Four bilateral agreements signed with Pakistan

The Maldives has signed four Memorandums of Understanding with Pakistan today during president Abdulla Yameen’s ongoing two-day state visit.

The MoUs were for mutual cooperation in healthcare, education, sports, and combating drug abuse.

President Yameen was accompanied by first lady Fathmath Ibrahim, speaker of parliament Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, and cabinet ministers. The delegation is due to return tonight.

President Mamnoon Hussain hosted a banquet in honour of president Yameen last night. The pair held talks on strengthening bilateral ties earlier in the day.

“President Yameen thanked his Pakistani counterpart for the excellent hospitality extended to himself and his delegation,” said the president’s office.

“President Yameen also extended an invitation to President Mamnoon Hussain to visit the Maldives at his earliest convenience. At the meeting, both the leaders deliberated on enhancing trade and cultural exchanges, as well as expanding the scope of investment opportunities. Discussions were also held on supporting each other in the global arena.”

Yameen has also reportedly invited prime minister Mohamed Nawaz Shareef to attend an official function due to be held on July 26 to mark the golden jubilee of the Maldives’ independence.


Maldives included in World Cup qualifying stage

The Maldives has been included in the World Cup qualifying stage in the Asian zone for the 2018 World Cup finals to be held in Russia.

The country was included in qualifying as one of the top 34 Asian national teams, reported Vaguthu, with Afghanistan and Bangladesh the only other South Asian countries to appear in the qualifying round.

The Maldives is currently ranked 131st in the FIFA world rankings. The highest ever ranking attained by the country was in 2006 at 126, while lowest was 183, in 1997.

The qualifying matches – which are to be played as home and away fixtures – are due to start on June 11, while the group draw is to be decided in April.

The top team in each group will qualify for the third round in the World Cup qualifications, while also automatically qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup – the biggest footballing event in Asia.

Source: Vaguthu


Government to halt dismantling gang huts, says President Yameen

The government has decided to stop dismantling huts in public spaces in Malé that police said are used exclusively by gangs, President Yameen revealed at a turf opening ceremony in Henveiru last night.

The process has been halted “until a solution could be found after studying the whole problem,” Yameen said, adding that the efforts were undertaken with “good intentions”.

“However, we believe that [dismantling huts] alone would not solve the problem,” he said.

The president’s comments came after Home Minister Umar Naseer – speaking at a separate event – had suggested there were around 30 gangs in Malé, describing 13 of these as “dangerous” criminal organisations.

President Yameen said he did not believe criminal activities would occur “every time youth congregate” in a neighbourhood spot.

Turning to “law enforcement” in all cases was not desirable, he continued, suggesting that youth could resolve problems through “constructive engagement”.

After police began dismantling huts in Malé on August 13 – claiming they were used for drug dealing and storing weapons used in assaults – groups of youth on motorbikes protested in the capital calling for the resignation of the home minister.

“Where are our huts?” chanted the youth groups.

Yameen meanwhile suggested that sports pitches, facilities, and tournaments for youth “could go a long way” towards reducing crime and resolving “stress and strain” among rival neighbourhood groups.

The turf ground opened last night was built by the State Trading Organisation for the TC and Kuda Henveiru groups.

Referring to MPs in attendance at the ceremony, Yameen urged politicians to work “as ambassadors” with “positive engagement” to resolve disputes among youth.

Yameen said Youth Minister Maleeh Jamal informed him that 10 futsal pitches would be completed during September.

“So a lot of work is being done to engage youth productively in their free time,” Yameen said.

“Releasing negative energy out of dissatisfaction is not the solution for anything,” he advised, adding that it leads to “bad blood” and “more negative energy”.

Conversely, constructive engagement either through dialogue or sports leaves “everybody better off,” Yameen said.

“I don’t doubt that you will use this facility in the right way and that ambassadors would be created through these sports activities as ‘peace ambassadors’ or ‘engaging ambassadors’ to find some relief for the strain in society,” he said.

