Parliament to consider age limits for the presidency

The parliament today accepted for consideration a constitutional amendment proposing an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the president and vice president.

Government-aligned MP Mohamed Ismail’s bill has fuelled speculation of President Abdulla Yameen planning to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who is now 33 and ineligible for the position.

Presidential candidates must be 35 years of age, according to the constitution.

Dismissing the “rumours” last month, Adeeb told Minivan News that he has “no interest at this stage.”

Presenting the bill to parliament today, MP Ismail said its purpose is “facilitating opportunities for youth.” The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) MP said he proposed the 65-year cap as the president should be “young, intelligent, daring, active, and energetic.”

He noted that 65 years is the retirement age in the Maldives. A 70-year-old or 80-year-old would find it difficult to fulfil the responsibilities of the office, Ismail contended.

The amendment bill was accepted with 44 votes in favour, five against, and sent to a parliamentary committee for review.

A three-quarters majority or 64 votes will be needed to amend the constitution. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner MDA controls 48 seats in the 85-member house.

The ruling coalition will need the backing of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) or Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs to pass the amendment.

Several JP MPs voted in favour of the bill.

If passed, the amendment will bar JP leader Gasim Ibrahim from contesting the next presidential election. The business tycoon will be 66 in 2018.

During the preliminary debate today, opposition MPs argued that it should be up to the public to decide whether a presidential candidate is too young or old for the presidency.

MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, parliamentary group of the MDP, said he favoured lowering the age limit to 18 years, but objected to the 65-year age limit.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said the constitution should not be amended to serve the interests of an individual. But PPM MPs denied that the amendment was “tailor-made” for Adeeb.

JP MP Ali Hussain said constitutional amendments should only be proposed after reaching a consensus among political parties. No democratic country has an upper age limit for the president, he said.

MP Ahmed Nihan, parliamentary group leader of the PPM, said the majority party will decide its stance following discussions, but said he personally supported it. Other pro-government MPs also backed the amendments in their “individual capacity.”

PPM MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla said amending the constitution might be necessary “under some circumstances” to allow the president to replace a “disloyal” vice president.

“I’m not saying at all that we are trying to bring a particular person to the vice presidency. But if it has to be done, the PPM parliamentary is ready,” he said.

Last month, newspaper Haveeru suggested that the ruling coalition might also amend the constitution to authorise the president to appoint or dismiss his deputy.

The relationship between President Abdulla Yameen and Dr Jameel is reportedly under strain. His cousin, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was dismissed from the cabinet last month. The government did not provide a reason for the dismissal.


Government considering racing track in Hulhumalé, says Tourism Minister

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has said the government is considering building a racing track in Hulhumalé, saying that motor racing deters youth from crime.

Adeeb’s comments came at the conclusion of the ‘Motor Racing President’s Challenge 2015’ last night (January 24), with the minister acknowledging that the island’s master plan for artificial island made no provision for such a facility.

“Creating a master plan takes years and it is not essential for Hulhumalé to always have a racing track,” Haveeru reported Adeeb as saying. “We are, however, trying to build a track that would last at least six years and one that can host international events.”

The two day event, organised by the Maldives Motor Racing Association (MMRA), concluded last night with awards handed out by President Abdulla Yameen for the winners.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the competition this weekend, Adeeb said it was necessary to develop racing as a sport in the Maldives as it deters the youth population from crimes and drug abuse.

“These kind of sports prevent the youth from straying into criminal activities and drugs. Racing especially can only be done with good discipline, this is not a sport you can participate in unless you are sober,” said Adeeb.

The competition – which saw women participating in a racing event for the first time – was split into various categories as superbike racing, car racing, and various tiers of motorbike racing.

While President Yameen handed out the winning awards to all first prize winners, Adeeb handed out awards for the runners-up, and recently appointed Minister of Defense Colonel (retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel gave awards for those finishing third.

First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim was also awarded a shield of recognition by MMRA for the work she does towards developing the sport.

Adeeb said that despite motor racing being a widespread sport in the Maldives, it faces a considerable amount of restriction such as the lack of racing track and difficulty acquiring racing equipment. However, he noted that local racers had fared well despite these difficulties.

The second phase of the Hulhumalé development has begun, with Belgian company Dredging International reclaiming 240 hectares, doubling the size of what the current government government has designated a youth city.

At the official reclamation of the second development phase last week, President Yameen called on young people from around the country to relocate to the Malé suburb.

