Maldives Decides 2013

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Minivan News has launched ‘Maldives Decides 2013’, a hub of content concerning the four candidates competing in the 2013 presidential election.

Each candidate’s entry includes an overview of their recent political history with extensive links to relevant articles published by Minivan News, an overview of their policy positions, and a brief analysis of their support base.

The hub also includes an unofficial poll, links to Minivan News’ ongoing election coverage, and resources provided by the Maldives Elections Commission.

Additionally, all candidates have been sent and invited to respond to the following 10 questions, which will be published unedited as received:

  1. What about your personal experience makes you suitable to become President?
  2. What are the top three challenges facing the Maldives, and how do you intend to address these?
  3. Given the present state of the economy, how are you going to get the money to fulfill your pledges?
  4. Is there a need for judicial reform, and how do you intend to address the state of the judiciary should you be elected?
  5. How do you expect the events of 7 February 2012 to affect voter sentiment at the ballot box?
  6. Is Islamic fundamentalism a growing concern in the Maldives, and how should the government respond?
  7. What role should the international community play in the Maldives?
  8. Why should a woman vote for your party in the election?
  9. Why should a young person vote for your party in the election?
  10. What will the Maldives be like in 10 years time, should you be elected in September?

Minivan News hopes ‘Maldives Decides 2013’ is of value to its readers, and looks forward to a free, fair and inclusive election on September 7.

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Feel free to discuss this project below, or send enquiries directly to [email protected]


Financial Committee considers action over Election Commission expenses

Elections Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq has expressed concern today that current Elections Commission (EC) staff could be held responsible for the potential misdeeds of employees no longer working for the body.

The claims were made after the Financial Committee yesterday discussed taking action against the EC after Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim raised concern over an apparent failure to document Rf15 million of spending by the body.

Niyaz said that the Financial Committee debate concerned an audit report from 2010.  However, he claimed that particular concerns were raised during the discussions over a portion of Rf54 million that was spent over a three year period.

When asked about the precise period of time under scrutiny, Niyaz stated that more time was needed to acquire these exact details.

It was revealed late last year that the 2010 Auditor General’s report had uncovered “irresponsible” spending by the Elections Commission.  This spending was said to include the illegal withdrawal of allowances, the purchasing of an excessive number of expensive phones and computers, and overtime pay for unconfirmed work.

However, Thaufeeq stressed he was confident over the conduct of the current commission.

“None of the members in the present commission have done anything against the financial regulations or the constitution,” he claimed.  “We are very much ready to prove we are innocent. The present committee doesn’t have to be responsible before November 24, 2009.”

Despite his assertions that the expenses concerned pre-date the current incarnation of the EC, Thaufeeq had the impression that the government were going after current members.

He added that the expenses being referred to by the Financial Committee in their discussions related to the period before the current commission body was assembled on November 24, 2009.  The Auditor General concurred with Thaufeeq that the period in question did pre-date the current Election Commissioner’s tenure.

Niyaz also noted that  some MPs had been keen to see the case referred to the police –  a decision he claimed to be against.

“I associate the case with mismanagement rather than criminal fraud,” Niyaz added.

EC under pressure

The ability of the EC to fulfil its mandate has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after the body was cited as one of the obstacles to free and fair elections by government representatives.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon told the BBC that there could be no early elections in the country as institutions such as the judiciary, the human rights commission, and the elections commission needed strengthening.

The United States pledged $500,000 in technical support the same week as these statements were made.

However, State Minister Dunya Maumoon reaffirmed the government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which has called for early elections in the country.

CMAG reconvened on Monday, criticising what it saw as a lack of political progress being made to facilitate early elections in the Maldives.

The Commonwealth human rights body suggested that stronger measures would be taken against the government should President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) not address CMAG’s concerns about its independence and impartiality.  The CNI is charged with conducting an independent investigation into the transfer of power in February.

Meanwhile, Thaufeeq assured Minivan News before last weekend’s by-elections that the EC was capable of carrying out its duties.

“We are confident we can organise any election mandated by law – whether it is a presidential election, referendum, or by-election. We will serve our duty,” he said at the time.

The two council elections and two parliamentary by-elections held last weekend were the second test of the EC’s capabilities since the controversial change of government earlier this year. The polls passed without significant incident and Thaufeeq told the media that he had received no complaints that would bring the results into disrepute.

However, concerns are said to have been raised in some diplomatic circles over the potential for politically motivated attempts to discredit Commissioner Thaufeeq.

A source present at a meeting of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Maldives on March 21 reported to Minivan News that Dr Ahmed Shaheed, former Foreign Minister and United Nations Special Rapporteur to Iran, specifically raised concerns over the position of the Election Commissioner.

He was reported to have told the panel of UK politicians of his concerns that Commissioner Thaufeeq may be targeted by the regime due to his independent political stance.


