Coalition Deals, Fraudulent Transactions, Factional Strife

Friday, February 24

The Jumhooree Party’s national conference kicked off with a momentous decision on backing the incumbent or fielding a candidate for September’s presidential election on the agenda.

A resolution that proposes either contesting alone or forming a JP-led coalition will be up for debate on Saturday’s afternoon, JP leader Qasim Ibrahim‘s advisor Ilham Ahmed told the press. The leader will moderate the debate and put the resolution to a vote. A final decision will be made by the new national council to be elected during the party’s fourth national conference, which is taking place at the Dharubaaruge convention centre in Malé with more than 700 delegates from across the country.

With 22,993 members, the JP is the country’s third largest party after the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party and main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has invited the JP to remain in the MDP-led coalition and to support his re-election bid.

But a majority of JP council members favours a third run by Qasim, unnamed sources told newspaper Mihaaru. Hailed as the “kingmaker”, the business tycoon’s endorsement was pivotal in previous presidential elections. Earlier this week, emissaries from both President Solih and Speaker Mohamed Nasheed met with Qasim at his Sun Island resort.

Nasheed attended the JP conference’s opening ceremony as a special guest along with Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Maldives Reform Movement leader Faris Maumoon.

In his speech, Qasim thanked Nasheed for facilitating his travel to Germany for medical treatment after he was jailed during former president Abdulla Yameen’s administration. Qasim characterised the pair as having worked the hardest and “suffered the worst” in the country’s pro-democracy movement.

He also complained that the JP does not get credit for the coalition government’s successes despite the contributions of its ministers and other political appointees.

Friday, February 24

The Maldives Development Alliance party led by Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo and owner of the ‘Sun Siyam’ resorts, endorsed President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for September’s election, announcing its decision to form a coalition with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party.

The MDA’s council made the decision “to establish political stability in the Maldives,” a day after meeting delegations from both the MDP and opposition Progressive Congress Coalition.

At the council meeting, Siyam heaped praise on President Solih for his management of the pandemic crisis, calling him “a person whose word you can trust” as the first president to maintain a coalition. The new MDP leader would not “insult Islam” and follow the advice of religious scholars. The former leader’s alleged secularism was the reason an alliance had not been possible in the past, he suggested.

On Wednesday, Siyam decided not to contest in the presidential election as previously announced, citing the prevailing “economic and political situation.” The MDA’s national council unanimously approved the decision in favour of forming a coalition and selected a five-member committee to consider invitations from President Solih and the opposition.

In late January, Siyam met with Solih at the president’s office. No information about their discussion was disclosed.

The MDA was previously allied with former president Abdulla Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives but chose not to renew its coalition agreement ahead of the 2018 election.

Thursday, February 23

The police warned of “a surge in cases of fraudulent money transactions” carried out through internet banking. In most cases, usernames and passwords were stolen through phishing scams.

“These scams often involve the use of fraudulent links sent via SMS or email in the name of reputable institutions and organisations,” the police explained. “Unsuspecting individuals who click on these links are directed to websites that appear to be legitimate but are, in fact, fraudulent. Once the victims enter their login credentials, the scammers can access their accounts and carry out unauthorised money transactions.”

Internet banking login details could also be stolen through compromised emails or from other devices where passwords are saved in browsers. The police advised checking whether email addresses and passwords have been leaked in any international data breaches from

The police warning came after the Bank of Maldives faced accusations of internal security breaches or wrongdoing by staff. Earlier in the week, several credit card users discovered unauthorised transactions, most commonly for US$149.99 on

The national bank assured that “customers are fully protected and will not face any financial loss” in cases where international merchants are compromised for any reason. It advised victims to submit dispute forms, after which the unauthorised transaction would be reversed. The bank also urged customers not to follow links in scam messages and to protect their internet banking login credentials.

The growing number of cases where BML customers have lost large sums of money prompted two MPs to seek parliamentary inquiries. MP Abdulla Riyaz submitted a case to the state-owned enterprises oversight committee as Moosa Siraj alleged complicity by the bank.

