Crimes reported in first half of 2014 drop by six percent

The number of crimes reported to the Maldives Police Services in first half of 2014 has dropped by nearly six percent compared to the previous year, police statistics have revealed.

The total number of crimes reported within the first six months of 2013 was 7746, while this year it has come down to 7292 cases.

While there were reductions in all major categories of crimes reported, the most significant drops were seen in counterfeit and forgery case, and domestic violence.

Counterfeit and forgery cases – the least reported category of crime – dropped by nearly 38 percent, from 69 cases in 2013 to 43 in 2014.

The number of domestic violence cases lodged with police fell from 120 in 2013 to just 94 cases in 2014 – a fall of nearly 22 percent.

The number of domestic violence cases lodged at the police annually had been increasing gradually since 2010.

Local women’s NGO Hope For Women last year said the anti-domestic violence legislation enacted in 2012 did very little to improve the situation for victims of such crimes.

The organisation said that while the police were prepared for its implementation, but lack of mechanisms still left the force handicapped.

According to the police statistics, reported sexual offenses cases also dropped from 341 to 316 within the first six months of this year.

Theft – the most reported crime in both years – saw the second greatest reduction, with 3113 cases in 2013 to 2893 cases. Meanwhile, robbery cases increased by more than nine percent.

Drugs, the second most reported crime, dropped by approximately two percent – from 1974 in 2013 to 1929 this year. Assault cases were came down from 659 to 602 cases, while road traffic cases dropped from 1188 to 1156.

Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed has said that reduced number of cases in the first six months was the result of the force’s special efforts to reduce crime with targeted objectives included in the MPS strategic plan and the annual business plan.

A survey published by ‘Transparency Maldives‘ earlier this year revealed a lack of public confidence in state institutions – including the police.

In the survey conducted among 1000 randomly selected individuals, 32 percent stated they had “no confidence at all” in the police, while the same number of individuals said they had a ‘great deal of confidence’ in them.

A UNDP sponsored human rights survey published by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives in 2013 also revealed dissatisfaction with police services.

Approximately 32 percent of respondents were not satisfied with the police services. When asked what it was they were dissatisfied with, they mentioned the failure to deal with crimes, inability to contact in times of need, bias, torture and corruption.


Only six convicted minors completed reintegration programmes in 2013

The Juvenile Court has released the statistics from last year showing the number of convicted minors that applied to participate in the Correctional Center for Children, revealing that 21 had applied to take part in the programs and only six completed it successfully.

According to a statement issued by the court gave the opportunity to participate for 16 minors out of 21 that applied to the rehabilitation programmes, aimed to facilitate reintegration into society.

Of the 16 charged, the Juvenile Court stated that five minors were charged with drug and alcohol related offenses, two charged with fornication and sexual misconduct, four charged with theft, two with robbery, two charged with objection to order and one charged with assault and battery.

The court said that the purpose of the programmes was to give a second chance for minors charged with criminal offenses to reintegrate in to the society and also to determine minors charged with criminal offenses that are working and studying and to help them continue their studies and work if they were sentenced.

In addition, the Juvenile Court said the program included teaching different types of work to minors charged with criminal offenses.

The court noted that those participating in the program had varied reasons for not completing, and also that there were minors that repeated criminal offences during the programme.

The Juvenile Court said that these programs were conducted in accordance with the court’s child correctional programs conducted under the regulation on juvenile justice procedure articles 19 and 20.

The programmes are conducted in cooperation with all the concerned authorities, and juveniles taking part in the programmes will have to participate in different programmes conducted by the correctional centre for children, the Juvenile Justice Unit, the National Drug Agency programmes and programmes conducted by the Ministry of Gender and Human Rights as well as different social programs conducted by NGOs, the Juvenile Court said.

A report made by Dr Aishath Ali Naaz for the Asia Foundation titled ‘Rapid situation assessment of gangs in Male’ 2012’’ suggested that minors are the most vulnerable within gangs and that they were used by gang leaders to carry out the gang’s dirty work, such as selling drugs and alcohol, inflicting harm on others and vandalizing property.

Dr Naaz’s reports said that judges have the discretion to deliver a more lenient sentence with regard to most criminal offences committed by offenders who are 16 years old or younger and gang leaders exploit this fact by using minors to carry out crimes.

Last year the Juvenile Court concluded 125 cases, with 54 of the cases concluded being drug related offenses committed by minors.

According to the Juvenile Court statistics the Prosecutor General filed 103 cases last year while 83 cases were filed in the Juvenile Court the year before.

The statistics also showed that 584 cases were brought before the judges to decide upon the extension of pretrial detention period for arrested minors.

