Vice president continues search for investors during China visit

President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has attended the 9th China-South Asia Business Forum during his official visit to China, reiterating the government’s focus on increasing foreign investments and strengthening the economy.

Speaking at the event, Jameel stated that his government prioritised economic transformation, youth empowerment, and domestic security, read a statement on the official President’s Office website.

He further spoke of the government’s aim to encourage foreign investment and capital in order to implement the Yameen administration’s economic development programmes and projects.

President Abdulla Yameen has promised a number of ‘mega projects’ during his term, pledging legislation to create a more welcoming investor climate, and organising a landmark investment forum in Singapore in April in order to find potential foreign investors.

The vice president further stated that corporate China has shown interest in engaging in infrastructure development projects in the Maldives. He assured Chinese investors that the government would do all possible to ensure a “flexible and efficient investment climate”.

To this end, the government last week introduced legislation to create special economic zones (SEZ) in strategic locations, with Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed – also present on the China trip – suggesting that the move might help the country end its reliance on tourism.

Jameel noted that China has been the number one tourism market for the Maldives since 2010, predicting that the number of Chinese arrivals – accounting for one in every four tourists in 2014 – will continue to grow.

During the trip, Jameel has also attended the 2nd China-South Asia Expo, where he repeated his belief that foreign investment is crucial for economic growth, private sector development and wealth creation.

“Our government firmly believes that broad based, private sector-led growth is essential to achieving faster development progress and to transform the economy from where it is today,” he is quoted as saying.

The details of some of the ‘mega projects’ were explained to the Chinese audience, with Jameel discussing the  ‘iHavan’ project – a regional development project in the northern atolls, potential oil and gas exploration projects, and plans to redevelop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

Last month, the Maldives Airports Company (MACL) signed an agreement with China’s state-owned engineering and construction company, Synohydro, to build a US$9 million parking apron at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

In addition to the forums, Jameel also paid a visit to the Governor of Yunnan Province, H E Mr Li Jiheng.

At the meeting, discussions were held with regard to areas where the countries could increase cooperation, with the governor pledging to work with the Maldives to strengthen cooperation in a number of fields including renewable energy, science and technology, tourism, connectivity, economy and trade.

He further discussed the strengthening of bilateral ties with Vice Premier of China H E Wang Yang.


Vice President to seek investors during China visit

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed left on an official trip to China yesterday evening (June 4).

During the visit, Jameel will attend the 2nd China-South Asia Expo and the 9th China-South Asia Business Forum, revealed the President’s Office. Jameel is also scheduled to meet Vice Premier of China, H.E Wang Yang. ‎

Prior to his departure, Jameel told press that he would meet with members of the Chinese business community in order to find potential investors for his government’s proposed development projects.

President Abdulla Yameen has promised a number of ‘mega-projects’ during his term, pledging legislation to create a more welcoming investor climate, and organising a landmark investment forum in Singapore in April in order to find potential foreign investors.

The projects showcased in Singapore included the Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project, the expansion of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the relocation and expansion of the existing central port, and exploration for oil and gas.

During his state visit to Japan in April, Yameen also met with prominent businessmen, economists, and industrialists.

Jameel will discuss the government’s plans with the Chinese Government, which was said to be keen to hear about the plans.


Syrian fighters, Majlis speakers, and soccer – The Weekly Review

May 24th – 30th

The Syrian civil war hit the headlines here as the  Bilad Al Sham Media media group reported that two Maldivian nationals had died in Syria while fighting pro-government forces.

Local media identified the individuals as Hassan Shifaz from Galolhu in the capital Malé, and Ali Adam from Shaviyani atoll – the latter reportedly dying in a suicide attack.

The government’s response to the reports has been muted and subsequently criticised – though the Islamic minister opined that Maldivians should not be fighting foreign wars in the name of Islam.

The government may well have been preoccupied with the predictable fracturing of its ruling coalition, with Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim’s attempt to secure the Majlis Speaker’s role enough to see its agreement with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives dissolved.

After President Abdulla Yameen warned the JP leader that his candidacy must be withdrawn, Gasim’s refusal to defer resulted in the PPM’s announcement that its 15-MP ally was no longer part of the Progressive Coalition.

The fragility of the coalition’s remaining advantage in the new Majlis was indicated by the narrow victory of the PPM’s Abdulla Maseeh – beating Gasim by just four votes. Meanwhile, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik edged out his PPM opponent to take the deputy speaker’s chair.

