Maldives failed “at every level” to protect minor charged with fornication from years of abuse

Additional reporting by JJ Robinson.

Council heads and senior civil society figures have slammed the judiciary, state authorities and welfare groups over their systemic failure to protect a 15 year-old girl convicted of fornication and sentenced to flogging, despite her history of alleged sexual abuse dating back to 2009.

While the case has only recently received global media coverage, local councilors and woman rights groups told Minivan News that authorities failed for years to address “public uproar” over the child’s alleged abuse.

The girl from the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll is currently in the care of the Ministry of Gender and Family. She was identified as a victim of child abuse last year after the body of a dead baby was discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of her family home.

Her stepfather was later charged child sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing premeditated murder, while her mother also faces charges for concealing the alleged sexual offences.

However, during the course of investigations into the case, officials told Minivan News that the state had no choice but to press fornication charges against the minor after she confessed to having what she claimed was consensual sex with an unidentified man.  She now faces 100 lashes in public when she turns 18 – a sentence the President’s Office this week said it would try to avert amid growing international censure and debate over corporal punishment and reform of the country’s Sharia-based judicial system.

The case has led to intense global media scrutiny and an online campaign by petition website, which gathered almost a million signatures in two days – more than the number of tourists who visited the country last year.

With Maldivian authorities and child protection bodies now in the global spotlight, Aneesa Ahmed, Chairperson for the Hope for Women NGO, said councilors from Shaviyani Atoll had been expressing concerns to authorities about the girl’s safety for several years.

Aneesa said the inaction of a wide variety of institutions in response to these concerns reflected the state’s failure “at every level” to try and protect from abuse.

“All institutions, including the counsellor – if she had one while being interrogated by police – failed, because I am told her case was reported as early as 2009,” she added.

Speaking on Thursday (March 21),  Atoll Council President Moosa Fathy said police had conducted numerous investigations into the girl’s situation since 2009 in response to concerns raised by councillors on Feydhoo.

However, Fathy said the girl had ultimately been left in the custody of her mother and stepfather even after she was found to pregnant. He blamed the “limited facilities” available to house and protect the girl, as well as a lack of budget, management and staff to shelter vulnerable young people.

“The police thoroughly investigated the matter, but the response of many organisations simply was not good enough,” Fathy said. “Even now the problem has not been solved.”

Fathy said that rather than blaming a single state or civil society organisation for the girl’s ongoing abuse, every institution charged with the girl’s care had to take responsibility for the matter.

“This girl needed special care. There are special shelters where she would have been safe, but I understand there is not enough budget or staff and general administrative mechanisms to run such programs,” he said.

Fathy said he had been raising concerns about the girl’s welfare for the last two years, and said he had also tried unsuccessfully to meet with former Gender Minister Dhiyana Saeed while she was still in her post to discuss the case.

Island uproar

Sources on Feydhooo have meanwhile told Minivan News that concerns had been raised by islanders since 2009 that the girl had potentially been the victim of sexual abuse not just by her stepfather, but a number of other unidentified men on the island.

However, the island council claimed the victim’s unwillingness to tell authorities about her alleged abuse meant she remained living with her mother and stepfather.

Island Councillor Ibrahim Naushaad told Minivan News that upon discovering the child was pregnant last year,  police and the Gender Ministry failed to remove the girl to a shelter.

“The police and gender ministry didn’t take responsibility or provide counselling to the girl,” he said. “The police and ministry investigated, but we don’t know what she said to them.”

Naushaad said the minor presently remained under the care of the Gender Ministry as she was unable to be returned to Feydhooo, as her biological father was being severely disabled and unable to support or look after his daughter.

“Same thing could happen again”

Naushaad alleged that several men on the island who were also believed to have had sex with the minor remained unidentified, leaving her at risk of further abuse should she return to the island.

“The Human Rights and Gender Ministry asked if they could send her back to the island, but I have explained that her father would be unable to look after her and keep an eye on her,” he said. “If they send her back here, the same thing could happen again.”

According to Naushaad, the minor was questioned by police on at least four separate occasions, but he said she had been unwilling to state whether she had faced sexual abuse from her family or other men on the island.

Sources on the island said that the perception was that the minor, along with her mother and stepfather, were believed to have been “lying” to police investigators.

