No-confidence vote against defence, home ministers scheduled for April 8

Parliament has scheduled a vote of no-confidence against Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Minister of Home Affairs Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed for April 8.

A vote to dismiss Jumhoree Party (JP) presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim from his position within the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has also been scheduled for April 9 during a parliament session held today (March 27).

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim told Minivan News that all three motions had been submitted by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“On the day of the vote, parliament will give the floor to the MDP to present its case. The ministers will then be given the opportunity to respond before parliament then opens the debate and votes on a decision.

“The MDP currently holds 29 seats in parliament, but it will require another ten for the ministers and Gasim to be removed from their positions. This has been undertaken before, a precedent has been previously set,” Nazim said.

The deputy speaker said that parliament had spoken to each of the party leaders in order to ask for all of their MPs to be present during the vote.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor stated that the party was confident both Nazim and Jameel would be removed from their posts.

In regard to the possibility of conducting no confidence votes through a secret ballot, Hamid said that he did not believe the votes would be submitted anonymously following the supreme court ruling the practice unconstitutional.

On December 3, 2012, parliament voted 41-34 to approve amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach the President and remove cabinet members through secret ballot.

However, earlier in March, the Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to strike down the amendment to parliament’s standing orders as unconstitutional.

Local media reported on Wednesday that the MDP had asked for a vote to dismiss Gasim from the JSC under the reasoning that an individual campaigning for the presidential elections, should not be permitted to sit in the commission.

Last week, parliament sent a letter to Gasim notifying him of a submitted case to remove him from his post within the JSC.

The JSC formed the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench that is currently presiding over the trial against former President and MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

Jameel failed to control peace and order in the country: MDP

In October last year, the MDP submitted its first motion against Home Minister Jameel over concerns from the party of what it called an “unprecedented” increase in murders and assault in the Maldives since the transfer of power.

Despite the MDP withdrawing the no-confidence motion against the home minister a month later in November for an unexplained reason, a second no-confidence vote was submitted by the party in December.

A statement issued by the MDP accused Jameel of failing to control civil peace and order in the country, which it said had led to the loss of eight lives.

The MDP further referred to an incident in which a man on a motorcycle was killed after a police officer struck a second motorcyclist with his baton, causing him to collide with the first.

The MDP alleged that Home Minister Jameel had tried to cover up police involvement in the death.

Speaking to Minivan News in December last year, Dr Jameel claimed he expected to successfully defend himself from the motion, as would other senior government representatives.

“[The no-confidence motion] is part of a democratic process that the government of the day must always be prepared to face. I feel it’s equally vital for those of us sitting in the government to inform the public and People’s Majlis of our performance and decisions.”

“I am sure once our side of the story is heard by the Majlis, the concerns and charges raised in the motion will become clearer and will be seen as baseless. It’s important in such a motion, in my opinion, to appear in the Majlis and fully cooperate with this democratic exercise,” he added.

Nazim misused his authority: MDP

In December 2012, the MDP filed no-confidence motions against Defence Minister Nazim, alleging that he had misused his authority as the Acting Transport Minister to influence the termination of civil contracts outside of due legal procedure.

The motion followed the government’s decision to void the agreement between itself and Indian infrastructure giant GMR over developing Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Defence Minister Nazim, who temporarily took over the transport ministry following the sacking of former Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed, played a pivotal role in the eviction of GMR.

In a brief interview given to local media in December following the MDP’s decision to push a no-confidence motion against him, Nazim stated that move was a “desperate” attempt to weaken the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.


Jumhoory Party MPs Jabir and Alhan to vote against President in no-confidence motion

MPs Abdulla Jabir and Alhan Fahmy of the Jumhoory Party (JP) – part of the current coalition government – today publicly announced that they will vote against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan in an upcoming no-confidence motion.

During a press conference, held at the People’s Majlis along with opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Ibrahim Rasheed and Imthiyaz Fahmy, Jabir and Alhan told local press that they did not have confidence in the current president.  The two MPs claimed they were ready to stand against him, even if the vote was to be taken tomorrow.

Jabir was among a number of MPs and senior MDP figures arrested earlier this month on suspicion of the possession of drugs and alcohol following a raid by police on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll.

