Leading MDP politicians to be charged with drug and alcohol offences

The Prosecutor General (PG) has filed drug related charges against Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) senior figures arrested on Hondaidhoo Island in November last year in alleged possession – and under the influence – of illegal substances.

Criminal Court Media Official Ahmed Mohamed Manik today told Minivan News that the PG had charged MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamed Abdul Ghafoor, and a person identified as Jadhulla Jameel, with smuggling alcohol into the country and consuming alcohol.

According to Manik, the PG has also forwarded additional charges against other individuals arrested from Hondaidhoo.

Jabir, Ghafoor, and Jadhulla Jameel were also charged for objecting to urine testing and possessing of cannabis.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiza were also charged for objecting to take a urine test, said Manik.

Additionally, the son of former President Nasheed’s Special Envoy, Mohamed Hamdhoon Zaki,  has been charged for trafficking illegal drugs into the country – the penalty for which is 25 years and can be fined up to MVR10million.

According to the Drug Act, Sections 123(a), 161(a), and 161(b), any person arrested on suspicion of having abused alcohol or narcotics has an obligation to comply with police requests for routine urine examination by promptly providing urine samples, and failure to comply is a criminal offence punishable with a one-year jail sentence.

A total of 10 people were taken into police custody on November 16 after police raided and searched Hondaidhoo with a court warrant. Officers alleged they found large amounts of suspected drugs and alcohol upon searching the island.

Two Sri Lankan nationals named Raj Mohan and Anoor Bandaranayk, as well as a Bangladeshi named Suhail Rana, were taken into custody following the island raid.  Their cases have not been filed at the PG’s office.


President’s Office encouraging unprofessional journalism, claims MMC

The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has accused the President’s Office of discouraging journalists from following the council’s rulings and code of conduct.

The MMC’s claims came after Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair told news outlet Sun Online that the government did not support any action against journalists of the Sun Media Group, after three journalists conducted an investigation into illegal prostitution in the Maldives.

The Media Council declared the standard of the written articles were unprofessional and that the articles indicated that the journalists may have been engaged in sexual activities with the prostitutes, and that their style of writing encouraged the activity. It referred the matter to the Prosecutor General.

However, Zuhair told the paper that the government did not consider the articles to be inappropriate, or containing words that indicated that the journalists might have involved themselves in any criminal offences.

In a press release issued by the MMC following the remarks made by the Press Secretary, the MMC accused the President’s Office of obstructing the council’s efforts to establish a culture in which journalists worked within a code of conduct.

The council said the executive was speaking in such a way that implied it could influence the work of the council, which was irresponsible.

‘’It makes the public and the media lose confidence in the legal duty of the council to set the media in the right direction,’’ said the Media Council in the statement. ‘’The remarks made by the Press Secretary were made in a way that it encouraged such writings, and was said without showing any respect to the Islamic principles, laws and the beliefs of an Islamic society.’’

The council also noted that it has declared that the articles were inconsistent with the Media Code of Ethics and that the editorial management of Sun had already apologised over it.

After Sun Magazine published series of articles sharing their experience with prostitutes working at spas and salons in Male’, the MMC pulled the magazines from circulation and forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General to file criminal charges against the paper.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair was not responding at time of press.


Ali Waheed reports leaking of documents to police, “too late” says Zuhair

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Waheed has also reported the leakage of several document concerning the Guantanamo Bay detainees to police. The Foreign Ministry said it was reporting the matter to the police on Tuesday.

Press secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that Waheed was trying to escape after he was accused of being the recipient of a stolen secret document of the government.

Zuhair claimed Waheed had reported the case because ”he realised what he had done.”

”All the collaborators involved in the crime of stealing a government document and spreading it without clarifying its validity are also equally culpable,” said Zuhair. ‘They should be given the punishment that one receives for being a thief.”

Zuhair said the theft of the documents was a crime under articles 12 and 13 of the penal code.

”Politics is not an excuse for crime,” he said. ”Whoever stole the documents is a criminal shall be treated as a criminal.”

He said that government was not trying to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees into the country in secret.

