Global change makers demand a fair trial for Nasheed

Global change makers have demanded a fair trial for former President Mohamed Nasheed, imprisoned ahead of a terrorism trial over the 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

An open letter signed by 31 global activists and film makers, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, called on the international community to use all resources to “pressure the government to free” Nasheed and “desist in all human rights abuses against him immediately.”

Nasheed was arrested on Februrary 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin alleged the opposition leader may abscond from an unannounced terrorism trial scheduled for the next day.

Nasheed has denied ordering Judge Abdulla’s arrest. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

The letter’s prominent signatories include, environmentalist and co-founder of Bill McKibben, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, President of Friends of the Earth Erich Pica, and Oscar nominated documentary film maker Robert Stone.

“We firmly believe that international pressure on the regime can help to end the illegal and politically motivated trial against President Nasheed,” read the letter.

The Commonwealth, UN, EU, Canada, India, UK and Australia have expressed concern over Nasheed’s arrest, denial of legal representation, and mistreatment by the police.

Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon has previously condemned international statements of concern, saying: “No foreign power can tell Maldives what to do under President [Abdulla] Yameen.”

“To criticize us in public statements with lies or based with having only heard the opposition’s point of view is not acceptable. The government will not accept these statements and will not pay any attention to them,” Dunya said.

Also amongst the signatories are Director of acclaimed documentary “The Island President” Jon Shenk and Producers Dan Cogan, Richard Berge and Bonni Cohen.

Speaking to Huffington Post, Cogan called the proceedings Nasheed “a kangaroo court set up to convict him and it should be very concerning for anyone who believes in the rule of law and democratic government.”

Meanwhile, Former US Vice-President and climate change advocate Al Gore tweeted that the “eyes of the world” are watching Nasheed’s trial and said he must be given a “fair and just trial.”

The government has however claimed it has no influence over Nasheed’s trial, arguing charges were pressed by an independent Prosecutor General. President Yameen taking a stand on Nasheed’s trial amounted to interfering in the judiciary, the government has said.

“Judicial Assassination”

Addressing the Australian Parliament last week, Senator James McGrath described the trial against Nasheed as a “state planned judicial assassination,” and said President Yameen is becoming the “Robert Mugabe of the Indian Ocean.”

“[Nasheed] has been arrested on trumped-up charges, denied legal representation, assaulted by police and faces an unfair trial that will ultimately end in the denial of his  presidential ambitions,” said McGrath.

Mcgrath warned that President Yameen’s administration has “hastened its slide into tyranny,” with police conducting illegal arrests and searches, allegedly planting evidence and breaching constitutionally guaranteed rights.

He further said that the courts have “abrogated their duties under the democratic constitution of the Maldives,” by breaching the separation of powers, denying rights to legal representation and abusing fundamental judicial processes.

“The real purpose behind these actions by the Maldivian state is abundantly clear: to silence all opposition to Yameen’s government,” McGrath claimed.

The Australian senator for Queensland also alleged that the government is “all but refusing help” in the search to find Minivan News Journalist Ahmed Rilwan, who went missing in August last year in what is believed to be an abduction by radicalized gangs.

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has also dropped the Maldives from an upcoming tour of Indian Ocean neighbours.

The Maldives Foreign Ministry claimed in a statement on Friday that the Prime Minister’s visit “has been postponed to a later date by mutual agreement,” but President’s Office Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu’ told the Associated Press (AP) the Indian government informed the Maldives the visit was cancelled because the “local environment is not conducive.”

Nasheed’s arrest follows the arrest of former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of terrorism and treason. Nazim is currently standing trial on charges of importing and possessing illegal weapons after police discovered a pistol and three bullets in his apartment during a midnight raid.

Nazim has accused the police of planting the weapons to frame him. The police have dismissed Nazim’s claims.

Related to this story

Indian Prime Minister Modi cancels Maldives trip

Nasheed prosecution highlights “selective approach to justice,” says Amnesty International

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Former President Nasheed appears in court with arm in makeshift sling

Commonwealth, Canada express concern over denial of legal representation for former President Nasheed


Former Nasheed employees deny media claims of excessive PR spending

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Former members of President Mohamed Nasheed’s press team have denied charges of ‘excessive’ spending on PR during his term, arguing the Maldives had enjoyed an enviable international reputation on democracy, human rights, and the environment.