Jabir, his wife Dhiyana Saeed – the former Minister for Gender and Human Rights under the current government – and the MDP have all alleged the arrests were politically motivated.  The charges have been vehemently denied by the President’s Office, which has told media that it had no knowledge of the operation until it had been carried out by police officers.

The arrests have nonetheless been labelled as “very worrying” by a delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which late last week claimed it was “difficult” to believe the police raid had not been politically motivated.

Speaking at today’s press conference, MP Alhan alleged that Dr Waheed was threatening MPs because his attempts to make MPs act as his puppets had not worked. He said Waheed had also threatened MPs during public speeches he had given of late.

Local newspapers meanwhile quoted MP Jabir as saying that Dr Waheed should not be kept in his position, reiterating that he did not come to power through an election.

Jabir also revealed plans to forward a no-confidence motion against Home Minister Dr Ahmed Jameel and said that he had already signed the motion.

Earlier in October MDP, filed a no-confidence motion against Home Minister but was withdrawn on November 12 without mentioning a clear reason.

At the same time, a no-confidence motion against Dr Waheed was also submitted to the parliament.

The MDP claimed that the no-confidence motion was submitted to the parliament in response to what it alleged were orders from President Waheed to attack citizens and MDP MPs, and to carry out acts of “inhumanity” on February 8.

The MDP also accused President Waheed of trying to “destroy” the sensitive economy of the nation, claiming that his handling of the economy had destroyed foreign investor confidence in the Maldives.

The motion was filed with the signatures of 26 MPs of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on October 10.

According to article 100 (e) of the constitution, a no confidence vote against the President can be passed with votes from two-thirds of the total numbers of MPs in parliament, which amounts to 52 votes.


Opposition calls for no-confidence motion against Economic Minister over ADC

The opposition has announced it will forward a no-confidence motion against Minister of Economic Development, Mahmoud Razee, for handing the airport to Indian infrastructure giant GMR.

The Civil Court last week ruled against GMR in a case filed by the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), challenging its right to collect a US$25 (Rf385.5) Airport Development Charge (ADC) and US$2 (Rf30.8) Insurance Charge from January 2012.

The DQP had claimed that a pre-existing Airport Service Charge (ASC) of US$18 (Rf277.56) invalidates the ADC, which was specified in the concession agreement signed with the government last year.

GMR shares on the Mumbai stock exchange fell 7.57 percent on the day of Civil Court ruling, which could potentially leave GMR facing an annual US$25 million shortfall, India’s Economic Times reported.

“GMR has been permitted to collect ADC and Insurance charge under the Concession Agreement signed between GMR-MAHB, Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) and The Republic of Maldives (acting by and through its Ministry of Finance and Treasury), and as such has set up processes for ADC collection from 1st January 2012 supported by an information campaign to ensure adequate awareness,” the company said in a statement following media reports of the ruling.

Villufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed alleged today challenged the legally of Razee’s signing of the document, claiming that it allowed GMR to “unlawfully tax” passengers, and claimed he was responsible.

Haveeru reported that the opposition parliamentary group allied against Razee included MPs from the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and several independent MPs.

Razee said he was “waiting for the  awaiting the motion to be duly processed.”

“There’s nothing wrong or illegal about [the contract]. It’s up to the MPs to deliberate and decide what is to be done,” he said. “If there was anything illegal, then MPs should have had a look at it when it went through the Majlis. There were some issues that were sent to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which looked into it and things moved forward.”

Following the civil court ruling last week, President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said he believed the government was obligated to appeal the ruling in the High Court. However neither Zuhair nor the Attorney General were responding to calls at time of press.


MDP files no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker of the Parliament

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have filed a no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker of Parliament and People’s Alliance (PA) MP, Ahmed Nazim.

MDP Parliamentary Group’s Spokesperson MP Mohamed Shifaz confirmed that MDP had filed the motion today.

‘’We have finished all the documentation work and today we handed it to the parliament,’’ said Shifaz.

Shifaz said the party there were many issues with Deputy Speaker Nazim.

‘’First of all, he has many legal cases filed against him in the courts, and there are many issues regarding his integrity,’’ Shifaz said. ‘’Most of the MPs believe that he has to be dismissed. If that happens, it will benefit the work the government is doing to ensure the independence of the judiciary.’’

Shifaz accused Nazim of deliberately delaying work sent to the parliamentary committees in which he has influence.