TVM asked to ‘take measures’ against poll staff

The Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) has asked Television Maldives (TVM) to investigate its poll on religious freedom and take measures against those responsible.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Ibrahim Khaleel, managing director of MNBC, said the board has asked Mohamed Asif, deputy director general of MNBC currently in charge of running TVM, to look into the matter after opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) accused the government of attempting to establish other religions in the Maldives.

“I’ve asked Asif to investigate how it happened, and if anyone is responsible, to take measures [against them],” he said. “He will investigate to see if it happened the way they said it did, and take measures based on the findings.”

The poll asked whether freedom of religion should be allowed in the Maldives; the investigation will look into how the topic was chosen and for what purpose, Khaleel said.

In a press release on Monday, the DQP condemned the poll as unconstitutional and accused the government of attempting to introduce religions other than Islam into the Maldives.

The former coalition partner claimed the poll on Sunday night was part of “a devious scheme” intended to show that other religions could be practiced in the country.

The party referred to article 10 of the constitution, which states that Islam shall be the state religion and the basis of all the laws in the Maldives.

Khaleel said he has since watched the show and it was clear that the DQP had taken the poll out of context.

“The discussion was about differences of opinion within Islam, like different sects, and to what extent it should be allowed,” he said.

Two religious scholars, MP Dr Afrashim Ali of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, state minister for Islamic affairs, were on the programme.

“If something unconstitutional was being talked about, I find it hard to believe these two scholars would stand by and let it happen,” said Khaleel.

He added it was apparent from DQP’s press release that they did not watch the programme.

Khaleel said it was “regrettable” that a political party was acting “irresponsibly” in issuing such press releases at a time when freedom of speech was in its infancy.

He denied the DQP’s allegation that the poll was taken on orders from the president’s office.

Mohamed Afruh Rasheed, producer of the show, told Minivan News it focuses on “controversial social issues” that were not being openly debated in society or suppressed.

Some of the issues discussed in the programme have included the rights of expatriates and neglect of the elderly as well as press freedom.

The results of Sunday night’s poll were 14 per cent in favour and 82 per cent against.


DQP condemns TVM poll on religious freedom

The opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has condemned a poll on state television about freedom of religion, accusing the government of attempting to allow religions other than Islam into the Maldives and undermining Islamic faith.

A press release by the party yesterday states that the poll on a Television Maldives (TVM) programme on Sunday night was “a devious scheme” intended to show that other religions could be practiced.

“Maldivians have remained 100 per cent Muslims for over 800 years and no effort was made in the name of religious freedom to see whether Maldivians could practice religions other than Islam,” it reads. “We call upon [President Mohamed] Nasheed’s government to cease its efforts to show through TVM or any other state institution that there is space for religions other than Islam in the country.”

The party believes that the purpose of the poll was to “philosophically” weaken Maldivians’ faith and “encourage the people trying to bring other religions to the Maldives”.

It adds that Islam in the Maldives was under threat due to the government’s policies.

DQP is led by former presidential candidate Dr Hassan Saeed, who resigned as special advisor to the president on the anniversary of the government’s 100 days in power. In October, the party left the coalition government, arguing it was failing to deliver on campaign promises.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Mohamed Zuhair, the president’s office press secretary, said the president’s office had no connection to the poll.

“The[Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation] is a company now,” he said. “There is no official mechanism to interact with them, apart from inviting them to press conferences like everyone else.”

He added DQP’s line of attack was “a joke” and clearly politically motivated. “It’s like saying the dried buns sold at some teashop tasted too spicy today – let’s blame the president’s office.”

Zuhair claimed the party were resorting to the same attacks it deployed unsuccessfully in last year’s presidential election because “they can’t accept defeat”. He predicted the DQP would disseminate more press releases in the near future to prove it was an active party, as the Elections Commission will soon be allocating funds for political parties.

Ahmed Afruh Rasheed, editor of TVM news, told Minivan News today the DQP had taken the poll out of context as the programme hosted a discussion on disputes within Islam.

“Their press release shows that they didn’t even watch the programme,” he said. “The question wasn’t whether other religions should be allowed in Maldives. It was about whether space should be given to disagreements about Islam in our society.”

The show focuses on “controversial social issues” that were not spoken about publicly, he added, with the purpose of raising awareness in society.

Afruh denied the poll was meant to encourage religious freedom or that it was put up on the orders of the president’s office.

Other issues addressed by the programme have included the rights of expatriate workers, the neglect of the elderly and media freedom, he said.

Zuhair said there was no reason to harbour ill will towards the new government apart from “an inability to digest defeat”.

“This government hasn’t used devious means to torture an inmate to death. This government hasn’t used tried to meddle in a judicial trial. This government has not had high-level officials accused of corruption,” he said.