Swell waves flood Thimarafushi airport runway

The Thaa Atoll Thimarafushi Airport runway has been hit by high swell waves.

According to Thimarafushi Council President Hussein Shareef, waves flooded approximately 150- 250 foot along the runway and covered it with waste.

The airport fence was also destroyed, he said.

Only one flight was scheduled out of Thimarafushi today. The flight departed at 9:40 am before the waves hit.

According to Channel News Maldives (CNM), part of Rathafandhoo Island in southern Gaaf Dhall atoll also was also flooded with swell waves this morning.

Islanders told CNM that water had come up to one feet in some areas and an area measuring 700 foot on the north eastern side of the island.

Several islands in the Maldives have reported flooding from swell or udha waves since the onset of the wet season in June.

Udha is a common phenomenon in the Maldives, particularly during the south-west monsoon, and is often associated with changes in ‘Nakaiy’ – the fortnightly intervals of the Maldives’ unique weather calendar.

A local environmentalist familiar with the Nakaiy system said Udha waves are connected to the moon, gravity, and changes in winds and said it is a completely normal natural phenomenon but that it could harm islands which are already eroding.


Thimarafushi airport opens in Thaa atoll

Thaa Atoll’s Thimarafushi airport was officially opened this morning by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan. The airport was developed by state-run Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC).

The airport was developed to provide an efficient means of transport to the people, Haveeru reports, although as the airport does not have a control tower flights will only land during the day.

Addressing a crowd at the inauguration ceremony, President Waheed emphasized that the airport would facilitate faster development within the atoll, in part by improving tourist accessibility.

The President noted that certain infrastructural development requirements must be fulfilled for the airport to be considered fully complete, reports Haveeru.

The airport development project was originally awarded to Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) in April 2012. MACL subcontracted the project to MTCC for MVR32 million ($2.8 million) the following month. Delays, allegedly due to financial constraints, fueled political tensions earlier this year.

The airport will be operated by Island Aviation, which runs the Maldives national airline Maldivian Air.


Early polls indicate PPM and JP by-election wins

Provisional results from today’s two parliamentary by-elections indicate that the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Ahmed Shareef and the Jumhoory Party’s (JP) Abdullah Jabir have won seats in the People’s Majlis.

Under these provisional results, Shareef will become the MP for Thimarafushi, while Jabir will answer to the constituents of Kaashidhoo. Thimarafushi seat was previously held by Maldivian Democratic Party MP Mohamed Musthafa who was disqualified by the Supreme court over a decreed debt.

Polling for parliamentary by-elections on the islands of Kaashidhoo and Thimarafushi closed today at 4:05pm, with counting getting under way soon after following a day of largely peaceful electioneering. Official provisional will be announced by the Elections Commission at 8:30pm this evening.

Provisional results announced from the polling stations show that PPM’s Shareef won the seat for the constituency of Thimarafushi with 1755 votes. Musthafa came in second with 1327 votes – a 428 vote difference.

A total of 3616 voters are registered for Thimarafushi constituency which include; Guraidhoo island (1408 voters), Gaadhifushi island (434 voters) and Thimarafushi (1774 voters).

Musthafa took the lead in almost all islands, except Guraidhoo – known to be a PPM strong-hold.

Meanwhile, Jabir triumphed in Kaashidhoo by-election with 1107 votes. MDP candidate followed him by 784 votes while PPM candidate Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim came third with 141 votes.

Eligible voters for Kashidhoo constituency stands at 2231. The constituency represent 1422 voters from Kashidhoo island and 809 voters from Gaafaru.

Though Waheed contested on PPM ticket, the party had officially endorsed JP candidate Jabir and  requested Waheed to withdraw his candidacy, but he declined.

Polls Peaceful

The polls, which were contested for two separate seats in the Majlis, are the first such elections to be conducted since the controversial transfer of power that saw President Mohamed Waheed Hassan take office in February.

Polls opened peacefully at 8:00am this morning on Kaashidhoo and Thimarafushi, whilst elections for vacant seats in both the Thaa Atoll Gaadhiffushi Island council and Haa Dhaal Atoll Kumundhoo island council were also contested today.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that no significant arrests were believed to have been made over the last two days in relation to the hotly contested Kaashidhoo and Thimarafushi polls.

