PPM MP sentenced to four years in exile for embezzlement

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ibrahim Ameen has been sentenced to four years and six months in exile for embezzlement.

The Criminal Court found the MP for Ungoofaaru constituency guilty of embezzling MVR36, 818 (US$2,388) from the Ungoofaru Island Council Office.

Ameen had been responsible for all incoming cash at the office from May 2004 – April 2006, but failed to explain how MVR36,818 went missing from cash handed over to the office by the island’s power house.

The embezzlement was discovered by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), but Ameen told the Criminal Court the commission’s audit was flawed. He had, however, confessed to receiving the amount.

The Criminal Court sentenced Ameen to internal exile under the Penal Code Article 131(a) and ordered him to pay the money back to the Island Office within a month.

Article 131(a) of the code states that any persons found guilty of embezzlement should be sentenced to six month or one year banishment if it was the first time the person was found guilty of such crime, and  Article 132 states that if the amount of money obtained through embezzlement was more than MVR10,000 (US$649) the person should be banished to an extra  month for each additional MVR1000 (US$69).

Ameen’s brother Abdul Nasir was also handed an eleven year sentence on 17 April 2014 for embezzling MVR114,325 (US$7,414) from the council. Nasir was also found guilty of embezzling fees paid to the council by the power house.

Nasir had confessed to using the funds for personal use, the Criminal Court said.

Ameen won a by-election after his brother MP Dr Afrasheem Ali’s brutal murder left the seat vacant. The PPM issued Ameen the ticket without a primary as he is the brother of the late MP.

Ameen did not contest for the 18th People’s Majlis.

He told local media that he had no interest in politics and that he had competed in the by-election in 2012 to complete his brother’s term.

“My brother’s family asked me if I will stand for the seat. Senior party members and friends also want me to stand for the seat. But I have no interest,” he said at the time.

The current Majlis is in recess ahead of the end of its term on May 28.

Article 73 of the constitution states that a person shall be disqualified from election as a member of the People’s Majlis – or a member of the People’s Majlis immediately becomes disqualified – if he has been convicted of a criminal offence and is serving a sentence of more than twelve months.

Additionally, the same article states that if a person has been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term more than 12 months he will not be able to stand for parliament,  unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release or he has been pardoned for the offense.

In August 2011, Kaashidhoo MP Ismail Abdul Hameed was sentenced to 18 months in exile for corruption. He subsequently lost his seat.

However, Hameed served ten months of his term under house arrest due to the state’s failure to decide on an island for his exile. He was released in August 2012 under parole.


15 year-old boy arrested for having sex with 14 year-old girl

Police have arrested a 15 year-old boy from the island of Alifushi in Raa Atoll on allegations that he had sex with a 14 year-old girl on the island.

Police said that the boy was arrested yesterday (5 October 2013) at about 1pm while he was on the island.

According to police the case was brought to their attention by a third individual.


No waste spill in Thilafushi lagoon: Male’ City Council

The Male’ City Council (MCC) has disputed “inaccurate” local media reports that a large waste spill occurred in the Thilafushi (‘garbage island’) lagoon last night.

Large amounts of garbage were reported to have accumulated in the Thilafushi lagoon due to “spillover” while a barge was off loading waste from the capital Male’, according to Sun Online.

However, MCC Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem, the council member responsible for waste management, told Minivan News today (June 29) that local media reports were “not accurate” and that no garbage spill occurred on Thilafushi last night.

“Due to the bad weather this past month the jetty was damaged – half of it was broken and it has been damaged for two weeks – however repairs were completed yesterday,” Kareem explained.

“Earlier this month because of the high winds, some waste was carried into the harbor, but not a big amount,” he added. “There was no spill, it’s not an issue.”

Kareem explained that trash tends to “line the [harbour] area” and moves from one side to the other in relation to the wind, current, and tides, however due to the harbor’s shape does not easily float out into the open sea.

“Thirty vessels dump trash there daily, so there might be something in the area, but it’s a dead end,” said Kareem.

