Youth minister dismissed

President Abdulla Yameen has dismissed today minister of youth and sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal in a cabinet shuffle.

Recently appointed health minister Ahmed Zuhoor was handed the youth portfolio and deputy gender minister Iruthisham Adam was appointed as the health minister.

The reason for Maleeh’s dismissal is unclear. Neither Maleeh nor president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali were responding to calls at the time of going to press.

Maleeh appeared with other cabinet minister at a ceremony held this morning to inaugurate a scientific feasibility study for a planned bridge between capital Malé and airport island Hulhulé.

The dismissal was announced at noon.

Maleeh is the cousin of vice-president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who the president has reportedly sidelined. The vice-president who was very active during the presidential campaign rarely appears in public now.

Maleeh is alleged to have close ties with ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, who is currently serving an 11-year jail term on weapons smuggling charges.

According to the pro-government newspaper Vaguthu, documents police found in a pen drive at Nazim’s apartment show the Yameen administration is divided into factions respectively led by the president and Nazim.

Nazim’s “team” included Dr Jameel, home minister Umar Naseer, former Police Commissioner and current JP MP Abdulla Riyaz, Maldives Ambassador to Malaysia Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA,’ former State Trading Organisation (STO) Managing Director Adam Azim (Nazim’s brother), PPM MP Hussain Manik Dhon Manik, PPM MP Ahmed Nazim, Maleeh, and president’s office minister Abdulla Ameen.

Police claimed the documents suggest Nazim was planning to assassinate the president, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb and police commissioner Hussein Waheed.

Nazim says the pen drive along with a pistol and bullets were planted at his home by rogue police officers on Adeeb’s orders.

Maleeh’s dismissal comes amidst a political crisis triggered by the jailing of Nazim and ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

Minister for Islamic affairs Dr Mohamed Shaeem resigned on May 5, after the arrest of religious conservative Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla from an opposition protest.

President also reassigned state minister of Islamic affairs Dr Mohamed Ali to the housing ministry, and appointed state minister for housing Athifa Shakoor to the gender ministry.


Anti Corruption watchdog suspends government’s flagship loan scheme

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) today suspended President Abdulla Yameen’s flagship loan scheme, Get Set, after receiving a complaint alleging corruption.

The ACC declined to reveal additional details.

Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal insisted the youth entrepreneurial loan scheme was transparent and pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

“We do not have anything to hide. It is being carried out much more transparently than that. We have given all the information ACC wants, including copies of files of the mark sheets,” Maleeh told local media.

Get set program was originally launched by president Yameen’s government to help young businessmen with establishing and starting up of their businesses.

The Get Set Program offers loans between MVR 300,000 ($19,506) to MVR 800,000 ($52015.61), to Maldivian entrepreneurs between 18-35 years of age. The deadline for submission was February 28.

The Ministry of Youth previously reported it had received 570 applications and had shortlisted 107. These will be sent to the Get Set programme board, who will determine the final recipients.

“The forms have not been forwarded to the Get Set board yet. They are still with a preliminary technical committee. The members of the committee are very knowledgeable and carrying out their task very well and very transparently. The committee also includes an observer from the UNDP. We the guarantee you there is no space for corruption,” Maleeh said.

The ACC has said it will complete the investigation as soon as possible.


Appointment of ‘Mundu’ Shareef as Youth Minister unconstitutional, says Jumhooree Party

Jumhooree Party (JP) spokesperson Ahmed Sameer has suggested that the appointment of Mohamed ‘Mundu’ Shareef as the temporary Minister of Youth and Sports is unconstitutional.

Sameer said that Shareef – who also serves as one of two ministers at the President’s Office – cannot be  appointed to the position as he “cannot be held accountable to the parliament”.

“According the parliament’s rule of procedure, only the president, vice president, and ministers approved by the parliament can be brought into the parliamentary chamber for questioning, while all other individuals have to be questioned by parliamentary committees,” said Sameer.