At the start of the week, the MDP had set eight areas any prospective Majlis speaker would need to focus on in order to receive the backing of its 25 MPs, including judicial reform, income tax, and the empowerment of local councils.

Prior to the appointment of his successor, former Speaker Abdulla Shahid told Minivan News of his fears for the Majlis’ future as the institution’s independence and oversight functions continued to be eroded by conservative forces.

Despite the government’s now wafer-thin majority in the legislature, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed assured that the work of government would be unaffected as the clearout of JP ministers began.

The AFC Challenge Cup made up the third major theme of this week’s news, beginning with the Afghan team’s bus crash in Addu City last weekend.

While the police commissioner gave credence to conspiracy theories surrounding the crash in which ruled a number of Afghan players out of their semi-final match, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) announced it would be looking into potential wrongdoing in the sale of tickets.

Adding the sea-sickness of his players to his list of grievances, the Afghan team coach advised the Asian Football Confederation to reconsider holding further tournaments in the Maldives, while the AFC itself advised the ACC that investigations into ticketing would stray onto its turf.

The Afghan team were subsequently knocked out by eventual winners Palestine before losing the third place play-off to the Maldives – themselves exiting the tournament in a dramatic semi-final against the Philippines.


Vice President Jameel began the week by assuring the government’s commitment to press freedom, and finished it with the announcement of plans for 26 sea-ambulances by the year’s end.

Home Minister Umar Naseer meanwhile revealed his plans for correctional reform, with the division of detainees into open prisons and work gangs, with others released after being electronically tagged.

Current inmate Hussain Humam – convicted of the murder of MP Dr Afrahseem Ali – appealed his death sentence at the High Court this week.

President Yameen journeyed to India for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration – reaffirming bilateral ties – while staff of the MMPRC went down-under to convince more Australians to holiday in the Maldives.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy saw his contempt of court case dismissed, while the auditor general’s preliminary investigation into the tourism minister’s alleged corruption appeared to falter as the ports authority refused assistance.

The discovery of the body of a new-born baby in Maafannu – and the subsequent arrest of its 18-year-old mother – prompted Hope for Women to suggest that social and religious stigma was damaging the sexual health of young women.

The Health Protection Agency explained how it hoped to alleviate some of these issues with the introduction of a health education programme in Hulhumalé later this year which is to include sexual health guidance for 10 – 24-year-olds.

Finally, Minivan News this week profiled the Rajjetherey Meehunge Party – an online group aiming to highlight the continuing income disparities between those from the atolls and the Malé elite.


Vice President pledges to raise teachers’ pay once state income increases

Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has stated that the government will review and raise teachers’ pay once the state income increases.

Speaking at a meeting with the school management staff of several atolls held in Nasandhura Palace Hotel on Sunday, Jameel also spoke of the policies for teachers which the current administration has introduced since it assumed office in 2013.

In addition to increasing the amount of pay that teachers can earn during overtime working hours, the government also introduced a scheme in which teachers can pursue studies while on pay leave, Jameel said.

He described the teachers work as a service done “in national spirit”, stating that they continue to work with extremely low wages, adding that the services are so valuable that it cannot ever be repaid.

“At the moment, there is no additional income to the state budget. However, I am aware of how to develop the Maldives. While we introduce huge plans and talk about needing accountants and hundreds of doctors or other professionals, the truth is that it all rests in your hands,” he told the education professionals.


India failed Maldives, MP Hamid tells Indian media

“Howsoever much India talks about democracy but it failed the people here,” opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told India’s Zee News this week.

The comments came as the Indian and Maldivian governments prepared to celebrate bilateral ties with a week of cultural events.

The Dosti-Ekuverikan week also follows the recent state visit of President Abdulla Yameen to India.

Speaking at the inauguration of the week’s events on Monday (January 20), Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed praised the “long-standing historical bonds” between the two states.

“India can surely count on the sincere gratitude of our people for the ever-present, ever-reliable friendship, support and assistance,” added Jameel.

Upon President Yameen’s return from India earlier this month, one coalition member described the trip as “the most successful trip a Maldivian leader has ever made to India”, with the vice president suggesting that all recent tensions between the allies had been resolved.

Conversely, Hamid told Zee News that recent events in Maldivian politics are a “disgrace to Indian democracy”.

“People of Maldives do not think that India is that ‘great country’. We have been disappointed, we have been hounded,” the MDP’s international spokesperson told the Hindi news channel.

