Tree Removal, Gang Power, Housing Scheme

Thursday, September 22

A Drug Enforcement Department police officer was found guilty of engaging in homosexual relations and sentenced to one year, one month and 28 days in prison.

The prosecution asked for a seven-month prison term. But the judge invoked a provision in the criminal procedures law that affords discretion to determine punishment. The Prosecutor General’s office has reportedly decided to appeal the one-year sentence.

The policeman, Abdul Rahman Rafeeu, was prosecuted over a leaked sex tape with a Bangladeshi man. After confessing and pleading guilty, the 25-year-old migrant worker, M. D. Alamgiri, was sentenced to seven months in prison in late August. Earlier this week, the PG office filed pornography charges against him over 40 videos.

Last week, lawyer Nazim Sattar, who was also charged over a leaked video with Alamgiri, was sentenced to three months and 26 days under house arrest.

All three men were charged with “unlawful intercourse” under the 2014 penal code, which carries a lesser punishment for consensual same-sex relations than the sexual offences law, which prescribes a jail term of up to seven years.

Thursday, September 22

Rising religious fundamentalism is holding back women and girls and impeding the achievement of gender equality in the Maldives, the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls warned in a statement at the end of a 12-day visit to the country.

The UN experts applauded the government’s strong commitment to gender equality in law and policy but advised “the full and speedy implementation and resourcing of these laws and policies combined with a counter narrative that elevates women and girls as equal citizens and bearers of human rights.”

The Maldives Journalists Association expressed concern after parliament asked several media outlets to remove articles written about the home minister’s testimony to the security services oversight committee.

Shortly after the committee meeting began on Wednesday morning, MPs decided to keep the proceedings secret or behind closed doors. But the parliament secretariat continued to stream live audio for about 50 minutes.

Parliament cannot directly order media outlets to remove any news article but could make complaints to the regulatory body, the MJA said.

Ismail Azzam Wajeeh was appointed as the new managing director of the government health insurance company Aasandha.

His predecessor, Mariyam Shafeeq, was appointed CEO of the National Social Protection Agency. She served as NSPA CEO during the previous government and was transferred to the post of Aasandha MD after the current administration took office in November 2018.

Azzam was formerly the NSPA CEO. The president’s office has not disclosed reasons for the shuffle.

61 operations were conducted against prostitution in the past three years, the police informed Mihaaru, after the newspaper published special reports about how widespread the lucrative business has become in Malé.

Wednesday, September 21

A 37-year-old Maldivian man was found guilty of creating pornography over “nude” cross-dressing videos posted on Tiktok.

Mohamed Nabeel, known as Yaya, was charged under the sexual offences law. The charges were raised after he was arrested for the third time over TikTok videos and other social media posts.

Nabeel was also sentenced to one month and six days in prison on a separate charge of possession of pornography over photos and videos found on his laptop after the police raided his residence.

Wednesday, September 21

Two men were found not guilty of drug trafficking due to missing chain of custody documents. The charges were raised after more than half a kilo of drugs were allegedly found in the shoes of one of the men upon their return from India in 2013. The lack of the original chain of custody form filled at the airport was the grounds for acquittal.

The police warned of action against vehicle number plates that are not in compliance with regulations, which specifies the size and font of the letters and numerals.

Former president Abdulla Yameen travelled for more than 30 foreign trips during his term, including nine visits to Singapore, president’s office spokesman Miuvaan Mohamed revealed in response to a question about the cost of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s overseas trips.

A fire broke out at a garbage dump on Thilafushi island. The military’s coastguard and firefighters extinguished the flames. But smoke could continue to rise for a week, the Waste Management Corporation warned. The fire occurred at a temporary site set up between the Thilafushi waste facility and quay wall due to increasing volumes, WAMCO said. More than 500 tonnes of waste are processed and baled daily, it noted.

The Public Service Media corporation cannot seek services like “a man finds someone to pick coconuts from a palm tree in his house,” a High Court judge wrote in a judgment that heavily criticised the state broadcaster’s procurement policies.

In a case where a local company claimed to be owed MVR2.3 million (US$149,150) for building a police post for PSM, the High Court upheld the civil court’s judgment in favour of the broadcaster. Both courts cited lack of documentation to prove a legally binding contract for the work.

High Court Judge Hussain Mazeed noted that four other claims against PSM were pending at the court. As a publicly-owned company with funding from the state budget, PSM must comply with public finance laws and regulations, he said.

Tuesday, September 20

Lawmakers debated as a matter of concern the assault of three off-duty Drug Enforcement Department policemen earlier this month. The attack by knife-wielding assailants on a Malé road during daytime was indicative of the impunity for organised criminal gangs, most MPs said, calling for urgent action. But some opposition lawmakers accused the police of pinning false allegations on youth groups and “bullying” and physically abusing young people.

