Opposition condemns Defense Minister Nazim’s apartment raid

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the police raid on defense minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim’s apartment in the early hours of Sunday morning (January 18).

In a press statement released yesterday, the party expressed concern over the lack of information made available regarding the raid, noting that a “police raid on a defense minister’s house is not an issue which can be taken lightly”.

Media reports suggested that masked officers forcefully entered the premises in the Galolhu ward of Malé at around 3:30am, searching the apartment of Nazim’s wife and the apartment opposite.

After the President’s Office had expressed its continued confidence in Nazim yesterday, the minister announced via twitter that he was unaffected by the incident.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed has alleged that Nazim’s house was searched in order to confiscate a letter written by Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb to the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

“I have received information that one of the items police was looking for was a letter written by Adeeb when he was temporarily in charge of the ministry when Nazim was on holiday,” said Nasheed before departing to Abu Dhabi to take part in Zaid Future Energy prize last night.

Nasheed said the letter had requested the immigration department allow some individuals to travel to Syria for Jihad, and that Nazim had obtained the documents after arriving back at the ministry.

However, Adeeb told Minivan News today that there was no such letter, saying “all government letters are passed through computerised system”.

“If there was such a letter, it would be impossible to hide it,” he added.

The same day on which Adeeb was appointed as acting defense minister (January 4), reliable sources told Minivan News that Azlif Rauf – a suspect in the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali – left the country for jihad in Syria with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang.

Earlier this month, however, the Criminal Court told Minivan News that there were no pending charges against Rauf, and so no reason for immigration to have held his passport.

Police have told Minivan News today that they have no further information to give regarding the raid on Nazim’s apartment.

Elsewhere yesterday, crowds gathered outside Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s home after rumours of an imminent police raid on his house in Maafannu ward.

“I am not trembling,” Gasim told press gathered outside his home. Flanked by senior MDP members, Gasim said that he was willing to work with anyone who stands to defend the Constitution and that he will stand firm in spite of intimidation.

Related to this story

Police raid Defence Minister Nazim’s home in early hours

“I am not trembling” says Gasim after reports of imminent police raid on his home

Tourism Minister Adeeb temporarily in charge of Defense Ministry

Two immigration officers and Afrasheem murder suspect among group of twelve jihadis


Hulhumalé reclamation to cost US$22 million less than expected, says Tourism Minister

The second phase of the Hulhumalé land reclamation project will cost US$ 22 million less than expected and will now amount to US$50 million, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb has said.

Speaking to Haveeru, Adeeb said the cost of the project had been reduced after President Abdulla Yameen held direct discussions with the dredging companies. Land reclamation began last night (January 10).

“Reclaiming the land and the revetments will now be completed at US$50 million after ceaseless effort by President Yameen. He held many discussions with the current contractor Belgium Dredging International to bring the price down,” said Adeeb.

Adeeb said Yameen had secured the US$30 million loan from Bank of Ceylon to finance the project.

Hulhumalé phase one reclamation saw 188 hectares of land reclaimed to house a population of 60,000, while the second phase aims to house 100,000 residents.


Police prepare for ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Show’ as revised lineup announced

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) have said today that it is prepared for any event which might unfold at the ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown’ show held in Malé tonight.

Central Operations Command’s Deputy Head Superintendent Abdulla Shareef said that all security measures for the New Year’s Eve show held at the National Stadium have been arranged.

“All roads surrounding the National Stadium and leading up to it will be blocked for vehicle entry from 6.30pm tonight. We request all individuals wishing to watch the show to walk to the National Stadium,” said Shareef.

Shareef’s statements comes after Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul cancelled his scheduled appearance at the show, citing security concerns.

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has today announced that the show will now feature Indian artists Salim and Sulaiman Merchant.

Sean Paul’s cancellation followed the posting of an online death threat against the singer last week, as well as calls from religious groups within the country to stop the performance.

“Unfortunately, the world has reached a point where cyber threats must affect real life decisions,” read a message posted on the artists official Facebook page yesterday (December 30).

Meanwhile, MPS confirmed today reports on local media that the service had searched a house and questioned an individual in connection to the video after obtaining a warrant yesterday.

Tourism minister Adeeb told Minivan News yesterday (December 30) that Sean Paul had decided to continue with the concert before pressure in Jamaica caused him to make the last minute decision to cancel.

