People’s Alliance (PA) MP and Parliament Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim has revealed he intends to join Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Nazim told local media that despite being PA’s parliamentary group leader, he had always worked closely with the PPM since the party’s inception in October 2011.
PA’s former president, Abdulla Yameen, was elected as PPM’s presidential candidate on Saturday (March 30) ahead of the 2013 presidential elections in September.
“PA was formed for a specific purpose wasn’t it? It was formed for the political future of Yameen as he wanted out of the DRP [Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party] at the time,” Nazim told local newspaper Haveeru.
“So when Yameen chose to further his political career through PPM the result is very clear isn’t it? However, my switch to DRP had to be put off as the political party bill was still in the parliament,” he explained.
PPM is the second largest party in the Maldives with a total of 22,765 members, according to February’s figures. The party is led by former autocratic ruler of the Maldives and half-brother of Yameen, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
In regards to the PA, Nazim stated that future progress of the Maldives lies with the functioning of larger parties, hence why he voted in favour of the Political Parties Act to dissolve parties with less than 10,000 members.
Out of the 16 parties that had existed prior to the bill’s ratification, only the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), PPM, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, Jumhoree Party and Adhaalath Party remain registered in the Maldives.
“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to smaller parties. But if so there is a fear that it would lead to a tribal system in the Maldives,” Nazim told local media.
“If we start giving every party a seat in the cabinet and companies, the whole thing will function without a proper system. We can see that from the coalitions we’ve formed so far,” he added.
According to local media, PPM will have secured a total of 19 seats in parliament should Nazim sign to the party.
Although Nazim did not give an exact date for the switch, he told Haveeru that it would take place “very soon”.
Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
The Prosecutor General (PG’s) Office today requested that the High Court void a previous Criminal Court dismissal of four corruption cases against People’s Alliance (PA) MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim.
Nazim had been cleared by the Criminal Court of all four corruption charges against him on February 23, 2012. The decision was taken 16 days after the controversial transfer of power on February 7, with the court ruling that Nazim’s “acts were not enough to criminalize him.”
All four cases concerned public procurement tenders of the former Atolls Ministry, which were alleged to have been secured through fraudulent documents and paper companies.
The state prosecutor during today’s hearing claimed that the Criminal Court had acted in contradiction to the procedures normally applied in criminal cases.
The prosecutor also alleged that in passing the ruling to dismiss the cases, the Criminal Court had failed to consider any of the evidence provided by the state.
During today’s appeal hearing, the PG’s Office stated that the dismissal of the cases had breached the constitutional decree of equal treatment to all citizens. Concerns were also raised that the Criminal Court had acted against the norms of procedure in similar cases by ruling that two counts of fraud cases against Nazim could not be prosecuted.
Considering these grounds, the state asked the High Court to rule void the Criminal Court’s dismissal of the four cases, and to order the court to rule on the cases anew.
Nazim dismissed the state’s allegations in court today, local media reported. Speaking on his behalf, his lawyer alleged that the state’s appeal case was “based around a lie”.
Nazim’s lawyer responded to the state’s allegation that the Criminal Court had not followed procedures by claiming that the court had presented the state with an opportunity to present their case during hearings.
The defendant’s lawyer also alleged that the witnesses named by the state had not been presented in court as they were not believed to be fair or impartial witnesses.
Last month, Nazim slammed PG Ahmed Muizzu in parliament, stating that he had failed to either come to a decision on or forward to court some 72 percent of cases submitted to his office by the Maldives Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The criticisms levelled by Nazim were dismissed at the time by the PG himself, who said that the claims were inaccurate.
PG Ahmed Muizzu and MP Ahmed Nazim were not responding to calls at the time of press.
Infrastructure giant GMR has said the new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) will open two years as of yesterday (July 1) “irrespective” of outside issues.
The government has meanwhile pledged to back parliament should it decide on re-nationalising the project.
The development of the airport – expected by the company to total US$511m in costs – is the largest foreign investment project undertaken in the Maldives’ history and includes commitments to renovate INIA’s existing terminal by September both in terms of operational efficiency and customer services, according to GMR.
At the same time, work is also under way on an entirely new terminal structure on the Eastern-side of Hulhule’ island that GMR has claimed will completely transform the country’s foremost transfer hub for local people and international visitors alike.
Local media outlets were on Saturday updated on the redevelopment of the island and shown around the new terminal site which, when completed, will aim to cater for increases in international traffic predicted in the country up to 2035. The site is also required to bring INIA’s operations in line with international aviation standards.