In retaliation, the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) filed no-confidence motions against Home Minister Hassan Afeed and Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz.

Shifaz claimed that although the opposition filed no-confidence motions against the cabinet ministers, they would not be able to get the numbers required to dismiss them.

”They are dreaming if they think they can dismiss any of the ministers,” he claims..

DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf meanwhile said that if parliamentarians continued working like this, the parliament would prove dysfunctional.

‘’We can’t work like this. One day MDP will file a no-confidence motion against the Speaker, the next day the opposition will file a no-confidence motion against a cabinet minister and if it continues like this, parliament’s responsibilities will be left undone,’’ said Mahlouf. ‘’I have decided to speak with the political parties myself to let them know that it is not right.’’

Mahlouf acknowledged that during the recent protests over the economy, some MPs including Mahlouf himself had signed a no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Inaz.

Nazim did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Opposition MPs vow to forward no-confidence motion against President

A group of opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs have declared they will forward a no-confidence motion against President Mohamed Nasheed to parliament.

“There is no need to go out and protest on the streets, there is only one individual who is the issue for the Maldives,” said DRP MP Ahmed Nihan. “It is the president who is the issue, and as MPs it is our lawful duty to file this motion and send the president home.”

Nasheed had violated the constitution which justified invoking article 100 of the constitution, concerning impeachment, claimed Nihan.

“Multiple times he has gone beyond the chart and violated the constitution – we have no other choice,” Nihan said, adding that if the president was “allowed to to do whatever he wished, there will be no use for an institution named parliament.”

Nihan said that DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf, DRP MP and deputy leader of the party Ahmed Ilham and DRP MP Ali Arif were working together to secure the no-confidence vote.

A vote to impeach the President or Vice-President requires a two-thirds majority in the 77-member parliament, and counting the voting history of the Independent MPs, would still require 8-10 of the ruling MDP MPs to cross the floor and vote with the opposition.

Nonetheless, several weeks ago the government revealed that six MDP MPs had written to the President alleging opposition MPs had attempted to bribe them to vote against the government, prompting the resignation of cabinet in protest and precipitating the current political deadlock.

Nihan said he would propose the motion be supported by the rest of the DRP, “although we do not know what would our party’s stand would be,” he said.

“Any MP who works according to the oath and is sincere to their people, will definitely support the motion,” he claimed.

“This is a very serious declaration, this is not a joke. The whole nation is calling in one voice simultaneously for the resignation of the president,” he added.

MDP MP Ahmed Shifaz said that opposition MP were only in parliament with the sole intention of trying to topple the government.

“I can give you 100 percent assurance that they will not be able to topple the government in parliament,” said Shifaz. “Even if they try [with this motion] it would not be successful.”

Shifaz claimed that opposition MPs made such claims to try and boost their status among opposition supporters.


Education Minister fights back against no confidence motion

Education Minister Dr. Mustafa Lutfy has sent information to members of the Majlis regarding issues raised by 10 MPs who have filed a motion of no confidence against him, reports Miadhu Daily.

It is important that members of the Majlis are given the real facts about these issues, says Miadhu, and in a document on the Education ministry’s website Dr. Luthfy has responded to seven issues raised by the MPs.

Dr. Luthfy says that he has taken steps to strengthen Islam and Dhivehi at Maldivian schools, including the separation of Islam and Koran which was previously taught as one subject, offering innumerable opportunities for professional classes for Islam and Koran teachers, obtaining assistance from the ministry of Islamic Affairs to establish prayer rooms in schools and encouraging schools to make time for prayers, and for schools to take in the lead in promoting the practice of praying.


Q&A: Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy

Education Minister Dr Musthafa Lufthy is facing a no-confidence motion in parliament later this month, a move led by Fares-Maathodaa MP Ibrahim Muttalib and sparked by a proposal from the Ministry’s steering committee to make Islam and Dhivehi optional subjects at A-Level. Dr Luthfy spoke to Minivan News on Sunday.

JJ Robinson: The Education Ministry has been heavily criticised for a proposal that Dhivehi and Islam be made optional subjects at A-Level in the new curriculum. Why do you think this happened?

Dr Musthafa Lufthy: The curriculum was developed in 1984, and there has been no major overall or revision since then. We have brought in changes now and then, but this is first time the we have embarked on a mega-revision of the curriculum.

