Majlis notifies vice-president of impeachment vote

The People’s Majlis has notified vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed of a resolution calling for his removal, and granted him 14 days to respond to charges.

The notice was sent on June 30. Jameel must respond orally or in writing by July 13.

The motion to impeach has not been placed on the Majlis agenda yet, secretary general Ahmed Mohamed said.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had secured 61 signatures on the impeachment motion. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house is required to remove the president or the vice president.

Jameel is in London at present. PPM MPs have said that President Abdulla Yameen has ordered his deputy to return and answer the charges. But Jameel told an Indian newspaper that he had obtained permission before travelling to the UK for a human rights seminar.

The parliament has changed its standing orders to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president. The new rules state the Majlis can vote on the vice president’s impeachment without an investigation by a select committee.

Jameel has called his party’s attempts to remove him a “constitution coup,” and suggested that the international community should intervene.

Speaking to the New Indian Express on Tuesday Jameel said, “There is complete disregard for parliamentary procedure just to get the tourism minister after me. This is personal vengeance.”

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence and are seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Responding to Jameel’s allegations, Adeeb told Haveeru that Jameel had fled the Maldives after a failed coup attempt.

“A lot of people are accusing him of leaving with a lot of money and a lot of things. He is even now accused of dereliction of duty and fleeing the country. He has left the country because the coup he had planned has failed,” he said.

Adeeb also slammed Jameel’s call for help from the international community.

Jameel told the New Indian Express he had carried out his duties as ordered by President Yameen. “The President has to tell me that I have not performed properly, but he never told me that.”

Minivan News was unable to reach Jameel at the time of going to press.

Jameel had kept silent on the petition for impeachment, but released a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, in which he accused the PPM parliamentary group of greed and said that MPs have arbitrarily amended the constitution for their personal interests.

The parliament last week passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set the new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency.

Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously stated that candidates must be 35 years of age.

The opposition’s backing for the amendment is widely perceived to be a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are now preparing to begin talks to end a six-month long political crisis.


Vice President told to return home, answer charges

President Abdulla Yameen has asked vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed to cut short an unauthorised trip to London and return to the Maldives.

A Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP told Minivan News today that the president asked Jameel to return and answer to the ruling party’s parliamentary group over his imminent impeachment.

But president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has said that “the president did not in any way ask the vice president to return to the Maldives.”

Muaz was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Dr Jameel left to Sri Lanka last week after President Yameen authorised a medical leave.

The senior PPM MP said Jameel was due to return two days ago, but instead departed for the UK without informing the president’s office.

“We have tried contacting him repeatedly to ask him to meet with the parliamentary group. But he has not responded. We are trying to bring our problems to him and trying to find a mutual solution,” said the PPM MP.

An anonymous senior government official has meanwhile told Haveeru that Jameel phoned President Yameen yesterday and asked for an extended leave of absence.

However, the president reportedly told his deputy that he could take a holiday after answering to the PPM parliamentary group.

Meanwhile, the parliament today approved changes to its rules of procedure to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president.

The new rules state the parliament can vote on removing the vice president without an investigation. The rules previously stated that a committee must investigate allegations against the vice president before a vote.

The amendment to the standing orders was passed with 52 votes in favour and 14 against.

Several opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Nazim voted in favour of the change.

The PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) are preparing to file a no-confidence motion against Jameel this week.

A two-third majority or 57 votes will be needed to remove the vice president. The ruling coalition controls 48 seats in the 85-member house and appears to have secured the opposition’s backing.

Five MPs each from the JP and MDP have signed the no-confidence motion, the PPM has said.

The vice president must be given a 14-day notice ahead of the parliamentary debate on the resolution, according to the constitution.

Pro-government MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty. PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said pro-government MPs are unhappy with Jameel over his alleged failure to defend the government during an opposition mass protest in the capital Malé in May 1.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Some opposition politicians have claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery, but Nihan has dismissed rumours over the president’s health.

PPM MP Mohamed Musthafa and MDA MP Mohamed Ismail meanwhile condemned the vice president’s departure on social media yesterday.

Musthafa said that the president did not authorise Jameel’s trip while Ismail said the vice president had “fled” the country.

Ismail said in a Facebook post today that Jameel’s exit lends credence to the allegations against him.

He suggested that Jameel was planning to bring the Maldives into disrepute in interviews with international media outlets.