“Crime wave”

Meanwhile, speaking at a ceremony held yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of the Maldives Police Service – which was separated from the military and established as a civilian law enforcement body in 2004 – Home Minister Umar Naseer revealed that police have identified “more than 30 gangs” in the capital with about 50 “gang leaders”.

Of the 30 gangs, 13 were “dangerous” criminal organisations, Naseer said, adding that there were more than 500 members in these groups.

Referring to three fatal stabbings in recent weeks, Naseer said gang violence was “the biggest challenge” facing the police.

Police were the “front line” in a “chain” made up of the Prosecutor General’s Office, courts, and prisons, Naseer said, adding that the National Drug Agency (NDA) was an important link in the chain as street violence was connected to drug use.

“The government has resolved to stop the crime wave in the streets. God willing, in the coming days, we will announce strong measures,” he said.

President Yameen has tasked the home minister with formulating a “broad plan” to tackle gang violence, he revealed.

Naseer said conservative estimates suggested there were at least 10,000 drug users in the Maldives, of which 5,000 were unemployed.

Organised criminal gangs were composed of unemployed drug users, Naseer explained, which carry out assaults and robbery under the guidance of gang leaders.

While cases involving gang members were filed at court, Naseer said that gangs intimidate both judges and eye witnesses to prevent convictions.

“God willing, we are preparing an assault on this whole structure [of criminal gangs], which will come very soon,” he declared.

Four issues needed to be considered ahead of implementing the plan, Naseer suggested, advising a “realignment of our thinking”, with a stricter approach to drug users.

“In my view, all of our institutions should know very clearly that drug use is not a disease but a crime,” Naseer said.

Drug users should be punished harshly instead of being offered treatment, Naseer said, drawing applause from police officers in the audience.

However, he added, offenders would undergo rehabilitation while serving sentences.

“Liberalisation,” “excessive freedom,” and alleged calls for “decriminalisation” from politicians were encouraging youth to use drugs, Naseer argued, which created the impression that drug use was not a crime.

Naseer contended that a soft approach for drug users during the past five years had led to a rise in violent crimes.

“Do we stop this by caressing or through harsh punishment?” he asked.

“We cannot find a solution to the problem of stabbing and murders on the street without stopping drugs.”


Ashfaq appointed as Maldives’ first sports ambassador

The Maldives Olympic Committee has appointed national football team captain Ali Ashfaq as the country’s first sports ambassador.

“This is a great success, an honour. I will work with the government and sports associations to improve and promote the Maldives sports sector. I would like to thank senior members of the olympic committee for this great honour. I am very pleased,” he told local media.

As Maldives sports ambassador, Ashfaq will work to promote sports amongst children and younger generations and aid Maldives sports teams in seeking better recognition in the international arena, say reports.

The letter of appointment was presented to Ali Ashfaq at a special event at Traders Hotel, Malé.

Speaking to Sun Online, Ashfaq thanked the Maldives Olympic Committee and said he was looking forward to working with the different sports associations to improve the Maldives sports sector.


Sports Arena Project launched by President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen yesterday inaugurated the Sports Arena Project which under which the government plans to construct 34 arenas for both outdoor and indoor sports throughout the atolls.

Launching the project – one of the government’s 100 day pledges –  Yameen said that a sports infrastructure suitable for the nation’s youth would be in place by the end of the year, with a further MVR300 million allocated for recreation projects in next year’s budget.

Half of the Maldives’ 330,652-strong population of the Maldives are below the age of 25, according to the 2013 yearbook published by the Department of National Planning.

During his presidential campaign, president Yameen pledged that all islands would receive a sports arena and that Hulhumalé would be developed as a youth entertainment city, including a National Aquatic Centre of olympic scale. Taxes on sports materials would be reduced from 25 to 5 percent promised the Progressive Party of Maldives candidate.

