Primary Campaign, Expat Murder, Oil Spill

Friday, January 6

The Malé City Council conducted a fundraising activity to raise finances to repair and renovate mosques for Ramadan. The two-day event kicked off at the artificial beach with a kid’s evening.

The council is seeking donations because the budget provided by the government was insufficient, Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu tweeted in response to concerns.

A total of MVR313,397.90 (US$20,300) was collected on the first day, according to the council.

Friday, January 6

Switching sides, Yasir Abdul Latheef, MP for Kulhudhuffushi North, withdrew support for the president and endorsed Speaker Mohamed Nasheed for the Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential primary.

Echoing the lawmaker’s complaint over the slow pace of development compared to Nasheed’s administration, Kulhudhuffushi Mayor Mohamed Athif also declared support for the former president to become the MDP’s candidate.

Thursday, January 5

A National Disability Registry was officially launched at a function held on Raa Alifushi to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In his speech, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced that the monthly allowance for disabled persons was under review for a possible increase.

Thursday, January 5

Wednesday, January 4

After facing criticism over his absence from the campaign trail, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih joined his first campaign rally ahead of the Maldivian Democratic Party’s primary on 28 January. The president argued that he was the best choice for the MDP based on his ability to maintain a broad and diverse coalition. The MDP would fall short of securing 50% in this year’s presidential election without the backing of smaller parties, he warned, referring to coalition victories in all three multi-party elections since 2008.

In contrast to his usual calm and mild-mannered demeanour, President Solih appeared agitated at times, particularly during thinly veiled responses to Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, the estranged childhood friend who is challenging him for the MDP ticket. Declaring that he would not be “anyone’s slave”, the president stressed his process of decision-making through consensus “after listening to everybody”.

On Nasheed’s criticism over the failure to complete housing projects, Solih insisted that some flats out of 8,782 under construction in the Greater Malé region would be complete before the end of his five-year term in November 2023. Native residents of the capital would also be awarded 5,000 plots of land this year, he vowed.

Solih disputed Nasheed’s figures on monthly debt repayment and urged the “rival candidate” to “stop misleading” the public for political gain as unfounded warnings of imminent bankruptcy create fear and economic uncertainty. He also mocked Nasheed’s proposal to build an offshore platform for buying fish and providing ice and fuel to boats as unrealistic.

Speakers at a raucous opposition rally could be heard in the background as the president spoke. Across the road from the MDP meeting hall, opposition supporters were gathered at the artificial beach, chanting anti-government slogans and calling for the release of of convicted former president Abdulla Yameen.

On Friday, after concluding a two-day official visit to Raa Alifushi, President Solih visited three islands in the atoll for his primary campaign. He struck a more conciliatory tone in Innamaadhoo, reminding supporters to bear in mind that the rival factions should be able to reunite after the primary. At a rally in Meedhoo, he reiterated a pledge to provide basic services regardless of population size or political ideology.

Wednesday, January 4

Citing insufficient evidence, the Prosecutor General’s office decided not to press charges against three men suspected of using videos of men engaging in homosexual relations for blackmail, the police revealed.

Hamdhoon Abdulla, 37, Mohamed Mihad Mustahfa, 24, and Maumoon Moosa, 41, were arrested in late September. They were accused of threatening victims, demanded large sums of money and posting some of the videos online. 

All three were released in November after the PG office advised the police to file the case.

The men were suspected of having leaked secretly filmed sex tapes of several Maldivian men with a Bangladeshi man. The 25-year-old migrant worker, M. D. Alamgiri, was sentenced to seven months in prison in late August for “unlawful intercourse.” 

The scandal broke in late June with leaked videos of Alamgiri with lawyer Nazim Sattar, former MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed and a police officer. 

Tuesday, January 3

Malé Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu was among four people arrested from the opposition’s nightly protests in Malé against the jailing of former president Abdulla Yameen. All four were later released.

More than 70 people have been arrested from street protests since the opposition leader was convicted. But all were released without any charges in less than 24 hours.

Tuesday, January 3

Fifteen barrels worth of oil were removed from the Malé lagoon near the official jetty. The military’s oil pollution response team and coastguard divers began the cleanup on Sunday morning.

The 1,000 litres of oil could have spilled from a vessel that travelled near the capital, the Environment Protection Agency suspected.

Mohamed Nizam, a 45-year-old man from Gaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo with a criminal record, was arrested on suspicion of murdering a Bangladeshi man.

The arrest came three days after the police launched a search for Nizam and Mohamed Litan, a 35-year-old Bangladeshi man, both of whom were thought to be missing since leaving Vilimalé on an oil boat on the night of 28 December. The boat was found drifting near the airport channel a day later.

Nizam was arrested after he was spotted at a coffeeshop in Malé and his photo was shared on social media.

A body found floating in Vaavu Atoll on Monday is believed to be the missing Bangladeshi man.

Preliminary hearings resumed in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering trial over the lease of Raa Fuggiri island, just over a week after the opposition leader was convicted in a separate trial involving the no-bid lease of Vaavu Aarah.

Both cases stemmed from a corruption scandal in which US$90 million was stolen during his administration. In the Fuggiri case, Yameen is accused of accepting a US$1.1 million bribe to lease the island for resort development.

The prosecution sought the court’s permission to submit revelations from the Pandora Papers as new evidence, according to media reports. The documents leaked in late 2021 exposed Russian and Indian businessmen behind secret resort deals, including a former deputy chief of staff to Vladimir Putin, and a company linked to Avinash Bhosale, one of India’s biggest property developers, which was alleged to have paid a US$1.17 million bribe to then-president Yameen.

Monday, January 2

A suspect charged over the murder of 24-year-old Haris Abdul Gafoor near the halfway house in Hulhumalé in September 2017 was found not guilty.

None of the prosecution’s witnesses identified the defendant, Yameen Rasheed from Fuvahmulah, as the assailant, the judge noted, ruling that a statement from a secret witness was inadmissible as it had not been shared with the defence.

The defence also argued that the victim’s DNA found in Yameen’s jeans could have come from when Haris had assaulted the defendant a few days before his murder.

Monday, January 2

Only members who were in the Elections Commission’s registry by 18 December will be eligible to vote in the upcoming presidential primary, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s elections committee told the press, a day before the final voters’ list of more than 57,000 people was published.

The five-member committee dismissed Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s claim that 39,000 members, 80% of whom were his supporters, had been removed from the party’s registry. In early December, the party defended its new “cleaned up” registry and pledged to reinstate members who had been fraudulently registered with other parties.

Sunday, January 1

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed returned to Malé after door-to-door campaigning on several islands in the northernmost atoll to canvass support for his bid to win the Maldivian Democratic Party’s primary on 28 January.

Addressing supporters on Monday night, Nasheed criticised the failure to recover “a single cent” from US$90 million stolen during the previous administration, a corruption scandal whose beneficiaries include MDP ministers and lawmakers.  

After flying south to Fuvahmulah on Tuesday, Nasheed told supporters that the island’s development has been disproportionate to the constituency’s support for MDP over the past elections, pledging to facilitate tourism development with at least 1,000 beds. He repeated criticism that government projects, such as a stalled agricultural laboratory, were proceeding “at snail pace.” Back in the capital on the following day, Nasheed campaigned at the Hiya flats in Hulhumalé and called for housing benefits to help low-income households pay rent. About 20 people protested against Nasheed as he spoke.

Keeping up the busy campaign schedule, Nasheed toured islands in the central atolls of Alif Alif, Alif Dhaalu, Faafu and Dhaalu during the weekend.

Sunday, January 1