“Items have been floating [in the harbor] over a month, but there was not a big spill or dump,” he noted.

Senior officials from the MCC were sent to inspect Thilafushi last month and confirmed operations were “very organised”, according to Kareem.

“Cleaning [waste that accumulates in the harbor] is ongoing,” said Kareem. “The area is well maintained by the Male’ City Council.”

Thilafushi rehabilitation stalled

Thilafushi management was transferred to the Male’ City Council (MCC) in 2010 as part of the Decentralisation Act. Accordingly, a contract was signed in 2011 with the Indian-based company Tatva Global Renewable Energy to rehabilitate the island, manage garbage generated in Male’, on nearby inhabited islands and resorts, as well as implement a system designed to generate power from recycling waste.

However, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s administration announced it was renegotiating the Tatva agreement in December 2012 to reach what Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela referred to at the time as a “mutually beneficial” agreement.

In response the Male’ City Council (MCC) accused authorities of trying to “sabotage” the deal.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environment and Social Safeguards Coordinator Ibrahim Mohamed told Minivan News earlier this year that plans to rehabilitate Thilafushi have been stalled due to procedural “hiccups”.

“The World Bank (WB) is not happy, because Thilafushi is not a managed site,” said Mohamed. “There were hiccups in environmental safeguards.”

In order to ensure waste management on Thilafushi adhered to proper environmental safety standards, the government has been seeking assistance to rehabilitate the island.

“During the public private partnership that was [previously] announced, Tatva was contracted to do a proper landfill and incinerator, etc. They were investing US$15 million, but then when the government changed [in February 2012] there were hiccups in all these public private partnership contracts, and they left,” recounted Mohamed.

He explained that Tatva was ultimately brought back to negotiate a new contract.

“First there was the idea of throwing them out, but then [Tatva was] brought [back] in and told to sell some shares to local companies, i.e. water and sewerage. [So] they finally agreed to form a consortium with local companies and invest,” Mohamed continued.

“Within next two years we will see a better, rehabilitated facility [at Thilafushi],” he added.

While Thilafushi waste management remains a contentious issue, other projects are being implemented in Raa and Ari Atollsfunded, respectively, by the World Bank and Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF) – in an effort to develop alternative processing sites.


Group disrupts MDP rally in Henveiru

Additional reporting by Ahmed Naish

A group of about a dozen young men with placards and a megaphone disrupted a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) gathering in the Henveiru ward of Male’ last night (June 24) and “actively tried to incite violence”, the MDP has claimed.

The youths, who appeared to be in their 20s, entered the MDP rally held in Henveiru Park shortly after it began at 9:45pm, carrying placards with anti-MDP phrases and shouting.

The group was “actively trying to incite violence”, claimed MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor. “We suspect the [rival parties] paid the children.”

“It exposes them as thuggish. They are probably thinking ‘We lost [the elections] so we might as well disrupt [the MDP],” said Ghafoor.

“The young men were aggressive and wanted to scare people off,” Gahfoor continued. “They were kicking the shins of the MDP supporters in attendance and issuing thinly veiled threats. That’s what was most disturbing.”

Ghafoor explained that the young men kept moving through the crowd of MDP supporters and crowding the front of the podium.

“To show their impunity, one young man came up to the podium while [former MDP Chairperson and MP] Mariya Didi was speaking, picked up and drank her bottle of water,” said Ghafoor.

“He then hit the mic with a flourish and one of the young men declared ‘no one can hold a meeting without Bosnia City’s consent’,” he continued.

Some of the MDP supporters in attendance came to stop the youth from causing further disturbances at the podium and pushed him away, explained Ghafoor.

“The crowd of a couple hundred did not leave, but they were not happy with the disruptions and ‘boo-ed’ the youths, which caused them to back off a bit,” he said.

“The young men actively wanted to incite violence. That didn’t happen, but the crowd did shout [political slogans] at them saying things like ‘ehburun’ (one round),” he noted.

Ghafoor explained that the MDP speakers at the rally patiently appealed to the young men to let the meeting continue and told the youths they could protest peacefully without disrupting the rally.