Local media reported Yameen as saying that arenas would not be built in islands with under 2,000 people, but that these islands would still receive facilities for popular sports within his term.

Minister of Sports and Youth Mohamed Maleeh Jamal announced that the project would now be sent to the tender board for bidding.


Maldives Olympic Committee to increase women’s participation in sports

The Maldives Olympic Committee (MOC) has decided to step up women’s participation in international sports by introducing guidelines to encourage sports associations to support female athletes and officials.

The MOC has informed all national sports associations that, while funds will be released based on their performance and training, the committee will now give priority to women.

The committee will set a target of 33 percent of games contingents to be women,  alongside a requirement that half of sports officials be female.

“We have noticed that when when women officials participate in international games, they are very involved in it afterwards. But there are very few officials currently, we want to encourage them,” said Secretary General of the committee Ahmed Marzooq.

At least one official for women’s individual sports and either the Chef De Mission or the Deputy Chef De Mission must also be a woman.

“Very few women’s sports have the opportunity to represent Maldives at international level. We want to give them equal opportunities,” said Marzook.

For the upcoming Asia Games – to be held in Incheon, South Korea from September 19 til October 4, 2014 – the committee will spend MVR1.89million on teams, based on this new policy.

With nearly two hundred members, the Asia Games contingent will be the biggest that has ever represented the Maldives at an international sports event.

The Commonwealth Games 2014 – to be held in Glasgow from July 23 to August 3 – will also be funded under these policies. While there, the Maldives committee is also planning for its athletes to join the Glasgow Muslim community in marking a women’s sports.

“In awarding a training scholarship we ensure there are at least two women for each sport, we want equal opportunities in the area as well,” Marzook added.

“We want people to know that even after retiring as an athlete, there are opportunities for women in coaching, as managers, referees, doctors.”

International women’s sports in Maldives

As a traditionally moderate Muslim nation, women’s participation in sports haven’t been restricted by law, or widely discouraged in the Maldives.

The 2012 Olympics marked the first time that countries like Brunei, Qatar and, Saudi Arabia sent female athletes, while other Muslim majority countries have tended to keep women’s participation to a minimal level.

Starting with just 2.2 percent in 1900, nearly 45 percent of athletes at the 2012 Olympic games were women. Since then, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also set goals such as a 20 percent female representation criteria for the executive boards of National Olympic Committees.

By 1992 there was a demand for the IOC to take more strict action against countries that banned female athletes from their teams after 34 of 169 competing countries had no female participants.

Barcelona was the Maldives’ second Olympic Games, marking the beginning of Maldivian women’s participation in the games. In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Maldives’ flag bearer was a teenage girl, Aminath Rouya Hussain.

According to the MOC, between 2010 and 2012 the Maldives participated in eleven international games, with a 42 percent female participation rate.

The current Minister of Youth & Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said the government considers providing equal opportunities for women in sports to be a priority.

“We will focus on women’s sports in establishing a number of sports arenas around the country. We will include Bashi (a local sport played mainly by women) courts in these places and we will include aerobics centers too. Jogging tracks will also be created for women,” he said.

Opportunities for women athletes

In 2010 a women’s basketball team represented the Maldives for the first time internationally, the very next year bringing home a silver medal from the 3-on-3 basketball event at the South Asian Beach Games.

Shizna Rasheed – a member of that historic team – feels that there is a great future for women’s basketball in Maldives.

“It was a great achievement for Maldives, especially considering we didn’t get to practice much.”

Still in her twenties, Shizna started playing basket ball thirteen years ago is now volunteering as a member of the recently established women’s committee within the MOC. She was also the women’s basketball team’s assistant coach at the 2010 Asia Games.

Shizna said that, with the right opportunities, there is a future for women’s basketball in the Maldives and that there are also plans to introduce women’s handball at a national level.