But most of the recent cases involved victims clicking links that promised nude photos of actress Aminath Rishfa, Dhauru reported, citing a credible source with knowledge of transaction disputes submitted to BML as well as subsequent police investigations. In two exceptions, a customer’s e-SIM was cloned and the phone of another customer’s child was accessed.

In November, BML officials told parliament’s SOE committee that no fraud transactions have occurred as a result of the bank’s “system being penetrated,” blaming compromised phones or emails of account holders.

Thursday, February 23

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions indicate that the Maldives is about to enter a coral bleaching season, the Maldives Marine Research Institute warnedappealing for reports of any signs of bleaching in the country’s reefs. 

Two masked men vandalised the Juice Time takeaway café in Hulhumalé around sunset. Security camera footage shared on social media shows the men in helmets scare off the cashier and smash up the shop with hammers before fleeing with cash from the counter.

A ‘Formative Assessment of Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in the Maldives‘ prepared by the Maldivian Red Crescent and the US-based NGO FHI 360 was officially released. The take-up for booster doses remains low at 37% whilst more than 85% completed two doses after the initial rollout in 2021.

“In general, there is a high level of complacency about COVID-19 disease itself with most people perceiving it as a mild disease and without much knowledge about the long term consequences of the disease,” the report stated. “At the same time, confidence about the vaccine itself is very low. People perceive the consequences of taking the vaccine to be more harmful than getting the disease. Currently perceptions about the problem of COVID-19 are driven by low threat appraisal and low confidence in using vaccination as a response to the problem.”

body found floating in Vaavu Atoll was not a Bangladeshi man who went missing six days earlier, the police informed the media.

Mohamed Litan, 35, went missing after leaving Vilimalé on an oil boat with a 45-year-old Maldivian named Mohamed Nizam. The boat was found drifting near the airport channel a day later.

Three days after the police launched a search for Nizam and Litan, the local man was spotted in Malé and arrested on suspicion of murder. He is accused of killing and throwing the Bangladeshi overboard. Despite not finding the victim’s body, the Prosecutor General’s office is preparing to file murder charges.

Human bones found at an accommodation block for bridge workers that was destroyed by a fire in December belongs to a missing worker, the police revealed, citing the results of DNA testing.

The truck driver was discovered to be missing on the morning after the fire in Gulhifalhu. The remains were found a day later.

Wednesday, February 22

The Adhaalath Party declared support for President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s re-election bid, deciding to renew its coalition with his Maldivian Democratic Party.

The religious conservative party’s consultation council voted 38-4 to endorse the incumbent for September’s presidential election. The president has assured Adhaalath’s “full participation” in formulating his manifesto, according to the party, whose leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla is Solih’s minister of home affairs.

Following his victory in the MDP primary in January, the party’s council authorised Solih to enter coalition talks with party leaders, after which he extended formal invitations and promptly concluded negotiations with the Adhaalath Party. The ability to secure the backing of smaller parties – which is seen as necessary to win over 50% of the vote – was a key plank of Solih’s primary campaign. All three multi-party elections since 2008 were carried by broad coalitions.

The MDP’s other coalition partners – the Jumhooree Party and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Maldives Reform Movement – have yet to make a decision on fielding candidates or maintaining the coalition. 

The MRM is due to make a decision when Gayoom returns from overseas next month.

Wednesday, February 22

Ibrahim Riza, MP for Kaafu Guraidhoo, passed away in Malaysia after a long battle with cancer. He was 55 years old.

The opposition Progressive Party of Maldives called the founding member’s death “an irrevocable loss” as politicians and lawmakers offered condolences to his family.

A prominent lawyer who previously served on the judicial watchdog, Riza represented the Guraidhoo constituency for three terms.

He is the second MP to succumb to cancer during the current term after the death of Hussain Waheed in December 2021.

A by-election for the vacant seat will be held within two months.

MPs from rival factions of the Maldivian Democratic Party clashed in parliament during a debate on national debt.

The debate was called on a resolution submitted by Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla calling on the government to restructure debt.