Last week, the parliament passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to lower the age limit for the presidency from 35 to 30 years. Adeeb is now 33.

The opposition’s backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived to be part of a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.


Heated Viber exchange exposes rift between Gayoom brothers

A heated exchange on a social media group set up between MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has been leaked and exposes a widening rift between President Abdulla Yameen and his-half brother and president of 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In the Viber group, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb reprimanded newly elected Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon for his absence from a vote on a constitutional amendment that set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and vice president.

“Faris you have let down HEP Yameen on the very first vote,” Adeeb told the newly elected MP for Dhiggaru.

adeeb-faris-chat 2

Faris is nephew to President Yameen and the eldest son of former President Gayoom.

Gayoom, is the leader of the PPM, and had opposed the change to set an upper age limit of 65 years. The former president, who is now in his early 80s, had served six terms from 1978 to 2008.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with the 33-year-old tourism minister.

Tensions are reportedly running high within the PPM with Gayoom also unhappy with the vice president’s imminent impeachment.

Adeeb warned Faris against discriminating based on his background: “I have served this party and sacrificed more than any individual and it’s time for a change.”

“If anyone has the strength to confront us, u are all welcome. But this will happen Insha Allah.”

President Yameen was elected on Gayoom’s popularity. But in the past 18 months, he has created his own power base, with hand picked MPs and ministers. His right-hand man is Adeeb.

Several senior PPM officials have confirmed to Minivan News that screenshots of the Viber conversation circulating on social media are authentic.

Faris replied saying that his “only aim is upholding President [Abdulla] Yameen’s government,” but said: “Proper discussion and deliberation cannot be bypassed.”

Adeeb then said “this is definitely not helping this country to take forward, and Faris not coming to vote shows your commitment and those who have elected you.”

Faris had won a by-election for the vacant Dhiggaru seat earlier this month after former ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“Sir, I have every commitment and [support] to yourself and to the youth of our country. Especially the educated youth,” Faris told Adeeb.

After parliament voted to accept the amendments for consideration, Gayoom sent a text message to the PPM parliamentary group leader saying: “I am deeply saddened. There is no point to a man whose opinions are not considered staying on as PPM president.”

Former PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof has meanwhile called on Gayoom to retract support for his half-brother’s administration.

Opposition politicians have claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery, but the government has denied the rumours of the president’s health.

In a separate message to the PPM parliamentary group – also leaked online – Adeeb spoke of the importance of affording the space for President Yameen ” to rule this nation without internal resistance.”

“This nation needs to be sorted and it needs to give room for HEP Yameen to rule this nation without internal resistance. We need HEP Yameen’s policies to be implemented in this nation and PPM party, there is no nation where President is not the leader of the political party he represents.

“I have witnessed how difficult it is for HEP Yameen to rule with many frictions, I think we need to discuss this at party level,” wrote Adeeb.

He signed off as the “Elected VP.” Adeeb is also the vice president of PPM.

Addressing participants of a motorcycle rally yesterday, Adeeb said the country is very “stress free” at the moment and that there was no cause for anyone to worry.

The current administration will govern the nation in a “stress free” manner, he said.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed was transferred to house arrest last week based after doctors advised a “stress free environment” and rest for back pain.

The opposition MPs’ backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived as part of a deal in exchange for the opposition leader’s transfer to house arrest.


Tourism minister dismisses rumors of new VP appointment

The tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has dismissed rumours he may be appointed as the new vice president. “All rumours, I have no interest at this stage,” he told Minivan News.

Local daily Haveeru reported yesterday that a constitutional amendment, proposing an age limit of 30-65 years for the president and vice president, was aimed at making Adeeb eligible for the position.

Adeeb is now 33. The Constitution says the president and vice president must be over 35 years of age.

The amendment was proposed by MP Mohamed Ismail of the ruling coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA).

Haveeru suggested ruling coalition MPs might also amend the Constitution to authorise the president to appoint or dismiss his deputy.

The relationship between president Abdulla Yameen and vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed is reportedly under strain. Dr Jameel was very active during the presidential campaign, but is rarely seen in public now.

His cousin, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was dismissed from the cabinet on Thursday. The government did not provide a reason for the dismissal.

Ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that MPs will hold discussions before backing MP Ismail’s constitutional amendment.

A two-third majority or 63 votes of the 85 member house is required to amend the constitution.