Shareef confirmed to Minivan News today that he has been appointed to the post while Mohamed Maleeh Jamal is on vacation.

He denied Sameer’s allegations, saying that he is a sitting member in the cabinet as well as pointing out that he has previously been appointed temporary head of various other ministries including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After receiving three cabinet posts following its election alliance with the Progressive Party of Maldives, the JP’s split with its coalition partner soon saw the dismissal of transport minister Ameen Ibrahim before Thoriq Ibrahim and Mohamed Saeed left the JP for its former ally.

The JP spokesperson today claimed that Shareef could not be brought to the parliament for questioning as he is not a minister of a government body approved by the parliament, but rather a ministerial level staff member at the President’s Office.

“Even admin staff at the President’s Office are allowed at the cabinet meetings,” said Sameer. “Photographers are allowed into the meetings. It does not mean they are members of the cabinet.”

According to Article 129 of the Constitution, other than the vice president, all members in the cabinet must be approved by the parliament. The People’s Majlis Secretariat confirmed that no parliamentary vote was held regarding Shareef’s appointment.

The Constitution contains no provisions for the temporary appointment of cabinet members.

Yesterday (January 6) saw tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb temporarily appointed as the minister of defense during Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim’s absence. Additionally, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem has this week been appointed as temporary health minister – a post which has been empty since August.

Spokesperson at the President’s Office Ibrahim Muaz denied yesterday rumors of rifts within the cabinet, telling local media that the temporary appointments were merely arrangements to fill empty posts during ministers’ leave.

Related to this story

Tourism Minister Adeeb temporarily in charge of Defense Ministry

Jumhooree Party cabinet member and two more MPs join President Yameen’s PPM


Youth ministry moves Youth Day to November 17

Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamaal has announced that Youth Day will now be marked on November 17 each year, instead of March 13.

Maleeh said the reasons for the change would be revealed during the Youth Awards ceremony next month, saying only that “November 17 is a very special day”.

November 17 coincides with the day incumbent President Abdulla Yameen took oath of office and assumed responsibilities of the head of state.

Since assuming office, Yameen has spoken often of the importance of youth development, pledging to turn the Malé suburb of Hulhumalé into ayouth city of 50,000 with modern sports facilities and light industries.

The Youth Awards Ceremony will take place on the newly assigned Youth Day during an event held at the Dharubaaruge convention centre.

“This time, we have included a special category that was previously not included. That is the field of voluntary work,” Maleeh told the press yesterday (October 14).

“We have seen such voluntary work being done in the recent Eid celebrations, in various government organised events and in the work of various clubs and organisations. Therefore, we have included this in this year’s awards’ marking criteria.”


Police to dismantle huts in Malé to curb gang violence

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has decided to dismantle huts in public spaces in Malé used exclusively by gangs in the capital.

Police said that huts and other sheltered areas in Malé used as makeshift dens by gangs “facilitate the assaults happening in Malé as well as the drug trade”.

Police have decided to clear out the huts and “bring an end to the areas being used to plan criminal offences,” it was revealed in a statement, which also noted that violent assaults in the past week have occurred in such areas used exclusively by gangs that were off-limits to the public.

Earlier this week, police launched “special efforts” to curb gang violence following a spate of violent assaults since July 28 that left an 18-year-old stabbing victim dead.

As part of the efforts, police have been confiscating weapons and drugs from parks and other open spaces in the capital, Chief Inspector Ismail Naveen told the press on Sunday (August 3).

Areas where weapons have been found included the Henveiru Park – the scene of three violent assaults last week – as well as the park on Alikilegefaanu Magu and the open space near the State Trading Organisation’s head office in Maafanu.

According to police media, discussions initiated by police took place today with the Malé City Council, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Both ministries and the city council assured cooperation with police efforts to clear out the huts and open the public spaces for sports and use by the general public.

The authorities informed police that the huts were not built with permission, police noted, adding that some areas were being used for business enterprises.

