President ratifies amendment to constitution

President Abdulla Yameen has ratified today a constitutional amendment setting new age limits of 30-65 years for presidency.

The parliament yesterday passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming trip artisan support.

A total of 78 MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives-Maldives Development Alliance (PPM-MDA) coalition and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) voted in favour of the proposed change.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace vice-president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who is 33 and ineligible for the post.

The constitution previously stated that presidential and vice presidential candidates must be 35 years of age.

Pro-government MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence, but opposition politicians and some media outlets have claimed that President Abdulla Yameen is seeking a loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery.

Several PPM MPs have said that Adeeb will become the next vice president, but Jameel can only be replaced if he either resigns or is impeached with a two-third majority of parliament.

The revision to article 109(c) marks the first time the constitution has been changed since its adoption in August 2008.

The MDP and JP parliamentary groups issued three-line whips Tuesday night for its MPs to back the amendment, prompting speculation of a deal with the government, after former President Mohamed Nasheed’s house arrest was extended to eight weeks.

MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has said that the main opposition party stood to gain more from backing the amendments than opposing it.

The amendment was submitted earlier this month by MDA MP Mohamed Ismail, who said during the preliminary debate that he proposed the 65-year cap as the president should be “young, intelligent, daring, active, and energetic.”


President Yameen remains defiant as calls grow for Nasheed’s release

President Abdulla Yameen has said he has no role in releasing jailed opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, despite growing calls for negotiations over the imprisonment of political rivals.

“I cannot do anything. A verdict has been issued. I would like to encourage former president Nasheed and his party officials to seek an appeal. There are two more appeal stages, the matter should be resolved through the courts,” President Yameen said at a rare press conference on Thursday.

Nasheed was convicted of terrorism last month and sentenced to 13 years in jail in a trial widely criticized by foreign governments for its apparent lack of due process.

The former president has refused to seek an appeal stating he has no faith in the judiciary.

Thousands of opposition supporters have signed an ongoing petition requesting the president Yameen to release Nasheed, and are continuing daily protests in the capital.

International NGOs, businessmen and environmental activists have called for sanctions on the Maldives, while some 15 religious scholars last week pleaded with the president to heed the calls for dialogue.

The opposition Maldivians Against Brutality coalition has meanwhile called for a mass protest on May Day in the hopes of forcing president Yameen to initiate talks.

The coalition has also called for the release of ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim, who was jailed last month for 11 years on smuggling illegal weapons. The coalition accuses the government of breaching the constitution and unfairly targeting the businesses of rival politicians.

But reiterating the claim he has no power over the judiciary, Yameen said Nasheed will be released immediately if the courts overturn his sentence.

“The President’s Office did not rule on this case,” he said, noting Nasheed was first charged over the judge’s arrest in 2012 before he assumed power.

Yameen maintained that the opposition was unable to prove allegations of constitutional breaches or brutality.

“These politicians cannot point out how this government has been brutal. [They say] it’s by punishing offenders through the courts. If that is brutality, then this government is indeed enforcing their sentences,” he said.

Yameen said Nazim must also appeal his sentence. The ex defence minister’s lawyers filed an appeal at the High Court last week.

The opposition’s campaign is aimed at obstructing the government’s agenda, he alleged, but said he believed the campaign was proving to be unsuccessful.

The opposition coalition is made up of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), former ruling party ally Adhaalath Party, members of Nazim’s family, and members of Jumhooree Party (JP).

JP leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim has ceased his vociferous criticism of president Yameen after his Villa Group was slapped with a US$90million fine.


PPM initiates discussions with Adhaalath Party to jointly contest elections

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has initiated discussions with coalition partner, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP),  to jointly contest in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

While dismissing rumours of having left the government coalition, the AP has announced that it will be contesting in both the parliamentary and local council elections separately from the other coalition members.

The party has further announced that all of its parliamentary candidates will possess educational qualifications to a postgraduate level.

Last week, the AP announced that it had made no agreements regarding working together in the local council and parliamentary elections with the government coalition. Party spokesperson Ali Zahir informed local media that, having worked with the coalition to succeed in the second round of 2013’s presidential elections “without setting any conditions”, the party did not have any subsequent obligation in the upcoming elections.

He said that unlike the other parties in the coalition, the AP was not promised a specific percentage of slots to contest in the upcoming elections. While admitting that the separate candidates could give rise to complications in some constituencies, Zahir claimed that there was no misunderstanding between the party and its coalition members.