”We will only bring him according to the law,” he said. ”What is the problem with it if he has a valid passport, the threat of being attacked if he goes back to his own country and he is a innocent Muslim?”

He said that Ali Waheed was aware the matter was not unlawful or dangerous, and dismissed counter-claims by the opposition as ”pure political circus”.

”That man [Waheed] has the look of a comedian,” Zuhair said.

Waheed, in a press conference yesterday, announced that he had reported the leaked document to police and said he had requested they investigate the case, so the government’s documents could be safely protected while the National Security Committee was investigating the Guantanamo Bay affair.

”I did not steal anything,” he claimed. “When I received government documents that I believed had the potential to harm the national security of the country I presented it to the national security committee to investigate,” he said.

”I do not believe that it is known as thieving. It was not leaked by my mistake.”

Foreign minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed has also reported the case to the police.

Dr Shaheed said the documents consisted of unofficial communications to the Maldives government from the US government, and a document sent to the Attorney General’s office by the Foreign Ministry.

Dr Shaheed said the documents also included an unofficial letter sent from the US discussing how a legal framework could be established to bring in the detainees.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair has recently said that the document was not leaked but was “deliberately stolen”, which he said caused “a lot of trouble” for the Maldives, by disrupting diplomatic relationships between countries.


Religious unity regulations contain “ambiguities, policy issues”, says press secretary

The new regulations under the Religious Unity Act of 1994 drafted by the Islamic Ministry contain “ambiguities” and provisions that could be in conflict with the government’s stated policies, said the President’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.

The President of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives, religious scholars, people from the entertainment industry and NGOs have expressed concern with the regulations, he said.

“The attorney general only looked at legal aspects before he approved it,” he said. “He did not have to consider the implications for policy or conflicts with stated government policy, mainly on freedom of expression.”

He added that Attorney General Husnu Suood had “reservations” about some provisions and favoured a cabinet meeting before publication of the regulations in the government’s gazette.

Zuhair said the “points of contention” included provisions that deal with Islamic codes of conduct and ambiguities in the terminology of some provisions.

“Codes of behaviour are not codified in Islam,” he said. “[People] have suggested that the phrase should be changed to tenets of Islam.”

There were also fears that the advisory board to be constituted under the regulations could become “the moral police” and exercise excessive powers.

Some religious scholars have also “personally called and asked for a wider discussion.”

“The president has three main concerns,” he said. “First, social implications of the regulations, second policy implications and whether there could be legal obstacles [to enforcement].”

Moreover, some of the provisions could be “extraneous” as laws already existed to tackle the problems the regulations target.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed urged the president’s office to resolve possible policy conflicts and publish the regulations.

As well as “all respected religious scholars in the country”, other government authorities were consulted in the formulation of the regulations Shaheem said.

Shaheem stressed that the attorney general’s office, the legal department at the president’s office and the Maldives Police Service have all cleared the regulations.

The state minister downplayed fears that the regulations would give coercive powers to the ministry.

“It is not our intention to put people in jail,” he said. “[For example], if someone writes an article mocking Islam, we will only advise that person and offer counselling.”

He added that the ministry did not want to discourage criticism and the regulations were necessary “for democracy and to build a stable society”.

The regulations were important to deal with social problems caused by disputes over religious issues, he explained.

Shaheem noted that he has received complaints this week from two islands with independent or breakaway prayer congregations.

“The islanders told me they [the breakaway group] threatened to attack foreigners if the islanders tried to stop them,” he said.

Meanwhile, the HRCM has denied Zuhair’s claim to local daily Haveeru yesterday that the commission raised concern with the regulations.

The commission’s statement denies that “any complaints” were made by any HRCM official.

It adds that the report in the media was “regrettable” and that the commission was not officially consulted in the process of drafting the regulations.

The Haveeru story quoted Zuhair as saying that the Tourism Ministry and Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation have also expressed concern.

However, the press secretary said today that Ahmed Saleem, president of the HRCM, had called “a senior official” of the government and voiced his concerns.

Saleem told the official he has not had time to review the regulations as he had to fly abroad soon, he said.

The HRCM statement could therefore mean “one of two things,” Zuhair said.

“They have either reviewed it and decided to endorse it or this is miscommunication inside the commission,” he said.

