UNHRC expresses concern over threats to civil society organisations: MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has highlighted concerns raised by the UN Committee on Human Rights (UNHRC) that civil society organisations in the Maldives have allegedly received threats after submitting evidence to the inter-governmental body.

According to the MDP, the warning came during the closing stages of the Committee’s consideration of the Maldives’ report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel and State Minister for Foreign Affairs have spent the last few days defending the country’s human rights record before the committee, which received a series of reports critical of that record from numerous local and international organisations.

An emergency point of order was raised by the Vice Chair of the Committee during the closely stages of the committee hearing.

The committee had, the Vice Chair said, “received extremely worrying reports that civil society groups in the Maldives which gave information for this meeting have been the subject of threats as a result. This includes the worst kind of threat – the threat to life,” the MDP cited in a statement.

Reprisals against such organisations and individuals for cooperating with international human rights bodies was a serious concern, the panel noted, and urged the government to ensure civil society was protected.

The MDP noted that with the statement, the Maldives had joined other States to have received such warnings including Bahrain and Sri Lanka.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that the government had “received complaints” from former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Farhanaz Faizal, “that she has been receiving death threats, and we have brought this to the attention of the High Commission in London and the police.”

Minivan News was awaiting clarification from Dr Faizal at time of press.

Helios submission

Separately, Minivan News obtained an email sent by President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad to the Helios Life Association, a Swiss-based NGO which submitted a report to the UNHRC claiming that “the growing political and institutional influence of radical Islamic groups has undermined the Maldives’ progress towards realisation of rights guaranteed under the ICCPR.”

The Helios report noted that “this growing radicalisation resulted in the creation of a coalition of political parties in December, called the 23rd December Coalition for the Defence of Islam.

“As well as extremist religious elements, the 23rd December Coalition comprised of a range of political groups and individuals linked to the country’s former autocratic leader, Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The Coalition had been formed in direct opposition to the observance of international human rights law, particularly to the undertaking given at the UPR process that a national debate will be held on ending forms of punishment not consistent with Article 7.”

The report drew the Committee’s attention to the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to the Maldives and the vitriolic reaction to calls she made for a moratorium of the flogging of women for extramarital sex.

“The [December 23] Coalition proceeded to carry out a coup d’etat on February 7, which was executed by elements of the army and police loyal to Mr Gayoom, his close allies and former members of his government, and other parts of the 23rd December Coalition, following a call by the then Vice‐President, Dr Mohamed Waheed, to ‘defend Islam and the Constitution’”, the Helios report alleged.

“The coup saw elements of the police and army threaten the Maldives’ first democratically‐elected President, Mr Mohamed Nasheed, his family and colleagues from the ruling Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), with physical harm or worse unless he resign by a certain time.”

In the email sent to the Helios Association, Imad asks the organisation’s President, Dr Anna Barchetti Durisch, for the “names and positions” of the report’s authors, and whether a delegation from the organisation had visited the Maldives to assist in the drafting.

Speaking to Minivan News, Imad said that the picture on the front of the report – consisting of several police officers holding a baton to an old man with a bloody head injury – was a “fake picture” that had been photoshopped.

As for the report’s content, “much of it is biased. It sounded like a joke to me,” he said.

Pictured: The Helios report cover image the government alleges is fake.


Ameen-Aslam report published in English

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have released an English version of their report detailing the behind-the-scenes actions of the police and security services during the controversial transfer of power of February 7.

The report, produced by former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam and former National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal, was labelled an “act of terrorism” by the government due to its extensive use of intelligence sources and serving police and MNDF officials.

Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed was subsequently arrested, while other police officers who had cooperated with the report were rounded up and detained, and their houses searched.

Police initially denied the allegations of a “witch hunt” and issued a statement accusing the media of “circulating baseless and false reports”. However court warrants for the arrest of Hameed and Staff Sergeant Ahmed Naseer were subsequently leaked.

The report outlines what the MDP government knew of the then-opposition’s plan to topple the government by soliciting “about 500 police officers” to protest in the Republic Square, that led to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation “under duress” on February 7.

The report alleged that in September 2011 council members of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) met with a retired Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) warrant officer (grade one), a retired brigadier general and a retired deputy police commissioner at the apartment of PPM council member Ahmed ‘Mars’ Saleem to discuss ways to topple the government.