Yesterday (January 14), Haveeru published an article titled ‘Excessive state expenditure on President Nasheed’s film and press team’, claiming the President’s Office had spent MVR2.86 million (US$185,000) on three British employees.

According to Haveeru, the President’s Office spent MVR1.16 million on Communications Advisor Paul Roberts, MVR1.05 million on lawyer Jude Laing and MVR650,000 on Climate Change Advisor Mark Lynas.

Sun Online also reported having obtained the same documents this week (January 13).

Responding to questions regarding President Abdulla Yameen’s frequent trips abroad, President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz told Minivan News the day before (January 12) that he would gladly comply with the spirit of the Information Act: “even if president Nasheed’s travel expenses and information on how many foreigners he employed, paid by the state, was requested”.

The President’s Office was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Roberts has today said he had been employed with the press team under former Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair for a monthly salary of MVR29,000 in 2009 and MVR34,000 from 2010 onwards.

“During President Nasheed’s tenure, the Maldives achieved an enviable international reputation, and was widely hailed internationally as a beacon of democracy and human rights. The country and its president also became leading global voices in the fight against climate change,” he said in an email.

Roberts noted that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had employed PR firm Hill and Knowlton at a total cost of MVR26 million (US$1.6 million) while Nasheed’s successor Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan hired Ruder Finn for a reported MVR2.3 million (US$150,000) per month.

Lynas – author of prize winning book ‘Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet’ – said he had worked pro bono for Nasheed during the first few months of his appointment as Climate Change Advisor in 2009 before later being paid a small stipend of US$950.

In an email to Minivan News, he said his responsibilities included providing scientific advice on the latest evidence and projections for climate change impacts, and suggestions on how the Maldives could further its international climate advocacy work on plans to become carbon neutral by 2020.

For the duration of his posting, Lynas was based in Oxford, UK. However, he attended various climate meetings as a Maldives climate advisor – including UN negotiations in South Africa, Mexico, Chile, Malawi, and Samoa.

“During the period of my employment, under President Nasheed’s administration, the Maldives was one of the most visible nations in the world in terms of diplomacy and influence in climate change,” Lynas said.

“Unfortunately, events since then have shown that other political leaders and forces do not share basic values of human rights, democracy and freedom of the press – sadly this has undermined the country’s reputation on the international stage, on climate change as well as other issues.”

Haveeru also said it had obtained documents that show the President’s Office bore the expenses of the San Francisco based Actual Film crew during the filming of the ‘Island President’.

The award winning documentary was produced at a cost of US$1.5 million with funds from the Ford Foundation, the Sundance Institute, American Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Atlantic Foundation.

The paper did not reveal the amount spent on the crew of Actual Films, but said leaked documents did not reveal details of the expenses born by the state.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party suggested responses to this week’s media coverage should be obtained from the individuals concerned. Minivan News is awaiting a reply from Actual Films and Jude Laing.

Related to this story

Termination of misappropriated state funds investigation cost government MVR66 million

President’s Office spent MVR30 million in excess of approved budget in 2011, audit reveals


President obtains 1,500 signatures for independent candidacy, coalition claims “things going to plan”

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has obtained the 1,500 signatures required to register himself as an independent candidate in the upcoming election, his ‘forward with the nation’ coalition has said.

Amidst the possibility of his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) facing dissolution for not having the 10,000 members required to officially register a political entity in the Maldives, President Waheed this week announced his intention to stand for election as an independent candidate.

The incumbent will stand as an independent alongside his running mate, MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – leader of the government aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP).

Candidates unaffiliated with a political party are required to submit signatures of at least 1,500 supporters with their official application to stand in the upcoming presidential election, according to local media.

In order to meet this total, President Waheed held a signing ceremony at the presidential residence of Hilaaleege in Male’ on Wednesday (July 17) evening.

Minivan News observed an estimated 200 people present at the ceremony by around 10:00pm, where the president’s family members and news reporters were seen mingling with supporters.  The signing event concluded at midnight.

In a statement released Thursday ( July 18 ), the ‘Forward with the nation coalition’ claimed it had seen an “overwhelming response” from the public to sign the petition backing President Waheed’s candidacy, with over 500 people attending the ceremony during the course of Wednesday evening.

“While we have already exceeded the legal minimum we will continue to sign up supporters in the coming days,” the statement said.

Minivan News understands that President Waheed also conducted a door to door campaign to obtain signatures for his candidacy, with the coalition anticipating similar event will continue into next week.  An exact number of signatories was not received at time of press.

