NGO Junior Chamber International train youth leaders

The Maldives branch of the NGO Junior Chamber International (JCI) has held a training programme in leadership for young people.

The training sessions took place between May 14 -16 at the Society for Health Education (SHE) building, and were aimed at empowering young people to create positive change in their local communities.

The event was organised by the JCI head trainer for Asia region Yogesh Chandak, and was attended by 29 JCI members.
JCI Maldives president Ali Shakir stated, “Such courses will result in increasing Maldivian youth’s capability to stand firm on any global platform,” reported Haveeru.

“The youth has a very good opportunity to go into the world via JCI. This organisation offers to promote those who wish to take on leadership skills and go forward.”

The level of inclusion of youth leaders in the formulation of the current government’s youth policy has been questioned this week by leaders across the political divide.


Youth leaders critical as government assures youth issues are being addressed

With additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed

Youth wing leaders from across the political spectrum have criticised the government’s youth policy as cabinet members argue that the government has “hit the ground running” in its attempts to tackle youth issues.

Youth wing leaders from both government-aligned and opposition party have suggested policy has been formulated without youth participation.

“The government’s youth policy is not very clear, in fact it comes across as being rather shady,” said Jumhooree Party Youth Wing leader Moosa Anwar.

The comments come in response to the Youth Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal’s assurances that the government – elected on a platform of youth and economic policies – would soon fulfill all its prior pledges.

“With an influx of five times of the budget of previous years, the government of his excellency President [Abdulla] Yameen came with a promise to address the youth-related concerns that have been sadly been neglected in the recent past,” said the minister.

Speaking at this week’s ‘Regional Consultative Meeting to Finalise the SAARC Youth Charter and Action Plan’, Maleeh said that the government had already drafted a youth bill to ensure that rights of young Maldivians are protected.

The charter aims to promote the potential of young people with “their full participation” explains the charter, with the aim of influencing regional youth policies in the areas of environment, gender equality, education, employment, and health.

The SAARC nations are expected to sign the charter during the eighteenth SAARC summit scheduled to be held in November 2014 at Nepal.

A national health strategy for the youth has been drafted with assistance of UNFPA, he explained, assuring the strategy to address issues such as prevalent drug abuse would be endorsed very soon.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon said the youth’s meaningful participation in the development process should be ensured.

“We must eradicate violence and abuse of young people, especially girls and other marginalised groups. We must not let youth be deprived from an education or access to decent work. We must invest in the health and well-being of the youth,” said Dunya.

Youth response

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s recently elected Youth Wing President Mohamed Azmeel responded by saying that the government has neglected to include opposition-aligned youth in developing policies.

“We have not been consulted over this youth charter or even on national youth related policies or programmes,” Azmeel said, noting that with over 26,000 registered members the MDP Youth Wing is the biggest youth organisation the country.

A recent democracy survey by Transparency Maldives revealed the MDP to have the largest number of under-35 year-olds of any political party. The most recent census (2006) data revealed under-25s to represent over 50 percent of the country’s population, with a new survey to be taken later this year.

Azmeel also expressed a lack of faith over the government’s capability to fulfill it’s pledges to youth.

“So far they have failed in providing any positive sign of fulfilling those pledges. For instance we still don’t know how they are planning to create the promised 94,000 new jobs. So from what we are seeing now, I don’t have any hope they would do any of that,” said Azmeel.

Pro-government Adhaalath Party’s Youth Wing leader Ali Rasheed also said his party had been left out of the government’s youth-related programmes, while Jumhooree Party Youth Wing leader Moosa Anwar argued that the government’s policy has been created without youth participation.

“The government does not appear to be doing much to increase actual youth participation,” he continued.

Anwar revealed that he was currently attending a youth-related conference in Sri Lanka, to which the government had sent Youth Ministry employees as ‘youth delegates’.

He suggested that said, instead of being empowered, the youth were being used as a “street force” by all political parties.

“They keep the youth quiet by naming us ‘leaders of tomorrow’ and holding obscure workshops in the guise of empowering us. However, there has so far been no practical application of youth empowerment.”

“It will not do just to talk about a youth city and to promote that idea on social media. If the government is sincere about working to empower youth, they must allow us to have a say at the decision making or policy levels,” he said, suggesting a youth parliament as a possible way of achieving this.

President Yameen’s own Progressive Party of Maldives have no youth leadership after its last Youth Wing President Ibrahim Nazim resigned during the 2013 presidential elections saying he was unable to reach Yameen to discuss youth involvement in the presidential campaign.