Speaking this week at the inauguration of a youth camp aimed at preparing adolescents for integration into the workplace, Home Minister Umar Naseer pledged to introduce mandatory government service for school leavers.

Speaking at the same event, Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed spoke of the need to create a responsible young generation.

“There is no pleasure any one can reap from frequenting scenes of crimes. It is by strongly staying away from crime and being responsible that real happiness can be achieved,” Waheed said.


Ministry of Environment and Energy reveals hundred-day roadmap and energy data publication

Ministry of Environment and Energy has launched a road map for the first hundred days of President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, joining several other government institutions that revealed similar plans.

Environment and energy minister Thoriq Ibrahim said the implementation of some projects related to waste management, land erosion, water, sanitation and energy and preparatory works for more projects will commence within the first 100-days.

He said an effort will be made to strengthen the legal framework and it’s enforcement. To achieve this goal, implementation of waste regulation and emissions standard regulation will begin while the Environment Police is also expected to start working within this period.

According to the ministry, the Environment Police Unit formed through a memorandum of understanding with Maldives Police Service will investigate violation of environment and biodiversity laws.

The “Maldives Energy Outlook for Inhabited Islands 2013”, a compilation of electricity data of Maldives’ inhabited islands was also revealed at the ceremony held to announce the road-map. While this is the first publication of energy statistics, the ministry plans to publish this data annually in the future.

In a foreword to the document the minister highlighted the importance of having a consolidated national energy database and regular publication of such information at island and national level.

The publication states that 481,577metric ton of fuel was imported to meet energy demands of the country in 2012; out of which 10,019metric ton was cooking gas, 337,531metric ton was diesel, 38,008metric ton was petrol and 96,019metric ton was aviation gas. And 39 percent of the diesel imported was used to generate electricity in inhabited islands, making it the biggest consumer of imported fuel. It states that 49.4 percent (247.17 Gwh/year) of electricity generated in the country are consumed in the congested capital Male’ City.

Maldives Energy Outlook for Inhabited Islands 2013 is available for download here.


Half the population under 25, statistics reveal

Half the 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.

However despite the huge youth demographic, the statistics suggest the education system is failing young people, with just 19 percent of students going on to higher secondary education.

Moreover while just 7 percent of the country’s 408 schools are located in Male, a third of all students in the Maldives attend these institutions. Of their teachers, 32 percent are foreigners, while 14 percent have had no training.

The civil service meanwhile remains the country’s largest employer at 17,657 staff (5.34 percent of the population), but also highlights the country’s considerable wealth disparity. 47 percent of civil servants are paid less that MVR 5000 (US$330) a month, while just one percent are paid more than MVR 10,000 (US$660).

Statistics meanwhile show that while the government received MVR 9.8 billion (US$635.5 million) in revenue and grants, total expenditure was MVR 14.2 billion (US$921 million) – 74 percent of this on recurrent expenditure, and representing a total shortfall of US$285.5 million.

Approximately MVR 970 million (US$62.9 million) was spent on social protection programs such as pensions. Of this money, 782 million (US$50.7 million) was spent on the Aasandha universal healthcare scheme.

While the country’s exports were valued at MVR 2.5 billion (US$155.6 million), imports were MVR 23.9 billion (US$1.54 billion). Meanwhile, almost all of the MVR 14.5 billion (US$940 million) worth of loans and advances issued by banks to the private sector were for tourism and resort development. Annual inflation sat at 10.9 percent,

Tourism capacity at the end of 2012 was 25,571 beds, with an average occupancy rate of 70.6 percent and average tourist stay of 6.7 nights.


Arrested 98 prostitutes since March: police

Maldivian police have revealed that they have arrested 98 prostitutes in Male’ since March this year, including some expatriate males.

According to police, 58 of the alleged prostitutes have now been deported and sent back to their countries.

In one instance police said a Bangladeshi expatriate who was caught and deported had changed his name and crossed the Maldivian border by changing his information. Police said the person was arrested a second time for involvement in prostitution.

Police custody currently hold four Thai women, two Bangladeshi women and men, and three Maldivians in detention, all of them whom arrested in massage parlors on suspicious of being involved in prostitution.

According to the police statement, police have so far confiscated Rf138783 [USD9011] and USD3155 [Rf48587] found in massage parlors and alternative medical centres closed by the police for running prostitution.

Police said that since March, they have closed down 25 businesses operating as brothels in different operations conducted to reduce serious and organised crime.

The statement quoted police Inspector Mohamed Dhaudh as saying that three businesses were shutdown in March, three businesses shutdown in April, five businesses shutdown in May and six businesses shutdown in June, five businesses shutdown in July, one in August and four closed down in September.

Dhaudh said the operations to raid those businesses were mainly conducted by police intelligence and officers from the serious and organised crime department.

