MP Afrasheem buried as world condemns his murder

Dr Afrasheem Ali, Islamic Scholar and MP for Ungoofaaru, was buried shortly before 5:00pm at Asahara cemetery in Male’.

Thousands gathered for the funeral prayers which took place at the Islamic Center. The prayers were led by former President and leader of Afrasheem’s party Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Long queues of those wishing to pay their last respects formed by Republican Square, where the national flag will fly at half mast for the next two days.

Local news source Sun Online covered the day’s events via a live feed.

Sun reported that arrival of the members of Afrasheem’s family in Male’ this morning, as well as the presence of several MPs at the Islamic Center – today’s session of the Majlis was cancelled.

The MP was subjected to a brutal attack last night when returning to his home after appearing on state television.

Afrasheem’s wife found his body, displaying multiple stab wounds to the head and back, at the foot of the stairs outside their home.

A councillor from Afrasheem’s home island told Haveeru that the community had come to a virtual standstill following news of its MP’s death.

“Many still find it hard to believe that Afrasheem is gone. Their faces show despair,” council member Hussain Najeeb told the paper.

Afrasheem’s coffin was draped in a Maldivian flag, which was handed to his son shortly before the final burial.


Afrasheem’s murder has made headlines around the world, with news agencies such as the BBC, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal carrying the news of the Majlis member’s death.

Politicians and institutions of all stripes have today joined with the mourning nation in condemning the slaying and calling for swift justice.

The Maldivian Democratic Party, Adhaalath Party and Afrasheem’s own Progressive Party of Maldives released statements to this effect.

Speaking to local media from the ADK hospital, where Afrasheem’s body was initially taken, Gayoom told Sun Online that the Maldives had lost a talented and unique scholar.

“He was a great teacher. We lost a scholar today, and I am saddened by this. I strongly condemn this act. God willing, the perpetrators will be found and brought to justice through a Court process,” said Gayoom.

Vice President Waheed Deen told local media there would be swift retribution for the crime.

“Law enforcement authorities will not stop until a result is obtained within 24 hours. The investigation won’t leave a stone unturned,” he said.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, currently campaigning in the SouthernAatolls took to social media to declare his sharing of the nation’s fear and sadness following the murder.

Local media cited “reliable sources” in saying an arrest had been made just before 5:00am this morning, although – more than 12 hours later – Police Spokesman Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that police were unable to confirm this.

The police have set up a toll free number which can be used for anyone with information regarding the murder: 334 0026.

Numerous institutions including the Elections Commission, the Judicial Services Commission, the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives, and the United Nations have released statements.

The United Nations, on its International Day of Non-Violence, condemned the murder of an “accomplished scholar”.

“The United Nations team in the Maldives is shocked by the murder of Member of Parliament Dr Afrahshim Ali. The United Nations condemns this crime in the strongest possible terms, and hopes justice will be brought to bear,” read the statement.


Inhabited islands need to be halved: Housing Minister

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizzu has told local media that the number of populated islands in the Maldives needs to be reduced by half as part of a national resettlement policy.

“The inhabited islands in the Maldives need to be reduced. This cannot be attained within one or two days. It can take up to 10 years,” Muizzu was quoted as saying.

The minister reportedly revealed details to carry out this strategy with a combination of subsidies and housing for those willing to move from smaller to larger islands.

Dr Muizzu was not responding to calls at time of press. However he was reported as saying that relocation would only occur if the majority of an island’s population consented to being transferred, requiring cooperation with local councils.

Haveeru today reported that Haa Alif Molhadhoo Island Council had accused the government of informing the council that its population of 400 would be relocated to nearby Dhihdhoo island without prior consultation.

Muizzu has denied this, reiterating the intention to seek consensus on any consolidation projects whilst highlighting the efforts made to facilitate the potential move.

“We are hoping to start a new housing project in Dhihdhoo in the next two months. Those units will be set aside specially for those moving into Dhihdhoo and would be completely free. There’s no need to even pay rent,” he told Haveeru.

There were also protests against the potential transfer of the population of Rinbudhoo in Dhaalu Atoll earlier this month.

With a total population of nearly 350,000, dispersed over 196 inhabited islands spread over a distance of more than 600 miles, the Maldives is one of one of the world’s most dispersed countries.

Dispersed populations and small island communities have been long recognised as key challenges to the sustainable social and economic development of Maldives.

