Majlis Deadlock, Disability Benefits, Yameen Trial

Thursday, June 15

The monthly allowance for persons with disabilities was raised for the first time in 12 years. The revised framework was announced by Social Services Minister Aishath Mohamed Didi at a press briefing.

The baseline disability allowance was increased by 50% and new benefits were introduced based on the types of assistive care required. The overall allowance was raised to MVR6,000 (US$389), up from MVR2,000 a month, “representing a substantial 200 per cent increase from the previous assistance,” according to the president’s office.

Of the more than 11,000 persons with disabilities, 222 would be eligible for MVR7,000 a month.

Thursday, June 15

As the High Court resumed hearings in the appeal of former president Abdulla Yameen’s 11-year imprisonment on bribery and money laundering charges, the opposition leader asked the court to expedite hearings.

The 64-year-old remains barred from contesting in September’s presidential election unless the conviction is overturned. The deadline for filing candidacy papers is 3 August.

Yameen was found guilty on 25 December of accepting a bribe from former lawmaker Yoosuf Naeem to arrange the no-bid lease of Vaavu Aarah. The former MP for Vaavu Felidhoo was also convicted of bribery and sentenced to three years, two months and 12 days in prison.

Aarah case timeline:

  • August 9, 2015 – Authority to lease Aarah transferred to tourism ministry on the order of president Yameen
  • August 13, 2015 – a company called 2G Pvt Ltd with a 99% stake owned by Yoosuf Naeem is created 
  • September 8, 2015 – 99% of shares in 2G Pvt Ltd sold to LA Resorts Pvt Ltd
  • September 9, 2015 – Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) hands over Aarah to 2G. LA Resorts issues US$1 million cheque to the MMPRC as the island’s lease acquisition cost. A separate US$1 million cheque is issued to Naeem.  
  • September 13, 2015 – US$1 million cheque deposited to Naeem’s account
  • September 15, 2015 – cheque for US$1 million issued by Naeem to then-president Yameen
  • September 17, 2015 – US$1 million deposited to an account opened under Yameen’s name at HSBC.

Yameen and Naeem insisted the transaction was a sale of US dollars for Dhivehi Rufiyaa, claiming it was unrelated to the resort lease.

Wednesday, June 14

Parliament remained deadlocked as a raucous sitting concluded without a vote on reconstituting standing committees. As opposition lawmakers protested loudly in the chamber, MPs from the newly-formed The Democrats raised consecutive points of order, objecting to including the committee composition in the agenda. MP Hassan Afeef, who was presiding in the absence of the speaker and deputy speaker, adjourned proceedings twice for talks with political parties to resolve the impasse. But citing disorder as MPs continued vociferous protests, Afeef ended the sitting after taking a phone call.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s 55-member majority of the 87-member house accused Afeef – who was among 13 MPs who left the MDP to form The Democrats – of allowing the opposition to disrupt proceedings by refusing to exercise the chair’s authority to expel unruly MPs.

A vote on approving a reshuffle of committee membership was put on the agenda despite the failure to reach an agreement through cross-party talks. As the majority party with 64% of seats, the MDP refused to cede a voting majority on any of the standing committees (seven out of 11 members). But MPs from the MDP’s breakaway faction insisted that opposition lawmakers should have a majority of the government oversight committee.

Wednesday, June 14

Charges raised against former tourism minister Ali Waheed over the alleged sexual assault of female staff have been dropped, the Prosecutor General’s office confirmed.

The decision was made after the alleged victims and key witnesses retracted their statements.

Waheed has been living in exile in the UK since February 2021. He left the country after the criminal court lifted a travel ban and authorised him to seek medical treatment overseas. While the decision to withdraw charges paves the way for his return, Waheed would have to serve a two-month sentence handed by the Supreme Court over his failure to appear at an appeal hearing.

The former chairman of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party and president of the Jumhooree Party was sacked from the cabinet after the allegations surfaced in July 2020.

JP leader Qasim Ibrahim congratulated Waheed after the PG’s decision was made public.

Waheed is the coach of a London football club that recently won a district tournament.

Ali Waheed and Assad Ali.

The Progressive Congress Coalition accused Human Rights Commission members of “shamelessly” refusing to meet with the opposition leadership – who waited at the office for five hours – and condemned the summoning of the police as a “brazen act of obstructionism”.

But according to HRCM, the opposition leadership failed to attend the meeting scheduled for 11:15 a.m. They arrived an hour and a half late with a group of protesters, caused a commotion and refused to leave, the commission said.

The leadership visited the watchdog to file a complaint about Monday’s hearing of president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering trial “exceeding a shocking 13 hours, demonstrating a complete disregard for human dignity and the principles of justice.”

The rescheduled meeting took place on Thursday morning.

Tuesday, June 13

A sitting of parliament with a no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla on the agenda was cancelled in the absence of the speaker. The rules require the speaker to preside over an impeachment motion against the deputy, the secretary general noted, announcing that the sitting could not proceed.

On Monday, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed recused himself from presiding over sittings until a no-confidence motion against him could be put to a vote in two weeks.

Based on legal advice from the counsel general, the secretary general proposed three options to ensure the functioning of parliament, including the delegation of the speaker’s duties to a designated MP. But Nasheed refused to heed the advice.

In a bid to resolve the impasse, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party proposed retrospective rule changes to conduct sittings in the absence of the speaker and deputy speaker. But the changes would have to be approved with a floor vote.