The PPM and MDA control some 48 seats and will need the backing of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) or Jumhooree Party (JP) to approve the amendment.

In December, MP Ismail had proposed capping the age limit for the presidency at 65 years of age, but withdrew the bill in March.

At the time, local media said the proposal was aimed at barring JP leader Gasim Ibrahim from contesting the 2018 presidential elections. Gasim would be 66 in 2018.

Ismail said he had withdrawn the amendment on the request on the ruling party’s leaders.

The move came after Gasim met with the tourism tycoon Mohamed ‘Uchchu’ Moosa and the tourism minister during the trial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

Gasim’s JP in January split from the ruling coalition and allied with Nasheed’s MDP and launched daily protests against what it called government authoritarianism.

Nasheed was jailed for 13 years on terrorism charges on March 13.

The government in April froze the accounts of several subsidiary companies of Gasim’s Villa Group over a US$90.4 million fine, which the company insists is illegal.


Ex-Defence Minister Nazim found guilty of smuggling weapons, sentenced to 11 years in jail

The Criminal Court has found former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim guilty of smuggling dangerous weapons and sentenced him to 11 years in jail.

At a late night hearing on Thursday, the three-judge panel said Nazim had not been able to demonstrate how he had come to possess a pistol and three bullets found in his apartment during a police raid on January 18.

The weapons did not belong to the state armoury and therefore must have been smuggled into the country, the judges said. Further, since the police had discovered the weapons at Nazim’s home in a raid conducted according to the law, they must be considered to belong to the former defence minister, judges concluded.

Nazim’s defence team have maintained the pistol and three bullets were planted by rogue officers on the orders of Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, after the pair fell out over Adeeb’s alleged use of police SWAT team for criminal activities.

The Maldives Police Services and the Tourism Minister have denied the accusations as baseless and untrue.

Nazim, as he was escorted out of the courtroom under a police guard tonight, told his distraught family, “We will still gain justice.”

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, defence lawyer Maumoon Hameed said the three judges had not considered the defence’s arguments and said he would lodge an appeal at the High Court as soon as possible.

The Criminal Court last week refused to call all but two of the 37 defence witnesses, claiming some were not relevant while others did not appear to negate the prosecution’s claims.

Following the weapons discovery, Nazim was dismissed from the cabinet. He was then arrested on February 10 under additional charges of terrorism and treason.

State prosecutors in court also claimed documents on a pen drive confiscated along with the weapons revealed that Nazim was plotting a coup d’etat and planning to harm President Abdulla Yameen, Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed and the Tourism Minister.

The documents were presented in a closed hearing, allegedly to demonstrate the former defence minister had a motive in smuggling the pistol.

Nazim’s family had previously said “there is no hope for a fair trial” due to a “notoriously politicised judiciary,” and said Nazim had “fallen foul of a political conspiracy, one in which powerful forces within the government have sought to destroy him and prevent him from challenging the leadership of the ruling party.”

Right to defence “obstructed”

At a 4:oopm hearing on Thursday, state prosecutors and defence lawyers presented closing statements.

State prosecutor Adam Arif said Nazim had admitted police discovered the weapons in his bedroom during a search carried out in his presence. Claiming Nazim had failed to explain who the weapons belonged to, Arif said he must be held responsible for the pistol and three bullets discovered under his roof.

Tests carried out by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) proved the weapons were functioning and dangerous. Further, the MNDF had said the weapons did not come from the state armory, he said.

Police officers had also testified the raid and search were conducted according to rules and regulations, he added.

But referring to the Criminal Court’s refusal to call the majority of Nazim’s defence witnesses, defence lawyers contended the court had “obstructed” Nazim from mounting a proper defence.

Lawyers claimed over 15 SWAT officers broke down the door to Nazim’s apartment on the night of the raid, barged into his bedroom in the dark, pointed a riot gun at his head and escorted him and his wife into the living room.

SWAT officers then spent at least ten minutes unsupervised in the former Defence Minister’s bedroom, during which they planted the bag containing the pistol in a bedside drawer, lawyers suggested.

Police testimony confirmed the search team had arrived approximately 15 minutes after the SWAT officers secured the premises, but state prosecutors had failed to explain the gap, lawyers argued.

The defence team also contended police conduct of the raid and search was unlawful, arguing the resulting evidence was therefore inadmissible in a court of law.