At the meeting, the report stated, the retired warrant officer proposed that “the only way to change President Nasheed’s government” was for “about 500 police officers to come out and protest at the Republic Square”.

“During these discussions, when the retired deputy police commissioner gave assurances that it could be done, PPM interim deputy leader Umar Naseer raised doubts [about the possibility],” the report claimed.

However, following extensive discussions, “it was decided that work would begin on creating an atmosphere for [a police-led protest at Republic square].”

The report further claimed that the “December 23 coalition” of eight political parties and affiliated NGOs – which staged a mega-protest to “Defend Islam” from the alleged “securalisation agenda” of President Nasheed – was formed as a result of “a lengthy discussion” at the Adhaalath Party office between a prominent religious scholar and the aforementioned warrant officer.

The ‘mega-protest’ was meanwhile primarily funded by Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, the report claimed.

The party also released an English version of former MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi’s list of criminal charges against President Mohamed Waheed.

Download the Ameen-Aslam Report (English)


Comment: Conflicting interim reports highlight political spat

Two interim reports from the two sides, so to say, and the focus is slowly slipping away from the work on hand for the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) probing then-Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation of February 7. It is back more ore less in the realm of politics and public-spat.

Of the two reports, if they could be called so, one has the relative legitimacy of being produced by the outgoing CNI before it was expanded, and the other from President Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), at whose instance the CNI is being expanded in the first place. Who jumped the gun and why are questions for which neither side may have convincing answers.

It does not stop there. The police have since arrested a senior intelligence officer from the Nasheed era, for providing information for the MDP report. Chief Superintendent of Police Mohamed Hameed and Staff Sergeant Ahmed Naseer were arrested, based on court warrants, for talking to the MDP probe.

The Government side has also questioned the propriety of President Nasheed’s one-time Defence Minister and later National Security Advisor, AmeenFaizal, who co-authored the MDP report and sought to establish the party’s earlier claims of a ’military/police coup’ forcing President Nasheed’s resignation. At the same time, Assistant Police Commissioner Hassan Habeeb has reportedly complained a that a Quran teacher has stopped giving tuition classes for his daughter, citing his name figuring in the MDP report.

President Waheed Hassan has since sort of clarified that the expanded CNI with an MDP nominee and a retired Judge from Singapore as external member on the panel would review the work done by the probe team thus far, before proceeding with the task on hand.

Yet, it is anybody’s guess if and why the Government did not discourage the CNI from publishing the ’time-line’, when it was due for review. The CNI’s claim that the publication was to encourage the public to come up with their views within a given deadline does not wash. The people at large were not privy to the controversies attending on President Nasheed’s resignation, and they could not have been called to act as jury in the case, which could only be described as tendency towards ’mobocracy’ of sorts.

The MDP can be expected to raise the issue of the outgoing CNI publicising its incomplete work as prejudicing the views of the expanded CNI and also that of the public. There is some validity in the party’s position as none of the three members of the incumbent CNI are expected to opt out. Thus, they could still have defended their work even if the two new members were to contest the same. Incidentally, they would still hold numerical majority in the expanded CNI. The party, citing the CNI, has also demanded President Waheed’s resignation, but has been selective about its side of the story flowing from the CNI time-line. Having launched mob violence repeatedly on the streets of Male, the national capital, and other urban centres across the country, the party may have also lost the moral right to question the methods of others ? Not that such a tendency by anyone should be encouraged, now or later.

The publication of the CNI time-line should not absolve the MDP of the charge that they too might have shot themselves in the foot all over again. Having demanded steadfastly for expanding the CNI and having its nominee on board, along with one representing the international community so to say, the party should have waited for the probe report to be out before coming out with its clarifications, if any. Two wrongs do not a right make, and possible MDP’s claims that the existing CNI was the one that started off the game should not wash, either. The party could be charged with seeking to influence the expanded CNI and the people at large, just as it has charged the existing CNI already.

The MDP has also not denied the charge flowing from the arrest of the two police officers, who were believed to have talked to the party’s probe team. Instead, the party’s international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has charged the Government with purging ’police whistle-blowers’, as if to defend their right to speak to private probes, particularly when an official one was halfway through its work. Even granting that the police officers concerned had talked to the MDP team in good faith that the Government probe is an eye-wash, it is anybody’s guess why the party decided to proceed with the publication of the report of its two-member team after its demands on the CNI front had been met, through international intervention. Thus, it is not the party whose credibility alone is under a cloud now.