Naushaad told Minivan News there remained concern among islanders that the girl had now been charged by the country’s court with fornication, after being found guilty of having sex with an unidentified partner.

“They did not identify who this man was and that is why we have concerns about what they are doing. This is not good,” he said.

Naushaad claimed the council done everything it could to try and take responsibility for the matter by continually raising concerns with authorities since back in 2009.

Legal review

After the minor was first charged with fornication in January, the government pledged to review the  use of flogging as a punishment and legal practices it claimed, in certain cases, criminalise victims of sexual abuse.

While there is no timetable for reforms to be put in place, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad expressed hope on that punishments such as flogging would be debated and one day repealed.

“I’m sure when we debate [punishing suspects for fornication with lashes], we will find an acceptable solution for all parties,” he said.

The Maldives constitution does not allow any law contradicting the tenets of Islam, and the legal system defaults to Sharia law in areas not covered by common law.

The last statistics available from the Department of Judicial Administration on flogging sentences show that 90 percent of the people found guilty of “Zina” – fornication – and sentenced to flogging in 2011 were female.

A total of 129 fornication cases were filed in 2011 and 104 people sentenced, out of which 93 were female. This included 10 underage girls (below 18), 79 women between age 18-40 and and four women above 40 years.

Of the 11 males who were sentenced, only one was a minor, with the others aged between 25-40.

Compared to 2010, the overall sentences in fornication increased by 23 percent in 2011, but the number of males sentenced for flogging decreased by 15 percent while the women increased by 30 percent.

According to Maldivian law, a person found guilty of fornication is subjected to 100 lashes and sentenced to one year of house arrest or banishment while a minor’s flogging is postponed until she or he reaches 18.

History of selective enforcement

Masood noted that the Maldives had a tradition of turning away from practices such as the death sentence and forms of corporal punishment, even where these were proscribed in Sharia.

According to Masood, punishments such as removing the hand of a suspect in the case of theft had not been used since the 1960s.

He maintained that there was a history of reviewing the country’s relationship with Sharia law in the past and that a similar process could be had with the debate about flogging.

However, Masood said that all authorities involved in proposed legal reforms would have to tread “a very fine line” in order to tackle long standing “traditions” and beliefs in the country.

“Reforms must be undertaken, but this must be done gradually considering we are dealing with a process embedded in society,” he said. “A certain amount of compromise may be needed.”

Masood said the state was committed to preventing the minor from facing her sentence, while also looking at the potential for reversing the use of flogging as a traditional punishment.

“The little girl will not be flogged for another two years, so we must look at what can be done [in the meantime],” he said.

However the conservative religious Adhaalath Party – the members of which largely dominate the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs – has already publicly warned that “no one has the right to criticise any penalties specified in Islam.”

Quoting verses from the Quran, a statement from the party said that no citizen should be allowed to express ideas and opinions about a verdict made in accordance with the religion in a court of law in a 100-percent Muslim country.

The Adhaalath Party further cautioned that criticising issues such as the girl’s flogging sentence would “encourage enemies of Islam, create confusion among the general public and open up opportunities for people who aim to stop the practice of similar penalties commanded in Islam.

“The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,” the statement read.

The Prosecutor General’s (PG’s) Office has confirmed to Minivan News that it was not presently involved with any discussions over possible legal reforms of charges like fornication. Such a mandate lay with Attorney General Azinma Shukoor, the PG’s office said.

Shukoor, who was also recently appointed the current Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights, was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


DRP deputy contemplates election coalition, rules out PPM alliance

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) has ruled out a coalition with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) ahead of elections later this year, despite being open to collaboration with other parties.

DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef told Minivan News the DRP would not contemplate forming a coalition with the PPM beyond the present government, calling any discussion on the matter a “waste of time” considering previous disagreements between the two parties.

The PPM, a coalition partner in the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, was formed by DRP founder former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2011 following an acrimonious war of words with the party’s current leader, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. Thasmeen was directly appointed by Gayoom to be his successor as head of the DRP.

PPM members are currently campaigning ahead of primaries to decide whether MP Abdulla Yameen or the party’s former interim Deputy Leader Umar Naseer will contest as the organisations presidential candidate in September’s elections.

