Police release 44 arrested from Anbaara

Police have confirmed the release of 44 individuals arrested from Anbaraa Island during a raid on a music festival on April 18.

A total of 79 suspects were taken into police custody from the island of Anbaraa in Vaavu atoll, all of whom were suspected of being under the influence of drugs, or had drugs on their person, according to police. On Tuesday (April 22) 19 women were transferred to house arrest.

After release of 44 individuals last night, there are currently 32 men still in police custody.

“We have 32 males [under arrest] , those who were in house arrest they are also released except for three,” confirmed a Police spokesperson.

“The investigation is completed now – so today some might be relsead, and some might be taken to court for extended custody,” the spokesperson added.

The Drug Enforcement Department, Specialist Operations, police intelligence department, and the forensic department conducted the operation, Satheeh told  Minivan News previously.

Upon searching the island as well as the 198 partygoers, Satheeh said police discovered different types of drugs and more than MVR90,000 (US$5,836) in cash.

In addition to beer cans, the drugs confiscated from the island included pills, LSD stickers, and hash oil joints as well as rubber packets, cellophane packets, and film canisters containing cannabis, Satheeh said.

However, the raid of the island and subsequent arrests have been an issue of contention, with some arguing that the Police’s actions were a breach of human rights.

In a recent article published on Minivan News, Mushfique Mohamed contended that the arrests at Anbaraa underpinned by a political and constitutional motive, with police using the arrests as a means of “garnering support along ultra-nationalist and Islamist lines.”

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has denied allegations by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that constitutional rights and procedures were violated in the arrest of 79 youth last weekend from a music festival in an uninhabited island.

In a press release issued in response to a statement yesterday by the MDP’s rights committee, police insisted that all the suspects taken into custody from Vaavu Anbaraa were informed of their constitutional rights as well as the reason for the arrest.

“In addition, they were informed in writing of the reason for their detention in accordance with the law, and they were told that they had the right to legal counsel,” the press release read.

It added that all suspects detained from Anbaraa were brought before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest. Police also noted that the island was raided with a court order.


PPM condemns suggestions that tourism minister plotted festival arrests

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has condemned former President Mohamed Nasheed’s criticism of the government and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb regarding the Anbaraa music festival arrests, calling on the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to act more responsibly.

Speaking at a radio show on opposition aligned  97 Minivan Radio yesterday, Nasheed said that the police arrest of 79 people from the two-day music festival on Anbaraa Island was a pre-planned and politically motivated act to suppress the youth.

Nasheed went onto suggest that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb was behind it.

Denying the allegations, the PPM condemned Nasheed’s comments, describing them as an “uncivilised” attempt to sabotage the implementation of PPM’s youth manifesto as well as the other youth development efforts of the government.

“The young tourism minister is a person who works very hard at national and international levels to bring development to country, without giving any regard to political ideologies,” read the statement.

“This party does not believe Ahmed Adeeb who is also the vice president of the party would do any favors to anyone for his political or personal advantage, or do anything that could harm anyone.”

In the press release, the PPM called on Nasheed to put an end to “the politically motivated defamatory remarks” against the current Maldivian government, PPM and the VP of the party Adeeb.

Nasheed alleged that Adeeb had purposefully put a large number of people into the same place in order to arrest them.

“President Yameen, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and their partners are once again working to oppress and suppress the youth, and to rule for a life time as they want by keeping them [the youth] from speaking out. This is a political plot,” Nasheed told 97 Minivan.

Recalling an incident from 1979 when then-President Gayoom arrested a large group of youth before allegedly torturing them, Nasheed suggested that the youth did not open their mouths to talk about it until Gayoom’s 30 year administration was over.

He subsequently called upon people to come out in defense of the youth, and warned that failure to do so would result in more hardships in the future.


Police examining reports of local celebrities’ misconduct in Sri Lankan nightclub

The Maldives Police Service has confirmed it is looking into allegations of sexual misconduct and consumption of alcohol made against local celebrities by news website “mvyouth”.

In a report recently published on the website,  Mvyouth accused seven local celebrities – actors, dancers, a singer, a fashion designer and a film director – of engaging in illegal activity at a Sri Lankan nightclub.

