2023 Kickoff, Parliamentary System, Marooned Platform

Friday, August 19

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s fourth national congress began in Malé with delegates due to decide on a proposal by former president Mohamed Nasheed – also MDP president and speaker of parliament – to transition to a parliamentary system. If the congress adopts Nasheed’s resolution, a public referendum would be held to amend the constitution before the 2023 presidential election.

But President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, senior ministers and coalition partners support the current system of executive presidency and hopes to contest next year’s election with the incumbent as the MDP’s candidate.

The MDP remains bitterly divided between rival factions loyal to Nasheed and Solih. In May, the president’s faction won fiercely contested internal polls to elect a new chairman. The “childhood friends” have indicated that they could face off in an MDP presidential primary.

Both sides concede that the MDP cannot win 50% of the vote without the backing of other parties as all three multi-party presidential elections in the Maldives were won by coalition candidates. In both 2008 and 2013, the most popular candidate secured over 40% in the first round but lost in run-offs after opponents banded together.

Solih is confident of winning re-election with the support of three coalition partners. But Nasheed contends that forming a coalition is detrimental in a presidential system as disproportionate power (in terms of cabinet and political posts as well as outsized influence) must be ceded to smaller parties that are unable to win parliamentary seats.

Friday, August 19

Former president Abdulla Yameen officially became the Progressive Congress Coalition’s candidate for the 2023 election at a well-attended rally in Malé’s carnival grounds. Representatives from all islands passed a symbolic ticket to each other before it was handed over to Yameen.

In his speech, the opposition leader accused the current administration of “enslaving” the Maldives to India and vowed to restore the country’s independence and sovereignty. He also pledged to terminate agreements that have “compromised Maldivian assets and resources” and claimed that key state properties have been mortgaged for debt.

The joint councils of the Progressive Party of Maldives and People’s National Congress decided to award the ticket without a primary last month. But Yameen will be barred from running if he is convicted in either of two ongoing bribery and money laundering trials.

Thursday, August 18

Three men were arrested in connection with an assault in the Henveiru ward of Malé, the police told the media. Earlier in the day, a group of people forcibly entered the cable TV provider Medianet’s office in the capital and assaulted an employee. The victim was taken to the ADK hospital for treatment of injuries.

Two men were also arrested in Malé over an assault on Monday night.

Thursday, August 18

The High Court sentenced a man to five years in prison over the theft of MVR18 million (US$1.2 million) from the bank account of the owners of motorcycle retailer Sheesha in November 2011. The money had been withdrawn from the State Bank of India using documents with forged signatures.

Ibrahim Shahid, from Baa Thulhadhoo, was found not guilty by the criminal court over a decade ago after he was arrested from Sri Lanka with an Interpol red notice. The High Court overturned the verdict upon appeal by the Prosecutor General’s office, noting that the money had been transferred to a Bank of Maldives joint account of the defendant and that he issued cheques to withdraw the stolen funds.

Parliament approved Ibrahim Shaheeb, Ali Hussain Didi, and Abdul Ghafoor Moosa as the new ambassadors to India, Malaysia and the United States, respectively. All three are veteran diplomats who previously served as ambassadors to various countries.

A plot of land was approved from Hulhumalé to build a safe home for victims of domestic violence.

Wednesday, August 17

Two foreign men were arrested from a Hiya apartment over alleged homosexual relations. The police were alerted after they were seen through the window and a video was put up on Facebook live.

Wednesday, August 17

Swimmers and beachgoers in Hulhumalé were warned to beware of a dangerous jellyfish species in the beach and lagoon. Bluebottle jellyfish sting can cause intense pain but it fades in one or two hours and may leave sores or rashes.

Tuesday, August 16

A platform used by Indian developer Afcons Infrastructure to build the Thilamalé bridge ran aground on the Vilimalé reef.

According to media reports, an anchor cut loose and unmoored the platform. It was set adrift on strong currents and crashed into the reef on the island’s windward side. Three workers sustained minor injuries.

The Malé City Council expressed concern over the damage to the coral reef amid delays in re-floating the structure. The Environment Protection Agency assured action after an assessment of damages.

Tuesday, August 16

Monday, August 15

A video emerged on social media showing a man on the back of a motorcycle snatching a necklace from a foreign woman on Dhilbahaaru Magu in Malé. The police arrested both men and recovered the gold necklace, which had been sold to a local goldsmith.

Monday, August 15

The High Court overturned the 17-year jail sentence of a man who was found guilty of planting a bomb near the official presidential residence in November 2015.

Zihan Ahmed along with co-defendants Mohamed Ubaid and Thal’ath Mohamed were charged with terrorism and accused of planting an improvised explosive device on a fuel tank of a vehicle parked near Muleeaage. A fourth suspect, Mohamed Mamdhooh, was sentenced to 20 years. 

The High Court and Supreme Court previously overturned the verdicts of Ubaid, Thal’ath and Mamdhooh, citing misapplication of the law in raising terrorism charges.

Half of all Maldivians who travelled overseas during the annual school holidays in July went to India, according to statistics shared by the immigration controller.

Sunday, August 14

A man was sentenced to three months and 18 days in prison for insulting God and the Prophet Mohamed on social media. He was also found guilty of possession of pornography and jailed for 13 days. The defendant received leniency on both charges after pleading guilty.

Mohamed Rusthum Mujthaba, from Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, was charged under section 617 of the penal code, which prohibits “religious oration and criticism of Islam in public or in a public medium with the intention to cause disregard to Islam.” The offence is a class one misdemeanour.

Rusthum was reportedly set free as he was in custody for six months before sentencing.

Sunday, August 14

The Environment Protection Agency imposed a fine of MVR100 million (US$6.4 million) on a barge that ran aground on the reef of Maagulhi, an uninhabited island in Vaavu Atoll, on 1 May. The AM Aagam vessel was en route from India to Vaavu Rakeedhoo with construction material.

A survey found extensive damages to more than 6,000 square meters of the reef. The MVR100 million fine was the maximum allowed by regulations on environmental damage. The barge’s local agent, Mainland Shipping, was ordered to settle the fine within 30 days.

The Indian High Commission moved to new premises in Hulhumalé. The new building is located in Hithigas Magu, Goalhi 4 in phase one.

The government has allocated land for a diplomatic enclave in Hulhumalé to relocate embassies and missions from the congested capital.

Saturday, August 13

Candidates from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party won by-elections for vacant seats on the island councils of Meemu Dhiggaru and Thaa Gaadhiffushi.

Saturday, August 13