The singer’s decision had come despite assurances from the President’s Office and the security services that the posted threat was a hoax.

Adeeb revealed on his twitter account today that the show will now include performances by Indian artists Salim and Sulaiman Merchant who arrived in the Maldives this morning.

The brothers – who perform under the name ‘Salim-Sulaiman’ – have produced music for several Bollywood hit films and come from a Muslim family in Gujarat.

Also speaking at the police press conference today, Drug Enforcement Department’s head Superintendent Ahmed Shifan said the police will not allow “illegal new year parties, especially those with illegal narcotics” to take place.

Shifan revealed today that the police arrested a 29-year-old man with 140 bullets of heroin while a 35-year-old Maldivian arriving from Sri Lanka was arrested with 30 “pieces of narcotics” which he had swallowed.

The past week has seen a large amount of alcohol confiscated in the Malé area, with police reporting seven individuals taken into custody within the last 48 hours after having being found in possession of alcohol on Hulhumalé.

Last weekend police confiscated 70 bottles of liquor and 70 cans of beer with a street value of MVR200,000 (US12,970) from Faamudheyrige in Maafannu ward in Malé.

Shifan had claimed that it was foreigners who are mainly active in Malé’s black market trade in alcohol, but said they received help from Maldivians, resulting in the confiscation of at least 400 containers of alcohol since December 1.

Related to this story

Sean Paul cancels New Year’s appearance, citing security concerns

Online jihadists threaten Sean Paul with death ahead of New Year’s concert

Sean Paul threat a hoax to create atmosphere of fear, says President’s Office

President Yameen warns of adverse impacts on tourism from threats against guests


President appoints Hassan Ziyath as new auditor general

President Abdulla Yameen has today appointed Hassan Ziyath as the new auditor general within one hour of gaining parliamentary approval.

Ziyath – who received the consent of the parliament at around 1.30 pm – was handed the letter of appointment by President Yameen at a function held at the president’s office around 2.30pm.

The new auditor general won the approval of the Majlis, with 59 of the voting members from across the parties unanimously supporting his appointment.

The nomination of Ziyath for the post by President Yameen has aroused contoversy as his brother, Abdulla Ziyath was recently implicated in a US$6 million corruption scandal alongside  tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

In an audit report released on October 29, then auditor general Niyaz Ibrahim accused Abdulla Ziyath – Managing Director of state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) – of illegally pushing through a US$6 million loan from state funds to two private companies.

The audit report was signed on the same day that the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives brought an amendment to the Audit Act requiring the president to reappoint the auditor general within 30 days of the amendments have been approved.

Ziyath was nominated out of the four individuals who applied for the post, which holds an equivalent salary to the president’s – currently at MVR100,000 (US$6500).

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had ferociously opposed the amendments, stating that the bill would allow the incumbent to be discharged without following the constitutional provisions for impeachment.

MDP MP Rozaina Adam on November 3 said that the party would challenge the constitutionality of the amendment, though it was subsequently with 36 MPs voting in favor and 22 against.

Meanwhile, Niyaz – who had served only three years of his seven year long term – told local media that he would not apply for the post again, instead choosing to challenge the constitutionality of the amendments in the Supreme Court.

While speaking to Haveeru at the time, Niyaz said that he received threats and intimidation from the tourism minister after he started investigating the corruption scandal.

However, Adeeb condemned the report as politically motivated, and accused Niyaz of colluding with MP and former Deputy Speaker of Majlis Ahmed Nazim to discredit him after he refused to back Nazim for the Majlis Speakership in May.

Adeeb also expressed dismay at reports that Nazim had attempted to link him with the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

Related to this story

Brother of official implicated in MMPRC corruption scandal nominated for Auditor General

Majlis passes amendment allowing president to reappoint auditor general

Tourism Minister implicated in US$6million corruption scandal


Adeeb “saddened” at PPM colleague’s attempts to link him with missing journalist

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has expressed sadness at reports fellow party member Ahmed Nazim had attempted to link him with the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

“I am saddened that former Majlis Deputy Speaker asked different journalists to write, implicating me in the case to divert focus, as the case was being investigated by police,” said the deputy leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) yesterday.

Adeeb spoke to the press in response to a damning report from the auditor general, implicating him in a US$6 million corruption scandal.

Rumours of Nazim’s attempts to have Adeeb linked with the disappearance of Rilwan on August 8 first appeared in an independent report commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network in September.

