Maldivian Red Crescent provides first aid training for taxi drivers

The Transport Authority of Maldives (TAM) and Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to provide first aid training to local taxi drivers.

The agreement was signed by the Minister of Transport and Communication Ameen Ibrahim and Secretary General of Maldivian Red Crescent Abdul Razzaq Ibrahim today (May 27).

Speaking at the event, Transport Minister Ameen highlighted the importance of such a programme and said that drivers serving the public must be equipped with the necessary skills to face an emergency, reported local media Sun Online.

Ameen noted the recent difficulties faced by taxi drivers due to the newly enacted taxi regulation and thanked the drivers for their support in its implementation, Sun Online reported.

According to Razzaq, drivers will often be the first to arrive at an accident site and that the first aid programme is an important step towards public safety.

The MRC also stated that they aim to train more than 800 taxi drivers before October 2014.

Last month, taxi drivers in Malé staged a protest against what they regard as “strict” and unfair new regulations which were to be implemented.

Key concerns raised by participants included the issue of ‘taxi-top’ vacancy signs, and not having similar legislation for all land transport, including lorries and pickups.


India to provide Maldives with equipment, financial assistance for defence

India has pledged to provide the Maldives with an assortment of defence equipment, infrastructure, and training, reports local media.

Seven radar systems, adding to the three already in place, are being given by the Indian government, as well as a helicopter for search, rescue and emergency evacuation in the northern Maldives.

Financial assistance is also being provided to construct a Coast Guard building and a harbor for Coast Guard vessels, in addition to establish a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) composite training centre in Lhaviyani Maafilaafushi.

The pledges were made by Indian Defence Minister A K Antony during Minister of Defence and National Security Minister Colonel (Rtd) Mohamed Nazim’s recent visit.


Security and law enforcement degree program commences

A new undergraduate degree program focused on individuals working in security and law enforcement began on Sunday (March 24).

The course is being conducted by the Institute for Security and Law Enforcement Studies (ISLES) in conjunction with the University of Western Sydney (UWS), local media reported.

Speaking to local media on Sunday, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz said that the Maldives Police Service now has the capability to train to regional standards.

According to local media, 57 percent of the participants on the program are policemen, whilst the remaining 47 percent consist of individuals working in customs, immigration, and the military.


Man dies during MNDF military training programme

A man has died while taking part in a military training program in Addu City yesterday (February 23), local media reports.

Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Media Officer Abdulla Ali told local media that the man, 24 year-old Ismail Habeeb of Seenu Feydhoo Dhunnikage, died whilst taking part in swimming training.

Local media reported that Habeeb had just completed his 200 metre swimming test before suddenly drowning as he touched the finish mark.

Ali said instructors had jumped in and taken him out of the water within five seconds, and took him to Hithadhoo Regional Hospital immediately.

The MNDF media officer said the hospital had confirmed Habeeb’s death, but said the official cause of death can only be confirmed after a review of the doctor’s reports.


Maldives Inland Revenue Authority conducts training program on financial crimes

Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) has conducted a training program to increase staff awareness of financial crimes.

A MIRA official told local media that the ‘Investigation Schools Development Program’ was conducted from January 6 to January 10 in cooperation with the police.

“The training program informed MIRA staff on how to act when they encounter cases of tax evasion during auditing or investigations”, the MIRA official was quoted in Sun Online.

Maldives Police Service provided instructors for the program.


Maldives Police Service to establish Law Enforcement Institute

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has said it soon expects to open a Law Enforcement Institute in Male’, providing officers with opportunities for further education up to degree-level.

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, speaking during a speech at the certificate awarding ceremony of the 21st Police Recruit Training Course, discussed ongoing plans to establish a career path in law enforcement.  He claimed the institute, to this end, would aim to provide officers with the opportunity to complete studies up to First Degree Level.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that the establishment of a Law Enforcement Institute in Male’ had been a long-term plan for the institution.  The institute is expected to to be officially opened soon, he added, with the MPS planning additionally to open up the courses to interested members of the public as well.

