Housing Lottery, Manifesto Pledges, Campaign Trail

Friday, August 18

The Raajje Transport Link (RTL) ferry service was launched in Addu and Fuvahmulah cities with a ‘highway’ link to Huvadhu Atoll (Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaal), connecting the three southernmost atolls. The service was offered free of charge for a one-week trial period. 

Establishing a nationwide ferry network with purpose-built speedboats is a flagship policy of the current administration. The three northernmost atolls were covered under the first phase of an MVR800 million (US$51.8 million) project.

Atolls are grouped into six zones with routes designed for a commuter link to connect nearby islands, a non-commuter link for longer trips to domestic airports and business hubs, and a highway link to connect regional hubs.

According to RTL, “each vessel has 48 reclinable airline style seats, designated seating for wheelchair passengers, and securable mechanism for medical stretchers”. Customers can book and pay for tickets on the RTL website or app. 

Friday, August 18

Thursday, August 17

Opposition Progressive Congress Coalition candidate Dr Mohamed Muizzu sought to assuage resort workers over a pledge to change the annual school holidays from June to December.

As the year-end holiday previously fell during the tourism industry’s peak season, the start of the academic year was changed to August in 2021 in order to allow resort workers to spend the holidays with their children.

At a campaign rally in Kudahuvadhoo, Muizzu pledged to reverse the change, citing public complaints about the mid-year holiday period coinciding with rough seas and bad weather associated with the southwest monsoon.

After the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives strongly objected, Muizzu proposed a mid-year one-month term break with the main holidays at the end of the year.

Muizzu also pledged to introduce a housing scheme and retirement pension for tourism workers.

His other pledges include free Hajj pilgrimages for low-income persons and insurance coverage for bone marrow transplants in addition to island-specific projects such as land reclamation.

Thursday, August 17

Urbanco ordered the removal of vessels from the Hulhumalé harbour ahead of land reclamation in the phase two lagoon.

In a controversial change to the Hulhumalé masterplan – which envisioned a yacht marina and cruise terminal in the lagoon – the government plans to hand out plots from the reclaimed land.

The opposition Progressive Congress Coalition hit back at the president’s campaign spokeswoman characterising Dr Mohamed Muizzu as the “Salaf candidate.” The hardline religious group could be handed the education ministry under a Muizzu administration, Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi alleged.

Muizzu’s spokesman and assistant campaign manager accused the government of negative campaigning.

Earlier in the week, Muizzu criticised the government’s plans to teach Islam in English as part of alleged efforts to undermine the national identity.

Wednesday, August 16

Former president Abdulla Yameen accused the police of harassment during its investigation of a corruption scandal in which US$90 million was stolen during his administration. The bulk of the stolen funds was resort acquisition fees that were siphoned off through a private company. .

The 64-year-old opposition leader was found guilty last December of accepting a bribe from former lawmaker Yoosuf Naeem to arrange a no-bid lease

As the High Court resumed hearings in the appeal of his bribery and money laundering conviction, Yameen defended exercising the right to remain silent after the police “kept summoning” him for interrogations.

Yameen is also on trial on separate bribery and money laundering charges over the no-bid lease of Raa Fuggiri. On Monday, the criminal court heard witness testimony about the relatively low acquisition cost for the island. 

Aarah case timeline:

  • August 9, 2015 – Authority to lease Aarah transferred to tourism ministry
  • 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.

Wednesday, August 16

The Maldivian Democratic Party launched the law and order section of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s re-election manifesto, pledging holistic criminal justice reforms.

Tuesday, August 15

In a blow to The Democrats, Kulhudhuffushi MP Yasir Abdul Latheef, Mayor Mohamed Athif and other city council members returned to the Maldivian Democratic Party.

Yasir was among a dozen MDP MPs who resigned to form the breakaway party under the leadership of former president Mohamed Nasheed, who called the defections a “business deal.”

A population hub in the northern atolls, Kulhudhuffushi is a key battleground for September’s presidential election.

Earlier this month, the Rasdhoo council president and vice president also rejoined the MDP from The Democrats.

Tuesday, August 15

The Democrats launched presidential candidate Ilyas Labeeb’s election manifesto, pledging to lower sales taxes, restructure debt and reform public finance management.

Monday, August 14

The Maafaru airport in Noonu Atoll will welcome direct flights from Europe after a US$27 million project to expand the runway, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared during a campaign trip.

Talks are also ongoing about Maafaru becoming a “hub for a UAE airline,” he revealed, without disclosing details.

The airport in the northern atoll was built with a US$60 million grant from the Abu Dhabi Fund. It is located within proximity of high-end resorts such as Soneva Jani, Velaa Private Island, Cheval Blanc Randheli and Sun Siyam Irufushi.

The Emiratis are developing more resorts as part of a “major tourism expansion” in the outer atoll, the president said.