The report – which mentioned multiple potential lines of inquiry – suggested that radicalised gangs were the most likely groups to have abducted Rilwan from outside his home in Hulhumalé.

The 28-year-old’s disappearance 85 days ago remains a mystery, with the journalists’ family last week submitting an official complaint to the Police Integrity Commission regarding the authorities’ lack of progress in the search.

Blaming political opponents for the release of the audit report this week, Adeeb repeated suggestions that his enemies were attempting to smear him after his failure to support them in the selection for leadership of the Majlis in May.

“But I didn’t believe the threats because the auditor general is someone I respected. I believed up until the report was released yesterday that he would not compromised. Nazim threatened me very recently as well before he left for Malaysia.”

Nazim – who was not selected as a PPM candidate for Majlis deputy speaker – left the country last week just as the criminal court ordered that his passport be held in relation to unspecified charges.

Adeeb also heads the cabinet’s Economic Council  as well as the newly formed special economic zone investment board, having risen from relative obscurity prior to 2012 to become arguably the second most powerful man in the government behind President Abdulla Yameen.

He told journalists that Dhiggaru MP Nazim had suggested to the media that Rilwan was abducted in relation to his work on the Dhaalu Maagau case – also featured in the recent audit report.


Malé-Hulhulé bridge will be opened in 2017, says tourism minister

Work on the proposed bridge linking capital Malé and Hulhulé is to begin next year with aims of opening the bridge in 2017, says Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

An MoU was signed yesterday between the Chinese and the Maldivian governments concerning the promotion of the bridge during the first ever presidential visit by a Chinese President to the Maldives.

Speaking to Haveeru, Adeeb said that President Abdulla Yameen plans for the bridge to be open in 2017.

The project is linked to President Yameen’s plans for a ‘youth city’ in Hulhumalé, which is reported to include youth-specific housing, international class sports facilities, a theme park, yacht marina, and a tourism district for a population of 50,000.

“President Yameen has a lot of ambitions for Youth City. Creating lots of job opportunities along with housing is amongst the aims President Yameen has for the city. All of this is connected via the bridge. So God willing, the bridge project will be completed,” said Adeeb.

Chinese President Xi Jinpeng suggested the name ‘China-Maldives Friendship Bridge’ to be given to the bridge in recognition to the strong diplomatic relations between the two states.


Wave of the future: Surfing and the end of exclusivity

Professional free-surfer Dave ‘Rasta’ Rastovich, defeated seasoned campaigner Taylor Knox in the grand final of the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy yesterday (August 10) to be crowned the 2014 champion.

The event saw six former world champions, including Knox, Rastovich, Sunny Garcia, Taylor Jensen, Fabio Gouveia, and Rochelle Ballard battling it out all week at Sultans Point.

For the third consecutive year, Hussein ‘Iboo’ Areef won the hotly contested Domestic Champions Trophy which showcased the island nation’s depth of surf talent. The ‘goofy footer’ (right foot forward stance) defeated Ismail ‘Kuda Issay’ Miglal, Amid ‘Ammaday’ Agil and Mohamed ‘Billu’ Irushad.

All six former world champions were impressed after watching the local final, with Contest Director Ross Phillips noting, “the standard of surfing today in the Domestic Champions Trophy was world class. It was a tough final and Iboo was a deserving winner.”

“The Maldivian Surfing Association is forging ahead in leaps and bounds. It’s fantastic to watch surfing progress at both a performance and organisational level in the Maldives,” he added.

Fewer barriers to local involvement

This is the fourth year that Four Seasons and Tropicsurf have held the event, and the third year that Maldivian talent has competed in the domestic category.

After national champion Areef last year highlighted the need for more local involvement in the competition, many of this year’s competitors agreed that there has been a vast improvement in the involvement of local surf community.

Spearheaded by collaboration with the Maldives Surf Association (MSA), the 2014 competition saw more local involvement, including Maldivian shadowing judges.

There remains one change Afeef would like to see in next years competition, however.

“It would be great to get a chance to surf against the champions, even just one local guy to compete in the main event,” stated Areef.

Similarly, Dave Rastovich commended the local surfing talent and stressed the need for local participation.

“Its crucial to involve the local community, especially in surfing. There have been big divides,” Rastovich told Minivan News.

