Taxi drivers to strike over decision to fine illegally parked vehicles

Taxi drivers across Male are set to go on strike on Monday in protest of the Transport Ministry’s decision to issue stickers on illegally parked vehicles.

Abdulla Ibrahim, who is leading the protest, highlighted the lack of parking spaces in the capital, alleging the government is going ahead with the idea without a proper plan.

According to Mr Ibrahim, taxi centres will not accept the Transport Ministry’s decision to issue stickers under the current circumstances.

Speaking to Haveeru Online, he said: “There is no room to park cars. If we park the car for breakfast, there will be a sticker. There will be a sticker for afternoon and evening, we will have to spend a lot of money.

“We will gather at Raalhugandu Area and from there we will go to the Transport Ministry with posters and banners.”

9292 Taxi Centre has said that four pickup centres and nine taxi centres will participate in the protest.

According to the Transport Authority, stickers issued on illegally parked cars will carry a fine of MVR 250 (US$16) for the first, MVR 500 (US$32) for the second and MVR 750 (US$48) for each following sticker.


80 percent of land vehicles insured

The Transport Ministry has revealed that 80 percent of land vehicles have been insured following an announcement of a requirement for third party insurance, reports Sun Online.

Transport Authority Chairman Abdul Rasheed Nafiz explained that 20 percent of registered land vehicles remained uninsured due to lack of documents.

Owners of uninsured vehicles are being fined MVR 750 under the current regulations, Nafiz said.

The insurance premiums are divided into four categories, based on the type of vehicle: MVR 150 for 50cc motorcycles; MVR 175 for 50Ccc to 250cc motorcycles; MVR400 for over 250cc motorcycles; MVR750 for private cars; MVR1,000 for taxis; MVR1,500 for leased vehicles; and MVR2,000 for vehicles used for other purposes.

Companies that provide third-party insurance in the Maldives are Ceylinco Insurance, Allied Insurance, Amana Takaful and Sri Lankan Insurance.


Ferry service interrupted in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll, claims Atoll Council

The Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Council has accused Trinus-CAE Pvt Ltd of ceasing ferry services in the Upper South Province.

The private company was contracted to provide ferry services in November 2009 under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) policy of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government.

In a press statement yesterday, the MDP-majority council based in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo expressed “serious concern” with the failure of both the Transport Ministry and Trinus to reply to the council’s written complaints regarding the cessation of ferry services.

As a result, the statement read, the council was receiving a number of complaints from citizens inconvenienced by the unavailability of the intra-atoll ferry service. The council also revealed that it had requested annulling an agreement with the Transport Ministry to monitor ferry services.

“The council believes that since the company that provides this service in the atoll has been given an uninhabited island [under the PPP programme] and continues to reap benefits from the island, the public should receive adequate services,” the statement read.

The council statement went on to characterise the “inconsistent” services provided by the company as politically motivated, adding that the government’s failure to remedy the situation was “regrettable.”


President appoints two deputy ministers

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan appointed two deputy ministers on Tuesday to serve the tourism and transport ministries respectively.

Hussein Lirar (Gaaf Dhaal Hoadhedhoo, Finifenmaage) was appointed to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, while Abdul Latheef Mohamed (Hulhumalé 10213) was appointed to the Ministry of Transport and Communication.

The new appointments come after President’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told local media in early March that no new appointments would be made.

Waheed now has 14 ministers, 16 state ministers and 20 deputy ministers.


Dr. Bari requests Parliament to forbid all Israeli ties

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has requested the parliament to endorse a resolution forbidding the government to establish ties with Israel.

The Islamic Minister made his request during discussions with the parliament’s national security committee, which is currently debating whether to permit Israeli airlines to land in Maldives.

Expressing his views on the issue, Dr. Bari told the MPs he “personally does not support the Israel airline to operate in the Maldives”.

Speaking to Minivan News, Dr. Bari said that he made the request because he believes “Israel has committed several human rights violations”.

Dr. Bari noted that Maldives should not stand with Israel as it commits atrocities against the Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine.

“Maldives cut off ties with Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi’s government when he was killing, violating fundamental rights of his people. Similarly, Maldives should follow the same standard by isolating Israel for the atrocities committed against Muslims,” Dr.Bari said.

He also alleged that Israel is attempting to “gain sympathy” because the country is geographically isolated from non-Muslim countries.

Israel’s relationship with Palestine has raised concern in the Maldives, however the government has tried to maintain diplomatic relations.

Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson and former State Islamic Minister Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said “we are afraid that the security level in the Maldives is too low.” He noted that the Indian army was asked to intervene during a 1983 coup attempt by Sri Lankan terrorist groups.

Shaheem said allowing Israelis into the country would raise the threat level to themselves as well as to Maldivians.

“I don’t want to bring harm to Israelis or Maldivians. There are terrorist groups in other countries, like Afghanistan, and these people might come to the Maldives when they see the security level is weak in order to attack locals or the Israelis,” he explained.

