MDA leader ‘Sun Travel’ Siyam maintains worst attendance record in third session of 18th Majlis

The People’s Majlis has published an attendance report for its third session of the 18th Majlis, with MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Siyam – leader of the government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance – with the worst record.

According to the report published on the Majlis website, Siyam attended only 10 of the 29 parliamentary sittings for the third session. He did not provide any reason for not participating in 17 of the sittings, and was on leave for two.

The Dhaalu Meedhoo MP was also at the bottom of the 17th Majlis’s attendance records.

Jumhooree pary MP Ilham Ahmed was second in attending the least parliamentary sittings, participating in 15 of the 29 sittings. Next was ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP Ahmed Nazim and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party Rozaina Adam – both participated in 16 sittings.

Out of the total 85 members, 22 were present at all of the Majlis’ sittings.


Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed takes over ‘Sun’ Shiyam’s case

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed has taken over the alcohol smuggling and possession trial of Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam.

Citing a letter sent from the criminal court secretariat to Judge Ahmed Sameer Abdul Aziz, who was previously overseeing proceedings, Haveeru has reported that the action was taken in response to a letter from the Supreme Court.

The decision has come amid media reports that Judge Aziz was to be replaced with Judge Shujau Usman after a request from government coalition leader Shiyam

According to the court spokesperson, the action was taken following complaints regarding the case, and was done under Article 55 (e) of the Judicature Act.

The article specifies that it is the responsibility of the senior judge in superior courts to “take action in relation to delays and other complaints related to cases submitted to the court”.

Shiyam request allegedly stated that Judge Aziz’s “hand gestures and facial expressions” indicated a personal grudge against him which could lead to an unfair trial.

According to reports, in addition to making the request for the removal of Judge Aziz from the Criminal Court and Supreme Court, Shiyam wrote a letter to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz stating his belief that his complaints regarding the judge had further increased the risk of receiving an unfair trial.

In a letter addressed to the chief justice, which was acquired by the media, Shiyam was reported to have said he had received reports that the judge may be “considering a hastened and strict verdict” against him.

Denying reports that the case had already been handed over to a new judge, the court today said it still remains with Chief Judge Abdulla.

Shiyam was charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol in March 2012 after customs officers at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) discovered a bottle of alcohol in his luggage.

The case remained in the investigation stage for a year after the Prosecutor General’s Office sent it back to the police in August 2012 citing a lack of necessary information.

Since the trial began in November 2013, the Criminal Court has cancelled four scheduled hearings after being unable to deliver the summons chit to Shiyam.

He appeared before the court for the first and the only hearing held in the case on March 13 this year after a court order was issued to bring him before the court under police custody. Shiyam denied the charges and requested more time to research the case.

The second hearing in the trial has been rescheduled three times, the most recent instance occurring earlier this week.

In late March, CNM reported that Judge Abdulla – prior to the official schedule date for the second hearing – had attempted to hold an unofficial hearing while judge Aziz was on leave.

If found guilty Shiyam could lose his seat in parliament as per Article 73(c)(2) of the constitution which states that members of the parliament will be disqualified upon receiving a criminal sentence of more than twelve months.

Meanwhile, a hearing in the trial of Shiyam’s brother, Ahmed Salim Mohamed, for disobedience to order have also been cancelled this week, on the same date Shiyam’s latest delay.

Haveeru reports that Chief Judge Abdulla has on several occasions asked presiding Judge Muhtaz Hussein to hand the case over to him, though the court informed Minivan News today that this has not yet happened.


Sun Shiyam’s alcohol possession trial delayed again

The second hearing in the alcohol possession and smuggling trial of Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader and MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam has been cancelled for the third time in two months.

According to the Criminal Court, a scheduled hearing was cancelled today as the court was unable to deliver the summons chit.

Media reports that the presiding judge has been changed have today been denied by the court.

In March 2012, customs officers at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) discovered a bottle of alcohol in the MP’s luggage. After a police investigation, the case was forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office in August 2012 before being returned to police due to incomplete information.

The relative speed at which cases related to opposition MPs have travelled through the justice system prompted the Maldivian Democratic Party to seek a no-confidence motion against then PG Ahmed Muizz.

Muizz’s subsequent resignation last November has indirectly led to the current crisis in the country’s courts.

Shiyam was eventually charged – more than a year later – although a hearing scheduled for November 7 2013 was cancelled after a summons chit was not delivered to Shiyam.

The Criminal Court subsequently ordered police to present the MP in court, after which he appeared for the first hearing on March 13, 2014.

With local media reporting that Shiyam was kept in the guest area of the court – unlike other suspects – Shiyam denied the charges and requested more time to research the case.

A scheduled hearing for April 10 was again cancelled due to Shiyam’s absence from the capital, with the rescheduled hearing also cancelled as the court was unable to deliver the chit.

An unannounced hearing was attempted on March 27 prior to these official hearings, while Judge Ahmed Sameer Abdul Aziz – who is presiding over the case – was on leave. Citing an anonymous source at the court, local media outlet CNM reported that Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdullah Mohamed was behind this attempt.

“[Criminal Court Chief] Justice Abdulla [Mohamed]was to finish the case. In this regard he sent summoning chits to witnesses while they have not even been presented [by the state], and tried to hold a hearing today at 10am,” CNM quoted the official as saying.

The attempt eventually failed after after a number of court officials were absent from work, CNM was told.

While the case was not on the hearing schedule published on their official website, the court’s spokesperson told CNM such arrangements were not unlawful.

Replacing the judge

Meanwhile local media has reported that the court has now replaced Judge Abdul Aziz with Judge Shujau Usman upon Shiyam’s request.