According to a release on the official MPS website, Commissioner Riyaz also spoke of the importance of all officers speaking to members of the general public with due respect.

Riyaz also said that the country was now in a politically sensitive period after having recently come through a lot of social and political changes, and that it was the responsibility of the police to maintain the nation’s unity. He added that completely new offences were now being committed in the country – particularly at a time when crime rates were at a record high.

Riyaz said that police were also facing challenges due to instances where officers, in trying to maintain peace, were being obstructed and harassed in the course of their work. He also claimed that police officers faced physical harm and even death due to such actions.

The comments were made as the role of the police force in the Maldives, particularly during February’s controversial transfer of power, faces scrutiny from institutions including the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM).

Earlier this week, the HRCM claimed a police crackdown on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) march across Male’ on February 8, which left dozens of demonstrators injured was “brutal” and “without prior warning,” in an investigative report (Dhivehi) released to the public.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has meanwhile stated its own intention to release findings from ongoing investigations into alleged breach of laws and regulations by officers during the lead up to and in the direct aftermath of February’s controversial transfer of power.


Four Seasons bemoans lack of female involvement in record apprentice intake

The Four Seasons Hotels group has said it is taking on a record number of apprentices at its Maldives resorts over the next twelve months – despite still facing challenges in attracting local women to work in the tourism industry.

At a ceremony held at the Nasandhura Palace Hotel in Malé this morning, 34 graduates were honoured for completing twelve month training courses in specific hospitality areas such as housekeeping and guest management, food preparation, marine transportation and watersports.

The hospitality group, which operates both the Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru and Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa properties in the Maldives, is taking on 60 apprentices during the next year – a company record.

Speaking at the ceremony, Armando Kraenzlin, Regional Vice President and General Manager for Four Seasons Resorts in the Maldives, said that while “interest and the ambition to learn” was growing amongst the Maldivian workforce, encouraging women to come and work was, if anything, more difficult.

“We would ask the government, help us get more girls [into the scheme] in future,” he said. “ It has got harder today than a few years ago and that can’t be right.”

While supporting the work of groups like Four Seasons in training local staff to take up more specialised positions in the country’s resort industry, one body representing Maldivian tourism workers has called on the private sector and the government to reconsider how the current curriculum prepares school leavers for a career in the hospitality industry.

From the perspective of the Four Seasons’ operations, Armando Kraenzlin today said that schemes such as its graduate programme were vital to a company continuing to try and drive innovation across its 86 hotel operations. However, he claimed the training programmes were not without challenges.

“This year we lost one member [of the graduate program] after twelve hours,” he said.

Kraenzlin said that confusion had arisen after the staff member had not realised that they had agreed not to smoke on the resort as part of their contract, a commitment the person was unable to fulfil.

Applicant hunger

However, the company claimed that with some 500 applicants looking to fill just 60 apprenticeship spaces this year – there was a clear hunger and demand for training positions such as these in the tourism industry.

“People have travelled 16 hours by boat to come to sit interviews here in Male’ with us,” Kraenzlin said, a development he claimed demonstrated the commitment of staff to obtain places on the graduate scheme.

During today’s ceremony, Four Seasons claimed that as part of this year’s graduate class, an additional discipline call “international conversations” was being taught in order to help staff communicate with an increasingly diverse customer based including guests from China, Korea and Russia.

Beyond just learning language, the company claimed the course was designed to provide an understanding of these nations’ history, culture and even cuisine.

For the year ahead, Kraenzlin said the company was also currently working on launching a prototype engineering course.

“We know that Maldivians are tech-savvy, as well as engineering-savvy,” he said.

Kraenzlin added that with the company’s graduate scheme now in its eleventh year, the program was very much “here to stay”.  Yet he called on the government, represented by Education Minister Asim Ahmed in the audience, to help to strengthen the training the company provided to local workers.

