Football Festival, Bankruptcy Spectre, EU Dialogue

Photo from Ooredoo

Friday, November 25

The women’s national volleyball team departed overseas with four infants after the sports ministry allowed athletes to travel for tournaments and training with children under one.

Friday, November 25

Thursday, November 24

Two local men, aged 23 and 24, were arrested from Hulhumalé on suspicion of “using counterfeit dollars for wide-ranging business transactions”, the police revealed.

Thursday, November 24

The Housing Development Corporation plans to develop a private tourist beach for Hulhumalé guesthouses, reviving complaints about inaccessible public spaces.

The president ratified changes brought to the criminal procedures law, including revised deadlines for filing charges and provisions that allow misdemeanour offenders to enter plea agreements. Statutes of limitation were also revised to allow charges to be filed within eight years if new evidence is discovered. There would be no time limit in murder cases. The law previously required charges to be raised within three months after a suspect is arrested.

Wednesday, November 23

The annual ‘Miyaheli’ social innovation camp concluded in Kaafu Thulusdhoo. Organised by the UNDP, this year’s edition targeted civil society organisations with 11 groups proposing ideas under the theme ‘Innovation for People, Planet and Prosperity.’ The three best pitches selected by a panel of judges were awarded grant funding for a pilot project.

Wednesday, November 23

The sixth annual EU-Maldives policy dialogue took place in Malé, the first in-person meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic.

A new €2 million counter-terrorism project was launched, “focused on criminal justice, law enforcement, maritime security and prison management,” and the Maldives reiterated requests for visa-free travel and duty-free access for tuna exports.

The civil court ordered the government to settle MVR1.1 million (US$71,300) owed to the former permanent secretary of the Islamic ministry. In August, the High Court ruled that Mussab Abdulla’s dismissal in 2019 had been unlawful and awarded compensation. But the Civil Service Commission failed to comply with the judgment and Mussab sought an enforcement order from the civil court, which gave until noon on Sunday (27 November) to deposit the funds. 

Tuesday, November 22

The Maldives decided to seek re-election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the term 2033-2034, and to stand for membership of the United Nations Economic and Social Council for the term 2027-2029. “If successful, it would be the first time Maldives becomes a member of both principal organs of the United Nations,” the foreign ministry noted.

Tuesday, November 22

Chemicals with “a high explosive substance” were found in a counter-terrorism raid earlier this month, the police revealed, disclosing more details about the arrest of 14 people on suspicion of working with the Islamic State militant group to plan a bomb attack. 

Residences, vehicles and a dinghy linked to the suspects were searched in Addu City, Malé and Guraidhoo in the joint operation with the army, which was based on intelligence information about a bomb plot by a group from the southernmost atoll. Five of the terror suspects were detained for trial whilst the others were remanded for 15 or 30 days.

It was “one of the most dangerous plots foiled so far”, the defence minister said at a ceremony on Thursday.

Ameenee Magu redevelopment is on hold until the Malé Water and Sewerage Company secures equipment to upgrade its underground pipes, the Road Development Corporation revealed, following criticism over the lack of progress since work began on 30 August.

Apart from laying the final layer of asphalt (tar) over the surface, the section of Ameenee Magu closed off in the eastern end has been completed, according to RDC.

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 company in July.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is spreading rapidly, the Health Protection Agency warned. A seasonal viral infection common in young children, the symptoms are mild and include fever, sores, and rashes on the hands and feet.

Of 764 cases so far, 630 have been reported outside of Malé with a spike in the past two weeks, an HPA official told the media.

The highest honour awarded to girl guides, the ‘President’s Badge’ was conferred upon Fathmath Yumna Atif from the Baa Atoll Education Centre, the first time a girl guide representing a school outside of Malé became the recipient.

A new social protection law to be proposed next year will reform the Aasandha health insurance scheme, the gender minister told a parliamentary committee. The reform is part of the government’s plans to means-test and target subsidies to low-income households.

Expired identification documents can no longer be used for domestic air travel with effect on 23 February 2023, the defence ministry announced, reversing a rule introduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

MPs could sue or impeach Housing, National Planning and Infrastructure Minister Mohamed Aslam, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed suggested after the rules committee submitted a report over the ministry’s failure to gazette regulations on construction in Hulhumalé. The minister does not have the legal authority to delay enforcement of regulations approved by parliament, he added.