Pressuring the probe at birth

Prima facie, avoidable controversies of the kind will pressure the expanded CNI at birth, and also take precious time off their work-schedule, viewing and reviewing the work already done, more closely than may have been otherwise. This could mean that the expanded, five-member CNI may not be able to meet the July-end deadline for submitting its report. The three-member, original CNI could not meet the May-end deadline earlier, after a decision was taken to expand the same, to include representatives proposed by the MDP and the Commonwealth.

This could push back future political negotiations, particularly on the MDP demand for early poll for the presidency that much more. One can safely conclude at this stage that the MDP’s year-end deadline for the purpose may be dismissed as impractical. Thus far, the Government parties have been arguing that the demand was improper and not provided for in the Constitution as it exists now.

The constitution of the CNI also suffers from another lacuna, among many, which the inexperience of the nation’s polity – particularly that of the more vociferous MDP – has not addressed. Having been constituted by President Waheed, the CNI will have to submit its report to him. Through the past months since the exit of President Nasheed, the MDP in particular has charged President Waheed with being party to the ’conspiracy’. It has always demanded the resignation of President Waheed. Under such circumstances, the propriety of the CNI submitting its report to President Waheed could be under question. One can expect the MDP in particular to raise such issues, post facto, but it may be in the fitness of things to address such minor irritants early on as they could be blown out of proportion on a later day.

Whither Roadmap talks?

Even without what could be described as inevitable delays in the working of the CNI, the Roadmap Talks for political reconciliation remain dead-locked. The agenda for the talks is noteworthy for including in it concerns for consensus over the nation’s economy, going beyond the realm of immediate politics. There are also references to the need for constitutional amendments for protecting national institutions. These are serious issues, which need to be taken up in a spirit of national understanding and cohesion, going beyond the immediate demands of partisan politics of one kind or the other. Many of the issues on board relate to the dynamic nature of democratic politics and Constitution-making for a nation that had remained politically insulated from modern influences and practices. The Indian contribution to the Roadmap talks too should be viewed from the South Asian neighbour’s experience with the dynamic processes of democratic well-being.

It does not flow that the Roadmap Talks should be finding solutions to each of the identified problems facing the nation, here and now. As the processes that it had set in motion for its functioning the all-party grouping had started with prioritising the agenda for discussion, decision-making and implementation. They now need to focus on these greater aspects of democratic being and Constitution-making, which are both dynamic processes. Having set the nation’s priority, the stake-holders can then prioritise between those needing their immediate attention and solution, and those that need to mature further before the nation could apply its collective wisdom to problem-solving.

Ensuring the independence of constitutional institutions and establishing their credibility have to be dovetailed if Maldivian democracy has to mean something more than what governance was all about in the pre-democracy era. It is not only about the MDP picking up individuals with a past but also insisting only on publicising their past, and politicking almost exclusively on the same. Such an approach meant that there was paucity of ideas for the Nasheed Government other than those prescribed on the economic front by an external organisation as the IMF. This created a chasm within the polity and even otherwise, which the Government of the day sought to brush under the democracy carpet.

’Conflict as comfort zone’

Instead, it is all about addressing the larger issues and concerns that related to the past, and the accompanying circumstances. There are few MDP leaders, for instance, who do not have their past linked to what the party often describes as the ’dreaded regime’ of former President Maumoon Gayoom. The second-line leaders in a cadre-based party like the MDP and in a country like MDP with no democratic past to boast of at any point in time, do not have the kind of exposure and experience required to govern a nation as complex as Maldives, however ’tiny’ it might look for the outside world.

Independent of the numbers that have been added to the MDP membership list after the party came to power, the core cadre of the party still seem to live in the past. The have been fed on an ideology and dogma that have no relation to ground realities of politics and public life in any democracy. They have also been slow in on-job learning, in relation to the attitudinal changes required to be the party in power. This trend seems to dominate the decision-making processes in the party, post-resignation, as well, and the MDP seems shy of reviewing its own contributions to the expanding political mess and the repeated constitutional deadlocks.