The new curriculum we are envisioning will be very much different from the old curriculum and will be more relevant to the current society and also to the future of the Maldives.

JJ: Why do you think the A-Level Islam and Dhivehi subjects are proving so controversial?

ML: There are many changes in the present proposal, and one of the propositions is that all the subjects in higher secondary (A-Level) will be optional. The intention is to give students many different subject options, so they are not forced to take some subjects – rather they have the freedom to choose whatever they want.

That was the initial proposition. But it was taken very seriously by a group of people – initially we did not think it would be such an issue for these people. [On average] around 2000 students choose higher education every year, and all the rest, out of 10,000 students, do not.

We are taking about these 2000 students, not the rest. Previously we have had debates on whether we should teach primary grades in English or Dhivehi – but there was no enthusiasm for teaching in the Dhivehi language. Many people wanted to teach in English.

I think the Ministry’s steering committee did not think the proposal to make Dhivehi and Islam optional at A-Level would become such a big issue – it would not introduced this year or next, it would be in new curriculum.

JJ: The proposal to make these subjects optional is being perceived by some in the community as an assault on national identity – why do you think this has happened?

ML: I think there is a certain group of people who actually think that it is their responsibility and their duty to safeguard Maldivian culture and Maldivian religion, and that others are not treating this fairly.

But in fact we, as the educationalists, we are also taking care of our culture and religion and trying to train our students to become world citizens, rather than narrowing their perspective.

That may be one of the reasons why they have suspicions that we are not trying to do justice to the religion or language [of the Maldives], and that is obviously untrue.

JJ: Why make them optional? To encourage more students to take A-Level? Is there any evidence to suggest a lack of option is discouraging students from taking on A-Levels?

ML: No, it is not because of that. A-Level requires five five passes at O-Level, and those students who do pass go for A-Level. The reason [behind the proposal] was to give them the freedom to choose – that was the main reason.

JJ: Do you think forcing students to study Islam and Dhivehi at A-Level may be discourgaging them from higher education?

ML: You would have to ask the students. [Dhivehi and Islam] are not favourable subjects, actually – one reason may be the way they are taught and the quality of teachers, and also the reason that these subjects are not required to pursue higher education. Perhaps due to these reasons students do not give them equal attention as they do to other subjects.

JJ: Do you think a likely outcome is the revision of these subjects to make them more appealing to students?

ML: It should be done. Whether the subjects will be optional or not, we will revise them, and the curriculum, and we will train our teachers to teach these subjects in a better manner. That will be done.

JJ: Given the outcry this has caused already, do you think it is at all likely these subjects will become optional?

ML: It is still open for discussion – we haven’t concluded discussions yet. But we know this will not happen yet, not for several years when the new curriculum is implemented. I am not actually making these decisions, it is done in consultation with many groups of people, and that depends on result of the consultation process.

JJ: What is the pass percentage of the 10,000 students who complete O-Level?

ML: 32 percent. Last year it was 27 percent.

JJ: A 32 percent pass rate sounds extremely low – why is it so low, and how does in compare with the region?

ML: Even when it is compared with the region, it is very low. One reason is that we are teaching in a foreign language (English), and teachers may not be as conversant in the language as those who teach in their mother-tongue – that is one reason.

The other reason is we have teachers from other countries who do not remain with the students for a long period of time, only two years before another teacher comes. So a change of teachers is frequent. And the other reason may be the quality of teachers we have – mainly primary grade teachers.

We still have a lot of untrained teachers, and also teachers who trained several years ago who are not up to the standard that we would require to implement a natural curriculum. With them we have come this far.

We are focusing on improving certain areas – and one focus is on teachers. We are doing a lot of work upgrading teachers using the internet, business learning, reactivating teacher resource centres in the atolls and establishing teacher in-service training at the Centre for Continuing Education.

JJ: How has O-Level pass rate trended historically?

ML: Gradually it has been moving upwards. but this is the first time there has been such a large jump (five percent).

JJ: What is the pass rate of those students who go on to do A-Levels?

ML: A-Level pass rate last year was 69 percent. In 2004, 1835 students went on to A-Level. In 2009 it was 3244 students.

JJ: It is still surprising to hear so few students go through to do A-Level – what kind of effect do you think this has on Maldivian society?

