MDP Exodus, Territory Cause, Pet Ostrich

Photo from Raajemv

Thursday, May 18

The criminal court acquitted Malé Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu on false testimony charges raised over the Noomadi payout case. 

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

But the prosecution failed to conclusively prove that a statement submitted as evidence had been made by Muizzu, the judge ruled.

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.

Thursday, May 18

Wednesday, May 17

A dozen MPs from Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s faction of the Maldivian Democratic Party resigned from the ruling party and announced the formation of a new party. The ‘Fikurrege Dhirun’ (Revival of an Ideology) party will also field a candidate in September’s presidential election. Former president Nasheed – who did not resign with his loyalists – is widely expected to be the new party’s candidate.

The MDP has abandoned its core values and become a “den of thieves,” alleged Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla, a cousin and close confidant of Nasheed.

The rest of the MDP’s 68-member parliamentary group – now down to 56 – are reportedly loyal to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The ‘Fikurrege Dhirun’ lawmakers functioned as a de facto opposition group since Nasheed lost the MDP’s primary in January to Solih. But Nasheed refused to endorse the incumbent, alleging widespread fraud and the disenfranchisement of 39,000 members.

Photo from Dhauru

Wednesday, May 17

Hassan Mughnee – a Jumhooree Party political appointee – was sacked as state minister for environment after alleging rampant corruption in the state utility Fenaka Corporation.

In a tweet that he later deleted, Mughnee also called President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih a “thief” who was “leading a team of corrupt thieves without any capacity to run [state-owned enterprises].”

Tuesday, May 16

Central Henveiru MP Ali Azim was expelled from the Maldivian Democratic Party for joining opposition press conferences and signing a no-confidence motion against Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath.

Azim represented Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s anti-government faction of the MDP in two press briefings held by a new opposition alliance formed against the government’s alleged forfeiture of Maldivian territorial waters.

After investigating a complaint, the MDP’s disciplinary committee banned Azim from returning to the party for one year or contesting in an internal election or primary for five years. If he wishes to rejoin the party, Azim would have to recruit 100 new members.

Four other MPs in Nasheed’s faction – Hassan Latheef, Ilyas Labeeb, Imthiyaz Fahmy and Yasir Abdul Latheef – were issued final warnings for repeatedly violating three-line whips and voting against the party line.

Of the MDP’s 68 MPs in the 87-member house. Nasheed’s faction reportedly has 13 or 15 MPs.

Earlier in the week, the MDP parliamentary group also decided to remove several MPs in Nasheed’s faction from standing committees. But the speaker refused to implement the proposed reshuffle.

It is President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih who should be removed from the party, Nasheed tweeted after Azim’s expulsion, blaming the estranged ally for the “loss of a part of the Maldives.” A delimitation of a new maritime border with Chagos could have been avoided if the Solih administration had accepted Mauritius’s invitation to resolve the dispute through arbitration, Nasheed contended.

Tuesday, May 16

An ostrich photographed outside a Malé home was hatched from a legally imported egg, Adhadhu reported, after photos and videos went viral on social media.

The fisheries and agriculture ministry authorised the import of 50 “domestic ostrich” eggs from Iran in January 2022.

But in the future, only registered poultry farms would be permitted to import non-native birds and livestock in order to ensure animal welfare and biosecurity, the ministry said on Tuesday, citing complaints about the sale of exotic birds to be kept as pets.

Monday, May 15

The Supreme Court upheld pre-trial rulings by the criminal court in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering case over the lease of Raa Fuggiri island. 

The opposition leader’s lawyers challenged the legality of several decisions by Judge Ahmed Nadheem, including the acceptance of former vice president Ahmed Adeeb as a prosecution witness, contending that his testimony would be prejudiced due to his animosity towards Yameen. The judge also rejected motions from the defence to seek key documents from the state and to reject pieces of the prosecution’s evidence over lack of relevancy.

The Supreme Court was petitioned after the High Court upheld the lower court’s rulings on admissibility and disclosure of evidence. A three-judge panel at the apex court ruled unanimously that there were no grounds to overturn the pre-trial decisions. As the criminal court was yet to hear witnesses, the justices noted that the defence has the opportunity to question the legal weight of their testimony.

