Some schools ignore government’s Ramadan instructions

Some schools in have continued holding classes for grade 9 and under, despite instructions from the Education Minsitry to stop lessons during Ramadan, reports Haveeru.

Local teachers told Haveeru that extra classes have been arranged after consultations between parents and teachers amid fears that the extended break would prevent the completion of the syllabus.

Instances of classes continuing were reported in Gaafu Dhaalu and Lhaviyani atolls.

With less than seven days’ notice, the government last week announced that school sessions would not be held for students in grades 9 and under during the month of Ramadan.

The regulations also said that school sessions for grades 10 to 12 should begin after 9am and should last a duration of three hours per day.


Preparations conclude for the start of Ramadan

Today marks the first official day of Ramadan in the Maldives following the conclusion of final preparations for the month of fasting and prayer.

After the anticipated sighting of the new crescent moon did not come on Friday as expected, the Islamic Ministry announced that Sunday (June 29) was considered to be Ramadan 1 in the Hijra year 1435.

The start of festivities also began at midnight across much of the world, with Yemen reported to be the only country to have started celebrations on Saturday.

President Abdulla Yameen has called on Maldivians to observe the period with piety, encouraging the performance of pious deeds and virtuous duties.

In a statement released by the President’s Office, Yameen noted Maldivians’ preservation of the Islamic faith, appealing to all to continue this tradition over the next 30 days.

The government’s efforts to assist with preparations were also acknowledged by Yameen, with a number of temporary and refurbished mosques having opened in recent days.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was in attendance at the reopening of the Al-Furqan mosque on Friday after six years of construction and multiple delays. The mosque is reported to be the most expensive in the country’s history, at MVR21 million (US$1.3 million).

Speaking at the opening ceremony for new mosque – capable of facilitating 3000 people – Jameel urged Islamic scholars to uphold the country’s Islamic identity by presenting it in a way comprehensible to the nation’s substantial youth population.

Local media have also reported the opening of a temporary mosque in Maafannu to compensate for the recently demolished Fandiyaaru Mosque. The Maldives National Defence Force completed the mosque – with capacity for 800 people – in just 14 days, reported Sun Online.

After initial fears regarding funding, the Islamic Minsistry announced the release of MVR800,000 to Malé City Council for repairs to 22 mosques. Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has pledged to spend MVR10 million on mosque repair for Ramadan.

Additionally, President Yameen has pledged to reduce waiting times for the overburdened Malé-Hulhumalé ferry to just 10 minutes while state utilities company Fenaka is said to have pledged interrupted power supply to all islands this month.

Working times for the Maldives’ 25,000 civil servants have been reduced to the hours between 10am and 2pm after local women’s rights NGO Hope for Women had argued the previous arrangement allowed insufficient time for women’s increased domestic workload during the month.

Meanwhile, the government announced that schools would be closed for grade 9 and below throughout the month, while class times will be reduced for other age groups.

Haveeru has also reported a reduction in the price of a number of basic commodities at the local market, as well as the opening of an additional fresh market in the capital.


MIRA collected MVR11.4 million in illegal parking fines in 2013

The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) collected MVR 11.4 million (US$0.7 million) in illegal parking fines in 2013.

This year, MIRA had collected MVR6.3 million (US$0.4 million) in illegal parking fines at the end of May.

MIRA collected MVR 6.9 million and MVR 6.2 million in 2012 and 2011 respectively.

Illegal parking carries an MVR250 for the first offense, MVR500 for the second offense and MVR750 for the third offense.

Drivers frequently complain of lack of parking space on Malé.


MTCC introduces new Hulhumalé – Malé ferry schedule for Ramadan

Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) has introduced two new ferries and increased ferry services between Malé and suburb Hulhumalé during peak hours for the month of Ramdan.

According to the new ferry schedule, ferries will run every five minutes between 8:15am – 9:10am and 2:00 pm and 2:20 pm on workdays, and between 10am – 11:15am and 2pm – 2:20pm on weekends.

At other times, ferries will depart every 15 minutes.

Residents of Hulhumalé have complained about delay and overcrowding on ferries.


Government closes school for grades 9 and under during Ramadan

The Ministry of Education has on Tuesday announced that school sessions will not be held for students in grades 9 and under during the month of Ramadan.

The regulations that they released further state that school sessions for grades 10 to 12 should begin after 9am and should last a duration of three hours per day.

The ministry also ordered schools to ensure that no activites are held at the times of Maghrib and Ishaa prayers, and that any activities that are held at night should be held in such a way that allows students to attend Tharaaveeh prayers – special prayers held after Ishaa during Ramadan – as well as the weekly sermons organised by the government.


Youth Ministry voices concerns that some companies fail to pay Ramadan allowance

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has voiced concerns that their investigations show some companies do not pay the mandatory Ramadan allowance to members of its staff.

They further stated that even among those companies that do pay the allowance, some fail to follow the guidelines defined in the Employment Act.

According to the act, every Muslim employee must be paid one third of their salary as Ramadan allowance. If the amount is below MVR 2000, employers must pay a minimum of MVR2000. If the amount exceeds MVR10,000, then employers must pay only up to MVR10,000.

The ministry called on all private companies to follow the law and pay the allowance as defined in the regulations.


Women’s rights NGO criticises altered Ramadan work hours

Women’s rights NGO Hope for Women has criticised the altered working hours this Ramadan, stating the decision was made without consideration as to how it would impact women working in public service.

“In the Maldivian society, domestic responsibilities typically fall on women, with added work during the month of Ramadan for the preparation of the meals for the family in time for breaking fast,” said the NGO.