According to the website, four of their reporters traveled to Sri Lanka to confirm rumors about movie stars who frequently go to “party” there. The report says they followed the celebrities into a night club where they witnessed them getting drunk, dancing and being intimate, and kissing each other and other people at the club.

The Maldives penal code allows prosecution of crimes Maldivian citizens commit abroad. Kissing and sexual intimacy out of wedlock are considered as sexual offenses while consumption of alcohol is a hadd crime in shariah law, which guides the legal system in the country’s inhabited islands.

It also stated that some of the Maldivian group got into a fight, something the report described as “common among Maldivians who frequent nightclubs in Lanka”. While it mentioned several other Maldivians who were at the club, the celebrities remained the focus of the report.

Confirming that they are looking into the matter, police noted that they have not launched an investigation into the matter but will do so if it is required. Speaking to Minivan News, a police media official said that no one had lodged a complaint concerning the issue yet. However, since it has come to their attention they will now be looking in to the matter.

According to the report, mvyouth has evidence to back all its allegations. Confirming this, the website’s editor Musharraf Hassan said Mvyouth is fully prepared to defend themselves in court if they are to face defamation charges.

He said that a lot of Maldivians engage in such activity in Sri Lanka and mvyouth’s intention was to bring this to the attention of public.

“We want to inform the public on what Maldivians are up to when they are abroad. It is not specific to celebrities, a lot of Maldivians do such things”. Musharraf said.


DRP party congress scheduled for April

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has announced its party congress is to take place between April 23-25, local media has reported.

DRP Spokesperson Zeena Zahir told local media that the congress had initially been scheduled for March, but was later cancelled due to the unavailability of the Dharubaaruge conference centre.

“We will be able to conduct it [congress] next month. Male’ City Council has notified us with a letter that Dharubaaruge will be available for that date,” Zeena was quoted as saying in local media.

The party is to hold elections for two deputy leader positions, youth wing leaders and women’s wing leaders during the congress.


Two thirds of MDP membership vote in party’s single candidate elections

Two-thirds of the MDP’s 48,181-strong membership base turned out to vote in the party’s single-candidate internal elections, held over the weekend to determine its presidential candidate.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed ran unopposed in the party’s election of its presidential candidate, however the party’s regulations require any candidate to receive at least 10 percent of the party’s vote to secure the nomination.

Following the final count of the 258 ballot boxes, Nasheed recorded 31,798 votes in favour to 269 against his being the party’s presidential candidate.

Chairperson candidate Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik had 29,044 votes in favour to 2160 against, while Deputy Chairperson candidate Ali Shiyam had 563 in favour to 7 against.

The MDP has maintained calls for early elections following its ousting from power on February 7, with Nasheed resigning during a police and military mutiny under what he subsequently claimed was duress. The party has held regular demonstrations since that time calling for early elections.


Young people set new tone for Male’ party scene

Hundreds turned out yesterday for the Maldives Surfing Entertainment Surf Show near the tsunami memorial, perusing merchandise by day and dancing to music by local and guest DJs late into the night.

The event, which runs September 16 and 17, was organised by Maldives Surfing Entertainment. Sport clothing companies Sea Sports, Sony Sports, and Round-Up displayed their wares in tents evoking the minimalist surf shack atmosphere.

The surf show sign posted on the outside wall of the event site

Maldives Surfing Association Event Organiser Mohamed Shabeen was optimistic about the event, which is the first in an annual series of surf shows.

“The goal was to raise awareness of surfing culture. Surfing has been picking up lately, more young people are coming out and we have had good feedback on the show so far,” said Shabeen.

Shabeen said that local groups were supportive of the initiative. “This wall you see here is not normally allowed, but we were allowed to build it for the event,” he said, pointing at the wooden barrier that demarcates the area as a festival space.

Set-up for the event was done by approximately 40 local surfers over three days, said Shabeen. The set-up includes surf board displays, plant decorations, and a light and sound system for the evening concerts.

While the surf show attracted families and children during the day, youth turned out in swarms for the concert at night. The show featured trance and techno music in sync with light displays and fog machines. DJs regularly called out to the crowd below, “Are we having a good time? This is a new era, we are here to celebrate!”

