MDP demonstrates to mark International Day Against Police Brutality

The Maldives Democratic Party(MDP) has announced its intention to mark 2012’s International Day Against Police Brutality with peaceful protests in Male’ and across the country. The day will be observed for the first time in the Maldives since its inception in 1997.

In a press release, the MDP said, “Since the overthrow of the Maldives’ first democratically elected President, Mohamed Nasheed, on 7th February, the Maldives has experienced a major rise in the frequency and severity of police brutality against peaceful protesters and supporters of MDP”.

Following the resignation of Nasheed, images of the police’s treatment of civilians, including footage of beatings and the widespread use of pepper spray, were viewed across the world.

MDP Chairman Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik’s treatment at the hands of the security forces was particularly well publicised. Interviewed in his hospital bed, Moosa recalled the words of a police officer he says took part in his beating: “We want to kill you. Do not think you can behave like you do and get away. You will have to die today”.

The security force’s reactions prompted retaliatory attacks across the atolls with police property attacked and destroyed. This animosity between the public and the police appeared to have taken on a more personal dimension last week when a police officer along with his two brothers were attacked in Gemanafushi in Gaafu Alifu Atoll.

On March 7, Amnesty International condemned the security force’s use of what it regarded as “excessive force” against protesters in the Lonuziyaarai Kolhu district of Male’.

This marked the second time in as many weeks that the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) had received censure from the human rights group. Amnesty reported that a group of women attempting to march during a speech given by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan on February 26 in Addu were assaulted by MNDF members.

Amnesty’s representative in Male’ Abbas Faiz, said “When police officers act like political opponents towards demonstrators, they erode respect for the rule of law and cast doubt on their impartiality as officers of justice.

Demonstrations prohibited in green zone

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam was keen to stress that today’s protests would be handled peacefully by police providing they are conducted in a peaceful manner: “but if there is confrontation, police will take necessary action.”

When pressed as to what he regarded as “confrontation” Shiyam referred to the prohibition of demonstrations within the security zone surrounding the police and MNDF headquarters on Republic Square. In this instance, he said he could not rule out the use of force.

Demonstrations within this zone on March 6 prompted the use of high powered hoses on women holding a sit-down protest outside the President’s Office.

Again, on March 8, protesters marking International Women’s Day attempted to march through the security area and were held back by police cordons prompting a lengthy but, this time, peaceful stand-off.

Regulations dating from previous administrations prohibit the entry of large groups of people into the area in question, Shiyam has previously reported.

An opposition protest within the restricted zone outside MNDF headquarters, assisted by elements of the police, led to the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed, allegedly “under duress”.

Shiyam stated that the reasons for recent incidents of excessive force were being investigated by the Commission for National Inquiry (CNI) as well as the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).

“If there is any problem with the police, it will be solved” he said.


President sends letters to three MDP MPs requesting “clarification” of corruption allegations against government

President Mohamed Nasheed has sent letters to Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Ahmed Rasheed, Mohamed Musthafa and Shifaq Mufeeq, requesting they clarify corruption allegations made recently against the government.

According to the President’s Office, the Nasheed requested the MPs send details and evidence related to the corruption allegations as soon as possible, and urged their cooperation.

Mustafa told Minivan News that he had received the letter sent by the President and that he would share all the information he had, as requested by the president.

‘’These corruption allegations have become a national issue and the President is obliged to investigate it,’’ Mustafa said. ‘’I believe that when the president makes a request, we are obliged to share whatever information he wishes. There are many corruption allegations against senior officials of MDP and some serious allegations that we cannot share with the media right now,’’ he claimed.

“We will be sharing this information later,” he said, adding that he would reply to the president’s letter.

Several MDP MPs have recently alleged in parliament that there were corruption allegations in the government and that these should be investigated and stopped.

On November 21 during a debate in parliament MDP MP Shifag accused MDP Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik of corruption.

He claimed that excavators sent by Moosa’s Heavy Load Company to the SAARC Summit preparations were not usable, but that Moosa was paid millions of rufiya in lease payments for the excavators that he was not entitled to receive.

MDP MP Ahmed Rasheed claimed that same day in parliament that there was corruption in the government to a level that was ”concerning and dangerous.”

Ahmed Rasheed was not in town and was not available for a comment, while Shifag was in a committee meeting and was unavailable for a comment.