“While there were no discussions among the parties’ leadership, in most areas contestants came out after discussion with coalition members in that particular constituency. However, there are some areas in which there might be have been some clashes between who is contesting,” Zahir was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, AP leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla stated that, while the party had held discussions with the Jumhooree Party (JP) about contesting local council elections, no “meaningful or detailed discussions” had been held with the main coalition party PPM.

“When there is less than 24 hours left, and PPM still does not decide on the matter or speak with us about it, and we proceed to separately submit the candidacy form of our contestants, I don’t believe it can be termed as our initiative to separately contest,” Imran said then.

He stated that at an island-level, the parties still worked together, with a view to resolving matters amicably through inter-party deliberations. He too admitted that certain disappointment had arisen in a small number of constituencies regarding those contesting.

Imran asserted that the AP had no issues with coalition members and repeated that he remained steadfast in his belief that the AP had backed PPM in the presidential elections as a crucial sacrifice to protect Islam and the nation.

“Perhaps the PPM is so busy with handling other governing matters within the executive. This might explain their delay in initiating discussions with us,” Imran opined.

PPM initiates discussions with AP

On Monday, the PPM announced that it had commenced discussions with the AP to jointly contest in the parliamentary elections.

“We have started discussions on the matter with Islamic Minister Shaheem and AP President Imran. AP has decided to compile a special team to engage in these discussions. Our intention is to allow opportunities for AP to contest within the coalition with, of course, consideration to other member parties,” PPM Parliamentary Group Deputy Leader Moosa Zameer told local media.

Zameer stated that while an agreement could not be reached in regard to the local council elections – owing to its immensity – he remains positive that a mutual agreement can be reached in relation to the parliamentary elections.

Speaking at a rally in Dhaalu atoll on Sunday, President Abdulla Yameen called on AP to raise national above personal interest.

“Adhaalath Party has now decided to leave the coalition and contest individually in the upcoming elections. However, we must not allow space for disintegration and creation of factions within the coalition as a result of this,” Yameen said then.

He stated that Adhaalath’s decision would lead to votes being split between the coalition parties and would facilitate opposition parties in winning seats.

“Things don’t end just by getting elected to run a government. We come to power to serve the people. For that, it is vital to get the cooperation of councils and the parliament,” Yameen said, adding it will be impossible to reach goals without the support of these institutions.

“Despite coming to government with numerous pledges, it is reasons like this that inhibit a government from fulfilling its promises. This is what citizens must think about. You elected me to accomplish certain things for the citizens. For me to able to complete this, you citizens must ensure that you elect the cooperation that I require, that you give me the empowerment that I need,” Yameen stated.

Yameen called on the AP to extend cooperation to the coalition during the upcoming elections similar to their support during the past presidential elections.


President nominates new MMA governor

President Abdulla Yameen has proposed Ibthishama Ahmed Saeed for the Majlis’ approval as the new governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority.

Ibthishama’s nomination for the position comes after the resignation of Dr Fazeel Najeeb last week for what he cited as being made for family reasons.

Upon his departure, Najeeb urged the state to reduce expenses and to withhold from printing money to cover debts: “A central bank must not resort to printing and releasing money, especially at a time when the economy is as weakened as it is now.

The President’s Office today reported that President Yameen had written to the former governor, thanking him for his work in strengthening and modernising the central banking authority.


Former President Waheed dissolves GIP, joins PPM

Former President Mohamed Waheed has decided to join the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) after his Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP – National Unity Party) was dissolved by the party’s council.

Waheed signed for the PPM at a special event attended by President Abdulla Yameen held today.

Other members of the GIP’s leadership also signed for the PPM alongside Waheed.

This includes his political advisor Ahmed Thaufeeq, State Minister of Education Abdulla Nazeer, former President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad, Maldivian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Hussain Shihab, former Immigration Controllers Dr Mohamed Ali and Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim, Adnaan Ali and Jaufar Easa Adam.

Waheed said his decision to join PPM is in the best interest of the nation at the current time. He praised PPM for winning “a very competitive and difficult election”, saying it is the PPM that is most capable of overcoming obstacles and facing up to challenges.

GIP Council member Thaufeeq informed local media that the council members had unanimously made the decision to dissolve the party as they did not believe it wise to continue running the party in the present political and economic circumstances.