The youth minister was not responding to calls at the time of publication.


Comment: Maldives – The Hypocrites’ paradise

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

More than half of the Maldivian population is under the age of 25 and, with over a third of the population aged between 18-35, the Maldives has one of the most youthful populations in the world. This weekend around 200 of them assembled on the desert island of Anbaraa for an overnight music festival.

All elements that any reasonable person expects at a modern event of the sort were present—great DJs, young people up for a good time and, unsurprisingly, party drugs. On Friday night, when most revelers were at the peak of their enjoyment, a Maldives Police Service (MPS) team in riot gear raided the island. Apparently they were in possession of an arrest warrant, issued by one of many farcical courts that comprise the so-called judiciary.

The MPS asked no one’s permission to get on the island, respected no laws, followed no due procedure. Police statements have made it clear they were aware of the plans for the music festival, and also that it would take the form of a rave. They made no move to stop it from going ahead. When they raided the island on Friday night, they were fully aware of what they would find — a bunch of young people in a highly vulnerable state — and proceeded to assert their supremacy on them as aggressively as possible.

The MPS could not have acted more triumphantly if they had managed to bust the world’s biggest drug cartel. According to eye-witness accounts, they threw smoke grenades onto the unsuspecting revelers, barged into their tents without permission, searched their personal possessions without their knowledge, and handcuffed everyone deemed ‘guilty’ before holding them in custody for 14 hours without the right to counsel.

Once they had been humiliated, and by some accounts several beaten up in custody, it was time to turn the whole affair into a media circus. Pictures of various partygoers were splashed across computer and television ‘news’ screens as if they were members of a newly busted paedophile gang deserving the most forceful of today’s naming and shaming techniques.

The worst of the humiliation was reserved for the women, as can be expected of the misogynistic society the Maldives has become today. First came the reports across the entire media spectrum—from the mainstream to the most obscure—that several of the women had been found ‘naked’, ‘nude’, ‘everything bared’, etc. Pictures of laughing policewomen in headscarves marching the young female partygoers in handcuffs and sarongs appeared on all print and online newspapers.

As it turned out, all reports the women were naked were total lies, engineered to belittle and humiliate ‘the weaker sex’ as much as possible. The women were made to wear sarongs to court — not to cover their nudity, but to cover up the lie that none of them were naked. Wearing shorts, apparently, is now tantamount to being naked in the tropical island ‘paradise’.

The treatment of these young people is a supreme example of the hypocrisy that defines modern Maldives. It is one of the worst kept secrets of Maldivian politics that most of the Maldivian cabinet, and a substantial number of parliamentarians in the Majlis all drink alcohol and/or take recreational drugs. Several government Ministers not only drink but also facilitate parties and raves for young people they know. On the more sleazy side of things, several do so with the goal of getting sexual favours from young people in exchange for the illegal substances provided.

Quite apart from the disgusting hypocrisy of those in power, and separate from the widespread heroin addiction that has afflicted an entire generation of Maldivian youth since the 1990s, it is also a fact that social drinking and indulging in recreational drugs are common among young Maldivians, especially in the capital Malé. In recent years the use of party drugs such as ecstasy, and even more recently LSD too, have increased as it has in most cities across the world.

Meanwhile, in a country where alcohol is only meant to be available to tourists who holiday in the exclusive resort islands, it is commonplace for copious amounts of alcohol to be sold and bought in and around Malé every weekend. Government officials—and police—are fully aware of this. Many, in fact, have a share in the profits, which are invariably huge. Young people who want a drink are forced to pool their resources and shell out as much as MVR2000 approximately  (US$130) for a bottle of alcohol, regardless of its make, size or contents. Where else do the bottles come from except tourism industry tycoons with a license to import them?

Today several of these tycoons are also running the government and the country. To pretend they are unaware of how much their profits are pumped up from selling alcohol to young Maldivians is a sham that any thinking person can see right through. Yet they keep up the façade so that a) they can keep making profits, and b) continue claiming that such things do not happen in a ‘100 percent Muslim country’ like the Maldives.

Fact of the matter is, Muslim or not, drinking alcohol and taking recreational drugs are as normal among a large section of the Maldivian population as it is in any other 21st century society in the world.  To believe that what happens in the rest of the globalised world does not happen in the Maldives is the height of idiocy. Being such a small country with deliberately weakened cultural and historical roots has made us more, rather than less, vulnerable to global influences than most other countries. Nowhere is this more evident than in the number of Maldivian youth who have found themselves bending to the radical Islamist winds that have swept across the globe since the beginning of the century.