Moosa also said he was in a meeting and was unable to comment.

Last week Transparency International revealed that the Maldives had risen slightly to rank 134 in the organisation’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

The country scored 2.5 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean), placing it alongside Lebanon, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

The score however is a mild improvement on 2010, when the Maldives was ranked 143th and below Zimbabwe. The Maldives still rated as having higher perceived corruption than many regional neighbours, including Sri Lanka (86), Bangladesh (120) and India (95).

Project Director of Transparency Maldives, Aiman Rasheed, warned that the ranking could not be compared year-to-year, especially in the Maldives where there were only a three sources used to determine the index (India has six).

“Corruption in the Maldives is grand corruption, unlike neighbouring countries where much of it is petty corruption,” Rasheed said. “In the Maldives there is corruption across the judiciary, parliament and members of the executive, all of it interlinked, and a systemic failure of the systems in place to address this. That why we score so low.”

Faced with such endemic and high-level corruption, it was “up to the people of the Maldives to demand better governance”, he said.


Auditor General report claims Heavy Load project violated state finance regulation

The Auditor General has published an audit report on the Kumundhoo Harbor Project that was contracted to Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik’s Heavy Load company by the Housing Ministry.

The Auditor General in his report noted that the work was assigned to Heavy Load in violation of article 8.25 of the State Finance Regulation.

‘’Article 8.25 of the Finance Regulation states that any work that costs more than Rf1.5 million (US$100,000) should be assigned to a party by the Tender Evaluation Board in an open bid, and that the interested parties should submit details of the work,’’ Auditor General said in the report. ‘’But the Kumundhoo Harbor Project was not assigned to the party accordingly.’’

According to the report, the project that was supposed to be finished in six months was finished in 31 months, and the government had to pay Rf 22.2 Million for a project originally budgeted at Rf 10.3 million project.

The project was assigned to Heavy Load on 21 November 2007, but the physical work of the project was started on 10 March 2008, according to the audit report.

While the project was going on, Heavy Load reported to the government that there were hard areas that excavators could not dig and the work came to a halt. The ministry then inspected the area and found that the area required explosives to continue the project.

‘’It is to be noted that hard areas can be identified with a diving inspection and that this type of inspection was not done before the work started,’’ the Auditor General said in the report.

The Auditor General’s report said that Rf 4.7 million (US$307,000) was paid to Heavy Load for the days they had to wait without work in return for keeping their equipment and staff on the island, adding that all the days that the party was paid for ‘Idle Time’ could not be considered as such because there was other work the contractor could have been completing.

Heavy Load was paid different rates for the time the company had to wait without work, the Auditor General’s report said. The ministry’s determined rate was Rf23845.77 based on the total amount of the project.

‘’But for the 49 days the contractor had to wait without work from 12 June 2008 to 30 July 2008, Heavy Load was paid Rf27,197.80 per day and for the days between 19 September 2008 and 18 October 2008 the contractor was paid Rf24,299.33,’’ the Audit Report said, adding that the contractor received extra Rf 177,856.17 in total.

The Auditor General also noted that the contractor was given an extra 195 days to complete the project after failing to complete it by the original due date, but after the 195 days only 45 percent of the work was completed.

According to the ‘Appendix to Tender’ agreement made between the ministry and contractor, if the contractor failed to complete the project in the time allocated, the contractor was to be fined 0.1 percent of the total cost of the project for each day.

‘’But after the contractor failed to finish the project, it was given extra five months without any fines,’’ the Audit Report noted. ‘’While the government had paid the contractor Rf 4.7 Million to recover any losses contractor might suffer for idle time, the contractor was not fined for the days the project was delayed due to the contractor’s negligence. The government had not cited the loss for the government and islanders of Kumundhoo, and all the benefit was given to the contractor.’’

The Auditor General also noted that an advance payment was paid to the contractor in violation to the Finance Regulation.

‘’The Finance Regulation article 8.23 states that the highest amount that can be paid in advance is 15 percent of the total cost of the project, but the contractor was paid Rf 5 Million which is 38 percent of the total cost of the project,’’ the Audit Report noted.

The Auditor General’s report said that the Auditor General’s Office did not receive the ‘Defects Liabilities Inspection Report’ done by the ministry.

