Nasheed calls proposed changes to Supreme Court bench unconstitutional

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called the plans to reduce the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench from seven to five unconstitutional.

While speaking to the press before departing for a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rallys in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Nasheed accused President Abdulla Yameen of trying to stack the bench in his favor.

“The constitution states the required procedure to bring changes to the bench of the Supreme Court. After extensive legal council we have deliberated that the proposed changes would be unconstitutional,” said Nasheed.

The amendments brought to the parliament by MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef have been rejected by the party after the its national executive council convened and voted that the amendments were against its policies.

Speaking about the amendments, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said Shareef had not consulted the party before he submitted the changes.

However, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has signaled the party’s support for the amendments with parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said all ruling party MPs would support the proposal and that the PPM would welcome judicial reform.

Presenting the bill to the parliament Shareef said that he believed the number of judges on the apex court was too high for a country the size of the Maldives.

Nasheed had previously said that changing the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench would not amount to judicial reform.

Meanwhile, MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – who has announced intentions to contest in the MDP’s 2018 presidential primary – appealed for pro-government MPs to cooperate with the party’s efforts to reform the judiciary.

Moosa described the formation of the current Supreme Court bench as a “shameful” political bargain between the MDP and then–opposition parties in 2010.

Nihan praised both Shareef and Moosa and suggested that the number of judges on the apex court was worth considering.

Former President Nasheed also reiterated party concerns with the annual state budget for the upcoming year which the party has previously labelled as aimless and serving only for administrative purposes.

The Supreme Court has recently been involved in numerous controversies both in and out of the court room.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court used a ‘suo moto’ proceeding – allowing the Court to act as both the plaintiff and the judge – against the Elections Comission (EC).

EC president Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz were subsequently charged with contempt of court and disobedience to order, being sentenced to six months in jail after the court used testimony given in the People’s Majlis independent commission’s oversight committee.

More recently, the court employed a similar ‘suo moto’ proceeding against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) after it criticised the judiciary in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the UN Human Rights Council.

The court charged the HRCM with undermining the constitution and sovereignty of the Maldives by spreading lies about the judiciary.  It said that the UPR submission– based on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul – was “poorly researched”, “irresponsible” and “dangerous”.

Knaul’s report had detailed the pressing need for judicial reform, noting that the five-member transitional Supreme Court had been replaced by a seven-member permanent bench in 2010 with “no legal or constitutional basis”.

June this year also saw Judge Ali Hameed – a sitting judge at the Supreme Court – cleared of a sex tape scandal after three recordings surfaced allegedly showing Ali Hameed engaging in sexual acts with three different woman.


Authorities failed to address safety concerns before deadly crane accident, says Port Worker’s Union

Following the death of two port workers last night (April 7), the Maldives Ports Workers Union (MPWU) has said that staff had repeatedly complained that the boat and the crane involved were unsafe.

Port workers, including the winch men, had reportedly complained that the boat concerned was not safe and that the rollers (a part of the crane) had not been serviced.

Mohamed Nashid, 32, from Kudafary in Noonu atoll and Ibrahim Shareef, 36, from Malé were both killed when the crane’s wire snapped while loading a container onto the boat. The crane’s operator, Imran, fainted on seeing the incident and suffered minor injuries as a result.

Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) has said that all safety requirements had been met, and that the port adhered to international safety standards.

Head of the MPWU Ibrahim Khaleel has said, however, that “employees are in a state of fear.”

“MPL has failed to address any complaints, and furthermore blacklists any employees who complain claiming they are against the government and the management.”

“We have not yet been able to identify who should bear responsibility for the accident,” stated Khaleel, adding that the Transport Ministry must bear some responsibility as it has to do routine inspections on the vessels.

CEO of MPL Mahdi Imad said at a press conference today that all port staff are insured and trained under ILO’s port training. The ships and cranes are checked once a year, he noted, and when the containers were being unloaded all safety requirements were met.