The Maldives Transport and Contracting Company was contracted to expand the airport’s runway in December.

During the Noonu campaign tour, President Solih also laid the foundation for a 30-bed hospital in Kendhikolhudhoo.

Monday, August 14

Sunday, August 13

The High Court issued a stay order halting the enforcement of a US$5 million fine imposed on former president Abdulla Yameen with his 11-year prison sentence on bribery and money laundering charges.

Sunday, August 13

The finalised list of recipients of land plots for native residents of Malé was published.

Under its signature housing scheme, the government plans to award 9,001 land plots from Hulhumalé and new land to be reclaimed from the Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru lagoons to 19,631 people. The recipients include couples, siblings or family members who submitted joint applications.

Aside from 684 unmarried applicants below 25 years of age, the rest will be handed title deeds or registration certificates before the end of the current term on November 17, State Minister Akram Kamalludin assured at a press briefing.

A lottery draw for plots from Hulhumalé and Gulhifalhu started on Tuesday. Later in the week, the housing ministry denied any fraud or unfairness in the draw.

The size of the plots range from 1,250 square feet to 4,000 square feet based on the number of applicants.

All adult residents of Malé who were never registered on any other island and do not own 600 or more square feet were eligible to apply. Those who owned less than 600 square feet or stood to inherit land would have to relinquish it. 

The plans to award free land exclusively to Malé natives for the first time in three decades sparked fierce debates on social media. Critics argued that the exclusion of migrants to the capital – more than 100,000 non-native residents of Malé from other islands forced to pay exorbitant rents – was unfair, discriminatory and unconstitutional.

After decades of migration in search of employment, education and healthcare, nearly 40% of the country’s population is crammed into the 2.2-square mile island of Malé. Resolving the densely-packed capital’s housing crisis was a key campaign pledge.

At a campaign rally in Kolamaafushi, former president Mohamed Nasheed warned that the “Maldives could be lost” if Dr Mohamed Muizu becomes president as the “country’s affairs will deteriorate to an extreme level”.

Former president Abdulla Yameen would be sidelined in a Muizzu government, Nasheed predicted, urging opposition supporters to vote for Democrats candidate Ilyas Labeeb.

The stringent criticism likely signalled an end to an unlikely alliance explored between Nasheed’s Democrats and the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Democrats spokesman MP Imthiyaz Fahmy conceded that the party’s members would find it difficult to form a coalition with the PPM if Muizzu reaches the second round of the presidential election.

At a campaign rally in Fuvahmulah earlier this month, Nasheed urged PPM members to ensure that Democrats “won’t be forced to vote for MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] in the second round.”

The Maldivian Democratic Party launched the youth policy section of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s re-election manifesto, including start-up loans, unemployment benefits and loan schemes and work spaces for artists.

In a counter-terrorism operation conducted in Malé, the police raided three locations and seized digital devices from three suspects.

The operation was prompted by intelligence information provided by two neighbouring countries about four Maldivians accused of plotting a terror attack in a South Asian neighbour in late 2017, the police informed the media, without disclosing further details. The suspects were alleged to have helped plan the attack and provided financial assistance to a terror group.

In late July, the United States designated 20 Maldivians as “key leaders and financial facilitators” of the terrorist groups Islamic State and al-Qaeda. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control decided to sanction 29 companies associated with the alleged IS and al-Qaeda operatives.

Independent candidate Faris Maumoon launched his campaign and manifesto at a rally in Malé, pledging a public referendum to approve an unalterable national development plan.

Saturday, August 12

Malé Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu was warmly welcomed in Kulhudhuffushi in his first campaign trip ahead of the 9 September presidential election.

At the rally, Muizzu said his administration would seek to restructure the country’s MVR100 billion (US$6.4 billion) debt and pledged to set up a development bank and facilitate housing loans at 5% interest rate.

Accompanied by running mate MP Hussain Mohamed Latheef, Muizzu travelled to other Haa Dhaal Atoll islands on the following day before traveling to PPM strongholds in the south later in the week.

Saturday, August 12

After leaving the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives – where he was a contender for the party’s presidential ticket – former president Dr Mohamed Waheed joined the Jumhooree Party. In his first speech at a JP rally, Waheed criticised the PPM leadership and urged supporters to vote for Qasim in the 9 September election.

In a message delivered through his lawyer, former president Abdulla Yameen told supporters that he holds Speaker Mohamed Nasheed equally responsible for his imprisonment.

The message came after Nasheed called for Yameen’s release and courted the votes of Progressive Party of Maldives members for Democrats candidate Ilyas Labeeb.

Yameen advised PPM members to be wary of taking part in the “Democrats’ shenanigans,” Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said at a vehicle rally organised by opposition youth to mark Yameen spending 1,000 days in jail.