Both the former Minister for the (now defunct) Atolls Development Ministry and current Vice President, Mohamed Waheed Deen, and Special Advisor to the President, Dr Hassan Saeed, have spoken publicly about the economic importance of population consolidation since the new government came to power.

“Without population consolidation we cannot achieve sustainable economic development,” Deen contended, speaking to the media in April just after taking office.

“Population consolidation needs to start so we can deliver public services fairly to all people as well realising economies of scale in delivery. This cannot be just an aspiration; action has to start now,” Hassan explained in a comment piece for local newspaper Haveeru in June.

The Vice President also expressed his long term vision for economically viable population distribution in the country – going far beyond Muizzu’s aim of bringing the country’s inhabited islands to just under one hundred.

“I envision that people of Maldives will live in 25 to 30 islands. Each island will be of twice that of Hulhumale’. Around 60,000 to 70,000 will live on each island. This is a dream I see. I will try to make this dream come true.”

Muizzu yesterday stated his belief that repopulation will enable the government to better provide for people’s basic constitutional rights with regards to medical care, education, housing and travel.

Studies by the Ministry of Planning and National Development for the most recent National Development Plan (NDP) found strong links between social vulnerability and population size.

With higher rates indicating greater vulnerability based on a composite of twelve living standard dimensions, populations of less than 200 had an average of 5.3 on the Human Vulnerability Index (HVI), islands with more than 2000 inhabitants had an average of 2.4, whilst those with over 4000 had an average of 2.1.

The seventh NDP also found that the average income of islands hosting those displaced by the 2004 tsunami rose by 30 percent within 6 months.

Currently, around 130 islands have populations less than a 1000, and others between 1000-6000, while Male’ accounts for one third of the total population, where the density of the population is over 40,000 per square kilometres.

The government’s repopulation policy signifies a renewed ambition to follow through on the much awaited population strategy that has been discussed for a quarter-century, but has fallen short of making any significant outcomes.

Resettlement of nearly 17 islands were reportedly under review during former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s last term in office, but confronted by the 2004 Tsunami and the pre-2008 democratic reforms, population consolidation plans lost emphasis.

The talks ultimately disappeared from the table under the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, which lobbied for a national transportation network between the islands to boost connectivity and economic progress.


Vice President celebrates 50 years of broadcasting, CPJ condemns “backslides” on press freedom

The Maldives this week launched official celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of broadcasting within the nation, as one international press freedom association raised concerns over national commitments to independent media.

Vice President Waheed Deen on Monday (July 9) launched what is expected to be a series of “golden jubilee” celebratory events to commemorate the beginning of national broadcasting on December 29, 1962, according to the President’s Office website.

Speaking at a ceremony to unveil a new logo and song that will be used to publicise a half century of state radio broadcasts under the Voice of Maldives (VOM) service, the vice president played up the importance of providing factual information to the public and giving “both sides of a story”.

Deen – owner of the Bandos Island Resort and Spa – also used his speech to play up that the Maldives must keep in mind that it remained as Islamic nation when addressing issues of development and advancement, the President’s Office added.

The Vice President’s comments were made as international non-profit organisation, the committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), alleged concerns that press freedom was “deteriorating” under the present government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“Reports of police brutality against journalists amid political chaos, and a vicious attack for writing about religious tolerance, are disturbing signs that the Maldives is backsliding on press freedom,” CPJ Senior Researcher Madeline Earp wrote on the organisation’s blog.

“[The president] must ensure that journalists are free to report if he wishes to distance himself from [Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s legacy and stabilise the nation for elections.”

Just yesterday, the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) condemned the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for “obstructing” reporters and appealed for media representatives to refrain from taking part in protests.


Vice president commits to preserve Islamic values with development plans

Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen has used his first televised address since receiving Majlis approval to call for a greater focus on Islamic values when considering development in the country.

The vice president, a businessman whose interests include the Bandos Island Resort and Spa, gave a speech yesterday stressing his belief that the nation’s leaders were required to strive to preserve the nation’s Islamic faith.

Deen also raised concerns about what he saw as the “deteriorating social conditions” in the country, particularly concerning the current social, political and economic situation, according to the President’s Office website.

“The political situation will not improve, unless the socio-economic situation improves,” he stated.

The vice president claimed that education would be a key feature of his proposals to improve the socio-economic situation across the nation.

Deen claimed he aims to provide long-term education loans along with social and entertainment developments like “empowering” sports associations as part of his development plans.