Hamid recently spent four weeks seeking refuge from arrest in the People’s Majlis. After spending time under house and a short period in jail, Hamid’s charge for failing to attend the court was quashed by the High Court.

“As a politician, especially as an MDP person, I get disappointed whenever I hear such sentences like ‘we are with the people of Maldives’; it just makes me sick. No one is with the people of Maldives because if they were with the people of Maldives, then they would have come to help us in this violent coup.”

“You know, we had no choice [but to accept the presidential election result]. The international community, Commonwealth endorsed the coup. It is similar to what the British did in India, we too have something called CONI reports (Commission of National Inquiry),” he continued.

Hamid repeated his party’s initial pledge to behave as a responsible opposition, although relations with the new administration have begun to appear strained. Attempts to pass revenue raising measures in the Majlis – necessary to finance a record budget – were stymied by MDP representatives last week.

More recently, following local council elections, former President Mohamed Nasheed expressed his intention to seek the new president’s impeachment.

Asked about India’s GMR company – ejected by the previous administration part-way into their US$500 million development of Malé’s international airport – Hamid suggested that GMR had not been backed by the Indian government.

During Yameen’s state visit, Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh asked for the dispute with GMR – currently the subject of billion dollar arbitration proceedings – be resolved amicably.

The president’s trip included meetings with the Indian business leaders, with the coalition reporting the promise of one billion dollars through the State Bank of India. Yameen has also welcomed the return of GMR investment, though he has ruled out further involvement in the airport.


President establishes Council of Higher Education

President Abdulla Yameen has re-established the Council of Higher Education, appointing his Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed its head, local media has reported.

Haveeru has reported that the council will be tasked with setting the criteria for courses at Maldivian higher education facilities as well as handling the transferring of students’ credit.

Joining the vice president on the council is reported to be six cabinet ministers from the ministries of health, youth, finance, fisheries, environment, and the Islamic Ministry.

They will be joined by Villa College rector Dr Ahmed Anwar, Dr Simad Saeed, Dr Ibrahim Saeed, Deputy Education Minister Azleen Ahmed, Director General of the Education Ministry Fathimath Amira, and Chancellor of the Maldives National University Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussein.

Vice President Jameel yesterday visited the Maldives National University, explaining that expanding academic opportunities was of the utmost importance to the new government.

Earlier this week, the Anti-Corruption Commission ordered the reevaluation of vetting procedures in the previous administration’s tertiary student loan initiative.

“[THe] Vice President spoke of the government’s vision to introduce short term professional training programmes for youth in fields such as offshore-financing, managerial economics, banking, accounting, auditing and tourism,” read a President’s Office press release.

During the meeting, Jameel also noted the government’s desire to include the youth in nation building.

Recently appointed Home Minister Umar Naseer this week revealed his intention to introduce obligatory government service for school leavers, explaining his motivations to Minivan News:

“We need to bring youth into a disciplined system where they get up early, become presentable, pray, have breakfast, work, and well, become responsible.”

“One of my objectives is to increase the number of trained professionals which will be useful in protecting the independence of a small country like ours, ” Naseer continued.

The Ministry of Education last week released its aims for the first 100 days of the Yameen administration, revealing a 19-point plan including the introduction of the Quran as a subject for grades 1-7, greater civic education, as well as greater professional standards for teachers.

According to the Ministry, the government will choose two islands to establish Arabic medium schools within the first 100 days as well as expanding special education and child protection policies.

As part of this plan the ministry is seeking to assign Quran teachers for all Schools before the academic year 2014. The ministry’s Permanent Secretary Dr. Abdul Muhsin Mohamed said that the ministry is still short of 26 Quran teachers to achieve this this objective.


Government claims India ties “as strong as during Gayoom’s time”

President Abdulla Yameen has returned to the Maldives after an official trip to India, where both countries made multiple mutual agreements of cooperation for the development of various sectors.

Speaking to media upon his return, both Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom have claimed that ties with India have become “as strong as they were during Gayoom’s time in power”.

It was claimed that rifts between the countries had risen as a result of the failure of the Nasheed and Waheed administrations to raise inter-country discussion as a key strategy.

Upon returning from his trip, President Yameen briefed the media on the various deliberations that had taken place between the Maldivian government’s high level delegation and their counterparts in India during the trip from January 1 to 4.

