Consensus Candidate, Pledges Galore, Candidacy Deadline

Friday, July 21

Speaking to reporters upon his return to the Maldives, MP Ahmed Siyam Mohamed denied being prevented from leaving Singapore over a court summons in legal proceedings by Hilton against his Sun resorts company.

He accused The Democrats of spreading false rumours and declined to comment on the legal dispute, referring questions to his lawyers.

According to media reports, the Maldives foreign ministry sent a letter urging the Singaporean authorities to take his “good character” and public standing into consideration “in determining any course of action to ensure Mr Siyam’s presence at court”. On Tuesday, Singapore’s High Court issued a committal order against Siyam and his Sun company over the failure to settle payments owed to Hilton.

The long-running litigation arose from Sun’s abrupt cancellation of a management agreement for the Irufushi resort in April 2013.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre ruled in favour of Hilton and awarded damages to the American hotel chain in August 2015. But the arbitral award remains unenforced eight years later as Sun filed legal challenges and appealed decisions.

In early February, the Maldives civil court ordered Sun to settle the dues, including compensation and accrued fines. But on 2 April, the High Court granted a stay order halting the enforcement pending a judgment on Sun’s appeal of the civil court order.

The stay order came after Siyam’s Maldives Development Alliance formed a coalition with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party and endorsed President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for September’s election. 

Friday, July 21

Soldiers were deployed to pump out waters as heavy rainfall flooded the southwest corner of Malé. Some main roads were inundated after 71mm of rain from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., the highest recorded across the country over the past day.

Thursday, July 20

Four MPs and two Malé City Council members were arrested after the opposition leadership staged a sit-in protest at the Republic Square, accusing the government of blocking jailed former president Abdulla Yameen’s candidacy. They were released with summons to appear for questioning.

The Republic Square is part of the ‘green zone’ with the president’s office and police and military headquarters where gatherings are prohibited.

With the deadline for filing candidacy papers on 7 August, Yameen remains barred from contesting in September’s presidential election after he was convicted of bribery and money laundering and sentenced to 11 years in prison. The Progressive Congress Coalition has been adamant that the verdict would be overturned by the High Court. But the appeal stalled after a judge took a leave of absence. The opposition coalition alleged government influence behind the “strategic recess”.

On Tuesday, the opposition leadership went to the High Court and refused to leave until a formal response was delivered to a letter expressing concern over the delay in concluding Yameen’s appeal. They left after riot police arrived at closing time.

On Monday, Abdul Raheem Abdulla, acting leader of the opposition coalition, called for the election to be postponed until “justice is served” to Yameen, accusing President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of “using his power and influence to keep the opposition leader and the presidential candidate of the Maldivian people” in jail.

On Saturday, an opposition delegation met with the Commonwealth’s pre-election assessment mission and “conveyed our concerns on the political persecution of our presidential candidate”.

Thursday, July 20

A Specialist Operations police officer was suspended for shoving journalists who were covering the opposition leadership’s protest at the Republic Square.

A cameraman was pushed to the ground as the riot police attempted to disperse journalists at the scene. Videos of the incident on social media prompted condemnation.

Doctors at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital removed a three-inch whistle from a child’s lung. The child accidentally inhaled the soft toy.

The former finance director of Sun Construction 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 arrange the no-bid lease of Raa Fuggiri island for resort development in 2015, and of laundering the money through the Sun Investment and Sun Construction and Engineering companies.

Testifying via video conference from the Maldives High Commission in Sri Lanka, Sun Construction’s former finance director Shritha Kumar told the court that he deposited a US dollar cheque signed by Ahmed ‘Krik’ Riza to the company’s account. As Sun Construction did not have a currency exchange license, the money was transferred to the account of sister company Sun Investment, which was licensed.

Kumar said he was told that it was a dollar exchange transaction by Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, owner of the Sun companies and leader of the Maldives Development Alliance, which was part of the governing coalition at the time. The cheque was handed over by MDA deputy leader Ali Mauroof, who later provided a receipt of a payment from Yameen for the equivalent amount in Dhivehi Rufiyaa. 

According to the prosecution, on the same day that US$1.1 million from Riza was deposited as an “in-house transfer” to Sun Investment, the money was deposited with an additional US$800 to Yameen’s account at the Maldives Islamic Bank. 

Both Siyam and Mauroof were among state witnesses. But earlier this week, the prosecution decided not to call either to the stand after they wrote to the criminal court and declined to testify.

In April, Siyam’s MDA formed a coalition with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party and endorsed President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for September’s election.

Wednesday, July 19

After talks between Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim and Maldives National Party leader Mohamed Nazim, the three opposition parties agreed to field a common candidate if the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives concurs.

Qasim and Nazim are the presidential candidates of their respective parties. Discussions will take place with the PPM, Qasim told the press.

The PPM welcomed “joint efforts by the parties to end President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government” but proposed jailed former president Abdulla Yameen as the common candidate. The Progressive Congress Coalition awarded the presidential ticket to Yameen in August 2022, the PPM said in a statement, noting that campaigning is underway across the country.

Speaking to reporters, former president Nasheed, de facto leader of The Democrats, ruled out seeking the ticket of the newly-formed party. At the Democrats’ inaugural congress earlier this month, Nasheed suggested that the opposition should unite behind a common candidate that was neither himself nor Yameen.