After the new government came in to power, police began special operations to curb the rise in prostitution in the Maldives.

In a mega protest held in Male’ on December last year by a coalition of the then-opposition parties, they demanded Mohamed Nasheed’s government close down all the spas and massage parlors in Male’ accused of running prostitution.


Maldives facing worst economic situation in recent history: MMA Governor

The Maldives is facing its worst economic crisis in recent memory, the governor of the country’s central bank said earlier this week.

“The Maldives is now in a dangerous economic situation never before seen in recent history,” local media reported Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), Dr Fazeel Najeeb, as saying during a ‘Finance Forum’ held by the Pension Administration office on Bandos Island Resort.

“Expenditure in the country has exceeded income, and as a result the budget deficit is increasing. From November 2010 inflation has also been going up,” he said.

The country last year spent 63.1 percent of its GDP on state expenses, Dr Najeeb claimed, adding that only four countries had worse percentages, including Cuba and Zimbabwe.

Parliament’s Finance Committee revealed earlier this month that expected revenue for 2012 had plunged 23 percent – a shortfall of US$168.6 million, leaving the country with a budget deficit of 27 percent. Key unaccounted losses include up to US$135 million in land lease payments due to policy reinterpretation, and around US$8 million a quarter in airport concession fees due to a Civil Court ruling blocking the levying of an airport development charge.

Government spending for the year has meanwhile increased by almost 24 percent, to a total of US$1.13 billion. Spending unaccounted for in the 2012 budget following the controversial change of government of February 7 has included the promotion of a third of the police force, lump sum payments to military personnel, US$6.5 million in fishing subsidies, reimbursement of US$28.8 in civil servant salaries following cuts by the previous administration, the creation of two new ministries, and the hiring of international PR firms to counter negative publicity.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan meanwhile reported this week that India had granted the Maldives a US$25 million increase in credit facility, on top of a US$100 million facility extended in November 2011.

Figures from the MMA’s monthly economic review in April show projected GDP growth of 5.5 percent this year, down from 7.5 percent last year, but are drawn from the 2012 budget and do not account for the increase in expenditure highlighted by the Finance Committee.

However, “key indicators of the tourism sector showed declines as tourist arrivals fell in both monthly and annual terms during the month of March 2012. The decrease in arrivals mainly came from China although arrivals from Europe were also slightly lower,” the MMA noted, observing that tourist bed nights also declined.

The government said earlier this month it would hold industry consultations with the tourism sector as to how the additional revenue might be raised, and present recommendations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which included doubling the Tourism Goods and Services Tax (TGST) to 12 percent, according to Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb.

Minivan News spoke to several resort managers, who reacted poorly to the proposal.

“If we were to increase now, we’d – again – have to absorb all of it until new contracts with tour operators set in, some time in March 2013,” one manager told Minivan News.

“An increase on sales prices on the resort by way of adding on the GST – as any other increase – will be felt a lot more by resorts such as ours with a more price sensitive clientele, than by many of the upper market properties. How this will affect the country as a whole – rising prices, inflation, etc – and its effect also on tourism, is anybody’s guess,” the manager added.

The situation had led to a “feeling of insecurity” among many stakeholders in the industry, the manager said.

“Taxes, charges, rent-fees – nobody will dare a prediction for in two months from now let alone for next year,” he said. “This is not limited to possible financial burdens but is also true for other areas: infrastructure, industry projections, etc.”

Another resort manager said that any increase to the TGST, particularly if it was sudden, would have “serious ramifications on many of the markets.”

“Some operators will not accept the increase mid-contract and hence resorts will have to absorb this from revenue,” the manager explained. ”The additional costs will need to be balanced somewhere in the operation.”

The manager expressed frustration that resorts were being asked to shoulder the country’s financial burdens without any commitment from the government to reduce expenditure.

“We have seen an increase in some public services salaries and a reduction of working hours in many government departments who are meant to serve the resorts. Many of these government departments already make it difficult for the resorts to do their jobs, with bureaucracy and rules to keep extra people in a job rather than making it easier to support the resorts in order to do their job: build more business, increase revenue and hence increase GST [revenue] in a positive manner. An increase in GST right now is the wrong solution.”


China leads Maldives’ 18 percent tourism boom

Over 700,000 tourists visited the Maldives in the first seven months of 2011, the majority of visitors from China.

The Tourism Ministry has released data showing that the number of tourists who visited the Maldives between January and July 2011 increased by 18.3 percent to 520,483. This was compared to the 439,864 tourists who visited the Maldives during the same period last year.

Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) Secretary General, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, told Minivan News that the timing of Europe’s economic decline matches that of the growing Chinese market. Asia’s high season corresponds with Europe’s low season, he said, and resorts are now catering more to Chinese tourists to keep business up.