The criminal court will hear closing arguments next Wednesday (30 November) in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering trial, the judge announced after the prosecution and defence concluded arguments over evidence.

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 last week’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.

Monday, November 21

A prisons officer was caught trying to smuggle drugs into Maafushi jail. The guard was arrested in an operation conducted with the police, according to the prisons chief.

Monday, November 21

Habeeba Hussain Habeeb, a writer and historian who served the government in various capacities for half a century, passed away at the age of 92.

Appearing before parliament’s independent institutions oversight committee, members of the Broadcasting Commission denied facing any undue influence to bar companies with foreign ownership from cable television services.

Earlier this year, the regulator enacted new rebroadcasting regulations with a requirement for 100% Maldivian ownership, a controversial rule change that would prevent renewal of DhiraaguTV’s license when it expires in January. Bahrain’s Batelco owns a majority stake of the telco with 41% of shares held by the Maldives government. Dhiraagu has since challenged the legality of the rule in court.

In October, a resolution proposed by an opposition MP called for a parliamentary inquiry into alleged unlawful attempts to secure a monopoly for the main service provider Medianet by eliminating competition, including main rival Dhiraagu and small businesses that operate in the atolls. The local company’s owners include Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim, State Minister Akram Kamalludin, and ‘ADK’ Ahmed Nashid.

Talk of the Maldives facing bankruptcy is overblown and politically-motivated, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer tweeted, hitting back after Speaker Mohamed Nasheed repeatedly warned that foreign currency reserves were dangerously low and insufficient to pay for essential imports.

The finance minister, who has been at loggerheads with the former president over fiscal policy, dismissed criticism as political rhetoric intended to “weaken the government”, create fear and uncertainty, and to “diminish and muddy” the successful navigation of the Covid-19 pandemic to be among the fastest recovering economies in the world. Steps have been taken to address new challenges posed by unforeseen global conditions, he added.

Nasheed’s faction of the divided ruling party clashed with the pro-government majority during the recently concluded budget debate in parliament, reflecting renewed hostility ahead of a contest for the Maldivian Democratic Party’s ticket for the 2023 presidential election.

Sunday, November 20

The civil court ruled against a man who sued his ex-wife for reimbursement of expenses including a birthday cake and bouquet, which he claimed to have bought in expectation of a promised remarriage. But the judge ruled that the gifts could not be considered a debt that should be repaid.

Sunday, November 20

The 30-day suspension of an Arabiyya School teacher over a tweet was unlawful, the Employment Tribunal ruled after a complaint was filed against the Civil Service Commission.

Zamzam Farish was suspended without pay in April for criticising a presidential decree that sought to ban the opposition’s ‘India Out’ campaign. The tweet was deemed to have violated ethical standards and the civil service codes of conduct. But the tribunal ruled that the suspension was procedurally unfair.

Environment Minister Aminath Shauna welcomed the “historic” agreement reached at the COP27 climate summit for a “loss and damage” fund to provide financial assistance to developing countries.

While the outcome of the talks in Egypt “establishes an unprecedented approach”, Shauna expressed disappointment with the lack of progress on limiting temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Maldives was swept up in World Cup fever as the tournament got underway in Qatar.

As part of the traditional festivities, public screening venues were set up to watch the matches, draped with flags and decorated with paintings of star players. The sports ministry gifted projectors to 100 NGOs.

Qatari telco Ooredoo set up 210 fan zones across the country. The Malé City Council approved road closures for 14 screening venues in the capital.

Several businesses, including Dhiraagu, Sonee Sports and Bank of Maldives, launched promotions and score predictors with gifts and grand prizes.

Saturday, November 19

The country’s first bar exam was held with 176 law graduates.

The Bar Council of Maldives, an independent self-regulatory body for the legal profession established in 2019, hailed the inaugural exam as a “milestone” and “watershed moment in Maldivian legal history.”

Candidates who pass the exam will be granted a license to practice law after results are released in February.

Saturday, November 19