“We are inviting the government to tell us how to do this better. Who knows, maybe we will have one class who makes it to the finish-line without any casualties during the year,” he said, referring to previous applicants who had dropped out from the course.

Education Ministry

In addressing Kraenzlin’s invite, Education Minister Asim said that Four Seasons was an “important partner” in regards to education and training in the country, especially for helping to bridge skills gaps in the current curriculum.

“There is a shortage of skills in the country that is a major challenge needing to be addressed,” he said.

With tourism being one of the most significant contributors to the nation’s economy, Asim welcomed the work of resort groups such as Four Seasons in helping the ongoing development of the national work force.

“I am personally a major supporter of linking with the private sector with schemes such as this,” he said.

TEAM view

In addressing Four Seasons’ commitments to staff training, the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM), which aims to represent local workers’ rights in hospitality, said it was ultimately encouraged by the apprenticeship programmes ran by the multinational group.

TEAM’s Secretary General Mauroof Zakir, who was himself a graduate of Four Season’s training programme between 2004 and 2005, believed such programs were a huge benefit to the local workforce.

“From my personal understanding, the Four Seasons graduate program is one of the best. When I did the programme, I really didn’t know anything about the resort industry before going in,” he said. “When I came out, I had a much greater understanding of the work environment, though I don’t know how the program has changed since.”

Despite welcoming the graduate scheme, Zakir claimed that more needed to be done by both the government and the tourism industry to provide greater practical experiences of the resort industry to school students.

“Both resort management and the government need to look at providing more practical experiences for students of resort life,” he said. “We need to look at changes to the curriculum to get more visits to resorts. School leavers should have a much better understanding of how resorts work.”

While Zakir said he was aware of several high-end multinational resort chains providing training programs for local workers, he believed many locally-owned resorts, usually targeted at more mid-market tourism, needed to do more with their respective training schemes.

TEAM said it was not presently involved in helping outline training programs, adding that it did not receive much information from either the government or industry regarding existing projects.  However,  with an organisational mandate to try and increase the capacity of Maldivian workers in the tourism industry, the organisation claimed it would be open to playing a role in the development of future vocational training for local people.

Female worker challenge

In addressing Four Seasons’ concerns about a short-fall in the number of Maldivian women coming to work at the country’s resorts, Zakir said he believed there were several issues affecting local recruitment of females into the hospitality sector.

“Groups like Four Seasons have been trying hard to get local women to work at its resorts.   But we don’t see much improvement in the number of women workers.” he said.

Zakir claimed that more “extremist” views had been “widely spreading” around the country in recent years, creating additional social problems in encouraging female workers to come and work in hospitality.

To try and counter these messages, TEAM said that it was vital to communicate with schools and parents that resorts were not a threatening environment for women to work at.

While there had been concerns in the past involving allegations of sexual harassment against female staff, Zakir stressed that local women should not be discouraged from seeking employment on resorts.

“We need more local women working on resorts right now,” he said. “An estimated 300 to 400 Maldian women are currently thought to be working in hospitality at resorts. This is a very small amount.”

In terms of practical ways to encourage a greater number of female staff, Zakir suggested resorts could provide more regular transportation to and from resort islands as one possible solution. Such a measure, he claimed, could allow female staff to commute to work more regularly, allowing more contact with their families at home.


Comment: Urgent appeal from a deeply concerned community

The Velidhoo Future Foundation (VFF) was founded on March 2010 to develop the island of Velidhoo in Noonu Atoll and for the progression of its youth, whilst looking at environmental sustainability for the community, an issue which has emerged as vital the past few years.

Since its establishment, the VFF has developed many initiatives, and as the name indicates, they were all effectively undertaken for the future of the island of Velidhoo. This is done working with the society at grass root level, encouraging participation from everyone, be it local, national or international. Many successful projects have been jointly executed. The advantages of the combination of knowledge and skills of international volunteers together with local expertise and enthusiasm were realised and used to the benefit of the community in Velidhoo.