The Criminal Court has denied these reports, saying that today’s hearing had also been scheduled to be conducted by Judge Abdul Aziz.

The media has published contents of a letter attributed to Shiyam which requests the removal Judge Abdul Aziz from the case stating the he has a personal grudge against the Meedhoo MP.

The letter, dated 24 April 2014, and addressed to to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz is said to states that, during the first hearing, Judge Abdul Aziz displayed hand gestures and facial expressions which suggested the possibility of acting impartially against Shiyam.

It stated that Judge Abdul Aziz was also displeased with the MDA leader following his complaints, and that Shiyam had received information the judge may be considering a hastened and strict verdict against him.

The letter described the case against Shiyam as “a devious plot by some powerful people” and a politically motivated lie invented by Shiyam’s enemies.

If found guilty, Shiyam could lose his seat in the parliament as per Article 73(c)(2) of the constitution which states that members will be disqualified upon receiving a criminal sentence of more than twelve months would.

Import and possession of alcohol without a special permit form the Ministry of Economic Development is is a criminal offence in the Maldives. The penalty for the crime under the Unlawful Imports Act is 1-3 years imprisonment, banishment or a fine between MVR1000 – 5000.


Criminal Court orders police to present Zaki and Siyam to hearing

The Criminal Court has released an order on Sunday asking the police to keep government coalition partner Maldivian Development Alliance leader and owner of Sun Travels Ahmed Siyam and Nasheed administration’s Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussain Zaki in police custody and to present them to court hearings.

The order was released as the court has been unable to deliver the summons for the hearings to the two individuals.

Siyam is being summoned to court regarding a case where customs discovered he had tried to bring in a bottle of alcohol in his luggage to the Maldives in March 2012.

Zaki is being tried for a case against him for possessing drugs and alcohol during a police raid of the island of Hondaidhoo in November 2012 where he and a number of others, including MDP parliament members Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor were arrested.


President to discuss visa issues, business prospects with India

President Abdulla Yameen has said he will be seeking solutions to the difficulties Maldivians face in getting travel visas to India, and obtaining construction materials during his official visit to the country.

Yameen, however, claimed that the government does not intend to re-establish the contract with the Indian Company GMR to develop the country’s only international airport.

“One of the biggest obstacles faced by Maldivians travelling to India, especially those travelling for medical purposes, as well as students, is the difficulty in getting visa approval. That is something I will discuss during this trip,” Yameen told the press prior to his departure.

“The Foreign Ministry and the Immigration Department has already conducted a lot of work on this manner and we have hopes that there will soon be a solution to this,” said the president.

Yameen will be accompanied by the first lady on the official trip, taken after an invitation from Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee.

“In the context of businesses and general conditions, these are days when the country is facing trouble in getting construction material like building rocks and rock boulders. We have even previously talked about this,” he continued.

Yameen stated that, in addition to his own discussions, the government delegation travelling with him will also be conducting deliberations with their Indian counterparts, adding that he hoped the discussions would pave way for prospects beneficial to the Maldivian people.

He revealed that the main focus of the trip will explore ways in which India can assist in dealing with the difficulties currently faced by the Maldivian business and health sectors.

“Among the agreements, prospects for the health sector is included. Otherwise, we are generally going towards some agreements to seek assistance for the business sector. I believe that through discussions, there are numerous ways in which we can move forward together,” he stated.

“Similar to the Maldives, India too needs some time to make arrangements. Since our requests are large scale, it will take time for them to get approval from their parliament. However, the Indian government’s responses to us are very positive,” Yameen said.

Besides the Indian government, the Maldivian delegation will also be meeting key members of India’s business sector, Yameen said.

Also taking part in these meetings will be the leaders of ruling coalition parties, Gasim Ibrahim -Jumhooree Party – and Ahmed Siyam – Maldives Development Alliance. The two also chair the business groups Villa Enterprises and Sun Travels, respectively.

This is the president’s first official trip abroad since assuming office in November 2013.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, President’s Office Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef, Health Minister Mariyam Shakeela, Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb, State Minister for Youth and Sports Gassan Maumoon and Foreign Secretary Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed will also be accompanying Yameen.

“No intention to bring back GMR”

Yameen said that the GMR issue is currently in the arbitration stage and has dismissed claims that the government may renew the airport development contract with the company.

“This government does not intend to give the whole airport back to GMR. I do not anticipate that the Indian government will discuss the GMR issue with us, it has not done so before. The GMR issue is not one which concerns the government of India,” Yameen stated.

“The matter is between two companies, albeit the companies being ones important to both governments. Why the airport is important to us is because it is one of the major earning sources for us, and because the company is a 100 percent state owned enterprise. In the same manner, GMR might be important to the current government in power in India,” he explained.

Yameen said representatives from GMR may be present in meetings with the business sector, but denied that the government would be meeting specifically with the company to discuss the airport issue.

“GMR representatives have not even requested to meet them separately. Thus, the GMR matter is not a notable focus in this trip of mine,” he said.

Yameen said that instead of renewing the GMR contract, the government is currently focusing on how the state can pay the compensation fee to the company, and that the matter was being dealt with in the official arbitration.

GMR Chair G M Rao told Indian media last month that he expected the US$1.4 billion wrongful termination claim to be resolved by May.

However, India’s Economic Times has reported that “the Manmohan Singh government will seek the creation of a climate conducive to Indian investment in the Maldives when president Abdulla Yameen arrives in Delhi on January 1 on his maiden visit abroad after being elected head of state.”

“This includes the resolution of disputes relating to GMR’s airport project and the allocation of a site for a Tata housing project,” continued the paper.