President’s Waheed’s coalition until last week consisted of several government-aligned parties; including the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), the DRP and his own GIP.

However, the DQP yesterday announced it would be following the AP in leaving the president’s coalition to back the campaign of resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim instead.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom has said the defection of both the AP and the DQP from the ‘Forward with the nation coalition’ “did not change the game at all” in terms of its strategy to secure the election during a second round of voting.

A second round will be held between the top two candidates during polls scheduled for September 7 should either fail to secure at least 51 percent of the vote.

“We know that the 2013 election will require a second round of voting and that all candidates wish to be in the grand final. We are optimistic that we will be in this final,” he said.

Mausoom has previously claimed that the DRP – both as an individual party, and later as members of President Waheed’s coalition – remained the main alternative viewpoint for voters disenfranchised by the “polarised views” of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) or the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Dr Mausoom added that even with the defection of the Adhaalath and the DQP, President Waheed still presented a coalition of people rather than individual parties, with more “political figures” expected to come out and back him before voting commences later this year.

He therefore said the coalition was confident it would still appeal to voters as alternative to MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nashhed and the PPM, led by former autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The MDP and PPM presently represent the country’s two largest parties in terms of parliamentary representation.

While anticipating “moments” in the run up to the presidential election where political figures – either out of financial or ideological reasons – would switch to rival candidates and parties, Mausoom said it would ultimately be the general public who decided on the next president. He argued that Dr Waheed’s record as president following last year’s controversial transfer of power would therefore be recognised by voters during polling.

“President Waheed has done a wonderful job of keeping the government together and shown what a great leader he is,” Dr Mausoom said. “Things are going to plan and we are confident during the second round [of voting] that the people will opt for [the coalition].”

However, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today rejected claims that the ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition would receive sufficient support to see President Waheed elected to office.

MDP MP and Spokesperson claimed that the majority of voters would opt to reject President Waheed as a candidate owing to the controversial transfer of power that brought him to power and the conduct of his coalition government since.  The MDP has continued to allege that former President Nasheed’s government was ended prematurely by a “coup d’eat” on February 7, 2012 following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

“The bottom line is people will vote overwhelmingly against the coup. It is regrettable [President Waheed] is still hanging on,” he said. “Pretender Waheed has already cost the state upwards of a billion US dollars since the coup.”

Meanwhile, the PPM announced this week that no formal decision had yet been taken on whether to retract its support for the coalition government, despite growing “complaints” from its members over the conduct of President Waheed.

MP Ahmed Nihan today told Minivan News that both the PPM’s senior leadership and ordinary members held significant “concerns” over the conduct of President Waheed in the build up to this year’s presidential election, with the party accusing the incumbent and his supporters of unfair campaigning.

The PPM is the largest party in terms of MP numbers presently serving within the coalition government backing President Waheed.


Maldives’ first Marine National Park without land two years after government agreement

As the Maldives moves ahead with plans to transform itself into the world’s largest marine reserve by 2017, the country’s first Marine National Park (MNP) in Noonu Atoll has yet to receive land the government agreed would be set aside for the project back in 2011.

The Edu Faru MNP was established during the previous government through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Environment Ministry back in 2011 in order to protect nine islets in Noonu Atoll that would be kept in a “pristine” state and undeveloped for future research.

However, almost two years since the Maldives agreed to establish the MNP and a non-profit foundation to run the site, a private partner on the project has raised concerns that both the present and former administrations were yet to move ahead on the MNP.

Mohamed Hameed, Promoter of the non-profit Edu Faru MNP project, has said that despite receiving vocal support of both President Dr Mohamed Waheed and former President Mohamed Nasheed, both their administrations has so far failed to approve vital paperwork on the project.

Hameed, who conceived the MNP based around international models of marine reserves such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or the Kosterhavet National Park in Sweden, said he had continued to struggle to obtain approval for the foundation charged with running the park.

“[The] government is a major stakeholder in the foundation that will run the Marine National Park (MNP) as a non-profit organisation… but it is yet to approve the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the foundation.  The foundation has not been registered,” he explained.

“Following the registration of the foundation, government is to hand over the entire site of the MNP, including its surrounding waters, to the foundation under an agreement.”

Hameed said that although the present and former governments had received all the required paperwork and files, he did not believe that any decision or progress would be made on approving the foundation to run the MNP before the presidential election scheduled for September this year.


