Housing units from Gaza fund to be completed by end of January: Red Crescent

The Maldives Red Crescent has revealed that the housing units built in Gaza using the money collected in the Maldives through the Gaza fund will be completed by the end of January, reports local media.

CNM reported that the houses built by the Red Crescent are to home 100 families, and that they are being built near the rubble of houses destroyed during last year’s conflict with Israel.

US$1.9 million was collected from the Maldives for the Gaza fund through donation boxes set out across the islands as well as the proceeds of a media telethon.

CNM also reported that the funds have allowed for the purchase of medicine from Jordan, which has been handed over to Jordan’s Haashimee Charitable Association to be transferred to Gaza.


President and foreign minister express support for Palestinian statehood

President Abdulla Yameen has reiterated the Maldives’ support for the establishment of a Palestinian State on yesterday’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

“Acknowledgment and recognition alone are powerful gestures which can facilitate an international norm,” said Yameen.

“The Maldives welcomes all efforts towards this goal, during the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. We hope to see a future where Palestine emerges as a State with full recognition from the United Nations.”

First observed in 1977, Palestinian solidarity day falls on November 29 as, on that day in 1947, the General Assembly adopted of the  ‘Partition Resolution’, which provided for the establishment in Palestine of a ‘Jewish State’ and an ‘Arab State’.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon also released a statement yesterday, condemning Israel’s “horrific violence” and describing the world’s inability to prevent it as the “greatest failure of modern times”.

“Seventy years ago, the world built institutional mechanisms to mitigate conflicts and to address the atrocities of our times. They constructed pillars that represented the very ideals of humanity and hope for a world free from violence and carnage,” said Dunya.

“They reflect a united effort of the international community to find a prosperous world for our future generations. Yet, the Palestinians continue to be victims of an unjust occupation that violates their very right to a life free from fear and violence.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also marked the occasion with a call “to step back from the brink.  The mindless cycle of destruction must end.  The virtuous circle of peace must begin.”

“The scale of the destruction by the Israeli military has left deep questions about respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality, and generated wide calls for accountability,” he continued.

“The Israeli and Palestinian people face a shared fate on shared land. There is no erasing the other. Yet I fear deeply that with each passing day the people of the region are losing any sense of connection – any sense of empathy – any sense of mutual understanding of our common humanity and common future.”

Maldivian solidarity with the Palestinian people was aptly demonstrated during the Israeli aggression in Gaza this year, in which over 2000 people were killed in 7 weeks – the vast majority of them Palestinians.

An unprecedented 33-hour telethon was one of a number of fund-raising events in August which saw US$1.4 million donated to victims of the war in Gaza.

President Yameen noted yesterday that Palestinian rights remained a key part of the Maldives’ foreign policy.

“As a responsible member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Maldives will continue to vociferously advocate the cause of Palestine, and our people stand united as one in support of the brotherly people of Palestine”.

Re-elected to the Human Rights Council last year, the Maldives has pushed to retain agenda item seven – ‘the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories’ – on the council’s agenda.

“The Maldives is appalled by Israeli’s systemic aggression: horrific violence that continue to occur with no heed for international law, and actions that blatantly violate the fundamental principles of international humanitarian and human rights law,” said Dunya.

“We believe that the people of Palestine have experienced far too many losses. History has repeated far too many times.  A peaceful solution to the case of Palestine is an immediate necessity.”

Related to this story

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Maldivians to take Gaza fundraising efforts to new heights

Maldives discusses intolerance, Syria, Palestine, and women’s rights at the UN Human Rights Council


Maldives to donate US$1.4million for Gaza war victims

The Help Gaza telethon, organized by Maldives media, has raised a record MVR 21.5 million (US$1.4 million) in aid for victims of the war in Gaza.

The 36 hour 30 minute long telethon began at 2:30pm on Friday with the initial MVR6.3 million (US$ 400,000) collected through the religious Adhaalath Party’s Help Gaza Fund.

A series of activities including jumble sales, fishing competitions, sports competitions, traditional drum ‘bodu beru’ shows and fairs were held throughout the weekend to raise funds.

Donations were collected through collection boxes, SMS, checks and Bank of Maldives (BML) Point of Sales systems. The Maldives Police Services and Maldives Scouts oversaw security at collection boxes. BML was in charge of collecting and managing donations.

