Breakaway Democrats, Vigilante Justice, Manadhoo Murder

Friday, May 26

Two arrests were made over the murder of Naeema Moosa, a 62-year-old was found dead in her home in Manadhoo on 7 April. The murder weapons have been discovered, the police chief revealed. The knives were dug out along with the clothes worn by the assailants, which were burned and buried in a hole at the beach.

The suspects in custody are both young Maldivian men with criminal records for drug abuse and assault, one of whom has confessed in court to stabbing the victim, according to media reports.

Photos from Mihaaru

Friday, May 26

Maldives National Party leader Mohamed Nazim was formally handed the party’s presidential ticket during a rally at the artificial beach in Malé.

Thursday, May 25

As hearings resumed in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering case over the lease of Raa Fuggiri island, Judge Ahmed Nadheem ordered the prosecution to hand over evidence requested by the defence within five days. The opposition leader’s lawyers asked for investigation files from the police, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the presidential commission on asset recovery.

The order was made in compliance with a Supreme Court judgment on admissibility and disclosure of evidence, which was delivered last week after Yameen appealed the criminal court judge’s pre-trial rulings, including the rejection of a motion for the investigation files.

The judge postponed calling witnesses as previously scheduled to hear new motions from the defence.

Yameen’s legal team challenged the admissibility of evidence on the grounds that the presidential commission lacked the authority to investigate money laundering offences. But prosecutors retorted that the investigation had been conducted jointly with the police and ACC in accordance with the criminal procedures law. Defence lawyers also challenged the admissibility of bank statements from the defendants.

The trial is due to resume next week.

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.  

Thursday, May 25

The judicial watchdog suspended a magistrate who phoned and messaged a woman after she appeared in court for divorce proceedings.

The president’s spokesman denied allegations about President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih failing to check on Speaker Mohamed Nasheed as his estranged childhood friend recuperated in Germany after narrowly surviving a bomb attack in May 2021. The president did call and message family members and Nasheed himself to inquire about his health, Miuvaan Mohamed told reporters.

The allegation was made by MP Eva Abdulla in a much-discussed segment of an interview with Adhadhu. Due to his condition, Nasheed’s phone was with her husband Ahmed Shahid and relative Faathin Hakeem at the hospital in Germany, Eva said, and the president “didn’t call even once”.

Asked about the cause of the split in the ruling party, Eva cited the “lack of compassion” as the main reason she decided not to work with the president. The three-term MP for Galolhu North was among a dozen lawmakers who resigned from the Maldivian Democratic Party last week to form a new party.

The president’s spokesman also strongly condemned MPs in Nasheed’s faction for insinuating government complicity or foreknowledge about the assassination attempt. Legal action will be taken if the allegations are repeated outside parliament, where lawmakers are protected by privilege, Miuvaan warned.

As part of Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim’s presidential campaign, a “youth event” dubbed Furaveerun was held at the Central Park in Hulhumalé, featuring fireworks, music and dance performances.

At the event, Qasim’s wife Aishath Nahula – transport minister and JP deputy leader – presented membership forms from more than 2,000 young people who recently joined the party.

The High Court upheld an order by the Information Commissioner for the president’s office to disclose receipts from the president’s visit to the UN General Assembly in New York in 2021.

The president’s office refused to comply on privacy and security grounds after a right to information request was filed by opposition-aligned news website Dhiyares. The Information Commission ordered disclosure with necessary redactions but the president’s office appealed to the High Court.

The president’s office failed to provide a legal justification for not disclosing the receipts with redactions, the court ruled.

Wednesday, May 24

45kg of heroin was found submerged in a lagoon near Faafu Filitheyo island last Thursday, police informed the media.

The operation was conducted based on intelligence information and no arrests have been made yet.

Wednesday, May 24

The Elections Commission decided to dissolve former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom‘s Maldives Reform Movement after the party fell below the minimum 3,000-member threshold. MRM failed to register enough members within a three-month period, according to the EC.

But the party cried foul, alleging the fraudulent de-registration of members, and urged the EC to reconsider its decision. “The process that led to this is indicative of the corruption and lawlessness that is plaguing our beloved country and has sadly become the accepted norm,” MRM leader Faris Maumoon tweeted.

Tuesday, May 23

A no-confidence motion to remove MP Eva Abdulla as deputy speaker of parliament was submitted with the signature of 49 MPs from the Maldivian Democratic Party, seven more than the 44-vote simple majority of the 87-member house needed for impeachment. Independent MP for Faafu Nilandhoo, Abdul Muhsin Hameed, who is reportedly about to join the MDP, also signed the motion.