Moreover, police have found that sports facilities have been set up in areas which were being leased or used exclusively by certain groups.

The ministries and city council agreed that public spaces should be open for use by “any youth and people of all ages,” police said.

In May, police dismantled similar huts and hangouts in the suburb Vilimalé following reports of criminal activity, including drug use and gang violence.

Malé City Councillor Shamau Shareef told Minivan News at the time that the council had asked police to clear out “all such hangouts around Malé instead of just that one place in Villimalé.”

The move drew criticism from Villimalé MP Ahmed Nihan – parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives – who told Minivan News that destroying the huts without providing alternatives would only create more social problems.

The Malé City Council meanwhile passed a resolution on Tuesday (August 5) calling on law enforcement authorities to redouble efforts to combat gang violence in the capital, which has created an atmosphere of “fear and panic”.

Speaking at press conference yesterday, Mayor Mohamed Shihab stressed the need for long-term measures to ensure security in the capital, noting that unemployment and lack of entertainment and sports facilities for youth were factors that contributed to gang activities.

“One of the biggest problems faced by citizens of Malé is the lack of housing,” he said, adding that youth often lacked space in their homes to “hang out with friends.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a scholarship awarding ceremony of the Trans-Maldivian Airways’ youth pilot training programme last night, President Abdulla Yameen said it was “about time that youth come to their senses with what they are doing.”

“Maldives is not a country that is infested with stabbing, Maldives is not a country that is infested with these kinds of juvenile delinquencies or crime. These are isolated incidents,” he said.

“Whatever foreign media writes about Maldives, what can clearly be said about Maldives today is that after all the political difficulties we have had in the past, and thanks to some of the foreign interventions in these – that certainly did not make our lives easier –  but that is a story of the past.”

“Today we have a strong government, we have the support of the public and we also have a strong support in the parliament.”


Youth Ministry voices concerns that some companies fail to pay Ramadan allowance

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has voiced concerns that their investigations show some companies do not pay the mandatory Ramadan allowance to members of its staff.

They further stated that even among those companies that do pay the allowance, some fail to follow the guidelines defined in the Employment Act.

According to the act, every Muslim employee must be paid one third of their salary as Ramadan allowance. If the amount is below MVR 2000, employers must pay a minimum of MVR2000. If the amount exceeds MVR10,000, then employers must pay only up to MVR10,000.

The ministry called on all private companies to follow the law and pay the allowance as defined in the regulations.


President forms committee to control gang violence in the Maldives

President Mohamed Nasheed has formed a special committee to curb gang violence and gang related crimes in the Maldives.

The committee consists of National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal, Home Minister Hassan Afeef, Attorney General Abdulla Muiz, State Defence Minister Mohamed Muiz Adnan and Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz.

The President’s Office said that the committee had their first meetings yesterday afternoon and had decided to establish a special task force to curb serious and organised crime.

The task force will be led by Maldives Police Service and will consist of officials from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS), Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Education, Courts of law, Prosecutor General’s Office, Maldives Customs Service, Ministry of Health and Family, Ministry of Human Resources Youth and Sports, Immigration Department and officials from the Local Government Authority.

The work of the special task force will be to secure the citizens of the country, isolate and arrest those who commit offences that disrupt the peace and harmony, to rehabilitate criminals and to offer opportunities for them to be back in society after they are reformed.

‘’This committee assures the citizens that we will constantly work to reinstate the peace in this country in national level,’’ the committee said in a statement via the president’s office. ‘’We will continuously try to gain attention and cooperation from the implementing agencies, businessman, NGOs, political parties and the public.’’

The committee said that in order to achieve its goal, all the institutions should corporate and work together.

This week the committee will meet the Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, National Security Committee [241 committee] of the parliament, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and other judges at the Supreme Court.

Recently a ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed presented an amendment to the Clemency Act which requires upholding death sentences if upheld by the Supreme Court and later withdrew it for the Penal Code and Evidence Bill was not yet passed.