“With increasing funds more opportunities are opening now. There should be equal opportunities for women, and I think these new measures [introduced by the committee] are very encouraging. It will provide more opportunities for women athletes,” she said.

Aishath Nazima, a volleyball player with twenty years of experience, expressed similar sentiments about the measures:

“As it is, only a few women’s sports have that opportunity [to participate in international sports], it is worse for team sports. So most teams don’t practice through out the year. But this can change things. If there are games to look forward to, associations and players too will get more serious. A lot of players even quit due to lack of opportunities.”


Maldives heading towards stability, democratic governance: former President Nasheed

The Maldives is heading towards peace, stability and consolidation of democracy after ten tumultuous years, former President Mohamed Nasheed said at a youth forum organised by the Junior Chambers International (JSI) chapter of Maldives and Dhiyouth at City Hall on Monday night (September 16).

“I don’t really see much room for going wayward now. People might try to rig two or three elections. [They] might try to arrest some people. And there might even be three or four coup d’etats. But, overall, I don’t see this curve slumping too much,” the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate said in his keynote speech at the event, which was held to mark the International Day of Democracy.

“The Maldives will become stable and democratic principles will continue to be instilled. Neither the youth of this country nor everyone else are willing to let go of the rights we have now. In my view, tonight we are celebrating the victory of the youth. Through your efforts, the elderly have received social security, and through your efforts, a prosperous future has been secured for your children.”

The impact of the momentous events of the past ten years would be far greater and more significant than any other ten years in the history of the country, Nasheed observed, advising youth to “build a better Maldives in light of that experience.”

Nasheed was elected president in the Maldives’ first multi-party democratic election in 2008 following the adoption of a democratic constitution. The 2008 election and liberal constitution was preceded by a pro-democracy movement led by the MDP in the wake of unprecedented civil unrest in September 2003, which was precipitated by a brutal custodial death exposed to the public and subsequent fatal shootings in prison.

Free expression and dissent

In his speech, Nasheed argued that the most important prerequisite for youth development was an atmosphere conducive to exercising the rights of free expression, assembly and participation in peaceful political activities.

As 60 percent of the Maldives’ population is youth, Nasheed said political parties have to explain their policies to the youth demographic.

It is also the duty or responsibility of youth to have their say in the formation of a government that would pursue the best policies for young people, their families, and their communities, he said.

Freedom of speech and expression of dissent are “essential bases for nation-building,” he added.

Democratic practices were introduced in the Maldives between 2005 to 2008, Nasheed continued, noting the role and “sacrifices” of youth in pro-democracy activism.

“It was quite recently that people were arrested for a gesture or an expression,” he said. “Even in 2004, 2005, a lot of people were arrested and given serious punishments because of what they said. As long as that practice persisted, most Maldivian citizens were unable to participate in the affairs of the country. When that practice or principle changed, the participation of youth broadly increased.”

In formulating the MDP’s manifesto for the 2013 presidential election, Nasheed said the party believed that the bulk of the policies should target youth.

In contrast, he said, the 2008 manifesto was focused on establishing a social security system.

The 2013 manifesto reflects “the extent to which youth have raised their voices concerning their needs during the past five years,” Nasheed said.

The MDP manifesto – the “result of conducting a democratic exercise of consultation” – includes creating 51,000 job opportunities, conducting a skills training programme, setting a minimum wage, providing higher education opportunities, offering grants and scholarships, growing the entertainment sector, and establishing sports facilities, Nasheed noted.

Nasheed also stressed the importance of rehabilitating youth incarcerated for drug abuse through a “Second Chance” programme and implementing policies for reintegrating drug addicts into society as gainfully employed youth.


Following his remarks, Nasheed participated in an hour-long question and answer session on topics ranging from civic education, family planning, minimum wage, job creation, policies for persons with special needs and feasibility of infrastructure projects.

On the issue of negative campaigning, Nasheed predicted that political parties would learn ahead of future elections that defaming rivals was ineffective and focus instead of presenting comprehensive policies.