Lawyers said if the defence had been allowed to call its witnesses, it would have been possible to prove police spent time unsupervised in Nazim’s bedroom, and that SWAT officers were previously under investigation for criminal activities.

They would also have been able to prove the pistol was in fact imported by the state for the protection of foreign dignitaries, they added.

Lawyers urged judges not to accept the testimony of police officers, claiming they had lied in court. Lawyers pointed to what they called serious contradictions in testimony, as one claimed the search team had checked the ceiling and above a cupboard in the bedroom, while the others denied doing so.

Some witnesses claimed secret information indicated the weapons were located on either the seventh or eight floor while others said it was just the eighth floor, lawyers said.

The panel overseeing Nazim’s case are the same judges who sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail on March 13.


President Yameen denies knowledge of Nazim weapons set-up

President Abdulla Yameen today hit back at Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s claims the president was aware of the alleged framing of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim in an illegal weapons charge.

Sheikh Imran, speaking at the opposition Alliance Against Brutality last night, said he had met with President Yameen on March 3 and told the president he would have knowledge of the senior government officials involved in the set-up against Nazim.

“Even though it cannot be proven at the court, we told [President] Yameen that we have enough evidence to prove that Nazim was being framed, and told him to our knowledge the president was well aware of what had happened. But the president said he did not know,” Sheikh Imran told hundreds of opposition supporters.

The President’s Office issued a statement today denying Imran’s claim, stating President Yameen had responded to Imran’s allegations of framing, saying he was not aware “whether Nazim had been framed or not.”

Sheikh Imran had asked the president to withdraw charges against Nazim at the 1.5 hour meeting, but President Yameen told the six member Adhaalath Party delegation that he had no constitutional authority to withdraw charges pressed by an independent Prosecutor General following an independent police investigation, the statement said.

President Yameen then instructed Sheikh Imran to join Nazim’s defence team and mount a defence through the court if he had reason to believe Nazim was framed. The President also told Sheikh Imran the matter must be resolved through the courts, the statement continued.

Nazim maintains the pistol and three bullets found in a bedside drawer during a midnight raid were planted by rogue officers. However, the Criminal Court yesterday only called two out of 38 defence witnesses, claiming the witnesses presented by the defence did not appear to negate the prosecution’s claims.

The former Defence Minister alleges Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb had planned the set-up following a fallout over Adeeb’s alleged use of police officers to commit crimes, including the chopping down of all of Malé City’s Areca Palms. Both Adeeb and Maldives Police Services have denied the allegations.

Sheikh Imran last night also declared that the opposition would no longer tolerate President Yameen’s “brutality,” Adeeb’s alleged rampant corruption, unfair prosecution of political rivals, and “destruction of public property”.

In response, President’s Office said Imran should file any complaints of corruption with the Anti Corruption Commission.

The Adhaalath Party, Nazim’s family, high ranking Jumhooree Party (JP) officials and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) united against President Yameen’s alleged brutality last week.

The Alliance Against Brutality last night warned the government to initiate dialogue with the opposition or face the consequences.

“If [President Yameen] does not come to the [negotation] table, I would say he won’t have any other choice but to go home,” said JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim.


Tourism Minister Adeeb appointed as acting finance minister

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb has been appointed as the acting Minister of Finance and Treasury in the absence of Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad.

Jihad is currently abroad on a personal trip.

Adeeb is also acting as the Home Minister at present with Home Minister Umar Naseer out of the country until February 27.

In early January, Adeeb was temporarily put in charge of the Ministry of Defence and National Security while former Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim was out of the country on an unofficial trip.

Nazim was dismissed on January 20 after the police found a pistol and an explosive at his home in a late night raid on January 18.

The former defence minister has been accused of plotting a coup and is now under police custody.


Gasim denies claims he owed government US$100 million

Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and prominent businessman Gasim Ibrahim has rejected claims made by the tourism minister that he owes the government US$100 million (MVR 1.5 billion).

“Gasim Ibrahim does not owe them any money at all,” said the Maamigili MP while speaking at a street protest held last night. “So the Tourism Minister is clearly lying.”

Earlier this week, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb had alleged that Gasim’s Villa Group owes the government the money as rent and fines for islands leased to his businesses.

The Civil Court last week ordered the Ministry of Tourism to halt all proceedings regarding the seizure of uninhabited islands and lagoons granted to Villa Hotels and Resorts Private Limited.