The contractor was told many times to correct issues and not to continue work without correcting them, but the contractor had not acted as instructed and finished the harbor and handed it to the ministry, and the ministry had fully paid the contractor, the Auditor General noted.

The report also noted that the harbor was completed with a lot of faults, and that huge damages had been caused to some boats that had entered the harbor.

Minivan News attempted to contact Reeko Moosa for comment, but his phone was switched off at time of press.


MP Musthafa blames ‘Reeko’ Moosa over finance controller’s resignation

Finance Controller at the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Ahmed Assad, resigned yesterday after attempts were made by MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik to exert undue influence over the senior government official, claims Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa.

In a text message circulated to several media outlets, Musthafa alleged that several “capable professionals and technocrats” were quitting the MDP government in protest of acting chairperson Moosa’s outsize influence and “corrupt dealings” for personal gain.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Musthafa claimed Moosa had asked Assad for Rf5 to 6 million (US$320,000-390,000) to complete a project awarded to Moosa’s company Heavy Load Maldives to construct the jetty off the island of Kumundhu in Shaviyani Atoll.

Assad was unavailable for comment today as his mobile phone was switched off.

“Assad refused to issue the money and he went into a quarrel with Moosa and Moosa attempted to use his position and authority to exert influence over him,” Musthafa alleged. “He also tried to influence Abdulla Ziyadh, civil engineer of Works Corporation and tried to collect money for a Heavy Load project before it was completed. They completed 20 percent of the work and asked him to pay for 70 percent of work.”

Ziyadh had resigned from his post at the Works Corporation under the Housing Ministry in the wake of the incident, Musthafa claimed.

“Moosa has also taken Rf4 million (US$260,000) worth of oil for credit from Fuel Supply Maldives (FSM) and tried to get more oil for credit without paying for the oil he purchased earlier,” he alleged.

Musthafa said he planned to submit an amendment to the MDP charter to ensure that a businessman could not hold the post of chairperson.

Responding to remarks made by Moosa in the local media that Musthafa was “using my name to gain fame for himself,” Musthafa said: “,I ‘Seafood Musthafa’, was more famous and a millionaire in this country when Moosa was riding a bicycle around Henveiru.”

Contacted for a comment today, MP Moosa Manik said he did not wish to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said Assad had not divulged the reason for his decision to leave the government in his resignation letter.

“Unless he confirms the allegations, I would say that is just political speculation and theories,” said Zuhair, referring to Musthafa’s allegations.


MDP National Council appoints ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik as acting chairperson

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has appointed the party’s Parliamentary Group leader MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik as the party’s acting chairperson for a year, replacing Mariya Ahhmed Didi.

Mariya had previously resigned from the role in anticipation of being appointed Parliament’s representative on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), however she was last week beaten to the post by Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and local business tycoon, Gasim Ibrahim.

The MDP said that 97 out of 99 council members present voted in favor of appointing Moosa as the acting chairperson, during the party’s 91st national council meeting held at Bandos Island Resort.

The council meeting started yesterday and was initially chaired by the party’s newly-elected Deputy Leader and MP Alhan Fahmy, until the decision to appoint Moosa as the acting Chairperson was made.

Following the decision of the national council, Moosa announced his resignation from his position as the leader of the parliamentary group.

The MDP council discussed the payment of a salary for the party’s deputy chairperson, but resolved not to pay any person at an elected post.

Full details of the national council meeting were not provided and no media outlet was invited to attend the meeting.

Deputy Leader of MDP and MP Alhan Fahmy told Minivan News that the national council meeting “concluded successfully”.

‘’All went accordingly to the party’s charter and rules,’’ Alhan said. ‘’There are no internal issues within the party or the leadership regarding any decisions made.’’

Local media have reported that MDP leader, former fisheries minister Dr Ibrahim Didi, was unhappy with the decision made by the national council to appoint Moosa as the acting Chairperson for one year.

Online newspaper Sun Online reported Didi as claiming that the decision violated the party’s charter and regulations and that he would seek legal advice to clarify whether it was possible.

Alhan however said that he has no information about the remarks made by Dr Didi, and MDP Parliamentary Group’s Media Coordinator MP Mohamed Shifaz did not respond to Minivan News.

President Mohamed Nasheed also attended the national council meeting.