He has previously pledged to establish a ‘technopolis park’, entertainment, and sports facilities, and facilities for tourism and fisheries industries, while Hulhumalé Development Corporation officials have also said phase two of the project will feature a monorail to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

Source: Haveeru, Avas, Vaguthu

Related to this story

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Motor racing comes to the Maldives: Piston Motor Racing Challenge 2013

President Yameen calls on youth to relocate to Hulhumalé


President Yameen announces development of five resorts in Haa Dhaalu Atoll

President Abdulla Yameen has announced plans to develop five resorts in the northern Haa Dhaalu Atoll next year.

Yameen said that the first islands to be developed as resorts by the current government will be located in Dhipparufushi, Vaikarumuraadhoo, Kanamana, Kudafaru, and Keylakunu islands in the country’s second-northernmost atoll.

During his visit to the northen atolls, President Yameen also talked about the government’s plans to develop an airport on Kulhudhuhfushi to further encourage the arrival of tourists.

Officials from the government promised the even distribution of resorts earlier this year following an online petition calling for the area to participate in the benefits of the country’s billion dollar tourism industry. Haa Dhaalu is currently the only atoll in the country without any operating resorts.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz told Minivan News of the strategic importance of Kulhudhuhfushi Island, which has a population of around ten thousand people.

“Projects like the proposed airport, resort development, and the I-Havan mega project will bring with it prosperous employment opportunities for the people residing the northern atolls, eliminating need of migrating to the capital Malé for employment,” said Muaz.

Muaz also noted that such projects, while providing numerous employment opportunities, would also develop the infrastructure in the region and improve the general living conditions in the North.

The UNDP’s most recent Human Development Report noted that disparities between the central and outer atolls were causing losses to human development, with the northern atolls reporting to suffer the most from limited job opportunities and social services.

Regional development

This year’s Avaaz petition – signed by just over 500 people – noted that the economic and societal problems of the 20,000 inhabitants of the atoll could be alleviated by the development of resorts.

The petition argued that the development of the region’s “pristine uninhabited islands” would halt the “mass migration” to Malé which was “tearing up the social fabric of our society”.

President Yameen’s election campaign pledged to develop 50 operational resorts during the five year presidential term. Yesterday’s proposed 2015 budget also planned for tourism growth, with 10 new resorts proposed in a MVR24.3 billion budget plan.

Despite the total number of resorts in the country exceeding one hundred, the majority are clustered around Malé and the country’s main international airport.

After initial plans for the 40-year-old industry’s development envisioned regional hubs, the introduction of sea planes has encouraged the concentration of resorts in the now-crowded central atolls.

The government’s plans for regional development have centered around the controversial SEZ bill, which it argues will decentralise development in order to promote regional growth – though the bill’s detractors fear that the policy will come at the expense of political decentralisation.

Relaxed regulations in the SEZs are intended to attract investors for a number of ‘mega projects’, including the iHavan – or ‘Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project’ – in Haa Alif Atoll.

The project aims to take advantage of the strategic location of the Maldives’ northernmost atoll on a major shipping route – through which more than 700,000 ships carry goods worth US$18 trillion a year – and develop 5,700 hectares of land along with deep natural harbours.

Meanwhile, environmental NGO Ecocare has protested against the proposed Kulhudhuhfushi airport, pointing out that the airport’s development would destroy a mangrove area which would be reclaimed in order to build the airport.

Ecocare suggested a speedy ferry transportation system to Hanimaadhoo Airport which is just 16.6 km away after labelling the Kulhudhuhfushi airport as “economically less viable”.


President Yameen departs to two northern islands on an official visit

President Abdulla Yameen has travelled to Haa Alif Hoarafushi and Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuhfushi on an official visit today.

President Yameen is scheduled to officially launch the new sewerage system in at Hoarafushi and meet the citizens of Kulhudhuhfushi. He was accompanied on his visit by Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

While speaking to local news outlet Vnews, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said the president left on the official visit early this morning and is due to arrive back in the capital tomorrow.


Government taken hostage by the police and gangs operating in Malé: Nasheed

Maldivian Democractic Party (MDP) President, and former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed accused the government of being taken hostage by the police and the many gangs operating in the capital Malé.

“At the moment, the government has failed in providing a path to bring perpetrators of serious crimes in front of justice,” Nasheed said while speaking at an MDP rally held in the carnival area of the capital last night (October 26).

Nasheed also alleged that four individuals from the MPS Special Operations (SO) unit were behind the recent chopping down of the areca palm trees planted on both sides of the city’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu.

“Two nights ago, we saw Maafannu police chase and attack four SO police officers who were wielding machetes around the city. Maafannu police tried to arrest the culprits but the SO officers ran into Iskandhar Koshi where they were protected by SO commander sub-inspector Abdulla Ibrahim,” claimed Nasheed.

Nasheed also criticised the government for its decision to ‘freeze employment’ in an attempt to reduce the ballooning budget deficit.

