STO raises fuel price by MVR1

The State Trading Organisation (STO) has raised the price of fuel by MVR1 effective March 11.

STO said the price hike reflects rising oil prices in the global market.

The price of both diesel and petrol is now MVR11 per litre.

On January 19, STO reduced the price of diesel and petrol from MVR12.37 and MVR12.33, respectively, to MVR10 in light of a decline in global oil prices.

According to the Maldives Monetary Authority’s economic review for January, “the price of crude oil fell by 22 percent in monthly terms and by 54 percent in annual terms and stood at US$47.5 per barrel at the end of January 2015. This is the lowest recorded since March 2009.”


Weapons, alcohol and petrol bottles planted to disrupt peaceful protests, says MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has claimed weapons, alcohol and petrol bottles found by the police during opposition protests over the weekend were planted to disrupt peaceful protests.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz described the weapons find as “an attempt to instil fear among the public.”

On Friday, Specialist Operations (SO) police officers claimed to have found knives, daggers and iron rods in a gunny bag hidden among the trees at Usfasgandu, minutes before the MDP and Jumhooree Party-led (JP) demonstration started.

Later that night, on a live blog covering the mass protests, police claimed to have found a cardboard box containing four bottles of whiskey and one bottle of vodka on the pavement outside the Islamic Bank at 7pm.

Last night, the police also found six bottles containing petrol hidden in a pickup, a few blocks from an opposition protest.

“It is well known that police do these kinds of things to disperse peaceful gatherings,” Shifaz said.

A police spokesperson said they are conducting a forensic analysis of the weapons discovered at Usfasgandu, and said it was “not possible to say whether there is any link between the protesters and the weapons right now.”

Over 10,000 people attended Friday’s opposition rally. Protesters called for former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and MDP MP Ali Azim’s release. Nasheed and Nazim are in jail until the conclusion of a terrorism trial while Azim was arrested from a protest last week.

Friday’s protest ended unexpectedly at 6pm, but hundreds continued scattered protests in Malé calling for Nasheed’s release.

Gang disruption

At 8:00pm a group of young men barged into the crowd, attacked protesters and journalists and vandalised opposition-aligned Raajje TV’s equipment, cutting off the station’s live feed for 20 minutes. Some of the young men had their faces covered.

Shifaz said the young men were “gangsters” and were working alongside the police to disrupt the protests.

“People in the crowd heard the police saying to the attackers ‘why didn’t you leave before we came.’ This is not hearsay. Both protesters and journalists who covered the event heard this,” he alleged.

Some protesters told Minivan News that police arrested the attackers while others said the police arrested the protesters who had tried to obstruct the attackers.

Speaking to the press on Saturday, Superintendent of Police Hamdhoon Rasheed said the police had observed several people attacking protesters.

“We know that some men went into the crowd and disrupted the protests. We are investigating the matter now,” Hamdhoon said.

The police arrested 28 people from the protest, and 10 have been remanded for 10 days. Former MDP President, Dr Ibrahim Didi, is among the detainees in police custody.

A police spokesperson told Minivan News today that “a number of people who tried to disrupt the protest” are among the ten who were remanded.

Dismissing the opposition’s allegations, the police said: “It does not make sense that people who are assigned to protect the people are also attacking them.”

Former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim has also accused the police of planting weapons at his apartment in order to frame him. The police have denounced the former minister’s claims.

The opposition has long accused the government of illicit connections with Malé’s gangs, especially after Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb led a march of 400 young men through the streets of Malé on February 19.

Adeeb has denied the claims, while ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) supporters insist the opposition’s allegations stem from the lack of youth support for the opposition.

MP Ahmed Mahloof, expelled from the PPM last week for speaking out against the government, said he had been receiving threats from gangsters since his dismissal from the party.

“I have been receiving threats from members of gangs for the past three nights after I spoke against President Abdulla Yameen. But I will not step back in fear,” the Galholu North MP tweeted on Friday.

JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim yesterday said many ruling party MPs had communicated their desire to join the opposition, but were scared due to intimidation.

“The most secure platform is that of the people. And we, MDP and JP, now hold that platform. The citizens will protect you,” he said.

Related to this story

February 27 a historic success, claims opposition

10,000 protest in Malé, call for President Yameen’s resignation

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Hundreds march in support of President Yameen


Reduced petrol imports discussed as Indian minister concludes visit

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has informed the Maldivian Government of its intention to continue supplying essential goods, with plans to supply petroleum products “on favourable terms”.

A joint statement released at the conclusion of Khurshid’s visit revealed an agreement had been reached  “in principle” with Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd to export diesel, petrol, and aviation fuels to the Maldives.

Mangalore Petroleum is a subsidiary of the India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.

“[The] Indian side informed the Maldivian side of its agreement to continue supplying essential goods to Maldives,” read the statement detailing bilateral talks held this week.

