Fenaka blames arsonists for fire at Addu City office

The state utility Fenaka Corporation has blamed arsonists for a fire at its offices in Addu City on Saturday.

A group of people poured kerosene and set fire to an area adjacent to the Fenaka sub station, which houses a transformer in Addu City. The fire was an attempt to disrupt electricity services in the area, the company said in a statement yesterday.

The station’s doors were damaged in the fire.

“We believe this was an attempt to damage the transformer at the station. If the transformer had been damaged there would have been difficulties in providing electricity to residents in the area as well as Muhyiddeen School,” the company said in a statement.

“We appeal [to the public] not to commit acts that may damage important service infrastructure for the sake of obtaining certain benefits.”

The police said no arrests have been made yet.

The fire comes two weeks after a group of people threw rocks and shattered windows at the home of Fenaka’s regional director Abdulla Zuhair.

A retail shop owner in Addu City Inaz Mohamed said the fire at the Fenaka sub station and the attack on Zubair’s house may be a result of “desperation” due to an unresolved dispute over electricity prices between the power company and local businesses.

Addu City businesses have been protesting since April over what they called a sudden hike in electricity prices.

In March, Fenaka increased prices in Addu and cut electricity subsides in other atolls in a bid to save MVR11 million (US$713,359) per month from the state budget.

Power bills have increased by 30 percent, shop owner Inaz Mohamed Didi said.

Inaz said businessmen in Addu had lodged separate petitions with government offices, the parliament and the courts. “But no one in this government is listening to us.”

He said he does not know who was responsible for the attacks and said businessmen in Addu do not encourage violence and have always prioritised dialogue.

Businessmen across the country closed their shops in protest in April. But the company said its hands were tied as it was only implementing government policies.

Fenaka is the main electricity provider in the atolls and operates in 151 of the 188 inhabited islands of the Maldives.

Addu City deputy mayor Abdulla Thoyyib meanwhile expressed concern over differences in electricity prices, noting that charges in Addu City and Fuvahmulah are up to 37 per cent higher than in capital Malé.

Higher electricity prices reduce investment in the southernmost city, he said.

In early May, Fenaka cut off electricity to several businesses, including a private hospital, when owners refused to pay bills.

Four businesses lodged a complaint with a magistrate court over power cuts. The court initially issued a stay order, but a new judge appointed to oversee the case overturned the ruling and said Fenaka was authorised to cut electricity if businesses fail to pay bills.

Presenting the 2015 budget in parliament, the government said it would target electricity subsidies to the poor.

But businesses and the opposition say the government failed to inform the public of the change in prices.


CNI nominee agreement “important step forward for the Maldives”: Commonwealth Secretary General

The Commonwealth Secretariat has confirmed that an agreement between the government and former President Mohamed Nasheed has been reached concerning the appointment of a Nasheed nominee to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

The government this week confirmed its acceptance of Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, who was formerly both Principal of ‘Ahmadiyya School’ and Deputy Principal of the British College of Sri Lanka.

The CNI was established by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to investigate the controversial transfer of power that took place on February 7, after Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed the former president was forced out of office in a “coup d’etat“.

The MDP – and subsequently the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – challenged the credibility of the three member panel appointed by Dr Waheed, and pressured the government into accepting a nominee from Nasheed and a retired foreign judge to serve as co-chair.

The government agreed, but imposed a set of restrictions on Nasheed’s nominee that saw the first 11 candidates rejected.

“I am happy that we finally have a resolution on the issue of Mr Nasheed’s nominee, and I commend both sides for their patience and perseverance in this regard,” said Commonwealth Special Envoy to Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, in a statement.

“Now that we have agreement on the reconstituted Commission, I look forward to it starting its work and carrying out its important mandate. I hope also that with its enhanced terms of reference and revised composition, the Commission will be a more broadly acceptable mechanism and will allow the country to move forward,” Sir Donald added.

The Commonwealth noted that in keeping with the commitment signed by the Maldives Government on 15 May 2012, the Commission will be co-chaired by a Commonwealth-funded senior retired judge from Singapore, “and the Commonwealth and the United Nations will each provide an expert adviser for support.”