The DED policemen were assaulted on their way back from playing football after gang members followed them with taunts and threats. Ten people were later arrested.

In a separate incident, a man was arrested on Sunday for allegedly barging into the Maafannu police station and threatening to kill a police officer. But a judge released him on the grounds that the police had failed to seek an arrest warrant. The suspect was reportedly part of a group that gathered outside the station after a man was arrested for theft.

Two men, aged 21 and 22, were meanwhile arrested in Addu City on Tuesday for threatening to damage and torch police property after their motorcycles were towed for speeding.

44 gangs with more than 2,800 members operate in Malé, the police revealed last May. A known 17 gangs were active in the southern atolls from Faafu to Seenu with more than 700 members, including about 100 minors, according to a presentation made by the police at the Viavathi conference for local councils last week.

Tuesday, September 20

The application deadline for the government’s housing scheme for residents of Malé was extended from 26 September to 15 October.

Submissions can be made through an online portal for 4,000 flats under construction in Hulhumalé and 3,000 plots of lands from Hulhumalé and Gulhifalhu, two manmade islands near the capital.

More than 10,000 people have submitted forms so far, according to the planning ministry.

Solving the densely-packed capital’s housing crisis was a key pledge of the 2018 campaign.

The Supreme Court ruled that the bank statement of Ismail Ifham Mohamed is admissible as evidence, contrary to the criminal court’s decision not to accept the statement. But the legality of the police action in obtaining the statement can be determined during the trial, the apex court ruled.

Ifham, a rapper known as ‘Pest,’ is on trial on drug trafficking charges

Dr Abdulla Waheed, one of the country’s first surgeons and former state minister at the home ministry and health ministry, passed away at the age of 65. After suffering a stroke, he had reportedly been seeking treatment for pneumonia.

Monday, September 19

Mature trees uprooted for the Ameenee Magu redevelopment will be replanted on the Kudagiri picnic island, the Road Development Corporation said after facing public criticism for cutting down decades-old trees from the Malé thoroughfare, including large trees with full canopies. It became necessary to remove the trees to upgrade underground water and sewage pipes as well as cable networks, which were entangled with roots, according to RDC.

New trees will be planted where possible and ‘tree pits’ will be placed throughout the new tar road upon completion, RDC assured.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed also expressed concern over the tree removal at Tuesday’s sitting of parliament.

It was reported later in the week that the MVR84 million (US$5.4 million) ‘streetscaping’ project was approved before work plans were finalised. The final design of a proposed stormwater drainage system was not submitted, according to a leaked environment assessment report.

Monday, September 19

Ibrahim Waheed resigned as deputy managing director of the state utility Fenaka Corporation after levelling corruption allegations against managing director Ahmed Saeed and chairman Mohamed Rasheed.

Waheed – who is also the deputy chairman of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party – accused the Fenaka bosses of not settling payments owed to businesses without connections to the pair and venturing beyond the utility mandate for their personal benefit. The chairman also “hid” letters instructing Fenaka to change its regulations to safeguard against corruption and abuse of authority, Waheed alleged.

Their incompetence was also to blame for the state-owned company’s debt ballooning from MVR60 million to MVR1.5 billion (US$97,300), he contended.

But Saeed dismissed the allegations and accused Waheed of resigning due to the”embarrassment” of facing sexual harassment allegations from four female staff.

Fenaka’s debt stood at MVR1.2 billion when he took over, Saeed insisted.

China donated 3,000 LED street lamps to the Malé City Council. Ambassador Wang Lixin handed over the energy-saving lights to Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu on behalf of the Chinese embassy in the capital.

The United States donated nearly US$90,000 to help establish a gene sequencing facility in the Maldives, which could be used to identify variants of the novel coronavirus.

Sunday, September 18

Sheikh Adam Naseem, known as ‘BA’ Naseem as he was among the first Maldivians to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, passed away at the age of 83.

A reformist who served as president of the Maldivian Democratic Party’s Islamic consultation council, Naseem was also among the first Maldivian graduates from the Medina University.

Sunday, September 18

A 52-year-old Indian man who defecated inside the compound of the Islamic centre mosque in Malé was released after a day in custody. When the police took him to court for extension of remand detention, the judge decided that the arrest was unlawful due to the failure to issue a legal warning, according to media reports. The judge noted the lack of a signature proving that the warning form in Dhivehi had been translated to inform the non-native speaker of his rights.

Civil Court Judge Ali Abdulla was found to have been negligent over a days-long delay in making a decision on issuing an interim order. The judicial watchdog decided to counsel the judge and ordered him to complete a training programme.

Saturday, September 17

An Indian construction worker was critically injured after an iron rod fell through an air shaft and penetrated his face. The man underwent an eight-hour surgery conducted by specialist doctors at the ADK hospital in Malé.

Saturday, September 17

The Maldives Reform Movement led by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom urged members not to “temporarily” leave the party to vote in the internal elections of other parties.