By the end of the current year, the management of the MNP, which presently works on a voluntary basis, has targeted reaching an agreement with the state on the park’s boundaries. Under guidelines set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the park requires an area of land of at least 1,000 hectares.

With these boundaries in place, the MNP’s management has said it will then aim to secure grants from groups like the world bank as well as international donors, NGOs and the country’s tourism ministry to try and establish research centres and an underwater observatory for both the public and scientists to study at.

Aside from the opportunities for research, Hameed said that strictly regulated fishing and tourism expeditions would also be allowed in the area, although travel in the park would have to be conducted on non-motorised, traditional dhoni vessels.

Money raised through these ventures would be used to help run the park and provide research and training programmes.

Despite the restrictions on the use of the proposed MNP site, Hameed said both the public and Noonu Atoll Council had lent support to the project.

He added that while there was a local understanding of the need for national conservation through projects like the MNP, it remained important to educate and create awareness among the public, as well as the international community about the sensitive nature of the Maldives environment.

Hameed therefore said he welcomed the government’s wider commitments in trying to transform the Maldives into a national biosphere reserve.

Reserve reservations

Despite welcoming the idea of the project, Hameed has expressed some reservations about the state’s ability to plan and execute such an ambitious conservation strategy. He raised particular concerns about what he claims was the lack of a holistic legal framework outlining environmental protection in the nation.

A number of stakeholders working in the environmental sector last month expressed concern about a perceived lack of enforcement and legislative framework to protect biodiversity and conservation areas nationally.

Ali Rilwan, Executive Director for local NGO BluePeace, claimed at the time that a lack of national enforcement mechanisms continued to setback and limit the effectiveness of national parks and biosphere projects in the country.

He claimed that without such regulation, marine reserves and other conservation zones currently established in the country were operating more as “paper parks” than designated protected areas.

State conservation commitments

The Environment Ministry earlier in June announced the formation of an Environmental Police Unit that would see 22 trained officers with the aim of investigating and punish violations of laws relating to biodiversity and littering.

As well as establishing the Environmental Police Unit, the ministry has continued to call for expressions of interest from atolls wishing to be part of its national marine reserve transformation plan set for 2017.

Muhusina Abdul Rahman, an analyst for the Ministry of Environment and Energy, told Minivan News that authorities were seeking 10 atolls to be unveiled in 2017 as being part of its national marine reserve.

Within each of these ten atolls, the government has pledged to designate three different types of zones that would be exclusively separated into conservation, buffers areas and “transition” land free to be developed for industrial and other commercial purposes.

Rahman said that the ministry was now moving ahead with feasibility studies in the nominated atolls to see conduct a detailed assessment of communities best suited to being included in the reserve.

She claimed that the ministry hoped to identify the first two atolls that will make up the national biosphere reserve by year end, but said these areas would not be unveiled until all ten were officially announced in 2017.

Rahman mantained that the Edu Faru MNP would compliment the state’s biosphere reserve scheme along aside other high-profile conservation areas such as Baa Atoll, which was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011.

Bio-reserve challenges

One resort general manager based in Baa Atoll said earlier this year that the despite the area being classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, there had been no changes on its operations, despite claims from authorities about the significant marketing potential.

“There are a lot of conservation organisations here with opinions on how to manage the site, but it’s taking a long time to reach agreements. I have myself expressed concerns that it is taking too long to devise how the areas should be used,” the resort head said back in January.


Military consolidation expected to dominate Defence Minister Nazim’s India visit

Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim is expected to commence talks today with his Indian counterpart on strengthening military ties between the two nations.  The talks will be the most senior meeting of ministers between the two countries since reports of bilateral tensions earlier this year, according to the Times of India.

As part of his visit to India, Nazim is expected to meet with Indian Defence Minister Shri A K Anthony to discuss establishing further defence collaboration, as well as the possibility of extending Indian coastal radar systems across the Maldives.

Nazim’s visit comes after Defence Minister Anthony travelled to the Maldives last year to open the ‘SenaHiya’ Military Hospital in Male’, where he spoke of expanding cooperation on naval security and preventing drug trafficking.

The ceremony in September 2012, was held at a time when international media was playing up a perceived strengthening of relations between the Maldives and China, drawing attention to the potential geopolitical implications for neighbouring India.

According to the Times of India, Nazim is the first senior government minister to visit the India since the country was accused of becoming embroiled in the Maldives’ domestic politics earlier this year.