Tragic accident

The ship, named the Morning Viship, had been travelling from Cochin, India, where it had reportedly been shored and renovated.

According to Khaleel, the container fell while a crane was loading it ontothe boat. Reports stated that a piece of the crane’s equipment cracked, causing a flying piece of metal to strike the two MPL staff below, one on the head and the other on his back.

Mohamed Nashid, father of two, was killed instantly from the impact, suffering massive head injuries. Meanwhile, Ibrahim Shareef – a father of three – died while being treated at IGMH for severe skull and back injuries.

The crane operator Imran, fainted upon seeing the accident, with authorities struggling to remove him from the controls as he remained unconscious for an hour after the incident. He suffered minor injuries, and was taken to the ADK hospital for treatment.

Additionally, MPL Cargo Department General Manager Mohamed Hashim contended that such accidents were rare at the Malé business port with just four in MPL’s history. Safety classes and training were conducted regularly for MPL staff, he added.

While Imad and Hashim insisted that safety measures were up to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, newspaper Haveeru has reported an unnamed MPL staff as claiming that mandatory safety officers were not present last night when the incident occurred.

“Safety officers came to the scene of the incident after more than 30 minutes. And ILO standards state that everyone at the scene must be given counselling after such a serious incident. But nothing like that has been done either,” the anonymous employee was quoted as saying.

The MPWU also contended in a press release today that none of the previous incidents were adequately investigated and that no corrective measures were taken. The union called on authorities for full investigation and to provide compensation to victim’s families.

Hashim said the transport authority and the marine police have launched an investigation, and that MPL operations are suspended until tomorrow while Police have cordon off the business port compound for their investigation.

In an appeal to the public, the Police have appealed to people not to share the victims’ dead bodies on social media. “Such acts deepen the pain of the victim’s families and friends,” the police stated.

MPL’s Imad said that work had been suspended today for an investigation, and will restart at 7:30am tomorrow morning. He confirmed that the MPL will bear all the costs for the two men’s children until they are 18.


Five MPs will join DRP when parliament resumes, claims DRP Deputy Leader

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader and Spokesperson Ahmed ‘Mavota’ Shareef has claimed that “four or five” members of parliament will join the DRP when parliament resumes.

Speaking at a DRP press conference, Shareef said next month there will be a ceremony to celebrate the joining of the new MPs, however he declined to provide further information.

Shareef also told the press that “about 1000” people had expressed interest in joining DRP in the future.

He further claimed that five “hardcore Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists” had joined the party.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader and MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom today told Minivan News that he did not wish to disclose any information on the matter.

‘’Due to the current political environment in the country, MPs and supporters will keep shifting parties for the next three or four months,’’ Dr Mausoom said. ‘’It will go like that until the major political parties elect their presidential candidates.’’

Dr Mausoom predicted that after the major political parties elect their candidates, the shifting of MPs and supporters would settle.

Former MDP MP Abdulla Abdulraheem recently shifted to the DRP.

“I, on March 27, 2012, have decided to rejoin DRP as the principles of MDP contradict the principles I believe in,” he claimed. “I’m quitting MDP and resigning for the DRP as I know the party will always welcome me,” Haveeru quoted him saying during the signing ceremony at the DRP office.

Earlier this month MDP MP for Fuvamulah central constituency Shifaq Mufeed joined former President Maumon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).


DRP accuses PPM of using cash incentives and development funding to poach members

Spokesperson and Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef, has alleged that the breakaway opposition party of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been offering cash incentives and development funds to island groups, in a bid to persuade them to join the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).

“There are many social clubs in the Maldives with the purposes of developing islands. Many have been offered cash incentives and funds for development activities if members join the party. Even individual members have been offered,” said Shareef, who has made similar claims to local media this week.

PPM Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf was not responding to refute the allegations at time of press.