The crowd cheers as DJs shout out from the sound booth

DJs and staff noted that this is the first time an outdoor rave has been held on Male in some time, and said most parties take place on a smaller, more subdued scale.

“What do you say when you just want to go ‘AHHHH!!’?” said one concert-goer. “That is how we feel right now, this is our outlet, we are finally able to express ourselves out here and have a good time.”

Others suggested that religious conservatism on Male’ has kept the youth from celebrating in public, and said they hoped that events such as the surf show would be held more often.

The event was organised by Maldives Surf Entertainment Director and Surf Guide Ahmed Azniel. Shabeen said he hopes this weekend’s surf will garner attention for a surfing contest to be held in November at South Foahmulaku, in honor of the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

Correction: The article previously stated that the 2011 Surf Show was a cooperative event between Maldives Surf Entertainment and Maldives Surfing Association. It should have read, “The event, which runs September 16 and 17, was organised by Maldives Surfing Entertainment.”

Correction: The article previously stated “The event was organised by Maldives Surf Entertainment Director and Surf Guide Mohamed Azniel. It should have read, “The event was organised by Maldives Surf Entertainment Director and Surf Guide Ahmed Azniel.”


MDP could win an election “blindfolded”, gloats Nasheed

The ruling party’s election success in population hubs across the country gave “a clear indication of the current political situation”, President Mohamed Nasheed said during a party rally at the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Haruge.

“The government received huge support in some of the small populations. We need to consider the results of the election in several ways. This election is not about the amount of seats,” Haveeru reported Nasheed as saying.

“If we are able to do it [win elections] blindfolded I don’t see any reason why I can’t contest in 2013. It’s fortunate that the constitution limits the presidential terms to two,” he added in an apparent attempt to bait the opposition, today troubled by factional infighting.

According to Haveeru a jubilant Nasheed also criticised the campaigns of the opposition parties, as well as coalition party Adhaalath, saying he was “surprised that I couldn’t see anyone voting for Adhaalath Party except from Kinolhas (Raa Atoll). I did not see any party carrying out a good campaign except the MDP.”

The DRP has claimed victory in the local council elections citing a seat majority of 502 across island and atoll councils, to the MDP’s 375. The MDP has claimed victory because it won almost all the population hubs in the country, which could swing the popular vote in its favour.

The Elections Commission said this morning that it was still calculating the popular vote, which will give a percentage figure of support for each party.

This will provide a clearer indication of the election result than seat count or raw ballots, both because of the divide in DRP votes due to an ongoing factional split, and the ‘multiple’ votes made for island and atoll councils.

One senior figure in the MDP said the party’s preliminary calculations had pegged the result somewhere between 45-50% for the MDP and low 40s for the opposition – which would be a significant jump in support for the ruling party following the parliamentary election. However the source said the figure would be difficult to calculate with any accuracy until the Elections Commission provided voter turnout data.

Leader of the Labour Party Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem, an MDP coalition partner, has meanwhile been quoted from a press statement as calling for Nasheed to resign from office and “hand over the presidency to a more qualified and responsible person.”

Saleem contends that the government misused state assets to conduct its campaign in the lead-up to the Local Council Elections, which saw President Nasheed visiting over 100 islands and giving 130 speeches.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Haveeru yesterday that the President had worn through three pairs of shoes during the campaign, and was now on a four-day break.

Opposition leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali meanwhile told Minivan News yesterday that the priority was to ensure that successful candidates from all sides were aware of their new responsbilities.

“It is a fact that candidates from many parties including ours may not be clear on their responsibilities and mandates,” Thasmeen said.

“We don’t have any details on when the local councils will begin their work, and there are many issues that need to be finalised. For example, how will these councils interact with the government?”

Parties across the political spectrum would be required to provide “support structures” such as technical training to try prepare individual council members for decentralised governance, he added.


Comment: Hay and the importance of festivals and celebrations

The Hay Festival at Aarah last weekend left in me a kind of excitement – a life force that gives one the ‘WOW!’ experience.

It is not the first time I have been to festivals such as these, but the fact that it happened here in my country made the difference. It was happy, colourful and full of emotional intensity.