“I predict that political parties will present policies much more in the next election rather than do what they’re doing now, which includes attempting to buy votes – people are learning each election that [vote buying] is unsuccessful,” he said.

As a “crude survey” has estimated that seven percent of the Maldivian population are persons with special needs, Nasheed said the MDP will pursue policies to amend building codes to ease access and establish at least one school in each atoll to provide specialised education for students with special needs.

A minimum wage of MVR4,500 (US$292) a month would meanwhile incentivise local businesses to hire Maldivians in lieu of foreign workers who were often paid only US$150 a month, Nasheed explained, adding that small businesses would be exempt from the legally mandated wage.

Asked by “a youth leader currently representing the Maldivian youth to the Commonwealth” whether an MDP government would consider “a democratically-elected youth council and youth parliament” as a forum for youth leaders, Nasheed invited youth interested in politics to forgo “ceremonial” and “superficial” activities in favour of direct participation.

“The real thing is better than superficial activities. Step up to a podium no matter how young you are and participate in real activities – 17, 18 or 19 years is not really that young. At the time I turned 20, I had been in the pillory for 30 days,” he said.


MDP launches youth policy: ‘Entertainment without fear’

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on Friday launched its youth, sports and entertainment policy, dubbed ‘Majaa Kurun Birakaa Nula’: ‘entertainment without fear’.

Despite the wet weather, the party’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed along with senior party members and hundreds of supporters gathered at the Raalhugandu area Male in yellow athletic attire.

Senior party members followed Nasheed’s lead in taking part in several sport activities organised in the area, including futsal, volleyball, table tennis, baton racing and bodyboarding.

Speaking at the function to inaugurate the policy, the former President promised more sports facilities and technical assistance for athletes in a future MDP-led government, while also promising that during his five year term the government would facilitate more public participation in sports.

According to Nasheed, the policy also includes the renovation and maintenance of football grounds in the Maldives.

Young people represent a potential election-swinging demographic in the September 7 Presidential Election. With 65 percent of the population were already aged under 30 at the time of the 2006 census, the number of eligible voters have 15 percent since 2008’s presidential election. The MDP has traditionally enjoyed strong support from young people, although prior to its February 7 ousting was challenged by rising political apathy among younger voters.

“We need to put our efforts into empowering the young people of this country. If we isolate them and let them fall apart, there is no way we can bring about much needed development of the country,” Nasheed said at the policy launch, promising “renewed-hope” for the young generation: “This is not simply a sports policy, it is also an entertainment policy.”

The MDP’s entertainment election promises include developing 40 turf stadiums throughout the country, development of high standard stadiums with modern-day training facilities, netball courts and courts for ‘Bashi’ – a traditional sport played by many women – across 60 islands.

“We will also develop the current national sports building as an ‘associations’ house’. In this Associations House, local sports associations will be given space to set up their administrative offices, while accommodation and boarding facilities will also be developed for international athletes and teams who visit the country,” he said.

Nasheed – who heads the country’s single largest political party both in terms of membership and parliamentary representation – also announced the development of a ‘sports resort’ – a sports-themed holiday resort specially designed to host famous international football clubs and other sports personalities who wish spend their off-season vacation in the country.

The said resort, Nasheed promised, would have quality in-house training facilities, practice grounds and gymnasiums for such teams.

Other plans include investment in youth development and skills development under the guidance of a National Sports Institute, and the establishment of a sports school.

“We will open the opportunity to develop a sports school through public-private partnership (PPP). We would also establish a special pension scheme for athletes who represent the country abroad as part of their retirement support,” Nasheed promised.

Responding to sarcastic remarks over the policy from his political opponents, Nasheed assured young people that the Special Operations (SO) officers of the police – known for their rough handling of MDP protests – would not be allowed to barge in and “ruin the fun”.

“Young people will decide what songs they wish to dance to,” Nasheed told the ecstatic young crowd.

