Nasheed Out, Resort Rape, Democrats Registration

Thursday, June 22

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party cried foul as parliament broke for recess after weeks of deadlock.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, who returned to chair Thursday’s sitting after recusing himself from presiding over the past two weeks, announced the recess despite a proposal by the MDP to extend the session until several pending tasks could be concluded, including the reconstitution of standing committees, approval of new members to the Elections Commission, and voting on impeachment motions against the speaker and deputy speaker as well as the attorney general and foreign minister.

Former president Nasheed blamed the deadlock on the MDP parliamentary group – which controls a 54-seat majority in the 87-member house – submitting no-confidence motions against both himself and Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla at the same time. But the MDP accused Nasheed of “unconstitutional and undemocratic conduct” to avoid calling a vote on the impeachment motions.

Later on Thursday, the MDP parliamentary group proposed holding a sitting during recess to complete the unfinished tasks. A motion signed by 29 MPs was submitted to hold a sitting within 24 days.

Thursday, June 22

The president ratified changes made to the elections law to allow persons who are blind or visually impaired to vote without an assistant in order to ensure secrecy of the ballot. The government-sponsored amendment introduces the use of a plastic device or template that could be placed on top of the ballot paper with checkmarks cut out to line up with the boxes on the ballot. Voters could touch the cut outs and tick the box for their preferred candidate.

The stencil idea was proposed by the Blind and Visually Impaired Society as a cost-effective alternative to printing ballots with braille, which the Elections Commission was unable to do within its budget. The association has long been advocating for blind voters to be granted the right to enter the voting booth by themselves.

A tourist was attacked by a shark while diving near Malé. The 28-year-old woman was treated for severe injuries at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

It was the first shark attack incident involving a tourist in recent years, prompting calls to ban shark feeding. In May last year, a fisherman who fell off his boat was also attacked by a shark.

The national carrier Maldivian increased domestic flights to cater to high demand ahead of a nine-day Eid holiday and annual school holidays. The airline added 23 flights over the next week, including a seaplane route to Baa Fulhadhoo, and more flights to Trivandrum and Cochin in India.

There were 70 domestic flights scheduled for Thursday – up from 20 to 30 daily flights normally – including 50 flights from Maldivian and 10 each from the private carriers Manta and Villa. Jetty and harbour areas in Malé were jam-packed as well with people travelling on speedboats.

The Eid holidays end on 1 July and schools are due to reopen in August.

Photo from Mihaaru

Wednesday, June 21

Former president Mohamed Nasheed resigned from the Maldivian Democratic Party, a month after his loyalists in a breakaway faction left the ruling party en masse to form a new party called The Democrats.

In a handwritten resignation letter posted on Twitter, Nasheed said he was unable to remain in the MDP in light of the situation of the country. The 56-year-old embattled speaker of parliament was also the MDP’s president and a key founding member.

MDP Chairman Fayyaz Ismail offered well wishes to Nasheed. “Whilst this is a sad day, this also paves the way for all parties to move forward in their chosen paths. Thank you for your dedication to MDP and the success achieved under your leadership,” he tweeted.

Shortly after Nasheed’s post, Central Hithadhoo MP Ahmed Rasheed also announced his resignation from the MDP, joining 13 other MDP lawmakers who left to set up The Democrats.

Wednesday, June 21

The police confirmed that no arrest has been made over the alleged rape of a Chinese tourist by a butler at the Ritz-Carlton resort.

Xu Yitong, a 26-year-old student in Australia, recounted the alleged assault in a Twitter thread and shared photos of herself with bruises, accusing the hotel of attempting to cover up the incident.

In the wake of widespread coverage in Chinese and international media. the police assured that “all necessary investigative actions are being taken to ensure a comprehensive examination of the case.” Results were pending from forensic samples taken from the victim and the Maldivian suspect.

The victim however disputed the police’s claim of having provided her with “immediate medical assistance and support.”

Tuesday, June 20

Human trafficking charges raised against ruling party lawmaker Ali Riza have been dropped, the Prosecutor General’s office confirmed after the Maldives failed to make progress on an annual report by the United States.

The MP for Milandhoo was the managing director of a construction company contracted to develop a resort. The charges were raised “alleging non-payment of salaries and intimidation, as well as exploitation of two labour trafficking victims among 200 migrant workers at a resort construction site,” the State Department report noted.

While traffickers were convicted for the first time in two years, the government failed to “proactively investigate trafficking crimes and did not identify any labour trafficking victims despite the prevalence of labour trafficking indicators among migrant workers” and “did not hold accountable government officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking crimes.”