More than 5000 students are to finish their O levels, said the former president, with a further 2000 completing A levels – suggesting that these groups would be lost to gangs without gainful employment.

“The budget deficit has risen higher than ever before. The government is in huge amounts of debt after selling treasury bills to make ends meet,” continued the MDP leader, referring to the budget deficit which is now believed to exceed MVR4 billion (US$260 million).

He also spoke again of President Abdulla Yameen’s numerous visits to Singapore saying that the President Yameen is carrying out his presidential duties and obligations at a time where the whole country is descending into fear and chaos.

“If President Yameen is ill, we would not criticise these visits. However, the President’s Office has informed the media that the President and the First Lady is in good health, making us question the motive behind trips to Singapore,” said Nasheed.

President Yameen and the first lady have since returned from their unofficial trip.

Nasheed pointed out that the government has taken little to no action when an MDP rally held at Addu City was attacked by masked men wielding batons or when an MDP office in Malé was set on fire by two individuals on motorbikes.

Last night’s rally was held amidst a large number of threats issued against the opposition party. During the party’s last rally in the Malé, MP Eva Abdulla received a message threatening a suicide attack at the next MDP gathering while vowing to ‘fight to the last drop of blood’.

Despite party members continuing to receive threats prior to yesterday’s rally, the event passed without incident. Earlier today (October 26), the MDP held a press conference announcing that over 12,000 new members has signed to the party.


Councils ordered to seek president’s permission before leasing state lands

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has sent a letter to all local councils ordering them to refrain from making any decisions regarding state owned land without seeking prior permission from the president.

In a circular sent to the councils, the ministry stated that in accordance with the Land Act, it is the President who will decide on all matters concerning state owned land with the advice of his ministerial cabinet.

It was stated that the need to send a circular reminding councils of this had come after the president became aware of some councils continually failing to comply by the law.


President nominates members to the Police Integrity Commission

President Abdulla Yameen has submitted three names to parliament to be considered for the posts of members of the Police Integrity Commission.

The names submitted by the president are Al Usthaz Ali Nadheem of Gloriosa in Henveiru ward of Malé, Fathimath Sarira Ali Shareef who is Malé Municipal Registry number 1320, and Mohamed Faruhadh of Hasankaarige from the island of Meedhoo in Addu City.


Yameen concedes that GMR is owed some compensation

With additional reporting by Ahmed Rilwan

President Abdulla Yameen has today said the government was sure it would have to pay some compensation for cancelling the agreement made with the Indian infrastructure giant GMR to lease Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

“The truth we should accept is that a government with all its sovereignty has given permission to a foreign party under an agreement,” said the president.

“So we believe some sort of financial compensation must be paid to them. A compensation must be given for taking the airport [from them]. What we are trying to make sure this compensation is not big but average.”

Yameen was speaking to the press before leaving for Singapore to take part in the Maldives Investment Forum – an event he described as “the first step taken towards a fresh start for the Maldives in today’s world economy”.

In November 2012, President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s cabinet declared the GMR agreement void ab initio – invalid from the outset – and ordered the developer to leave, just two years into its 25 year concession agreement.

President Yameen explained to the press today that his advisors believed that, if the arbitration panel could be persuaded that the deal had been anulled due to the airport’s national importance, the compensation would be small.

GMR had initially claimed US$1.4 billion – a figure greater than the Maldives’ annual state budget.

Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) formed part of the Waheed coalition government, though it’s leader – former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – has since accuse Waheed of going against his party’s advice by failing to reach an amicable agreement with GMR and the Indian government.

During his first official state visit to Indian in January, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh requested President Yameen to “amicably” settle the GMR airport issue.

Earlier this month, Yameen had said that the out-of-court amount sought by the infrastructure company was too great, and that he would now await the outcome of proceedings, which could take up to another two months.

The US$511 million concession agreement to manage and upgrade the airport – awarded under the former government of Mohamed Nasheed – was the single largest foreign investment in the Maldives’ history.

President Yameen will tomorrow give the keynote speak at the landmark investment forum, as he seeks to generate interest from foreign investors for five ‘mega-projects’ – one of which is the further development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

As part of the president’s attempts to lure foreign investors back to the country, he has promised special economic zones which hopes will be “likened to cities in Dubai or the Emirates” and “the [business] environment we have in Singapore.”

Senior management of Singapore’s Changi International Airport visited the Maldives earlier this month, with Yameen explaining the purpose of the visit to press this afternoon.

“Changi’s management will be our final consultant with the terminal [project] and other consultancies required for the airport,” he explained. “We want to seek technical expertise and information on how to do things from Singapore Changi.”

“The project has progressed far now, Changi has expressed interest. So we believe all the supervisory and consultancy work of this terminal will be carried out by Changi.”