Parliament rejects Mahlouf’s proposed amendments to Gang Violence Act

Parliament yesterday rejected amendments presented by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf narrowing some of the rights guaranteed in the constitution, as well as extending the Gang Violence Act to encompass all persons charged with criminal offences.

Out of the 52 MPs present only 15 MPs voted in favor of the amendment, while 34 of them voted to dismiss the amendment proposed to Gang Violence Act.

Under the amendment, persons charged with criminal offences stated in the Gang Violence Act do not have the right to remain silent and the right not to be detained during investigation.

The amendment assumes that any person charged with offences mentioned in the Act should be considered a person who will attempt to influence witnesses and is therefore a danger to the public.

Mahlouf said that the objective of the amendment was to prevent criminals from being left at large during the time their verdicts should be implemented, and said it would pave way for the judges to easily convict persons charged with offences related to gang violence.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Parliamentary Group Leader and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, speaking in the parliament session during the preliminary debate, said he supported the amendment.

Moosa said that judges attended parliament’s 241 (national security) committee to discuss gang violence and were told that judges did not have an adequate level of security because each did not have a car and house in Male’.

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed, former legal reform minister, noted that the whole amendment was based on withdrawing the right to remain silent, an article of the contentious ‘Sunset Bill’ that would greatly boost police powers for a limited period and remains before parliament.

Parliament also rejected an amendment presented by Mahlouf to the Child Act , which would lower the legal age to 15 years.

Meanwhile, parliament has added to tomorrow’s agenda a request by the MDP to dismiss Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member Dr Afrasheem Ali.


ACC’s stop work order on Heavy Load politically motivated, alleges Reeko Moosa

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has ordered Thilafushi Corporation Limited (TCL) to halt the dredging of Thilafushi lagoon, because of issues that “could lead” to corruption in its contract with Heavy Load Maldives.

ACC Commissioner Hassan Luthfee told newspaper Haveeru that details of an investigation into TCL’s selection of Heavy Load for the 130 hectare dredging project would be released tomorrow.

Heavy Load was awarded the US$21 million project on September 30 last year, and inaugurated the project on February 4.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also expressed concern over the project, which it claimed had “started work” prior to being issued an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The EPA’s Director of Environmental Protection and Research, Ibrahim Naeem, confirmed to Minivan News that a license was granted to Heavy Load on Feburary 10, while work started on the Feburary 4th.

He could not clarify if this meant the company had begun actually dredging prior to being issued the license.

“Dredging has a large impact on the environment, which is why licenses are issued to ensure mitigation measures are in place,” he explained.

Heavy Load is a family business interest of ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s parliamentary group leader.

Speaking from Colombo, Moosa told Minivan News that Heavy Load had spent 2-3 months mobilising resources for the project. The February 4 inugration attended by President Mohamed Nasheed was symbolic, and did not necessarily mean the company had started dredging work, he said.

As for the ACC’s allegations it was, he said, “not a coincidence” that the announcement had been made a day after allegations broke in the Indian press that People’s Alliance (PA) leader Abdulla Yameen – also former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s half-brother – sold blackmarket oil to the Burmese miliary junta.

“There is a part of the ACC that is not free and fair,” Moosa said, alleging that the commission was subject to misuse for political purposes.

“PA’s Deputy Leader [Ahmed] Nazim is very close with one of the commission members, [Abdulla] Hilmy, which needs closer investigation,” Moosa said.

“I am a strong part of this government and I think this is a political trick. I haven’t even been into the Heavy Load office in one and a half months because of my campaigning [in the local council elections]. It is run by my family, my children.

“I had shipping company in 1981 when [former President] Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his brother-in-law took me to prison and destroyed my business and my life. I spent four years in prison and they have not answered for this,” Moosa contended, questioning why the ACC was not investigating audit reports concerning prominent ministers in the former administration.

Moosa further claimed that Heavy Load had already deployed dredger for the work and was unlikely to halt on the ACC’s orders – “they have to go to the court and provide evidence of corruption,” he said.

In late January the ACC ordered a halt on another government contract, between the Department of Immigration and Malaysian mobile security firm Nexbis, claiming that there were instances where corruption may have occurred.

Facing political pressure ahead of the local council elections, President Mohamed Nasheed upheld the ACC’s request that the roll-out of the technology be postponed.