Severe criticism of the government from MPs in Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s faction drew angry responses from MPs loyal to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Amid heated exchanges, Nasheed expelled MP Yaugoob Abdulla from the chamber for shouting over MP Ilyas Labeeb as the latter questioned the country’s ability to service debt, which is projected to reach MVR113 billion (US$7.3 billion) by the end of 2023.

Earlier in the week, MP Mohamed Waheed from Nasheed’s faction – which now functions as a de facto opposition group – submitted a resolution calling on the Solih administration to revert to the MDP’s manifesto.

The 66-member MDP parliamentary group – a majority of which is controlled by Solih’s faction – has taken disciplinary action against MPs in Nasheed’s faction for defying whip lines on several votes, including a sales tax hike approved last year. Three-line whips oblige MPs to attend and vote as instructed by the parliamentary group leader. Punishments have so far been limited to counselling and removal of privileges. But Majority Leader Mohamed Aslam has warned that repeat offenders could be barred from seeking the party’s ticket for re-election.

The Elections Commission disbursed MVR36.8 million (US$2.3 million) approved by parliament as state funding for political parties. The funds were allocated to six parties based on membership figures at a rate of MVR247 per person. The law requires a minimum of 10,000 members to be eligible.

The highest amount (MVR14 million) was released to the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (57,529 members at the end of 2022). The main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives with 38,632 members received MVR9.5 million.

While the Adhaalath Party and the newly-formed Maldives National Party were short of 10,000 members by the end of December, both parties were eligible for funding as their membership had been above the threshold when parliament passed the 2023 budget.

The National Centre for Information Technology invited Android phone users to test out the new national digital identity card with the eFaas mobile app. The trial run was offered to the first 500 users to submit requests.

To be officially launched in March, the digital ID card and driver’s licence from eFaas can be used for verification or accessing services from government agencies and businesses.

Concerns were raised on social media about the NCIT gathering personal data from multiple agencies without consent. But a state minister assured that the digital ID would not store information or share without consent.

Saudi Arabia restored the Hajj quota for the Maldives to the pre-pandemic level of 1,000, up from 453 last year.

Aside from the government-owned Maldives Hajj Corporation, slots will also be allocated to private companies, the Islamic ministry announced.

Last year, the ministry awarded the full quota of pilgrims to the Hajj Corporation, which reserved 353 spots for its waiting list. About 3,500 people reportedly paid 75% of the Hajj Corporation’s MVR69,965 (US$4,500) price to be waitlisted.

Performing the pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of Islam and compulsory upon all able-bodied Muslims.

Tuesday, February 21

Preliminary hearings concluded in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering trial over the lease of Raa Fuggiri island.

After issuing rulings on pre-trial motions, Judge Ali Nadheem announced a trial schedule with daily hearings for witness testimony. The new criminal procedures law envisions continuous hearings, he said, according to reporting on Tuesday’s hearing. But defence lawyers complained and urged the judge to reconsider. A High Court appeal on behalf of Yameen is due to begin soon, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed noted.

To address their concerns, the judge amended the schedule with more days between hearings. But Jameel still protested about hearings on four consecutive days in late March. The judge did not make further changes and asked the lawyers to submit their concerns in writing.

The trial is due to begin with opening statements on 9 March.

In late December, Yameen was convicted in a separate trial involving the no-bid lease of Vaavu Aarah. The opposition leader was sentenced to 11 years in prison. 

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 Sun Construction and Sun Investment companies of resort magnate Ahmed Siyam as well as businessman Ahmed Riza were charged as co-defendants.  

After the hearing, the opposition coalition accused the government of unduly influencing the judiciary to fast-track Yameen’s trial in order to ensure that he could not contest in September’s presidential election.

At a previous hearing, the prosecution sought the court’s permission to submit revelations from the Pandora Papers as new evidence. 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.

Tuesday, February 21

The criminal court heard testimony from prosecution witnesses in Malé City Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s trial over the Noomadi payout case.

The former housing minister is accused of providing false testimony to an international arbitration court about the cancellation of two housing projects. His statement is alleged to have backed the company’s claim of unlawful contract termination by the previous administration.

