EU resolution based on ‘fabrications, misconceptions, and misrepresentations’

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the foreign ministry have slammed a European Union parliamentary resolution urging the government to release ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

The resolution is based on “fabrications, misconceptions and misrepresentations”, the PPM contended while foreign minister Dunya Maumoon declared that “the human rights achievements of the Maldives is better than some European countries.”

The non-binding resolution adopted today urged member states to issue warnings on the Maldives’ human rights record on their travel advice websites over an increased tendencies towards authoritarian rule, including Nasheed’s imprisonment for 13 years on terror charges.

The EU parliament noted a crackdown on political opponents including the imprisonment of two former defence ministers and a ruling party MP, the intimidation of media and civil society and the politicisation of the judiciary.

But Dunya said the Maldives’ “achievements since 2004 is exemplary for a small state.”

“We have a vibrant political system where people have space to express their political opinions without any hindrance. We do not shoot protesters. There is no looting in the name of political rallies.  Our custodial facilities do not torture those under state custody,” she said.

The PPM meanwhile said the EU had issued “equally grossly-misinformed releases” in the past, but “chose to turn a blind eye and stay silent on matters regarding the Maldives during the three year three month regime of former President Mohamed Nasheed, which was the single most brutal, dictatorial and violent period of rule in contemporary Maldivian history.”

The PPM suggested that the European parliament “risks tarnishing its own standing in global society, and it’s reputation among European citizens themselves by refusing, for shrouded political gains, to call a spade a spade.”

“The European Parliament must by now know that its failure to report the truth in matters regarding the Maldives has left its own reputation among the Maldivian public at serious risk of irreversible damage,” reads the PPM statement released today.

The ruling party went on to claim Nasheed’s government arbitrarily arrested political activists and MPs, sent out “knife-wielding thugs” against opposition protesters, unlawfully politicised state media, undermined independent institutions, and carried out corruption amounting to “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The rise of extremism worsened under Nasheed’s administration, it continued, as its “schizophrenic policies on religious affairs in the country had contributed to the ideological confusion among young people, which has led to some Maldivians fleeing the country to join the ranks of foreign fighters in ISIS-led terrorist conflict zones.”

As Nasheed was found guilty of ordering the “enforced disappearance” of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012 – “a gross Nazi-esque violation” of constitutional rights and international norms – the PPM asked whether the EU condoned the “kidnapping of judges”.

Neither the government nor the public will entertain calls for Nasheed’s release “through the very unlawful and unethical avenues that Nasheed himself employed”.

“This is not a banana republic nor is this a pawn of any regional bloc or external power,” the PPM said.

Hours before the resolution passed, president’s office minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu’ told the press he expected a “watered down” resolution, and said the government is “happy” with the resolution as it shows that the current administration is upholding the Maldivian constitution and sovereignty.

“Actionable” clauses such as imposing a travel ban and freezing assets of Maldivian government officials were removed before the resolution was put to a vote, he said.

According to Mundhu, the resolution  “praises” Nasheed and EU MEPs are demanding his release as the former president was “a proxy ruler” of Europeans. He alleged that the EU is condemning the Maldivian government for refusing to allow freedom of religion and same sex marriage.

The resolution was pushed through by the UK’s Conservative Party, which Mundhu said was a longstanding ally of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and the Christian Democratic Party.

Other parties in the European parliament “forced” the Conservative Party to remove the actionable clauses, he claimed.

Mundhu also said the EU refused to extend the duty-free status of fish imported from Maldives due to the country’s stance on freedom of religion and legalising gay marriage.

An EU delegation that visited the Maldives this week had told government officials yesterday that a non-binding resolution by the European parliament was inconsequential and akin to “a resolution adopted by the Baa atoll Thulhadhoo council,” Mundhu said.

President Abdulla Yameen has previously accused the EU of imposing restrictions on Maldivian imports for refusing to abandon Islamic principles.

The country has since sought other markets for fish exports and the EU was no longer  “that important economically, outside of tourism”.


Adhaalath condemns Maldives abstention on UN gay vote

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has condemned the government for abstaining from a United Nations vote on a resolution against providing gay marital benefits to all UN employees.

The secretary general of the Adhaalath Party, which condemns homosexuality, told Vnews the abstention indicated that the Maldives did not oppose providing the marital benefits for gay couples.

In a tweet yesterday, Adhaalath said that it was “shameful” that the Maldives abstained from voting on the resolution, which was voted down last week.