We are proud of our contribution to the development of our island, disseminating good practice and experience outside our own community too. Our aim is to make Velidhoo an example to be emulated in the field of effective household waste disposal, clean and usable beaches and enlightened, progressive citizens. We were well on our way of doing this, and the co-operation from local businesses, resorts, international volunteers, and particularly from the Velidhoo residents themselves has been over-whelming, very encouraging and definite steps in the right direction.

However, very sadly, the recent developments in both our country and our local community have abruptly halted our ongoing projects. Our community has now become deeply divided. Where before there was unity, solidarity and a real sense of working together for the good of all, now there is hate, suspicion and discontentment.

We are extremely worried that our common religion will be used as a means of sowing hate. We are already facing threats (like SMS and speeches) towards the European volunteers in our region, who are accused of preaching Christianity and therefore “should be thrown out of the country”. These accusations have no base and are completely unjustified, as the volunteers have done nothing but genuinely care for communities without religion ever coming in the context.

An ongoing cooperation with the State of Limburg (Belgium) has put been on hold. We were supposed to have hosted them in February. This project would have given the area a huge impetus for progress and growth, and ultimately it is the communities who will lose out and suffer from this delay.

We are extremely worried that the many NGOs and international organisations in Maldives would be considered “unwanted foreigners”. We desperately need international aid and projects for development. The influence of our volunteers has been positive and far-reaching – in education, training, tourism, environmental issues, marine conservation, even giving local enterprises more business through their activities. We are concerned that these partners will not be wanted.

So far, because of the good nature of these international bodies and volunteers, they have kept the true Maldivian situation to themselves, and tourism has not been affected much yet. But if this situation is allowed to continue, then the repercussions would be horrific. The main body of international tourists would start pulling out. Why would western societies wish to patronise a country where foreigners are generally regarded with hostility and malign ill-will and tolerated through gritted teeth only because of the dollars they bring in?

Furthermore, having had discussions with our members and people in different areas and regions, we can have only one conclusion: “what has happened” was a coup d’état – independent bodies, various local communities and organisations and the international press have confirmed it.

Being a grass roots organisation, I speak not only for my organisation, but also for most of the common Maldivian citizens: A new government should be decided by the ballot box. I am sure you will agree that this is the only way to resolve the current unrest and feelings of discontent and frustration which is draining our nation and giving us a negative image globally.

No one will be able to dispute the outcome of the ballot box.

Prompt elections will bring a solution which ensures a free, democratic and prosperous future for youth, people and our nation. Only fresh elections – for both Parliament and the President’s position can bring a peaceful solution for our now deeply divided nation.

Ibrahim ‘Shoppe’ Mohamed is the Chairperson of the Velidhoo Future Foundation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


MNDF deserters sacked

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has sacked the 13 servicemen who deserted their posts last week, releasing them without honors.

MNDF has said the servicemen violated their legal agreement with the state, under which the servicemen trained and educated, reports Haveeru.

According to Article 32(b) of the Armed Forces Act, a serviceman is deemed absent without leave when he fails to report for work for 14 days without permission, or objects to report for work as requested by a superior during an emergency.

Officials have said court cases will be filed against some of the servicemen, Haveeru reports.

MNDF identified the sacked deserters as Corporal Ibrahim Azum, Staff Sergeant Hassaan Hameed, Lieutenant Kashif Hilmy, Private Rilwan Rasheed, Corporal Mohamed Imad, Lance Corporal Mohamed Abdu Rahman, Private Abdulla Shahfath, Private Mazin Mohamed, Private Mohamed Hameed, Private Shaamee Saeed, Lance Corporal Abdul Hameed, Private Mohamed Abdul Kareem and Sergeant Ali Ashraf.