He stated that the delegation was able to find solutions for “a large part of the major difficulties” the country is facing at the moment, predicting ease in the obtainment of visa and the availability of basic food staples, fuel and construction material.

He added that long deliberations had also been held regarding regional maritime security.

The president also extended an invitation to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit the Maldives.

SBI to increase lending, GMR to get cash compensation

Yameen revealed that talks had been held with representatives from the State Bank of India (SBI) regarding the granting of an increase in the amount of loans released by the bank’s branch in the Maldives – titled ‘portfolio landing’. The president stated that this would benefit customers of SBI and businesses investing in the country.

“Indian leaders pledged to provide approximately one billion dollars needed for development of the Maldives to SBI, and that this will facilitate businesses in the country in the near future,” member of the visiting delegation and government coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader Ahmed Shiyam stated.

Shiyam went on to describe the trip as “the most successful trip a Maldivian leader has ever made to India”.

President Yameen stated on Saturday that GMR – Indian infrastructure giant with which the former administration had made a contract for airport development – would not be given the airport as compensation for cancelling the agreement, but rather would be given the compensation in the form of money.

He stated the government is currently considering ways of solving this matter at a time when “the state budget itself is so tight”, claiming that he had suggested a resolution other than the renewal of the contract.

“My hope is that the GMR matter can be solved with the government having to pay a fine that is affordable,” he stated, adding that while the company has informed local media that the compensation fee is US$1.2 billion, the amount was quoted as US$700 to 800 million by former Attorney General Azima Shakoor.

He revealed that the government’s approach is to find a solution agreeable to both parties prior to the completion of the arbitration case, which they believe will increase India government’s trust in the Maldivian government.

“Truth is that according to my calculations GMR has invested about 168 to 170 million dollars, and so there is no question as to whether they are entitled to compensation. Compensation must be granted. The question, however, is whether we have to pay the full amount that they are claiming,” Yameen said.

Protection of investments

Additionally, India pledged to provide funds for the establishment of a police academy and a composite training facility for the MNDF security forces. Agreements were also made by which India will provide funds to repair and develop the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in the capital city, Malé.

Further plans were made to facilitate better connections between Cochin, in India, and Male’ via sea and air travel. Both leaders also noted that it is of crucial importance to introducing direct flights between the Maldives and Delhi.

The leaders signed two agreements regarding the health sector, and an agreement regarding the provision of land from India to construct a Maldivian Embassy.

Vice President Jameel stated that bilateral relations were now “approaching the close ties that were seen before”.

“With the President’s trip, we have the opportunity of raising to a whole new level the historically strong bonds between the two countries. India has fulfilled everything that the Maldives requested for,” Jameel is quoted as saying in local media.

He further  claimed that the struggles the Maldives had to undergo in the past five years have been solved with a single trip to India by President Yameen, with former President Gayoom backing this assertion.

“During the President’s trip, India has given assurance that we will be soon enjoying a relationship as devoid of problems as the one we had during the time I was in power,” Gayoom told local media. “Things will soon be as smooth as they were during my time. We are seeing an end to the problems we have at present.”


Religion and nationalism key themes on National Day

The government held an event inaugurated by Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed at the Republican Square on Wednesday night to mark the Maldives’ 440th National Day.

The day is marked to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s independence from the Portugese invasion.

Members of the cabinet, foreign dignitaries, members of independent commissions as well as the security forces attended the event.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom – who is currently in India on his first official trip abroad after assuming office in November 2013 – also gave a pre-recorded national address via the state broadcaster on the occasion.

In his address, the President stated no individual must be allowed the opportunity to take away the nation’s peace for political purposes or to gain personal benefit.

While it is important to view every citizen as a stakeholder in matters of the country, people should not be given the chance to challenge nationalism or conduct any activity that may threaten independence and sovereignty in the guise of freedom of expression or through differences in political opinions, Yameen continued.

“We must instill the spirit of nationalism in the younger generations who will inherit this country in future. The moral we must take away from National Day is for those in power and leading the country, citizens and all responsible leaders to raise national and community interest over personal interest as we work to overcome challenges. This is the example set by Mohamed Thakurufaanu [Maldivian ruler who saved the country from the Portuguese conqueres who ruled the country from 1558 to 1573]. This is the true meaning of his jihad in national interest back on that day,” Yameen stated.