Secretary general Iaadh Hameed added that the government’s foreign policy should be built upon Islamic principles and values, and that those policies should not encourage irreligious acts.

The vote on the resolution was held on March 24, after Russia challenged UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s decision to provide marital benefits to legally wed gay and lesbian couples similar to those provided to heterosexual couples.

However, the UN General Assembly rejected the resolution, with 80 countries voting against it, 43 countries voted in favour and 37 countries abstaining.

While China, Belarus and Muslim-majority Malaysia voted in favour of the resolution, Muslim-majority Indonesia also abstained.

Previously, the Maldives government had strongly criticised the European Union, saying that EU asked the Maldives to legalise same sex marriage and freedom of religion in exchange for extending duty-free status on Maldivian fish.

Economic development minister Mohamed Saeed claimed at the time that the EU declined to extend the duty exemption after Maldives refused the condition of “allowing homosexual relations and the opportunity for people to follow any religion they want”.

“The Maldives is an Islamic state and will remain so. We will uphold Islam. We will not compromise on anything that conflicts with Islam,” he said.


Parliament sitting adjourned amid disorder

Today’s sitting of parliament was adjourned by Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed amid vociferous protests by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs over an amendment proposed to the parliamentary rules to require a vote ahead of debating bills and resolutions.

MDP MPs accused the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) of attempting to “silence the voice of the minority party” by blocking debate on resolutions.

The PPM together with the five MPs of coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) have a combined 48 seats in the 85-member house.

Under the existing rules or standing orders, bills and resolutions submitted to the People’s Majlis have to be tabled in the agenda and debated on the floor ahead of a vote.

If MPs decide to accept a bill or resolution following preliminary debate, it would be sent to committee for further review ahead of a final vote.

Previously, motions without notice – which opens the floor for a one-hour debate on matters of urgent public importance – submitted by MDP MPs have been defeated by the majority party.

In July, pro-government MPs voted against a motion without notice submitted by MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy to debate the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) controversial decision to clear Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed of misconduct over his appearance in a series of sex tapes.

Imthiyaz revealed to the press this week that Speaker Maseeh – a member of the PPM – had sent a letter on Saturday (August 16) to the general affairs committee requesting the revision.

Imthiyaz noted that a resolution he submitted in July calling for a parliamentary debate on the JSC decision regarding Justice Ali Hameed’s sex tapes has yet to be tabled in the agenda by the speaker.

Today’s sitting became disorderly during debate on a report (Dhivehi) compiled by the general affairs committee after evaluating the amendments proposed by the speaker.

The committee had rejected the amendment proposed to section 77(a) after MDA MP Ahmed Amir voted in favour of a proposal by Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ahmed Mubeen to keep the section unchanged.

The proposal was passed with five votes after Amir voted with JP and MDP MPs on the committee.

However, PPM MP Jameel Usman proposed the same amendment during today’s debate, prompting MDP MPs to object with points of order.

Several MDP MPs also sprang from their seats and surrounded Usman while he was proposing the amendment. Under the rules, once an amendment is proposed to a committee report and seconded, the speaker must put it to a vote.

MDP and JP MPs accused the ruling party of attempting to overrule the committee decision by using their majority in the full house floor.

However, Usman reportedly said later that he was not in favour of requiring a vote ahead of preliminary debates for bills and resolutions, claiming that he was going to propose giving each party and independent MP five minutes during debates but was shouted down.


PPM seeking to silence minority voice in parliament, says MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy

Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed has proposed an amendment to the parliamentary rules of procedure to require a vote to accept a resolution before opening the floor for a debate, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have revealed.

At a press conference today, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy explained that Speaker Maseeh – a member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives – had sent a letter to the general affairs committee requesting the revision.

Under the existing rules or standing orders, a resolution submitted to parliament has to be debated on the floor ahead of a vote.

Imthiyaz contended that the move by the majority party – which holds a comfortable majority in the 85-member house – was intended to “silence” the minority.

If the amendment is brought to the rules, Imthiyaz explained that resolutions submitted by the main opposition party would not be put up for a debate. A vote would first be called on whether or not to accept the resolution.

The MP for Maafanu North noted that a resolution he submitted in July calling for a parliamentary debate on a controversial decision by the Judicial Service Commission clearing Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed of misconduct has yet to be tabled in the agenda by the speaker.

The resolution was submitted after pro-government MPs voted down a motion without notice submitted by the MDP for a parliamentary debate on the issue.


