Gasim’s Royal Island Resort sues government

Villa Hotels’ Royal Island Resort and Spa, owned by Jumhoory Party (JP) Leader and MP ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim has sued the government and requested the Civil Court to cancel an order by the Tourism Ministry to close the resort’s Spa over allegations of prostitution operations.

Today the Civil Court issued a warrant to cancel the Tourism Ministry’s order and permit spa operations until the suit against the government is concluded.

Speaking for the government at this morning’s hearing, Attorney General Office’s lawyer Maryam Shunana told the Judge that issuing the warrant was equivalent to closing the entire suit, Haveeru reports.

Former Attorney General Azima Shukoor spoke on behalf of the resort.

Shukoor argued that according to the agreement made between the resort and the government, the resort has 30 days to correct any issue found by the government. If the resort fails to correct the issue within that time frame, the government may fine the resort US$10,000 (Rf154,200), reports Haveeru.

Shukoor claimed that the government’s order was given prior to any investigation and was based on allegations alone. She requested that the ministry’s order be cancelled.

She further requested for the warrant to keep the Spa open until the suit reaches a verdict, adding that if the warrant was not issued the resort risked a great loss.

Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham asked whether the Spa was still open–Shukoor replied that it was functioning. Usham responded that losses to the resort should not be raised in court if the Spa was not closed according to the Ministry’s order.

Yesterday, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the government has decided to shut down all the massage parlors in the Maldives and is considering banning the trade of alcohol and pork throughout the Maldives in response to demands made by protestors on December 23.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Spokesperson and MP Ahmed Mahlouf called on the coalition of religious NGOs and opposition parties to take actions against the government’s decision to disrupt Gasim’s business operations.

He warned that the government will continue to disrupt other businesses run by opposition supporters.

Gasim has filed cases regarding the other four Villa resorts which were requested to close their spa operations. However, no hearings have yet been conducted.

Press Secretary Zuhair yesterday informed Minivan News that Gasim was pretending to be a victim only for political gain, and that the government’s decision was not intended to harm any individual.

He also said that spas Gasim’s resort were not the only ones asked to close operations, but that some spas and massage parlors in Male’ have also been asked to shut down business on similar charges.


PPM accuses government of setting Luthfee free from prison

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has alleged that the government has set free Abdull Luthfee, who was sentenced to life during the time of Former President, for playing a senior role in the November 3 coup attempt in 1988.

Former Deputy Leader of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party [DRP] and current interim council member of PPM Umar Naseer yesterday held a press meeting and told the media that the government has said that Luthfee went to Sri Lanka for medical purposes and escaped.

Luthfee, Umar said, did not escape but was ‘escaped’ with the assistance of the government and alleged that the government have been still supporting his stay at Sri Lanka.

Umar said it has been years after he left for medical purposes and added that the government has not even tried to look for him.

He said he was not astonished that the government has not searched for him because one of President Mohamed Nasheed’s brothers-in-law was also a senior figure in the November 3 attack.

‘’The PPM will very seriously look in to this issue of government letting a senior figure involved in the November 3 coup attempt in which 19 Maldivians were killed escape,’’ said Umar, adding that many other figures involved in the November 3 attack were currently filling senior government posts.

Sri Lankan newspaper The Island reported Luthfee as saying on the 23rd anniversary of the November 3 coup attempt, “I wanted to get rid of [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom at any cost. As the election process in my country never gave a reasonable opportunity to the opposition, I felt an outside force should be used to oust Gayoom,”

In May this year, before the PPM was created and supporters of Gayoom were in Dhivehi Rayiithunge Party as a faction, Gayoom’s faction of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) protested outside the Prosecutor General’s Office and marched through the streets of Male’  with coffins, demanding justice for the martyrs who died in the November 3 coup attempt.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair denied the allegations and referred Minivan News to State Home Minister  Mohamed ‘Monazer’ Naeem for more details.

Naeem said that Government will never help a detainee escape and denied the allegations made by PPM.

‘’The Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service [DPRS] will not hold anyone in detention if a doctor advises to send an inmate abroad for medical reasons, but that does not mean that we are making way for him to escape,’’ Naeem explained.

He said anyone can point fingers at the DPRS or Home Ministry.

‘’We are confident that no staff or anyone here will held him to escape,’’ he added.


Government to support Baibala tournament despite police objections

The Maldives Police Service has appealed for those participating in an upcoming ‘Baibala’ tournament, a traditional Maldivian sport, to conduct the activity peacefully in accordance with the law.