My experience

The Hay Festival at Aarah had every element of a growing modern and civilised society. People respected each other, people mingled, free discussion took place, and barriers were broken down. Remarkably people respected the garbage bins too.

It was an intelligent way of helping expose people to new ideas. Just doing the right thing leaves room for differences of opinion without being offended.

The purpose of such a festival is more than presentations and discussions. It is about nurturing culture, networking and creating new friendships and strengthening old ones. It is about feeling connected, and much more.

People went to the Festival for different reasons. Some went simply out of curiosity and others went for the programs. Maybe some went simply to be part of a social event. Whatever the reason, I am sure many experienced more than the reason they went for.

The Maldives is a place where foreigners and locals do not socialise, although they do interact with each other on work issues. In fact many foreigners are given the feeling that they should be careful about mingling with Maldivians. Very few Maldivians actually mingle with foreigners, and vice versa. I saw that the festival helped bring them closer.

It is great that Aarah is open to these kind of events. I felt that this helped to lessen the gap between the country’s political leadership and the people, making them more accessible. It opened up new possibilities. Hopefully there will be more events taking place. There are so many themes that can be worked on.

What impressed me were also the youth and the strong voices that rang out. I like to see them stand up and express who they are. At the end of it all, it is up to the people to fully use these kind of events to integrate into society.

My disappointments

There were a couple of things that did not work out for me personally. An expatriate speaker on the stage did use unacceptable discriminatory language, that was insensitive and harmful and generalised a whole country.

Speakers must be careful not to address a country and its people in such a forum, whatever his personal opinion may be.

The transport in the evening caused some inconveniences, forcing people to stay on until late and for those who had no option other than the late ferry, miss out on some important presentations at 7:00pm on the Saturday.

The last comment in this direction were the last minute changes in the program. There was one presentation on the Kalaafaanu manuspcripts I had planned to attend, only to find out it had taken place on Friday. This disappointed me.

Festivals are important for people

All festivities have many things in common. It had colour, gaiety, participation, prayers and rituals. Festivals arise from the need to congregate and are based on traditions and practices handed down by ancestors.

The ultimate benefit of a festival is the shared experience of those who participate. This reinforces the social bonds between the groups who celebrate the festival and shows strength and solidarity to those outside this social group.

Most festivals were connected to sacred events or celebrated independence. Most modern festivals are created to meet a social need or to show and share creativity and messages through various forms of arts.

In countries with different religions and different ethnic groups, festivals are celebrated by everyone irrespective of whatever religion is involved, because of common elements in the culture and the need to be one nation.

For example, India is a society of many religions and there are a lot of festivals. For the Hindus there is Diwali, for the Muslims there is Eid, for the Christians there is Christmas and for the Parsis it’s the New Year. Apart from all these days there are two other days that are celebrated by all Indians irrespective of cast, creed or sex: yes, the  January 26 and August 15, Republic day and Independence Day.

The endangered Maldivian festivals

The Maldivian festivals which used to be celebrated with a lot of joy and colour have been disappearing over the years.

The most notable of these festivities were Kuda Eid and Eid-ul Al’haa and the month long Ramazan which combined Maldivian culture (food, dance and music) and religious rituals.

All these celebrations in their pure non-commercialised forms were spiritual exercises and a strengthening tool of cultural identification. The Prophet Mohamed’s birthday was celebrated with people visiting each other’s houses and eating Maldivian food and visit to the mosques for the special prayers.

History shows that Maldivian island communities came together to celebrate child births, naming ceremonies, the coming of age, and marriages. The other festivals celebrated the Maldivian independence and autonomy. They are national celebrations.

The scales have changed. The festivals mentioned above have handed down the traditions and values that were part of the Maldivian cultural identity. These norms are disappearing due to different opinions and rationalisation of different interest groups in the country, coupled with intentions of religious, political and business organisations.

This trend in the Maldives is leading people to lose their connection with each other. The younger generations are being robbed of their Maldivian heritage, as are the less financially able who are losing the opportunity to participate in social life, and last but not least, a whole country is losing their cultural identity.