Parliament resolution to ‘ensure election’ passed with show of hands, amid protest by pro-government MPs

A resolution submitted by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) calling on all state institutions to ensure that the second round of the presidential election is held as scheduled was passed at an extraordinary session of parliament today, amid disorderly protests by MPs of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP).

The resolution was read out by MDP MP Ali Waheed over loud protests and whistle and horn-blowing by pro-government MPs. The special sitting – held during the ongoing recess upon request of 29 MPs – was adjourned shortly thereafter by Speaker Abdulla Shahid due to disorder in the chamber caused by PPM and JP MPs gathered in front of his desk.

When the sitting resumed at 1:00pm to vote on the resolution, PPM and JP MPs were occupying the Speaker’s chair as well as the secretariat desk. The vote was called by Speaker Shahid – surrounded by security guards – standing in front of the chamber well and passed with a show of hands.

According to MP Ali Waheed, the resolution was passed with 37 votes in favour. The MPs occupying the Speaker’s space and secretariat desk appeared not to participate in the vote.

Following the adjournment of the sitting this morning, MDP MPs alleged on social media that MP Ahmed Amir – a member of the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), which is currently backing PPM presidential candidate MP Abdulla Yameen – poured water on and damaged the parliament sound system.

The MDP resolution adopted by parliament today meanwhile states that the second round run-off scheduled for September 28 should “not be delayed for any reason” and called for all state institutions to cooperate with the Elections Commission (EC) in adherence with constitutionally-stipulated deadlines for the presidential election.

Moreover, the resolution stated that the parliament’s security services or ‘241’ committee would oversee the actions of the police and military with regard to the second round of the presidential election to be held next Saturday.

The resolution was passed while a Supreme Court case initiated by the JP seeking the annulment of the September 7 election is ongoing, with the fifth hearing taking place today.

Chaos in the chamber

Today’s sitting took place after two previous attempts yesterday was disrupted by PPM and JP MPs who blew on whistles and a vuvuzela and gathered in front of the Speaker’s desk.

Yesterday’s sitting in the morning was adjourned after Speaker Shahid’s microphone was vandalised during the disruption.

The sitting resumed at 9:00pm but could not proceed due to similar disorder caused by PPM and JP MPs protesting in front of the Speaker’s desk.

Videos meanwhile emerged on social media showing PPM MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla using obscene language against Speaker Shahid and insulting his mother during the morning session.

Following the cancellation of the 9:00pm session, the MDP-aligned Raajje TV showed video of JP MP Ilham Ahmed, also the party’s deputy leader, take out what appeared to be pliers from his pocket and cut a cable.

Local media reported that PPM MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla and JP MP Shifaq Mufeed were injured in scuffles that broke out between pro-government and MDP MPs at last night’s sitting. The former was reportedly treated at ADK hospital last night.

Despite their apparent injuries both MPs were seen actively protesting at this morning’s session.

Speaking at a press conference last night, PPM vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed contended that the MDP was attempting to “cover up irregularities of the first round” of the presidential election on through the parliament.

PPM MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur told press outside parliament today that the party believed MDP’s resolution was unlawful as it involved an ongoing court case, and suggested that the Supreme Court would rule that it was unconstitutional.

Both Dr Jameel and MP Abdul Azeez alleged that the first round of the polls was rigged in the MDP’s favour, claiming that the 95,224 votes (45.45 percent) its candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed received included fraudulent votes.

Meanwhile, in a letter to MPs published on the parliament website following the incidents last night, Speaker Shahid wrote that yesterday’s attempts to proceed with the sitting were unsuccessful due to “numerous acts in violation of the People’s Majlis’ regulations.”

“In particular, the sitting could not proceed because [computer] systems, cameras and cables in the Majlis chamber were damaged with sharp objects on a number of occasions,” the Speaker’s letter stated, expressing concern with the actions of MPs.

The Speaker added that “assault, damaging Majlis property, and intimidating Majlis staff” was “unacceptable” conduct as the parliament was an institution where disputes should be peacefully resolved through discussion and dialogue.

Meanwhile, a car in the garage of Speaker Shahid’s residence was set on fire in the early hours of Monday morning. Local media reported that the car belonged to Shahid’s brother.

Shahid told newspaper Haveeru that CCTV footage showed a man with his face covered pour petrol and set the car alight, describing it as “an act of intimidation” intended to incite political unrest.