Baibala is played by two teams, one inside a circle and one outside. The group outside must run into the ring, tag an opponent and escape without being tagged in return. Any person tagged is disqualified from that round. It is traditionally played following Eid-Al-fithur, and requires speed and agility.

A group of 150 players last week petitioned the President outside his residence to hold the tournament. Police earlier have objected to the tournament because of its popularity with gangs and the potential for violence.

It is common for gangs to compete in teams under their gang name, and even print T-shirts with their gang logos for players and supporters.

A police media official told Minivan News that police objected to the Baibala tournament because in recent years disputes in the sport have triggered gang wars.

“We have two main concerns,” said the police media official. “The teams in it are mainly funded by money obtained through robbery and thieving, and because following the Baibala tournament, a series of gang wars usually commences.”

He said he would not comment on whether police would be providing security during the tournament.

The government has meanwhile requested concerned authorities give permission to the youths.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the government would assist in anyway way it could.

“It is a permanent responsibility of police to maintain peace and law and order, especially in places where something may happen,” Zuhair said. “The Municipality Council, the youth ministry and the police are now discussing how to maintain the security of the area during the tournament.’’

“Police are concerned because during a recent football match, a boy was stabbed to death,’’ he said. “However security will be maintained during the Baibala tournament.’’

It is played between two groups and is often attended by youths.


Millions of rufiya and a 100 foot fiberglass fishing boat to join JP: leaked letters allege corruption

Letters sent by MDP MPs to President Mohamed Nasheed containing allegations of corruption against Jumhoree Party(JP) leader MP Gasim Ibrahim have been leaked to the press.

Gasim is currently under house arrest, charged with bribery and treason.

The documents are addressed to the President and signed by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs  Mohamed Nazim, Ahmed Easa, Mohamed Gasam, Mohamed Rasheed, Mohamed Shifaz and Ilyas Labeeb.

In one of the letters, Madaveli MP Mohamed Nazim claims that Gasim offered him a 100 foot fibereglass fishing boat and Rf4 million to join the JP, adding that the offer was unlawful and could be considered attempted bribery.

In his letter Kedhikolhudhoo MP Ahmed Easa alleges that Gasim offered him Rf5 million to defect from MDP to the JP.

The letter from Mohamed Gasam, MP for Thinadhoo, claims Gasim had offered him “many rewards” to recruit him away from MDP.

In a letter signed by Hulhu-Meedhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb, the writer mentions that Gasim offered him Rf5 million to buy and construct a house in Hulhumale’.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said that he could not confirm whether the letters were genuine, or that the letters were the same as those received by the president.

‘’Similar complaints were forwarded to president by several MPs,’’ said Zuhair. ‘’I cannot confirm whether the [leaked] letters are the actual letters.’’

Zuhair said that police were currently investigating the allegations of corruption against the opposition leaders.

Spokesperson for the MDP parliamentary group, Baarah MP Mohamed Shifaz, one of the MPs whose name was on one of the leaked letters, revealed that the leaked letter in his name was an edited version of the letter he actually wrote.

Shifaz said that the middle paragraph of the leaked document in his name was edited.

‘’I did not mention any amount of money Gasim offered me,” Shifaz said. “I wrote that he had offered me different amounts on different occasions.”

‘’I did send a letter to president last month, because of a rumor that circulating in those days that I was about to join the JP,” he said. “It dragged me into a situation where MPs almost lost confidence in me, and I thought the president might feel the same way. So I sent him a letter to make him confident that I would not leave MDP.”

MDP’s Council adopted a resolution late last month to terminate its coalition agreement with JP.

Gasim did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Leaked Gitmo documents spark police investigation

Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed has said the ministry yesterday asked police to investigate the case of leaked documents concerning Guantanamo Bay detainees.

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 included an unofficial letter sent from the US to discuss how a legal framework could be established to bring in the detainees.

”The documents were sent to Parliament’s National Security Committee by an MP,” Said Dr Shaheed. ”MP Ali Waheed was the person who first spoke about these documents.”

Dr Shaheed said that the person who leaked the documents and delivered them to MPs was responsible for the act.

”The Maldivian government has not officially agreed to bring in the detainees,” he said. ”It is just at an early stage and a group of people who do not properly understand the matter are worried and concerned.”

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed said the government’s desire to investigate the case was “stupidity and weakness”, ”as there are more concerning issues than the leaked document.”

Nasheed claimed to have seen the documents, summarising the communication in his blog and identifying it as an official diplomatic document sent by the US government to the Maldivian government.