Tuesday, June 20

A 65-year-old taxi driver died of injuries sustained in an accident in Hulhumalé. The taxi collided with a car near the Platinum flats. Two people in the other car were treated for injuries at the Hulhumalé hospital.

Monday, June 19

The government proposed changes to the composition of the Judicial Service Commission, a 10-member oversight body tasked with investigating complaints against judges.

If the amendments are passed, the speaker of parliament, the president of the Civil Service Commission, and the president’s representative would be removed to reduce the watchdog’s membership to seven. The reconstituted commission would include a Supreme Court justice, a High Court judge, a lower court judge nominated by his or her peers, the attorney general, a legal profession representative elected by licensed lawyers, and an MP and a member of the public approved by parliament.

Monday, June 19

An eight-year-old boy was found dead in an indoor pool at the Coco Bodu Hithi resort. The deceased was reported to be an Indian child whose family arrived for their vacation earlier in the day.

Sunday, June 18

The Democrats accused two members of the Elections Commission of infringing on the political rights of its members by voting against formally registering the new party.

The Democrats submitted the 3,000 membership forms required by law for registration in late May. On Sunday night, the EC called an emergency meeting to decide on granting approval. EC president Fuwad Thowfeek and vice president Ismail Habeeb voted in favour but commissioners Ali Nashaath and Mohamed Asif voted against issuing the permit. With commissioner Dr Mohamed Zuhair on leave to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, the vote was tied.

After the meeting, Fuwad told members of The Democrats who waited at the EC office that two commissioners wanted to make use of the full three-month period granted by law for the verification process.

But commissioner Nashaath said the two dissenting members wanted to recheck the membership forms because they have “lost confidence in the process due to the president’s actions,” accusing Fuwad of misusing employees and entertaining The Democrats “whenever they come here.”

“Even today, they hijacked the commission’s office with the president’s permission,” he told Adhadhu.

Nashaath and Asif refused to attend a meeting scheduled for Wednesday for voting on registration. The meeting could not be held due to a lack of quorum.

The Democrats accused the pair of demanding further verification as a delaying tactic, alleging undue influence on the independent commission by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in an “attempt to subvert the electoral process.”

Later on Sunday night, members of The Democrats joined supporters of the opposition Progressive Congress Coalition to protest against the EC.

Sunday, June 18

The public is losing confidence in the Elections Commission, a pre-election assessment by Transparency Maldives found. According to surveys, trust in the independent electoral body has fallen from 74% in 2013 to 43% in 2022.

“Several stakeholders, including most of the political parties interviewed, raised concerns around the alleged political influence on the EC. This also includes alleged government influence on the EC,” the report stated.

While there was “little chance of systematic voter fraud on the voting day,” the assessment flagged issues that could affect the fairness of the polls, including the abuse of state resources, the bias of mainstream media in favour of the incumbent, and the uncertainty over the candidacy of jailed former president Abdulla Yameen.

The assessment warned that recruitment by state-owned enterprises “could be politically motivated or used for political gain” with jobs in exchange for votes.

“SOEs account for more than 50% of the GDP. SOEs now account for more than 25,000 jobs, which is more than double the 2021 figure. This reflects more than 18% of the workforce,” the report observed, referring to the creation of jobs at powerhouses and other government companies, which “may be paving way for a patronage and clientelist system through SOEs.

The report also noted that mainstream media outlets depend on sponsorship from SOEs for up to 70% of their revenue.

Saturday, June 17

The police freed three men held captive in a house in Malé and arrested two suspects – one adult male and a minor. The victims required treatment for various injuries at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital. They were rescued after police officers knocked down the door of the residence in the Henveiru ward of the capital.

Saturday, June 17

On the occasion of World Oceans Day, Parley Maldives conducted a nationwide beach cleanup in collaboration with the education ministry and the Maldives Association for Tourism Industry. Students, government officials and resort workers joined the cleanup activity across all inhabited islands and resorts.

On his official visit to the United States, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid hosted a reception to mark the reopening of a Maldives embassy in Washington, DC. A full-time diplomatic presence was re-established after 14 years, which “signals a bold new era of reinvigorated and strengthened diplomatic ties between the Maldives and the United States,” according to the foreign ministry.

On Friday, Shahid met with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and “requested for increased higher education opportunities for Maldivians to study at American universities, highlighting the importance of academic exchanges, scholarships, and collaboration across various fields of study.”