Government hampered by “restrictive” public finance law, says President Yameen

Amendments brought to the Public Finance Act by the opposition-controlled parliament during the three-year tenure of former President Mohamed Nasheed are posing challenges and difficulties to successive administrations, President Abdulla Yameen has said.

The amendments (Dhivehi) voted through in June 2010 stipulated that the executive must seek parliamentary approval before either obtaining foreign loans or leasing state property. Nasheed at the time declared that the law would make it “impossible for the government to function.”

Addressing supporters in the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani atoll Sunday night (May 4),Yameen claimed that laws imposing “various restrictions” on the executive were passed by the People’s Majlis due to the “irresponsibility” of the former head of government.

But former President Dr Mohamed Waheed had also faced “difficulties” in governing after succeeding Nasheed in February 2012, Yameen said adding: “This is the problem we are facing as well.”

The executive was still forced to seek parliamentary approval “even for a MVR1,000 (US$65) loan,” he said.

“Scorched earth” tactics

The passage of the amendments in 2010 prompted the en masse resignation of President Nasheed’s cabinet on June 29 in protest of the opposition’s alleged obstruction and “scorched earth” policy.

While former Special Majlis MP Ibrahim Ismail ‘Ibra’ characterised the amendments as the “grand finale of decimating the executive” by wresting control from the executive, the Nasheed administration filed a case at the Supreme Court contesting the constitutionality of some provisions.

Yameen, who was leader of the minority opposition People’s Alliance at the time, said Nasheed’s “selling off of state assets and giving up uninhabited islands” had prompted the opposition’s actions.

“When many such actions that were harmful to the public occurred, a group of people advocating as the people’s representatives – myself included – determined things that cannot be done without a say of the parliament and passed a law called the Public Finance Act to hold the government accountable,” he said.

Following the controversial transfer of power in February 2012, the new administration – made up of former opposition parties – sought to reverse the restrictions concerning the sale and lease of state properties.

In December 2013, the Auditor General’s Office revealed that President Waheed’s administration violated finance laws in securing a domestic loan worth MVR300 million (US$ 19.45 million) from the Bank of Maldives (BML) for budget support.

Yameen also noted that he inherited an MVR30 billion (US$2 billion) national debt when he assumed office in November.

“That means to reach the ground I have to travel 30,000 million feet,” he said.

Coalition discontent

Contrary to Nasheed and Waheed, Yameen said he did not anticipate difficulties due to non-cooperation from the legislature as the Progressive Coalition – comprising of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partners Jumhooree Party (JP) and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – has secured a comfortable majority in the incoming 18th People’s Majlis.

But Yameen has admitted to “some discontent” within the ruling coalition due to a dispute over which party should control the seat of Majlis Speaker.

“The public should work to change this discontent among us to contentment,” he said, adding that constituents should demand the cooperation of opposition MPs as well as JP MPs.

Yameen suggested that the public voted for candidates fielded by the JP and MDA due to the trust the Maldivian people had in PPM leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Stressing the importance of the public’s backing and support for the government, Yameen urged constituents to “constantly remind” their MPs that they would not have “a second chance” if they vote against government proposals.

As the public voted for a change in both the presidential and parliamentary elections with high hopes for economic progress, Yameen said that the government’s policies and development projects should not be hindered due to problems within the coalition.


Woman gives birth on a boat while waiting for emergency assistance

With additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

A woman has given birth on a boat traveling from Naifaru to Malé early this morning, after the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were unable to provide immediate emergency assistance.

The MNDF have confirmed that they were contacted by the boat at around 3am while it was located near Gaafaru, on the northern side on Malé atoll.

“Our vessel was engaged in another operation – we have five or six to handle every day,” explained Deputy Spokesman Captain Ali Ihusaan. “We attempted to guide the boat into Gaafaru but the captain said the channel was too narrow.”

