Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Green Guru: Mohamed Nasheed

As president of an island nation imperiled by rising sea levels, Mohamed Nasheed has become a hero among environmentalists. In the run-up to last year's United Nations climate-change meeting, Nasheed attracted global attention by hosting a cabinet meeting underwater. In Copenhagen, he shamed rich governments by pledging to make the Maldives the world's first carbon-neutral nation. Al Gore likes to quote him on the human cost of climate change. And in April, the U.N. elected him one of six "2010 Champions of the Earth." Achim Steiner, director of the U.N. Environment Program, praised Nasheed as a politician "who is showcasing to the rest of the world how a transition to climate neutrality can be achieved and how all nations, no matter how big or small, can contribute."


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Maldives High Court In Limbo Amid Political Spats

Political turmoil paralyzing the Maldives deepened Monday after the attorney-general resigned in frustration over parliament's refusal to appoint a new Supreme Court.

In an attempt to prevent the country from spiraling into judicial chaos, President Mohammed Nasheed issued a decree Sunday - the day an interim court was to have been disbanded - allowing the Supreme Court to continue administrative functions until the crisis is resolved.

Political disorder has engulfed the nation of 1,192 low-lying coral islands after the 13-member Cabinet resigned en masse in June, accusing the opposition of undermining Nasheed's powers by defeating all motions put before it. The Cabinet was reappointed last month.

Nasheed took power in the country's first democratic elections two years ago, after being repeatedly jailed under the 30-year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom he defeated in the 2008 poll.

The recent power struggle showcases the difficult transition to democracy for the country of 350,000 in the Indian Ocean archipelago, best known as a tourist paradise.

Attorney-General Husnu Suood resigned Sunday, claiming his position was untenable in the "constitutional void" triggered by parliament's failure to enact necessary legislation, Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed told The Associated Press by telephone from the capital Male on Monday.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party has only 32 seats in the country's 77-member parliament. The opposition coalition, led by the Dhivehi Raithunge Party, has 36 seats, with the rest independents.

The president's decree appoints four legal practitioners to continue the day-to-day administrative functions of the Supreme Court, the president's Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said in a statement.

Zuhair said Nasheed had two options: allow the country to have no Supreme Court at all, or issue a decree so administrative functions of the Supreme Court could continue.

"The President chose the latter option," Zuhair said.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maldives to appoint interim supreme court: minister

The Maldivian president will set up an interim supreme court as the opposition-controlled parliament blocked the appointment of new judges, the foreign minister said Saturday.
President Mohamed Nasheed's move would ensure the administration of justice even after the two-year term of the current supreme court expires at midnight Saturday, minister Ahmed Shaheed said.
"The parliament has failed to approve a new supreme court and that means we would be without a judiciary from Sunday, but the president can't allow that to happen," Shaheed told AFP by telephone from the capital island Male.
"You can't run the country without a judicial system. That is why the president is making an interim arrangement."
Prominent citizens will be included in the interim panel which will function until the parliament confirms the new judges in line with the 2008 constitution, he said. There was no immediate reaction from the opposition.
The luxury holiday paradise of Maldives embraced Western-style multi-party democracy in 2008 amid high hopes for reforms, but the country's parliament and president are from rival parties and are at loggerheads.
Nasheed's cabinet resigned en masse on June 29 saying it could not carry out its work because parliament was blocking their work.
Since then, Nasheed has reappointed the ministers but the parliament is refusing to ratify them as well as his nominee to head the supreme court in the archipelago of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.
The current political crisis in the Maldives goes back to the 2009 parliamentary election when the People's Party (DRP) led by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom won a majority.
Although it gained control of the legislature, the DRP fell short of a two-thirds majority needed to impeach the president. At the same time, Nasheed cannot dismiss the assembly until it completes its full five-year term

Source: AFP

My opponents try to silence me through fraud charges: Gayoom

Former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom yesterday dismissed fresh allegations that he had swindled the country to the tune of US$ 400 million as baseless and a conspiracy by local and international forces to defame him.

In an interview with the Sunday Times last night, Mr. Gayoom, who is in Sri Lanka to promote the mission of a foundation named after him, said the allegations were not new and kept resurfacing because he was still being seen as a major threat to the present Maldivian leadership and their international sponsors.

He said these forces were so well connected and active that articles defaming him had appeared even in the New York Times newspaper.

Now out of active politics, Mr. Gayoom, who ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago for more than 30 years, said the allegations that he had played out US$ 80 million in tsunami aid from the government of Qatar had been proved untrue and a Maldivian court had given a ruling in his favour.

"These allegations not only resurface but they grow in magnitude. First they said it was US$ 40 million, then the amount rose to US$ 80 million and now it stands at US$ 400 million. This is an attempt to silence me, for my political opponents still see me as a major threat," said the former President who charged that the country's assets were being sold to foreign companies in a haphazard manner that threatened the national interest.

Mr. Gayoom insisted he had no intention to return to active politics even though there had been many requests from Maldivian and foreign friends urging him to come back to politics and sort out the mess the country had fallen into.

Refusing to be drawn into any comments on the current crisis, Mr. Gayoom said it was he who initiated the process of liberal political reforms in the Maldives.

When pointed out that the very reforms that he had initiated had propelled his country into a political crisis, the 73-year-old leader said that it was not the reforms that were at fault but how these reforms were being adhered to or respected by the powers-that-be.

He said the reforms he initiated not only envisaged a multi-party liberal democracy but also aimed at good governance with independent judiciary and public institutions, but sadly many of these institutions had become highly politicized.

He said concentration of too much power in one single institution - the executive presidency - would be the main cause for the present crisis. Mr. Gayoom said he was thankful for the mediation efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to solve the current political stalemate in the Maldives, saying it was the Sri Lankan President's true love for the neighbouring country that led him to undertake the troubleshooting mission.

