Indian government sends condolences following death of Maldivian Foreign Minister

The Government of India has expressed its “deepest condolences” following the death of Maldivian Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla.

India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, in a letter to Maldivian President Dr Mohamed Waheed, described Dr Samad as “not only a great diplomat and statesman but also a close personal friend.”

“His hard work in the service of Maldives and his high regard for India contributed immensely to furthering the bilateral relations between India and Maldives,” wrote Khurshid. “His contribution to development work during his tenure in the World Health Organisation in New Delhi is highly regarded by the people of India.”

In a statement, the Indian High Commission said Khurshid “conveyed deepest condolences to the bereaved family, colleagues and the people of Maldives on this irretrievable loss of a leader.”


Indian High Commission hosts Republic Day ceremony

The Indian High Commission hosted a function on Friday (January 25) at the Dharubaruge conference hall to celebrate India’s 64th Republic Day.

The ceremony, which included a dinner and different cultural dances from across India, was attended by an assortment of Maldivian dignitaries including Foreign Minister Dr Abdulla Samad and members of the cabinet.  Representatives of Male’s Indian expatriate community were also in attendance.

Speaking during the ceremony, Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Dnyaneshwar M Mulay conveyed greetings “to those Indian expatriates who are in Maldivian jails”.

“After the Independence of Maldives in 1965, India was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations and a full-fledged mission started working in the 70s. In the early days the State bank of India and Air India performed pioneering roles in project finance, banking and connectivity,” Mulay observed. “Old timers would remember the first telecommunication line between Mumbai and Malé known as Bombay line which was at that time Maldives’ only connection with the outside world,” he said.

“India believes in maintaining cordial relations with all its neighbours. We are proud of our special relationship with Maldives nurtured carefully for decades both by political leadership and the people of both countries. We are connected through several threads like economic, cultural, historical and above all geographic. Our destinies are tied and we share aspirations as well as concerns regarding the collective future of mankind.

The first contacts between India and Maldives go beyond two millennia. The messengers of peace and prosperity were sent to Maldives by Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BC. The Buddhist culture of Maldives continued till the arrival of Islam in 12th century. Throughout history, our maritime contacts have been very strong, as testified by many Arabian as well as Chinese travellers,” Mulay said.

Mulay outlined India’s contemporary contributions to the Maldives, and announced that the new eight storey Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism in Male’ would be handed over by the Indian government in several months.

“Our cooperation in the health sector and education sectors is well known. Indian teachers, doctors and nurses are serving the Maldivian people in many remote islands. A large number of Maldivians visit India for health services, education as well as tourism and recreation. I would like to appeal to both Indians and Maldivians to strengthen this partnership in the future,” Mulay added.

“Currently the Maldives is facing certain challenges, but we are confident that the wise people of Maldives will be able to choose a stable government that works further to strengthen these relations. India has always wished for a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Maldives since the security and peace in Maldives would have direct implications for our own security and peace,” he said.

“We are optimistic that the people of the Maldives will vote for the political and economic stability of the country. The hard earned democracy needs further support from all quarters.”

Mulay also noted that India has offered its assistance to the country’s Election Commission.

“Maldivians are dear to our heart. I would like to convey our assurances that no Maldivian would ever be denied visa to India and we will work very closely with the Maldivian authorities to resolve all the outstanding issues in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill,” he concluded.

Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Samad kept his address short, stating that Mulay had covered his topic thoroughly.

“The contributions of India to the Maldives, particularly towards security, and our socio-economic and human resources development, are too numerous to enumerate,” Samad said. “Many of our doctors and nurses are educated in India, as well as our civil servants, and likewise our military and police force have received significant support and training in India.”

“None of us can forget the support india promptly provided when we have had security problems in our country, or natural disasters during the past few decades,” Samad said.

Samad also thanked the Indian government for its support “during the past 10 months, following certain changes that have taken place in this country on the political front.”

“I should mention that the government of India was almost the very first country to recognise the changes that took place, and extended their support very quickly. In this regard, our gratitude to the government of India and his excellency [High Commissioner] Mulay is too significant to address,” he concluded.


ADC issue will bankrupt Maldives Airports Company: Finance Minister Jihad

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad has declared that the Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) is unable to pay the disputed airport development tax (ADC) without risking bankruptcy.