The MNDF Coast Guard was unable to send assistance because it had only one vessel in Malé at the time – a fire launch normally reserved for fire-related incidents.

“The real delay was getting a doctor ready to go,” said Ihusaan. “If we go without professional medical care and the condition worsens, that’s a whole different situation.”

According to Vnews, both the mother and baby were weak when they reached Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and, while the mother is now in good health, the baby is said to be having breathing difficulties.

The woman was reportedly travelling to Malé after being advised to do so by doctors in Naifaru, Lhaviyani atoll, due to possible complications which may occur at birth.

The Ministry of Health’s 2014 health profile had noted that the recent strengthening of emergency obstetric care at the atoll level has included the upgrading of atoll level health centres to hospitals.

Maternal mortality rates in the Maldives were recorded at a record low of 13 per 100,000 live births in 2012 – ahead of both the Millenium Development Goals target of 125, and the Health Ministry’s own Health Master Plan which aimed to reduce the number to less than 50 by 2015.

Vnews reported that the husband contacted Minister of Defense and National Security Mohamed Nazim as well, to which he responded saying he was trying find a way to provide assistance.

“I told MNDF officials that if anything happens to the baby or mother they should take responsibility for that. But they spoke in a very rude manner saying ‘what taking of responsibility [are you talking about]’ and that there wouldn’t have been any problems if you left earlier,” Vnews quoted the husband as saying.

The MNDF spokesman told Minivan News that the service’s night staff are well trained and used to handling “emotional” callers, suggesting that the husband’s recollection of the conversation would have been affected by his “agitated” state.

After the mother’s condition started worsening, her husband called the Marine Police for assistance. They were on their way when she gave birth on the boat – reportedly assisted by her husband and two family members.

Marine police reached the boat near Kuda Bandos island, following which the mother and baby were transferred to the police speed boat.

After coming across the Coast Guard vessel – which had completed its previous operation – on their way to Malé, the physician and nurse with them came aboard the police boat and provided medical assistance until they reached the capital.


Police seeks public assistance in locating man who robbed a house and attacked a minor before fleeing

Police have asked for public assistance in locating a person identified as Mohamed Jinah, 27 from the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll, who is accused of robbery and attacking a minor.

The police did not disclose further information on the case but said that police will provide security for anyone who can provide information regarding the whereabouts of the person.

Police asked anyone with any information regarding the person to contact police hotline 3322111 or police family and child protection department 9790163 or police emergency hotline 119.


Other religions will not be allowed under MDP government, says Nasheed

Religions other than Islam will not be allowed in the Maldives under a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, former President Mohamed Nasheed reiterated on Friday (November 1).

Speaking at a campaign event in the island of Velidhoo in Noonu atoll, the MDP presidential candidate said Islam has always been accorded “the highest place” in the hearts of the Maldivian people who “hold sacred the noble principles of Islam.”

“There will be no room for another religion in this country under an MDP government. This is very clear,” Nasheed asserted.

Allegations suggesting otherwise by rival political parties “to play with the hearts and minds” of the public were sowing “discord and division” in Maldivian society, Nasheed added.

Last week, a group of local religious scholars from the Maldives Society for Islamic Research released a 48-page book titled “The word of religious scholars concerning Nasheed,” calling on the former president to “repent” and “return to the true path.”

The scholars claimed that Nasheed demeaned the Prophet’s Sunnah (way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammed), rejected tenets of Islamic Shariah, and tried to foster public debate over the enforcement of compulsory Shariah punishments.

Regardless of the winner in the upcoming presidential election, Nasheed assured that there was no possibility of other religions being introduced to the Maldives.

“That is not something that we should doubt. But the doubt is created because our rivals are constantly using these words. Something that does not exist will exist when you continually talk about it. A lie becomes the truth when you keep repeating it. It enters our hearts as the truth,” he said.

The religious faith of Maldivians was actually threatened by the MDP’s political opponents, Nasheed contended, because they were “creating suspicion and doubt.”