Speaking Friday (March 15) at a rally head at the artificial beach area of Male’, PPM Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed claimed that unlike MP Yameen, “almost all parties” have said they would unite with Umar Naseeer in a coalition for the next presidential elections, reported Sun Online.

Ilham told the gathered crowd that being able to form a coalition would be important in the upcoming elections, adding that no other party would be interested in forming an alliance with a party helmed by MP Yameen.

MP Ilham was not responding to calls at time of press, while Umar Naseer’s secretary said he was too busy to speak.

However, PPM MP and spokesperson for MP Yameen’s campaign team Shifaq Mufeed has since slammed Umar Naseer’s primary team for making what he called slanderous and untruthful statements.

With its own congress scheduled for next month, DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef said the DRP was presently focusing on its own campaign and manifesto for the presidential elections, but believed the party would never be able to form an alliance with the PPM going forward.

“Our position is very clear, we will not be forming a coalition with the PPM,” he said.

Shareef said that following a split within the DRP that saw supporters loyal to former President Gayoom break away and form the PPM, it would not be possible for the two parties to work together.

“We won’t waste our time discussing a coalition with them,” he said.

Despite rejecting any possibility of working with the PPM, Shareef said that the DRP would not rule out a coalition with parties in the future who they had not already worked with, adding that there was always room for discussions to be held.

However, he claimed that the party was presently in the process of compiling its manifesto for elections to be held next year, while also trying to finalise a venue for the party’s congress scheduled next month.

“Right now we have not been able to get a venue, though we hope to secure Dharubaaruge [conference centre],” Shareef said. “We are not a wealthy party, so we cannot campaign like richer parties and we need to find a new way to do this. We don’t have our own television or radio stations like other parties.”

Spokespersons for the  Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and Adhaalath Party (AP) were not responding to calls at time of press.


Keeping Nasheed Alive: Eurasia Review

India has a moral obligation to see that former President Mohammad Nasheed, who was arrested by Maldivian Commandos on March 5, 2013, in alleged response to a court order to face trial in a case pending against him, remains alive,” writes B. Raman for the Eurasia Review.

“Even though he might have been arrested ostensibly in pursuance of a court order, his arrest is a breach of faith on the part of the Waheed Government. He left the Indian High Commission, where he had taken sanctuary, in response to assurances regarding his safety and security.

India, which played a role in the negotiations that led to his leaving his safe sanctuary in the High Commission, is a guarantor of the assurances given by the Waheed Government regarding his safety and security.

India should immediately make it clear to former President Abdul Gayoom, who has allegedly been playing an active behind-the-scene role in advising the Government of Waheed, that it will hold him and Waheed personally and morally responsible for the safety and security of Nasheed and that should anything untoward happen to him while in custody India would act in the appropriate manner to ensure that solemn assurances given to India by the Government are not violated with impunity.

Read More.


Commonwealth-backed report a “whitewash”: former president

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has branded the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report a “whitewash”, claiming it purposefully excluded testimonies from key police and military figures concerning last year’s transfer of power.

The CNI report, which was published back in August last year, concluded there had been no coup, no duress and no mutiny during the controversial transfer of power that saw President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik sworn into office. The findings were also welcomed at the time by the US State Department and the United Nations.

Nasheed alleged that despite the CNI report’s conclusions, a recent parliamentary inquiry had heard evidence from senior police and military figures that was omitted from the commission’s findings and supported allegations of a coup.

The comments were made following a recent visit by the Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Don McKinnon. McKinnon, whose visit concluded yesterday (January 27), was in the country to discuss progress to “strengthen democratic institutions” in line with recommendations in the CNI report.

The Commonwealth Secretariat today said it would not be issuing a statement or making any comments on McKinnon’s visit at the present time.

Nasheed, who declined to meet with McKinnon during his visit, has expressed strong criticism of the investigation conducted by the CNI.

“The CNI report was a whitewash. It wilfully excluded testimony of police and army leaders – the very people best placed to ascertain whether the transfer of power was legal or not,” he stated.

The former president also slammed the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, claiming it had taken no action against police and military officers for alleged human rights abuses during the transfer of power, or towards correcting issues with the country’s judiciary raised in the CNI’s conclusions.

In the same statement, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Didi condemned the Commonwealth-backed report for empowering and legitimising President Waheed’s government, which she accused of lacking a democratic mandate.

