Direct flights between Malé and Delhi being discussed

The Maldives deputy tourism minister has told Indian media that direct flights between Malé and Delhi will begin soon.

“The national carrier Island Aviation will be shortly operating chartered flights from here to our country. This is being done to provide direct flight service from here to Maldives to attract more tourists,” Hussain Lirar was reported as telling India’s Business Standard.

During a recent state visit to India, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen was said to have discussed the importance of introducing direct air links with Indian leaders.

The Maldives High Commissioner to India Mohamed Nasser, was also reported to have said that a road show would soon be launched in India to showcase future developments in the Maldives largest industry. Chinese arrivals account for around 25 percent of the current market share, compared with India’s 3.3 percent.

Similar roadshows were produced in China in 2012, following the explosion in Chinese tourist arrivals over the past five years.

The head of the Maldives national airline has told local media of plans to introduce direct flight between Malé and Indian capital New Delhi.

Abdul Haris, managing director of Island Aviation, told Haveeru that discussions were ongoing between Maldivian airline and an Indian aviation company. He said that feasibility studies – examining the likely profitability of the route – were underway.

Links between the Indian and Maldivian governments have of late experienced an improvement after rising tensions during the previous administration of Dr Mohamed Waheed.


Disgraced CSC chief appointed Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia

President Abdulla Yameen has appointed disgraced Civil Service Commission head Mohamed Fahmy Hassan as the Maldives’ deputy high commissioner to Malaysia.

Fahmy was dismissed from his post by parliament last year, after he was found to have sexually harassed a female staff member at the Commission.

However Fahmy’s dismissal was blocked as “unconstitutional” in a sudden injunction issued by the Supreme Court, preventing President Mohamed Waheed from appointing Fahmy’s replacement, Fathimath Reeni Abdu Sattar.

The stand-off led to both CSC heads arriving for work, and the CSC eventually blocking Fahmy from accessing its offices in September 2013. Minivan News was told by a CSC source at the time that Fahmy’s fingerprint access was rescinded after the former commissioner continued to come to the office for a few minutes every day.

The head of the CSC sits on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the judicial watchdog body mired in controversy and accused of wanton politicisation and gross misconduct, and thus has influence over the judiciary.

Fahmy was alleged to have called a female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”it won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

According to local media, the woman told her family about the incident, who then called Fahmy. Fahmy then sent her a text message apologising for the incident, reportedly stating, ”I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations, Fahmy told Minivan News previously that the female staff member had made up the allegation after she learned she had not won a scholarship to Singapore offered by the CSC.


Canada condemns Maldives govt’s “politically motivated threats to arrest its opponents”

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird has issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over ongoing political tensions in the Maldives, in particular the government’s “politically motivated threats to arrest its opponents.”

As Canada’s foreign minister, Baird is a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the international body’s democracy and human rights arm that suspended the Maldives following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, and was behind the strengthening of President Mohamed Waheed’s Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

“It is clear that the arrests of senior officials of the Nasheed government are politically motivated. Such actions are completely unacceptable and must be reversed,” Baird stated.

“The threats of the present government to arrest its opponents, including former President Nasheed – the only democratically elected president in the last four decades – so as to prevent his candidacy, undermine that government’s credibility and violate its undertakings to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. They also fly in the face of the core Commonwealth values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” Baird stated.

“The Maldives has been given the benefit of the doubt by the Commonwealth so far. Continued intimidation, illegal arrests and other authoritarian tactics by the present government may require the Commonwealth to consider a different approach, in our view.”

Nasheed was today ordered to attend police headquarters on August 2 concerning comments made during a tapped phone conversation released by police last week, in which the former President states “I think we need to fight back [against police].”

The government’s actions were, Baird said, “further evidence of the need for early elections, as Canada has repeatedly urged. These disputes must be settled, and the will of the people must be heard.”

“In order to safeguard the important democratic progress made in recent years, an inclusive political solution is critical to the future of Maldives. Canada will continue to work with the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to push for greater respect for democratic values.”

Canada’s statement on the state of the Maldives is among the most strongly-worded issued by another nation following the political turmoil of February 7, with the exception of Timor Leste (East Timor).

Nobel Peace Prize recipient and President of Timor Leste, José Ramos-Horta, issued a statement on February 21 condemning “the ousting under military pressure” of President Mohamed Nasheed in an ““obvious” coup d’état.

