President’s office seeks new members for HRCM

The president’s office has invited interested candidates to apply for membership of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) ahead of a 2:00pm deadline next Tuesday.

In an announcement published in the government gazette today, the president’s office said application forms and a list of required documentation are available on the president’s office website.

The five-year terms of HRCM members Dr Ali Shameem and Ahmed Abdul Kareem are due to expire in September.

Last month, President Abdulla Yameen nominated former MP Shifaq Mufeed ‘Histo,’ Aishath Afreen Mohamed, and Aminath Eenas to replace three HRCM members whose terms are due to expire in August.

The nominees were sent for evaluation by the parliament’s independent institutions committee on June 15.

Some 33 interested candidates had submitted application forms to the president’s office.

The three members whose terms are up in August are HRCM president Mariyam Azra, vice president Ahmed Tholal, and Jeehan Mahmood.

Pro-government MPs have previously accused Tholal and Jeehan of bias towards the opposition MDP, an accusation the pair deny.

Meanwhile, in a controversial ruling last month, the Supreme Court found a human rights assessment submitted by the HRCM to the UN unlawful, and imposed an 11-point guideline prescribing how the independent commission should operate within the law.

The guideline barred the HRCM from communicating with foreign organisations without government oversight.

UN rights experts, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and civil society groups have denounced the guideline as one that restricts the HRCM’s work and its right to share information freely with the UN.

But the government said the guidelines “do no stipulate, in any specific terms, any restriction or limitation on the HRCM’s ability to submit reports to the UN or any other national or international organ in the future.”

The guideline was issued under suo moto regulations that allow the Supreme Court to prosecute and pass judgment.

In its 2014 annual report, described the suo moto proceedings as the biggest challenge the watchdog has faced in its 11-year history.


President’s office minister Abdulla Ameen resigns

President’s office minister Abdulla Ameen has resigned from the government.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said Ameen submitted his letter of resignation yesterday.

The former minister “did not state a particular reason for the resignation in the letter,” Muaz said in a tweet today.

Ameen is a close ally of Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who is facing impeachment by the parliament.

Ameen is also facing corruption charges after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) forwarded a case against the minister to the prosecutor general’s office. Ameen is accused of writing off a fine to a company over delays in the Thimarafushi regional airport project.

The company had failed to complete the airport within the agreed upon period.

Corruption charges have not been filed at court yet.

Vice president Jameel’s cousin, former youth minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was also sacked from the cabinet last month.

A 14-day notice for Jameel to answer charges expires today. The impeachment process is expected to begin next week and the vice president has said he intends to respond to parliament in writing.

MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have secured 61 signatures for the impeachment motion. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house is required to remove the president or the vice president

Jameel had previously labelled his imminent impeachment as a “constitutional coup” and urged the international community to intervene.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence and are seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Adeeb has accused Jameel of planning a coup d’etat with the opposition.

“A lot of people are accusing him of leaving with a lot of money and a lot of things. He is even now accused of dereliction of duty and fleeing the country. He has left the country because the coup he had planned has failed,” he said.

The parliament last month passed an amendment with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set the new age limits of 30-65 years for presidency and vice-presidency.

Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously stated that candidates must be 35 years of age.

The opposition’s backing for the amendment was widely perceived to be a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are currently engaged in talks to resolve a six-month long political crisis.


Third meeting of talks cancelled

The government has cancelled a third meeting in ongoing talks with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) as some ministers are out of the country, the president’s office has said.

The government was due to propose mechanisms to release jailed opposition politicians and withdraw charges against more than 1,400 opposition supporters.

The long-awaited talks has raised hope of an end to a six month long political crisis that was triggered by the arrest and imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The MDP had proposed that talks conclude within a two-week timeline.

Minivan News is awaiting comments from the MDP and the president’s office on whether the cancellation could be considered a setback. A date has not been set for the next meeting.

MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih is representing the party, while the home minister, the fisheries minister and the presidential affairs minister are representing the government.

President Abdulla Yameen’s proposed agenda for talks comprised of three aspects: political reconciliation, constitutional and judicial reform, and political party participation in development.

The government has conceded to an MDP demand to commence all-party talks at a second stage of talks when constitutional and judicial reform is discussed. Three separate teams of ministers were assigned to the MDP, the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late June. The opposition subsequently backed a constitutional amendment that will allow the president to replace his deputy Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

“I believe this is the time for major reconciliation by finding a consensus through talks. The government, to show its sincerity, will make all the concessions we can,” home minister Umar Naseer had said at a first meeting of the talks.

Ex defence ministers Mohamed Nazim and Ibrahim Tholhath, and former ruling part MP Ahmed Nazim were also sentenced to jail within weeks of Nasheed’s sentence. Meanwhile, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla is in police custody awaiting a trial on terrorism charges over a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

Ex-MP Nazim was hospitalized today over back-pains.

Two senior JP leaders and the MDP chairperson Ali Waheed have fled the country. The three were also arrested on May 1. JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed were charged with terrorism, but formal charges have not been brought against Waheed yet.

The government last week removed a freeze on JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa group accounts. Gasim has announced he will retire from politics when his term as MP expires in 2019.

The tourism tycoon left the Maldives in late April and has not yet returned. The newly passed constitutional amendment, which set new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency, will bar Gasim from the 2018 presidential elections.

MDP has said the opposition and government must come to an agreement on “politically motivated charges and sentences” before discussing constitutional and judicial reform.

The MDP has also asked for an independent inquiry into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali.

The party has also proposed a change from the Maldives’ current presidential system to a parliamentary system.

Representatives of the government and the opposition have said they are committed to a resolution and political stability.

Talks with the JP are ongoing, but meetings between the government and the Adhaalath Party are yet to begin.


President’s office seeks new members for human rights watchdog

The president’s office has invited applications for membership of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) with a deadline of 3:00pm next Tuesday.

The five-year terms of three of the five members on the independent commission is due to expire in August.

The three members are HRCM president Mariyam Azra, vice president Ahmed Tholal, and Jeehan Mahmood.

Ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MPs have previously accused Tholal and Jeehan of bias towards the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The two have denied charges.

The PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) control a comfortable majority in the parliament with 48 seats in the 85-member house.

Application and declaration forms are available on the president’s office website. The president will nominate selected individuals for parliamentary approval.

In September last year, the Supreme Court initiated suo moto proceedings against the HRCM and charged its members with undermining the constitution and sovereignty of the Maldives by spreading lies about the judiciary in its Universal Periodic Review submission to the UN Human Rights Council.

The HRCM, in its 2014 annual report, described the suo moto proceedings as the biggest challenge the watchdog has faced in its 11-year history.

The commission also noted that the Juvenile Court had accused them of making false allegations in a confidential report into a 15-year-old rape victim’s flogging sentence.

The Supreme Court and Juvenile Court’s charges affected the commission’s independence and ability to carry out its mandate, the report said.



Rival demonstrations over Nasheed’s trial in Malé

Demonstrations in support for and against the state’s prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed took place in Malé today.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) women’s committee members staged a protest in front of the President’s Office at noon after they were denied a meeting with President Abdulla Yameen. The group of 30 women were carrying letters asking Yameen to release Nasheed.

However, Specialist Operations Officers in riot gear pushed the women away from the President Office within an hour. Dozens of MDP supporters on motorbikes also drove through the city this afternoon calling for Nasheed’s release.

Meanwhile, dozens of ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) supporters marched to the Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin’s residence this afternoon, calling on the state to “prosecute Nasheed immediately.”


Government submits three bills to parliament

The government has submitted to the People’s Majlis amendments to the Political Parties Act and the Family Act as well as legislation on establishing an Islamic University.