Jamal also noted that airlines such as Qatar Airways had increased direct service to the Maldives in the last 10 months. He also noted that more airports are being constructed closer to resort islands, such as in Baa Atoll.

“The President has also decided to increase the marketing budget from US$1.5 million to US$7 million, since we expect the industry’s growth to continue,” said the MATATO secretary general.

Statistics show that Chinese tourists dominated the market in the first seven months with 103,734 individuals, accounting for 19.9 percent of the total arrivals. The United Kingdom was the second-largest contributor to tourism arrivals, composing 11.7 percent of the market.

Jamal forecasted “phenomenal growth” in the Chinese market, and estimated that the Chinese would account for 40 percent of the total tourists in coming years.

The Maldives currently hosts over 100 resorts boasting a total of 22,000 beds. Jamal said 3-4 more resorts were currently under construction, and noted that it was important “to always have excess demand and limited rooms to keep the appeal of the Maldives up.”

Secretary General of the Maldives Association of the Tourism Industry (MATI), Ibrahim Mohamed Sim, was more guarded on the issue. Sim told Minivan News that “we are holding steady in growth, but the market looks mixed since the decline of the US economy could affect our traditional European markets.”

Italy and the UK, formerly leading contributors to the Maldivian tourism industry, have declined, said Sim, but Germany was holding steady.

Sim said the demand from China was significant, and that the Maldives “is in a very lucky position to have the chance to meet that demand.”

Sources in the Chinese media and Mandarin-language tourism forums have meanwhile noted the rise of practices such as segregation of Chinese visitors from other guests at meal times.

Sim commented that although he did not believe there was segregation, the Chinese “stand out, they come here for a different reason than most tourists. They do not come here to sun tan, they come here to see a different place.” He noted that some resorts were also designed to specifically appeal to different groups.

Another recent event in the Maldives’ tourism industry was its withdrawal from the New7Wonders competition.

Jamal told Minivan News, “we think it was a loss that the Maldives pulled out. New7Wonders was a marketing tool, and major tourism companies were competing for the award.”

However he said he did not think that the Maldives’ decision had affected the tourism industry.


Police arrested 1153 people on drug charges in 2010, show police statistics

Maldives police arrested1153 persons on drug charges in 2010, according to statistics released by the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), a reduction on the 1834 arrests made in 2009.

Police statistics showed that in 2009, 19 persons accused of dealing illegal narcotics on a large scale were arrested, with  10 of the 19 cases were sent to the courts to for trial.

In 2010, 48 ‘large scale’ dealers were arrested and 33 cases were investigated, while 25 of the cases were sent to Prosecutor General’s office.

In additional, during 2010 police seized 3.3 kilograms of heroin, 5.5 kilograms of cannabis and 790 bottles of alcohol, a total street value police claimed was Rf11.2 Million (US$870,000).

Head of DED,Police Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, said that police had reduced the spread of drugs by 50 percent during the last two years.

Last year 7218 persons were searched while 175 police special operations were conducted in Male’. 95 operations were conducted in the islands.


HRCM annual report on human rights reveals concerning statistics

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) held a press conference this morning to present their annual report for 2009 on human rights in the Maldives.

The press conference was led by President of the Commission Ahmed Saleem and Vice President Mohamed Zahid.

The Commission expressed concern and regret that when MPs debate on bills presented at the People’s Majlis, they sometimes ignore the Commission’s comments.

The report mentions complaints made by the public directly to the HRCM.

Out of 490 total complaints made in 2009, 322 were resolved and 168 are still pending.

The highest number of complaints, 139, were job-related cases. The HRCM said most of these complaints were from people working at resorts. Thirty-seven of these cases are still unresolved.

The second highest number was relating to housing and property rights, the HRCM having received 57 complaints last year, 26 of which are still pending.

Police-related complaints amounted to 55, and eight were related to violence (all of these being marked as ‘resolved’).

Two complaints were relating to murder. Both are still pending investigation.

There were 16 complaints relating to child abuse, which was one of the issues they listed as their main priority to tackle this year. Nine are pending investigation.

The report claims the crime rates in the country have risen. It reads that communities in the Maldives have reached a state of fear mainly because of “failure to enforce sentences for convicts.”

It adds that “a large number of convicts are loose in society.”

Complaints relating to the judiciary system were 31, ten of which are still unresolved.

Problems with riots in jails were also listed as a main priority.

Members of the HRCM visited several jails last year including Maafushi jail, Malé jail, Feydhu Finolhu jail and S. Gan temporary jail.

They also visited Hinmafufhi Rehabilitation centre, Dhoonidhu police custodial and the Emigration detention centre, where they conducted their research.