CNI criticism will “complicate” resolving all-party talks: Thasmeen

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has today welcomed efforts to resume the stalled all-party talks, despite warning that any agreement on resolving political tensions in the Maldives had been “complicated” by opposition criticism of a draft report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

The all-party talks, which were last held back in June, are one track of the international community’s response to the political turmoil in the Maldives, together with the Commonwealth-backed CNI.

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said today that his party had no objections to resume these all-party talks and subsequent discussions over the possibility of setting early elections.

However, Thasmeen claimed criticisms of the CNI’s findings by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s own representative on the commission threatened to compromise the chances of finding a potential resolution through dialogue.

The DRP is presently one of several parties serving in the coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

President Waheed announced on Friday (August 24) during an official visit to Sri Lanka that he would be inviting “political parties” to attend fresh all party talks, initially launched to try and resolve an ongoing deadlock in the country surrounding the controversial transfer of power that brought him to office in February.

While welcoming fresh talks, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which alleges that President Waheed came to power in a “coup d’etat”, has raised several concerns over the “conflicting statements” made by the government concerning talks of early elections and discussions on the potential outcomes of the CNI report.

The independence of the CNI’s report into the events surrounding the transfer of power on February 7 was itself today questioned by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s appointee to the commission, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed.

Saeed alleged that certain information and evidence provided to the CNI had been omitted in a draft report of the body’s findings drawn up by the commission’s co-chair.

“There are significant gaps in the draft and it does not include evidence and statements given to the commission by many people. I believe remaining silent on the unfolding of events would be an injustice to this nation and to the people of the Maldives,” he announced today.

“Taking positions”

DRP Leader Thasmeen contended that Saeed’s comments had potentially compromised the success for all-party talks to resolve the current political tensions, as key players had now begun taking positions on the CNI’s findings before they had even been released.

“One party is now making judgements on the CNI, when the whole idea was to set out potential responses to the CNI before its findings are released,” he said. “Now people are changing their positions on how they will respond to the findings and things will be much more complicated on reaching acceptance on the report.”

Thasmeen contended therefore that “regardless of the CNI’s outcome”, all parties should accept its findings.

In moving forward with all-party talks, Thasmeen claimed that the DRP itself had no objections to the nature of potential topics on the agenda – a consideration that had seen earlier all-party talks stall on a number of occasions.

“Preconditions are not healthy in these talks, but today’s events have made things much more complicated now,” he said.

Thasmeen added at the time of press that he had not yet been made aware of whether a formal invite to the all-party talks from the president had been received by the DRP as he had been away travelling.  He added that while the DRP welcomed talks between political representatives “at the highest level”, the party would wait to see who else would be attending the discussions before nominating its own candidate to take part.

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – a government coalition partner of the DRP – last night announced it would also be accepting President Waheed’s invite to participate in talks.

PPM Leader and former Maldivan President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told local media that the party’s decision to previously abandon the all-party talks had followed the start of what he claimed were “illegal activities” and protests carried out by the MDP.

PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer declined to comment today when contacted by Minivan News about the party’s participation in the talks or its response to the CNI’s findings.

While also welcoming the possibility of fresh talks today, MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that President Waheed had continued to be acting “irresponsibly” by giving conflicting statements regarding his support for talks.  Ghafoor said this was seen particularly in the manner the president had addressed issues such as discussing early elections and the possible outcomes of the CNI.

“[President Waheed] has said in Colombo that is the opposition who are destabilising the country at present, but it is his own conflicting positions that are doing this,” he alleged.

Ghafoor pointed to claims made by the president in both international and local media during his visit to Sri Lanka over the last week that he said showed conflicting viewpoints with his stated desire to resume the talks.  President Waheed and his government in a number of interviews ruled out Commonwealth calls for early elections, as well as maintaining there would be no discussion on the outcome’s of the CNI until its work was completed.

“We would welcome the all-party talks. On August 14 we proposed discussions on three potential outcomes of the CNI. By August 18 we had got a reply from the government, who have since then been giving conflicting statements to the media,” Ghafoor claimed. “[President Waheed] has now called for all parties to join in talks and discuss the previous six point agenda, which includes the issue of early elections. He has also said that early elections are out of the question as the Commonwealth doesn’t understand the present situation.”

Following Saeed’s statement today, the MDP convened an emergency meeting of its National Council, where a resolution expressing concern on the draft CNI report was adopted with unanimous consent.  The resolution was proposed by former minister Mohamed Shihab and seconded by MP Mariya Ahmed Didi,

Despite the party’s criticism of the investigation, Ghafoor contended that there remained time to find consensus among the members of the CNI panel concerning the findings before they were released to the public on Thursday (August 30).