If we are to be honest, we have to admit that the big black burugas that so many Maldivian women have come to wear in the past decade have as little affinity with our culture and religious practises as the hot pants the women at the rave were wearing – yet the former is not just embraced but almost forced upon everyone as ‘the right thing’ while the other is criticised as ‘alien’ and even criminal.

Yes, the use of drugs are against the law. But since man began to live in societies, there has been no place on earth where youth have not bent the law for their fun and enjoyment. Their infringements—if they cause no harm to society as a whole—need to be dealt with concern and understanding, not handcuffs, brutality, and long sentences. Drug laws are meant to punish traffickers and dealers and to stop dangerous substances from becoming a menace to users and society.

Young people at a rave on a desert island, whether tripping or not, poses no threat to society whatsoever. To treat the Anbaraa revelers as criminals, to set out to publicly shame them, and to punish them with imprisonment demonstrate nothing but intolerance and ignorance. And the hypocrisy of those meting out such punishmentwhile happily indulging in worse behaviour themselves, boggles the mind perhaps even more than some of the substances said to have been available at Anbaraa could have.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


PPM condemns suggestions that tourism minister plotted festival arrests

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has condemned former President Mohamed Nasheed’s criticism of the government and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb regarding the Anbaraa music festival arrests, calling on the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to act more responsibly.

Speaking at a radio show on opposition aligned  97 Minivan Radio yesterday, Nasheed said that the police arrest of 79 people from the two-day music festival on Anbaraa Island was a pre-planned and politically motivated act to suppress the youth.

Nasheed went onto suggest that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb was behind it.

Denying the allegations, the PPM condemned Nasheed’s comments, describing them as an “uncivilised” attempt to sabotage the implementation of PPM’s youth manifesto as well as the other youth development efforts of the government.

“The young tourism minister is a person who works very hard at national and international levels to bring development to country, without giving any regard to political ideologies,” read the statement.

“This party does not believe Ahmed Adeeb who is also the vice president of the party would do any favors to anyone for his political or personal advantage, or do anything that could harm anyone.”

In the press release, the PPM called on Nasheed to put an end to “the politically motivated defamatory remarks” against the current Maldivian government, PPM and the VP of the party Adeeb.

Nasheed alleged that Adeeb had purposefully put a large number of people into the same place in order to arrest them.

“President Yameen, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and their partners are once again working to oppress and suppress the youth, and to rule for a life time as they want by keeping them [the youth] from speaking out. This is a political plot,” Nasheed told 97 Minivan.

Recalling an incident from 1979 when then-President Gayoom arrested a large group of youth before allegedly torturing them, Nasheed suggested that the youth did not open their mouths to talk about it until Gayoom’s 30 year administration was over.

He subsequently called upon people to come out in defense of the youth, and warned that failure to do so would result in more hardships in the future.


Red Crescent pioneers ‘Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change’ programme

The Maldivian Red Crescent yesterday evening concluded a week-long youth training camp designed to encourage young people to take a greater leadership role in society.

“In Maldives, the youth, those youngsters brimming with energy and enthusiasm at the age of 18 – 35 years take up at least 33 percent of the population,” said Secretary General of Maldivian Red Crescent Mr Abdul Razak Ibrahim.

“While this high percentage can be seen as a wealth, it poses certain challenges for the Maldivian society in terms of social services delivery, employment, urbanization and other developments directly related to youth.”

This week’s camp pioneered the International Federation of Red Crescent’s (IFRC) ‘Youth As Agents of Behavioural Change’ (YABC) programme in the Maldives, bringing 30 young people from across the atolls to Bandos Island Resort in order to develop skills that can benefit local communities.

The programme was borne from the IFRC’s strategy of focusing on non-violence, diversity, non-discrimination, mutual understanding and dialogue explained Razak.

Participants in the programme were taught how to cope with peer pressure and how to handle stressful situations with empathy and compassion.

Those trained will now be expected to return to their communities, and their respective Red Crescent branches, to pass on their new skills as peer educators.

During his speech yesterday, the secretary general highlighted the problems that unemployment, drugs, and family breakdown were having on society – and on the youth in particular.

Around 40 percent of young women, and 20 percent of young men are out of work in the country, while 46 percent of drug users in the country were aged between 16 and 25, he noted.

“Though this may not be the most becoming sentiments to express in an occasion where I have to be optimistic, I do have grave concerns for the youth of Maldives,” said Razak.