The signatures of five of the MDP’s 55 MPs – Fonadhoo MP Moosa Siraj, Bilehdhoo MP Ahmed Haleem, Central Hithadhoo MP Ahmed Rasheed, Machchangoalhi South MP Ahmed Haitham and Kulhudhuffushi North MP Jamsheed Mohamed – were absent from the list.

Eva was among a dozen MDP MPs who quit the ruling party last week. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s faction and corrupt government officials have hijacked the MDP and betrayed the party’s democratic values, they alleged, announcing the formation of a new party.

Tuesday, May 23

Contrary to previous assurances, the 6.7km Thilamalé bridge under construction by Indias Afcons is behind schedule, Infrastructure Minister Mohamed Aslam conceded in response to a question from a lawmaker. While the developer could “catch up somewhat but can’t catch up completely”, the government has not decided to offer a time extension yet, Aslam said.

Piling work for pillars is ongoing between Malé and Vilimalé. The prefabricated superstructure is being manufactured at the Afcons work site in Gulhifalhu, where accommodation for the project’s 1,500 workers and most of the machinery are also based. 

Funded by loans and grant aid from India, the US$500 million ‘Greater Malé Connectivity Project’ involves building three overwater bridges across deep channels between the capital and its satellite islands of Vilimalé, Thilafushi, and Gulhifalhu. Together with viaducts and on-grade roads, the bridges would also facilitate the relocation of the Malé port to Gulhifalhu and the development of an industrial hub on Thilafushi, two artificial islands created through reclamation of lagoons.

Ibrahim Abdulla, 32, an alleged gangster known as Gabbareywas arrested on charges of attempted murder. Abdulla turned himself in after the police announced a search last week.

According to the media, he was 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 earlier this month. 

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

Villingili MP Saud Hussain was injured in an accident after his motorcycle collided with a pickup on the Hulhumalé highway. The ruling party lawmaker required treatment at the ADK hospital for minor injuries to the wrist, shoulder and ankle.

The Environment Protection Agency slashed a fine imposed on Alimatha resort for dumping food waste into the sea last year. The fine was reduced from MVR312,000 (US$20,233) to MVR45,000 after the resort filed an appeal to the environment ministry. It was Alimatha’s first offence and there was no evidence to prove that it had been a common practice, the EPA decided after reviewing its fine.

A 15-year-old regulation that permitted resorts to dump organic or biodegradable waste was amended in early 2022 to outlaw the practice. The old rules required resorts to ensure that currents carry waste away from islands. But resort waste routinely washes up on the shores of nearby islands.

Monday, May 22

The criminal court heard witness testimony in the murder trial of Filipino nurse Mary Grace, who is alleged to have been killed by her husband Marvin Vargas with help from his Maldivian lover Haleemath Lamha. 

All three worked as nurses at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in the capital. The man is accused of assaulting and strangling his wife to death in the couple’s residence in Malé on 19 October 2021. The 24-year-old Maldivian woman was charged with aiding and abetting the murder. 

Mary Grace learned of the affair when she checked her husband’s phone and discovered intimate messages and photos, a friend and co-worker of the victim told the court. But the couple’s relations improved later and Mary had appeared normal on the day of her death, according to the prosecution witness, who had worked with her on a duty shift.

Her death was initially reported by her husband as suicide by hanging. But suspicions of foul play prompted a police investigation and a postmortem determined head and neck injuries to have been the cause of death.

Doctors who examined the body and a police officer who searched Lamha’s room also testified as prosecution witnesses. Mary Grace appeared to have been strangled as her face was purple, a doctor said, noting the lack of any signs on her neck to suggest death by hanging.

A drug called  succinylcholine used to induce paralysis was detected in a blood sample from the victim’s body. An empty bottle of succinylcholine along with a syringe and other controlled drugs were found in Lamha’s residence. Contrary to her denial, evidence also showed that Lamha had gone to the couple’s apartment shortly before the alleged murder, the prosecutor said at a previous hearing.  

Monday, May 22

A 30-metre catamaran research vessel built in Goa, India for the Environment Protection Agency was handed over to the Maldives government. Built with World Bank funding and named Thimaaveshi (environment in Dhivehi), the vessel is equipped with a diving compression room and wet and dry laboratories. The ship, which will be used to track the impact of climate change on fisheries and coral reefs, is expected to arrive by the end of the month.