Addressing the people of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani atoll earlier in the day, Nasheed reportedly said faith should not be “shaken so easily” because of what one hears or sees, adding that it was the five pillars rather than “backbiting” (gheeba), spreading rumours, and defaming others that were needed to uphold Islam.

Nasheed’s remarks follow persistent accusations by the MDP’s political opponents concerning the party’s alleged “securalisation agenda” and anti-Islamic policies, contending that the 100 percent Muslim status of Maldives would be threatened under an MDP administration.

Political record

Among Nasheed’s alleged transgressions, the scholars listed the “idolatrous” monuments placed in Addu City, efforts to legalise sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, remarks suggesting addicts should be able to use drugs, and a speech in Denmark in which he allegedly criticised the Sunnah.

On December 23, 2011, a coalition of eight political parties and an alliance of NGOs rallied at a mass gathering to “defend Islam” from Nasheed’s allegedly liberal policies and conveyed five demands to the then-MDP government.

The mass gathering followed the release of a pamphlet titled “President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians” alleging that the MDP was working with “Jews and Christian priests.”

Meanwhile, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party – presently allied with the Jumhooree Party and backing its presidential candidate business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim – released a press statement on Thursday (October 31) claiming that the MDP would amend the constitution to allow religious freedom if the party gained a majority in parliament.

The Adhaalath Party referred to an amendment to the Drug Act recently proposed by an MDP MP to shorten the jail sentence for the offence of refusing to provide a urine sample to police from one year to 15 days.

“Therefore, in the ‘Other Maldives’ that Nasheed wants to bring, the punishment for a person caught redhanded using drugs is only a 15-day detention. Drug use cannot be encouraged any more than this,” the press release read.

The Adhaalath Party contended that, with a larger majority in parliament, the MDP would not hesitate to “decimate” Islam in the Maldives and “open up the country to other religions.”

With the provisional support of nine Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MPs, the MDP currently has a simple majority of 39 votes in parliament. However, a two-thirds majority or 52 MPs is needed to amend the constitution.

In the face of religion-based attacks, the MDP has maintained that rival parties were using Islam as “a political weapon to sow discord.”

In a press statement in September, the MDP reiterated that the party would not allow other religions to be introduced in the Maldives.

The statement referred to the MDP’s achievements in government: establishing a Ministry of Islamic Affairs, allowing freedom to preach for local scholars, building 42 mosques as well as a number of prayer rooms in schools, training 150 Islamic teachers, strengthening the National University’s faculty of Shariah and law with foreign assistance, opening of an Islamic Bank and the construction of a new government-funded building for Arabiyya School in Male’.

The party’s 2013 manifesto meanwhile includes the construction of an “Islamic Knowledge Centre” in Male’ for MVR 200 million (US$13 million) that would include a library, lecture halls and a mosque with a capacity 5,000 worshippers.

Among other policies for the next five years include conducting an international Islamic conference in the Maldives at an estimated cost of MVR 25 million (US$1.6 million) with the participation of renowned foreign scholars, training 300 Quran teachers to first degree level, and allocating MVR 36 million (US$2.3 million) for renovating mosques across the country.

“We note that all these projects are costed and budgeted and the manifesto includes details for implementation,” the press release stated.


Two arrested for giving death threats to police officer

Police have arrested two men on the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll on suspicion of giving death threats to a police officer.

According to police, the two men – aged 28 and 30 – allegedly threatened the officer while he was inside a restaurant on the island.

Police said that the 28 year-old suspect has a previous record for participating in an illegal gathering, encouraging others to participate in an illegal gathering and a drug related offense.  The 30 year-old suspect meanwhile has a record for using forged US dollars, robbery and drug related charges, according to the police.


Two arrested for abusing minor and posting footage

Police have arrested two persons in connection with a case where two men sexually abused a minor, filmed her and then leaked the video online.

According to the police the case was reported on August 20, 2013.