This does not mean that the MDP alone has the responsibility in the matter. Most, if not all political parties in the Government at present, were partners with the MDP in ushering in democracy ahead of the presidential polls in 2008. All of them, including then President Gayoom, had facilitated the democratic transition. While most others also facilitated the election of MDP’s Nasheed as President in the second, run-off round, as the incumbent, President Gayoom willingly handed over power without protest or plots, which some MDP leaders had otherwise anticipated during the run-up to the presidential polls. They too thus share the responsibility for having democracy take deep-roots, particularly since no one in the nation’s polity seems to be visualising any reversal of democracy. Yet, the responsibility of the MDP in ushering in democracy, and the party’s attendant duty for understanding the processes even better, is a role that the leadership has to take more seriously than at present.

For now, Maldives and Maldivians can take heart that they have only ’telescoped’ the dynamism of democracies into a much shorter span than in nations of the world, including South Asian neighbours like India and Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Yet, Maldives cannot afford to continue with conflict as comfort zone of internal contradictions, to the exclusion of the work on hand and issues of every day governance that can be put off only at peril to the nation and the people, and polity and political leaderships. They need to act, and no time is better than the hour that has already been lost.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Maldives “too expensive” say tourists

With most of the tourists ranking Maldives as an expensive holiday destination in a 2011 survey, the industry is reminded of the longstanding need to explore means to change that perception, as it faces new challenges in sustaining the growing China market while European arrivals drop.

The “Maldives Visitor Survey 2011” compiled by the private consulting firm Commerce, Development and Environment (CDE) in collaboration with Tourism Ministry, depicts the tourist’s perspective on industry related products and services, reason for visiting and expenditure.

Nearly 3000 tourists who arrived in Maldives in April 2011 were given questionnaires, which were collected for analysis before their departure.

Too expensive

According to the report released today, 46 percent of the tourists believed accommodation is too expensive despite the high rankings for services at the place of stay.

Soft drinks, alcohol were also rated expensive by 42 percent, while food, water and souvenirs received a similar ranking from 41 percent of tourists polled.

Transport by sea and air, including sports activities, meanwhile made it to the top three on the “value for money” category.

The report indicates that 53 percent of the tourists spent a minimum of US$1000 during their stay in Maldives, while the expenditure trends show an increase.

However, speaking at the launching ceremony, tourism tycoon “Champa” Hussain Afeef demanded more accurate figures on expenditure, with comparisons to rival small island tourism destinations.

He also contended that the Maldives is “not an expensive country”, and that this was a mere “perception”.

“We have very top end hotels to come to” he said, which offers high quality products targeted to the tourists arriving from the traditional European market.

He insisted that resorts still offer beds at US$250 rate and prices have not increased since the commencement of Tourism Goods and Services Tax (TGST).

Tourism Minister Mariyam Zulfa agreed with Afeef.

“The current perception is coming about from the availability of current high end products,” adding that the prices cannot be lowered.

The government was moving towards boosting mid-market tourism, Zulfa observed. “This will provide more value for money, comfortable accommodation affordable to more people who want to visit Maldives,” she said.

Adapting to the Chinese market

The need to adapting to the Chinese market, which is dominating 15 percent of arrivals and plugging the gaps left by a decline in traditional European market, was highlighted by the survey team and the government.

Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, who launched the survey report today, reiterated that China is the dominating market and “products need to be changed to adapt to China market”.

“Otherwise we will not be able to sustain the market,” he said.

However, some resort operators inclined towards relying on the traditional European market.

“We need to find a strategy to maintain our traditional original market,” Sun Travel and Tours Chairman and MP Ahmed Siyam said, raising concerns over the long term dependence on Chinese market.

“We noticed arrivals from Taiwan increased in 2002. But after five years it dropped. And now we don’t see a single Taiwanese tourist here,” he claimed. “We must ask why Chinese are coming to Maldives. They don’t like the sun. They don’t like the beach or the diving.”

Negative publicity

The survey team observed that the Maldives is chosen as a destination mostly based on material published on internet, or from word of mouth. Therefore, it is critical to safeguard the reputation as a holiday destination, report recommends.

Shiyam meanwhile pointed out that the industry is threatened by increasing “negative publicity”, which has reportedly mounted due to the mass religious protest on December 23, 2011, and the short-lived nationwide spa ban imposed following protesters’ calls to close down the spas and massage parlors claiming that they doubled as brothels.

Shiyam claimed that the spa was one of the most enjoyed activities and their closure would create serious concerns. “We need to isolate tourism from politics to ensure sustainable tourism growth,” he asserted.