“The CNI report was to empower and embolden an illegitimate regime, which is now pressing charges against President Nasheed in the hope of disqualifying his candidature in the upcoming presidential elections. Uncertainties created by these politically motivated charges have skewed the election landscape and allowed campaign momentum for marginal political groups led by former international civil servants, feudal entrepreneurs and religious extremists that clearly do not have electoral support,” she claimed.

“Having stolen one presidency, the regime intends to rig the vote for another. This situation has grave consequences for the future of our democracy,” Mariya added.

“Cover-up” allegations

On Saturday (January 26), the MDP accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of being complicit in a “systematic government cover-up designed to subdue testimonies from key witnesses to the coup d’etat”.

MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said at the time that respective accounts from the CNI and the UN concerning the transfer of power on February 7 were “not reflective of the experiences of Maldivians who witnessed and lived through the event both out on the streets and through their TV screens”.

“The letters sent to the government [concerning the transfer of power] represented a real shoddy job by these organisations. It is clear they did not do their homework. It is embarrassing,” Ghafoor said.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq meanwhile told Minivan News last week that the CNI report was a “transparent” process undertaken by “qualified Maldivian people”.

“Because of this, the CNI report is accepted by the government. We have a judiciary, if anyone has a problem with this affair they can go to the courts themselves,” he claimed.


President Waheed departs on private visit to Malaysia

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and First Lady Ilham Hussain have departed on a private visit to Malaysia yesterday (December 28), the President’s Office has announced.

No further details about the trip have been provided at the time of press.


Parliament approves amendment to conduct no-confidence votes through secret ballot

Parliament voted today 41-34 to approve amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach the President and remove cabinet members through secret ballot.

Today’s vote passed after a similar proposition was narrowly defeated 39-34 in November.

In October, the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) submitted a no-confidence motion to impeach President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

The no-confidence motion has however yet to be tabled in the Majlis agenda. Under the rules or standing orders, the President must be given a 14-day notice ahead of the vote.

Today’s vote was won after MPs of the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – including respective leaders MPs Gasim Ibrahim and Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – joined MDP MPs to vote in favour of the amendments.

The amendment to the house rules was meanwhile approved after MPs voted in favour of a report (Dhivehi) by the MDP-majority General Affairs Committee, which voted last month in favour of the amendments proposed by MDP MP Ibrahim Rasheed for secret voting.

During today’s debate on the report, MPs of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) contended that the report was tabled in the agenda in violation of Majlis rules and criticised having to vote on the same issue for a second time.

PPM MPs along with some DRP MPs and several Independent MPs argued against secret ballots in parliament and insisted that constituents deserved to know how their MPs vote.

MPs further contended that conducting no-confidence votes through secret ballot would give weight to widespread allegations of corruption levelled against parliament.

Meanwhile, speaking at rally on Thursday night, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla called MPs who voted in favour of secret ballot “traitors.”

Imran warned that he would “chase after” MPs and the Speaker if the amendments were approved and threatened “direct action”.

“The day that [Speaker Abdulla] Shahid takes a vote to destroy the country is the day that we run after him,” Imran had said.

In an apparent response, Speaker Shahid said in a statement this week that intimidation and threats of force against MPs violated “the spirit of the constitution and democratic principles.”

Article 90(a) of the constitution states, “No member or other person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court, and no person shall be subject to any inquiry, arrest, detention or prosecution, with respect to anything said in, produced before, or submitted to the People’s Majlis or any of its committees, or with respect to any vote given if the same is not contrary to any tenet of Islam.”

While informing MPs of the wishes of the public was part of democratic norms, Speaker Shahid said in his statement that it did not include threats, intimidation and “inflicting psychological or physical harm on MPs.”


Dr Waheed will be PPM presidential candidate, predicts former President Nasheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik will become the presidential candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) with the backing of its leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, former President Mohamed Nasheed has predicted.

Speaking at a rally in Shaviyani Foakaidhoo on Saturday night during the on-going ‘Journey of Pledges’ northern tour, Nasheed alleged that his former vice president held secret consultations with PPM interim leader and figurehead, former President Gayoom, before the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7.

“Dr Waheed has been scheming with President Maumoon for about two years, that I know of,” Nasheed said. “Sometimes in an uninhabited island in Baa Atoll, other times in Alivaage [Gayoom’s former residence]. They have been discussing and talking in different places. Anyone who thinks of carrying out a coup d’etat will know that one thing you need for it is a disloyal vice president.”

