Bomb Plot, MDP Rift, Afcons Fine

Maldivian fighters in Syria

Friday, November 18

Deputy Transport Minister Shimaz Ali was assaulted on the street, according to the Maldives Reform Movement, the party he represents in the coalition government.

Earlier this month, Transport Minister Aishath Nahula sought Shimaz’s dismissal over alleged corruption, including abuse of authority to benefit from fraudulent vehicle registration. He denied the allegations.

Minister Nahula condemned the attack as well as “dirty acts of defamation against my family and myself” in its wake.

Last year, the Anti-Corruption Commission recommended charges against Shimaz and other transport ministry officials over the awarding of a contract to manufacture machine-readable license plates. But the Prosecutor General’s office declined to press charges due to insufficient evidence.

Friday, November 18

Thursday, November 17

Former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering trial resumed with the criminal court accepting new evidence submitted to challenge testimony from defence witnesses.

Defence lawyers objected and decided to appeal the ruling on admissibility.

The opposition leader is accused of accepting a US$1 million bribe from former lawmaker Yousuf Naeem in September 2015 for the no-bid lease of Vaavu Aarah. The island was leased for resort development at a discounted acquisition cost of US$2 million.

The charges stem from a corruption scandal in which US$90 million was stolen through the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation during Yameen’s administration.

At Thursday’s hearing, the prosecution cast doubt on claims by two witness about having counted and handed over MVR15 million in cash to Naeem to buy US dollars for Yameen. Their “selective memory” during cross-examination in failing to recall the date or other details while consistently remembering the colour of the car indicated coaching and fabrication, the prosecutor contended. The attendance record of Ahmed Nareesh, now deputy mayor of Malé, was submitted to show that he had reported for his army job at 6:00 a.m. on the likely date of the transaction.

The prosecution also sought to establish the validity of the minutes of a cabinet subcommittee meeting where the president authorised the transfer of Aarah from the agriculture ministry to the tourism ministry.

Thursday, November 17

The president extended the term of the Office of the Ombudsperson for Transitional Justice to 17 November 2023, the final day of the current administration’s five-year term.

The two-year term of the three-member body was due to expire on December. The ombudspersons requested more time to complete investigations.

Out of 489 complaints, 455 complaints that fell under its mandate were accepted after the office was formed last year. The OTJ has concluded the investigation of “64 cases related to economic and social rights, 23 cases related to right to no unlawful arrest or detention, 21 cases related to right to work, one case related to the right to privacy, one case related to the right to fair administrative action and one case related to the right to no degrading treatment or torture.”

Three teachers at the Ukulhas pre-school were suspended for refusing to teach students to dance for a concert. After failed talks to resolve the issue, they were suspended for seven days for “opposing the curriculum”, the education ministry’s permanent secretary told the media.

Judge Hussain Shaheed was put in charge of the High Court after the early retirement of former chief judge Hathif Hilmy.

Wednesday, November 16

The Environment Protection Agency imposed a hefty fine of MVR69.4 million (US$4.5 million) on Afcons Infrastructure over damages caused by a bridge platform that ran aground on the Vilimalé reef. A 2,755 square metre area was damaged, according to the EPA, which gave 30 days to pay the fine.

Upon request, the Indian developer had been authorised to carry out its own survey after it disputed calculations in the EPA’s report. The Afcons survey was taken into consideration, the agency said.

Due to bad weather, it took 12 days to re-float the self-elevating platform. Metal pillars that sunk into the reef left holes more than 10 feet deep.

Wednesday, November 16

Customs seized 4.5kg of cocaine from the luggage of a 29-year-old Brazilian woman. The estimated street value was MVR15 million (US$973,000).

Customs officials at the airport have foiled ten drug smuggling attempts this year with a haul of 17kg of cocaine.

In September, 604.5g of methorphan was found in a courier package that arrived from Bahrain, Customs revealed on Tuesday. It was the first time the authorities encountered the drug.

Police officers will soon begin using taser guns – less-lethal electroshock weapon used to incapacitate dangerous suspects – in operations against terrorism or violent crime, the police chief announced. About 25 taser guns purchased from Axon will be deployed by the end of year, Commissioner Mohamed Hameed told reporters. Officers have to complete a five-day training course, he said, noting that the Maldives would become the first country in Asia to use the American manufacturer’s latest model.

A demonstration on using the weapon was made at the press conference, which was held by the home ministry to brief the media on the occasion of the current administration’s fourth anniversary.

More than 1.6 tonnes of drugs were confiscated and nearly 12,000 suspects were arrested on drug-related charges during the past four years, according to statistics revealed by the police.

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Foundation was laid for the construction of 75 housing units on Dhidhdhoo island in Haa Alif Atoll.

An all-female bench of judges heard a High Court case for the first time in its history.

Tuesday, November 15

Damage to a main cable caused a power cut in the Hiya flats in Hulhumalé, leaving an estimated 20,000 residents without electricity or elevators for four hours. Each of the 16 Hiya towers has 25 floors.

The State Electric Company restored power with a temporary cable around 3pm.