With contractors already having begun work on the new structure as of last month, the government has stressed that it will not seek to interfere or “disturb” the project that officially commenced back in November 2010 under the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed. This government commitment was made despite raising concerns over what it claimed are minor issues relating to business regulations on the site.
However, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said the long-term prospects of the construction ultimately depended on GMR validating the legality of their contract – a document that was overseen by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IFC is a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on private sector in developing countries.
Abbas added that should parliament also decide on nationalising the airport in line with the wishes of certain pro-government parties to take back the project from GMR, then the present administration would have to comply with such a decision.
The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan comprises a coalition of former opposition parties that represent the majority of elected representatives. The now-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presently has 29 MPs in the Majlis, the largest number of MPs belonging to a single party.
Several pro-government parties – including the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), People’s Alliance (PA) and Jumhoree Party (JP) – advised President Waheed last month that they continued to endorse an agreement signed in June 2010 calling for the airport to be taken back from GMR and nationalised.
The agreement endorsed six main points which included taking legal action to prevent the government’s decision to award the contract to GMR.
GMR’s contract is currently under scrutiny by a committee appointed by President Waheed, which includes the Attorney General, the Finance Minister and the CEO of Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL). The president has previously pledged during a visit to India that he would protect investment from the country in the Maldives.
A delegation from the IFC, which brokered the deal between GMR and the government of Maldives, recently addressed the government’s concerns over the concession agreement in a meeting with senior government officials.
When asked whether he believed GMR’s pledge to present the Maldives with a entirely new airport structure by July 1 2014 – in line with a 25 year concession agreement to develop and manage the site – would be met, Abbas claimed that concerns raised by several former opposition parties would need to be addressed.
“The point to note is that during the agreement’s signing, several unlawful points were raised by [former opposition] parties over why the government could not enter the agreement with GMR,” he claimed. “Under the law of the contract [GMR] did not perform sufficient due diligence and they must validate the legality of the contract. If any court of law rules the contract is illegal, the law must be upheld.”
The claims were made after local media reported that GMR had begun construction last month without a Civil Aviation Authority permit needed for work to begin. GMR responding in newspaper Haveeru said that the terminal construction had been approved in an existing master-plan agreed with the government.
Clarifying the report, Abbas claimed that the permit was “not a huge issue” and was believed to have resulted from an error by contractors presently working on the airport’s construction.
Under the law, he stressed that companies were required to undertake an Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) – which had been completed by GMR – as well as meet all other local business regulations.
Abbas claimed that the permit was an issue likely to have resulted due to a contractor error and could be addressed within the space of a week without major delays.
“Normal procedure would be for the cessation of work on the airport while the permit was awaiting approval. This takes about a week. I don’t see any reason for delays,” he said.
Aside from the permit issue, the government also alleged that it wished to resolve an issue over a duty-free law that outlawed duty-free shops at arrival terminals. With alcohol outlawed for consumption or purchase outside of licensed resort properties under Maldivian law, duty free stores within the airport’s arrival area was raised as a legal issue.
“These issues can easily be resolved, we are not looking to disturb the GMR deal,” he claimed. “Larger corporations need good governance, if one company does not meet its obligations everyone else may start looking for loopholes.”
Abbas said the most pressing issue concerning the INIA construction agreement remained the US$25 Airport Development Charge (ADC) outlined by GMR within its original agreement – a practice the infrastructure group contends is commonly used by airport developers around the world to aid the costs of large-scale renovation projects.
“The law does not allow for deduction of the ADC without parliamentary approval,” Abbas said.
The country’s Civil Court had blocked GMR charging the ADC last year on the grounds that it was a tax not approved by parliament. As the ADC was stipulated in the contract, former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration had signed with the airport operator, the government at the time agreed that GMR would deduct the charges from the concession fees due the government, pending appeal.
With the present government having contested these deductions, GMR released a statement back in May proposing a compromise agreement whereby Maldivian nationals would be excluded paying the ADC when departing the airport.
While seeking to maintain an open dialogue with the government, GMR said Saturday that there had been no reply so far in regards to the options it had offered the government in order to find a resolution to the ADC matter.
Despite the ongoing issues with the ADC, the infrastructure group said it did not pay too much attention to politics in the country, claiming it instead remained focused on the development of INIA.
“We don’t do politics well at all,” said INIA CEO Andrew Harrison, when questioned by local media about the impact politics was potentially having on the construction.
Speaking during a tour of the new airport structure yesterday, Harrison added that the airport construction was on track at present, and already providing improved returns to the state when compared to earnings before the agreement came into place.
He added that although there was no set deadline in order to reach consensus with the government over the resolution of the ADC charge, long-term delays could have “time and cost implications for the project”.
