among them, isn’t it? If you think about it, even a child would know that neither Thasmeen nor his family would want Gassan to come into this. That is how it is. Everyone in the country knows that.

To put it briefly, I cannot withdraw it without a word from that side. That’s it. I’ve even got different offers, asking me to take back that bill I proposed to cut off Maumoon’s benefits. Even within my own party, some have asked me. [they’ve said], ‘what is this for’.

But it’s not going forward because of this problem. The way it is now it is very difficult for me to go against Thasmeen and them and take it back. Even if something happens to me tomorrow, they are the ones who are going to help. So I can’t do it. If not, I would have done what I could.


Nazim and MDP MP Musthafa arrested for bribery, released by court

The Criminal Court today ordered the release of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa and Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim of the opposition People’s Alliance, who were arrested in the early hours of the morning on suspicion of bribing MPs and a civil court judge.

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed ruled that there were no reasonable grounds to grant an extension of the MPs’ detention based on the evidence presented by police.

“Both of them were arrested last night on charges of bribing a civil court judge. According to the information we have, they offered US$6,000 and a two-way ticket for a trip abroad, and exerted influence on a civil court case,” said the police lawyer in court today.

“If they were released from detention, it could potentially obstruct the investigation of the case and we therefore request [authorisation] to to keep them in police custody.”

Police obtained a recording of a conversation on July 18 that implicated both MPs in the alleged crime.

Dhiggaru MP Nazim, also the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, has been under house arrest after being charged with bribery, attempting to influence independent commissions and plotting to physically harm political opponents.

“It is just the onset of the investigation and there is a wide opportunity for them to destroy evidence if they were released, and we still have more to find out,” the police attorney continued. “We note that this is the third such case against Nazim.”

As the crime was “sinister” in nature, he added, the MPs’ release could “disrupt the peace and harmony of the nation” and pose dangers to the society.

Asked by Nazim’s defence attorney Mohamed Saleem for details of the allegations of bribery in parliament, the lawyer replied that the information could not be disclosed at the current stage of the investigation.

In his turn, Saleem accused police of “abusing” the rights of the MPs.

“Police showed no respect at Nazim’s residence, used force, tore down the door of Nazim’s house and broke using force and weapons and disrupted the peace,” he claimed.

Saleem presented the court CCTV footage of the arrest, which reportedly lasted over half an hour when Nazim refused to cooperate with police.

The judge asked police who granted them “authority to destroy people’s property”, the police lawyer replied that it was “only to reach Nazim”.

Reprimanding the police, Judge Abdullah Mohamed said the arrest warrant did not authorise police to destroy private property.

Police informed local media early on Monday morning that despite the arrest warrant issued after midnight last night, Nazim had refused to either answer his phone or reply to a text message requesting his cooperation.

Saleem said a recent Supreme Court verdict declaring the arrests of MPs Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim illegal should be considered as precedent in this case.

Requesting a ruling to hold police in contempt of court for violating the constitution, he added that police were ignoring the Supreme Court verdict.

Media present at the court, including Minivan News, observed that Television Maldives (TVM) was denied access to the court chamber. On Saturday night the station aired damning claims by police officials that the criminal court was regularly obstructing their investigations of “large and serious” crimes, and evidence presented to judges was being leaked to defense lawyers.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that Nazim and Musthafa had been released from custody, and stated that police would continue to investigate the two MPs over the corruption allegations and hoped “to finalise the investigation quickly.”


Addressing the judge, MP Mustafa claimed that police had violated numerous articles of the constitution as well as the chapter of rights and freedoms in his arrest.

The ruling party MP said the government had “sacrificed” him to justify its investigation of MPs to the international community.

“Don’t think that you also won’t be sacrificed one day,” said Mustafa, pointing at police. “I was one of the men who sacrificed their life to bring this government to power, but last night they sent police squads and abused me physically and psychologically.’’

Musthafa spoke vocally against corruption of the judiciary over a loudspeaker during the first gathering of the ongoing ‘People’s Court’ protests by the MDP, held earlier this week.

Parliament today

Both MPs were meanwhile escorted to today’s sitting of parliament, which was cancelled due to the controversial detention of Mulaku MP Abdulla Yameen, who remains under Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) ‘protective custody’.

Raising a point of order shortly after today’s sitting began, Musthafa demanded to know whether Speaker Abdulla Shahid was informed before he was “arrested and taken by a 25, 30-man military force that entered my house in their [military] boots last night at 2.45am.”

“The charges against me are that I conspired to bribe MPs and I am suspected of bribing judges of the court,” he continued. “And it’s also suspected that, asked by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, I tried to bribe the President, Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice, these three people. So I want to know: did I talk to the Honourable Speaker to offer you a bribe? Then I want to clarify with the President – did I plan to bribe him? Then I want to question Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, did you ask me to bribe the three powers?”

Shahid answered that the Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh informed him by telephone after midnight of the impending arrests, adding that he requested arrangements to be made to escort the detained MPs to parliament in the morning in accordance with articles 202 through 205 of the Majlis rules of procedure.

Responding to criticism that the Speaker should have instigated an internal investigation in the wake of the corruption allegations, Shahid said the parliament, as an institution where decisions are made politically, should not become involved in a criminal justice matter.

In subsequent outbursts, Musthafa claimed that police had put in solitary confinement and “physically and psychologically” harmed him.

“It is your [Speaker Shahid’s] responsibility to look into this,” he said. “I am under arrest and said to have bribed the three powers of state. It is your responsibility to clarify this. Abdullah Yameen isn’t the only person isn’t this Majlis. We can take solitary confinement, it is you who can’t endure it.”

Responding to Musthafa’s question as to why he was placed in solitary confinement while Yameen was taken to presidential retreat Aarah, Shahid said “it wasn’t the Speaker of Parliament who did that.”

On the detention of MPs, said Shahid, the Speaker was required to submit the case to the parliamentary privileges commitee within 24 hours of the arrest and seek the committee’s counsel.


The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair would not comment specifically on Musthafa’s case, adding that it was a police matter, but said the government would do “everything in its power to expose corruption” regardless of political alignments.

“The President said following the resignation of cabinet that he was prepared to even investigate members of his own family in his efforts to eliminate corruption,” Zuhair said.

“[Musthafa’s arrest] I believe highlights the government’s intention to investigate parliament and the judiciary regardless of party politics.”

MDP Chairperson Mariya Didi said she was “really surprised” to hear of Musthafa’s arrest, but promised that the party would be indiscriminate when it came to purging corruption.

However Mariya said she was concerned about the executive’s ability to see cases to their conclusion through the current judiciary.

“People have lost faith in the system – it is no longer just about parliament,” she said. “The public are very annoyed at the judges as well – it is not enough for justice to be done, justice must be seen to be done.”

The public’s lack of faith in the court’s ability to rule fairly in cases concerning wealthy, established and powerful individuals had led people to “feel hopeless” about any resolution to the current crisis.

Law and order has to be kept, but the whole place is a mess,” she said. “These are not political opponents [on trial], this is Gayoom’s younger brother (Yameen), and people who were ministers in Gayoom’s regime of 30 years.

“This one and a half years has been quite rough, but we have not arrested our political opponents as many urged us to do. [MDP] lost the parliamentary elections and became unpopular because of that,” she said.

“I don’t know how the international community must see it – they probably see it in terms of the same sorts of laws and practices as they used to in the West. The fact that most of the judges were appointed during and even before Gayoom’s 30 year regim is very difficult for them to understand,” she added.

“It took the Western world a very long time to reach where they are, and it’s unfortunate that they seem to expect us to get there overnight.”