Rasta went on to highlight the important link between privatisation and the divide between local and international surfers.

“[Exclusivity] always created a lot of division between communities. Division between visiting people and locals.”

“It suits a few, but to the detriment of the many,” Rastovich warned.

Rastovich, a dedicated marine conservation activist, went on to highlight some of the environmental issues faced in local oceans – a topic which has often intertwined with Maldivian surfing culture.

“There are so many great species of fish [in the Maldives] that you don’t see in Indonesia anymore, you don’t see in parts of Australia anymore, and certainly don’t see them throughout Asia.”

“So the great thing about here is that you’re not there yet. There’s still species, there’s still populations here, you have the time. It’s a no-brainer both ecologically and economically to preserve and protect,” encouraged Rastovich .

The end of exclusivity?

Speaking at the grand final ceremony yesterday, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb explained the government’s new enthusiasm for the development of surfing in the Maldives.

“It was the youth who identified, who kept pushing us, to develop the surf,” explained Adeeb.

“The surf points were exclusive for the resorts and hotels here, but we have ended exclusivity for the locals.”

The surf breaks of the Maldives have been a battle-ground in recent years, with local surfers, ministries and resorts engaged in heated debate since 2011 over access to the waves.

After years of pressure from local campaigning against privatisation, the Maldives government appears to have retracted its original stance, announcing that all popular surf and dive spots have been freed from any access restrictions.

“We believe there are a lot of surf points in the Maldives that need to be protected, and we need to make it a sanctuary for the surfers,” stated Adeeb.

Ahmed Aznil, president of the MSA, pointed out that free breaks are not all plain sailing.

“A free for all, without the necessary legislative and management holds in place would eventually lead to chaos.”

The key to success, argues Aznil, is keeping the breaks well managed and to maintain clear communication between the government and stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the next Maldives’ surf competition will be the Red Bull Both Ways event, held at Sultans breaks between August 20 – 30. The competition, which has fifty slots for Maldivian surfers, challenges Maldivian and Sri Lankan surfers to ride both left and right waves.


Q&A: Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor speaks to Minivan News about his mandate, his aspirations for his five year term in the cabinet position, and his political career.

Adeeb served in the same cabinet post during the previous administration of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed. He is also currently the elected Deputy Leader of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Political Career

Mariyath Mohamed: What are the main things you hope to achieve in these five years as Tourism Minister?

Ahmed Adheeb: As you know, I initially became Tourism Minister in the last government, with the endorsement of PPM, with about two years left of the term when I assumed office. At the time, we worked to complete some of the then-existing work, for example completion of the Fourth Tourism Masterplan.

There were also many other legislative issues. As an example there is the case where tourist resorts were being formed under the old law on uninhabited islands. Then there were other resorts which had not been completed as agreed, and many islands from which the government was not receiving due payments. I believe that I was able to sort out a lot of issues like this.

At the time, it was not a PPM agenda that we were following, and the government was a rather large mix. Our aim at the time was to sustain tourism. As you know tourism is a sector which is very much connected to the country’s economy. When I assumed office, the political turbulence had caused the cancellation of many bookings, including charter flights from China. Maldives is a place which usually has bookings made two or three months ahead of the estimated date of arrival, and so booking cancellations mean that the rate of arrivals were dropping.

I came and made a set up to deal with the issue. The civil service team at the Tourism Ministry has a lot of experienced personnel with long term institutional memory. They have a lot of practical experience, for example in how they tackled the 2004 tsunami disaster and the effects of the Gulf War, and many other such incidences.

As I see it, I assumed office in the middle of a crisis too, so I pulled together the crisis management team and we made a cell to deal with the matter. We had the resorts report back to us on a daily basis with records of how many booking they had made and how many bookings had got cancelled every single day. We used this as a barometer at the time, and commenced work. I went to the ITB fair in Germany as well as the WTM in London and held press conferences.

I believe it is crucial to face press and respond to their enquiries. At that time, the opposition was raising its voice, accusing us of having come to power through a coup d’etat and we addressed those allegations. What I mean by that is, I pointed out that a Commission of National Inquiry had been established with Commonwealth intervention on mutual agreement and called on the opposition to not draw conclusions while the investigation was pending. I called on them to give us time until the investigation was completed. And in any case, I don’t believe tourism must come to an end regardless of the political volatility, as it is something closely knit with the livelihood of all Maldivian citizens and the country’s economy. We said that more than a political agenda, our focus is on marketing tourism. It was well accepted and if you check headlines from then you will find our interviews in the Telegraph and other such news agencies.