“We’re not about to file a court case, but this is happening on a wide scale. If the clubs involved need funding, members are inclined to accept. We couldn’t afford to lodge so many cases,” Shareef said, when asked if the party had any evidence to back the claims.

Prior to the PPM’s inaugural convention on October 15, the EC verified and approved the membership forms of 3,019 party members.

Several thousand people attended the convention at Dharubaaruge, including at least one prominent ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activist.

The 971 delegates present elected Gayoom interim leader unopposed, while his half-brother MP Abdulla Yameen was elected acting parliamentary group leader.

Yameen’s party, the People’s Alliance (PA), recently split from the main opposition DRP which remains under leadership of Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. The relationship between the PPM, formerly known as the Z-DRP faction of the opposition, and the DRP leadership remains strained.

Shareef expressed surprise at the large numbers of people who attended the convention, and acknowledged that support for Gayoom’s party had the potential to affect the DRP’s membership base.

“This was a 30 year regime and we have to accept that there are pockets of support everywhere. During Gayoom’s time he did a lot a lot of work and has many supporters, and we have to recognise this,” Shareef said, but questioned the PPM’s “ability to work together as a party.”

“I don’t see any future for PPM. They are saying that 99 percent of [DRP members] are joining the party but we don’t see any such thing happening. At the same time there are a lot of people who have remained steadfast and believe the DRP has a future, and that the leadership has the experience and qualifications to run the country,” Shareef said.

The breakaway faction consisted of Gayoom’s immediate family and “former DRP members who failed in elections while they were in the DRP,” Shareef said. “PPM is a family enterprise, promoting a private hidden agenda in the name of the national interest.”

Gayoom had capitalised on growing dissatisfaction with the government, Shareef contended.

“At the grassroots level, people are very unhappy, and the swing voters have been moving away from the government. This is why Gayoom chose now to form his new party. In 2008-2009, and even midway through 2010, there was no political space.”

The division was as much ideological as it was acrimonious, Shareef explained.

“Many people do not believe the DRP is able to hold the government accountable, because we do not create violence or street protests. Many people think the opposition should make the country ungovernable, even the media and opinion leaders. I’m not sure if they understand it themselves, but it makes it very dangerous, as it risks the whole society falling and becoming a failed state,” Shareef said.

“We believe we are a responsible opposition and we oppose the government’s polices where they are wrong, and support them when they are right. There is nothing personal and we are not out for revenge, and we do not see the ruling party as personal enemies.

“Gayoom’s family and his inner circle view them as personal enemies and are out for revenge, using chaos and anarchy to try and stop the government from doing any work. We are clear we want a stable government, and to change it through elections, but the immediate family of Gayoom has a different idea. They want street action, so that every day the government is under pressure, while we voted for a presidential system of government that gives the President a free hand to run the country [while he is elected].”

Beyond the poaching of its member base, the DRP faced new financial challenges with the departure of the former President, Shareef said.

“Finance is a great challenge. The current DRP leadership is not as rich as PPM’s top leadership. It presents a challenge, but I like to believe money is not everything.”

Road to 2013

Shareef was a founding member of the MDP, Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader in Nasheed’s shadow cabinet, then later a deputy to Gayoom, and now a deputy to Thasmeen.

With the split in the opposition, and the collapse of all the MDP’s coalition agreements, Shareef predicted that “given current trends” the 2013 presidential election would effectively be a replay of the 2008 election in which Nasheed won power in a run-off election against the incumbent Gayoom, due to the support of coalition partners.

The MDP would need to gain 51 percent of the vote in the first round to secure a clean win, while “none of the opposition parties will secure enough votes to reach the 51 percent mark,” Shareef said. “Meanwhile the MDP has chased away all its coalition partners, and they cannot now turn around and say ‘We can work together’, because nobody will believe them.”

Faced with a run-off, the disparate opposition groups would temporarily unify over the common ground of ousting the MDP, Shareef predicted, giving power to the largest opposition party.