The Transport Ministry granted a license to Israeli flag carrier El Al to begin operations to Maldives in September, following a formal application to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to begin flying to the Maldives starting in December.

Shortly after the license was granted, Adhaalath party severed its coalition agreement with the government. The party subsequently requested that the airline license be reviewed by the National Security Committee (NSC).

NSC has been holding discussions on the topic since last week.

“The committee deals with facts, not rumors,” said NSC President Ali Waheed. “As of now, there is no such thing as the Maldivian government giving permission to an Israeli airline.”

NSC today consulted Transport Ministry officials, and will tomorrow meet with the Fisheries Minister over allegations that the government leased land to an Israeli party. Cabinet ministers, Adhaalath Party Vice President Dr Mauroof Hussein and Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel have also been consulted.

NSC President Ali Waheed said Dr. Bari’s concerns were duly heard by the committee, and will be discussed tomorrow.

Although Parliament is due for recess after December 31, Waheed was unable to say when the committee’s investigation would conclude. “I will make the contacts and be available for the discussions as long as the committee requests it. I will put in my time,” he said.

According to opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf, all opposition parties and religious NGOs agree that permission should not be given to Israeli airlines.

Mahlouf said the main concern was the threat of direct flights to national security.

“Being a small Muslim country, it is unacceptable for us to see Israelis attacking Muslims in Palestine and then allow them to fly to our country. This is why the former government did not allow Israeli flights, or even flights that transferred in Israel, to come to Maldives,” he said.

He point out that Maldives is not the only country to refuse direct flights from Israel, and suggested that the government was transferring the blame of the decision to the Parliament.

“The government can say ‘no.’ I know they think we need the money from tourism, but we are already doing well without these direct flights,” he said.

Mahlouf agreed with Shaheem’s concern that direct flights would open the door for terrorists in neighboring countries to begin operations in the Maldives. However, he disagreed with Dr. Bari’s request that diplomatic relations be cut off.

MDP MPs had not responded to phone calls at time of press.


MTCC backtracks on decision to hike ferry ticket prices

The Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) has decided not to hike ferry ticket prices for Hulhumale’ and ViliMale’, according to local media reports.

Male’ City Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik told press today that the decision was made following discussions between the city council, MTCC and the Transport Ministry.

Manik also revealed that the council would grant permission for MTCC to utilise plots awarded to the government company in Male’ to generate revenue and cover current operating losses.

The decision to hike ferry tickets from Rf3 to Rf5 for ViliMale’ and from Rf5 to Rf8 led to protests in both island wards of the capital. Riot police were deployed over the weekend after protestors stopped the ferries in ViliMale’.

Speaking at a press conference this week, Transport Minister Adhil Saleem insisted that the government “would not tolerate stoppages” and that such forced disruptions as part of protests were “non-negotiable.”


India and Sri Lanka to be added to Maldives ferry network, says Transport Minister

The government will connect neighbouring countries including Sri Lanka and India to its growing ferry transport network, Minister for Transport and Communication Adhil Saleem said today.

The government is in discussions with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to add its member countries to Maldives Transportation Network, under phase two of the rollout of the ferry network.

There is currently no scheduled passenger ferry service between the Maldives and other countries, with travellers forced to fly to their destinations.

Domestically, all provinces have at least a skeletal ferry service in place, Minivan News understands, while the Ministry’s statistics show that the new ferry transportation network has completed over 311,000 ferry trips since it began operation last year. A government bus service has completed an additional 49,204 trips.

Inter-island ferry transportation in the Maldives has historically been limited to private operators working to sporadic timetables. More commonly, passengers to an island such as Maalhos in Alif Atoll would travel on an unscheduled vessel owned by someone on the island, such as a shop owner, for a variable price. Chartering a local vessel could cost up to Rf 1000 (US$77).

Now, a government ferry from Male’ to Maalhos costs a fixed Rf 50 (US$3.90). Inter-atoll island hopping is set at Rf 20 (US$1.50).

Speaking at the Transport Ministry today, Adhil said that the transportation network had proven to be “very successful”, with “much more demand than we estimated.”

The service was intended to commence after three years, he said, but upon request by the government the ferries had commenced with the best available service possible.

”This year the work of establishing ferry terminals will commence, and in some areas has already begun while in others has been completed,” he said.

”Today we can see short eats made on one island sold in another islands of that atoll, we can see mangoes produced in one island sold in other islands of the atoll, we can see horse mackerel caught in Thinadhoo’s reef sold and eaten in Fuvamulah,” he said. ”Many of the people are benefiting economically and socially through this ferry system.”


Transport Ministry to introduce trial bus service in Male’

The Ministry of Transport will be seeking interested parties this week to provide a trial bus service in the capital to evaluate the workability of public transport for Male’, Voice of Maldives reports.

State Minister ‘Maizan’ Adam Manik said interested parties will be invited to submit bids, while the service could be continued if the preliminary project is a success.