I believe we were able to sustain the tourism industry within those two years. In 2012, I worked hard to reach a target of 1 million tourist arrivals, but were able to reach 965,000. However, last year we reached the target. I am happy with the 1.2 million arrivals, I believe we were able to reach a good target.

This government has recently come into effect and as PPM’s deputy leader, I too did a lot of work on our manifesto, mainly on the economic sector. Our plan is to create three special economic zones, and to develop even the tourism sector through these. The model in mid-Maldives, of Malé and the atolls connected within the seaplane’s zone, is a very ideal one to be replicated in North and South of the country. This can only be achieved by building certain infrastructure in these zones. A law on economic zones needs to be drafted.

Additionally, we need to explore what needs to be done to implement what is in the Tourism Masterplan. Whether we should increase beds, and how to do that, and so on. As you know, the current bed capacity of the country is 25,000 and I believe this needs a fast-paced increase. During the new year season, there was a fall of about 2000 beds due to overbooking. There’s also the Chinese New Year. So I believe we need to very quickly increase bed capacity, whether it be in resorts, city hotels or other new products.

I especially want to also note that the real estate market in Maldives is also something we can promote through tourism.

MM: After having previously worked in the Maldives Customs Services, and then the Chamber of Commerce, how did you enter the political arena?

AA: I worked in the Air Cargo department of Maldives Customs Services for three years. During my time there, I became familiar with trade and import. All imports into Maldives, including even seafood, is usually brought in by air freight. I became familiarised with trade and at the time decided to go abroad for further studies.

After completion of my degree, I worked in stock exchange in Sri Lanka. I then completed my Masters programme, returned to the Maldives and worked in private consultations. In 2009, on invitation of the existing board of Chamber of Commerce, I contested for a post on its board of directors. I served as a board member then, and as its treasurer. I stayed there since about 2011.

I believe that as people who research the economy, we all have our views and certain set principles on everything, including privatisation, foreign exchange, and how an economy must be moulded. That, I believe, is our ideology. I believe in openness, Maldives is a very open country. Maldives cannot develop at its best unless it is opened up for investments and we need to bring about certain economical reforms.

If we look at the last five years, it is mostly political reforms that have been brought, and that too at a very fast pace. Meaning, for example, we can now say Maldives is one of the countries where press freedom is granted most openly. However, in an economical perspective, reforms have not been brought yet. Being a country with a low population and with low savings, foreign investments are very important.

In that sense, the Chamber of Commerce is a very political organisation internally, in that we fight for businessmen’s rights, and lobby for changes. I was involved in this, and was often invited to TV shows and other media programmes. I often did research for various businesses, and this always includes economic research of the Maldives. With these updates, I was always outspoken about any issues we may have with the policies of the government then in power. I have always given opinions on these matters to media in my own name. For example, when the government implemented the change in dollar rates, I revealed my view in my own name in the media. Our prediction proved more true than the estimates of the government’s policy makers at the time, for example they were unable to solve the foreign currency issue by the introduction of a dollar band. We said even then that it was a wrong step and called on them to reverse the decision.

Although I am junior by age, I have conducted a lot of research and work. For example, back when current President [Abdulla] Yameen was in People’s Alliance, I did a lot of technical work for the party, including budget reviews, analysis, and providing details of these to the party’s parliamentarians. I used to debate a lot on economical matters with Yameen at the time. He is a very academic and technical person in the field.

It then led to Yameen inviting me to take on the responsibilities of a cabinet minister during the change in government in 2012. I responded that I cannot take on responsibilities of a cabinet minister unless it is in my field of expertise, i.e in the business area. That I would not know how to handle something like the health or education sector. That if it was in the business sector, I would know well to take policy decisions. So I accepted the post of tourism minister and took it as a challenge. I was 29 years of age then.

Many friends and family members advised me to not take up the position, owing to the political atmosphere of the time. However, as I see it, it is very easy to stand outside and criticise matters. But when one has to actually implement things within the legal framework, it is a completely different experience.

Every decision we must make in a position like this is a tough one, but needs to be taken firmly. It is impossible to please everyone with any decision we make. We must also be able to digest criticism levied against us by media or other sources.