Nasheed noted that the post of vice president was not included in the old constitution that was twice revised during Gayoom’s 30-year rule.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate reiterated his allegation that Gayoom orchestrated a “coup d’etat through Dr Waheed” on February 7.

A week before Nasheed’s resignation in the wake of riot police assaulting MDP members and ransacking the party’s meeting hall followed by a police mutiny at Republic Square, Dr Waheed met with opposition politicians at his official residence at 1:00am, after which they pledged allegiance to the then-vice president and called on the security forces not to obey then-President Nasheed.

“In my view, Maumoon is trying to make Dr Waheed PPM’s presidential candidate,” Nasheed said on Saturday night.

He added that Gayoom’s intention was to rule by proxy, alluding to a sultan who wielded power through a sibling on the throne while residing in Egypt.

Nasheed suggested that PPM’s presidential primary was being pushed back because PPM parliamentary group leader, presidential hopeful and half-brother of Gayoom, Abdulla Yameen, would not accept Waheed becoming the party’s candidate.

Addressing party members at a rally on Thursday night to celebrate PPM’s first anniversary, Yameen reportedly claimed that PPM was the only party within the ruling coalition that was defending the government and expressed disappointment with the coalition becoming “fractured.”

Nexbis deal

Yameen also called on the government to “immediately” terminate the controversial border control system agreement with Malaysian company Nexbis and contended that the project was detrimental to the state.

The parliament’s minority leader also criticised the government’s hesitancy to cancel the agreement despite the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (AAC’s) findings of alleged corruption in the deal.

Local media meanwhile reported that parliament’s Finance Committee decided during a closed-door session on Thursday to instruct the executive to halt the project. The decision would however have to be approved through a vote on the Majlis floor following consideration of a report by the committee.

In September, the ACC informed the committee that the deal would cost the Maldives MVR 2.5 billion (US$162 million) in potential lost revenue over the lifetime of the contract.

Following its investigation into alleged corruption in awarding of the contract to Nexbis, the ACC requested the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) press criminal charges against former Controller of Immigration Ilyas Hussain, brother-in-law of President Waheed.

Almost a year after the case was forwarded to the PGO however, no charges have been pressed against the former immigration chief to date. The ACC alleged that Ilyas Hussain had abused his authority for undue financial gain.

Ilyas – a senior member of Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ihtihad Party (GIP) – was transferred from the post under President Nasheed when the corruption allegations first surfaced.

His successor Abdulla Shahid expressed concern over both the cost and necessity of the project, calculating that with continued growth in tourist numbers Nexbis would be earning US$200 million in revenue over the 20 year lifespan of the agreement.

Following Dr Waheed’s swearing-in as president on February 7, Ilyas was reappointed controller of immigration. He was however replaced in May with Dr Mohamed Ali and appointed State Minister for Defence.

Former President Nasheed meanwhile alleged in his speech on Saturday that Dr Waheed’s GIP’s Deputy Leader Mohamed ‘Nazaki’ Zaki was complicit in the corrupt dealings in his role as Ambassador to Malaysia.

“Before the [border control] system was established, before there was even a contract in effect, I later heard that equipment was kept in some warehouses in Male’,” he said, claiming that the warehouses were owned by Nazaki Zaki.

Nasheed added that he “agreed completely with Yameen” that the allegations should be investigated.

Delayed congress

Meanwhile, PPM announced in October that its first national congress has been postponed for a third time. The party’s charter however stipulates that a congress must be held within six months of its formation to elect leaders, after which a primary would take place to select a candidate for the upcoming presidential election.

Local daily Haveeru reported a source within the party citing “political turmoil” as the reason for the delay.

The party held its inaugural convention in October 2011.

Meanwhile, in August, Waheed told the Hindu during a visit to Sri Lanka that he was “contemplating” running for office in 2013.

“What I have said is that our administration supports the earliest date for Presidential elections allowed under the Constitution. That in my mind will be July, 2013. I am hoping that the election will be at that time,” he was quoted as saying.

In the same month, former President Gayoom publicly welcomed the prospect of Dr Waheed competing in a primary for the party’s ticket.