Ahmed Saleem could not be reached for comment at time of press.

Tourism Minister Dr Ahmed Sawad said he has not read the regulations yet.

“We’d like to go through it and see if there are any issues,” he said. “We will attend to it in the next two days.”

Ibrahim Khaleel, managing director of MNBC, said he has not officially complained or expressed concern.


PG’s office sends corruption cases back to Auditor General’s office

The Prosecutor General’s office has returned cases against former government ministers forwarded several weeks ago by former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem.

Naeem claimed that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, together with many of his cabinet ministers and several members of the current government, had failed to declare details of their financial assets as required by the Constitution.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem said the cases was returned to the Auditor General’s Office “because they were not investigated sufficiently.”

Shameem said they should have been “properly investigated” by the Auditor General’s Office before being sent to the PG’s Office.

“People who were named in this report were not asked to submit their forms,” Shameem said. “[In addition] they were not informed about the criminal charges. It is unfair they had to hear about it from the media.”

He said the PG’s Office believed “they should be given an opportunity” to declare their assets and to further investigate the claims.

He added that the cases have not been dropped by his office, and “if they are sent back, we will proceed.”

Assistant Executive Director and interim head of the Auditor General’s office Mohamed Hussein said he could not give any information about the case.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the former Auditor General “did not make up this case on his own or without collecting information. He would have sent these cases to the PG after working with a team.”

Zuhair said parliament’s no-confidence decision on Naeem did not mean that the whole Audit office was corrupt.


New Auditor General to be appointed next week, government hopes

The government hopes appoint a new Auditor General by next week, after outgoing AG Ibrahim Naeem was dismissed from his post by parliament earlier this week.

Assistant executive director and interim head of the Auditor General’s office, Mohamed Hussein, said according to the law Ibrahim Naeem was no longer the Auditor General and was not attending the office.

Hussein said he did want to reveal whether staff at the audit office were disheartened by parliament’s decision.

”We always work according to the policy of Auditor General at the time,” Hussein said.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said the government was “seeking a capable and educated man for the position,” and hoped to fill the position next week.

“President Mohamed Nasheed has promised to appoint someone as capable and as educated as the former Auditor General,” Zuhair said.

Naeem was formally dismissed by parliament in a DRP-PA coalition-led no-confidence motion on Sunday, after corruption allegations were sent by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in a letter to a parliamentary sub-committee chaired by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim.

The ACC also sent the case to the Prosecutor General’s office, seeking to initiate court proceedings.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem confirmed the office had received “a huge file of documents.”

“I don’t think [the case will be influenced by Parliament’s decision] as we look it from at a completely different angle,” Shameem said.

“It’s a different process to Parliament. We have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not he is guilty. Parliament decides on the basis of whether or not he was doing his job.”

Shameem said it would take “weeks” to decide whether the case would be forwarded to the court.

Meanwhile DRP Vice President and MP Ali Waheed said he wished Naeem “a bright future.”

Waheed said the 43-28 vote in favour of dismissal was successful due to votes from the Qaumee Party, Peoples Alliance and many independent MPs.

”This shows that even if a dictator tries to go against the law, the politicians of the country will not allow him do it,” Waheed said.

DRP held a ceremony at the DRP office following to the vote, to celebrate its victory in the no-confidence motion.

”We celebrated the victory as we had tried very hard for this,” Waheed said. ”We were arrested and police took us to Dhoonidhu and people tried for this so much.”

He said all the demonstrations over the weekend were because the MDP MPs “tried to deadlock the parliament.”

”We do not want parliament to be cancelled for even one day,” Waheed said.

He called on people to show the same effort when the parliament begins debate over the controversial decentralisation bill.

He said he do not want to say anything about accusations the Auditor General made against senior DRP officials in his audit reports.

”That will be decided by the court, whether they are true or not,” he said.

Zuhair claimed that the vote against the Auditor General proved the DRP had “the best interest of their political party in mind and not the best interest of the country.”

He said Naeem’s reports contained accusations against former government ministersare now independent MPs.

”That’s why they voted the way they did in the no-confidence motion,” Zuhair said.