Back to the Hay Festival

The Hay Festival falls into the modern form of festivals that are thematically based. It gave people the opportunity to participate and fill in the gaps in knowledge of the Maldivian heritage and culture. It gave people the opportunity to contribute to important issues and understand the Maldivian contexts in Maldivian literature and play a participatory role in the evolving Maldivian story.

It took ‘Maldivian’ beyond food, music and dance and rituals. It helped people enter and explore the depths of the Maldivian heritage blending common global issues that affects Maldivians and will impact the Maldivian lives and help reflect on where we came from and where we are going. The broader participation will enrich our culture and help the nation to grow.

In conclusion, as Shobhaa De’ put it so well at the Hay Festival, if you disconnect from the society, the society will disconnect you. So I really hope to see more Maldivians taking these opportunities, and more families and more young people.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Thasmeen endorsed as DRP leader and presidential candidate

Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has been endorsed as leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and its presidential candidate, during the party’s third annual congress.

841 delegates out of 882 attending voted for the proposal by the party’s council to automatically make the DRP’s leader its presidential candidate. A further proposal put forward by Umar Naseer and Aneesa Ahmed calling for a primary election was overruled as it was contradictory.

Yesterday evening, during a dinner for DRP supporters, former party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said the party “must unite and work in the spirit of democracy.”

”The DRP should be a party that does not fear to debate democratically,” he said. ”It should be a party that believes having different minds and different thoughts is democratic, and should work united.”

Gayoom said the party had to realise that “obeying the will of the majority is the spirit of democracy.”

Gayoom previously endorsed Thasmeen as his successor during his announcement that he was retiring from politics. Thasmeen was then elected leader by default as no other member of the party stood against him.

However Naseer, former president of the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) and DRP member, said that Thasmeen “must not [automatically] be the DRP’s candidate for the presidential election; it has to be taken by a vote.”

Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed told newspaper Miadhu that the DRP would not be democratic or successful if it continued its “clan-style” decision making, noting that the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has “by far the best internal democracy in the country”.

MPs from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), including MP Ahmed Easa, had criticised Thasmeen’s automatic election as “undemocratic”, particularly after Gayoom’s public endorsement.

“It’s unbelievable that nobody else stood up for the DRP leadership,” Easa commented.

Two days after Thasmeen’s election as leader, president of coalition party People’s Alliance (PA) Abdullah Yameen, widely believed to have leadership ambitions, sued Thasmeen for debts of US$100,000 in the civil court. The DRP however quashed speculation that the DRP-PA coalition was under strain.

DRP spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef confirmed that Yaameen was invited to the congress but did not attend.

Last night Gayoom rallied the party, telling the assembled congress that the party should remain united, “even though I am no longer the party’s leader.”

”DRP is a national tree growing up from a seed we buried, and to water and provide food for the tree is a responsibility of all the members,” he said.

The DRP should boost the role of its MPs in parliament and ensure the party continued to have wide appeal, he suggested, while pursuing the goal of winning the next presidential election.

DRP MP Ali Waheed said Gayoom’s words were still in his ears.

”He showed us the example, we all will follow him,” he said. ”We will do our best to work united and reach our goals.”

After the congress the DRP would start its journey to win the next presidential election, he said.

DRP MP Ahmed Ilham said the party was encouraged by Gayoom’s words.

”We will reach our targets within the next leadership,” he said, ” and walk on the path Gayoom showed us. Gayoom is the founder of DRP, 98 per cent of it belongs to him.”

Umar Naseer, a candidate for DRP’s vice presidency, said he was very encouraged by the speech, and if elected “would give all my will to follow Gayoom’s advice.”

”Even if I lose, I will not stop our work,” he said.

Ibrahim Shareef said the party would work as much as it could to follow Gayoom’s advice.

”Without a doubt we would win the next presidential election,” he said. “Half of the people who voted for MDP are now against them.”

He responded to Shaheed’s description of the party as “clan-like” by calling him a ”political prostitute”, with ”words that do not have any political weight.”

MDP spokesman Ahmed Haleem said the MDP had closely watched the DRP congress and noted that ”Gayoom’s brother Yameen was missing.”

That meant the DRP was now in control of Thasmeen, he said.

”I think the next leadership of DRP will be great,” Haleem said, ” Thasmeen is a very talented person and he is very democratic.”