In 2008 Rasheed said 104 cases of assault were sent to Prosecutor General, increasing to 454 in 2009 and 423 cases in 2010.

More recently 21 year-old Ahusan Basheer was stabbed to death on Alikileygefaanu Magu.

On June 2008, the major gangs in Male’ gave a press conference at Dharubaaruge and declared ‘’peace’’ and vowed to work together.


Zakir Naik venue “only for football”, says Youth Ministry

The Youth Ministry has denied the Islamic Ministry use of the Maafaanu football ground for the sermons of visiting Islamic scholar Zakir Naik.

Minister for Youth Hassan Latheef said that the ground was a football stadium which was used by many young people every day, ”so it is very difficult to give that land.”

Latheef said that if the ground was given for the sermon then “others” will also start requesting use of the venue.

”That land cannot be given to do anything other than football,” Latheef said. ”If you take a look, you can see people playing everywhere, in the middle, sides and outside also.”

Latheef said that the Youth Ministry was now speaking with the Islamic Ministry to see if they would like to have the ‘Alimas’ Carnival Stage instead.

”We spoke with the Municipality council and they said the carnival stage was possible,” Latheef said, ”but the Islamic ministry said that land was not large enough.”

He said the Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari had telephoned him while he was out of the country, ” and told me the Islamic Ministry was hosting a sermon by Zakir Naik and asked if the football ground was possible,” Latheef said. ”I said yes, let’s see whether it is possible.”

He said the Ministry has now received another request from a religious group requesting the Galolhu national stadium for a religious event.

State minister for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said that the Youth Ministry had recently told him that the football ground was available, but now denied it.

”Later they said it was a land only for entertainment purposes,” Shaheem said.

He said the Islamic Ministry was now searching for another venue to host the event and would announce it very soon, but he noted that the carnival stage was not big enough for the expected turnout. The Islamic Ministry has previously claimed that Naik’s visit will be the biggest event ever hosted in the Maldives.

”There are many challenges that we face,” Shaheem said, ”from many people and in many ways. I want to tell everyone that by God’s will we will host the event – everyone be patient and don’t commit any violence,” he said.

The Adhaalath party meanwhile expressed anger over the issue on their English language website, noting that the Islamic Ministry “has spent a large amount of money to print posters mentioning the stadium grounds as the venue.”

“The decision of the Youth Ministry not to give the stadium grounds for holding the lecture event will only add to the piles of questions about this government’s loyalty to the religion of this nation,” the party said, in a recent post.

“The pretext given was that they cannot do without the ball for one whole week. The youth who play there may not like it. What about the thousands of Maldivians who want the event to be held in the most spacious and suitable ground available? Don’t their feelings count?”

“The irony is that the majority of the people who will be attending Dr Zakir’s lecture will be youth,” the party said.

“Such blatant acts of obstruction to Islamic activities will only help in further plummeting the popularity of this government. It would appear that this is a ‘tit for tat’ by the secular minded people in the establishment because the Islamic Ministry and many citizens of this country criticised the Akon concert.

“What these people do not realize is that the people of Maldives are watching. Everyday their actions are exposing them for what they are: men who don’t care about the wishes of the vast majority of Maldivians. They continually forget that this is a Muslim country. They have very little, if any, loyalty to Islam and the nation.”

President of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Hussain Rasheed told Minivan News that the land “should be given equally to everyone.”

”The Youth Ministry just don’t like it because it is religious event,” Sheikh Rasheed claimed.

Sheikh Rasheed said that there would also be youths attending the event.

”I just want to thank the youth ministry for raising this as an issue and campaigning like this,” he said. ”Before we were expecting 10,000 people for the event, but now we are expecting 20,000.”

Speaking in a press conference on decentralisation today, President Mohamed Nasheed said the government would endeavour to provide a venue for the event, “and there is no doubt about that.”

“There is freedom of expression in this country and people should be able to express their viewpoints within the basic boundries of our law, so we have to find a venue for them,” he said.