Aside from contractual obligations to improve tourist processing capacity in the existing terminal, Harrison said that GMR was committed to a number of additional improvements not specified in the original concession agreement.
These improvements include an entirely new outdoor food court for the present terminal including Thai Express, Burger King and Coffee Corner restaurants that would be open to the general public as well as visitors.
He also pointed to other high-profile developments such as the refurbishment of the airport’s domestic terminal and toilets, a new executive lounge and behind the scenes modifications to boost capacity at the site as a reflection of the company’s claims it is going beyond its contractual obligations.
The new terminal meanwhile has been devised to include new shopping complexes, increased seaplane capacity via two new water runways and a considerably larger structure built above an large artificial lagoon.
The construction, comprising of a 70 percent glass structure, has been designed architecturally to play up the appeal of the Maldives’ oceans, whilst being four times the size of the terminal presently used to accommodate airline passengers.
Addressing concerns raised in local media about the development of the existing runway, Harrison said that GMR had sent proposals to the government for possible construction of an emergency runway.
He stressed the the construction, which would require additional funding support either directly through the government or through the concession agreement, could be used only in case of emergencies should the main airport runway be out of action owing to an accident or emergency.
Harrison claimed that if approved by government, the emergency runway, which would not be ready by the opening of the terminal on July 1, 2014, would not be in full compliance to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations, due to its distance to grounded aircraft.
With the new terminal in place, aircraft would be grounded 212 metres away from the proposed emergency runway, meaning it would not meet recommended international regulations. However, GMR claimed this distance would still be preferable in terms of regulatory requirements to the current space available between INIA’s runway and aircraft parking area.
Beyond the new terminal aiming to meet full ICAO compliance by the time it is open to tourists, the passenger terminal is also expected to meet LEED Silver Certification environmental standards.
The contruction will also include a new VIP terminal to deal with diplomats, heads of state and other high-profile guests, along with a brand new cargo terminal and a Airport Fire and Rescue Building to deal with any potential on-site emergencies.
GMR said that the terminal had been designed by Singapore-based architect Winston Choo, who had devised a structure making the most of natural ocean surroundings while also playing up garden areas and a lagoon equivalent to two football pitches in size.
As part of the terminals proposed aesthetic, distressed wood, granite and coral like materials designed to emulate the feel of high-end resort properties around the country are expected to be used, the company added.
A virtual walk through of the proposed terminal design can be viewed here.
Discussing the ongoing political backlash against the awarding of the contract to GMR back in 2010 on nationalistic grounds, Harrison contended that INIA would remain a Maldivian owned enterprise that would be continuously developed by the company for the duraction of the tender.
“We are just the caretakers here,” he said. “The airport remains and has always been owned by Maldivians.”
Harrison contended that to ensure profitability for its investment in the airport, GMR was itself committed to strengthening the wider Maldivian economy by working with local businesses, industry and contractors.
Islanders of Uligamu in Haa Alif Atoll have alleged that more than 60 islanders that filled application forms for a computer course offered by Focus Education have been registered in the minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) without their knowledge.
“It is believed that the person who ran the program on this island used the information of all persons that signed up for the course and filled application forms to sign up for PA,” an Uligamu Councillor, Ahmed Muiz, told Minivan News.
“The course was held early last year and people working in different sectors signed up for the course,” he said. “The reason why people allege that it was the person who ran the course on this island that has done this is because in all the forms filled to join PA, he has written his name as the witness.”
Muiz said that islanders have informed the PA and the Elections Commission (EC) about the fraud, but have not received an official reply so far.
“All the forms were fingerprinted too, but all the information except for the applicant’s named and some other basic information were wrong,” he said. “Like the mother’s name or father’s name was wrong in almost all of the forms that the Elections Commission has received.”
The People’s Alliance media coordinator did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.
Former PA Secretary General Ahmed Shareef, now Secretary General of the Elections Commission, told Minivan News that he had no information on the matter.
“There have been many similar cases filed in the commission. When dealing with such matters, we first inform the political party that this has happened and ask them to clarify how it has happened,” Shareef said.
If anyone has been registered to a political party without their knowledge, Shareef said, the person should inform the commission in writing or contact the political party in which the person was registered.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the matter had not yet been reported to police.
The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) have come out in favour of making MPs financial statements public.
Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim, PA parliamentary group leader, told local media yesterday that the party will send a letter to the parliament secretariat requesting that financial statements of its MPs should be made available to state institutions upon request.
Meanwhile MDP parliamentary group leader, MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, said at a press conference yesterday that the party believed financial statements should be made available to anyone who sought it.
