Bond Bailout, Primary Challenge, Himalayan Haze

Friday, December 2

Following media reports that Speaker Mohamed Nasheed was preparing to launch his campaign for the divided Maldivian Democratic Party’s primary for the 2023 presidential election, the former president arrived in the MDP stronghold of Gaaf Dhaalu Thinadhoo to a warm welcome by supporters.

Nasheed travelled to attend the closing ceremony of a dive course but also spoke at the opening of a MDP meeting hall. He did not formally announce his candidacy but repeated calls for a public referendum on transitioning to a parliamentary system. Putting the question to a vote was a manifesto pledge of the MDP-led coalition that came to power in November 2018, he said.

Asked about challenging the incumbent for the MDP ticket during the sixth edition of the ‘Ask Speaker’ forum on Wednesday, Nasheed stressed that a decision on the system of government should precede the primary.

Nasheed accused his “childhood friend”  President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of sidelining him after working closely together until mid-2019. The president then tried to consolidate power and build his own support base, he suggested.

In August, Nasheed withdrew a proposal for the MDP’s national congress to endorse the parliamentary system. Solih, senior ministers and coalition partners support the existing system and favours contesting next year’s election with the incumbent as the MDP’s candidate. In May, the president’s faction won fiercely contested internal polls to elect a new chairman. Solih’s faction also controls a majority of the MDP’s national council and 66-member parliamentary group.

The MDP’s primary is expected to take place in early 2023.

Friday, December 2

Thursday, December 1

Poor air quality and reduced visibility in the northern and central atolls are caused by a shift in seasonal winds that brings dust and aerosols from the Himalayan foothills, the Met office explained, advising people with respiratory sensitivities to take precautions. The haze is commonly observed during the northeast monsoon from December to March.

Thursday, December 1

Wednesday, November 30

The judicial watchdog decided to investigate an ethics complaint against Supreme Court Justice Mahaz Ali Zahir, who was accused of accepting a meal as a gift for ruling in favour of an appeal. After presiding over the case, Mahaz was alleged to have accepted a lunch delivery from a person connected to the claimant.

But Justice Mahaz denied violating ethical standards. He personally ordered and paid for lunch as it was the last day that all the justices would meet before the court’s year-end recess break, Mahaz explained, appealing for open hearings in the ethics probe.

According to media reports, the case referred to in the complaint was former president Abdulla Yameen’s appeal of his money laundering conviction. Justice Mahaz was the presiding judge in the bench that overturned the opposition leader’s five-year prison sentence in November 2021.

Wednesday, November 30

The criminal court heard closing arguments in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering trial

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.

Yameen denied any wrongdoing and claimed to have bought US dollars from Naeem in a legitimate currency exchange transaction. If convicted, he will be barred from contesting in the 2023 presidential election. A verdict is expected within 30 days.

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 month’s hearing, the prosecution cast doubt on claims by two witnesses about having counted and handed over MVR15 million in cash to Naeem to buy US dollars for Yameen.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed sued MP Ibrahim Shareef for defamation, seeking MVR10 million (US$648,500) as compensation.

In a tweet on 25 November, Shareef – one of the former president’s most vocal critics in the rival faction of the ruling party – alleged that Nasheed had conspired to kill 50 people and pin the blame on former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

As a measure against scam calls from unregistered mobile numbers, the sale of activated SIM cards was banned with effect on 1 December, the Communication Authority of Maldives announced. A SIM card would only be activated once the service provider has the customer’s full information.

More than 1,400 scam calls were reported to the police between January 2019 to May this year.

Former information minister Ibrahim Manik passed away at the age of 72 while undergoing treatment in Bangalore, India.

In September, the broadcasting commission honoured Manik with a  lifetime achievement award. During his long service at the state broadcaster, Manik produced and hosted several popular radio programmes

Tuesday, November 29

India provided US$100 million as budget support upon request from the Maldives government to help tackle “economic challenges” faced by the country.