ML: That’s a very important question, and it’s a question that we need a good answer for.

When students finish Grade 10, and when they do not have many other avenues to go to for education, they remain in society and have two years before they become adults at 18 years. So they have two years of not being able to get a job, and this is also a crucial period in their physical development.

During this time they are not in a school and due to this I think there will be negative impact on their behaviour and also on society.

Because of this we are thinking of a new venture – we are trying to keep students in the system until they are 18. We can do that by diversifying our curriculum – some can do A-Level, some can go for other programmes such as foundation and certificate level courses, and through that proceed to higher education.

So there are many ways there can go to higher education, and not only GSCE. We are trying to create paths for them to follow – this can be done through public-private partnerships, such as with Villa College. They are teaching A-Level, about they are also teaching other foundation courses as well.

So students even if they do not pass in five subjects they can continue their education. This year we are going start this programme and later expand it to the atolls, and we are hoping all students will remain in the system until they are 18.

JJ: We have heard anecdotal reports that some parents are bringing in outside tuition or coaching to make up for lapses in the education system. Is there any monitoring of this outside tuition?

ML: Unfortunately there is no monitoring – we do not track how many students go to outside education, and I don’t think schools do that. But we are trying to change schools into one session schools – so one batch of students come to a schools.

Previously, with two sessions, there was no space for students to become involved in extracurricular activities or remedial tuition, but it will be different now we have four one session schools in Male. By doing this schools can provide necessary help and find time and space.

But even then, unless parents are fully confident of the quality of education, they will continue to send their children to private education. Even then there is competition – they want their children to be the best.

JJ: If the standards do not approve does that mean that later down the line there will be a class issue between parents who can afford private tuition for their children and those who cannot?

ML: I don’t think there will be a class issue that is not there right now. One of the aims of education is to reduce disparity between people. We are consciously assisting disadvantaged groups in the country. It is one of the functions of the education system to reduce that disparity.

JJ: Are you concerned about the upcoming no-confidence motion in parliament against you?

ML: I’m not concerned about the no-confidence vote, but I am concerned about the possibility – and it’s very unlikely – the possible discontinuity to the work we are doing right now if it happens.

JJ: How would it affect the Ministry’s work it is doing now?

ML: It will affect us very much, because we have started our work very enthusiastically. I have been in the education system for a long time ever since I started teaching in the atolls, and in various institutions in the country and I know the system very well – and I know the important things we haven’t done.

So I think with the team I have we will be able to improve the education system very much within our period of time. If a new person comes, he or she may not have the vision I have. Of course it will depend on the manifesto, but even then, how you see the work and how you see other people and deal with the situation, it all matters in how you get appropriate results.

JJ: Where has the support been coming from?

ML: I’m getting good from the President and the cabinet ministers, and I’m also working very hard in convincing parliamentarians [as to the merits] of my position. I have distributed documents to them – one is the curriculum framework and a letter to suggest this is only a draft and nothing has been finalised, and they know this is consultation and debate. I also sent another letter answering questions raised in the debate, so the parliamentarians know my views on this.

JJ: What happened with the collapse of Arabiyya School’s wall?

ML: I don’t know why this became a big issue. When a school becomes unsafe for students we have to find an alternative. When we found the school was unsafe for students to remain there we have to find an alternative, and we did after consultation with parents and school board, and we negotiated finance to rebuild the school building (demolition work began today).

JJ: The school says it has been complaining about the wall for 15 years.

ML: We have only been here 18 months.

JJ: Do you think it is less than a coincidence that this no-confidence motion arrived at the same time as your decision to leave the Gaumee Itthihaad Party (GIP) and sign with the [ruling] Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)?

ML: I don’t think so. I think this was going on even then. It is just a coincidence.

JJ: For the record, what was behind your decision to leave GIP?

ML: This is a very important question that many people have asked. I was one of the architects of forming the Gaumee Itthihaad Party. At that time [Vice President] Dr Mohammed Waheed Hassan (also a GIP member) was not in the Maldives. We worked tirelessly to form the party and Dr Waheed joined at the later stages. He is a good friend of mine and we worked together in the education ministry. I have strong faith in him.

We started this party and were very lucky that because Dr Waheed was with us he was taken as a running mate by[President] Nasheed. It was because of that our party became one of the strong parties in the coalition.