He added that the audit report was not only the work of the Auditor General, “but a big team in the Audit Office.”

Minister for Home affairs Mohamed Shihab is another government official facing a potential no-confidence motion from the DRP, in response to a police decision to detain Waheed and several other senior DRP leaders.

Shihab said he would not comment on prospect of a no-confidence motion against him “until I receive notice of it from parliament.”

Spokesperson for Maldivian Democratic Party Ahmed Haleem did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Akon to perform live in “the biggest ever event in the Maldives”

Well known R&B singer Akon will perform a live show in the Maldives, after he was denied a visa in Sri Lanka because of a scene in one of his videos depicting a woman dancing around a Buddha statue.

Director of Platinum Entertainment Lasantha Samarasinghe, the company organising the ‘Super Fest 2010’ show, said it would be be held at the outdoor cricket stadium on the 23 April and would be “the biggest event ever held in the Maldives.”

“We are expecting 25,000 people to come to the show,” he said, including many tourists.

Samarasinghe said if this event was successful the company “will bring even more Hollywood superstars to the Maldives.”

Press secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the government had given the permission for the show to take place, saying it “fully supports these kinds of events.”

“It will promote the country’s tourism sector and provide a good opportunity for Maldivian singers,” he said.

Zuhair also said that President Mohamed Nasheed was keen to attend the show.

The show’s main sponsor will be Villa Television, with ‘official drinks’ provided VB Mart and Foco energy drink.

A Villa spokesperson claimed this was “the first time a superstar is performing in the Maldives.”

Tickets will go on sale from Friday.


President asks German scholars to help interpret Sharia law for the Maldives

President Nasheed has asked German scholars with expertise in Sharia law to help apply it to certain fields in the Maldives, during his visit to Berlin.

“I have done my homework and I am quite aware of the amount of German discourse in Islamic jurisprudence”, President Nasheed said, according to German news site deutschenachrichten.

Nasheed told the German press that Maldivian law was based on Sharia, but warned them about “jumping to the wrong conclusions.”

“We are a tolerant and free country, and we want to keep it that way,” he said.

Press S for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said that Germany was a country where a large number of experienced and professional scholars live.

”In the 20th century, the highest standard of Islamic universities was also in Germany,” Zuhair said.

Zuhair said the government had discussed the request for German assistance with the Islamic Ministry, which had expressed its approval.

However spokesperson for the Islamic Ministry Sheikh Ahmadullah said he had no information about the matter and did not want to comment.

Zuhair explained that “many Islamic books also were preserved in Germany” and believed that “German religious scholars would be more experienced than Maldivian scholars.”

”The origins of Sharia code would not be changed,” Zuhair said. ”They will only help in some areas like taxation.”

He said the president had received very positive answers in response to his interest.

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said if good advice was given “it should always be heard and acted upon.”

Shaheem said people should realise “that there are Islamic scholars all around the world, and not only in Arabic countries.”

“The are good scholars in many countries,” Shaheem said, “even in those where Islamic people are in a minority.”

”Even a scholar like Sheikh Bukhari (a famous scholar of the Hadiths) was not from an Arabic country,” Shaheem explained.

“If a scholar in another country can give the right information on Sharia law, we have to accept it. But if anyone gives the wrong information, we have scholars here who can tell us the right way to implement Sharia.”


Bill on government preschools to appear before parliament

A bill governing pre-schools has been presented to parliament by Independent MP Ahmed Shiyam and was accepted by all 64 members present.

If the bill is approved the government would assume responsibility for funding the country’s preschools, which are now largely privately operated.

Deputy Minister for Education Shifa Mohamed said preschools were very important as they represented the first stage of education.

But she also noted that it was very difficult for the government to handle and develop preschools at a time when it was focusing on widening the availability of higher education.

”It would be very difficult for the government to handle the preschools as the country’s economic condition is also not very good, and I do not think the approved budget would be sufficient,” Shifa said.

She called on the MPs to include sufficient funding in the budget and increase it as necessary.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the government supported the preschool bill, approved by the majority of MDP MPs as well.

”Every one dollar spent on preschool education represents seven dollars saved in secondary,” he explained.