Within the first nine hours an estimated MVR10.8 million had been raised. By noon on Saturday over MVR11 million was collected. When the telethon ended at 3am on Sunday, the steering committee estimated it had collected over MVR20 million.

The amount is double that collected for the mosque fund in 2012 (MVR10million).

“Historic Success”

The Help Gaza Telethon’s steering committee member Mohamed Asif ‘Mondhu’ has attributed the fundraising effort’s “historic success” to the empathy Maldivians feel for the people of Palestine.

Media Coordinator and Sun Editor Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir has pledged to ensure funds reached Gazans through Qatar’s Red Crescent. None of the money would be used for overhead costs, Hiriga said.

According to Hiriga, an estimated MVR9.5 million of the MCR21.5 million needs to be realised. He has called on donors to ensure contributions are deposited at BML within the next two days.

He commended the Maldives media’s joint efforts, and said he believed the large amount of donations came in response to the “worst suffering Israeli’s have put Palestinians through in recent history.”

The telethon came amid renewed violence between Israel and Palestinian militants after a three-day ceasefire ended on Friday.

More than 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in four weeks of Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, the UN has said.


The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) donated MVR1million from soldier’s wages, while the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet pledged MVR500,000 each to the fund.

Yameen and Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed have also pledged to donate a month’s wages (MVR50,000 and MVR75,000, respectively). Although the president’s official salary stands at MVR 100,000, Yameen only takes MVR 50,000 in a bid to reduce state expenditure.

The state’s independent institutions have also donated MVR300,000 from wages. These include the Judicial Services Commission, the Civil Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Auditor General’s Office, Maldives Inland Revenue Authority, Anti-Corruption Commission, Police Integrity Commission, Customs Integrity Commission, the Tax Appeal Tribunal, and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission.

Shaviyani Atoll Funadhoo Island residents donated money raised through a fishing competition, a slow motor biking competition and a bashi competition.

“Our aim is to ensure every citizen participates in this national effort,” Council President Ahmed Ibrahim told local media on Saturday. He said he hoped to raise MVR100,000 for the Help Gaza Fund.

Haa Alif Uligamu Island fishermen went big game fishing and pledged to donate all proceeds from selling sailfish to the fund. Each sailfish was to be sold at MVR800.

The jumble sale at Kalaafaanu School in Malé saw auctioning of wedding dresses, one child’s birthday cake and furniture. Children emptied their money boxes into collection boxes in Malé.

At 4:30pm, hundreds clothed in black gathered in the rain at the Usfasgandu area in Malé for a prayer for Palestine and a moment of silence for the dead.

“This event was very well received. So many people turned up at the Usfasgandu area, it was completely jam-packed with a large number of people standing out on the street. Today proved the sense of unity Maldivians have in our heart for the whole global Islamic community,” said event organiser and State Trading Organization’s Managing Director Ali Azim.

Meanwhile, Maldives Broadcasting Commission President Mohamed Shaheeb has commended the media for the initiative in Help Gaza Telethon.

“That the Help Gaza Telethon has been noted as one of the most successful humanitarian efforts to be carried out by the Maldivian media is, without doubt, evidence of the important work being carried out by media and the spirit of patriotism that exist amongst them,” Shaheeb said in a letter to the steering committee.

Marches were held across the world on Saturday as part of a worldwide “day of rage” against Israeli military action in Gaza. Demonstrations were held in UK, South Africa, France, Australia and India.

Other demonstrations were held in Spain, Greece, Jordan and Yemen on Friday.


Maldives media initiates ‘Help Gaza’ telethon

Media outlets in the Maldives have initiated a telethon to raise funds for the ‘Help Gaza’ fund.

The telethon will start on Friday at 2:30pm and continue until midnight on Saturday.

The ‘I will also help’ telethon has called on state employees and private companies to donate a day’s wages to the fund.

The Maldives Customs Services, Maldives Ports Limited and Faafu Atoll Hospital have pledged to donate a day’s wages from all employees to the fund.

Over MVR5 million (US$ 323,624) has now been collected from private donations since the fund was established on July 17.

Raa Atoll Kinolhas Island with a population of 360 people alone has donated MVR 52,623 to the fund in four days.

Meanwhile, the Help Gaza collection fund on Baa Atoll Maalhos Island was stolen on Sunday. According to the island council, approximately MVR10,000 had been collected when the box was stolen.