On Thursday, The Democrats announced that the party’s presidential primary will take place on 28 July. Shortly thereafter, Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb declared his intention to contest.

Wednesday, July 19

Tuesday, July 18

The Road Development Corporation’s chief financial officer sued media outlets Mihaaru and Dhiyares for defamation. Reports about the alleged embezzlement of MVR13 million (US$843,060) from the state-owned company were “entirely unfounded and without merit,” Yasir Hassan said.

RDC managing director Moosa Ali Manik and CFO Yasir were accused of transferring money out of the company’s bank accounts. The police were reportedly alerted by the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit. 

The flagged money transfers involved petty cash sent to work sites, Moosa Ali Manik told Adhadhu.

Tuesday, July 18

The Democrats launched its ‘Faseyha Viyafaari’ business policy, proposing government loans to startups and small businesses with “no mortgage or equity” and “a maximum interest rate of 6%.”

Teams travelled across the country for policy launch events on 36 islands. The party has also been canvassing support, recruiting new members and conducting workshops for an election manifesto.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, de facto leader, visited Thulhaadhoo in Baa Atoll, where two island council members became the latest to leave the Maldivian Democratic Party and join The Democrats, which emerged from a breakaway faction led by the former president. 

Speaking in Thulhaadhoo – one of the few MDP strongholds where he defeated President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in January’s primary – Nasheed continued his advocacy for a parliamentary system. The current system forces the president to secure the loyalty of lawmakers, which the incumbent has done “by using contracts or providing assistance,” he alleged. 

Economic Development Minister Fayyaz Ismail declared that he has “no interest” in becoming President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s running mate.

Fayyaz, chairman of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, blamed ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik for the rumours, allegations that the former lawmaker angrily denied.

The president told the press that the MDP was in the process of deciding a running mate.

Vice President Faisal Naseem has endorsed the president but remains a member of the Jumhooree Party, which is ostensibly fielding leader Qasim Ibrahim as its presidential candidate.

President Solih praised his deputy in Naseem’s biography released on Thursday night.

Reflecting population growth, the number of parliamentary constituencies will increase from 87 to 93 ahead of the 2024 general elections, the Elections Commission decided.

The six new seats include two for Malé, one for Addu, one for Baa Atoll, one for Gaaf Alif Atoll and one for Kaafu Atoll.

Two members are elected to represent the first 5,000 residents registered for each atoll or administrative division – including the capital – with one additional member for each additional group of 5,000 residents.

Monday, July 17

A major new tourism project will commence shortly in Vaavu Atoll, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced during a campaign trip to Keyodhoo, promising to reveal details and indicating plans for a new airport.

The opposition accused the government of selling the 50km Fotteyo lagoon – a “significant asset” as the largest in the Maldives and third largest in the world – “below its worth to fund [the president’s re-election] campaign.”

The tourism minister denied any discounted deals but did not deny plans to lease Fotteyo. Asked by Mihaaru, he referred to fixed acquisition costs in a cross-subsidy policy that offered designated islands or lagoons without bidding in exchange for investment in key infrastructure projects. 

Monday, July 17

Sunday, July 16

Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla issued a stern warning to the opposition after protesters disrupted the president’s campaign visits.

The home minister urged the opposition to conduct peaceful political campaigns. “Whether it’s people from Democrats, from PPM [Progressive Party of Maldives] or any other party, don’t try these shenanigans anymore when we get on islands,” he said, suggesting that the president’s team would emerge much stronger in a confrontation. The president also advised the opposition to change tactics to a campaign contest.

Two protesters were briefly detained in Dhiggaru.

Sunday, July 16

The Maldives Transport and Contracting Company denied “misleading” claims about an alleged leak of customer bank card details from the Raajje Transport Link’s app. A “security vulnerability” was identified earlier this month but it was immediately resolved, MTCC said, assuring that customer bank card numbers are not stored in the company’s system and only shared through the Bank of Maldives’ secure payment platform.

Saturday, July 15

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih began a busy week on the campaign trail with visits to six islands in Meemu Atoll, cutting ribbons for completed projects and pledging new ones

The completed projects included coastal protection and water supply in Kolhufushi, powerhouse in Naalafushi, water network in Muli, new health centre wings in Mulah and Dhiggaru, In the neighbouring Vaavu Atoll, there was a harbour in Rakeedhoo, coastal protection in Fulidhoo, new powerhouse in Thinadhoo, and a new school multipurpose hall in Keyodhoo.

After a public holiday for the Islamic New Year on Tuesday, President Solih travelled to the northernmost atoll and inaugurated projects in Ihavandhoo, Maarandhoo, Thakandhoo, Molhadhoo, Uligan, Vasharu and Dhidhdhoo.

With a slogan emphasising political stability, he pledged to address public concerns, including the transfer of land and nearby uninhabited islands to local council ownership. He pledged to build a new hospital for Dhiggaru. In Uligan, he pledged to expand the harbour with the capacity to serve yachts that dock near the northern island.

Solih touted managing the Covid crisis, governing with a diverse coalition, and providing basic services to small populations. In Rakeedhoo, which has fewer than 100 residents, he urged migrants to the capital to return.

Saturday, July 15