There are certain things I have observed since I assumed this post. Cabinet ministers are policy makers. The policies we decide on must be implemented by the civil service, but it is the Permanent Secretary that will deal with the day to day management of civil servants. I will not engage in the hiring and firing of civil servants. I distinguish between the two.

The other thing is I believe every tourism minister must maintain good public relations. We cannot solve the existing issues without building rapport with all investors. I work to understand their concerns, and to get win-win results for the government through the understanding of these concerns. And in that way I gained their acceptance.

I also always ask elders and more experienced persons for advice, including policy makers and former presidents. I believe in treating them respectfully.

A lot of people were of the mindset that I would not be up for this challenge as I was appointed at such a young age. I took it up as a challenge and have been careful in my work. This is because I realise that if I fail, it will reflect not just on me alone, but there will be a reluctance to appoint young ministers in the future.

I do get a lot of criticism, but I believe getting criticism from the opposition is a success in its own right. I also strongly believe that criticism that comes for my decisions is not out of a dislike of me personally, but something that comes along with the cabinet position. So I take it all professionally, as it is an indication that I am doing something right. I have always been told that one will have enemies if they stand up for something.

I don’t differentiate between people of different political ideologies. I believe a person’s political affiliation is a very personal thing and we must be willing to work alike with everyone. I have been trained in politics through the democratic system, and so find it easy to handle the criticism and work through it all.

MM: How do you currently manage time between fulfilling the responsibilities of being both a cabinet minister, as well as the Deputy Leader of PPM?

AA: A deputy leader of a party is also a policy maker there. If the party’s president is unable to attend councils or larger committee meetings, I chair them. Council meetings are normally held once a month unless there is an election approaching. But in these we just decide on policies.

I always differentiate between policy making and implementation. Once we decide on policies to observe, and for example ways to obtain funds, it is the office staff and volunteers who will then work to implement these. I never micromanage things. So it is easy to manage time at a policy making level.

The difficulties arise because once you become a high level politician, either in state level or party level, a lot of individual citizens want to contact you directly. It is often difficult to respond to them in a timely manner, but I do attempt to call them back even if later. But I believe that this is something I need to improve on.

MM: Are you able to fulfill both responsibilities at your best capacity?

AA: I believe I do. If you ask other party members, or council members or parliamentarians, they too will tell you that since I adopted this position as deputy leader, I have taken up huge responsibilities within the party. Even if you ask the former president of other cabinet colleagues, they will tell you that I am a man who always stands up and remains firm even during difficult times and through chaotic times. As I see it, you have to be courageous in taking up responsibilities, and should not shy away from the repercussions that come your way.

MM: What are your future plans for your political career?

AA: A lot of people ask me that. I am only turning 32 this year. I am definitely not a presidential candidate. Even in 2013, a lot of people asked me if I was going to be a running mate or candidate of some party or other. I responded even then that I am not that ambitious. I only consider things as they come to me through given opportunity. I don’t proactively look for positions. My political career will be built on the next five years. Implementation of our economic policies is a huge dream of ours, and that is what will give me the most satisfaction. I see the achievement of this dream as far more important to me than attempting to get higher positions than the one I am in now. This is also the party president’s vision.

As I see it, we have only recently gained the opportunity to show our own results. It is through the results that we manage to show in these five years that my political career, too, will be shaped.

The country has a huge youth population. While there was a difference of opinions when I was appointed during the former administration, due to my young age. But Yameen well understands that with the huge youth population in this nation, it will be difficult to develop the country without youth inclusion.

What I have to say to youth is, if you have a dream, show your capacity and exploit your potential. Being a country with a small population, there is a lot of vast opportunity here.

Section Two: Tourism Policies

MM: The current cabinet is split into economic and social councils. What are your responsibilities on the Economic Council and which other colleagues sit on it?

AA: The economic council has five ministers, including the youth minister and is chaired by the President. I am the co-chair.

There is a Social Council and the Economic and Youth Council. Even in previous governments, there were separate committees, but the cabinet also met on a regular basis, which led to these committees meeting less frequently. But as the president wants to reach results at a fast speed, he holds the council meetings every single day. I believe that with about ten years of cabinet experience, this initiative by the president adds to added effectiveness and better time management. Now each cabinet minister can better focus on matters that directly involve them.

However, on major issues that involve the full cabinet, there are full cabinet meetings.