According to the report, snorkelling was enjoyed by 41 percent of tourists while diving and spa treatments received the same ranking from 17 percent tourists.

It also stated that one in four visitors return to the Maldives.

The main attractions include the Maldives natural environment, sun and peacefulness. Over half of the tourists rated the Maldives natural environment, quality of products, security and hospitality better than other similar destinations such as Seychelles, Mauritius, Thailand, Indonesia and Fiji.

However, the tourists were looking for improvement in cafes, restaurants, visits to capital Male and shopping, and fewer transfer delays.


Maldives one of seven most important countries on UN Human Rights Council: Human Rights Watch

The Maldives has been identified as one of the seven most important countries on the UN Human Rights Council, in a report by the Human Rights Watch organisation.

The Maldives, together with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, the United States and Zambia were identified has making “a critical difference” during the period of the report, “working both collectively and in parallel to ensure that the Council’s mandate to address and prevent situations of violations was fulfilled more rigorously, recognising the Council’s inaction of the past”.

Negative influences identified on the Council included China, Cuba and Russia, the report noted, which “systematically voted to reject any action of the Council that they deemed too critical of a state, or that was not supported by the state in question. They argued that the Council should be a forum where states meet to discuss human rights issues cooperatively without what they considered to be interfering in the domestic affairs of others.”

In particular, the Maldives was praised for its energetic engagement with the council and its solid voting record.

“Despite having a small delegation, [the Maldives] commitment to human rights and democracy has motivated it to be a part of, or to take leadership on, a significant number of initiatives over the last year. The Maldives was among the first group of signatories calling for the special sessions on Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. The Maldives also cosponsored the resolutions on Iran, Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, and Kyrgyzstan,” the report said.

However it identified as “regrettable” the Maldives position on whether to launch an international investigation into war crimes in the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war, “particularly on the question of accountability.”

“The Maldives has been uncharacteristically reluctant to endorse the calls of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General’s panel for the creation of an independent international mechanism to investigate the final months of the conflict. Its close bilateral relationship with Sri Lanka, rather than the credible allegations coming from the ground, has prompted this position,” the report noted.

“The Maldives should revisit its approach on Sri Lanka in order to bring it in line with its otherwise principled approach to human rights at the Council.”

The report also noted that despite its strong record of positive engagement on many issues at the Council, “the Maldives supported the resolution on traditional values and voted with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) against the resolution on human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem meanwhile said the Maldives was proud that the country was now “internationally-respected for its commitment to human rights and for its influence on the global stage”

“At the time, many people doubted the Government’s decision to put forward the Maldives’ candidature for the UN Human Rights Council, saying we are too small to make a difference. Human Rights Watch’s new report shows unequivocally that such doubts were misplaced. Not only has the Maldives played a central role at the Council, we have also helped make the Council far more effective as the pre-eminent global body responsible for protecting human rights,” Naseem said.

Read the full report (English)


Scottish scientists optimistic that Maldives can achieve carbon-neutral status

The Maldives could use marine energy to reach its goal of becoming the first carbon neutral nation by 2020, the Scottish Government has announced.

A report produced by the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Practice (CUSP) at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, and supported by the Scottish government, explored the use of marine energy to combat trends in global warming.

Scotland’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, said CUSP looks forward to further cooperative efforts with the Maldives.

“This report furthers the understanding of the challenges and opportunities for marine energy in the Maldives, and its findings will be incorporated into the developing Maldives Renewable Energy Investment Framework.”

The CUSP report analysed the technological and socio-economic possibilities for using marine energy in the Maldives, and considered the natural resources and geographic conditions.


Allegations of STO’s blackmarket oil deals with Burma “politically motivated”: Gayoom

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has lashed out at comments made by the Presidential Commission yesterday that top-level officials from the former administration were involved in blackmarket oil deals with the Burmese military junta.

The allegations were first published in India’s The Week magazine on Friday. In the article, CNN-IBN Chief National Correspondent Sumon K Chakrabarti described Gayoom’s half brother and former STO Chairman Abdulla Yameen as “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through the State Trading Organisation’s branch in Singapore and sell it on through an entity called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta, at a black market premium.

The article, which has since been published on the magazine’s website, also claimed that Singaporean police were investigating the incidence of shipping fraud linked to STO Singapore. It drew heavily from a draft report from forensic accountancy firm Grant Thorton, commissioned by the Maldives government to investigate financial records on three hard drives pertaining to STO Singapore’s operations.