In late 2019, the current administration paid US$55 million as compensation to Noomadi Resorts and Residences. An out-of-court settlement had been reached after Noomadi filed two cases at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague seeking US$155 million in damages and legal costs.

Contrary to Muizzu’s claim at arbitration, the housing minister had been present at a meeting where the cabinet’s economic council discussed taking back an island that was to be leased for Noomadi to build luxury villas, the prosecution contends. Three administrative staff from the president’s office were called to the stand to establish the validity of minutes submitted as evidence, according to media reports of Tuesday’s hearing. But the defence challenged their validity over the lack of signatures from participants.

Two housing ministry staff also testified about Noomadi’s project falling behind schedule, the cause of delays, and extensions that were granted in 2014 and 2015.

If found guilty, the mayor could face a jail term of four months and 24 days.

There were 195 marriages and 127 divorces in January, according to the family court.

In 2022, the family court officiated 2,514 marriages and registered 1,346 divorces.

The Maldives has the highest divorce rate in the world.

New rules were enacted for the operation of spas or massage parlours, outlining standards and requiring all existing establishments to register within 90 days. Spas that continue without registration could be fined MVR10,000 (US$648) and shut down.

The first to specifically target spas, the regulation was introduced by the economic development ministry amid growing concern over brothels operating in the guise of massage parlours, many of which are openly advertised on social media. The new rules require advertisements to adhere to strict guidelines based on societal norms. Images or videos of a person cannot be used in any advertisement or promotion.

On Tuesday night, the police raided the Roalhi guesthouse in Malé and arrested four people over alleged prostitution and solicitation. The suspects included two 43-year-old men – a local and an expatriate – and two foreign women aged 36 and 31. The Maldivian man was caught in the act, according to the police.

File photo of prostitution raid.

Monday, February 20

The civil court accepted one of three lawsuits filed to annul the Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential primary. The cases were filed “on behalf of petitioners who wished to challenge the legality of MDP leadership’s actions in disenfranchising 39,911 members” ahead of the polls on 28 January, according to lawyer Dhiyana Saeed, a former attorney general.

After a hard-fought and divisive campaign, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih secured the MDP ticket with a landslide victory of 61% (24,566 votes). Speaker Mohamed Nasheed trailed with 39% (15,641 votes). The turnout was 71% of the party’s 57,255 members.

But Nasheed refused to concede, alleging widespread fraud and blaming the removal of 39,000 members. Most of the expelled members were his supporters, Nasheed insisted.

According to the MDP leadership, the voter list was based on a “cleaned up” registry that is identical to the official registry at the Elections Commission. In May last year, the MDP’s national council gave a three-month period for the 39,000 members to either verify their membership or formally register with the EC. The party also pledged to reinstate members who had been fraudulently registered with other parties.

The mismatch between the MDP and EC registries dates back to the removal of nearly half of the party’s members in 2016, which was done after the political parties law was amended to require all members to submit fingerprinted forms.

Meanwhile, in lieu of endorsing Solih, Nasheed has been recruiting members to form branches within the MDP under his campaign slogan ‘Fikuregge Dhirun’ (Revival of an Ideology), aiming to sign up 50,000 members in the hopes of calling an extraordinary congress “to annul the rigged election”.

Monday, February 20

The Anti-Corruption Commission instructed the the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation to recover US$2.4 million from Abdulla Asim.

Asim, an uncle of the MMPRC’s convicted former managing director Abdulla Ziyath, was among the beneficiaries of a corruption scandal in which US$90 million was stolen through the government company. The bulk of the embezzled funds was resort acquisition fees. The money was siphoned off through a private company and allegedly used for bribes and political purposes.

The first ‘Strategic Dialogue’ between the Maldives and the United Kingdom took place in Malé.

“The discussions focused on thematic areas including economic and trade cooperation, security cooperation, governance, democracy, human rights and rule of law, environment and climate change, higher education, visas and immigration and regional and international cooperation,” according to the foreign ministry. “Following the discussions, the two countries agreed to establish Maldives-UK working group on maritime security and a working group on trade. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed to formalise the Ocean Country Partnership Programme under the UK’s Blue Planet Fund.”