“We agreed that the current political and economic situation makes it difficult for small parties to function here. We believe that dissolving the party would be beneficial to the nation and citizens as the state spends large amounts from its budget on funding small political parties,” Thaufeeq said.

Waheed himself led the meeting attended by all ten council members of the party.

Thaufeeq confirmed that the party would complete sending in all formal documentation needed to dissolve the party to the Elections Commission by Thursday.

According to the Elections Commission (EC) website, the GIP – which was officially registered on September 4, 2008 – currently has 5864 signed members.

The EC has sent a letter to all parties comprising less than 10,000 members notifying them that they will be dissolved within three months after the ratification of the Political Party Act in September.

In March, when the draft of the political party bill was being discussed, several smaller parties began membership drives to reach the limit of 10,000 members, including the GIP, business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

Waheed’s GIP was accused of trying to induce people to join throughillegitimate means, in a bid to shore up the party’s membership base. The inducements included offering “music equipment and a place to play for free” as well as “hosting shows and parties” for young people.

Apart from luxurious parties and entertainment, the GIP also allegedly promised highly paid government jobs and promotions in return for joining the party.


Maldives hosts 7th SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians Conference

The Maldives is hosting the 7th Conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians (ASSP) at Bandos Island Resort and Spa.

President Abdulla Yameen inaugurated the three-day conference yesterday evening, and reiterated the Maldives’ commitment to furthering regional cooperation.

Calling on SAARC to be more relevant and responsive, Yameen said: “To keep abreast with the expectations of our peoples, we need to increase the relevance of SAARC, both as a tool for multilateral cooperation among our Member States, as well as in global politics and in international trade.”

Speakers from Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and the secretary of Afghanistan’s parliament are in the Maldives for the conference.

Parliamentary delegations of Bangladesh and Nepal were unable to attend as Nepal had only held new parliamentary elections in November while Bangladesh’s parliament has been dissolved with new general elections set for January.

According to the people’s Majlis, the themes -“Strengthening democracy through institution building” and “Democracy and Inclusive Development – achieving SAARC  MDGs” – will be discussed at the conference.

The ASSP was established in 1992, with the aim of exchanging ideas and information on parliamentary procedures and information among parliaments and to strengthen South Asia as a stable and independent region.

The association’s work stagnated in the late 90’s due to political turmoil in the region, and was revived recently on the initiative of India’s Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, the People’s Majlis secretariat have said.

Welcoming the delegations, Maldives Speaker Abdulla Shahid noted all South Asian countries are now led by civilian governments.

Shahid noted the current parliament in the Maldives is the first fully elected parliament, but MPs have faced and overcome “almost every conceivable constitutional challenge.”

Further, the rights guaranteed to the parliament had constantly been tested by the executive and legislative branches of government.

Meanwhile, Kumar stressed the importance of parliaments and parliamentarians as democracy advances in the region and said SAARC parliaments can learn a great deal from each other’s parliamentary experiences.

Pakistan’s National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said South Asia consists of one-fourth of the world’s population, but continues to be the largest concentration of impoverished people.

South Asia is currently at a crossroads, of breaking with its past and possibly becoming the second largest economic powerhouse after China and East Asia, Sadiq said.

Meanwhile, female parliamentarians and the secretaries general of SAARC parliaments met on Saturday morning to discuss the opportunities and challenges for women’s political participation in South Asia and the methods to ensure a cost effective secretariat respectively.

The Women’s Committee has pledged affirmative action to increase women’s political participation whilst the secretaries generals proposed amending the charter of ASSP to constitute a Young Parliamentarians forum.

The Association’s General Assembly is to take place at Bandos Island Resort and Spa today and tomorrow (December 22 and 23).


President Yameen appoints four state ministers and three deputy ministers

President Abdulla Yameen has appointed four state ministers and three deputy ministers.

The three state ministers appointed are: Zahaa Waheed as minister of state for fisheries and agriculture, Aminath Athifa as minister of state for housing and infrastructure, and Ahmed Musthafa Mohamed as minister of state for tourism, arts, and culture.

Mohamed Zuhair was also appointed as the head of the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) – a position equivalent to minister of state.

Of the new four state ministers, Zahaa Waheed is a relative of President Yameen and Aminath Athifa is the current registrar of President Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). Meanwhile, Ahmed Musthafa Mohamed was the former deputy minister at the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

Three deputy ministers appointed are, Adam Thaufeeq as the deputy minister for economic development, Abdulla Fayaz as the deputy minister housing and infrastructure, and Ali Waheed as the deputy minister for Islamic affairs.