MM: What are the government’s plans for establishing guest islands? Are these to be on uninhabited islands alone? What then is the distinguishing factor between a guest island and a tourist resort?

AA: Yes, it is targeted mostly to uninhabited islands. The thing is, it is a huge infrastructure investment to build a tourist resort. It becomes an expensive place to go to when they invest in water set-ups, sewerage systems and all before building rooms. We at advanced stages of making a model where we are speaking with MWSC to make water set-ups, sewerage systems and electricity set ups in an island, after which we can give plots to individual businessmen. For example, common restaurants can be managed by one party, water sports by another party, twenty rooms by one company, another twenty rooms by another company and so on. In that way, we are creating numerous businesses there. We are planning to introduce this as a test model to see if many mid level businesses can co-exist and run a guest island in this manner. MWSC is already on board to set up the utilities, and the businesses will just need to pay monthly bills to them.

While it will be difficult for a small business to invest in a full resort, there are many small and midlevel businesses that can invest in small sections of an island. We can even replicate this in uninhabited areas of large inhabited islands. First we intend to test this on an uninhabited island. We plan to begin implementation around March this year.

MM: The government has also recently announced that permits to run guesthouses will only be given if the said guesthouse is to be built on an island with existing water and sewerage systems. Will this cause more income to islands which are already somewhat developed, while marginalising less developed islands which may perhaps even be better suited for tourism in other manners?

AA: There is a lot of confusion around this matter. There are four tourism sectors: tourist resorts, tourist hotels, guest houses, and yacht marinas. Under the Tourism Law, tourists are not allowed to spend nights at any place other than places registered under one of these sectors. This is not to say that one cannot invite a friend to stay over at their house, but it cannot be done commercially. This is also for the protection of tourists as well.

We often get proposals to build city hotels. What we are saying is, how can you build a city hotel without an investor also building a sewerage and water system there. How can it be managed otherwise?

What we are encouraging is for people like those councils from large islands that ask for state land to be leased to build a city hotel to also condition investors to build utility systems there. The opposition is, however, often confusing this with the guesthouse licenses which we already do authorise.

Under a law, we have to authorise the opening of guesthouses on any private land as long as it fits in with the set guidelines. Former President Nasheed had released about twenty licenses, and even I have released about a 160 licenses since then. That is going steadily forward and we encourage it.

We even assist in solving any issues that may have. For example, to assist the guesthouse community in Hulhumalé, we authorised some cars to carry tourists from the airport to Hulhumalé over the connecting road. Even in Maafushi, we have addressed many issues.

The thing is, we just don’t talk about guesthouses so much. The thing is, from a marketing perspective, we have positioned the Maldives as a high-end destination. A-category guests will continue coming for as long as we market the country as an A-category destination. Guests for B,C,D and E categories are something we automatically get. Even guesthouses are able to get guests to stay for 80 or 90 dollars because Maldives is marketed as a high end destination and for guests it is a dream come true to be able to stay here for that price. If the government begins to market tourism at guest house level, this will drop down drastically. This is the strategy we employ.

Even locally, culturally, people get disheartened when we talk about guesthouses. So although I don’t much talk about it, guesthouse owners are aware that they have my full cooperation. The circular was meant to let investors know that it is feasible to run a 20 room hotel only if the utility services are also set in place.

MM: What is the implication of the cancellation of charging bed tax, which has been in effect from January 1? What is the government’s plan of action to make up for this loss in revenue?

AA: The bed tax is supposed to be cancelled from January 1 this year, but this is not considered when the budget is expanded. We are asking for an extension until June.

Normally, budget and government revenue earning bills are passed together. But here, the parliament goes into recess after passing the budget, leaving the income bills pending for after that. And even then, they often just fail.

This causes the budget to expand, but there’s no way for the government to earn enough to implement it. The T-GST [Tourist Goods and Services Tax] matters even more to the state income. The state keeps expanding, the allowances and salaries keep increasing, but the income for all of this still depends on the 25,000 tourist beds. Unless we expand this, how can we increase what we earn? We can’t keep expanding the state, and then squeezing the existing tourism sector without expanding it.

MM: As a low lying island state, do you think climate change is a serious threat to the Maldives, and may have large adverse effects on tourism? Does this ministry have any existing plans to deal with these effects?

