Security Breach, Shifting Alliances, Gender Violence

Friday, March 24

Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim put deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim in charge of campaign planning and appealed for cooperation from the party’s members. The move suggests that a third presidential run by the business tycoon is now a foregone conclusion.

On Tuesday, Immigration Controller Mohamed Ahmed Hussain, known as Hanafy, resigned from the JP, a day after he was named among new advisors to Qasim. Along with President’s Office Minister Ahmed Sameer, Hanafy is among the JP’s political appointees who have endorsed President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Friday, March 24

Thursday, March 23

The Islamic ministry started collecting fitr zakat or Ramadan charity payments. The alms for the poor is obligatory upon all Muslims before the end of the fasting month. In the Maldives, it ranges from MVR12 to MVR125 (US$8) based on the type of rice or flour consumed by the payer.

Zakat can be paid in person at the Islamic ministry or online through the platforms of local banks, telcos and the finance ministry.

Thursday, March 23

After distribution to low-income households, 50 ton of dates donated by Saudi Arabia will be available for collection from the Islamic centre’s lobby area in Malé and council offices on other islands starting next Sunday, the Islamic ministry announced. Packets will be distributed at a rate of one per household.

Wednesday, March 22

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s representatives met with the Jumhooree Party’s leadership to discuss a new political partnership.

Nasheed is expected to endorse JP leader Qasim Ibrahim for September’s presidential election. The JP rejected President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s invitation to remain in the Maldivian Democratic Party-led coalition and back his re-election bid.

A decision was made on formulating a joint manifesto, JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and MP Hassan Latheef from Nasheed’s faction of the MDP told the press after the talks.

After losing the MDP’s primary to President Solih in January, Nasheed refused to concede, alleging widespread fraud and blaming the removal of 39,000 members. The former president has since been recruiting members to form branches within the MDP under his campaign slogan ‘Fikuregge Dhirun’ (Revival of an Ideology). Lawmakers loyal to Nasheed have also been functioning separately as a de facto opposition parliamentary group.

The MDP’s statutes prohibit separatist factions or working against elected presidential candidates, President Solih told the press on Tuesday. But the MDP leadership has refrained from taking disciplinary action so far out of respect for Nasheed as a co-founder and former president, Chairman Fayyaz Ismail said, reiterating appeals for reconciliation.

Wednesday, March 22

The police announced plans to manage traffic in Malé during Ramadan, including no-parking zones and temporary bans on four-wheeled vehicles in busy spots such as the local market area.

As prayer congregations stretch outside mosques, the bus service in Malé also stops between 6 p.m and 10 p.m.

Ahmed Gais, who resigned as a member of the Broadcasting Commission in January, was appointed deputy managing director of the Housing Development Corporation.

The post had been vacant since the promotion of former DMD Ahmed Athif to lead the state-owned company.

Gais resigned from the broadcasting regulator to join President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s primary campaign.

The president ratified amendments approved by parliament to the police law, which makes polygraph tests optional in background checks for recruiting new police officers.

Tuesday, March 21

The Jumhooree Party’s decision to field a candidate in September’s presidential election would pose difficulties in decision-making if the JP’s political appointees are to remain in their posts, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told the press. Differences of opinion would be inevitable if coalition partners contest separately, he added, suggesting that the 2018 coalition agreement should be brought to an end. Discussions on the status of political appointees – including several ministers and bosses of state-owned companies – have taken place with JP leader Qasim Ibrahim but a decision has not been made, he said.

Earlier this month, the JP’s council rejected the president’s invitation to remain in the Maldivian Democratic Party-led coalition and back his re-election bid.

President Solih spoke to reporters outside the presidential residence Muleeage after a meeting with the leaders of Adhaalath Party and Maldives Development Alliance, two smaller parties that accepted his invitation to form a new coalition for the 2023 election.

A power-sharing agreement has been reached with the new coalition partners and details such as the share of political appointments will be made public later, the president said.

Photo from Mihaaru

Tuesday, March 21

A 25-year-old man wanted in connection with gang violence turned himself in to the police after more than a month in hiding.

Ibrahim Faih Nizam is accused of assaulting a man in a café in Malé on 14 January.

The police conducted a search operation for Faih and arrested five people on Sunday night on suspicion of helping him evade arrest.

A video of a man dragging a young woman on the ground and punching her went viral on social media and sparked outrage.

The incident occurred on the island of Madaveli in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll. The 33-year-old man was arrested and the island’s magistrate ordered his detention pending the outcome of a trial.

Monday, March 20

The president’s motorcade was blocked by opposition protesters on Malé’s ring road, forcing the military bodyguards to turn the cars back and take a different route. Videos shared on social media show armed soldiers and police officers trying unsuccessfully to disperse screaming and flag-waving protesters to clear a path.