Police stated that the pair were both aged 27 and were arrested on 24 August while on the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll.

Naifaru Magistrate Court has extended their detention period to 15 days.


Missing five year-old boy found dead in Lhaviyani Atoll

Police have said that a five year-old boy reported missing from Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll has been found dead this morning as investigations continue into the exact cause of death.

The Maldives Police Service said that the child’s body was discovered at 1:20am today in the lagoon of Naifaru. The boy has since been identified by law enforcement officials as Hassan Javid Ibrahim of Muleeha house in Naifaru.

Officers from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the police joined islanders in searching for the boy after his family reported that he had gone missing at 1:30pm.

Search teams began searching the island’s lagoon for the boy after the child’s slippers were discovered drifting in the local waters at about 4:15pm, police have said.

An islander from Naifaru who spoke to Minivan News on condition of anonymity said that the boy’s mother was believed to have sent the child to the island’s harbour to see if his dad returned from fishing.  The islander said that the boy did not return.

According to the source, the child was last seen at 3pm the same day near the harbour area of the island, where it had been raining at the time.

The islander said they believed that the person who had saw the child may not have known at the time that he was missing, or perhaps did not understand the severity of the situation.

The same source claimed that once the body of the child had been recovered, there appeared to be no visible injuries.

With investigations into the case continuing, Police  Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef today told Minivan News that it was not yet possible to speculate on the potential cause of death.

“We will inform the media after concluding the investigation,’’ said Haneef.


Local NGO sues BML over inability to withdraw dollars

A local NGO hosted in Naifaru of Lhaviyani Atoll has sued the Bank of Maldives, after the bank declined to issue dollars stored in the NGO’s dollar account with the bank.

Local newspaper SunFM reported that the NGO filed the suit in Naifaru Court, and claimed that the money was aid granted by foreign parties. The NGO said it was suffering major losses and an inability to function because the bank was declining to issue the dollars.

The paper reported that the NGO had requested Naifaru Court order the bank to release the money.


Naifaru islanders protest council’s alleged invalidation of preaching license

Islanders of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll gathered in front of the island council office to protest today after the island council invalidated all preaching licenses issued by the Islamic Ministry.

An islander told Minivan News that the council announced Thursday that all preaching licenses issued by the Islamic Ministry had been invalidated and scholars who wish to preach or give religious lectures would have to seek permission from the council.

“That is definitely a decision made against Sheikh Ibrahim Rasheed,” he claimed. “We know that because there is this one councilor named Mohamed Ali – who was a former fisherman and who does not have any educational background – holds a personal grudge against the Sheikh, this is his doing.”

He further claimed that the councilor had recently sent a letter to the Islamic Ministry complaining that the Sheikh has been showing young children pornographic pictures containing instructions for performing sexual intercourse.

“Today we gathered near the council office to meet with the councilors and a delegation of us met with them and the councilors have now withdrawn the decision,” he said. “We had 50 islanders gathered near the council, we are all very disappointed because the Sheikhs have said they will not preach unless they gave the permission, Sheikhs said it was obligatory to obey leaders.”

He said that islanders viewed the decision of the council as an attempt to prevent scholars from preaching.

However Naifaru Island Council Chair Ahmed Hussein claimed that the Adhaalath Party’s Naifaru Wing had politicised the issue to attack the council.

“We issued a notice to avoid usage of assets in the mosques, such as mics, speakers without the permission of the council,” Hussain said. “We did not say that all the licenses issued by the Islamic Ministry were invalidated.”

Hussain added that the councilors of the island were always available to the public but the protesters had issued false press releases and distributed flyers through the island to incite hatred against councillors.

“If they had an issue why had they not come to us and discuss it, we are on the same island and we are always available,” he said.

He explained that during the meeting with the delegation from protesters today, the council made it clear that licenses were not invalidated and that the notice was made regarding use of equipment at the mosque without permission.