“So far, even in Male’, things have gone very quietly and peacefully,” he said.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported that 21 complaints had been received by the Elections Commission (EC) yesterday evening over concerns about the conduct of the parliamentary by-elections during the weekend. According to the report, 16 complaints by yesterday had been filed relating to campaigning in Kaashidoo and four complaints were raised concerning Thiamarafushi.

Election Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq could not be contacted by Minivan News at the time of going to press regarding the nature of these complaints.  Local media has reported that the complaints concern the obstruction of campaign activities on the islands, as well as acts of violence. Sub-Inspector Haneef said this morning that police were continuing to work closely with the EC.

On Friday, Commissioner Thaufeeq described campaigning for the Thimarafushi seat as “heavy”, though said he remained confident today’s polls would be successful.

The claims were made the same day that Mohamed Musthafa, the disqualified Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member seeking re-election in the Thimarafushi, questioned the actions of the police alleging they had been working to intimidate locals regarding today’s voting.

Musthafa warned that the police presence on the island had intimidated locals, particularly after recent arrests, which he argued were without good cause. He alleged that one of the young men arrested on Tuesday received a head wound after a police officer pushed his head into a wall.

Haneef countered that police have made their preparations for the poll and have deployed the necessary officers. When asked about the precise numbers he said that it would depend on the intelligence received from the island.


09:28 – Rain is falling in Thimarafushi, where the MDP’s Mohamed Musthafa is competing against PPM’s candidate Ahmed Shareef, to regain his seat after he was disqualified in by the Supreme Court over a decreed debt.

Shareef was the Atoll Chief of Thaa Atoll from 2006-2008, the last few years of Gayoom’s administration.

“It will be a tough vote between Shareef and Musthafa, because both of them are from this island”, a 27 year old man from Thimarafushi observed when interviewed by Minivan News. “Last time Musthafa won, it was against Gayoom’s son.  Now if he wins against a person from same island, it will be significant,” he added.

In 2009 parliamentary elections, Musthafa won Thimarafushi constituency seat, but had to go for a revote following vote rigging case filed by Ghassan Maumoon, then-DRP’s candidate.  However, Musthafa won the second round as well.

09:32 – President Waheed was himself in Thimarafushi on Friday afternoon, where he endorsed PPM candidate Ahmed Shareef just a few hours before campaigning ended, Minivan News’ Hawwa Lubna reports.

Election official and police officer stand near Thimarafushi school

Speaking to the inhabitants, Dr.Waheed claimed that the government has a great majority in the parliament and added that electing Shareef would help expedite the government’s performance.

He also promised that the Thimarafushi airport development will begin soon. Meanwhile, several islanders claiming to oppose the present government walked out of the island in retaliation to Waheed’s visit.

“Around 200-300 people including men women and elderly went to nearby uninhabited island called Hiriyanfushi. They did not want to be here when coup president arrive,” a Thimarafushi councilor told Minivan News.

MDP supporters allege that Waheed is visiting Thaa atoll while the elections are underway, to promote PPM candidate and influence vote. “School wall was even painted in pink when Waheed visited there yesterday”, MDP supporter claimed.

09:43 – Meanwhile, over on Kaashidhoo, the rain has now stopped.  Minivan News reporters have observed that 115 votes have so far been processed, with polling having been conducted peacefully.

Abdullah Jabir, candidate from Jumhoory Party (JP) and MDP candidate Ahmed Haleem is competing over the Kaashidoo seat. JP candidate Jabir has been endorsed by Dr. Waheed and Gayoom’s PPM party.

10:08 – The Elections Commission (EC) has said that it has not so far received any additional complaints regarding the conduct of polls today. Local media yesterday reported that 21 complaints relating to the manner in which campaigning for today’s elections was being conducted were bought to the EC.

However, an EC spokesperson told Minivan News this morning that it was happy with the way voting was being conducted and had not received any fresh complaints so far today.

“Right now, there are no other complaints that we have received and we do not believe there are any significant problems for voters,” the commission spokesperson added. “we are quite happy that things are going smoothly and people are being encouraged to vote.”