According to the order, though the government has said Villa can be compensated for the seizure of the islands and lagoons, the areas had been handed over due to the government’s previous inability to bear the burden of financial or monetary compensation.

“It saddens me to see that the government has forgotten that it is not child’s play to seize and take away someone’s land and property,” said Gasim at the rally held alongside opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last night (February 16) .

In addition, Gasim called for the minister’s immediate resignation as well as questioning Adeeb’s sudden rise to power.

“When a man who, three years ago, didn’t have enough money to even settle the bill for a cup of coffee with a friend suddenly becomes a millionaire, a billionaire, we know very well what is behind this change,” remarked Gasim.

The government had previously taken Villa Group-owned Kaadedhoo airport and other inhabited islands from Gasim, after he attempted to block its flagship special economic zone (SEZ) bill in the Majlis last year.

After boycotting the committee reviewing the legislation, Gasim warned that SEZs would facilitate massive corruption, threaten independence, and authorise a board formed by the president – and now chaired by Adeeb – “to sell off the entire country in the name of economic zones”.

Gasim’s Villa Group is one of the largest companies in the Maldives with the holding company Villa Shipping and Trading Pvt Ltd conglomerate operating businesses in shipping, import and export, retail, tourism, fishing, media, communications, transport, and education.

Police cordoned off a large section of Malé for the protests last night – the sixth consecutive evening of protests by the MDP – JP coalition, which was formed last month in order to “defend the constitution” against alleged breaches by the government.

Leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said the opposition alliance is a “waste of time”, and that the JP’s exit from the Progressive Coalition is no loss to the government.

Protesters last night again called for the immediate resignation of President Abdulla Yameen and several prominent ministers in his cabinet, claiming that the government had failed its election pledges, such as providing fishermen with MVR10,000 regardless of catch, and promising incentives for agricultural workers.

Also speaking at the rally, Malé City Councilor Mohamed Rasheed called upon islanders to flock to the capital Malé on February 27 for mass protests which are planned to last over 48 hours.

MDP leaders have suggested that the opposition rally to be held at the end of the month will see prominent defectors from government aligned parties join its coalition.

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Government considering racing track in Hulhumalé, says Tourism Minister

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has said the government is considering building a racing track in Hulhumalé, saying that motor racing deters youth from crime.

Adeeb’s comments came at the conclusion of the ‘Motor Racing President’s Challenge 2015’ last night (January 24), with the minister acknowledging that the island’s master plan for artificial island made no provision for such a facility.

“Creating a master plan takes years and it is not essential for Hulhumalé to always have a racing track,” Haveeru reported Adeeb as saying. “We are, however, trying to build a track that would last at least six years and one that can host international events.”

The two day event, organised by the Maldives Motor Racing Association (MMRA), concluded last night with awards handed out by President Abdulla Yameen for the winners.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the competition this weekend, Adeeb said it was necessary to develop racing as a sport in the Maldives as it deters the youth population from crimes and drug abuse.

“These kind of sports prevent the youth from straying into criminal activities and drugs. Racing especially can only be done with good discipline, this is not a sport you can participate in unless you are sober,” said Adeeb.

The competition – which saw women participating in a racing event for the first time – was split into various categories as superbike racing, car racing, and various tiers of motorbike racing.

While President Yameen handed out the winning awards to all first prize winners, Adeeb handed out awards for the runners-up, and recently appointed Minister of Defense Colonel (retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel gave awards for those finishing third.

First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim was also awarded a shield of recognition by MMRA for the work she does towards developing the sport.

Adeeb said that despite motor racing being a widespread sport in the Maldives, it faces a considerable amount of restriction such as the lack of racing track and difficulty acquiring racing equipment. However, he noted that local racers had fared well despite these difficulties.

The second phase of the Hulhumalé development has begun, with Belgian company Dredging International reclaiming 240 hectares, doubling the size of what the current government government has designated a youth city.

At the official reclamation of the second development phase last week, President Yameen called on young people from around the country to relocate to the Malé suburb.

He has previously pledged to establish a ‘technopolis park’, entertainment, and sports facilities, and facilities for tourism and fisheries industries, while Hulhumalé Development Corporation officials have also said phase two of the project will feature a monorail to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

Source: Haveeru, Avas, Vaguthu

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