More than MVR2 million donated to Gaza fund

A total of MVR2.3million (US$149,157) and US$8,089 has been donated to the Gaza fund set up by the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) to provide financial assistance to Palestinians affected by the ongoing Israeli military aggression.

In addition to fund boxes placed in the capital Malé and other islands across the country, according to the AP, dollar and rufiyaa accounts have been opened in the Bank of Maldives and the Islamic Bank of Maldives to collect donations.

Fund raising activities are set to continue till August 17, after which the proceeds will be channeled through the Qatari Red Crescent.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a statement on Thursday (July 24) condemning the Israeli bombing of a United Nations shelter in Beit Hanoun, Palestine.

“It is a cowardly and shameful act on the part of Israel to target a UN shelter whose exact coordinates were given to the Israeli military by the UN. It again underscores the need for the UN Security Council to take urgent and stronger actions against Israel. The international community has a duty to put pressure on Israel to stop the killing and to end the crippling blockade of Gaza,” she was quoted as saying in a foreign ministry statement.

The statement noted that the Maldives co-sponsored a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council last week to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate “atrocities” committed by Israel in the ongoing conflict, which has seen more than 800 people killed.

Following an announcement by the government last week of its intention to boycott Israeli imports, Commissioner General of Customs Ahmed Mohamed told local media on Thursday that the import ban has now been enforced.

“From today, any attempt to import Israeli products will be blocked, and the importer will be given the chance to re-export, failing which the products will be destroyed,” he told Sun Online.


Maldives to boycott Israeli products, annul bilateral agreements

The Government of Maldives has today announced the boycott of Israeli products and the annulment of bilateral agreements with the country.

“President Yameen and the Maldivian citizens are with the Palestinian people”, said Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon at a press conference this afternoon.

Dunya also announced that the Maldives would join other Arab nations in co-sponsoring a resolution at this week’s special session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) calling for the protection of an independent Palestinian state and the extension of humanitarian aid.

As well as an admittedly “symbolic” boycott of Israeli products, three agreements – signed in 2009 under the administration of President Mohamed Nasheed – would now be annulled, explained the foreign minister.

The agreements involved cooperation in areas of health, culture and education, and tourism.

“I do not think Maldivians want any help from Israel or want to keep up relations with Israel. So from now on, the agreements have been annulled,” she said.

While she noted that neither that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom nor the current government believed in maintaining such relations, she stopped short of announcing the severing of diplomatic ties.

Criticising Nasheed for having established diplomatic relations with Israel, Dunya said that his current statements in support of the Palestinians could not now be accepted.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in 2009, Nasheed argued that renewed diplomatic relations with Israel would be used to reiterate the Maldives’ support for a two state solution.


Acknowledging the impact of the Maldives’ boycott would be small, Dunya today noted that other small nations had done likewise with symbolic acts that had been appreciated by the Palestinian government.

“Even though what we give is small or symbolic, the way it is received is important. The message we want to give is we are with the Palestinian people,” said Dunya.

Explaining the boycott, Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, minister at the President’s Office, said the government would soon announce a moratorium on the import of Israeli goods into the country after discussions with the Ministry of Economic Development and Maldives Customs Services.

While the government is calling on businessmen to join the boycott, it will still be possible for some Israeli products to enter the Maldives as the country does not check for the country of origin or manufacturers of imported products. Even so, the government will remove such products from shops in accordance with the Customs Act.

Shareef said that the Maldives may consider lifting the moratorium if the Israeli government’s violation of international resolutions stop.

Regarding other economic links, he noted that there were few tourists arriving in the Maldives from Israel and that there were no Israeli investments in the country.

“Israeli investment is not important for us. We want investments from countries with human rights practices that are acceptable to us,” said Shareef.

Israeli tourists – numbering 2,569 in 2013 – constituted 0.3 percent of total tourist arrivals. In June 2014, 254 Israeli tourists visited Maldives, a 72 percent increase from 12 months earlier.

Domestic pressure

At home, the government remains under pressure from both the opposition and civil society who have called for bolder action concerning the recent escalation of violence in Gaza.

After the opposition leader Nasheed called on human rights defenders to raise their voices against “indiscriminate killings in Gaza”, his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held a rally on July 12 in Malé criticising the government’s initial silence.