According to Vnews, the President’s Office proposed abolishing or amending clauses in the political parties law that the Supreme Court had ruled were unconstitutional.

Amendments proposed to the the Family Act meanwhile seek to provide temporary shelter to divorced women and their children and establish rules for equitable distribution of property in divorce cases.

The bill on creating the Maldives Islamic University outlines the powers and responsibilities of the envisioned higher education institution.


University allowed to use Jamaaludheen building until June

The President’s Office has said students will continue to use the Jamaaludheen building until June in order to protect the interests of the students.

In a tweet posted last night, President’s Office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that President Abdulla Yameen had decided to extend the deadline given to vacate the building used by the Maldives National University (MNU).

Muaz announcement came just hours after the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure announced that the building was structurally unsafe, explaining the government’s previous request that police vacate the premises.

The decision had prompted concern from the university, the student union, and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who suggested that the lack of an alternative building would disrupt students’ education.

Muaz told Minivan News today that there are no contradictions in the matter, as the government still believes that the building is unsafe even though the deadline has been extended.

Housing minster Dr Mohamed Muizzu yesterday shared pictures from an assessment of the building done in 2013 with the media, showing severely corroded and damaged columns in the building, which is currently used by over 1,300 university students.

“Cosmetic work has been done in the building to cover up these damages,” he said.

“It is very irresponsible of certain individuals to say that the building is safe when it clearly is not. The building is not structurally stable from an engineering perspective.”

After ministers yesterday said the university had been unresponsive to offers of alternative teaching space, the President’s Office said today that the university would be given no more chances regarding the matter.

“President Abdulla Yameen is concerned for the education of the students,” said Muaz. “This government is not one which would forcefully strip the students from the building.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of MNU and former Permanent Secretary of Housing Ministry Dr Mohamed Shareef had said that the university has been informed of the president’s decision and is looking into alternatives for after the deadline.

Dr Shareef refuted the government’s claims that the university has been provided with alternatives to vacate the premises.

“The government spoke about land in Hulhumalé and Gulhifalhu. However, these plans were very vague and not written down on paper,” he said.

The deputy vice -chancellor also said that the university is trying to get an independent third party to do a risk assessment of the building to determine the safety of the students.

Related to this story

Jamaaludheen building unsafe, says Housing Minister

Opposition concerned at “interference” with educational institutions


Opposition concerned at “interference” with educational institutions

The Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) education committee has expressed concern over rising government interference with educational institutions.

The committee has condemned the recent decision by the government to vacate the old Jamaaluhdheen Building, currently the location for Maldives National University’s (MNU) faculty of arts and other departments, catering for over 1,300 students.

“The students are all scared. They have been hearing that police are going to come and vacate the building. Even the student union has demanded answers as to where these facilities will be transferred,” said the MDP Education Committee chair Dr Musthafa Luthfee.

Media have reported that the President’s Office has requested the police vacate the old Jamaaludheen premises within seven days, prompting concerned responses from the university and the student union.

The President’s Office was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

“These students are unsure as to whether they could return to their classrooms they have been studying in,” said Dr Luthfee, who served as the minister of education during MDP’s administration.

An MNU statement released yesterday read that the sudden decision to vacate the premises is not viable without a building to move to, and that the university is saddened by the fact that the decision will halt the education of many students.

While the Maldives Police Services refused to comment, the President’s Office told media that the university was offered several other plots of land to move the faculties and that the government wants to vacate the premises due to safety concerns.

The MDP education committee also raised the issue of the private higher educational institute, Mandhu College, which was handed a 15 day eviction notice by the Ministry of Education earlier this month after the it claimed the college had breached the terms of its lease.

Mandhu revealed yesterday (February 10) that large number of students who have started courses at the college have started dropping out.

Also speaking at the press conference today, committee member Shifa Mohamed criticised the education ministry for intimidating teachers and putting them in humiliating circumstances.