“Two of the protesters’ placards claimed MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Vilma Rasheed swindled money, which is not true,” said Gahfoor. “They also claimed to not have been treated well by Nasheed’s government.”

Ghafoor referred to their efforts as “amateurish” and “rather silly”.

“They were not savvy about what they had to say,” he added.

Ghafoor said he suspected the youth group consisted of displaced children – since large numbers from the islands relocated to the capital after the tsunami – rather than Male’ residents.

While being heckled during her speech “Mariya Didi said ‘This is why MDP is campaigning, we don’t want displaced children to be used by people’,” explained Ghafoor.

Some of the speakers planned for last night’s MDP rally were unable to participate because “there was so much commotion” and ultimately the meeting ended earlier than planned, he added.

While Ghafoor was not aware if anyone called the police he was surprised at their lack of presence because “they are usually all over the place” during political events.

“[It shows] the police are supportive of such acts headed by the [government] mutineers and that this is how they are getting ready for the elections,” he alleged.

“Instead, the police should do everything to ensure elections are free and fair,” he added.

Given the disturbances at last night’s MDP Henveiru rally and the property damage done to a MDP meeting hall in the Manchangoalhi ward of Male’ on Sunday night (June 23), Ghafoor believes more disturbing incidents “are likely to happen again”.

“In which case we will contact MDP members to combat these types of disturbances with sheer numbers, rather than have a confrontation,” said Ghafoor.

Rocks and eggs

Meanwhile, a rock and some eggs were thrown at a party meeting hall in the Manchangoalhi ward of Male’ on Sunday night (June 23) and “late last night (the early morning hours of June 25)  the door was smashed at the same jagaha (meeting hall),” said Ghafoor.

In his speech after opening the hall later Sunday night, former President Mohamed Nasheed – who is currently campaigning in the southern atolls – asserted that MDP members would not retaliate with violence.

Two men on a motorbike reportedly threw the rock at a glass window of the meeting hall at about 7:45pm on Sunday night.

According to internet news outlet CNM, MDP activists were inside the hall finalising preparations for the opening ceremony scheduled for later that night. The rock however did not completely shatter the glass.

MDP presidential candidate Nasheed was due to open the meeting hall designated for supporters from the atolls of Shaviyani, Raa and Laamu at 10:15pm.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Nasheed said MDP’s opponents were resorting to violence as it was becoming clear to pro-government parties that they lacked support from the public.

As long as “traitor” Abdulla Riyaz remained Commissioner of Police, the country could not be at peace, Nasheed said, alleging that the police chief was one of the “main architects” of the “coup d’etat” on February 7, 2012.

Abdulla Riyaz, a former Assistant Commissioner of Police dismissed in the early days of the MDP government, was among three ex-servicemen that entered military barracks on the morning of February 7 to negotiate on behalf of mutinying police and soldiers at the Republic Square demanding Nasheed’s resignation.

Upon emerging from the military headquarters in front of the Republic Square, current Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim – flanked by Riyaz and current State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA’ – declared that Nasheed had been told to resign within the hour “without any conditions.”

The demand was “non-negotiable” and “not up for further discussion,” he added, before declaring that he was now in charge of the military and would soon appoint senior officers.

The three ex-servicemen then accompanied President Nasheed to the President’s Office under heavy military guard, where he announced his resignation at a televised press conference with the three former National Security Service (NSS) officers looking on.

Speaking at the jagaha opening on Sunday night, Nasheed said that the collective “hope and passion” of the Maldivian people were “more powerful than all their batons, pepper spray, iron armour and rubber bullets.”

“God willing, not a single MDP member will lift even the little finger in anger,” he said, adding that the party hoped to open eight meeting halls in Male’ in the near future.

As “every other house” in the capital would become a MDP jagaha before September, Nasheed claimed, “there are not enough rocks in Male'” to target all the meeting halls.


