Same-Sex Conviction, Button Cameras, Tar Road

Friday, September 2

The opposition’s ‘India Out’ campaign is on halt in the interest of avoiding unrest due to a presidential decree that banned the activities, former president Abdulla Yameen told Sangu TV in a wide-ranging interview. The decree is unconstitutional but the police was enforcing it by dispersing protests with “disproportionate force,” the opposition leader contended.

Friday, September 2

Thursday, September 1

The civil court rejected a claim by restaurant operator Strada for US$741,820 as compensation for damages to property in a warehouse.

The Malé City Council dismantled the warehouse adjacent to Strada’s bridge viewing platform following a civil court order – which was upheld by the High Court in October – to vacate the Newport View restaurant. 

Strada was controversially leased a large area in Malé’s eastern waterfront to build a restaurant and bridge viewing platform during the previous government. The eviction order was issued after Strada was sued to recover more than MVR1 million (US$65,000) owed as unpaid rent and fines.

The council told the court that the warehouse was dismantled in the interests of public safety after tin sheets blew off during stormy weather. The court ruled that the council had acted outside its legal powers but declined to award compensation, citing failure to establish damages. Only one of five invoices submitted in a loss assessment report was Strada’s, the judge noted.

Thursday, September 1

In an interview with ThePrint following a meeting with his counterpart in New Delhi, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid described India as the Maldives’ “first and closest friend”. But India’s geopolitical rival China remains a partner, added Shahid, who visited the country in his capacity as president of the United Nations General Assembly for its current term.

After an apparent reconciliation between rival factions of the ruling party last week, Shahid also backed President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to win re-election in 2023.

Addressing concerns over government-sponsored legislation recently submitted to parliament that would raise the retirement age of judges from 55 to 65, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath announced plans to seek further legal changes to allow judges to retire before they turn 65.

Amendments proposed to the judges law to introduce a housing allowance would not result in a deduction in take-home pay, he assured.

A 37-year-old Maldivian man arrested for posting “nude” photos and videos of himself on social media was released by the criminal court when the police sought a remand order to hold him in custody. The judge decided that detention was not necessary for the investigation, the police media official told reporters.

The man was previously arrested over cross-dressing TikTok videos deemed to have violated societal norms.

Wednesday, August 31

Transparency Maldives released two reports in collaboration with the home ministry.

The ‘Situational Analysis of the Pathways to Social Reintegration for Offenders and Drug-Dependent Persons in the Maldives’ focused on obstacles faced by ex-convicts and the study on ‘Prison Radicalisation in the Maldives’ highlighted the phenomenon of prisoners turning to extremist ideologies.

Wednesday, August 31

M. D. Alamgiri, a Bangladeshi man whose secretly filmed sex tapes with several Maldivian men were leaked online, was sentenced to seven months in prison.

The 25-year-old reportedly pleaded guilty and asked for leniency.

The charges were raised under the 2014 penal code, which carries a lesser punishment for consensual same-sex relations – a class one misdemeanour if the offender is unmarried – than the sexual offences law, which prescribes a jail term of up to seven years.

The scandal broke in late June with leaked videos of lawyer Nazim Sattar, former MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed and a police officer, all three of whom are now facing trial.

Travel bans were imposed on at least 18 local men identified from the videos, who reportedly include teachers, an imam, a soldier, a customs officer, a parliament employee, and staff at various government ministries, many of whom were sacked or suspended after videos and photos were leaked online.

A police summons was issued for an official at the Centre for Quran who is believed to have left the country.

Before they were posted online, the videos were used as blackmail to extort large sums of money, according to the police. However, charges related to blackmail have yet to be filed against any suspects.

The civil court issued an injunction halting the Malé City Council’s order to vacate plots awarded in Vilimalé to 99 Holdings in exchange for providing an electric buggy service. Motorised vehicles are banned in the island suburb, an administrative district of the capital.

At the behest of Vilimalé Councillor Nahula Ali – who cited public complaints over the unreliability of the transport service – the city council decided to terminate the agreement and issued a seven-day notice to vacate the plots, which includes a guesthouse operated by the company.

With its stay order, the court halted enforcement pending a judgement on the dispute. Denying any negligence or breach, the company blamed the council’s failure to establish routes and stops for inefficiencies. It also disputed the council’s authority to seize land as the guesthouse had been developed under a separate agreement with the tourism ministry.

Anti-Corruption NGO Transparency Maldives questioned the government’s “political will to end corruption and hold to account powerful political figures” after a hearing in Youth and Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof’s bribery trial was cancelled earlier in the week upon request by the president’s office. The minister had been accompanying the president on an official trip to Meemu Atoll.

Mahloof, a former lawmaker, is accused of accepting a US$33,000 bribe from then-tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb to vote for the previous government’s special economic zones legislation. The charge stemmed from a joint investigation by the police and presidential asset recovery commission into the theft of US$90 million during the previous administration. Mahloof denies the allegations. He previously claimed he was a “sacrificial lamb” for the corruption scandal.