The ADC was intended to be a US$25 fee charged to outgoing passengers from January this year, as stipulated in the contract signed with Indian infrastructure giant GMR in 2010. The anticipated US$25 million the charge would raise was to go towards the cost of renovating INIA’s infrastructure.

The ADC was to be charged after midnight on January 1, 2012, however the Civil Court blocked the fee on the grounds that it was essentially the same as a pre-existing Airport Services Charge (ASC). Following the court ruling the Nasheed government agreed that the ADC be deducted from its concession fee paid to the government-owned company in charge of the airport, Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL).

On Monday however, new Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told local newspaper Haveeru that MACL should not and could not cover the development costs.

“The Civil Court ruled against that charge. Hence that amount must not be deducted from the payment to the government which would reduce its income,” Jihad argued. “The Airports Company might face losses if that happens,” he said.

“I don’t believe that GMR can deduct that amount from the payment owed to the government. The estimated US$30 million for this year must be paid. If the payment is not received it would be difficult to run the Airports Company,” he continued.

Speaking to Minivan News, Jihad said the next step was to ask GMR to resolve the issue after the board of MACL was reappointed.

“The new board will write to GMR… It is not for the Finance Ministry to interfere with the running of the [airport] company,” said Jihad.

He also claimed that he did not feel there were any specific provisions in the original deal detailing the collection of the ADC.

In a statement following the court decision, GMR stated that it “has been permitted to collect ADC and Insurance charge under the Concession Agreement signed between GMR-MAHB, Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) and The Republic of Maldives (acting by and through its Ministry of Finance and Treasury), and as such has set up processes for ADC collection from 1st January 2012 supported by an information campaign to ensure adequate awareness.”

CEO of INIA Andrew Harrison said that the company was unwilling to comment on the “sensitive” issue at this point.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla in assured his Indian counterpart that all existing investment agreements would be honoured.

According to the Indian newspaper, the Hindu, Samad assured Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that the government’s policy was unchanged, after his counterpart expressed the desire that the Maldives remained friendly to outside investors.

Longstanding opposition

The contentious Civil Court case was filed by the then-opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), now part of the ruling coalition, in a longstanding campaign against Nasheed’s government awarding the airport redevelopment to GMR. DQP leader Dr Hassan Saeed is now President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s special advisor, while DQP Vice-President Dr Mohamed Jameel is the new Home Minister.

The decision to finalise a deal to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) was agreed under the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed in 2010. GMR emerged victorious in the bidding process, amid political opposition on largely nationalistic grounds.

Umar Naseer, now the deputy leader of the ruling coalition party the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), previously announced his intention to re-nationalise the airport should his party come to power. Naseer also contended that the airport deal would allow “Israeli flights to come and stop over [in the Maldives] after bombing Arab countries”.

The DQP campaigned vigorously against the deal, producing a pamphlet last December titled “Handing the airport to GMR: The beginning of slavery”, in which it criticised the arrangement with GMR.

In the document, the party argued that deal would allow the Indian company to “colonise” the local economy to the detriment of Maldivians. The DQP also questioned the legality of the deal, taking the issue of the ADC to the civil courts.

The document further alleged that the deal did not make adequate provision for replacing the runway, the condition of which has come under increasing criticism.

Head of the DQP Dr Hassan Saeed today said he was unable to comment on recent developments regarding GMR and the ADC.

The ADC was ruled by the court to be a new tax and was subsequently required to go through the People’s Majlis.

In light of this decision, GMR agreed with the Nasheed government in January that it would deduct the $25 per passenger fee from the concessionary charge paid each quarter to MACL. At the time the government acknowledged the compromise to be a temporary whilt maintaining its commitment to ADC in some form.

Confidence in GMR’s $511 million dollar INIA project appeared to take a hit after the the resignation of President Nasheed in February was accompanied by a five percent drop in GMR’s share prices before bouncing back shortly after.

Dr Waheed has reassured foreign investors that no businesses would be targetted for political reasons, although he did not rule out re-examining “certain deals”.

Attorney General Azima Shukoor announced that she had forwarded some of the previous government’s deals to the Auditor General but said no decision had yet been made on GMR. The government announced the suspension of any new Public Private Partnership schemes last month.

Spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Hamid Abdul Ghafoor argued that the new figures in the government were not doing enough to protect foreign investment.

“If they were going to protect the economy, they would be more proactive, rather than simply saying we can’t do it,” said Hamed. “This will seriously impact the the development of the airport. In the meantime, investors lose confidence.”