“Since we are representatives of the people, we believe that the public should know about MPs’ incomes, standard of living, and what they do with their incomes,” he said, adding that the party would “establish a proper system” to make the information available.
A decision would be made following discussions at the MDP’s national council or parliamentary group, the MP for Hinnavaru said.
When MPs voted against the proposal 34 to 24, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim declared the matter “void.”
“However, the Secretary General’s request for counsel on this matter has not been decided one way or the other,” he said at the time. “So the Secretary General will go ahead with it according to the rules of procedure.”
The Secretary-General had asked the Ethics Committee to determine whether MPs’ financial statements should be released to other state institutions upon request.
Secretary General Ahmed Mohamed confirmed to Minivan News that the requested financial statements and documents were provided to the ACC team before the court order expired at 3:00pm.
According to Article 76 of the constitution, “Every member shall annually submit to the Secretary General of the People’s Majlis a statement of all property and monies owned by him, business interests and liabilities. Such declarations shall include the details of any other employment and obligations of such employment.”
The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has condemned the Criminal Court for barring journalist from a corruption hearing involving Parliament’s Deputy Speaker and People Alliance Party (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim.
The council issued the statement following the Criminal Court judge’s decision, stating that the court’s claim that journalists were blocked because they gave a negative perspective on the court was not probable grounds to disallow journalists from hearing the trial.
The Council said that the Criminal Court’s decision would prevent the court from gaining public confidence.
The MMC’s press statement said the decision to bar journalists from the trial was “a huge challenge” for people’s right to a free press, as outlined in the Constitution.
Local dailies Haveeru and Sun Online reported that the hearing was scheduled to start at 12:00pm, but was actually conducted one hour earlier at 11:00pm. The court had not informed any of the reporters who registered at the court that morning of the time change.
According to Haveeru, court reporters who learned of the time change and requested entry were told that “the judge has decided to hold a closed hearing.”
When asked by reporters to offer a reason for the closed hearing, the court official asked the reporters to wait, went inside and did not appear until the hearing was over.
Almost two hours after the hearing concluded, Criminal Court Media Officer Ahmed Mohamed Manik told the court reporters that had not been allowed to enter because “negative perceptions of the court were being created [among the public] because of some journalists.”
Queried by the court reporters, the Criminal Court official insisted that the judge was authorised to exclude the public from trials under article 42 of the constitution. Members of the public were allowed to attend today’s hearing.
Under normal court procedure, only trials involving child sexual abuse are closed to the public.
The civil court has ordered police to pay Rf 244,000 (US$$15,823) in compensation to the former President’s half-brother and People’s Alliance (PA) leader Abdulla Yameen for unlawful detention on the Presidential Retreat of Aarah.
Yameen was arrested in June last year on charges of bribery and treason, alongside Jumhooree Party (JP) leader and ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim.
However the Criminal Court at first refused to extend their detention beyond three days’ house arrest, claiming that there were no reasonable grounds to hold the MPs.
The MNDF at the time claimed that Yameen had sought their protection after violent clashes between MDP supporters, police and another group outside his house on the evening of July 14. However Yameen claimed he refused the offer of protection and requested that security forces control the crowd outside his residence.
In August last year the Civil Court ruled that the government’s detention of Yameen was unconstitutional and declared that the MNDF had violated articles 41, 19, 21, 26, 30, 37, 45 and 46 of the constitution.
Explaining the decision to award Yameen compensation, Judge Aisha Shujoon said that the Supreme Court had at the time of Yameen’s detention determined that the arrest was unlawful.
Police had claimed that the case could not be filed against the police because the High Court had subsequently extended Yameen’s detention.
However, Judge Shujoon said that despite this ruling the Supreme Court had ruled that there were no judicial grounds to believe that Yameen was arrested in accordance with the law, and that therefore it was to be believed that the arrest was unlawful from the time he was arrested.
The Civil Court judge then ruled that Yameen’s detention from 29 June to 11 July was unlawful, and that Yameen had the right to be compensated for the 13 days and 20 minutes he was unlawfully held in detention.
Judge Shujoon said that considering respect for human dignity, detaining someone unlawfully could not be considered a minor offence.
She awarded Yameen Rf 1500 (US$972) for aggravated damage, Rf 41,600 (US$2697) for exemplary damages, and Rf 20,915.70 (US$1356) to reimburse Yameen for upgrading the security of his house.
The court also ordered police to pay the money within 30 days.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa recently submitted a resolution to parliament calling for an investigation into allegations that Yameen as former head of the State Trading Organisation (STO) had been complicit in trading subsidised oil to the Burmese military junta on the black market.