Local media has also reported that Khurshid pledged US$10 million for the renovation of Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

As well as holding talks with the government, the minister of external affairs’ visit included his participation in the the 35th Inter-Summit Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers.

Bilateral talks were held on Thursday (Febraury 20) between Khurshid and the Maldives Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon.

“The two sides reiterated their commitment to work together to promote democracy, development and mutual respect of each other’s sovereignty and peaceful co-existence and to contribute to peace, prosperity and security in the Indian Ocean region and South Asia.”

After expressing its satisfaction with the success of President Abdulla Yameen’s state visit to India last month, the Maldivian side also thanked India for its resumption of stone aggregate exports and the easing of visa restrictions for travel to India.

Bilateral ties appeared to have reached a nadir in late 2012 following the premature termination of a US$500 million deal to redevelop Malé’s international airport with Indian infrastructure company GMR.

The government’s decision to void the development contract was soon followed by increased visa restrictions and ending of favourable terms for the import of certain construction materials from India.

In early 2013, the Indian High Commission distributed a list of consular issues of concern to local media mainly concerning the mistreatment of Indian expatriate workers.

The list’s release was followed by the Indian High Commission issuing a statement in early February slamming local media in the Maldives for “misrepresentation and twisting of issues”.

“The two sides recalled their commitment to address all issues related to welfare of each other nationals, including speedy provision of consular services, on a priority basis,” read Thursday’s statement on the bilateral dicsussions.

Following President Yameen’s visit to India – his first official abroad since gaining office – senior government figures described Indo-Maldivian ties as being “as strong as they were during Gayoom’s time in power”.

Khurshid’s trip this week also included the gifting of naval landing craft and the laying of a foundation stone for a new Ministry of Defence building.

The visit also saw the official handing over of the new India-Maldives Friendship Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies which India has constructed at a cost of US$11million.

The facility, will provide state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment for training Maldivians in tourism and hospitality sector. The project also envisages India’s continued engagement through deputation of experts, and exchange of faculty from reputed hotel management institutes of India.

Heveeru reported that Khurshid had pledged funds to renovate Indian-built IGMH during the the tourism faculty’s opening ceremony.

“Indira Gandhi Hospital built in the Maldives by India in 1996 is the most significant symbol of the two countries relationship. It is an important step taken in the development of the Maldivian health sector. India is ready to further improve this national asset,” he said.


STO purchases new oil shipment

The State Trading Organisation (STO) has purchased a 7000-ton oil shipment after settling overdue payments, easing fears of the country running out of oil by next week.

STO Managing Director Shahid Ali told newspaper Haveeru today that the oil shipment had been held up in Dubai after the government-owned company was unable to make outstanding payments to foreign oil suppliers.

The 7000 tons of oil began loading yesterday after STO paid US$7 million to the suppliers, Shahid said.

The shipment includes petrol, diesel and jet fuel, he added, which was enough to last for a week.

STO was hoping to order a further 9,000 tons for US$8 million tomorrow, Shahid said.

While the government provided US$3.5 million to import the new stock, the rest was arranged by STO.

The company faced financial constraints and difficulties paying foreign suppliers due to more than MVR600 million owed to STO by other government companies and institutions.

Meanwhile, STO reportedly owes US$140 to foreign oil suppliers, which it is paying in instalments.


In the black: customs documents expose Maldives’ chronic oil addiction

The 15 percent increase in oil prices over the past five months has led to the Maldives spending almost US$100,000 more on fossil fuels, per day.

Customs figures obtained by Minivan News reveal the true extent of the country’s chronic addiction to fossil fuels, and extraordinary vulnerability to even minor price rises.

In 2010, the Maldives spent over US$245 million on fuel (including marine diesel, aviation gas, propane and petrol) – disturbingly, almost a quarter of the country’s US$1 billion GDP.

The vast proportion (US$200 million) of the country’s fuel spend was on marine diesel. Petrol accounted for US$24 million, liquefied propane US$10 million, and aviation fuel US$12 million.

This represents a daily expenditure of US$670,000 to meet the country’s fuel needs, approximately US$800 per person per year in a country where the average annual income is under US$5000.

Oil is currently US$86 a barrel after trending a 15 percent increase over the past five months, which shows no sign of slowing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), together with other analysts, have confidently tipped that oil will reach an average $90 a barrel in 2011, and potentially top US$100.

The figures also reveal that the Maldives is highly dependent on several countries for most of its fuel – Singapore (for aviation fuel), the UAE (petrol) and the Bahamas (marine diesel).

The revelation of the extent of marine fuel consumed in the country – over 2 million barrels annually – is one that President Nasheed’s Energy Advisor Mike Mason suggests is a strong argument for a return to sailing.

“I think there is a huge opportunity to take a knowledge of sail, wind and current – the thinking that has served the Maldives well for 2000 years – and apply modern technology such as solar to create a new transport paradigm. A sailing vessel with a modern hull, utilising modern technology can reach 30-40 knots, and would greatly reduce the reliance on diesel.”