When asked regarding the potential impact that yesterday’s complaints may have had on voters, the Elections Commission said it was monitoring polling stations and police conduct very closely.

“We are quite happy so far,” the spokesperson said.

10:28 – Voting in Guraidhoo island of Thaa atoll was briefly halted around 9:30am, according to reports from the island. However, EC Director General Mohamed Tholal confirmed that voting did not stop and it is continuing.

“An elderly man claiming to be incapable wanted another person to help in casting the vote. But we cannot allow that. The problem is solved now. Voting is continuing.” Tholal said.

10:55 – Five people have been arrested on Guraidhoo island for breaking an entry into the island council office and smashing the window, police official has confirmed.

According to a source on the island, arguments broke out between two candidates supporters after a registered observer of MDP candidate Musthafa went to the island. “We don’t know yet who attacked the island council office,” the source noted.

11:57 – MDP Observers are gathered in two of the guraidhoo ballot boxes, EC Director General confirmed in a tweet.

Hassanfulhu shows voting ink mark

12:00 – Confirmed voting details for the by-elections at 11:30 am.

12:15 – Ibrahim Hassan Fulhu, aged 57 said that he is happy voting is going smoothly. “I did not expect elections to go peacefully like this. I thought people would hijack vote boxes and create chaos. But lets see. Things may go wrong later,” Hassan Fulhu added.

12:45 – On Kaashidhoo, Minivan News reporter Zaheena Rasheed has said voting has continued smoothly into the afternoon, with contesting parties both running exit poll booths outside the ballot area.  Both booths are serving drinks to their own supporters.
Jumhoory Party candidate (JP) Abdulla Jabir who is near the polling station has said he is certain  of victory in today’s election.
12:57 –  Both candidates standing in the Kaashidhoo election have called on supporters to show maximum restraint, while alleging that their opponents are trying to incite violence at the polls.

13:00 – There is three hours left before the polls close in Kaashidhoo. MDP representatives have claimed all is proceeding smoothly, whilst exit poll monitoring is being used to try and ascertain number of voters turning out so far.

13:07 – Minivan News’ Zaheena Rasheed has noted there is a sizeable police presence on Kaashidhoo. Two police officers are said to be manning each voting booth, whilst patrols are also taking place.

A spokesperson for the police could not confirm the exact number of police at the island at present, adding that numbers would change throughout the day depending on the atmosphere. However, the mood on the island is presently said to be festive with approximately half of registered voters now believed to have cast their votes.

Police stationed at the road blocks

13:30 – Voting continues peacefully over in Thimarafushi. Police have tightened the security near the voting stations at Thimarafushi school and youth center. Roadbloack have been placed on the nearby roads to prevent traffic.

13:35 – Heated arguments and mild clashes erupted between supporters of Dr.Waheed and his opponents, according to reports from the island of Vilufushi. No arrests have been made so far. But the police have tightened the security around the school where President is meeting Vilufushi islanders.

14:30 – Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef has said that by-elections have continued to run smoothly despite an earlier incident of unrest in the island of Guraidhoo, Thaa Atoll.

Haneef confirmed five people had been arrested earlier today in connection with the incident that occurred in Guraidhoo, where a group of men were said to have vandalised the local Island Council Office.

He said that the windows of the Island Council Office had been smashed by the group.

14:41 – The MDP has praised what it has called a “peaceful and calm” voting environment during today’s by-elections, whilst appealing for its supporters to remain calm and show “maximum restraint” as the day progresses.

In a statement, MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the party remained fully confident in the Elections Commission’s ability to ensure free and fair elections amidst calls for a new nationwide presidential poll after former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged he had been forced to resign in a “coup d’etat”.

“The MDP has consistently called for early presidential elections in the Maldives to resolve the political deadlock that exists since the unlawful transfer of power on February 7 following police and military backed coup in the Maldives,” Ghafoor claimed.

“Elections today are held at a time when [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayyoom has publicly stated early Presidential elections would not be held in the Maldives citing conditions for elections are not right and also that Elections Commission does not have the capacity to hold early elections in the Maldives.”