Nasheed “a monster”, MDP “promoting homosexuality”: rival parties

The announcement of the MDP’s youth policy fueled harsh criticism from Nasheed’s opponents. Government-aligned parties currently backing the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan were quick to launch attacks on the policy.

While addressing a small campaign rally, the business tycoon and presidential hopeful Gasim Ibrahim – who also heads the Jumhoree Party (JP) – described Nasheed as a “monster” who had gone “crazy” with his “crazy talks to fool the people”.

Dismissing the MDP’s youth policy, Gasim challenged Nasheed’s academic qualifications and described him a ‘Jaahil’ (ignorant) who could not read the cover of the constitution.

“He doesn’t understand what the law says, so a crazy person like him may say that he would give the opportunity for people to limitlessly entertain themselves. Look, it is not something Allah has given us human beings,” Gasim said.

The business tycoon – who finished the last presidential election in fourth place – claimed Nasheed had done every “despicable act ever to be found in the world”.

“He thinks we, the people, are fools to believe such rubbish. Actually, he seriously may think that we are fools. He has now got the mindset of a monster,” said the resort owner.

Former Spokesperson for President Waheed and current spokesperson for his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP), Abbas Adil Riza, joined Gasim in denouncing the policy but had a different interpretation.

Speaking on the government-aligned television station DhiTV, Riza alleged the MDP was trying to “promote illicit activities such as homosexuality and sodomy” under the façade of its youth policy.

The current state minister of finance – who formally worked with the MDP but left after failing to win a party ticket to contest in 2009 parliamentary elections – said Maldivians had long been having “fun without fear” and claimed MDP re-emphasising the concept could be interpreted as pledging to “facilitate such devious acts”.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – headed by Maldives’ former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – claimed the youth policy was a tactic by the MDP to “win the votes of 15,000 or so drug addicts”.

PPM Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof told local media authorities should take serious concern over what Nasheed was planning to do should he come to power.

“Our society is facing huge problems due to narcotic abuse, and then Nasheed comes out and says that in his government the young people can ‘enjoy without fear’,” Mahloof said.

He also said that policies such as ‘entertainment without fear’ gave the impression the party was trying to promote drugs and substance abuse.

“That is why we need to seriously think what type of entertainment or enjoyment they are allowing in the country,” he said.

Mahloof promised that his party would provide “better solutions” for youth.

Enjoy responsibly

Responding to the criticism, former Minister of Youth and Sports during Nasheed’s presidency, Hassan Latheef, told Minivan News that MDP’s policy did not promote breaking laws and anti-Islamic behavior.

“Maybe for Abbas Adil Riza having fun is simply a group of men getting together for a dance wearing excessively thin white sarongs. We are saying that entertainment can be carried out within the boundaries of the law and Islam. We are not promoting drug abuse or homosexuality at all,” Latheef said.

He explained that a seven year old who goes to play with others among their age and interacts with society produces better results at school than a boy who is not allowed to go out but is given video games at home.

Latheef said young people were subjected to derogatory treatment by police simply because of their appearance, and that the MDP was trying to remove the fear that had been cast upon youth during the 30 year reign of Gayoom.

“Like the President said, we will not let the police ruin the fun for young people. We will not let the young people be discriminated against like that. What we are saying is that the government should facilitate development and entertainment for young people,” he added. “This is a solution to a lot of problems we now face in the society.”

“Entertainment without fear does not mean letting our kids smoke or allow them to take drugs. It is simply freeing them from fear, and that doesn’t mean we are giving them the chance to break the law,” he added.

Despite the criticism, the policy has received strong support across social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook, with the hash tags #BirakaNula and #Majakurun associated with the title of the policy quickly gaining popularity among the Maldivian twitter community.


Maamendhoo Island Council calls for football funding to combat violence, drug abuse

A lack of support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports for youth activities, particularly football, on Maamendhoo Island in Laamu Atoll has resulted in violence and drug use according to the island council’s president.