A cargo boat en route from Malé to Noonu Atoll ran aground on the Kaafu Atoll Gaafaru reef amid strong winds and rough seas.

About 30 people were on board, all of whom were rescued and taken safely to Gaafaru. The captain reportedly reefed the boat deliberately to prevent it from sinking after part of its bow was broken by a wave.

The State Trading Organisation helped to restock staple foods for the Landhooo and Maalhendhoo islands that were expecting cargo from the capsized boat.

Photo from Facebook

Customs seized 1.6kg of drugs from a postal package that arrived from Germany. The estimated street value of the 1087 grams of ketamine and 587 grams of cocaine was MVR5 million (US$324,250).

On Saturday, a 23-year-old Maldivian woman was arrested in connection with more than 1kg of drugs found in a postal package in June.

The Malé City Council decided to build a cat shelter and veterinary clinic in VIlimalé to resolve the issue of street cats in the capital. The mayor estimated a cost of MVR8.5 million (US$551,230).

While 12 councillors backed the proposal, the Vilimalé councillor cast the sole dissenting vote. Nahula Ali contended that stray cats were also a problem in her constituency. She claimed that diseased animals brought over from Malé had been abandoned when a government-run vet clinic was operated in Vilimalé. The clinic was closed after the first private clinics opened.

Tuesday, August 30

A long-awaited project was inaugurated to redevelop the 1.7km Ameenee Magu as a tar road, a badly damaged thoroughfare of Malé that becomes inundated with ankle-length water after rainfall.

The 10-month, MVR84 million (US$5.4 million) project – which involves developing storm-drainage systems as well as wheelchair access and braille blocks for the disabled – was awarded to the state-owned Road Development Corporation in July.

At the time, the Malé City Council filed a complaint with the anti-graft watchdog alleging corruption in the awarding of the project by the infrastructure ministry. The opposition-majority council also decided to sue on the grounds that the ministry had taken over the project in violation of the decentralisation law. Ruling party councillors backed both decisions.

But the ministry denied that Ameenee Magu was part of a previous streetscaping project signed between the council and RDC. 

Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu participated in the groundbreaking ceremony and pledged cooperation for the project despite “differences of opinion”.

Tuesday, August 30

Two women are part of a ten-member Maldivian team who will dive in submersibles in the first descent of UK institute Nekton’s historic research expedition, which aims to “undertake the first systematic survey and sampling of the Maldives from the surface to 1000 metre depths.”  

Shafiya Naeem, Director General of Maldives Marine Research Institute, and Farah Amjad, Research Assistant to the Nekton Maldives Mission, will join eight colleagues and pilot Kimly Do.

“At depths around 120metres, the scientists expect to locate the old beach line from 20,000 years ago when sea levels rose following ice melt from the Last Glacial Maximum,” according to Nekton. “Part of their mission is to investigate how ocean life has adapted to rising sea levels.”

“Of the 100,000 seamounts above 1000 meters across the global ocean, only 300 have ever been biologically sampled. Maldives’ 34 seamounts are often mentioned in Maldivian folklore, and provide critical breeding grounds for local fisheries such as tuna.”

The Malé City Council and the police constabulary together with the Drug Enforcement Department shuttered a vacant space in the second floor of the fish market that was allegedly being used as a drug den.

The police dismissed media reports that explosive devices were found in the luggage of two Indian men arrested from the Velana International Airport on Sunday over possession of button spy cameras.

The suspects, aged 26 and 41, were remanded to 10 days in custody.

Monday, August 29

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih concluded a tour of five islands in Meemu Atoll, during which he  inaugurated the upgraded harbour and new powerhouse on Veyvah, and attended a ceremony to mark the completion of a coastal protection project on Dhiggaru.

He also met with the members of the atoll and island councils, women’s development committees, and island communities.

Monday, August 29

During an unofficial visit to India, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed met with External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar.

Together with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, the former president reportedly attended the wedding reception of the grandson of GMR chairman Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao.

The Indian infrastructure giant had been enlisted during Nasheed’s administration to develop the country’s main airport but the US$511 million concession agreement was cancelled by his successor.

Tremors from the aftershock of an earthquake in Indonesia were felt in the Maldives. The health ministry office in Malé was evacuated after the nine-storey building shook.

A man was stabbed in the neck by his wife in a domestic dispute in Malé. He was reported to be in stable condition after a short operation at the ADK hospital’s emergency room in the early hours of the morning.

The incident is under investigation, the police told the media, but the woman – rumoured to be the daughter of a prominent politician and business tycoon – has not been arrested.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Transitional Justice held a Focus Group Discussion about the violent end of the short-lived republic led by the country’s first president, Mohamed Amin Didi, who was deposed in 1953.

The OTJ is gathering information to create an official account of the events.

Sunday, August 28

The police apologised for summoning a deceased man for an investigation, attributing the announcement to an “administrative error”.

Sunday, August 28

Five flamingos were spotted in the mangrove on Funadhoo island in Shaviyani Atoll.

Flamingos were first seen in the Maldives in October last year as they stopped on northern island mangroves during a migratory journey.