15:55 In a press conference Elections Commission Vice President Ahmed Fayaaz noted that voting has continued peacefully with no obstructions.  Queues near the voting stations have reduced and voting is scheduled to close at 4pm. However, Fayaaz says those who join the queue before four will be given the chance to vote. He added that provisional results will be announced between 8pm-9pm tonight.

16:05 Voting at two ballot ballot boxes stationed on Thimarafushi  and two boxes placed in Kaashidhoo have been closed at 4pm as no one was in the queue. Vote counting is expected to begin within half an hour.

16:10 Voting details as of 3:15pm show 90 percent of the eligible voters have voted, according to EC.

16:35 Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq has said in a press conference that the commission received only a single complaint regarding the voter’s registry. Most complaints relate to elderly people or people with special needs who need assistance in voting. “Elections officials at the ballot box will decide whether to give permission for assisted voting. But some people were dissatisfied with officials decision and complained.” he explained.

16:42 All the 12 ballot boxes placed in for the four by-elections have now been closed and vote counting has started.

18:11 Provisional results announced so far from the polling stations suggests:

1. Thimarafushi constituency: PPM candidate Ahmed Shareef is leading with 1428 votes. MDP Musthafa has received 1241 votes. Only one out of the seven ballot boxes remaining.

2. Kaashidhoo constituency: JP candidate Jabir is leading with 717 votes while MDP candidate Haleem stands second with 669 votes. PPM candidate Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim is on third with only eight votes. Though Waheed is contesting on PPM ticket, the party has officially endorsed Jabir and pledged their full support to him. Two out of the total five boxes remaining.


New elections officer appointed for Thimarafushi by-election

Election Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq has appointed a 19 year old council worker to oversee the Thimarafushi by-election, scheduled for next month.

Thaufeeq said that the appointee met the need for somebody adequately qualified but without political affiliation.

The previous elections officer in the constituency was Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member Ali Hassanfulhu. His replacement was intended to head-off potential unrest in an area with both strong MDP and Progressive Party of Malives (PPM) support.

The PPM said it feared that the appointment was politically motivated and had sent a letter of complaint to the Election Commission.


Elections Commission announces Thimarafushi by-election

The Maldives Elections Commission (EC) has announced that the by-election for Thimarafushi constituency will be held on April 14, following the Supreme Court’s decision to remove the Thimarafushi MP Mohamed Musthafa from the post this week over a decreed debt.

According to the EC, interested candidates must submit their applications by the end of March 11 with 50 signatures from the constituency and other legal documentation.

Musthafa, from former ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), lost his seat in the parliament after the apex court ruled that he was constitutionally ineligible to remain in the seat seat due to a decreed debt, which was not paid by him according to the court order.

Musthafa has vowed to contest in the by-elections saying  that “only former President Mohamed Nasheed can beat me”.

Meanwhile, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s PPM party has also announced that it will contest in the by-elections.

Musthafa won the seat in 2009 elections against Gayoom’s son, Gassan Maumoon.


Supreme Court disqualifies MDP MP Musthafa

The Supreme Court has disqualified former ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa over a decreed debt which the court concluded makes him constitutionally ineligible to remain in the seat.

Monday’s ruling came following the case filed against Musthafa in July 2009 by opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Vice President Umar Naseer, shortly after Musthafa won the election for Thimarafushi constituency against former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s son, Gassan Maumoon.

Umar Naseer contended that Musthafa had not still this date repaid a loan of US$31,231.66 (Rf481,952) borrowed from the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) according to the court order and therefore must be removed from Parliament for the violation of article 73(c)1.

According to the article 73(c) 1, “person shall be disqualified from election as, a member of the People’s Majlis, or a member of the People’s Majlis immediately becomes disqualified, if he: 1. has a decreed debt which is not being paid as provided in the judgement.”

The verdict came following a bench opinion which had an interesting split between the seven residing judges of the apex court, where four were in favour of removing Musthafa from the post as they deemed he was responsible for the decreed debt while the three remaining judges shared different views.

Two judges, including the Chief of Justice Ahmed Faiz concluded that it cannot be ruled Musthafa had a decreed debt as the loan had been taken on the name of Musthafa’s company Seafood and Trade International and added that in August 1997 the lower court had ordered the “company” to repay the loan.