In May, PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer told local media that Dr Waheed could potentially become the party’s presidential candidate. Naseer however claimed earlier that Waheed would not stand for re-election.

Dr Waheed is currently leader of the GIP, which has no representation in either the People’ Majlis or local councils and just 2,515 registered members, according to the latest figures from the Elections Commission (EC).

By comparison, PPM currently has 17,486 members and is the minority party in parliament. The party has also won nine out of 12 by-elections held since its inception last year.

Speaking at the PPM rally last week, Gayoom urged senior leaders of the party to be mindful of the party’s unity during the upcoming primary. The party’s national congress is now scheduled for January 2013.

NasheedIn his speech, Nasheed meanwhile urged MDP members to begin the presidential campaign with the consideration that PPM’s candidate will be Dr Waheed with Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Leader Dr Hassan Saeed as his running mate.

“This is how I see the picture,” he said. “I am someone who tries to study how President Maumoon does thing. I don’t believe that things could transpire differently after this.”

Nasheed went on to say that the MDP would “easily” beat Dr Waheed as the PPM’s presidential candidate in 2013.

The former President observed that PPM’s strength was in “small islands” and the “the smaller the island, the more support it has,” which was akin to “a disease” that causes the tormented to defe the tormenter.

However, Nasheed noted that in the local council elections in February 2011, MDP won nine out of 11 seats in the Male’ City Council, all six seats in the Addu City Council and made clean sweeps of a number of larger inhabited islands such as Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal atoll and Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll.


Economic dependency threatens Maldives’ independence, warns President Waheed

The Maldives has become financially and economically dependent on foreign parties to an extent that threatens the nation’s independence and sovereignty, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik warned in his address (Dhivehi) to the nation on Republic Day.

Speaking at a function at Dharubaaruge last night, President Waheed said the country has still not recovered from the devastation wrought by the tsunami in December 2004.

“The national debt has soared to levels it has never reached before. In the past four or five years, the country has become financially and economically dependent on foreign parties to an extent that undermines our domestic and economic independence,” he said.

The Maldives “faced challenges to domestic stability” with the post-2004 constitutional changes and democratic reforms, he added.

“During this time, the country’s constitutional framework was destroyed and the state started to function outside of legal bounds,” Dr Waheed said. “And in addition to this, after the events of February 7 this year, some people have created further challenges to the country’s economic development and diplomatic relations.”

Then-Vice President Waheed assumed office on February 7 following the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed in the wake of civil unrest and a police mutiny at Republic Square.

The Republic Day marks the abolishment of an 853-year-old monarchy and its replacement by a second republic under President Ibrahim Nasir on November 11, 1968.

President Waheed meanwhile said in his speech that the country was facing a trial “during hard economic times” to increase government revenue, improve services to the public, maintain diplomatic ties and “establish financial and economic freedom.”

These objectives had to be achieved in a “world without domestic walls, within a social fabric where protecting Islamic values and the nation’s independence has weakened,” Dr Waheed said.

In his speech at a ceremony to mark ‘Victory Day’ on November 3, President Waheed claimed that foreign parties were attempting to exert undue influence over the Maldives “in different ways, under different names and capacities, to exercise power over us.”

These foreign parties were “saying that we must turn to their ideologies and sending over waves of secularism [or secular ideologies]  to the country,” Dr Waheed had said.

Meanwhile, in his address on Sunday night, President Waheed said sacrifices “such as those of our ancestors” were needed for peace and security and to ensure that “the economy is not destroyed through differences of opinion” and that “the social fabric is not unwoven through political antagonism.”

Important decisions needed to be made for next year’s budget to reduce expenditure and increase government revenue, he added.

President Waheed also announced his intention to convene a “National Conference” as a forum to discuss development strategies.

Ideas and opinions would be sought at the forum to chart a roadmap for development, he said.

Politicians, entrepreneurs, tradesmen, scholars, students, women, youth, judges, lawyers and private parties would be invited to participate in the conference, Waheed said.

In late October, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told local media that the Maldives would be unable to pay salaries and meet recurrent expenditure for the rest of the year without a further US$25 million loan from the Indian government.

The US$25 million was agreed upon in September as part of the $US100 million standby credit facility signed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2011.