“It should be of concern to the World that extremist elements abusively invoking Islam were instrumental in stirring up violent demonstrations, religious intolerance and social upheaval as the coup d’état set in motion,” Ramos-Horta said at the time.

“Therefore, it is all the more strange and unsettling the silence with which big powers and leading democracies respond to the undemocratic developments in the Maldives. It has been a sad day for democracy in the Maldives and beyond.”

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said the Canadian Foreign Minister’s statement was “based on misinformation” as “no arrests have been made and all political opponents are free to conduct their protests every day.”

Riza suggested that the statement was based on information “received only from one side”.

As for the suggestion of a “different approach” by the Commonwealth, Riza said the government was “very much engaged” with the international body, and that Baird’s was “one isolated view” that the Maldives Foreign Ministry would look into.

“We met with several [international] authorities while in Geneva and the Maldives is not much of a concern [to them]. They welcome the work the government is doing regarding human rights and development,” Riza said.

According to tourism statistics 2243 Canadian tourists had visited the Maldives as of June this year, an increase of 4.5 percent on the same period last year.


Police request statement from Nasheed as MDP petitions for elections

The Maldives Police Service today requested former president Mohamed Nasheed give police a statement regarding an ongoing investigation, police media official Ahmed Shiyam has confirmed.

“The Maldives police service has requested former president Mohamed Nasheed to give a statement regarding an ongoing investigation. We have told him that we would go to any place which Nasheed wishes at a time convenient to him.”

Shiyam denied the allegation made by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on local media that the police had requested Nasheed to be summoned. “The allegation made by the MDP is not true. We didn’t request Nasheed be summoned to the police station. That is a lie,” he said.

Lawyer and former MDP chairperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi was also quoted in the local media as stating that Nasheed does not have to give a statement to the police. “There is no statement that President Nasheed has to give to the police,” she said. “Even what we have to say publicly- if they [the police] claim that, and want to prosecute, then they should do so. There are no courts that we recognise.”

Didi further stated that police had requested the statement from Nasheed and his secretary via SMS.

MDP member Omar Razak, Chairman of Works Corporation Limited, said Nasheed had refused to go to the station but had also refused to allow the police to meet him at his house, saying “‘my house is not a police station.'”

It is unclear whether the police will pursue the statement.

The police had earlier been issued an order to arrest Nasheed by the Criminal Court’s Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, was was detained in January on government orders.

After saying he wished to investigate the warrant’s legality, newly appointed Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz decided against the arrest. He told local media his decision was based on concerns that the arrest would carry negative consequence for the public.

Meanwhile, MDP members gathered today to open the party camp (Haruge), which was trashed by police and opposition members on February 7 and has been closed since that time.

Opening the lock to cheers of “Long live Nasheed!”, Nasheed led the crowd into Haruge, stood up on a riser to wave the MDP flag, and then announced a party walk around Male’.

Last Wednesday party supporters were attacked by police near the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), a common protest area, during what was also intended as a peaceful walk around Male’. Today’s walk only circled the island’s southern half, avoiding the MMA and attracting no security forces to the sidelines.

As thousands joined in and filled central Majeedhee Magu, people chanted a call raised during a previous protest mocking police as corrupt servants of the opposition leaders, waiving dollars and rufiya as they passed police buildings. Previously, the crowd gathered outside Haruge had verbally hassled two police officers driving by on their motorbikes, calling “Lari Lari! Yes sir!”

A lari is the smallest unit of the Maldivian currency – there are 100 in a rufiya (one US dollar is 15.42 rufiya).

The crowd also called for Dr Waheed to step down. One participant compared the setting to 2008, when Nasheed won the presidential elections against ruler of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“Then, they were throwing eggs at Gayoom’s car. People would come out and eat in the streets, like a celebration. Now, this is a march for the ex-president,” he said.

Following the walk, Nasheed signed a petition which was circulated at last evening’s rally and has been signed by several thousand individuals, party members claim. Identifying the power transfer as “actions against Maldivian law”, the petition declares the current government illegal and requests “a lawful government to save the Maldives from destruction and bring it safely ashore.”

Addressed to Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid, the petition requests the speaker and all members to:

1) Punish those fews individual who led the coup and formed the current government on February 7, 2012;

2) Launch a proper investigation into the coup, put those responsible for the coup before a proper justice system, and to properly punish those guilty of involvement in the coup;

3) Exercise the power invested in the Speaker and Parliament to hold elections as soon as possible.

The petition will be submitted to Parliament in the coming week.