Four Raa Atoll councillors sign with MDP

Fours councillors based in Raa Atoll have joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) during a signing ceremony held on the island of Alifushi yesterday (May 27), according to local media.

Among those reported to have signed for the party during the ceremony were Vice President of Alifushi Council Ibrahim Shuaib – formerly of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP). Atoll Councillor Ibrahim Mahees, who previously represented the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), also joined the MDP yesterday, Sun Online has reported.

Vaadhoo councillor Ali Riyaz, formerly of President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) and one time Adhaalath Party member Hussain Rashad of Rasgetheem Council also reportedly signed to the opposition party.

The four councillors signed to the MDP during a ceremony that coincided with a visit by the party’s presidential candidate, Mohamed Nasheed, Sun Online reported.


Dhuvaafaru woman rescued from suicide attempt by police

A woman on Dhuvaafaru Island in Raa Atoll was saved from committing suicide by the police, reports local media.

Police received a report Monday (May 13) night that a 26 year-old woman was attempting to take her own life by swimming away from Dhuvaafaru. At approximately 11pm officers in uniform waded out into the sea to rescue the woman.

According to police, the woman was trying to commit suicide due to “family problems”.

She was put in the care of the island’s Family and Children’s Center following the incident, said police.


Island Council office struck by lightning

The Rasgetheemu Island Council in Raa Atoll was struck by lightning yesterday (April 27) destroying all the office computer systems, reports local media.

The thunderstorm reached the island at approximately 3pm and shortly afterward the island council office was struck by lightning, “burning” six computer systems within the building, Island Council President Aishath Nazlee told local media.

“The lightning struck the antenna on top of the building. But as soon as lightning had struck, the computer systems inside the office were burned, although inside the council office had not caught on fire,” Nazlee said.

No one was injured given that the office was vacant over the weekend, however no communications are currently possible.


Alifushi island protests over ongoing power outages

Some 100 residents on Alifushi Island in Raa Atoll staged a protest Monday (April 16) evening to raise concerns at years of reported power outages, according to local media.

All four Deutz brand generators on the island were said to have broken down, causing a complete blackout at 8pm yesterday, which followed 20 similar power cuts throughout the day, islander Mohamed Hassan told the Channel News Maldives (CNM) publication.

Electricity demand was increasing, yet generators were not regularly maintained, explained Hassan. He added that the generators were not easily fixed, however a repair team was en route.

Island Council President Abdul Latheef Abdul Rahman told local media that the Alifushi community has been “patient”, but the problem of power supply could not be ignored any longer.

Rahman claims that the governments of both former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and former President Mohamed Nasheed failed to address the issue.


Police start investigation after teenage girl found with eyes glued shut

Police have opened an investigation into an incident involving a 17 year-old girl who was held down and had her eyes glued shut on the island of Maduvvari in Raa Atoll.

While the Maldives Police Service has confirmed the incident occurred, it was not supplying further details on the case.

However the island council of confirmed to local media that the girl was found with her eyes sealed with a substance believed to be a strong adhesive at about 8:45pm last night. According to reports, the council said the girl was found abandoned on an uninhabited part of the island.

The council also confirmed that the 17 year-old was unconscious when she was found. She was taken to the island health centre on discovery.

When interviewed by the press, the girl’s family alleged that a group of islanders were responsible for incident, which had left her eyes potentially seriously injured.

Doctors were not able to ascertain the extent of the injuries to her eyes because she was unable to open them, her family told local media.

The girl’s family claimed that the teenager was snatched by an unidentified group while she was walking along the street, and was taken to an uninhabited house in the island.

Once inside, one of her abductors was said to have hit her over the head with a wooden stick. She was then allegedly held down and glue was put in her eyes.

Maduvvari Council President Hussain Shiham told local media that once she had regained consciousness the girl had claimed she was attacked “by a man with long hair, and that he would have her teeth marks on his hand. But she couldn’t tell what he looked like.”

The victim was first taken to Ungoofaaru Hospital in Raa Atoll and later transferred to Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’.

Similar incidents were reported to have happened on the same island in 2005.