Jihad told local media that he believed the loan was being delayed due to the ongoing controversy over Indian infrastructure company GMR’s development of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), which is opposed by all parties in the ruling coalition.

Since coming to power, Waheed’s government has committed to reimbursing civil servants for wage reductions made during the austerity measures of the previous government, amounting to MVR443.7 million (US$28.8 million), to be disbursed in monthly instalments over 12 months from July 2012.

As of November 4, the overall fiscal deficit has already reached over MVR 2 billion (US$129 million). Jihad told the Majlis’ Finance Committee that he expected this figure to rise to MVR 6 billion (US$387million) by year’s end – 28 percent of GDP – alleging that the previous government left unpaid bills equal to over one third of this anticipated deficit.

Former Minister of Economic Development Mahmood Razee told Minivan News that increased expenditure in the face of a pre-existing deficit represented the government “ignoring reality.”

A delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meanwhile urged parliament’s Finance Committee and Economic Committee last week to expedite legislation on fiscal responsibility.


Police arrest six protesters from Kudahuvadhoo during President’s visit

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the arrest of six protesters from Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaal Atoll during President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s visit to the island on Sunday.

In a press release last night, the former ruling party condemned “in the harshest terms” the arrest of “participants of a peaceful protest” against Dr Waheed’s government and called for their “immediate release”.

Police made the arrests “brutally and with no prior warning,” the MDP statement alleged.

The party also expressed concern over the alleged use of pepper spray and “disproportionate force” to take the protesters into custody as well as the use of obscene language towards demonstrators.

The MDP statement concluded by calling on the Human Rights Commission, Police Integrity Commission and the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate and take legal action concerning the “illegal arrest of peaceful protesters and efforts by the police to restrict freedom of expression.”

Speaking to Minivan News, a police media official confirmed that six people were arrested from the island on Sunday but noted that only one person was arrested during Dr Waheed’s visit.

Three men were arrested around 11:00am for “obstructing police duty” during security preparations for the President’s visit.

One of the men allegedly assaulted a police officer while the other two were arrested for “obstructing police duty,” the media official explained.

A police officer sustained minor injuries during the confrontation, the official said, but the injuries were “not too serious.”

A woman was arrested at the time when President Waheed alighted on the island but has since been released.

Two men arrested during a protest outside the Kudahuvadhoo police station after President Waheed left the island have also been released, the media official said.

Of the six arrested during the day, only the three men arrested before noon were still in custody, the official said.

On the allegations concerning excessive use of force, the police media official insisted that no force was used when President Waheed alighted on the island.

However, he added that police used force earlier in the day to control a disturbance that followed the arrest of the individual who allegedly assaulted a police officer.

Banners taken down

Meanwhile, Shathir Abdul Rahman, head of the MDP Kudahuvadhoo branch, told private broadcaster Raajje TV yesterday that a large number of police from other stations in the atoll arrived ahead of the President and took down anti-government banners.

The police media official confirmed that police took down banners put up at the harbour area.

Dhaal Meedhoo
Protest preparation in Dhaal Meedhoo

The banners were put up at a cordoned off area “closed for security reasons” and were taken down as they were put up by islanders who “broke through the police lines”, the media official said.

Meanwhile, a protest also took place at Dhaal Meedhoo on Saturday to coincide with the former vice president’s visit.

President Waheed left Male’ on Friday for Faafu Nilandhoo and some islands of Dhaalu atoll.

Private broadcaster Villa Television – owned by Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and business magnate MP Gasim Ibrahim – reported Dr Waheed as saying in his speech at Kudahuvadhoo yesterday that his government would be “harsh” towards those who attack senior government officials and create unrest.

A bottle was reportedly thrown at Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz at Dhaal Meedhoo during the President’s visit.

Referring to the incident during his speech at Kudahuvadhoo yesterday, Dr Waheed reportedly characterised it as “an act of terrorism” and promised “harsh action” against those responsible.

Meanwhile, according to MDP officials on social media, two men were arrested today from Dhaal Hulhudheli during a protest greeting President Waheed’s arrival on the island. Both men have however been released after the President’s departure.

Since the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, visits by President Waheed to islands have been marked by protests calling him a “traitor” and demonstrators clashing with police.

Following reports released by Amnesty International alleging police brutality since February’s transfer of power, police in June this year denied “use of excessive force” against demonstrators.