In late December, Yameen was convicted in a separate trial involving the no-bid lease of Vaavu Aarah. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The High Court is due to hear an appeal of the guilty verdict. 

Both cases stemmed from a corruption scandal in which US$90 million was stolen during the former president’s 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 tycoon Ahmed Siyam as well as businessman Ahmed Riza were charged as co-defendants.  

Both the High Court and Supreme Court also rejected appeals filed by Sun and ‘Krik’ Riza over the criminal court judge’s rulings on pre-trial motions.

Monday, May 15

The Malé City Council inaugurated a community engagement unit with 78 officers to monitor roads and public spaces.

The police announced a search for Ibrahim Abdulla, 32, an alleged gangster known as Gabbarey, over an attempted murder. According to the media, Gabbarey is wanted in connection with the assault of MP Hassan Zareer from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party.

The MP for Mathiveri was assaulted with a hammer at the Habibi Café in Malé shortly after dawn on 1 May. He required treatment for head injuries at the ADK hospital. The police were able to identify five assailants from security camera footage, two of whom were arrested last week.

Gabbarey, who has a criminal record for assault and other offences, is the president of the MDP’s Machchangoalhi South branch.

The Health Protection Agency reported a spike in dengue with 320 cases in April, an increase of 151 cases from the previous month. But cases of common cold, Covid-19 and diarrhoea declined by the end of April after a surge earlier in the month.

After a growing number of infections and hospitalisation due to Covid-19 during recent weeks, new hospital admissions were down to 10 between 7 to 13 May.

The civil court ordered former MP Alhan Fahmy‘s King’s Forex Trading to repay MVR90,000 (US$5,836) to an investor.

In March, the online trading company was revealed to have collected MVR98 million from 1,864 investors. But MVR65 million has not been paid back, the police informed the media after an investigation into the alleged Ponzi scheme and money laundering operation.  

The company was accused of illegally setting up an investment scheme and collecting funds with the promise of high returns from forex trading. Most of the money was used for cryptocurrency transactions and the rest was transferred to the personal bank accounts of the company’s shareholders, according to the police. 

A payout of MVR39 million in profits was made to earlier investors with funds from new investors – the defining feature of Ponzi schemes. Discussions were ongoing with the Prosecutor General’s office to press separate charges for each complaint filed by new investors who lost money, the police said at the time.

Sunday, May 14

The new opposition alliance formed against the government’s alleged forfeiture of Maldivian territorial waters announced a mass protest for 2 June. The alliance accused President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration of “selling Maldivian seas” in the maritime boundary dispute with Mauritius. A petition calling on the president to retract his letter recognising Mauritius’s sovereignty over the neighbouring Chagos archipelago was also launched.

The alliance comprises of the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives-People’s National Congress coalition, the Maldives National Party, the Jumhooree Party and Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s anti-government faction within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party as well as former attorneys general Dr Mohamed Munavvar and Aishath Azima Shukoor and former home minister Umar Naseer. Both Munavvar – an expert on the law of the sea – and Naseer are running for president as independent candidates.

On Tuesday, a group of religious scholars met President Solih and made three proposals: share the letter sent to the Mauritius Prime Minister with parliament; petition the UN Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to review its judgment on delimiting the maritime boundary; and agree to a public debate with the opposition.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Maldives Reform Movement – which is part of the MDP-led ruling coalition – accused the opposition alliance of politicising the issue but also criticised the Solih administration and called for an appeal of the tribunal’s decision.

Sunday, May 14

Saturday, May 13

Indian authorities seized 2,525kg of high-quality crystal meth intended for sale in India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. The street value of the methamphetamine was estimated at US$1.4 billion, making it the biggest drug haul in the country. It was seized from a ship in Indian waters off Kochi.

While heroin and cannabis are the most commonly used drugs in the Maldives, a party subculture emerged over the past decade among younger generations that more commonly consume ecstasy, MDMA, methamphetamines, cocaine and LSD.

Saturday, May 13