Nexbis responded that it would be taking legal action against parties in the Maldives, claiming that speculation over corruption was “politically motivated” in nature and had “wrought irreparable damage to Nexbis’ reputation and brand name.”

Moosa told Minivan News that it was unlikely the Heavy Load project would be similarly held: “We are not a foreign company,” he said.

The dredging is part of TCL’s development of a new port catering to 15,000 ton cargo ships and container terminal, on 3.8 million square foot of land. The project is partly intended to free up land currently occupied by the port in Male’, one of the most densely populated cities in the world at over 100,000 people per square kilometre.


Moral in the political plight of former President’s classmates, says MDP

The collapse of longstanding dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, leaders of which were classmates of former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, carried moral lessons for the Maldives, claimed Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

”Today the citizens of Arab countries have stood up against their leaders – classmates of [former President] Maumoon, in fact – who were practicing dictatorship like Maumoon,” said Reeko Moosa. ”Take a look at the situation in Tunisia, take a look at the situation in Egypt, where Maumoon received his education.”

Moosa said the citizens of the Maldives should “see the moral” in the situation in these countries.

”The citizens of the Maldives should see the moral in the situation in these countries, ahead of the local council elections, and should not let Maumoon’s regime reinstate their power,” Reeko Moosa said. ”I call citizens of the Maldives to take a look at the situation in these Arab countries  as an example.”

Minivan News attempted to contact DRP MP Ahmed Nihan for a response, but he had not replied at time of press.

If the opposition won the local council elections, Moosa claimed that the situation of the Maldives was likely to become that of Tunisia and and Egypt. If the citizens wished to uphold democracy and not let a dictatorship return in the Maldives, people should vote for MDP in the local council elections, he contended.

President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile spoken to opposition leader in Egypt, Mohamed El Baradei.

”Egyptians would have taken note of the lessons learnt from the Maldives, in their own struggle for democracy,” Nasheed said.

The President’s Office said that during the conversation Nasheed spoke about the struggles Maldivians endured to hold the country’s first  democratic elections in 2008.

”President Nasheed said he was deeply concerned to hear that Mr El Baradei remained in detention under house arrest in the Egyptian capital, Cairo,” said the President’s Office. ”The President pointed out to Mr El Baradei that Maldivians have always loved freedom and thus Maldivians will always support those who are peacefully advocating for political freedom in Egypt.”

Supreme Court has “no authority to dismiss ministers”, claims Reeko Moosa

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has claimed that the Supreme Court has no authority to dismiss ministers from their positions.

“MPs have the power to dismiss Supreme Court judges, and the Supreme Court will understand that the panel consists of judges we appointed,” Moosa said. ”Parliament does not know how to remove ministers from their position,” he claimed.

The matter saw parliament proceedings derailed for three weeks on points of order. Eventually the MDP boycotted the endorsement process during the vote last Monday, and seven ministers were ‘disapproved’.

The government meanwhile contends that the only way to remove a minister from their position is through a no-confidence motion.

However, the opposition believes that the procedure of cabinet appointments remains incomplete without the consent of parliament, and that ministers should not remain in office after the parliament disapproves them.

After disputes last week, the opposition filed the case in the Supreme Court.

Referring to the opposition’s refusal on Finance minister presenting the budget, Moosa said that if the opposition MPs obstructed Finance Minister Ali Hashim from entering the parliament ”he will enter the parliament with the citizens of the nation.”

Moosa also alleged that DRP MPs planned “to attack” Hashim if he entered the parliament to present the budget.

”If DRP committed any such actions, no ministers will remain silent. I – Moosa Manik – and MDP activists will go to their houses.”

However, DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom said that Hashim was a ‘former’ minister and former ministers cannot present the state’s budget in parliament.

”A person becomes a minister only after the person successfully passes the three procedures: presidential appointment, parliamentary consent and taking the oath,” Mausoom said. ”[Moosa] Hecannot say that the courts have no authority – courts have full authority to make the best decision to resolve every issue.”

Mausoom said Moosa’s remarks reveals how much the government disregards the constitution and laws.

”This issue should have long been resolved if some people did not have these issues of stubbornness,” he said.

He also said that parliament speaks the citizen’s words and ”participation of citizens is required in sincere good governance.”