The main cable was damaged during digging for a housing project in Hulhumalé phase two. The road was dug without a permit and the mandatory presence of inspection teams from water and electricity providers, according to the Housing Development Corporation, which assured action against the contractor.

Tuesday, November 15

About 30 MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party met President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to complain about Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s conduct after both Monday and Tuesday’s sitting were concluded without putting the government’s tax bill to a vote, delaying a key legislative priority to the annoyance of the pro-government majority.

MPs in Solih’s faction of the divided ruling party – who outnumber Nasheed’s loyalists in the 65-member parliamentary group – accused the speaker of violating the rules of procedure with his refusal to call a vote. Other grievances included his tendency to interrupt and offer information or express opinions despite the chair’s neutral role. Nasheed spoke 12 times during a debate on Tuesday, prompting objections from several lawmakers.

Impeachment or procedural changes to further limit the speaker’s authority were proposed at the meeting with President Solih. But the consensus was to try and work together with the former president, Majority Leader Mohamed Aslam told the press.

Reflecting the MDP’s supermajority in the 87-member house, the tax bill was passed on Wednesday with 55 votes in favour. Some 15 MPs in Nasheed’s faction voted No after failing to push through amendments.

Opposition supporters protested outside parliament against the sales tax hikes.

Monday, November 14

Fourteen people were arrested on suspicion of working with the Islamic State militant group to plan a deadly bomb attack, Inspector Uswath Ahmed revealed at a press briefing.

Nine suspects from Addu City and two each from Malé and Guraidhoo were rounded up in the counter-terrorism operation, added Uswath, head of the terrorism and violent extremism unit. Several residences were searched in Malé and Addu, and bomb-making material were found in some places, she said.

Nine of the suspects were previously arrested on terrorism-related charges. No further details were disclosed.

Monday, November 14

The prime suspect charged over the murder of Nadheem Abdul Rahman in July 2017 was acquitted along with three alleged accomplices. The evidence was insufficient to prove guilt beyond doubt, the judge decided.

Nadeem was stabbed to death inside the Terminal Cafe in Malé.

During the trial, prosecutors raised concern over intimidation of witnesses. Two secret eyewitnesses retracted their testimony and others refused to testify.

The Prosecutor General’s office later decided to appeal the verdict.

A fire broke out at the Rehendhi School in Hulhumalé, forcing cancellation of studies and a temporary shift to online classes.

Electricity panel boards caught fire around 6:30 a.m. and was put out in less than an hour. No one was hurt as classes were yet to start and students were sent back home.

Sunday, November 13

Four people were injured as riot police pushed back fishermen protesting outside the Horizon factory in Laamu Maandhoo. Three protesters required treatment after being pepper sprayed and a policeman was hit by a rock.

The protest started on Saturday morning with fishers demanding MVR21 million (US$1.3 million) owed by the Villa company for fish purchases. More than 300 crew members of 28 boats from Laamu and Thaa atolls took part, bringing operations at the fisheries complex to a halt.

Later on Sunday, Villa CEO Siyad Qasim and Horizon managing director Mohamed Qasim – sons of magnate Qasim Ibrahim – met the protesters and promised to settle outstanding payments.

The protest was called off after Horizon Fisheries started depositing funds on Monday evening. A one-month deadline was also agreed to make payments for fish purchased on credit.

Horizon told the media that it is unable to buy fish and sell diesel at uncompetitive rates offered by subsidised government companies. Fishers are paid with loans and cash injections from other Villa companies, it said.

Sunday, November 13

A Drug Enforcement Department policeman was among a dozen people arrested during drug raids on Thursday night.

Hassan Shujau, who was arrested from his Hulhumalé apartment, was the target of the operation, the police spokesman told Mihaaru. Others were arrested from a Malé apartment linked to the DED officer, who has since been suspended.

Despite access to confiscated drugs stored as evidence, Shujau would not have been able to take any drugs out without detection, the police assured.

According to media reports, the eight men and four women arrested while “partying” included actress Aminath Rishfa, 37, and TikTok star Huneysha Adam, 26, who were both remanded to custody and released a week later. They were accused of involvement in drug trafficking. Huneysha, known as Hunoo, is facing trial in a separate drug case.

Violent clashes erupted between rival supporters from Iguraidhoo and Dhuvaafaru after a futsal game. The island teams faced off in the final match of the Raa Atoll Fustal Challenge in Ungoofaaru. Videos on social media show police officers attempting to keep them apart. A 14-year-old and 39-year-old were treated for injuries, according to the police.

Dhuvaafaru came from three goals behind to win 4-3.

A new block at the halfway house for recovering drug addicts in Hulhumalé was opened together with a new rehabilitation centre for women.

The 58-person capacity halfway house offers aftercare services under a reintegration programme.

The project was a CSR initiative of the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company.

The Housing Development Corporation signed contracts for the development of four public schools, an international school, two mosques and premium villas in Hulhumalé phase two.

A spacious auto centre for cars is also under development in Hulhumalé.

Adam Shareef, the former Elections Commission chief, joined the Maldivian Democratic Party.

The Maldives Media Council handed out its annual Journalism Awards. Aminath Shifleen from Dhauru was named ‘Best Journalist’ of the year.