“Look at the last three elections. In the first round of the 2008 Presidential election Gayoom got 40 percent, while the rest of the then opposition got 60 percent. In the second round the opposition totaled 54 percent. The MDP lost ground in the parliamentary elections, and the majority of the islands voted for the DRP in the local council elections,” he claimed.

“The incumbent government has the resources of the state to get votes, and can get at least 20-30 percent just by being in power. At present trends, the 2013 will be a replay of 2008, and as things stand now, whoever is in opposition will go to the second round. But we need a leader who is not out to take revenge.”


Third of government’s Dhiraagu shares to be made public

The government has decided to release a third of its shares in local telcoms giant Dhiraagu to the public.

Dhiraagu a major player in the telecommunications, mobile and broadband internet markets of the Maldives, and is one of the country’s most profitable companies.

The government will make a third of its shares available to the public from October, to both local and foreign parties, reports Sun Online. Share prices have not yet been published.

The Maldivian government previously held 55 percent of Dhiraagu’s shares, while the British company Cable and Wireless held the remaining 45 percent. Upon winning the 2008 presidential election, President Nasheed’s government sold 7 percent of the shares to Cable and Wireless, reducing government shares to 48 percent and giving Cable and Wireless a controlling interest.

Minister of Economic Development and Foreign Trade, Mahmoud Razee, told Sun that studies would determine the prices and ratios of shares to be offered in local and international markets, and that the shares would be “affordable” to the average Maldivian.

Minister Razee also stated that as Dhiraagu was a strong company, people could benefit from buying its shares.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef told Minivan News that the shares were valuable, but said he was not in favor of selling them.

“As far as [the DRP] is concerned, we do not believe this is a wise decision. Dhiraggu is a very profitable and well-managed company, and it makes a lot of money for the government. This is a time when we are undergoing an economic crisis, and we cannot afford to have these shares dispersed.”

Shareef said he thought most Maldivians would be interested in the shares, but said he doubted whether the majority of people would be able to afford them.

“The people who have the capacity to buy these shares are either foreign companies, or very rich Maldivians,” he said.

The government estimates that the sale of the shares will generate Rf 1.46 billion (US$95 million).

Shareef said the outcome would be obvious as soon as the shares hit the market.

“In the Maldives, we know who has the money. We know a majority of people don’t have the money. There must be some political reason for this decision, it’s not just an economic strategy,” he suggested.


Two “dangerous criminals” to be set free if police witnesses fail to appear in court, warns judge

A Criminal Court judge handling the case of two persons identified by police as “dangerous criminals” has claimed that police had “not cooperated” with the court and that both may have to be released.

Thursday’s hearing of the case against Ahmed Shareef of Gaafu Dhaalu Nadella and Maadhih Mohamed of Laamu Gan, had to be cancelled after police officers who were supposed to testify as witnesses failed to appear, according to local media.

The media reported the judge as saying that it was the fourth hearing in the trial that had to be cancelled because the two police officers did not appear, and stated that the court was informed that one police officer was on vacation while the other was not turning up for work.

The judge said that a hearing would be scheduled for next week and that if the two police officers failed to appear, the two suspects would be released from custody.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam meanwhile said that police had always fully cooperated with the Criminal Court and had always produced persons necessary for trials.

“If we had failed to produce someone to the court we have always informed the court about it, and given a reason as to why we have been unable to present him,” Shiyam said.

Shareef and Maadhih are both charged of assaulting and stabbing Ismail Firdhaus, near the Hulhumale’ ferry terminal.

Both of them denied the charges against them, however, the court granted the police authority to hold them in police custody until their trial was concluded.

On February 17, Criminal Court’ Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed released Ibrahim Shahum Adam, a 19 year-old who was arrested in August last year for allegedly murdering 17 year-old Mohamed Hussain.

Adam was presented to the Criminal Court with a police request to extend the period of detention, but Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed noted that the Criminal Court had already extended the detention of Shahum by six months for investigation which had not yet been concluded.