“People should be free to determine their own destiny”: Foreign Minister

People should be free to determine their own destiny, new Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla said in a statement to mark Commonwealth Day.

“2012 marks the Maldives’ 30th year as a member of the Commonwealth, a landmark that represents our continued desire to share our own unique culture, and to work with the Commonwealth to promote its values: democracy, freedom, peace, the rule of law and opportunity for all,” Dr Samad said.

“By recognising that culture is important, we place a value on freedom. That is, people should be free to determine their own destiny. While culture is valuable in itself, the meeting of cultures
is equally important. Connecting cultures fosters education and respect for difference, while at the same time encouraging recognition of the bonds and similarities that exist between our

Dr Samad said that despite its geographic isolation, “the Maldives continues to accelerate its engagement with the Commonwealth and the international community. Last year it successfully hosted the SAARC summit and continues to punch above its weight in the international arena.”

“Connecting cultures embodies all that the Commonwealth holds important. Politically, the Maldives is evolving and striving to achieve the values and principles of the Commonwealth,” he added.

The Commonwealth recently suspended the Maldives from its human rights and democracy arm, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), calling for both an independent, internationally-assisted inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the change of government on February 7, and a commitment to early elections before the end of the year.


Anti-government crowds disrupt Japanese tsunami ceremony

Anti-government crowds disrupted a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Japanese tsunami in Male’ on Sunday night.

The ceremony was held at Nasandhura Palace Hotel. A member of the Japanese embassy’s diplomatic staff said that 100 guests were expected, adding that it would have been more were it not for the current “security” concerns in the country.

The capital has seen nightly protests since the end of last year. This period of unrest has seen marches, police brutality, and a controversial change of President.

The ceremony began with the Maldivian and the Japanese national anthems followed by a minute’s silence, before the Japanese ambassador to the Maldives, Ambassador Nobuhito, gave a brief speech.

Nobuhito cited the reasons for the ceremony as being condolences for those lost, gratitude for the help received and to give reassurance of Japan’s recovery from the tsunami’s destruction. Following the tsunami, the Maldives donated 86,400 tins of tuna to Japan, which has been one of the country’s major aid partners.

Outside, hundreds of anti-government demonstrators gathered at the gates of the Nasandhura Palace Hotel.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla, spoke about how the 2004 tsunami had brought the people of the Maldives together.

“Gayoom removed some charges against detained opposition members to unite the country,” Dr Samad claimed.

Many in the room seemed distracted, turning their attention towards the raised voices that could now be heard outside.

Dr Samad rounded off his speech by suggesting that it was more than just adversity that united the Maldivian and Japanese nations, it was a mutual commitment to human rights, to the rule of law, and to democracy.

Outside, this commitment was being questioned. Riot police rounded on the crowd, visors down, shields at the ready. Some people in the crowd shouted “baaghee (traitor) Waheed”.

Refreshments were barely touched before an announcement was made that the reception was now ending.

Leaving the hotel and walking a little way down the road towards the crowd, Minivan News asked a passing soldier why the people were there. The soldier smiled and said simply, “They think the government is not the government.”

A young man on the other side of the police barricade grinned and said, with similar poignancy, “Nice Maldives, huh?”


Once the more prominent guests had safely left the area, the security forces began to recede back towards their headquarters.

Simultaneously, the MDP camp by the Tsunami monument was silent as former President Mohamed Nasheed fielded questions from the Women’s Wing, or ‘Women’s Spirit’ of the party.

The atmosphere here was one of stark contrast to the disorder and tension outside the Nasandhura Palace Hotel.

The scene at Raalhugandu resembled that of a traditional conference. Rows of seated women faced Nasheed, whose head table contained a panel of the MDPs prominent female members.

The discussions were observed by thousands of MDP loyalists who listened in near silence as the women’s concerns were aired.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the event was an attempt at a new “creative form of direct action.”

Japan is also providing 250 million yen (US$3million) as foreign aid to the Maldives government to purchase industrial products produced in the affected areas of Japan, to accelerate the economic progress of those areas.

The agreement was signed between the two countries today at the Maldives Foreign Ministry.

According to a statement released by the ministry, the purchased equipments will be utilised in the health, education sectors and at the Maldives Polytechnic and Male’ Health Corporation.