After monitoring 49 protests staged by the opposition since the jailing of former president Abdulla Yameen, the Human Rights Commission flagged violations by protesters in exercising their right to freedom of assembly, including blocking traffic, using obscene language, and obstructing police duties. In one instance, a minor was seen among the protesters. The watchdog also noted potentially harmful instances where water was thrown at protesters and a man on a motorcycle barged into a protest march. In some cases, the police used force to disperse the protest or pepper-sprayed people without prior warning, the commission found.

The HRCM also urged journalists to uphold standards in observing protests and to act responsibly in their reporting.

Earlier in the week, an opposition protester was arrested on suspicion of hitting a police officer with a stick. Ibrahim Shammoon – who has a criminal record for drug use and theft – was alleged to have assaulted the officer as police tried to disperse the crowd after they stopped a foreign diplomat’s car.

Contrary to media reports, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital has five portable ultrasonography machines, the government-run hospital said. However, the hospital does face difficulties in purchasing machines of specific brands requested by specialist departments, it conceded, citing stringent processes mandated by public finance rules.

IGMH’s press statement was issued in response to media coverage of a tweet by a doctor that appealed for a donation of a USG machines to the IGMH’s intensive care unit.

Sunday, February 19

Only foreign companies registered under the government’s foreign direct investment policy could lease land from Thilafushi, the Housing Development Corporation noted. Foreign companies carrying out construction work on a project basis will not be eligible.

In a bid to alleviate the high cost and shortage of land for industrial use, HDC – the state-owned developer of the manmade islands of Hulhumalé, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi near the capital Malé – plans to reclaim 150 hectares of land and to sell or lease 50 plots from 4.3 hectares.

In the face of criticism, HDC previously assured that 90% of the land would be reserved for Maldivian businesses with rent control. Foreign companies approved for FDIs would be able to lease land for 99 years.

On 7 February, HDC invited expressions of interest with a minimum price of MVR1,700 (US$100) per square feet. The size of the plots range from 2,500 square feet to 35,000 square feet.

Sunday, February 19

The whereabouts of a 31-year-old man who had been missing for 13 days remains a mystery. Mohamed Asir Ismail went missing from Malé on 4 February. The police later identified him on security camera entering the Velana International Airport’s terminal later that night. But there was no record of him boarding a plane. 

According to Asir’s family, he left home to go to work at a family-owned shop in Hulhumalé. Nearly two weeks later, he was found sitting in the waiting area of the airport, wearing the same clothes as the night he went missing. Asir has since refused to answer any questions about what happened, a family member told Mihaaru.

Saturday, February 18

Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi came under fire for mocking an opposition activist who was deported from India.

Abdul Samad, president of the Hulhumalé branch of the Progressive Party of Maldives, was taken from the Manipal hospital in Bangalore by Indian immigration officials on 11 February and sent back to the Maldives two days later. He was held incommunicado at a “very cold” airport office for 18 hours over an alleged visa violation, Samad – a former serviceman who had been involved in the opposition’s ‘India Out’ protests – told Channel 13 upon his return, breaking into tears during the interview.

In her speech at a Maldivian Democratic Party rally on Friday night, Mariya called Samad a “coward” and mocked his complaints. Maldivian soldiers are being trained so that they “won’t cry after staying in a cold immigration room,” she said.

The remarks were widely condemned as disrespectful and unbefitting of a minister. Extreme cold is a form of torture, some lawyers pointed out. The opposition coalition accused her of trying to please the Indian ruling party.

Responding to criticism on social media, Mariya contended that the issue should be talked about in order to avoid other citizens facing the same fate, reminding the opposition of “repeated” advice not to belittle or antagonise countries that Maldivians travel to for basic needs such as medical treatment.

Saturday, February 18

The Housing Development Corporation hosted the Fannuge Dharin art festival at Hulhumalé’s Central Park. Launched in 2013, the event is “organised by artists to gather all talents [and to] set a platform to meet established artists.” The 24th session featured live music and showcased the work of 40 creative artists in various mediums.