Manta rays lacking libido in empty blue seas around the Maldives: The Guardian

” ‘Mantas!’ shouts Guy Stevens from the top deck, pointing to huge bat-shaped shadows gliding under the rippling, turquoise water of Hanifaru bay in the Maldives,” writes Damien Carrington for the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

“Mantas are protected in the Maldives and had been faring relatively well,compared with populations in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and elsewhere, where thousands of the inquisitive creatures are slaughtered each year to supply the Chinese traditional medicine market.

But Stevens is worried by a new threat. Usually about a third of the females are pregnant every year, he says: ‘But then – boom – in 2009 reproduction just stopped.’

‘Is this part of long-term natural cycles or is it something more sinister, related to climate change and human impacts?’ asks Stevens, founder and chief executive of the Manta Trust, which runs its Maldives programme from the Four Seasons resort on Landaa Giraavaru island, with the company funding the Trust’s staff and operations.

‘I suspect it is not natural,’ he says. ‘The meteorological people say the monsoon is changing [from usual patterns], and the fishermen who have been out there for 50 years say it is definitely changing.’

Stevens has been tracking the Maldive mantas for eight years and has 15,000 sightings of 1,500 individuals from the last four years alone. Their feeding events correlate closely with the average speed of the winds, which have been blowing less strongly overall in the past four years.

Weaker winds are less effective at stirring up the seas, meaning the nutrients needed for plankton to bloom are missing. “If primary production is affected, that passes up through the food chain and affects the mantas,” he says, adding that mantas bring in about $20m a year in tourism revenue for the Maldives.”

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Security concerns preoccupy polls, says the Guardian and the BBC

Results of today’s presidential election may improve stability not only in the Maldives, but across the Islamic world, reports UK media The Guardian.

“I’ve always said that what happens in Maldives first, happens in the Middle East later,” candidate and former president Mohamed Nasheed told reporters in Male’ earlier this week.

Nasheed’s statement is reciprocated by intensified attention from regional powers, reports the Guardian. Citing India’s commercial and diplomatic ties with the archipelago, and Sri Lanka’s “cultural and other ties”, the publication adds that “China too is keenly interested in developments in the strategically situation island nation.”

The country has pushed for new growth in recent years, however international media note that basic security is a concern for voting Maldivians.

“‘Some Maldivians appear nostalgic for the stability of the long decades of [former president Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s rule, particularly elements of the security forces,” writes The Guardian, noting that Maldives Police Chief Abdulla Riyaz thanked Gayoom for founding national police services via Twitter six days ago.

BBC News received similar information from Transparency Maldives, a branch of Transparency International. Group representative Thoriq Hamed said the four candidates had campaigned “smoothly and peacefully,” but stated that there remains “some apprehension and confidence issues about the security forces.”

Other key issues in today’s presidential election highlighted by foreign media include religion, nationalism, gender equality, education and the economy.

Both publications observe that last year’s change in leadership sparked political unrest and generated anxiety over the negative impact on the country’s vital tourism industry. The presidential election is the second multi-party democratic election in the nation’s history, and the first since February 2012’s controversial transfer of power.


UK Foreign Office to “pressure” Maldives over tackling police abuse allegations: The Guardian

UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Alistair Burt is expected to “pressure” the Maldives government to tackle alleged abuses conducted by police during a visit to the country next month.

The UK-based Guardian newspaper reported today that Burt would be asking the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan about efforts being undertaken to tackle “serious and persistent abuses” alleged to have been carried out by police – claims backed in reports on the country by a number of international NGOs.

These alleged abuses are reported to include: “attacks on opposition MPs, torture and mass detentions of democracy activists,” according to the paper.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed were not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press concerning the upcoming UK FCO visit.

However, the government and police authorities in the Maldives have previously questioned findings by a number of international NGOs, accusing their individual authors of acting with bias in favour of former President Nasheed and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Police probe

Reports of Burt’s visit follow The Guardian reporting earlier this week that senior UK government figures were set to be questioned by politicians over the role of a Scottish police college in training Maldivian officers accused of perpetrating human rights abuses.

Police authorities in the Maldives contacted by Minivan News yesterday played down the abuse allegations raised by a number of NGOs such as Amnesty International, questioning possible bias in the data gathered in their reports.

Just last month, the circumstances behind the arrests of then Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Jabir and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor for their alleged possession of alcohol had been labelled “very worrying” by delegates from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

The comments were made following a a three-day mission to the Maldives over alleged human rights abuses.

Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan from IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians said at the time that circumstances surrounding the arrests of Jabir – now an MDP MP – and Ghafoor were concerning and that the delegation found it “difficult” to believe it was not politically-motivated.

Both Jabir and Ghafoor – along with eight others – were arrested on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll for the alleged possession of alcohol and drugs.

The arrests were made days prior to a vote on whether or not a no confidence motion against President Mohamed Waheed could be voted with a secret ballot.

Transfer of power

Since February’s controversial transfer of power that saw former President Mohamed Nasheed resigning from office follow a mutiny by sections of the country’s police and military – a decision he claimed was made under duress – several NGOs have published reports addressing concerns about police conduct in the Maldives.

Minivan News observed violent clashes between police officers and anti-government protesters directly following the change of government. On February 8, Minivan News journalists witnessed Specialist Operations (SO) officers specifically target certain MDP activists by chasing and beating them.

Anti-government protests have continued on and off throughout 2012 resulting in both local and international media coverage of alleged police brutalityattacks by protesters on police and reporters, numerous arrests and the occasional, almost playful stand-off.