President meets with Chief of IMF Mission to the Maldives

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom met with International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Chief of Mission to the Maldives Dr Koshy Mathai today.

According to the President’s Office, Yameen briefed Mathai on the new administration’s economic policies and discussed ways to promote sustainable economic development in the country.

Yameen has warned Maldives’ economy “is in a deep pit” and pledged to reduce state expenditure.

In November 2012, the IMF called on the government to strengthen government finances by reducing the fiscal deficit, better target electricity subsidies, reduce and rationalize government’s health program Aasandha and control the high public sector wage bill.


Three DRP MPs defect to Jumhoree Party

Three members of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) have defected to resort tycoon-turned-politician Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP).

DRP MPs Hussain Mohamed, Hassan Latheef and Ahmed Mohamed announced their defection during a meeting held by JP at its party headquarters last Monday night.

Meanwhile former DRP Leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, his wife MP Visam Ali and party’s Deputy Leader MP Rozeyna Adam defected to the opposition MDP last week.

The DRP backed opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Presidential Candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed in the last Presidential Elections, shortly after the Supreme Court annulled the first presidential polls held in September, in which Nasheed won 45.45 percent of the popular vote.

The new change of sides, leaves the DRP – who won 29 seats in parliament during last parliamentary elections – downsized to just three MPs, with its interim Leader MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed, Parliamentary Group Leader MP Abdulla Mausoom and MP Mohamed Ramiz as remaining members.

However, since the fact that neither the MDP nor the coalition of parties supporting President Yameen Abdul Gayoom have the sufficient number of MPs to form a simple working majority of 39 MPs, means the DRP would still continue to be an influential swing party in deciding parliamentary matters.

This is because, the government coalition – even with the support of all independent MPs – would still be able to command just 35 MPs – four MPs short of a majority– while the opposition MDP commands 36 MPs.

The change in party compositions in parliament could also possibly jeopardize the opposition MDP’s majority in parliamentary select-committees, which they gained following DRP’s decision to back Nasheed in the presidential polls.

MP Abdulla Mausoom who took part in Monday night’s JP meeting told local media that although he had not formally joined the JP, he “now supports the JP”.  However, Mausoom said that he still intends to remain in DRP and follow the DRP’s whip-line.

Mausoom’s announcement of his support to the JP also coincides with his appointment to the position of General Manager of the Sun Island Resort and Spa – a resort owned by JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim.

“Tourism has always been very close at heart. I’ve taken over as the resort’s General Manager yesterday,” Mausoom told the press earlier.


In a press conference held this Tuesday morning, Interim Leader of DRP MP ‘Colonel’ Nasheed admitted that his party is now “in ICU” and appealed to the support of party members to revive the party.

“But, as a doctor who is attending to the DRP’s condition I shall not give up hope on her. I am sure that this party will be revived. DRP will again become a powerful political party in Maldives in a near future,” Nasheed told the press.

“I am not [former Maldives autocratic ruler for thirty years and founder of DRP] Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. I am not [former DRP Leader] Thasmeen.  So my strategy would be different,”

Nasheed also said that the DRP was currently in the process of an internal audit as it has standing debt of approximately MVR 10 million. He however said that the party would be taking the responsibility for debts it had incurred instead of blaming its former leaders.

“I won’t be able to sort this mess out on my own. This party has members across the country. We fell into this stage because we did not have the needed active members. So I am calling out to all party members to become more active,” Nasheed said.

He further added that the DRP will be fielding its candidates in the upcoming local council elections and the parliamentary election. The party’s target is, Nasheed said, to win the mayorship of Male’ City Council and win at least 10 seats in parliament.

Following the change, the DRP now has 3 MPs, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has 36 MPs, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has 20 MPs, the JP has 7 MPs, resort tycoon Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam’s Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) has 2 MPs, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has one MP and five independent MPs.

Three out of the 77 seats are now vacant. The vacant seats include seats belonging to two former DRP MPs Ali Azim and Ahmed Nashiz – who were unseated after the Supreme Court held that they had unpaid debts – and the Mulaku Constituency seat which belonged to President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

The Elections Commission earlier said that by-elections for the seats would not be held as the current parliament’s term will expire before six months, and as per the constitution, a by-election is required to be held if the parliament’s term has more than six months before expiration.