“Further, there are very few avenues and forums where youth can be involved in decision making, especially within the atolls. This is one reason why I have hopes for this 7-day training programme of YABC educators which I expect will help to catalyze youth to think more deeply in their decision making,” he added.

Yesterday’s closing ceremony included demonstrations of the skills developed from the camp’s participants, as well as individual accounts of the week’s training.

“The last seven days have been absolutely electrifying for all of us and have helped us a lot in knowing ourselves better and in finding inner peace,” explained camper Mariyam Maaha Madheeh.

“The YABC has helped in various ways and has helped us to do better and do be better. It has been a huge eye-opener and has taught us how we can bring the change the world needs,” she added.

The ceremony was also attended by Minister of State for Education Mr Adam Shareef Umar.

The current government’s youth policies have focused on discussion of a ‘Youth city’ in Hulhumalé, while the Home Ministry has organised its own police-run youth camps.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has also posited the idea of mandatory government service for school leavers in order to instill discipline into the nation’s young people.

The Red Cross/Red Crescent movement was first introduced to the people of the Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami which displace around 10 percent of the population.

After helping local communities overcome the disaster, the Maldives’ own branch of the organisation was established in 2009 and has since established 10 branches across the atolls.

The Maldives Red Crescent’s Strategic Plan 2011 – 2015 encompasses disaster management, health and social care, youth, and institutional development as the main strategic directions for the coming years.


Sports Arena Project launched by President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen yesterday inaugurated the Sports Arena Project which under which the government plans to construct 34 arenas for both outdoor and indoor sports throughout the atolls.

Launching the project – one of the government’s 100 day pledges –  Yameen said that a sports infrastructure suitable for the nation’s youth would be in place by the end of the year, with a further MVR300 million allocated for recreation projects in next year’s budget.

Half of the Maldives’ 330,652-strong population of the Maldives are below the age of 25, according to the 2013 yearbook published by the Department of National Planning.

During his presidential campaign, president Yameen pledged that all islands would receive a sports arena and that Hulhumalé would be developed as a youth entertainment city, including a National Aquatic Centre of olympic scale. Taxes on sports materials would be reduced from 25 to 5 percent promised the Progressive Party of Maldives candidate.

Local media reported Yameen as saying that arenas would not be built in islands with under 2,000 people, but that these islands would still receive facilities for popular sports within his term.

Minister of Sports and Youth Mohamed Maleeh Jamal announced that the project would now be sent to the tender board for bidding.


Police clear criminal records of 1,023 young persons

Police have cleared the police records of 1,023 young persons who were arrested for various criminal offenses, as part of police work to provide job opportunities for young people.

In a statement issued today the police said Commissioner Hussain Waheed had urged all young persons to make the best out of this “golden opportunity” and to leave the crime environment and become useful people to society.

Police reported that they had cleared the criminal records of 564 cases where young people were involved.

Furthermore, the police statement noted that they were trying to conclude the investigations into at least 80 percent of the cases submitted to police before the first 100 day of the new government ends.

A lack of jobs was cited as one of the major reasons for young people to join gangs in a 2012 report made by Dr Aishath Ali Naaz for the Asia Foundation.

The report, which collected data through 20 focus groups and 24 in-depth interviews with gang members, highlighted problems with the legal process, which produces a criminal record – which cannot be cleared for five years –even for minor offences.

“Due to police record, we can’t get a government job,” said one interviewee. “When government does this, the private sector usually does the same.”

“Hence it’s hard to get a job if a person has a police record…so join a gang to earn money,” a gang member interviewed by Dr Naaz’s team said.

Meanwhile, the day before yesterday (7 January) the Juvenile Court released the statistics from last year showing the number of convicted minors that applied to participate in the Correctional Center for Children, revealing that 21 had applied to take part in the programs and only six completed it successfully.

Escaping gang culture

In March 2010, Minivan News interviewed three gang members who spoke about the gang culture in Maldives, describing being stuck with the gangs because they could not get a job as they had criminal records which could be cleared only after five years.

The gang members told Minivan News they wanted jobs, but felt unable to get them because of the stigma attached to their police records.

One of them said he now prefers selling drugs instead of looking for a job “because it pays more”, while another said he was compelled to stay in the gang until his police record was cleared.

“In five years when my police records are cleared I will get a job,” one gang member said.

A senior gang member said his family forced him to earn money but that he was unable to get a job – again because of his police record.

“I would like to be like other people, going to work and earning money,” he said, adding that the government “must provide more job opportunities for the people.”

Earlier this month, in a speech given at the inauguration of the police organised camp “Blues for Youth” by the Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed he said that there was a crucial need to increase participation of adolescents in the work to create a responsible youth generation.