Both Nazim and President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad were not responding to calls from Minivan News as time of press.

Reported tensions

Back in February, Maldives political figures from several government-aligned parties criticised the Indian High Commission after former President Nasheed was allowed to seek refuge on its premises from police seeking to present him to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Nasheed remained in the high commission’s chancery building on Sosun Magu in Male’ for 11 consecutive days, maintaining that charges against him for detaining a chief Criminal Court Judge were a politically motivated attempt to prevent him from contesting in presidential elections scheduled for this year.

Indian officials at the time rejected accusations of taking sides in the country’s domestic affairs, maintaining that India only favoured “inclusive elections”.

After Nasheed was allowed into the building, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel implied through social media that India was meddling in the Maldives’ internal affairs, stating at the time: “What’s happening now gives us an indication of the extent and level of interest some countries prepared to take in our internal matters”.

“I would strongly urge everyone to let our institutions deal with the challenges, allow Maldives to uphold rule of law,” he tweeted.

Just a month before Nasheed went into the high commission building, Maldivian authorities denied that the country’s foreign minister had been snubbed by the Indian government after it rejected an official request to meet.

The reported snub came as Maldivian local media were issued a list of 11 grievances from the Indian High Commission concerning the treatment of Indian nationals in the country.

“Unshakable” relationship

However, the new Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare last week emphasised the “unshakable” long-standing relationship between between both countries during a meeting with local media (April 10).

Shahare at the time stressed there had been no change in the relationship between the Maldives and India, despite media reports of increased tension between both nations.

“In any relationship there are highs and lows, but the relationship carries on its course normally,” he said.  “Engagement between the Maldives and India has been constant. We are pretty much on course.”


Maldives committed to carbon neutral aims despite political uncertainty

The government says it remains committed to pursuing the previous administration’s carbon neutral ambitions despite recent political tensions reportedly affecting investment potential for such schemes.

Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela contended that some of the programs presently being undertaken by her ministry had started seven years previously – before Former President Mohamed Nasheed came to power – and were being adhered to on the grounds they would benefit the nation.

“We are continuing with the carbon neutrality program,” she said. “ We are giving it our best shot.”

Nasheed, who alleges he was forced to resign under duress back in February of this year,  claimed that resulting political tensions from his ouster had all but ended hopes of achieving these aims.   The former president aimed to position himself globally as a high profile advocate for pursuing carbon neutral developments.

However, as the Maldives commits itself to a new US$138 million project that it has claimed within five years will generate 16 megawatts of renewable energy, one regional environmental organisation has called for greater collaboration between Indian Ocean nations to drive sustainability.

Mumbai-based NGO, the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) has told Minivan News that despite being a small island state, the Maldives stood as a good indicator of how other larger nations could scale up its programs to successfully undertake green initiatives.

“Maldives needs to assume a bigger role in the sustainability dialogue with India and a clear road map on how this will be achieved has to be stipulated,” CERE stated, pointing to the key commitments it hoped to see from the present government.

The comments were made as the Maldives Energy Authority yesterday told local media that once the US$138 million project became operational, ten islands within the country would be entirely powered with renewable energy. The ministry contended that a further 30 percent of the total energy demands of 30 islands would be “converted” to renewable energy.

Minister of State for Environment and Energy, Abdul Matheen Mohamed, said that a so-called Sustainable Renewable Energy Project (SREP) was also set to be conducted on 50 islands with assistance from organisations like the Climate Investment Fund as part of wider national sustainability commitments, according to Haveeru.

Environment Minister Dr Shakeela confirmed to Minivan News today that the SREP scheme was directly related to the the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program in Low Income Countries devised under the previous government of former President Nasheed.

Some of the key minds who helped devise the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) for the former government said earlier this year that the project had fallen through after political instability following February’s controversial transfer of power had deterred potential investors in the scheme.

Dr Shakeela, who was in Hyderabad, India, for the 11th Convention on Biological Diversity confirmed that the project had been within the Economic Ministry before she retrieved and reviewed the plans.

“I worked on it with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the IFC and it has now been finished,” she said.

“I think it is important [to understand] that our ministry does not categorise projects according to who has [initiated them]. Our plan is to continue them with all the policies and programs as long as they are not detrimental to the economy.”

The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has previously stressed that it was committed to “not completely” reversing the Nasheed administration’s zero carbon strategy: “What we are aiming to do is to elaborate more on individual sustainable issues and subject them to national debate.”