Tuesday, June 13

The Information Commissioner’s Office contended that disclosing the number of Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives could imperil the import of staple foods.

The argument was made during an appeal hearing at the High Court, which was petitioned by Dhiyares journalist Ahmed Azaan after ICOM backed the defence ministry’s refusal to comply with a right to information request for details about Indian troops.

The defence ministry invoked the exemption for information related to national security and noted that an agreement with India includes a non-disclosure clause. Disclosing the information in breach of the agreement would adversely affect diplomatic relations and India could cut off aid and humanitarian assistance, ICOM warned.

The fisheries ministry lifted longstanding bans on collecting sea cucumbers using scuba diving gear and using nets to catch fish in lagoons.

The general fisheries regulation was amended to omit both practices from the list of banned fisheries activities. But permission to use nets to catch fish that enter lagoons of inhabited islands – such as mackerel – must be sought from the island or city council. Only licensed fishing boats were previously allowed to catch bait fish from lagoons.

Monday, June 12

Former vice president Ahmed Adeeb testified as a prosecution witness in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering case over the lease of an island for resort development. 

Raa Fuggiri was leased without a bidding process to the Dubai-based Classic Citi Island Holding for US$1.55 million. According to revelations from the Pandora Papers, Classic Citi was a partnership involving the family business of Indian property developer Avinash Bhosale and influential logistics businessman Amit Kumar Gandhi.

Yameen is accused of accepting a US$1.1 million bribe through local businessman Ahmed ‘Krik’ Riza, who acted as an intermediary for the Dubai company. On 26 May 2016, Riza transferred US$1.1 million from an account at the Bank of Ceylon to Sun Construction, which then deposited the funds as an “in-house transfer” on 7 June, 2016 to a Bank of India account of sister company Sun Investment. On the same day, the money was deposited with an additional US$800 to then- president Yameen’s account at the Islamic Bank.

Yameen denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the transfer was from a legitimate currency exchange transaction with Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, owner of the Sun companies.

But Adeeb told the court that the Fuggiri resort lease was signed after assuring the US$1.1 million “commission” for Yameen. Adeeb, who was tourism minister at the time, said he convinced Yameen to raise the island’s lease acquisition cost to US$1.55 million after Krik Riza proposed US$400,000, which was well below the average cost of other islands leased from the atoll.

Adeeb also claimed that MP Ibrahim Rasheed had been present at the first meeting about the Fuggiri lease as a representative of the Dubai company. But the former ruling party lawmaker accused Adeeb of perjury.

Abdulla Ziyath, former managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, also testified during the 13-hour hearing. The MMPRC was a the centre of a corruption scandal in which US$90 million was stolen during Yameen’s administration, the bulk of which was resort acquisition fees that were embezzled from the government-owned tourism company.   

Monday, June 12

Sunday, June 11

Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan arrived on a state visit to the Maldives.

The official welcome ceremony at the Republic Square in Malé featured a performance by school children and a 21-gun salute in his honour.

Officials talks took place between President Ramkalawan and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Monday, after which the two leaders presided over an agreement exchange ceremony and delivered a joint statement. A state luncheon was also hosted for the Seychellois first couple.

Four agreements were exchanged for mutual visa-free travel; introduction of direct air travel; cooperation on maritime security; and for cooperation in  capacity building and youth exchange programmes.

Sunday, June 11

Saturday, June 10

Parliament’s secretary general was at odds with the majority leader over a stalled no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla.

Secretary General Fathmath Niusha removed the impeachment motion from the agenda for Sunday’s sitting. It could not be tabled until the general affairs committee is reconstituted as parliament’s rules require the committee to approve procedures for debating the motion, including the number of MPs who could speak and the time allocated for each speaker, she said.

Standing committees have not been functioning since 13 MPs – including Eva and other loyalists of Speaker Mohamed Nasheed – left the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party in late May to form a new party. As the composition of committees is based on the representation of political parties, their resignation from the MDP necessitated a committee membership reshuffle. But political parties have been unable to reach a consensus on the proportion of MDP MPs and opposition and independent MPs to sit on the committees. As the MDP controls 64% of seats in the 87-member house, the ruling party cannot agree to the opposition’s proposal to hold 50% of committee seats with the rest to be divided among other MPs, Majority Leader Mohamed Aslam told Adhadhu.

Aslam accused Nasheed of using the committee reconstitution as a pretext to stall Eva’s impeachment motion. There was no obstacle to holding a meeting of the general affairs committee to approve procedures for the no-confidence motion, Aslam insisted, arguing that the existing committees remain in place until the new composition is put to a vote.

As the parliament’s secretary general Niusha and counsel general Fathmath Filza came under fire from MDP activists on social media, Nasheed expressed concern over the harassment and defended their integrity as independent officials.

Saturday, June 10

The Elections Commission gazetted regulations for September’s presidential election, prohibiting campaigning through religious sermons and holding rival campaign events at the same venue and time.

The voters registry was published on Sunday with a deadline of 22 June to submit complaints. A total of 282,672 people are eligible to vote this year.

The former coach of the national cricket team was found guilty on multiple counts of child sexual abuse and sentenced to 53 years in prison.

Mohamed Asif Ameen Khan, a South African national who coached both the male and female teams, was arrested in October 2019. He was accused of sexually assaulting minors and convicted based on the testimony of the underaged victims, which was backed up with corroborating evidence.