“We must repeat the work our ancestors conducted in rain and shine. The reason we are to take breaths of independence today is due to the glorious jihad and sacrifices they made then for the sake of gaining independence. The country will not be able to take breaths of independence tomorrow unless we succeed in doing major work to overcome economic slavery and establish economic contentment,” he continued.

He pledged to fulfil his term serving all citizens equally and justly.

“I will make this government into one that is kind to its people, and loved by the people. I will bring swift changes as is desired by people and take the Maldives into a new era of development. My team and I will not be deterred in our work regardless of how rough the political seas we must cross become,” he concluded his address.

National Pride

“The spirit of nationalism can be maintained in its purest form only when social justice is established in the country,” Vice President Jameel said, speaking at Wednesday’s event.

The current government would work following the example set by Mohamed Thakurufaanu, Jameel said and called on citizens to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty.

“True nationalism can only be experienced with the improvement of living standards, and the country develops its health and education sectors,” he said.

“The nation must today be covetous of its national pride, of increasing self-sufficience, and should not let go of the national character. Today, if one has love for nationalism, one will not damage the country’s social fabric. One will not give away the country’s economic power into the hands of a foreign party. They will not sell off the national identity to a foreign group with no consideration towards national pride just for political gain. They will not let things go to the point where the country is stripped of the right to speak up about its own internal matters,” Jameel continued.

He appealed to the public to ensure that no one allows any other person to “damage the brotherly bonds between us in the name of establishing democracy, or in things that arise from differences in opinion, or any other cause”.

He then said that the day emphasizes the bridge between nationalism and islam in the country, adding that thus what must be given highest priority is the strengthening religious faith.

“Psychological war against religion, nationalism”

Home Minister Umar Naseer warned in his speech at the same event that there is an “ongoing psychological war aiming to lead astray our faith in Islam, and break up our ties of nationalism, a war that is escalating at a very fast speed”.

He stated that while this is a global danger, the Maldives is not far removed from being in its “line of fire”. Stating that the currently is already being affected by it, he appealed to all Maldivians to refrain from joining the “war” against the nation.

“For a Maldivian son to become a slave of this psychological war is like a cancer cell forming in the body of this nation. It is a huge danger,” he stated.

“It is important to become more independent in the country’s development work, and to give up depending on foreign labourers. There is no reason that the sons of fathers who scraped moss off the underside of fishing boats have to depend on a foreigner just to dust off their motorcycles,” the Home Minister said.

“Ours is a blessed land. It is a land that breeds heroes. Every time a foreign power has tried to meddle with our independence or our Islamic faith, Maldivian soil has brought out heroes that will cause the whole world to step back from,” Umar stated.

Irreligious acts are common today: Adhaalath Party

Religious conservative Adhaalath Party has also released a statement today, extending greetings on the occasion.

The statement spoke of the heroic events of Mohamed Thakurufaanu who had “slain the Portugese commander who had tried to force alcohol down the throats of pious Maldivians”, and then proceeded to compare heroes of the past with present day Maldives.

“The biggest difference is the mentality of Maldivians then and the mentality of Maldivians today. Then, when attempts were made to force alcohol down their throats, they resisted. Yet today, alcohol and narcotics is an epidemic which is alarmingly common among Maldivians,” it read.

“Then the Portuguese tried to force other religions unto Maldivians. Yet today, irreligious acts against Islamic norms are abundantly observed among Maldivians. This is not something the government can deal with by making it the mandate of a specific ministry, but a goal that all institutes must unite to reach.”


President and Vice President sign book of condolences for Nelson Mandela

President Abdulla Yameen has described the late Nelson Mandela as “the greatest statesman the world has seen”.

Writing in the book of condolences currently available for signature in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yameen praised the anti-apartheid leader who passed away last week at the age of 95.

“President Mandela was the greatest statesman the world has seen. His long walk to freedom; his achievement of the “Rainbow Nation”; his principles of courage, justice and equality are shining lights to millions around the world,” wrote Yameen.

“His patriotism and his passion for the protection of human dignity will stay with us for generations to come,” added the President.

The President’s Office has also reported that Vice Presidene Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has also signed the book, expressing his belief that Mandela’s legacy would improve the human rights of all, regardless of race or religion.

Yameen ordered the Maldives national flag to be flown at half-mast last weekend, offering condolences to the current South African President Jacob Zuma on behalf of the people of the Maldives.

The book is available for the public to sign from 9am to 12pm, and from 1pm to 3pm today and tomorrow (December 12).