Five protesters including MP Ahmed Shiyam were arrested. The opposition lawmaker was released about four hours later but the criminal court remanded the others into custody. A woman and a man were remanded for five days and the judge ordered two men to be detained for 15 days.

The motorcade was stopped for about 15 minutes in front of the Progressive Party of Maldives office as the president returned from a function in Hulhumalé. Opposition supporters have been protesting outside the PPM office almost every night since former president Abdulla Yameen’s 11-year imprisonment of bribery and money laundering charges on 25 December.

The incident sparked an outcry over the apparent security breach. It was the first time a presidential motorcade was forced back. The Maldives National Defence Force formed a special committee for an internal review. Colonel Abdulla Ibrahim, the commanding officer of the presidential guards, was temporarily relieved of duty “in accordance with procedures followed by the MNDF when faced with such incidents”. The commanding officer or his deputy usually accompanies the president to official events.

On Tuesday morning, parliament’s security services oversight committee decided to seek an incident report from the MNDF. Expressing concern over the potential danger to the president, most lawmakers criticised the security unit and called for disciplinary action. Questions were raised over the decision to take the route with the PPM office.

Responding to calls for her resignation on Wednesday, Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi suggested that she was being blamed because she “happens to be a woman”.

Monday, March 20

Faris Maumoon is a suitable running mate, Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim told reporters after a meeting with the Maldives Reform Movement leader. The pair met to discuss a potential coalition between the parties.

Asked if Faris – son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – could be his running mate, Qasim said it was “possible” and praised the MRM leader as “a capable and educated person”.

Qasim is the JP’s presumptive candidate for September’s presidential election after the party’s council rejected President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s invitation to remain in his Maldivian Democratic Party-led coalition.

The MRM, which is also part of the governing coalition, has yet to decide its stance. Faris told reporters that the party was trying to “find the best solution” and did not rule out fielding an MRM candidate.

Former president Gayoom suggested that a coalition with the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives – from which he had been expelled in 2017 – was not out of the question either.

Gayoom and Faris also held talks with President Solih on Sunday.

Qasim meanwhile met with leaders of the religious conservative NGO Salaf on Monday.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s new book ‘Killa Malé’ (Fortress Malé) was released. The book launching event at the National University’s auditorium featured a presentation by the former president. Nasheed’s fourth historical book covers the genealogy of Malé’s families between 1700 and 1900. It was based on a box of documents uncovered shortly after he assumed office in November 2008.

The president presented the annual Rehendhi Awards at an official function held to mark International Women’s Day. The awards recognise contributions to national development, community building and women’s rights.

An MoU was signed between the environment ministry, the Waste Management Corporation and the Olive Ridley Project to monitor sea turtle nesting in Vandhoo, an uninhabited island in Raa Atoll that hosts a regional waste management facility.

The NGO described the island as “one of the most significant sea turtle nesting sites identified in the Maldives”. With an Environmental Safeguard Officer co-supervised by all parties, the project aims to protect the endangered species and understand nesting trends on the island’s beach.

More than 800 SIM cards were registered under the name of a single person, an MP on parliament’s state-owned enterprises oversight committee revealed, citing information provided by the police. There were 24,000 SIM cards taken by two expatriates and 38,000 SIM cards under the names of a dozen foreign workers.

The registration of multiple phone numbers under one identity was a key problem flagged in a report submitted by the police about scam calls.

The police informed lawmakers of efforts with the Communication Authority of Maldives to tackle the problem of inmates using contraband mobile phones to make scam calls. Numbers traced to Maafushi jail are blocked.

According to the central bank,1,450 cases of money stolen from bank accounts through scam calls were reported last year.

The sale of activated SIM cards was banned with effect on 1 December. A SIM card is now activated after the service provider has the customer’s full information.

Sunday, March 19

Adhuham Mohamed was found guilty over the murder of a taxi driver during an attempted robbery in December 2019.

Qasim Hassan, 59, was found lying in a pool of blood near Hulhumalé’s Central Park. The murder weapon was found in roadside bushes and police retrieved fingerprint and DNA evidence from the crime scene.

Adhuham, who was 21 at the time, was arrested a day later. He confessed to police investigators and a criminal court judge at his remand hearing. But he later retracted the confession, claimed to have been under the influence of drugs when he stabbed the victim and denied any intent to kill. But the judge ruled that aiming a knife at a person’s neck proves intent and noted that Adhuham had fled the scene as Qasim cried out for help.

The sentencing will take place after the court hears from the victim’s heirs.

Sunday, March 19

Debate raged on social media about a concert performance by Aminiya School students that drew both criticism and praise. Two performers were held aloft by wires with red splotches on their white costumes. Some parents deemed the performance and makeup too scary for young children but others applauded their creativity.