Briefing the press on the inclusion of the waste collection fee in electricity bills for the Greater Malé Region, the Waste Management Corporation’s managing director Yoosuf Siraj said households that use below 34 units will not be charged the MVR150 (US$10) monthly fee. The fee for April will be included in the electricity bill delivered in early June, he noted.

With effect on 1 June, WAMCO will charge MVR4.93 per day for collection from apartment doorsteps. The MVR150 monthly fee applies for collection from the ground floor.

In March, WAMCO urged households and commercial residential properties to submit a utility meter exclusion form to remove maintenance, service, booster pump and telecom meters from WAMCO’s billing list. Property owners could also submit separate forms to tie charges to a primary meter or to group charges of multiple meters to a primary meter. 

The environment ministry decided to merge the garbage collection and electricity bills due to the failure of a majority of households in the capital to pay the fee. Of 53,690 homes in the Greater Malé Region, only about 21,000 regularly paid the fee after registration with WAMCO.

Three opposition lawmakers were expelled from the chamber for protesting in front of Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who appeared in parliament to answer questions about progress on island police stations. MPs Ahmed Shiyam, Mohamed Saeed and Hussain Mohamed Latheef accused the Adhaalath Party leader of mistreating jailed former president Abdulla Yameen and demanded the opposition leader’s release.

MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa from the ruling party stood in front of the minister as Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla repeatedly advised the opposition MPs to return to their seats. She adjourned proceedings until order could be restored.

Sunday, May 21

A breakaway faction of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party led by Speaker Mohamed Nasheed sought permission from the Elections Commission to form a new party called ‘The Democrats.’

On Wednesday, the EC authorised the group to start gathering the 3,000 signatures needed for formal registration. A membership drive was promptly launched with desks set up in four locations across Malé.

The party will be registered in time to field a candidate in September’s presidential election, spokeswoman Afshan Latheef – who resigned as chair of the Local Government Authority earlier this month – told the press.

Former president Nasheed, who has yet to resign from the MDP and remains its president, is widely expected to be the candidate.

Meanwhile, after the EC’s authorisation, the Maldives Third-Way Democrats formed by jailed former vice president Ahmed Adeeb complained that the name and turquoise blue colour of Nasheed’s party are too similar to the MTD’s.

Sunday, May 21

A video of an alleged thief doused in white paint went viral on social media and prompted outrage. The video showed paint being poured over the man head. He was also beaten and forced to spread paint over his body.

The 49-year-old local man was accused of stealing from a shop in the Maafannu ward of Malé.

The vigilante group and the alleged thief have been identified from security camera footage and the incident is under investigation, the police told the media.

The president’s office revised regulations to allow a 35-day paid leave for political appointees to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. Officials in political posts could also be granted a 15-day leave to perform the Umra pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. The leave period includes weekends and holidays and applies only to first Hajj or Umra trips.

Civil servants are also granted a 30-day paid leave for Hajj but not for Umras.

Four suspects were arrested in connection with the assault of an off-duty policeman in Hulhumalé. The officer required treatment at the Hulhumalé hospital.

The assailants “belong to a known crime group”, according to the police commissioner.

The Prosecutor General’s office was reported to be in the process of finalising a plea deal with members of the Dhuvaafaru island council, all of whom were suspended in November over alleged embezzlement.

After an investigation last year, the anti-graft watchdog sought corruption charges against six councillors as well as the council’s secretary general and assistant director. But in lieu of pressing charges, the PG office reportedly favours signing plea agreements with confessions from the accused.

According to a monitoring report published in July by the Local Government Authority, 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. 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.

The president and first lady inaugurated a new permanent collection at the National Art Gallery in Malé, which was reopened after “an extensive modernisation project.”

The collection features the work of 24 prominent local artists.

Saturday, May 20

The Malé Water and Sewerage Company denied allegations by a software developer about MWSC’s IT managers demanding bribes. Local company Paaticles complained on Twitter about delayed payments for a transport management app developed for MWSC.

But no staff member has withheld payments or demanded money from the contractor, MWSC insisted, citing an internal inquiry. The payment owed to Paaticles has not been unduly delayed either, it added.

Saturday, May 20

In the first quarter of 2023, the police investigated 57 cases of domestic violence but did not send a single case for prosecution, according to crime statistics for January to March.