“Therefore, we believe that the decision regarding the Ramadan working hours have been made without giving consideration to how it would impact women working in public service.”

The President’s Office today announced the working hours at government offices for Ramadan and the seven days of Eid al Fitr, which will be from 10am til 2:30pm.

While it is usual for the government to reduce work hours every Ramadan, this year’s timings are one hour later than previous years.

Hope for Women, highlighting recent reports that the number of women working in the civil service is twelve percent more than men, and said that finishing work late would impact women negatively as the domestic responsibility of preparing food for breaking the fast at sunset falls on women in the Maldivian society.

A recent election observation report from an observer mission noted that women continued to face multiple barriers to participation in public life, leading to acute under-representation in the public and political spheres.

The average time for sunset and breaking the fast this Ramadan is at 6:20pm.

Hope for women also suggested the government’s decision was influenced by the late hour football matches of the ongoing World Cup tournament which it claims is causing many government employs to attend work late.

The massive popularity of the tournament has already prompted the government to relax previous opening times for local cafes in order for people to watch the matches, which currently conclude at around 5am.

Speaking to Haveeru, spokesperson to the President Ibrahim Muaz assured the decision has no connection to the World Cup, saying that it had been made to allow people to spend more late hours in worship.

Even if might upset some workers, the government’s decision was made after considering everyone’s convenience.

The Ministry of Education has, meanwhile, reduced school times to three hours during Ramadan.

Single session Schools will hold classes in the morning from 9am until 12pm, while schools with two sessions will hold classes from 8:30am til 11:30am and from 11:45am until 3pm – with an extra 15 minutes for noon prayers.

The ministry has also informed all schools to make arrangements for students to pray at schools and not to conduct any school activity at night in a way which could interfere with religious activities such as obligatory prayers, optional prayers, and religious preaching


Malé City Council turns to private donations for mosque repair

Malé City Council has turned to private donations to repair mosques for the Islamic month of Ramadan after the Islamic Ministry’s failed to release funds.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed told the press on Tuesday many mosques in Malé are badly in need of repair. With just three months remaining for Ramadan, the council has decided to “do what can be done” from the council’s budget and private donations.

The Islamic Ministry has failed to respond to a two month old request for a MVR 1.5 million (US$ 97,087) to paint and renovate mosques, the council said.

The permanent secretary of the Islamic Ministry told the council that a decision will be made on consultation with Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

“We have already met the Islamic ministry and reminded them that Ramadan is approaching, and at that meeting the Islamic Ministry permanent secretary said a decision would be made after consulting with the minister. Again, last week the mayor [Mohamed Shihab] went to the meet the Islamic minister and brought these issues to his attention. [The minister] has said that some assistance would be provided this week. So we are hoping now,” Shifa said.

Malé City Councillor Zaidul Ameen said businesses are now sponsoring some of the repairs and said the council had recently received paint from a shop in Malé.

Responsibility for the maintenance and management of mosques was transferred from the Islamic Ministry to local councils by the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010. However, following an amendment to the the Religious Unity Act enacted in April 2013, all mosques will be under the jurisdiction of the Islamic ministry starting 13 July 2014.

An Islamic Ministry official told Minivan News today that it had received a total of MVR10 million (US$648,508) from state budget to repair mosques around the country, and the amounts necessary for mosque renovation would be transferred to the councils as soon as requests are submitted.

“We have now released a circular [June 1] requesting all councils to submit the amounts they require [for mosque renovation],” the official said. According to the official, this amount is from the state budget and does not include any funds from the Islamic Ministry’s mosque ‘Waqf’ fund.

The ministry has already announced plans to build new mosques and “broaden the role of mosques” in the future in a more sustainable manner.

In July 2012, the Islamic Ministry collected more than MVR15 million (US$974,000) million as donations from members of the public for the “mosque fund” established in 2010. At the time Shaheem said that he decided to ask for funds from the people of Maldives as the state budget could not provide it.

After an Algerian businessman donated MVR3.1 million ($US200,000) to the fund, Shameem announced plans to construct a ten storey building ”Darul Iman” (House of Faith) to sustain the Waqf fund. Shaheem said he expected Darul Iman to generate MVR1.8 million (US$116,731) annually, which would then be used to construct and renovate mosques.

Shaheem also requested more funds from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Malaysia, and Brunei. In March this year, he handed over the construction project to state owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) for MVR24.9 million (US$1.6 million).

In February, the ministry announced plans to construct 40 new mosques within  the year. The ministry said 14 are already under construction with MVR72.6 million (US$4.7 million) from the state budget.

A total of MVR65.2 million (US$4.2 million) was allocated in the 2013 state budget for the construction of 17 mosques.

Saudi Arabia has also agreed to donate funds to construct seven mosques within the year. The ministry said it has received MVR 28.8 million (US$ 1.8 million) for six of these mosques.

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz has also donated US$1million to the ministry when Shameem brought up the renovation of mosques in a meeting with leaders of the Indian Muslim community,


Saudi Arabia donates 50 tonnes of dates to Maldives

Saudi Arabia has given the Maldives 50 tonnes of dates in celebration of the holy month of Ramdan, local media has reported.

Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told Haveeru that the annual gift would be shipped to the country soon, after which he would decide on how the dates ought to be distributed.

The dates – a traditional gift from the Arab kingdom to the Maldives since 1988 – will be stored by the State Trading Organisation before being distributed by the Local Government Association.

Ramadan will fall at the end of June this year.

Growing links between the two countries in recent months have seen moves to increase educational and aviation links, as well as a Saudi pledge to build ten “world class” mosques by Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz during a recent visit to the Indian Ocean nation.