Unfortunately my views and Dr Waheed’s views changed – my view was that we should assist the government as much as possible and try to work as hard as possible to implement the manifesto promises. Dr Waheed wanted to do the same but then our party started acting as an opposition type of party – criticising from outside the government. That I did not like.

I was telling them that we cannot do that because we are a coalition partner and we have to be with the government all the time – this is the second year of a new democracy and we have to work very hard to get results as soon as possible, and it is not helpful our party to [criticise] while we are one of the strong parties in the government. But this continued and I thought I would not be able to tolerate it any more – that why I thought only thing for me to do was join MDP. That was the reason.

JJ: What was your view when (GIP member) Mohamed Rasheed was removed from the post of Economic Development Minister? Were you worried?

ML: I was very worried because we had two members from our party in the cabinet and he is a close friend of mine. We worked closely in forming GIP and I had good support from him. I was very unhappy with the decision [to remove him]. We did not like that – we did not want any of our cabinet members to be removed in that way.

JJ: Now GIP has lost two of its cabinet members, what is your view of the party’s future?

ML: GIP is a party of many members. Even if a few members leave the party I think the party will continue. But it is very unfortunate that very strong members of the party had to leave it.

JJ: What was your opinion of Dr Waheed’s holding a meeting with members of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)?

ML: My feeling was that it is OK for the Vice President to meet the opposition party members, but at that time when there was tension between the government and the opposition it was an unlucky coincidence. If it had happened at another time perhaps it would not have raised the concern that it did. For me it was OK to meet with them, but the time was not right.

JJ: The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) hasn’t quite got around to releasing its report on Lale Youth International School, the former principal of which is currently in court facing assault charges. Why wasn’t the Education Ministry monitoring the school?

ML: That school is one of the private partnership initiatives taken by the previous government. As soon as we started getting complaints we sent our supervision team there. The supervision team found some activities that should not happen in the school. We asked the police to investigate – that took some time.

We also informed HRCM, so two parties were investigating. In the meantime we followed suggestions given by the our own supervision team, while consulting with the Maldivian company (Biz Atoll) that took the school jointly with the Turkish group. We have seen their agreement – it is a very weak agreement. We revised the agreement in order to put in stronger conditions.

JJ: How seriously will the Ministry take the recommendations of the HRCM report, when it is released?

ML: We will take them very seriously. We have been very frank on this even from the initial stages – we were the people who reported this to the police. We have given the school conditions of our own to fulfill. So we will take those recommendations very seriously.

JJ: Is there a possibility that the school may be re-tendered and removed from Biz Atoll?

ML: I think there will be a possibility. In fact we consulted the Attorney General’s office on this before that report, thinking along that line.

JJ: We received many comments concerning the Lale case, that if the government is so serious about public-private partnerships but these sorts of thing can occur in a school, it doesn’t inspire public confidence in such partnerships. How do you address this?

ML: There is public confidence in public-private partnerships, like Villa International High School. I think parents and students are very happy about the progress of this school. These do inspire public confidence in public-private partnerships. The Lale case was an agreement done long before we came in [in government] and the agreements are not the kind we are doing now. It was a very simple agreement.

JJ: Was there any evidence of corruption in that agreement?

ML: I don’t know. It not fair for me to say. I haven’t investigated that part of it. I haven’t seen the report – only the draft. I think on our part we have taken Lale school issue very seriously and we have been doing work in order to change the situation. We are one of the group that brought this case to the independent authorities.

But these things should be reflected more in the report – the activities the Ministry has done. We are the people who know the schooling – we should know the students and the parents – we are professionals in this regard.

JJ: If you are voted out in parliament’s no-confidence motion, what will you go on to do afterwards?

ML: I have to think about it. There are different things I can do – I was in the previous government as Tourism Minister before I was transferred and resigned. These are not so complicated things. Life is like that.


MP Muthalib forwards no-confidence motion against education minister

Independent MP Ibrahim Muthalib has forwarded a no-confidence motion against Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy to parliament.

MP Muthalib presented a petition to forward the motion against Education minister, which was signed by five independent MPs, three Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs and two People’s Alliance (PA) MPs.

On May 19, MP Muthalib announced he would file a no-confidence motion against Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy over the ministry steering committee’s recommendation to make Islam and Dhivehi optional subjects for grades 11 and 12.