”The government cannot take action against the person who leaked the documents,” said Nasheed. ”There is a law allowing people to inform others if an unlawful activity was going on inside the area in which he or she works, and according to that law, no action can be taken against that person.”

Nasheed said the letter to the AG from Foreign Ministry revealed that the government has already agreed to bring the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the country, but legal advice was needed on the matter.

”That was an official agreement and they are just pretending to make it an ‘early stage negotiation’,” Nasheed said.

He added that the document from the US government consisted of a list of things it believed had been been agreed by the Maldives, and was requesting confirmation.

”One of the leaked document gives information that the former inmate’s communication will be under surveillance and they cannot leave the Maldives,” Nasheed said.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the document was not leaked but was “deliberately stolen”.

Zuhair said anybody who stole the documents has causes “a lot of trouble” for the Maldives, by disrupting diplomatic relationships between countries.

”Now the US government may think that we deliberately leaked the document,” Zuhair said. ”The recipient should be aware that it is unlawful to have a leaked document of the government and should have clarified whether the document was the original before distributing it to everyone.”

Zuhair said the US government had approached the Maldives to handle two detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison.

”One of them was a man born in the West Bank,” he said. ”We do not have the information on the other person yet,”

He said the Maldives would be receiving “numerous benefits” for accepting the two detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison.


Youth Ministry concedes football ground for Zakir Naik event

Minister for Human Resources and Youth, Hassan Latheef, has agreed to release the  Maafaanu football grounds to the Islamic Ministry to host visiting Islamic scholar Zakir Naiks’s sermon.

The decision comes after Latheef said yesterday that the venue requested was ”only for football’,’ and would dishearten the youth who practice football there every day.

Latheef said that the decision was made yesterday ”despite the difficulties.”

”It was very, very difficult to release the land for any purpose other than sport and music,” Latheef said, ”but we have decided to give that land as the Islamic Ministry has requested.”

Latheef said the football ground will be given to the Islamic Ministry for three days.

”This type of land belongs to the Youth Ministry,” he noted. ”We have drafted a law that determines which place can be used for what purpose.”

Spokesperson for the Islamic Ministry, Sheikh Ahmadulla, said that the ministry was writing a letter to the Youth Ministry to confirm the decision.

”We also heard the Youth Minister saying that in a television programme,” Sheikh Ahmadulla said, adding ”we will send a letter to the Youth Ministry asking for the confirmation.”

Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair, said that the land was used by youth to play football every day and the minister was concerned about social issues that might be raised due to the restriction of the grounds during the days of the lectures.

”But now they decided to give the land because the Islamic Ministry, after checking several venues, said that the requested football ground was the best,” Zuhair said.

”This is a time where all the Islamic NGO’s are acting in a very competitive spirit, with one NGO trying to hold a bigger event than the other,” Zuhair said. ”It will be very difficult if everyone starts requesting such land for other purposes.”

Zuhair said that there is now another request by a religious NGO to use the Galolhu National Stadium.


Maldivian scientist recognised for achievements in digital knowledge transfer

Maldivian Scientist Professor Hassan Ugail at University of Bradford in the UK has received the ‘Excellence in Knowledge Transfer Award’ for developing cutting-edge methods of defining and manipulating complex digital data.

Professor Hassan Ugail is the Chair of Visual Computing at the University, and has developed research ideas into a business in the UK and potentially into Europe and USA.

His two patents have led to his development spin-out company, Tangentix Ltd, which is currently developing technology for digital distribution of computer game content.

Tangentix is already growing rapidly in the region is predicted to grow rapidly over the next few months and create a significant number of new jobs.

The other shortlisted candidates for the award included Dr P B Anant, Reader in Development and Economic Studies, Professor Andrew Day, Automotive, Modelling and Optimisation Research Group Leader, School of Engineering, Design and Technology, Paul Edwards, Head of training and Practice Development, Dementia Studies, Dr. Qun Shao, China Programme Manager, Institute of Pharmaceutical Innovation.

Secretary General for Maldives Science Society and founding member Ajmal Shaheed said the award received by Professor Ugail was “very valuable.”

Ajmal said that the science society and all the people of Maldives should be “very proud” that a Maldivian has received the most prestigious award.

”His achievement will would encourage those Maldivians who work in the field of science,” Ajmal said. ”Scientists are very few in our nation.”

He said Professor Ugail had done much work that had been recognised worldwide.

”He has designed a space shuttle for NASA, and he is trying to develop a facial recognition system, ” Ajmal said. ”We hope this will encourage Maldivian scientists to work in the research science field.”