“There is no pleasure any one can reap from frequenting scenes of crimes. It is by strongly staying away from crime and being responsible that real happiness can be achieved,” Waheed said.

He assured that the police force is ever willing to be of assistance to “bring youth to the right path” and to work for youth development.

Speaking at a National Day event, the Youth Minister has also unveiled plans to find employment for all youth by the end of the coming year, 2015.


Home Minister to introduce obligatory government service for school leavers

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has revealed plans to introduce a “one or two year program under which every school leaver must serve the government”.

Naseer’s policy was revealed during a speech given at the inauguration of the police organised camp “Blues for Youth” on Sunday.

This is the second in the series of camps targeted for adolescents, with the current batch including youth from capital city Malé.

The first camp was held in Addu City and Fuvahmulah in late December, and police have announced that a second round of activities will be organised in these areas in the near future.

The current camp will be held from January 5 to 9, and has a total of sixty four participants between the ages of 15 and 18.

“The purpose of organising these camps is to contribute to future generations of school leavers becoming individuals who are aware of the ways of the world and skilled participants of the community,” a police media official told Minivan News today.

In addition to Umar Naseer, Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, Deputy Commissioner of Police Ahmed Saudhee and other senior police officials joined today’s inauguration event.

Commending the initiative by the commissioner of police in organising the camp, Home Minister Naseer stated that the ministry will broaden the camp at national level.

“This government’s policy is to ensure that every school leaver spends at least a year serving the government. God willing, we will extend the Commissioner’s initiative to the level where each school leaver is obligated to engage in national service for two years, or at the very least for one year,” he stated.

He described youth as being highly intelligent and capable of conducting work to improve community matters more effectively. He claimed that the government will be conducting special work to ensure that youth become well-disciplined and responsible by the time they reach the age of graduation.

Home Minister Umar Naseer was not responding to calls at the time of press.

The youth minister and commissioner of police also addressed the camp’s participants in Sunday’s event.

Minister Jamal, highlighting the importance of similar camps to empower and increase opportunities for youth, described the young generation as “the biggest treasure that any nation can possess”.

He stressed upon the importance of creating responsible youth if a bright future is to be established for a nation.

Earlier in January, speaking at a National Day event, the Youth Minister unveiled plans to find employment for all youth by the end of the coming year, 2015.

Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed stated that there was a crucial need to increase participation of adolescents in the work to create a responsible youth generation.

“There is no pleasure any one can reap from frequenting scenes of crimes. It is by strongly staying away from crime and being responsible that real happiness can be achieved,” Waheed said.

He assured that the police force is ever willing to be of assistance to “bring youth to the right path” and to work for youth development.


Youth Minister promises employment to all youth by 2015

The government’s objective is to find employment before the end of 2015 for every youth listed in the unemployed youth register, Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal has said today.

Several thousand youth have already been listed on the government’s new unemployed youth register both from capital city Male’ and various atolls, he said.

“Youth in the jails who have become a burden on the state and numerous families are now being put to work on various government projects,” Maleeh said, referring to a Ministry of Home Affairs’ program in which inmates are to work on government projects.

“Even beyond this, the government will create many opportunities for youth, and turn them into people who will shape the nation and be at the helm of building its future. This is one of the main objectives of this government,” he said.

That the government’s aim is to bring unemployment down to 3 to 4 percent of the country’s youth population, Maleeh has previously said. According to a survey conducted by the government and the International Labour Organization (ILO), the youth unemployment rate currently stands at 30 percent of the youth population.

The ministry has started work to compile a register of unemployed youth across the country in December. They also introduced a website to facilitate online self registration.

National Day

Speaking in an event held in the island of Utheemu in Haa Alif atoll, the Youth Minister emphasized the role of youth in the development of the country.

“We must work unitedly, prioritizing national interest and with sincerity towards our country. Youth is the main foundation in attempts to reach this goal. While it is youth who can convey the spirit of nationalism to future generations, the current deteriorated status of the economic and social fabric of our country has placed the future of our youth under an immense dark cloud,” he said.

“Several youth who have gotten involved in the abuse of drugs, and who mingle with dangerous groups and commmit serious crimes like assault and murder have become a huge burden to and a serious fear of our society,” he said.

The way to make youth more responsible is by offering educational and work opportunities, he added.

“The biggest responsibility upon all our shoulders today is building nationalism. This can be achieved by viewing the religion of Islam, human rights, culture, economy and social development as the main basis of nationalism,” he concluded.