Campaign Launch, Nasheed’s Democrats, Exile Return

Friday, July 14

An arrest notice was issued to Ong Beng Seng, a Singaporean billionaire who owns resorts in the Maldives under the Four Seasons and Six Senses brands.

In a rare high-level probe, the city-state’s anti-corruption body asked Seng to provide information about interactions with the transport minister.

Friday, July 14

Thursday, July 13

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed formally joined The Democrats at a rally in Malé’s artificial beach. The new party was formed by a breakaway faction of the Maldivian Democratic Party loyal to the former president, who left the ruling party last month.

In his speech, Nasheed said the “bottom has fallen out” of the MDP and vowed repeatedly to disband the party.

Speaking at the opening of The Democrats meeting hall on Sunday night, Nasheed continued his advocacy for switching to a parliamentary system. The Maldives has not seen a good leader and needs “a system where the bad leader can only do good”.

Photo from Adhadhu

Thursday, July 13

The Anti-Corruption Commission lifted a temporary block that stopped the sale of a lagoon by Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group

The watchdog blocked Villa’s US$20 million sale of the Vaaveddhifalhu lagoon in Kaafu Atoll last month after a complaint was filed over alleged wrongdoing. The ACC’s order for the tourism ministry to halt the transaction has now been rescinded, a media official confirmed.

The ACC’s move in June drew an angry reaction from Qasim, who accused the president of targeting his business interests.

The lagoon was leased for resort development during former president Abdulla Yameen’s administration. Villa successfully appealed to the Supreme Court to reclaim the lagoon after the government terminated the lease agreement. 

Central Maafannu MP Ibrahim Rasheed testified as a state witness in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering trial. The opposition leader is accused of accepting a US$1.1 million bribe to lease Raa Fuggiri island for resort development in 2015.

Rasheed, who was out of parliament at the time, was the local representative of Classic Citi Island Holding, a Dubai company that won the no-bid lease. He told the court about making a US$150,000 payment on behalf of the company and filing cases with the Anti-Corruption Commission and Auditor General’s Office upon discovering that the funds were deposited to a private company.

The Fuggiri trial resumed after five hearings were cancelled over recent weeks due to the illness of co-defendant Ahmed ‘Krik’ Riza, a local businessman who was charged with acting as an intermediary to bribery.

On Wednesday, the Prosecutor General’s office temporarily withdrew charges against Riza at the request of the police, who asked for more time to analyze an audio recording of an alleged meeting between the defendant and Assistant Commissioner of Police Mohamed Riyaz. The audio was submitted as evidence by the defence.

Yameen’s appeal of his 11-year prison sentence on separate bribery and money laundering charges over the lease of Vaavu Aarah meanwhile stalled at the High Court after a judge took a leave of absence. The opposition leader will be barred from contesting in the 9 September presidential election unless the conviction is overturned before 7 August, the deadline for filing candidacy papers.

The opposition coalition plans to petition the Supreme Court if the Elections Commission rejects Yameen’s candidacy.

Both the Aarah and Fuggiri cases stemmed from a corruption scandal in which US$90 million was stolen during Yameen’s administration, the bulk of which was resort acquisition fees that were siphoned off through a private company. 

Japan donated eight reconditioned ambulances with medical equipment to the health ministry, which handed over six of the vehicles to atoll hospitals and health centres.

Egypt decided to grant a 30-day on-arrival visa to Maldivians.

The foreign ministry said the Egyptian government’s decision was “testament to the close and historic relations between the two countries and the high regard accorded to the Maldives by the Arab Republic of Egypt.”

Wednesday, July 12

A terrorism suspect on trial over the abduction of journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August 2014 and the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed in April 2017 was released with an ankle tag. Aside from the electronic surveillance device attached to his feet, Ismail Abdul Raheem, known as Isu, was also barred from travelling overseas.

Isu was arrested with two others in June 2022 following a breakthrough in investigations by the presidential commission on deaths and disappearances. The other suspects were Ahmed Ismail – alleged leader of the ‘Buru’ gang in Malé – and Ahmed Muaz, an alleged gangster known as ‘Gatu Mua’ who was behind a machete attack on Rilwan’s workplace. Isu was charged with two counts of aiding an act of terrorism; Muaz was charged with planning an act of terrorism; Ahmed Ismail, known as Ahandhu, was charged with planning an act of terrorism and aiding an act of terrorism. The criminal court decided to hold closed-door hearings in September.

Ahandhu was granted a conditional release last month.

Wednesday, July 12

Tuesday, July 11

Jailed former vice president Ahmed Adeeb departed for Singapore after he was authorised to travel overseas for medical treatment. Adeeb, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence under house arrest, was hospitalised earlier this month.

The immigration department issued a temporary travel document instead of a passport after the Maldives Correctional Service’s medical board approved his travel. Adeeb was accompanied by MCS officers to ensure his return.

In August 2019, Adeeb fled as a stowaway on a tugboat and sought asylum in India. But the Indian authorities refused to let him disembark and handed him over to the Maldives police.