He said most of the scientists in the Maldives were marine biologists, and that the number of scientists working in research fields was very few.

He said the MSS was discussing how to recognise Professor Ugail for “the beautiful name he has brought the country.”

Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair said the government congratulated Professor Hassan Ugail for the success he had achieved.

”President Mohamed Nasheed also describes it as a very happy news for the country,” Zuhair said.

Zuhair said that the success of Hassan Ugail showed that Maldivians could achieve international awards if chose to go forward in the field of science.


DPRS to jam mobile phones in jails

The Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) has reportedly decided to place cellular jammers in all the country’s jails to prevent inmates from communicating with the outside using mobile phones.

The DPRS announced that it would be purchasing cellular jammers in the edition of the government gazette dated 18th April.

Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Shihab said he did not want to give any information about the cellular jammers as it was “the concern of the DPRS.”

DPRS Director General Mohamed Rasheed said he also would not give any information on the cellular jammers.

”It’s not good for us to tell you how many guns and bullets the police have,” he said. ”You also should know it is not very good to [publish] all the information on the armed forces and their work.”

However, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair confirmed that the government was trying to establish cellular jammer in all the jails.

Zuhair said that it would make the jail security level more advanced.

”Many times we have noticed inmates receiving assistance from people outside,” he said. ”They have connection with people outside.”

He said after the cellular jammer was installed a land line would provided for the inmates’ use, ”so they can reach their family and relatives in a regulated manner.”

State Minister for Home Ahmed Adil has recently claimed that jail officers help inmates to bring in mobile phones and drugs to the cells.

He told Minivan News that several jail officers were being investigated on suspicion of helping inmates to bring mobile phones and drugs into cells in Male’ prison.

“Three inmates and several jail officers we suspect [to be involved] have been moved to Dhoonidhu [prison] for investigation,” he said.

Inmates in Male’ Prison last week damaged their cells after jail officers seized mobile phones and other contraband.


Politics an inseparable part of religion, reiterates Adhaalath party

Islam and politics are inseparable and it is unIslamic to suggest otherwise, President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Hussein Rasheed has announced.

”I regret that there are some MPs also who are claiming that politics and Islam should be separated, after taking a oath swearing that they would respect the religion of Islam,” Sheikh Hussein said. ”Politics and religion cannot be separated.”

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told Minivan News that Islam was a comprehensive religion containing information on economy, family, social, business, communication, politics, military “and many more things.”

Shaheem claimed that separating politics from religion was “a Christian philosophy from the 1940s.”

”The Christians at that time were influenced by the power of their kings and popes, ” Shaheem said, ”so they fought together for their rights and demanded the separation of religion from politics, and that was the time democracy was born.”

Shaheem noted that there were some principles of democracy which were contrary to Islamic principles.

”There are many things that are similar things and there are some things we refuse,” he said. “The resolution in democracy is ‘to keep the religion separated from the state.”’

The Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) was also a good politician, Shaheem explained.

”Those who suggest religion should be separated from politics are not apostates,” he said. “They are only saying such things because of their lack of knowledge.”

He said the Islamic Ministry was a part of the government and the government cooperated the ministry.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said the Adhaalath Party was “power hungry” in accusing the government of secularism.

Newspaper Miadhu today reported Adhaalath party member Sheikh Ilyas Hussain as saying  the government had forgotten the Adhaalath’s Party’s role in the country’s democratic transition and that the presence of the party was one of the reasons the new government had been accepted.

If dialogue failed to keep the government on the right path, Sheikh Illyas warned, the party would “not hesitate to fight against this government like we did the last one.”

He further claimed there were groups within the country that had begun challenging the party’s efforts to promote Islam, and that such trends were bringing the party’s patience to an end.

Zuhair claimed some of the party’s scholars were “directly lying to the people.”

”We support the work they are doing politically, because according to the new law any political party with less than 3000 members should be disbanded. If so, how are they supposed to be in the government if they are not a political party?”

He said the government had provided mosques for people, appointed Imams to the mosques and established the Islamic Ministry.

”We do not know why they are saying all this about the government,” he said. ”We can’t worship in our offices.”

Zakir Naik

In response to concerns about the religious qualifications of visiting Islamic speaker Zakir Naik, who is a medical doctor, Shaheem explained that Naik “is not a a preacher but a lecturer”, and his talks in the Maldives would not contravene the Religious Unity Act.

”The law says that anyone is allowed to give sermons with the permission of the Islamic Ministry,” he explained.

”We have researched his CV, and he is man who has knowledge of Islam and has written many books on Islam as well.”