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma also welcomed the agreement, which he said represented “an important step forward for the Maldives”, and expressed hope that the CNI would be able to conduct an impartial and credible investigation.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also commend the agreement between President Waheed and former President Nasheed “to make the national inquiry body more independent and credible and to find a resolution to the current political crisis.”

In a statement, Ki-moon urged all political parties “to resume immediately their political dialogue, both within and outside of Parliament, in order to find a mutually agreeable way forward on the basis of the Constitution and without jeopardising the democratic gains achieved thus far in the Maldives.”

The last round of All-Party Talks, held at Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort and Spa last weekend and monitored by UN mediator Pierre Yves Monett, collapsed after parties in the ruling coalition presented the MDP with a list of 30 demands that included “stop practicing black magic and sorcery”, “stop the use of sexual and erotic tools”, and “not walk in groups of more than 10”.


Merciel signs 10 year contract to operate Vashafaru power facility

Merciel International (Maldives) Pvt Ltd (MI-M) has signed a 10-year contract with Vashafaru Island Council in Haa Alif Atoll to operate the island’s power facility under the government’s public-private partnership program.

Country Director of Merciel Ali Hashim and President of Vashafaru Island Council Abdulla Zahir signed the contract at a ceremony this morning.

In a statement, Merciel noted that MI-M has become the first and only private utility company in the Maldives.

“So far, utility services have been provided in the islands by the state-owned corporations or local NGOs,” the company noted.

“MI-M was awarded the power station’s operation after its proposal was selected as the best proposal submitted in response to a public Request for Proposals (RFP) announced by Vashafaru Island Council in July 2011.”

MI-M is a subsidiary of a


Scotland partners with Maldives to assess marine energy potential

Scotland and the Maldives have announced a partnership to assess the island nation’s potential to develop wave, tidal and ocean thermal sources of renewable energy.

Marine energy remains relatively unexploited compared to the present adoption of wind and solar, but has significant advantages over the latter two in that ocean water movements are massive, predictable and consistent. The geological structure of the Maldives’ atolls and the country’s strong currents make it a natural candidate for the technology.

However large installations can impact currents and the ecosystems in which they are placed, are expensive and technologically nascent, and limited to certain sites.

Wave energy harnesses the kinetic energy of moving water to power an underwater turbine, feeding energy into a generator, and are generally used for small-scale applications.

Tidal energy, in contrast, traps water in a reservoir at high tide and then drains it through a turbine much like a hydroelectric dam. This requires a large difference between high and low tides and is location-specific, but can be deployed on a large-scale – one such plant in France powers 240,000 homes.

Ocean thermal energy generation meanwhile exploits the temperature differences between different ocean depths (surface temperatures are warmer due to the sun) to generate energy, but is comparatively expensive and requires advanced engineering.

Scotland is regarded as a world leader in both potential for and adoption of both wave and tidal power generation technology, with 10 agreements signed this year to produce a potential 1.2GW – enough power for 700,000 homes.

Under the agreement signed with the Maldives, Scotland’s Robert Gordon University will conduct an assessment of the wave, tidal and ocean thermal potential of the Maldives

The £48,000 (US$76,000) study will report in 2011 and lead to a joint exploitation of the resources by the two countries, supported by the European Union’s Support to Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Maldives Fund, administered by the World Bank.

Maldives Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam said that as an island nation spread over a thousand kilometres of ocean, “I believe marine renewables hold enormous potential to make the Maldives an international energy leader in the zero-carbon economy of the future.

“If the Maldives can demonstrate that low carbon development is not just practical but also profitable, we hope larger countries will follow suit.”

Chairman of the Energy Technology Partnership, Professor Jim McDonald, an alliance of Scottish universities working on the project, he believed that the Maldives “has a significant potential marine energy resource and we look forward to contributing our world-class expertise to this project and delivering real value to both countries from this collaboration.”

Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather noted that Scotland was at the forefront of developing the technology, as well as possessing a quarter of Europe’s wave [energy generation] potential, and with “significant planned investment in the sector”.

“This study is a most effective way to help the Maldives and let Scotland play its part in the urgent global need to move to a low carbon economy,” Mather said.