“On one side the teachers are being told to go study and improve their quality, while on the other side they are being  intimidated,” said Shifa.

The committee had previously alleged that the structure of the recently announced salary increments for teachers was poorly planned and researched, and that it would leave a lot of teachers who do not fall into the criteria at a loss.

While the Teacher’s Association of Maldives (TAM) have also pointed out the weakness within the structure of the salary increments, its president Athif Abdul Hakim has accused the government of intimidation for speaking out against the new pay scales.

Athif told Minivan News that a letter of warning had been handed to him today by the head of Dhivehi Department at Majeedhihyaa School – where he works as a Dhivehi teacher – demanding he clarify in writing some of the comments he has made in the media.

Athif had previously said that he had been summoned to the education ministry and told by the Permanent Secretary Dr Abdul Muhsin to “pay attention to  public interest” while speaking publicly about the teachers structure.

Related to this story

Government had no choice but to increase teachers’ salary: MDP

Mandhu College denies violating agreement as eviction looms

Mandhu College experiencing 40 percent dropout rate

TAM President accuses Education Ministry of intimidation


The Island President producer rubbishes claims of state expenditure for film crew

San Francisco based Actual Films has rubbished suggestions that its travel and accommodation expenses were paid for by the President’s Office when filming ‘The Island President’ in 2009.

Producer Richard Berge said the claims were “completely and categorically untrue”, describing them as “a thinly-veiled attempt to discredit the Island President”.

“Actual Films demands that President Yameen’s office makes a full and public apology for misleading the Maldivian and wider public,” he continued, in press statement from the film company.

The award-winning film was based around Nasheed’s presidency and his efforts to garner diplomatic support to combat climate change during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen.

In an article titled ‘Excessive government spending on President Nasheed’s film and media crew!’ published on January 14, Haveeru said it had obtained documents showing that the President’s Office had borne some expenses of the Actual Film crew during filming.

The paper claimed that the crew was included in the presidential delegation for three of Nasheed’s trips: a UN meeting at New York in February 2009, a high level climate change conference at New Dehli in October 2009, and the Copenhagen conference itself in December 2009.

The paper noted that the documents obtained did not reveal the amount spent on the crew.

The claims, in numerous media outlets, emerged shortly after Nasheed had demanded details regarding the expenses of President Abdulla Yameen’s frequent visits to Singapore, stating that the details were a public right under the Information Act.

Speaking to Minivan News last week, President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that he would gladly comply with the spirit of the Information Act: “even if President Nasheed’s travel expenses and information on how many foreigners he employed, by the state, was requested.”

The President’s Office was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Revealing details of the New York trip in February 2009, the company said that it had not entered into an understanding with Nasheed at the time of the New York trip in February 2009, and that the company did not meet Nasheed until late June that year.

Regarding the New Delhi trip in October 2009, Actual Films said that the plane was provided and paid for by the Indian Prime Minister’s Office, and that two Actual Film employees accompanied the delegation in seats that were otherwise empty, saying: “there was no cost to the Maldives government”.

Turning to the Copenhagen trip, the film company said its records showed it had paid approximately US$12,000 for all crew to travel to and from Copenhagen.

Furthermore, the film company said it had spent close to US$18,000 for hotel expenses during the trips. It also dismissed claims that Nasheed had travelled to the US on the Maldivian state’s budget to check and edit the documentary, adding that Nasheed first saw the film at its premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011.

Haveeru also reported that Nasheed’s government had spent excessively on PR during his term, claiming the President’s Office had spent MVR2.86 million (US$185,000) on three British employees.

However, members of the team defended the expenses, saying that during Nasheed’s term the Maldives had enjoyed an enviable international reputation on democracy, human rights and the environment.

Related to this story

Former Nasheed employees deny media claims of excessive PR spending

Details of President’s trips to Singapore a public right, says Nasheed

MDP requests details on President Yameen’s health, visits to Singapore

Public should be informed about president’s health, says Nasheed