AA: After the 2004 tsunami, the country now has a good response system to disaster. Each resort has a high rise shelter in case of such an emergency and evacuation plans for all guests to see. The tourism sector, in developing resorts, pays attention to sustainable development and prioritises the environment.

The current government does not believe Maldives needs to be a guinea pig for the climate change cause. I mean, it is not the Maldives that conducts activities which are harmful to the environment.

However, we cannot go around saying Maldives will sink in 20 years and then ask for investments of 50 years in the tourism sector. This causes investors to be reluctant to invest in the Maldives. We do not believe we are at risk of suddenly sinking and think in a perspective of protecting investments.

Although we don’t speak about this at a marketing level, we do want to make Maldives a model in sustainability. We do take action on the matter though we do not speak of it much at a marketing level. We do not want investors to lose confidence, so we cannot do both. Let us first develop to this stage.


MDP asked for cancellation of Nasheed trial: Adheeb

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) deputy leader and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb has said the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) asked for cancellation of criminal charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed in exchange for MDP endorsing cabinet ministers.

Nasheed has been charged with the unlawful arrest of a Criminal Court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed. The case is still pending.

MDP International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has dismissed Adheeb’s claims, terming them “nothing but blatant lies”.

Adeeb alleged that the MDP had raised Nasheed’s personal interest over national interest in discussions held between the two political parties ahead of the parliamentary vote to endorse cabinet ministers.

The People’s Majlis voted to endorse President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s cabinet yesterday. Six MDP members voted against a three whip line in endorsing eight ministers who MDP had rejected claiming they are ministers of “the coup government.”

Describing Nasheed as a man who “raised self-interest above all with no consideration towards national good”, Adeeb claimed that MDP had “reverted back to it’s old manners”.

“Instead of that exemplary behaviour, what we saw was that the party wants to revert back to its old manners and return to the past. Every time we tried to sit down with MDP and talk about endorsing our government’s ministers, they set the condition that we must recall the case against Nasheed. But we are not a government who will form commission upon commission and engage in digging up people’s past,” Adeeb said in a press briefing on Monday.

“Despite some MDP parliamentarians failing to work responsibly, the brave decision to vote in favour by some among those MPs who have deep-rooted love for the nation made it possible for all our ministers to become endorsed,” Adeeb stated.

“While I won’t accuse all of them, some among MDP attempted to inhibit the development we are trying to bring to this country, and to decrease investor confidence. However, the parliament vote has demonstrated the fact that our party is going steadily forward. That we will bring about the development that the citizens yearn for,” he stated.

Prior to Monday’s vote, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali had also expressed confidence that the ministers will receive sufficient votes from the parliament, saying at the time that “the government has a very good understanding with the leadership of MDP.”

He added then that the MDP had “put forward a number of suggestions”, but refused to reveal details of the discussion.

“Blatant lies”: MDP

MDP has meanwhile dismissed Adeeb’s allegations as “blatant lies”.

“Adeeb’s comments are nothing but blatant lies. To my knowledge, no one from this party has brought up some a topic or condition with any other person ever. We have set no conditions in discussions about ministers endorsement,” the party’s International Spokesperson Hamid told Minivan News today.

Hamid added that there has been “no formal negotiation between the parties, although there have been unofficial discussions between politicians from over the political spectrum”.

“Over a 1000 regular members of MDP have been placed in detention after the coup d’etat of February 2012, with a wide range of fabricated charges raised against them. I have heard of discussions about this matter between politicians of various parties. MDP does have an expectation that these people must be freed and allowed to return to their normal lives now that there is an elected government in place. They have done no wrong, and the charges against them were fabricated after they were arrested for exercising their right to demonstrate,” Hamid explained.

Former President Nasheed has also dismissed Adeeb’s allegations as false.

“To my knowledge, no such conditions were put forward. This is clear even from MDP parliamentary group’s whipline in the vote,” he is quoted as saying in local media Haveeru.

In Monday’s parliamentary vote to endorse ministers, MDP had enforced a three line whip against voting for 8 of the 15 cabinet ministers, while a free whip had been released in voting for the remaining 7.

A number of parliamentarians had breached the party’s whipline, resulting in the endorsement of all cabinet ministers. One of these members – Mohamed Rasheed – has since joined ruling party PPM.

The MDP leadership has announced that it will reveal the form of action to be taken against those who voted against the whipline after further investigation of the matter.