On the same day, President Abdulla Yameen phoned Palestinian President Dr Mahmoud Abbas to condemn “Israel’s inhuman actions”, and pledged to do everything necessary in the international arena to aid Palestinians.

Days later, thousands of Maldivians from all sides of the political spectrum gathered across the country to rally in protest against the Israeli offensive.

Nasheed has since called on MDP members to take the initiative and go to Gaza in order to act as a “human shields” protecting Palestinians.

Those who organised the nationwide rally are currently circulating a petition to be submitted to the People’s Majlis calling for a resolution to be passed by MPs.

Speaking to Minivan News, a member of the group said that over 8000 signatures had been collected in just two evenings. Working alongside civil society organisations in the atolls and local councils, many more were expected.

A second online petition has also been launched calling on the government to use Maldives’ seat in the UN HRC to request an investigation into human rights violations in Israel and Palestine and to hold discussions to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party, along with 11 civil society organisations, had established a donation fund to assist Palestinians affected by the ongoing conflict.


Over MVR300,000 donated to Gaza Fund in two days

Over MVR300,000 (US$19,455) has been donated in the first two days to a “Gaza Fund” set up by the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) to provide financial assistance to Palestinians affected by the ongoing Israeli aggression.

According to the party, a total of MVR317,364.60 and US$1,346 has been collected as of yesterday (July 19).

Fund boxes have been placed across the capital Malé in mosques and other locations, including the artificial beach and the tsunami memorial area, as well as in Vilimalé and Hulhumalé.

The fund was launched by Maldives national football team midfielder Mohamed Arif and former captain Assad Abdul Gani at a ceremony last week.

Adhaalath Party Spokesperson Imran Zahir said at the ceremony that 11 NGOs were participating in the fund raising activities while a bank account for donations would be set up at the Islamic Bank.

Zahir said donations would be counted in the presence of the media and that the proceeds would not be used for management purposes.

Meanwhile, the Qatari Red Crescent offered last Thursday (July 17) to ensure that the funds reach its intended recipients.

In a letter to AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Qatar Red Crescent Secretary General Saleh Bin Ali Al-Muhanadi said that the humanitarian organisation could ensure that the funds reach the people of Gaza in the form of food and medicine.

The arrangements could be made through its extensive relief efforts in Gaza, he said.

“We note that we have had a very fruitful partnership with Adaalath Party in two previous projects; namely Gaza Fund and PK Fund, in which we channelled the funds that were raised in Maldives to the people of Gaza and Pakistan respectively,” the letter read.

In early 2009, 25 Maldivian charities raised US$100,000 for humanitarian projects in Gaza in the wake of an Israeli military offensive in December 2008.

The previous Gaza fund raised MVR1.2 million (US$100,834) between January 9 and February 8, 2009.

Last week, thousands of Maldivians joined a protest march in the capital against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Fund raising

Meanwhile, a heated exchange took place on social media last week between Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed and former President Mohamed Nasheed after the latter suggested that it would be “unwise” to donate to the AP fund while details of expenditure out of a “Mosque Fund” set up by the Islamic Ministry remained unclear.

Shaheem responded angrily claiming that details of expenditure were shared with the People’s Majlis and the media, implying that Nasheed had left the country to avoid participating in a rally by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on July 12.

“Nasheed cannot tolerate any action against the Jews in Maldives,” the Islamic Minister tweeted.

In response, the opposition leader accused Shaheem of lying and explained that he had flown overseas on July 7 to seek “emergency” medical treatment for his wife in Singapore, three days before the MDP’s national council passed a resolution to hold a protest march.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla meanwhile tweeted, “[President Nasheed] is with his wife who just underwent a surgery. How much evil do you need to spread, in this holy month?”

According to figures publicised by the Islamic Ministry, a total of MVR21.5 million (US$1.3 million) was donated to the mosque fund, out of which and spent MVR14.9 million (US$966,278) as of July 2013.

The opposition party’s national council organised a protest march after Nasheed – currently the party’s acting president – called on “all human rights defenders” to raise their voices “against the indiscriminate killings in Gaza.”

In a tweet four days later, Nasheed referred to 12 Maldivians leaving for Ceylon to fight in the neighbouring country’s defence in 1943 and suggested that there was “no reason that an MNDF [Maldivian National Defence Force] brigade should not go in defence of Gaza.”

On Friday (July 18), Nasheed contended that the current administration could not “care for Gaza” and asked the MDP to take the initiative to organise “a human shield” for resistance in Gaza.