As well as committing to trying meet the carbon neutral goals of his predecessor, President Waheed has also announced plans to make the Maldives the world’s largest marine reserve within the next five years five.


Addressing the Maldives’ ongoing eco-commitments, CERE claimed that the main challenge for carbon reduction developments both in the country and around the world was to show sustainability projects could actually be synonymous with economic benefit.

CERE Co-Founder Kitayun (Katy) Rustom claimed that the organisation continued to try and advocate green strategies that defied traditional perceptions of sustainability being seen as ‘anti-development’ or ‘anti-growth’.

“It is necessary for all of countries to realise that our window of opportunity for carbon reduction is only till 2020 – after this it will be next to impossible to mitigate the disastrous and irreversible impacts of climate change,” she claimed.

“The key challenge is to see carbon reduction as a positive economic initiative.”

Rustom said that the Maldives’ ongoing attempts to become a carbon neutral economy were well publicised in India and reflected a “commonality of purpose” between the two nations.

“India is one of the most vulnerable to climate change especially with respect to sea level rise – just like the Maldives – since it has a 7,500 km long coastline and even a one metre rise in sea levels will submerge an estimated 5,700 square kilometres displacing millions of people,” she added.

“Of course, there are a host of other catastrophic impacts that climate change will have on our country. India does not see itself as any different from the island states in the Indian Ocean and it understands the need of working on a united platform.”

Rustom added that she ultimately hoped for much more defined collaborations between the authorities of Indian Ocean nations in future.

“A cross-sharing of carbon reduction strategies need to be encouraged and formalised in which quantitative targets need to be spelt out. The Maldives needs to assume a bigger role in the sustainability dialogue with India and a clear road map on how this will be achieved has to be stipulated,” she said.

“Perhaps the Ministry of Environments of both countries can set up a Indian-Maldivian Committee to work on this mission and lay down specific goals.”

Earlier this year, former President Nasheed’s Climate Change Advisor – UK-based author, journalist and environmental activist Mark Lynas – said that after the controversial nature of the transfer that bought the present government to power, he was sceptical of its ability to take stands on sustainable development.

Lynas claimed that the loss of “democratic legitimacy” in the Maldives had destroyed its ability to make a moral stand on climate change-related issues, and be taken seriously.

“I think that the Maldives is basically a has-been in international climate circles now,” said Lynas, who drew a monthly stipend of Rf10,000 (US$648) for expenses whilst serving in his position.

“The country is no longer a key player, and is no longer on the invite list to the meetings that matter. Partly this is a reflection of the political instability – other countries no longer have a negotiating partner that they know and understand,” he said.


UK-based lawyers to aid Nasheed defence in “unprecedented” legal move

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has confirmed two senior UK-based legal experts – one a specialist in Shariah Law – will be joining the defence team of former President Mohamed Nasheed ahead of his trial over the detention of a senior judicial figure whilst in power.

Party Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor confirmed that Sir Ivan Lawrence QC and Barrister Ali Mohammed Azhar will be working with local lawyers Hisaan Hussain and Hassan Latheef in some capacity to represent Nasheed.

One practising lawyer in the country contacted by Minivan News today said the appointment of two foreign legal experts in a domestic trial was an “unprecedented” development within the country’s legal history, but could not clarify further at the time of press.

The former president, who will next month begin defending himself in court against charges that he illegally detained Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed back in January 2012, has rejoined the MDP in a campaign around the country’s southern atolls in a bid to regain the presidency following February’s controversial transfer of power.

However, while free to campaign in the country, judicial authorities have said that Nasheed remains barred from leaving the country without court approval ahead of the next hearing of his trial in November.

Nasheed was himself presented to court on Tuesday (October 9) after being arrested a day earlier by police.

Speaking in court, he maintained that the detention of Judge Abdulla was justified on grounds of national security following the reported failure of other institutions to hold the judge accountable.

The former president also alleged that the charges are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him from contesting presidential elections in 2013.

Nasheed, who is now restricted from travelling abroad without judicial approval , is required to return to court on November 4, giving his legal team 25 days to study evidence against him and prepare a defence. A period of 30 days had been originally been requested by lawyers, but was rejected by a three-member judging panel.

The state presented more than 30 pieces of evidence it claimed proved that Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was detained unlawfully, including the account of the judge himself.  It will also use audio and video of the judge’s detention, as well as speeches given by Nasheed.