“The CNI report should be something that all its members have to agree upon so without MDP’s word, the report would not be authentic,” Ghafoor said. “There is a draft out there that appears to conclude that there was no police mutiny [on February 7], this is just not acceptable given what the public saw,” he claimed.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza and Media secretary Masood Imad were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press.

However, speaking to local media following the release of Saeed’s statement today, Abbas claimed that Nasheed’s representative on the CNI panel had “violated” the agreement with the Commonwealth concerning disclosing details of the investigation.

“The Commonwealth agreement Nasheed signed states that a Singaporean judge will reside in CNI. No one must interfere with the work of the commission and also states that everyone must accept the findings of the commission,” he was quoted as saying in newspaper Haveeru. “But the representative from Nasheed sharing the draft report with the public is an indication that Nasheed does not respect any agreement.”

Abbas reportedly added that as a draft report, the CNI members still had room to discuss finalising the findings before their release.

Discussion focus

The previous round of the UN-mediated all-party talks, held at Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort and Spa in early June, collapsed after parties aligned with the government presented the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with a list of 30 demands.

The list included calls that the MDP “stop practicing black magic and sorcery”, “stop the use of sexual and erotic tools”, and “not walk in groups of more than 10”.

Following the Bandos retreat meeting, Convenor of the All-Party talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, acknowledged the lack of progress and suggested that “In the end, the most senior political leaders will need to create an atmosphere conducive to discussions, and come together prepared to work in good faith.”

Earlier this month, informal parliament-initiated talks – running parallel to the formal All-Party talks – were deemed to have stalled after participants failed to reach a consensus on resolving wider ongoing political deadlock and the suspension of the People’s Majlis.


National Security Committee to forward resolution prohibiting Israeli flight operations

The parliament’s National Security Committee (NSC) has today decided to forward a resolution to the parliament to prohibit operations of Israel’s El Al airline to the Maldives.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for the Madaveli constituency Mohamed Nazim, also a member of the NSC, today confirmed the decision to Minivan News.

According to Nazim the resolution will be forwarded to parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid today.

”The speaker will then decided when to present it to the parliament’s floor to ask for a vote,” Nazim said. ”The decision was made following a request made by the Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari to pass a resolution to prohibit the flight operations to the Maldives.”

In May Israel’s national carrier El Al formally applied to the Ministry of Transport to begin flying to the Maldives from December.

President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, said at the time that he believed the government was inclined to grant permission to the airline.

Later in April religious party Adhaalath resolved to terminate the coalition agreement with MDP in the event that permission was granted.

Transport Minister Adil Saleem previously said the ministry was processing a license for El Al subsidiary airline Sun d’Or International Airlines, and claimed the partnership would create opportunities for Israeli tourists to visit the country while also facilitating pilgrimages for Maldivians to mosques around Jerusalem and other parts of the country.

In September the Adhaalath Party’s council voted to break the coalition agreement to protest the current government’s religious policy, citing the Israeli flight issue as a component therein.

This week Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari requested the NSC to endorse a resolution forbidding the government to establish ties with Israel.

Expressing his views on the issue, Dr. Bari told the MPs he “personally does not support the Israel airline to operate in the Maldives”.

Speaking to Minivan News, Dr. Bari said that he made the request because he believes “Israel has committed several human rights violations”.

Dr. Bari noted that Maldives should not stand with Israel as it commits atrocities against the Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine.

“Maldives cut off ties with Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi’s government when he was killing, violating fundamental rights of his people. Similarly, Maldives should follow the same standard by isolating Israel for the atrocities committed against Muslims,” Dr.Bari said.


Israeli airlines will be licensed upon request: Transport Ministry

Israeli airlines are allowed operating licenses for the Maldives upon request, according to an agreement made between the two countries in 1993 and Israel’s membership of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Only a parliament-endorsed resolution can block an airline license, reports Haveeru.

Transport Minister Adil Saleem told local media that the ministry had decided to approve Israeli national carrier, El Al Israel Airlines, after the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit this November.

El Al applied for a license to operate flights to and from the Maldives every Tuesday starting December 13, Haveeru reports.

Earlier, El Al’s subsidiary airline Israeli Sun D’Or International applied to charter flights to the Maldives. Its request was denied by Maldivian authorities after Israeli Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) revoked the airlines’ operating license because it “did not comply with international standards.”