Police blamed the Health Ministry, and told the judge that the investigation had not concluded because the ministry had not responded to a letter police sent in August 2010 requesting the medical report on the death of Mohamed Hussain.

Judge Abdulla told police this was not reasonable grounds to keep a person in detention.

Later the family of Ahusan Basheer, 21, who was fatally stabbed in a gang fight, accused Shahum of murdering Ahusan and blamed Judge Abdulla for releasing him.


MDP condemns PA Shareef’s appointment to Elections Commission

)The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has today issued a statement condemning the Elections Commission (EC)’s decision to appoint former Peoples Alliance Party (PA) Secretary General and Spokesperson Ahmed Shareef as the Secretary General of the EC.

‘’MDP believe that anyone appointed for any position at the Elections Commission shall be a person away from influence, independent, fair and a person that would not protect the interest of a specific person,’’ said MDP in the statement.

MDP said it regretted that the commission would appoint a political figure to the commission and condemned the action “in strongest possible terms.”

Former Spokesperson of MDP Ahmed Haleem told Minivan News that ‘’as long as Shareef is in that position, this country can never hold free and fair elections.’’

Haleem said if he remained in the post, it will cause to “violence following future elections as people to question the fairness of the elections.”

‘’He is a person definitely adapted to a political idea and he will have his own interest,’’ Haleem claimed. ‘’The Elections Commission is the commission that has to be most fair and independent.’’

He also said the new President of MDP Dr Ibrahim Didi “will do anything that he has to, to solve this issue.”

Secretary General of EC Ibrahim Shareef told Minvan News that he had resigned from his post in the PA earlier this month and “resigned from politics.”

‘’My position in PA then was not also a political position, it was more an administrative position and it was my job then, I worked there as an employee,’’ Shareef said. ‘’Now I am in a non-political position and I will work independently.’’

Shareef said he was “very confident” that his actions would not be those claimed by the MDP.

‘’I assure the people that my actions will not be like that,’’ he said. ‘’I will follow the EC rules and regulations as well as the constitution and other laws and continue my work sincerely.’’

President of Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq did not respond to Minivan News at times of press.


Police evacuate Mavota Shareef from DRP headquarters after spokesperson attacked

A crowd gathered outside DRP headquarters was this morning calling for the resignation of Party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Spokesperson Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef.

The call came in response to an audio clip allegedly of Shareef, aired on MNBC and DhiFM, in which he apparently expresses a preference for MDP over former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Gayoom would never leave if returned to the leadership, Shareef apparently says, during a campaign trip in Addu.

Minivan News is trying to determine the authenticity of the audio with Shareef, however his phone was turned off at time of press. Thasmeen was not responding.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that a crowd gathered outside the DRP headquarters had tried to attack Shareef, “so police put him into a vehicle and took him to a safe area. He is not in police custody.”

Haveeru reports that Thasmeen and the DRP council will meet at the office shortly, however it notes that Gayoom’s members on the council – his daughter Dhunya Maumoon and former Attorney General Aishath Azima Shukoor – did not appear to be in attendance.

The DRP underwent a major factional split following the dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer by the party’s disciplinary committee, an incident which came to blows in December 2010 when Naseer and his supporters gatecrashed a DRP rally at Ghiyasuddin International School celebrating the departure of seven of President Mohamed Nasheed’s cabinet ministers on a successfully-prosecuted constitutional technicality.

Naseer claims he does not recognise his removal from the party as legitimate despite confirmation from the Elections Commission. The return of Gayoom to politics and the backing of the party’s ‘honorary leader’ consolidated support for Naseer in the party, and the two campaigned together during the local council election while Thasmeen campaigned seperately.

This mornings’s events suggest the frosty civility between the two factions in the lead-up to the election may be diminishing, as the fielding of multiple opposition candidates in many council electorates may have split the votes and needlessly handed wins to the ruling party.