Gayoom has claimed that the allegations by the Presidential Commission were politically motivated. Newspaper Haveeru reported Gayoom as distancing himself from the STO, quoting the former President as saying that “I [had] no connections with the STO when I was the president and after that.

“STO has a board and a Chairman that oversee all the operations of the company. I never [got] involved in the matters of STO. The company will reveal its annual financial report at its General Meeting every year and discuss on the matters [raised in the report],” Haveeru reported Gayoom as saying.

“The commission is trying to tarnish my reputation because of the support given to me by the residents of the islands and the success DRP achieved in the local council election,” he reportedly added.

Yameen dismissed the allegations as “absolute rubbish” following the publication of Chakrabarti’s original story in The Week.

He acknowledged using the STO to send funds to his children in Singapore during his time as chairman, but denied doing so money following his departure from the organisation.

“After I left, I did not do it. In fact I did not do it 3 to4 years before leaving the STO. I used telegraphic transfer,” he told Minivan News.

Yameen also denied being under investigation by the Singaporean police.

Asked to confirm whether the STO Singapore had been supplying fuel to Myanmar during his time as chair of the board, “it could have been – Myanmar, Vietnam, the STO is an entrepreneurial trade organisation. It trades [commodities like] oil, cement, sugar, rice to places in need. It’s perfectly legitimate. “

In a subsequent interview with VTV’s ‘Fas Manzaru’ program, Yameen acknowledged flying to Burma during a period when the STO faced a rice shortage, “a very long time ago.” He had not visited in the past 16 years, he said.

“Perhaps this government is afraid that with my supposed Myanmar military links, I might bring over weapons from that country and overthrow this [Maldivian] government. But I have to say that those military officials in the Burmese government are ones I have never met. I don’t even know them,” Yameen told VTV.

He also announced that he was “ready to offer anyone 90 percent” of the alleged US$800 million in laundered money cited by The Week article, “if they locate it for me.”

“I only want 10 percent. If I get US$800 million now, 10 percent of that will suffice for me. Even if I get around US$80 million dollars, it will be enough for me,” Yameen said.

“Therefore this time for anyone who helps locate this [money], I am ready to hand over 90 percent of all that into the finder’s name.”

Yameen called on police to investigate the matter alongside previous allegations in the Indian press that President Nasheed had consumed alcohol.

“I welcome investigation. But if investigations are being done, then it should also be investigated when an Indian newspaper publishes such defamatory material against the President,” Yameen said.

The Presidential Commission has meanwhile stated that details of the alleged racketeering would be disclosed on conclusion of the investigation, in collaboration “with international parties”.


Women earn half as much as men in the Maldives, finds WEF report

A report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked the Maldives 99th out of 134 countries for gender disparity, narrowly beating Azerbaijan.

The Global Gender Gap Index examines the gap between men and women in four fundamental categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.

Of the Maldives’ neighbours, Sri Lanka ranked 16th, Bangladesh 82nd, and India 112th.

Scandanavian countries Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden led the index, while Pakistan, Chad and Yemen were ranked last.

The Maldives ranking has changed little in three years, and scores fairly well for health and educational attainment in comparison with the region.

However data in the WEF’s report identifies a significant under-representation of women in business (to the point of negligible at a decision-making level) and politics, especially parliament and ministerial positions.

Moreover, men earn almost twice as much as women for the same level work, at a per capita income level, with an average annual wage of US$3,597 compared to US$6,714 for men.

Labour force participation for women is at 59 percent, compared to 79 percent for men.

The mean age of marriage for women in the Maldives is 23, the report found. It also noted that contraceptive prevalence among married women was 39 percent.

“The Global Gender Gap Report demonstrates that closing the gender gap provides a basis for a prosperous and competitive society,” observed the WEF report’s authors, Laura Tyson, and Angela Chan Professor of Global Management at the Haas School of Business, University of California.

“Regardless of level of income, countries can choose to integrate gender equality and other social inclusion goals into their growth agenda – and have the potential to grow faster – or they can run the risk of undermining their competitive potential by not capitalising fully on one-half of their human resources,” the authours noted.

“The economic incentive for closing the gender gap in health, education, economic opportunity and political power is clear.”