Palestinian refugee family to remain in Maldives while authorities assist with resettlement

Four Palestinian refugees who arrived in the Maldives on July 9 will remain on the airport island of Hulhule’ until authorities can resettle the group in another country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced.

The Palestinian nationals, who Minivan News understands had previously fled to Syria, arrived in the country earlier this month on a flight from Dubai with a “questionable” travel document supplied by Syrian authorities.

The arrival of the refugees to the Maldives has been described by former Maldives Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed as a relatively unprecedented development for the nation, which has never previously entertained asylum seekers or refugees – mainly due to a lack of individuals seeking such a status.

“There does not appear to be an official mechanism to deal with such claims either,” Dr Shaheed explained today.

“However, those who have drifted into the Maldives by sea have been repatriated to their home countries, and it is only those whose nationality has not been identified who have remained in limbo in Maldives, sometimes under detention, as the case with some alleged Somali pirates.”

In a statement issued today, the foreign ministry said that under local laws, individuals travelling to the Maldives with false documentation were to be refused entry to the country.

However, the ministry said it had been informed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on July 14 that the Palestinian family were believed to be registered as refugees. The family has also told government authorities that they are listed with the United Nations Relief and Works Agencies for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The Foreign Ministry said it understood the Palestinian nationals had been living until recently in Syria, before seeking to leave the country due escalation of conflict between government and rebel forces.

“Upon receiving request from UNHCR, the ministry intervened and requested the Department of Immigration and Emigration to allow the family to remain in the Maldives, as returning the family from the same route as they came in would leave to high probability of the family being returned to war-torn Syria,” read the foreign ministry statement.

“[Returning the family to Syria] is not acceptable to the government of the Maldives.”

Citing involvement with the case “purely on a humanitarian basis”, senior officials in the government have since met with the family, who have said they had no intention of staying in the Maldives indefinitely.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the Palestinian nationals have sought relocation to Europe, where other members of their family are already believed to have settled.

“Deputy Chief of Mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Mr Hans Friedrich Schodder and Mr Abid Mohudin, Interviewing Officer, arrived in the Maldives on July 23 2013, and have met with the family,” the ministry stated.

“UNHCR officials have already gathered information from the family on refugee status determination and has assisted in the resettlement submission.”

Government authorities are now working with the UNHCR to try and help the family resettle in Europe in collaboration with the Palestinian Embassy in Colombo also assisting.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the embassy had already provided assurances that all necessary travel documents would be provided to the family once the UNHCR has resolved the process of their resettlement.

Meanwhile, the family continue to be held at an unspecified location on the airport island, with authorities pledging to provide food, medical assistance and other necessary facilities, the Foreign Ministry has said.

Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali was on leave when contacted for a comment today, forwarding request for further information to department Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Munaaz.

Munaaz was not responding to calls at time of press.

International rules

Former Former Minister Dr Shaheed, who has served in the role under the governments of both former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed, said international rules on refugees were governed by the 1951 Refugees Convention and the 1967 Protocol to the Refugee Convention.

He added that the Maldives was not a party to such treaties. However, Dr Shaheed said that certain requirements in dealing with refugees were included in customary international law, requiring all nations to abide by them.

“The most important such customary international law principle is that of non-refoulement, whereby an asylum seeker should not be sent back to a country where he or she would face threats to his/her life or freedom,” he said.


President Waheed returns from Palestine visit

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has returned to Male’ today after an official visit to Palestine, where he chaired the 4th International Islamic Conference of Bait Al Maqdis.

Dr Waheed used his visit to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on extending relations between the two nations, while also visiting key local sites such as Birzeit University.

Speaking at the university on Wednesday (June 5), President Waheed discussed a number of issues such as climate change and its impact on development in the Maldives.

He also talked to students concerning consolidating democratic change in the Maldives, according to the President’s Office website.

Whilst chairing the Islamic conference during his visit, President Waheed pledged the Maldives’ continued support to finding a two-state solution to ensure peace between Palestine and Israel.

He also reiterated the Maldives’ position backing the establishment of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital from lands occupied in the 1967 war.

Ahead of the conference, Dr Waheed was presented with the ‘Star of Palestine’ by President Mahmoud Abbas on June 4 in recognition of his efforts to strengthen relations between the two countries, the President’s Office website has said.