Amidst this backdrop, several NGOs have released reports into alleged rights abuses conducted by police.  These reports include findings by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) entitled “From Sunrise to Sunset: Maldives backtracking on democracy” and an Amnesty International publication entitled: “The Other side of Paradise: A Human Rights Crisis in the Maldives”.

FIDH noted in its findings that the government of President Waheed stood accused of a wide range of human right violations, including violent harassment of street protesters, torture and harassment of pro-opposition media as well as legal and physical harassment of the opposition.

“Practices to silence political dissent that had disappeared in the course of Nasheed’s presidency, have once again become prevalent under Mohamed Waheed’s presidency,” said FIDH at the time.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International’s report recommended that the Maldivian government “ensure prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations into allegations of violence by officials.”

The NGO also called for the de-politicisation of the police, reform of the judiciary and enhanced training of security forces to meet with international standards of conduct.

Amnesty said that several of its human rights recommendations were reflected in the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry’s (CNI) report which was released on August 30. The report concluded that President Waheed’s government had come to power legitimately and that there no evidence of any mutiny by the police and military.

Following the report’s publication, two international advisors to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) – Judicial Advisor Sir Bruce Robertson and Legal Advisor Professor John Packer – criticised what they believed was an “alarming level” of street demonstrating.

“Some would want to call [this] an example of the rights of freedom of expression and assembly. In reality it is rather more bully-boy tactics involving actual and threatened intimidation by a violent mob,” they stated at the time. “This perpetual behaviour is sapping public life and hindering the Maldives’ development as a modern democracy.”

However, the CNI’s findings did nonetheless highlight the need for institutional reform within the country focusing on areas such as law enforcement and the judiciary.

Earlier this month, the Commonwealth announced it would be working with the Maldivian government to push ahead with strengthening and reforming “key public institutions” – issues raised in the CNI report.  The Commonwealth also said that it was reiterating calls for “inclusive and credible” presidential elections to be held next year.

Report “bias”

Following the publication of Amnesty’s report in September, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed criticised Amnesty International for failing to seek comment from the government, accusing it of publishing a one-sided report.

Similar criticisms of the NGO were made by Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz back in April.  He expressed disappointed with what he perceived had been Amnesty’s failure to ask the police for its comments before releasing a report based on its findings.

“I don’t see that there has been any investigations done, none of our officers was questioned, interviewed – neither by them nor by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), nor by the Human Rights Commission (HRCM). I don’t think that’s fair,” said Riyaz.

Amnesty International had previously denied it has taken sides compiling its report on the Maldives.


CoNI report causes predictable outrage: The Guardian

“When is a coup not a coup? This vexed question has been exercising the citizens of the Maldives ever since their first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, was driven from office in February amid a violent rampage by police mutineers,” writes Simon Tisdall for the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

“His successor, former vice-president Mohamed Waheed, claims to hold power legitimately. Opponents including members of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic party (MDP) say Waheed now oversees a “police state” and warn of deepening political rifts and ever greater human rights abuses.

The crisis that erupted in the Indian Ocean republic eight months ago caused widespread alarm. Nasheed, a former political prisoner, was voted into office in 2008 after 30 years of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The result was widely hailed as a triumph for democracy. But the old regime took defeat badly. Resentment turned into open revolt after Nasheed ordered the detention of the chief justice of the criminal court, who was suspected of obstructing investigations into bribery and corruption allegations involving former regime figures.”

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Nasheed makes Cameron’s top five for Berlusconi stag party

If given the chance, British Prime Minister David Cameron would include President Mohamed Nasheed in a stag weekend organised by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Graffiti artist Eine published a Q&A in UK media The Guardian in which he asked Cameron to choose five living world leaders to invite, and if he omitted Bill Clinton, to explain why.

After listing Clinton and Obama, Cameron said, “My new best friend is the president of the Maldives. He’s great.”

Press Secretary at the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair told Haveeru that President Nasheed and the British PM maintain an “ever growing” friendship, and that their respective parties share a close partnership.

France’s Nicholas Sarkozy and New Zealand’s John Key also made the list.

Cameron gave one of Eine’s pieces to Obama as an official gift in 2010.


Ten killed in Delhi briefcase bombing

An improvised explosive device (IED) killed at least 10 people and injured approximately 65 this morning at the high court in Delhi, India. UK’s The Guardian reports that the bomb was hidden in the briefcase which had been placed near the court’s reception center where people queue for visitors’ passes.

The bomb exploded at 10:14 am, a peak traffic time. The Guardian calls it the largest attack in India’s capital since a series of bombs went off in markets three years ago, killing 25 people.

India’s home secretary, RK Singh, said the attack “has all the signs of an IED explosion set off by a terror group,” The Guardian reports.

Reuters has reported that a militant terrorist group called Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, or HuJI, had taken responsibility for the attack.

Delhi’s high court was targeted earlier this year, when a minor blast on 25 May took place at approximately the same location. No casualties were reported.

US-based The New York Times reports that Indian intelligence agencies had been criticized lately for slackening security measures. The report stated authorities had received information about a possible terror threat to Delhi in July, which they turned over to local police.

Reports indicate that this and previous attacks in Delhi and Mumbai, India’s two most important cities, did not involve electronic communication- – common aspect of many terror plots. Officials consider this a “troubling pattern.”

Wednesdays are known busy days at the the Delhi court, which hears public interest litigations on that day. The court is also located within a mile of parliament. The Guardian notes that at one point the two buildings were temporarily connected to allow home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram to deliver statements on the latest atrocity.

One MP allegedly called today’s bombing “an attack on the nation.”

In December 2001, the Indian parliament was targeted by a suicide bomber belonging to Islamist terror groups Jaish-E-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, based in Pakistan.