Tuesday, July 11

The Maldivian population is predicted to decline as the average fertility rate per woman has dropped to 1.7, below the replacement level needed for population growth, according to the census report released on the occasion of World Population Day

The 2022 census found that the fertility rate was down from 6.4 children per woman on average in the 1990s.

Nearly 70% of the population was married whilst 19% of people had never been married and 9% were divorced. As the birth rate fell, the percentage of children decreased from 28% in 2014 to 26% last year.

A total of 515,122 people live in the Maldives, including 382,751 Maldivians and 132,371 foreigners, about 41% of whom resides in the capital Malé, up from 39% in 2014. 

Indian construction workers went on strike in Hulhumalé over the poor quality of food.

The workers are reportedly employees of a subcontractor of India’s JMC Projects, which is building 2,000 social housing units in Hulhumalé phase two.

The workers also staged a week-long strike  in March over a 10-hour work day without overtime pay and the denial of paid sick leave. They returned to work  after the contractor took steps to address their grievances, according to the Fahi Dhiriulhun Corporation, the government-owned company that contracted JMC Projects.

After living in exile in the UK since February 2021, former tourism minister Ali Waheed returned to the Maldives. He was able to return as a free man after sexual assault charges were dropped.

Charges raised over the sexual assault of female staff at the tourism ministry were withdrawn in June after the alleged victims and witnesses retracted their statements, according to the Prosecutor General’s office.

The former chairman of the Maldivian Democratic Party and president of the Jumhooree Party was sacked from the cabinet after the allegations surfaced in July 2020. He left the country after the criminal court lifted a travel ban and authorised him to seek medical treatment overseas. 

He was warmly greeted by family and friends at the official jetty in Malé. Speaking to the press upon his return, Ali Waheed walked back allegations that he previously made against President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Waheed was the coach of a London football club that recently won a district tournament. He told reporters that he intends to focus on football in the Maldives.

Photo from Dhauru.

The Maldives and India exchanged MoUs during Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid’s official visit to New Delhi.

Nine MoUs were signed to implement projects under the Indian grant-funded High Impact Community Development Project scheme.

“These projects include the Development of Mental Health Unit at R. Ungoofaaru Hospital, Development of Volley Court in Sh. Kanditheemu, Establishment of Geydhoshu Mas Plant in M. Dhiggaru, Procurement of Furniture and Equipment for Sh. Foakaidhoo Community Centre, School Digitalization Project in Th. Vilufushi, Upgrading F. Nilandhoo Hospital, Upgrading School Computer Lab, Utheemu Palace Roof Preservation and Development of Palace Surroundings Project and Installation of Street Lights in Ga. Kondey,” according to the foreign ministry.

During the visit, Shahid held talks with his counterpart, External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, gave a dozen media interviews, and delivered the 43rd Sapru House Lecture (SHL) at the Indian Council of World Affairs.

Monday, July 10

At a special sitting held during recess at the request of the Maldivian Democratic Party, parliament approved the reconstitution of standing committees.

MPs needed to be reassigned to reflect the new composition of political parties after 15 MPs left the MDP and some independents joined the ruling party.

Based on its comfortable majority in the 87-member house, 62% of seats on the standing committees were reserved for the MDP.

Opposition proposals for oversight committees without MDP majorities were rejected and the majority party’s proposal was voted through.

Monday, July 10

The president inaugurated the oneGov platform to offer “government services through a modern digital interface“.

The platform can be accessed through the ‘efaas’ national digital identity to apply for services from five government offices at present, supported by three contact centres “with plans for continued expansion as more government services are added.”

Sunday, July 9

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih launched his re-election campaign in Shaviyani Atoll Komandoo, flying to the northern atoll and traveling to four islands on a private vessel. With a slogan emphasising political stability, President Solih warned against returning to the “tyranny and fear” of the previous administration, touted completed projects and pledged new ones. In Foakaidhoo, he inaugurated a water and sewerage network, an upgraded harbour, expanded football grounds, and an extension to the healthcare centre, and pledged to build asphalt roads and housing units. Other pledges included land reclamation in Komandoo and Maroshi.

In Malé on Wednesday, the president went door-to-door in Galolhu with the constituency’s lawmaker. He campaigned in the Guraidhoo constituency in Malé Atoll on the following day, concluding with a rally in Maafushi.

Sunday, July 9

A barge that ran aground near Fuvahmulah on Friday left before the Environment Protection Agency could determine damages to the reef. The barge owner initially denied running aground and a complaint will be filed with the police, EPA Director General Ibrahim Naeem told the press.

Photo: Riza Ismail

Saturday, July 8

The police denied the opposition’s allegations about the excessive use of force to arrest a man during a protest on Friday.

According to the opposition, the man was a bystander with his son who was arrested for taking a photograph. But the police said he was arrested for “throwing an object towards officers at the front line”.

Saturday, July 8

The 8.177-metre precast segments made for the 6.7km Thilamalé bridge are the tallest in the world, the Indian High Commission claimed.

The segments were manufactured using the long line casting method at the bridge developer Afcons worksite in Gulhifalhu.

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.