Assisting with the former president’s defence will be veteran criminal lawyer Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, whose biography notes experience working within UK and international institutions like the Divisional Court, the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords and a mass murder war crimes trial at The Hague.

Nasheed will also be assisted by Barrister Ali Mohammed Azhar, who is also said to have worked extensively at high level UK institutions like the Court of Appeal and House of Lords, specialising in areas such as international and human rights law.

Azhar, who visited the Maldives back in 2005 along with Ivan Lawrence as part of a fact finding mission dealing with alleged human rights abuses, is also an expert in Sharia Law, according to his own biography.

Minivan News was awaiting a statement from the MDP about the appointments international legal assistance at the time of press.

Nasheed has meanwhile returned to campaigning with the MDP as part of a ‘journey of pledges’ that has seen the party touring a number of islands in the south of the country.

Despite having obtained permission to return to campaigning in the southern atolls following his arrest this week, the Department of Judicial Administration confirmed today that Nasheed was restricted from travelling abroad without court approval.

Department of Judicial Administration Spokesperson Latheefa Qasim that Nasheed’s passport had been withheld by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court following the issue of a warrant.

When asked about possible restrictions on the role foreign legal experts could have in domestic court hearings, Qasim said she would be unable to comment at present, having not been aware of the reported appointment of UK-based lawyers to Nasheed’s defence team.


Dr Hassan Saeed slams the “Island President” with new book

Dr Hassan Saeed, Special Advisor to President Dr Mohamed Wahhed Hassan and Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) has this week published a book entitled, “Democracy betrayed: behind the mask of the island President”.  The publication is written about former President Mohamed Nasheed, who contends that he was removed from office in a “coup d’etat” earlier this year.

Speaking to local media at the book’s launch at the studios of private broadcaster Villa Television (VTV) this week, DQP Secretary General Abdullah Ameen claimed the publication detailed reasons why Nasheed had to resign during February’s controversial transfer of power.

According to the Sun Online news agency, Ameen said the reasons mentioned in the book included the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and allegations that Nasheed wished to “destroy the values of Islam” in the country.

Both Ameen and the book’s author, Dr Saeed were not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press concerning the publication.

However, DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed told Minivan News today that he would be able to discuss the book upon his return to Male’ next week.

Previous publications

In the months running up to the controversial transfer of power on February 7 that saw Nasheed resign from office – a decision he later claimed was made under duress – the DQP had published a pamphlet about the former president entitled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’.

The former government slammed the publication at the time for containing “extremist, bigoted and hate-filled rhetoric”. The publication also led to successive attempts by the Nasheed administration to arrest two senior members of the party and sparked a debate on freedom of expression and hate speech in the Maldives.


Waking up to ‘Greenwashing’ in the Maldives: Huffington Post

“Earlier on this month I found myself in the Maldives for hotel reviews and was outraged by the gap between President Nasheed’s ‘carbon neutral promise within a decade’ and the reality that I was faced with,” writes Rooksana Hossenally for the Huffington Post.

“Following the Maldivian government’s ministers’ highly-mediatized underwater conference in October 2009, a conference with the aim of highlighting the pressing environmental issues with regards to the sinking archipelago, I must say that when my editor announced that I would be jetted off to some of the most dazzling islands in the world, I was keen on getting a sample of this forward thinking.

Upon return however, the Maldives, as beautiful as the islands are, left a sour taste in my mouth as far as the environment is concerned. My visit only confirmed that the president’s environmental avant garde-ism is a nothing more than a marketing ploy to get himself in his people’s good books.

My trip lasted three weeks and my skepticism about President Nasheed’s wonderful ideals was far from overruled by what I saw. Going carbon-free is not only impossible for the Maldives, but it would severely penalize the country’s main industry: tourism, which would, needless to say, cause the Maldives to slip into dangerous financial waters, in addition to the already rising sea levels around the islands.

A little harsh of me, you might be thinking — let me explain. Going carbon neutral in the Maldives would require offsetting to a monumental degree. First, the only way of getting around the archipelago’s 26 atolls of 1,192 islands is by boat or plane. The President’s objectives are without doubt perfectly admirable, but how does he imagine the tourism industry functioning without transport?”

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Further coverage of the article and wider reflection on the challenges facing sustainable tourist developments can be read on Minivan News’ spin-off travel review site,