A crowd of people who did not claim to be representing any political party or NGO conducted a series of protests over the decision outside Education Minister Luthfy’s house.

Luthfy told Minivan News that he had not officially received the news yet.

”I also heard that a such motion was presented to parliament, but the parliament has not affirmed it,” said Luthfy.

”I heard that there were three issues highlighted in the petition, ” he explained.

”The first issue they claimed was that Kulliathul Dhuraasathul Islaamiyya school was dissolved, which is literally not true,” Luthfy said. ”The school was not dissolved, rather we planned to place it under the Maldives College of Higher Education when it becomes a university.”

Luthfy said the second issue was a claim that it was his fault that Arabiyya School’s walls fell down.

”The third point was because the Education Ministry has decided to make Dhivehi and Islam optional at A-Level,” he said, ”but this was just a suggestion made by the ministry’s steering committee.”

Muthalib recently said that if the education system implemented the steering committee’s recommendation, students would be moved away from religion and their mother tongue.

”I cannot support such a curriculum that discourages the use of our own culture and language,” he said.

The government meanwhile launched a spirited defense of the Education Minister.

“This is a part of DRP’s plan to pick off ministers one-by-one,” he said. “First they plan to try and bring down the education minister, and if that succeeds they will then go after other ministers. This no-confidence motion is a shallow attempt to destabilise the government and the country,” said the President’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.

“The DRP is claiming the government is trying to ‘undermine Islam,’ because an Education Ministry has floated the idea of making the study of Dhivehi and Islam, along with all other subjects, optional for school grades 11 and 12,” he said.

“DRP, led by its dubiously elected leader Thasmeen Ali, has demonstrated time and again that they will do and say anything to try and damage the government”, Zuhair said.

“There are some good, intelligent and responsible people in the DRP. Sadly, under the current leadership, these people have been marginalized and the hot heads have taken over the party.

“The DRP have no policies; they have no vision; they have no substance. It seems their sole guiding principle is to oppose anything and everything that the government is trying to achieve.”

He further accused the concerned parliamentarians “of using Islam as a political tool.”

”I think despite being an Independent MP Muthalib acts in the parliament with the spirit of an opposition MP,” he added.


Umar Naseer “fully confident” of survival if no-confidence motion raised

Deputy leader of the main opposition party Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Umar Naseer, has said he is confident of surviving any no-confidence motion put forward to terminate him from his post of party leadership.

Daily newspaper Miadhu reported that a DRP member as claiming that a no-confidence motion to remove Umar Naseer from his post had been presented to the party’s council.

Naseer said he had also heard rumors of a no-confidence motion brewing against him.

”But then I clarified it with [party leader] Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and he assured me that no such motion was planned or discussed,” Naseer said. ”So it was just a rumor being circulated.”

He acknowledged, however, that a no-confidence motion to sack him was ”very likely to happen”.

For such a motion to succeed however, a two-thirds majority would be needed, and Naseer said he was confident that such a majority could not be reached in order to sack him.

Prior to the DRP Congress Naseer was very vocal about the need for primary elections within the party to select its presidential candidate, however the party opted to retain its system of automatically putting the party leader forward as a candidate.

”There have been no internal splits in DRP,” Naseer said, ”but as we are a large political party, we do have some disagreements over some issues between different people.”

”The biggest disagreement between us is the issue of primaries,” he explained: ”I want to hold primary elections six months prior of the next presidential election.”

He said that there were “lots of people” who supported the primaries.

”I did not discuss this with [Thasmeen], I do not know what his side is on this,” Naseer said. ”During the last congress, he said he did not support holding primaries.”

Naseer said he wanted the DRP’s presidential ticket open for every member, which he believed would increase popular support for the party.

”Many prosperous people would join the party if we kept the party’s presidential ticket open, that way we can strengthen both our financial position and political position,” Naseer explained.

He said that an issue of unpaid salaries to some DRP staff members was ongoing, but added that it was an internal issue he did want to share with the media.

”The biggest issue for me, being the deputy leader of DRP, is the challenges I am being faced by the government,” he said, adding that this included ”torture, tear gas being arrested. ”

He said that while he would try to make the party’s presidential ticket open to everyone, “I have not decided yet whether or not to run for the next presidential election myself.”