Judge Muathasim Adnan meanwhile said that Musthafa and his company are two different legal entities and said the company’s decreed loan cannot be attributed to Musthfafa until a corporate veil is lifted.

Corporate veil is a legal decision to treat the rights or duties of a corporation as the rights or liabilities of its shareholders.

Following the ruling, former Attorney General Husnu Suood tweeted that the Supreme Court’s decision is “wrong”. He shared the view of Judge Adnan: “I think the debt is not his, but his company’s which in technical terms a separate legal person.”

Meanwhile, speaking at the MDP rally tonight Musthafa had dismissed the ruling as “unjust and politically motivated”.

He also vowed for a comeback announcing that he will contest for the same seat in the next elections and win. “Only former President Mohamed Nasheed can defeat me,” he claimed.

Suood says that Musthafa can compete in the bi-election after discharging the debt.

However, Musthafa  insists that he won’t repay the loan, citing deceptions from the food supplier General Meat Ltd.

Musthafa has also threatened legal action against the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) in November if it did not pay the US$500,000 that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) owed Seafood International.

Musthafa alleged that the sum was due to be paid to his company according to a 1991 London court ruling.

Citing MMA as the “live branch of BCCI in the Maldives,” Musthafa previously stated that “the debt of a dead person has to be paid by a living legal parent. If the MMA does not pay us within seven days we will sue the MMA in court and when we sue, we will ask the court to take the amount of money for the loss we have had for the past 20 years as a cause of not having this money.’’

The Supreme Court was due to rule on a case against Musthafa on October 20, 2010 however proceedings were interrupted when MDP called for a nation-wide protest against the judiciary during an emergency meeting.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, MDP MP and spokesperson for the party’s Parliamentary Group, Mohamed Shifaz, said judges had been blackmailed and that the party would protest the politicised judiciary indefinitely.

Amid the government’s attempt to reform judiciary, when Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by military on January 16, the opposition subsequently took up the protest baton and demanded the release of  the judge – whose arrest  set in motion the series of events that culminated into the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed on Febrary 7 in what he called was a coup.


PG asks police to provide details of protest response

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) office has asked the police to provide details of its response to the protest held by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) outside the Supreme Court on Thursday, which later spread to the residence of the former President.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz told Minivan he was unable to comment on the matter at this time.

However Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said this was the first time the PG had made such a request.

“They are requesting details of what happened,” Shiyam confirmed, but said the PG had not notified police of a potential course of action or what it was looking for.

Shiyam pointed out that demonstrations in certain areas, including courts and army gates, are prohibited by the Regulation on Assembly.

“Members of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) have both gathered in these areas though, even though we have requested them not to. Some of them have gone to the army gates and the President’s gate as well, so occasionally we have to address the issue,” he said.

The police have been asked to provide the information before Wednesday this week.

On Thursday October 20 the MDP national council conducted an emergency meeting and approved a resolution to launch a protest against the judiciary, claiming judges were unduly influenced by the former President and his half-brother MP Abdulla Yameen.

The protesters gathered at the Supreme Court before marching towards the former President’s building Endherimaage, where violent clashes erupted between MDP activists and a few Gayoom supporters blocking the entrance to his residence.

Minivan News journalists at the scene also observed gravel, rocks, hot water and sharp metal raining down on protesters from the top floors or terrace of Endherimaage.

Several activists claimed they saw Gassan Maumoon, former President Gayoom’s son, throw stones and pour boiling hot water on the protesters. MDP activists meanwhile threw large stones at Endhirmaage and attempted to break down the door. Some windows of the house were smashed while a car parked outside was damaged.

A 17-year-old, identified as Hussein Hassan, was rushed to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) with critical injuries after a block of wood apparently thrown from the building hit his head. IGMH later confirmed that the boy was conscious and his condition stable.

Police summoned Gassan Maumoon, son of the former President, for questioning on Saturday after a number of MDP members alleged they had seen him throw the block of wood from the balcony. Police subsequently arrested Gassan and took him to the prison island of Dhoonidhoo, and presented him at court this afternoon. The hearing is currently ongoing.