MP of the opposition-aligned People’s Alliance (PA) Ahmed Rasheed has announced on MNBC his decision to leave the party “to better serve the public as an independent.”
Rasheed, who spoke to the state broadcaster on Sunday, also said he was open to joining other parties “if it was within the public interest.”
The PA’s acting Secretary General Ahmed Musthafa however told Minivan News today that he was unable to confirm whether Rasheed had left the party: “We don’t believe he has moved. I saw him yesterday,” he said, adding that the party would issue a formal communication on the matter in the next few days.
“Maybe he has been pressured by another party such as the MDP to join, although I don’t think he will,” Musthafa said.
While the PA would be entitled to fewer seats, parliamentary rules dictate that Rasheed must be given a seat on at least one committee as an Independent.
MP Ahmed Rasheed represents the constituency of Isdhoo in Laamu Atoll, an area of strong opposition support that voted largely for PA candidates under its former coalition agreement with the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP).
The PA decided decided on July 13 to break the longstanding coalition agreement, after internal strife within the DRP saw the party split into factions loyal to its leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali or the party’s ‘honorary leader’, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Eleven of the DRP’s MPs met with other opposition parties, including the Jumhoree Party (JP), the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and an independent MP to discuss the creation of a new voting bloc, one which could see the DRP’s majority control of parliament reduced to 13-15 MPs.
DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom raised concern following the split that the PA’s decision to break the coalition agreement would upset constituents in Laamu Atoll who “are very loyal to the DRP but voted for the PA tag.”
Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf responded that such islands “voted for the PA because President Gayoom asked them to do it. Even now Zaeem (Gayoom) is with the PA, they are working together. Voters in Laamu didn’t vote for Thasmeen – they voted for Gayoom.”
MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Z-faction are in the process of joining forces with minority opposition parties People’s Alliance (PA), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) to form a new “opposition parliamentary group.”
After months of internal strife within the DRP, coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) broke its agreement with the largest opposition party this week at the behest of the Z-faction, threatening DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s status as the minority leader of parliament.
Formerly the majority leader, Thasmeen became minority leader at the beginning of the current parliament session in June when the ruling party secured 34 seats, making the parliamentary group leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the new majority leader.
Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf told Minivan News that the new parliamentary group will consist of MPs from PA, JP, DQP and a few Independent MPs along with about 11 DRP MPs disaffected with Thasmeen’s leadership.
“We will appoint a leader and deputy leader for the new parliamentary group very soon,” he revealed.
The DRP MP for Galolhu South added that embattled DRP Leader Thasmeen was “welcome to join” the new group.
“But it was Thasmeen’s failure that led us to form this opposition parliamentary group, he failed us as the Majority Leader,” Mahlouf said.
Mahlouf told Minivan News yesterday that 11 of the party’s MPs met with MPs of the minority opposition parties and an independent MP Saturday night “to discuss how to move forward.”
Parliamentary procedure prevented the Z-DRP MPs from forming a new party, Mahlouf claimed, but he speculated that the MPs would potentially leave the main opposition and operate either as independents, or join one or other of the opposition aligned parties.
If that scenario were to happen, the DRP would be reduced to 13-15 MPs and Thasmeen would no longer be minority leader, as the the new opposition PA-JP-DQP alliance would number 21-22 MPs.
Thasmeen has meanwhile hit out at the PA’s decision this week to split with the DRP. The PA had claimed lack of cooperation and “initiative” by the DRP leadership in holding the government accountable as the main reason for the decision.
The DRP leader told local media this week that the PA had to “take responsibility for the weakening of the opposition” due to the dissolution of the coalition.
Appearing on private broadcaster DhiTV last night, PA Leader Abdulla Yameen however contended that the termination of the coalition agreement did not entail “any disadvantage or loss to opposition parties.”
Yameen, half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and potential presidential candidate for 2013, explained that the party would still vote with the DRP to hold the government accountable.
“PA did not break the coalition to support MDP,” he said. “PA parted ways [with the DRP] because we believe that under our new management we can improve efforts to hold the government accountable.”
The opposition MP for Mulaku noted that six months had passed since the PA announced its decision not to follow the DRP’s whip line.
He added that the PA had voted with the DRP “91 percent of the time.”
Yameen said that “any weakening of the opposition” occurred “when the DRP-PA coalition was at its strongest.”
“The opposition parties were weakened when the [concession agreement to hand over management of the Male’ International Airport to Indian infrastructure giant] GMR issue emerged,” he claimed. “I was arrested. [JP Leader] Gasim [Ibrahim] was arrested. Where was DRP then? What hardship did they have to bear? No DRP senior officials were arrested.”