“The government has not provided funds for youth sports or activities here, it’s very sad,” Maamendhoo Island Council President Ali Shifaz told Minivan News, during a visit to the island.

“Football, and other sports, are very important because we need our youth to be away from bad habits,” Shifaz explained.

“Youth getting involved in drugs and fighting is a big issue, but normally football players don’t get involved in those things,” he continued. “They have no other time for drugs and fights.”

“For the last two or three months there have been no fights because of football. It’s a good way to compete and Maamendhoo is very peaceful as a result,” Shifaz noted.

Ultimately, problems ebb and flow depending on the support for youth activities the island receives, explained Shifaz.

“Eighty percent of the island’s youth play football, therefore we need to have a big effort to support them,” he added.

Unfortunately, fighting between youth from Maamendhoo with young people of nearby islands has become a problem because positive activities are not being funded and supported on those islands either, according to Shifaz.

In early 2012 Nasheed pledged to flatten football ground, put up fences, build a basketball court behind the stadium, and a bashee court for the women, explained Shifaz.

The football ground was recently built on Maamendhoo, however the island has also requested a youth centre – with ‘garlando’ (foosball) and billiards – be built so other youth who do not play football will have activities that prevent them from engaging in ‘bad habits’.

“I’m involved with an NGO here and I hate to say it but now our NGOs are not working properly, because they are not getting what they need to function in a proper way,” Shifaz lamented.

Lack of footballs

“They have very good players, I was very impressed,” former Victory Sports Club coach Abul ‘Abjee’ Jaleel told Minivan News.

“If youth team wants anything we discuss with the Island Council and they call the Ministry of Youth and Sports,” said Maamendhoo football player Mohamed ‘Kalho’ Nasheed.

“Before during [former President Mohamed] Nasheed’s time the ministry provided funding, but now we don’t get anything,” he explained.

“To buy balls the players contributed their own money. The sports team really collaborates,” he continued.

Previously the Maamendhoo football players only had one ball, but have managed to buy eight. They have also arranged a coach to come about three times a week, but there are no funds for his equipment either.

“There also used to be an atoll football competition, but this year there has been nothing,” Kalho lamented.

Youth and Sports Ministry response

“Maamendhoo happens to be the first island we helped after we assumed office early last year,” Youth and Sports Minister Mohamed Hussein ‘Mundu’ Shareef told Minivan News.

“The ministry contributed MVR 80,000 (US$5200) for the construction of the Maamendhoo football ground which was completed last year,” said Shareef. “So the allegations [that Maamendhoo is not receiving support from the Ministry] are rubbish.”

“Rather than complaining they should be pleased,” he added. “It was a long-pending pledge by Nasheed to develop the football ground which was not delivered.”

“It is a petty political problem or they have a short term memory,” said Shareef. “There are no pending requests from Maamendhoo, if there were it would be a different story.”

Shareef explained that he made it a point to review and implement all the pending pledges and corresponding paperwork for the sake of continuity.

“It’s not the fault of the youth that the government changed,” said Shareef. “We don’t differentiate between big and small islands or look at the political leanings of the island councils.”

In the past 15 to 16 months the Youth and Sports Ministry has helped 87 islands, which account for half the population, according to Shareef.

“There is not a single island we have not touched,” he declared.

The entire Youth and Sports Ministry’s budget for the past year was MVR 60 million (US$3,911,340), with MVR 20 million (US$ 1,303,780) allocated to associations – of which 19 are sports associations, according to Shareef.

Previously, MVR 2 million (US$ 130,378) was the total infrastructure budget, which the government quadrupled to MVR 8 million (US$ 521,512) this year, Shareef claimed.

Island football grounds are legally properties of the respective island councils and the Ministry funds the island councils, which are ultimately responsible for the development and maintenance of the grounds, Shareef explained.