President appoints ministers after parliament approves four out of five ministerial appointees

President Mohamed Nasheed has appointed State Minister Ahmed Naseem as Foreign Minister and Solicitor General Abdulla Muizz as Attorney General hours after parliament approved four out of five ministerial appointees.

Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam had been acting Foreign Minister after parliament rejected the reappointment of former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed in November.

The new Ministers were sworn in by High Court Judge Yousuf Hussein. After presenting letters of appointment, Nasheed expressed confidence that the newest additions to the cabinet would receive parliamentary consent.

Earlier in the day, parliament approved four out of five ministerial appointees, rejecting the reappointment of Attorney General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad for a second time.

Dr Sawad received 36 votes in favour and 37 against from the 73 MPs in attendance.

Home Minister Hassan Afeef and Transport Minister Adhil Saleem were narrowly approved in spite of the fractured main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) declaring that it would impose a three-line whip to reject the two nominees.

Afeef and Saleem were approved after a few independent MPs along with Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed and Republican Party MP Gasim Ibrahim sided with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – Saleem was approved with 39 votes in favour while Afeef received 37 votes from the 73 MPs present and voting.

Briefing press after yesterday’s DRP parliamentary group meeting, Majority Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali noted that Sawad had already been rejected once while Afeef “acted outside the law” during the transfer of powers to the newly elected local councils.

Thasmeen however announced that the party would give consent to Education Minister Shifa Mohamed and Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa.

Shifa was approved with 66 votes in favour and six against while Dr Zulfa received 71 votes in favour and none against.

“Secret meeting”

Addressing accusations from the opposing DRP faction that Thasmeen secretly met President Nasheed over the weekend at Raa Atoll, the DRP Leader asserted that he was ready to meet the President at any time.

“Even if [the President] calls and asks for a meeting at [Raa Atoll] Alimatha tonight, I will go because he is the President of the Maldives,” Thasmeen told reporters outside parliament yesterday, attributing the allegations of collusion with the ruling party to an internal campaign to discredit his leadership.

“In truth, they are talking about this because they don’t have any other way to responsibly carry out political activities,” he claimed.

However, asked if the alleged meeting took place, Thasmeen replied “thank you very much” and walked away.

In November 2010, parliament rejected seven ministers reappointed by President Nasheed after the entire cabinet resigned in protest of alleged obstruction and vote-buying in the legislature.

President Nasheed appointed then-Political Advisor Hassan Afeef as Home Minister in December, replacing Mohamed Shihab, who was appointed Advisor on Political Affairs.

Shifa Mohamed was meanwhile promoted from Deputy Minister of Education to Minister in place of Dr Musthafa Luthfy, recently appointed Chancellor of the Maldives National University.

Both Afeef and Shifa were appointed on December 11 while AG Sawad was reappointed two days later.

Transport Minister Adil Saleem and Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa took their oaths of office on November 7, 2010.


President reappoints Sawad as Attorney General

President Mohamed Nasheed has reappointed Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad as Attorney General (AG), following Sawad’s resignation on Friday.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that cabinet members rejected by parliament could not remain in their posts. Sawad was among the members of cabinet not endorsed by the opposition majority parliament.

The president has appointed Advisor on Political Affairs Hassan Afeef as Minister of Home Affairs, and promoted Deputy Minister of Education Shifa Mohamed to the top post.


Dhigufarufinolhu “destroyed” to construct harbor, claims government

Dhigufarufinolhu, a sandbank in Baa Atoll, has been “destroyed” to construct a harbour for the Royal Island Resort,  claims Mohamed Zuhair, Press Secretary of the President’s Office.

The resort is owned by Republican Party Leader and Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim.

While the harbour was being constructed for docking speedboats, Zuhair said the sandbank and the resort were not in the same landmass.

“The sandbank has a massive lagoon. In between the resort and sandbank there is deep blue sea,” he said.

Zuhair said that the destruction of the sandbank would have dire consequences for the ecosystem as its lagoon was home to a plethora of marine life.

“All the plankton, fish, bait, sea turtles who come ashore to lay eggs, corals in the area and many seabirds fled after the sandbank was destroyed,” he explained.

Zuhair added that the government has received a numerous complaints about the environmental impact of the construction.

“All the bait the [fishermen] caught there is gone, all the seabirds, which they used to locate fish, are gone after the harbor was constructed,” Zuhair said.

He further claimed that all living coral in the areas was now dying because of the spread of silt produced during the construction.

However, he added, the government could only take any action when the case was reported officially.

”The former government awarded that sandbank in the 1970s,” he said.

Environmental impact

According to Google Earth, the distance between the sandbank and the resort is approximately 1,065 feet.

The lagoon of the sandbank was approximately 2.9 kilometers in length and 1.3 kilometers in width.

Ibrahim Naeem, director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said sandbanks were an essential part of the ecosystem.

”Birds and turtles go there, fish in the area die if there are no rocks,” Naeem said. “The plankton and corals in the area will also die if a sandbank is destroyed.”

Naeem stressed that silt was a very dangerous substance.

”If it gets inside the respiratory system of a fish, they will have difficulty breathing,” he said. ”If it reaches the eye they will suffer from poor eyesight.”

He added that “whether Gasim or Hassan” was responsible was immaterial as the environmental impact would be the same.

Moreover, he said, construction of harbours was generally very harmful to the environment.

Gasim said he was out of the country and could not comment on the matter.