The Indian government offered a sovereign guarantee for the State Bank of India to purchase a US$100 million treasury bond.

The loan assistance is a “temporary solution” to depleted foreign currency reserves, observed former president Mohamed Nasheed, who expressed gratitude to the neighbour.

Tuesday, November 29

At a town hall meeting organised by the council, the people of Faafu Nilandhoo approved plans to reclaim land in the island’s lagoon to develop two resorts.

Monday, November 28

The United States pledged grant aid of US$3 million. The additional funds under a US$25.9 million bilateral assistance agreement will be used “to advance joint U.S.-Maldives priorities in public finance and good governance,” according to USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Änjali Kaur, who met with the foreign minister during an official visit this week.

Monday, November 28

Judge Sofwath Habeeb was assigned the trial of six men charged in connection with the bomb attack on former president Mohamed Nasheed, who narrowly survived the assassination attempt on 6 May 2021.

A three-judge bench empanelled for the terrorism trial has been dissolved after Judge Hassan Saeed recused himself, the criminal court informed the media.

The bench was previously reconstituted after Judge Adam Mohamed recused himself in June, citing threats made by defendant Ishaq’s son in a previous trial. Judge Dheebanaz Fahmy, who replaced Adam Mohamed, was later promoted to the High Court.

In December 2021, Adhuham Ahmed Rasheed, 26, who confessed to detonating the IED, was sentenced to 23 years in jail.

The president’s office enacted new rules for settlement agreements on compensation sought by private parties over the illegal termination of government contracts.

A 30-day period was offered to submit cases to a reconstituted settlement committee. Disputes that have not been resolved for three years in spite of a court case or attempts to seek a negotiated settlement will be eligible.

The state paid MVR1 billion as compensation in less than a year after the current administration took office in November 2018. Out-of-court settlements at the time prompted allegations of enriching companies tied to government officials. More than 35 cases were submitted to a settlement committee chaired by the attorney general, which was dissolved last year.

The new rules were based on recommendations by the Anti-Corruption Commission to ensure fair and equitable settlements, according to the president’s office.

Parliament broke for recess after approving the 2023 budget and passing a raft of bills. including new laws on waste management, prohibition of chemical weapons and the registration of births and deaths.

Upon ratification, the latter would introduce a fine of MVR10,000 (US$649) for the failure to register newborns within a week.

Sunday, November 27

The Maldives denied participating in the “China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation” held on 21 November as claimed by the China International Development Cooperation Agency.

The Chinese embassy in Malé was informed of the decision not to participate in the forum, according to the foreign ministry, which stressed that “participation by individuals or group of individuals from the Maldives, does not constitute official representation”.

The Chinese embassy confirmed the non-participation despite an official invite. “Regrettably, the Maldivian Government officials did not take the opportunity to participate in it. H.E. Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan, former President of the Maldives, participated in the Forum as a renowned scholar and shared his insights on how the international community should work together to overcome such common challenges as climate change and COVID-19, which was highly appreciated,” a spokesperson said. 

Sunday, November 27

About 15 dead terns were found in the Malé lagoon. The carcasses were floating in the southern harbour’s entrance near the Maafanu stadium.

The Environment Protection Agency suspected the birds were dumped after they died due to being mishandled. “We urge the public to please come forward if further information is available,” the EPA appealed.

The Local Government Authority suspended all five members of the Dhuvaafaru island council.

According to a monitoring report published in July by the LGA, the oversight body for municipal councils, both island council and women’s development committee members illegally transferred more than MVR2 million (US$129,700) in public funds to their personal bank accounts. An LGA team was dispatched to the island following numerous complaints of alleged corruption and embezzlement. Other violations of public finance and civil service rules flagged in the report include the use of petty cash without any documentation and the failure of councillors to attend meetings. 

Councillor Ahmed Samooh was found to have taken a full-time job at the Kuramathi resort after he was elected. He was absent for 55 days without a valid reason in addition to 40 days of leave taken in violation of regulations.