Mr. Gayoom, in January this year quit as the leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party which he led from 2005 to 2010 and his party bestowed him the title of "Zaeem" or Honorary Leader. Mr. Gayoom said his public life was restricted to his work related to his foundation which sought to contribute to the social development of the country he loved and served for three decades.

He said his foundation wanted to achieve its goal through education based on moderate Islam, which he described as a powerful force capable of solving the Maldives social ills such as the acute drug abuse problem.


Maldives keen in import Bangladeshi sands

The Maldives is keen to import quality sands from Bangladesh to meet the growing demands of the major construction material in the island country, Maldivian High Commissioner in Dhaka said as he called on Home Minister Sahara Khatun here.

A home ministry spokesman said Maldives envoy Ahmed Sareer told the minister that their country needed 400,000 tonnes of sands every year and three-fourths of the volume were currently being imported from India.

"The quality of the Bangladeshi river sands is better than that of India and we are interested to import sands from this country," the spokesman quoted the ambassador as saying.

He said the envoy also told the minister that a process was underway in Male to legalise the illegal Bangladeshi workers in Maldives engaged in construction and other sectors.

Some 40,000 Bangladeshis were now engaged in different jobs in the island country and Sareer said they enjoyed goodwill for their handworks and sincerity.

The spokesman said Sareer reiterated his government's stance to work together with Bangladesh in the international climate negotiations as both the countries were exposed to worst onslaughts of the global climatic phenomenon.

The minister, he said, urged Maldives to take more Bangladeshi workers.

Acting home secretary Mohammad Yunusur Rahman, additional secretary Iqbal Khan Chowdhury and joint secretary (political) Dr Kamaluddin Ahmed were present during the meeting.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Maldives Continuing Political Crisis: Need For Cooperation And Compromise

Having realised that it is getting near impossible to conduct the affairs of the government in view of various restrictions in the present Constitution, President Nasheed is veering round to the view that a mid term election will be necessary to amend some articles of the constitution.

In his speech on the inauguration of independence day celebrations of 26th July, President Nasheed made many valid points that indicated his thinking on the future course to be taken in view of the political impasse created by the opposition with their majority.

When the parliament session was suspended on 2nd August to enable the MDP and the opposition to continue the talks to find a solution, the Speaker Abdulla Shahid called on all the members of the parliament to work in a spirit of compromise and cooperation. Cooperation and Compromise should have been the key and both are missing in Maldives now.

There is no doubt that the opposition could have been more accommodative. One commentator went to the extent of calling the opposition as a bunch of “assorted kleptocrats, dodgy businessmen and friends of ex president Gayoom.” While this may not apply to all the opposition members (some are really good ), there is some truth in this comment. There are many “entrenched” Gayoom’s men in all branches of the government who are suspected to be creating problems for the new government.

It must have become clear now to President Nasheed that without the backing of his parliament, the civil servants and the judiciary, he will not be able to implement his ambitious agenda and his promises to the people.

The President’s member in the judicial commission in an interview to the media said that in the present judiciary, a quarter of the bench possesses criminal records and many others have only primary school level education. Yet the Judicial service Commission with entrenched Gayoom’s men has reappointed 160 of the judges a few days ago.

The irony of it is that Article 285 of the Constitution provides a deadline of August 7, 2010 for reappointment of judges after which only Article 154 a and b would apply. Under the latter article, a judge can be removed for incompetence or gross misconduct only if passed by a two third majority of the members of the Majlis present and voting.

Bills relating to Human rights commission, Judicial commission and Civil service commission are all pending in the parliament and will have to be passed before 7th of August, the deadline provided under the transitory arrangements given in the Constitution. The Majlis is still seized with the bills.

To go back to the President’s speech on 26th July, he said

It is a greater national duty for him to free the country from the suspicions in the hearts of the people that bribery and corruption have taken roots in the legislature and the judiciary.
Officials connected to a previous regime continue to remain in the executive, courts and other institutions. ( this is his problem though initially he was optimistic that they would mend their ways)
For a long term solution to the current political impasse, it is essential to strengthen the constitution and as a long term solution, there is a need to amend some articles of the constitution.
He is ready to give way for any election required in order to bring in the amendments.

Two days earlier, on the day Abdulla Yaameen, the opposition leader was released, there was a very valuable advice in the press and this needs to be quoted. “ There is no alternative to talks as an immediate measure on strengthening institutions of horizontal accountability such as Anti corruption commission, the Audit Office and the Judiciary for the long haul. The comment ended with the words “Get prepared for painful compromises in the short term.”

This is the dilemma President Nasheed is facing. He is a young President of integrity and in a hurry. At the same time he has to sustain and get the young democracy take deep roots to ensure that authoritarianism never returns.

Will he be able to go for compromises? This is what he was trying in the last few days in getting his party meet the leaders of opposition in three rounds of talks.

The first session took place on 26th of July. The ruling party was represented by its chairperson Mariya Ahmed Did, Moosa Maniku, leader of the parliamentary group and another Ibrahim Mohamed Sole. The opposition was represented by Thasmeen Ali, leader of DRP and a successor to Gayoom in the party, Abdulla Yaameen, Gayoom’s half brother and leader of PA ( he was just released on 24th), Qasim Ibrahim, leader of Jhumhoree party ( also arrested earlier) and Dr. Hassan Saeed, leader of DQP.

While the MDP wanted endorsement of the entire cabinet, the opposition group wanted many things including non interference in independent commissions ( since they are already influenced by them), - but the most crucial one was that they would agree to amendments provided mid term elections are held soon after that. Since they are in a majority in the parliament they would demand re-election for the president only.

In the third session held on 2nd August, the MDP in turn wanted ten points of theirs to be considered first.

President Nasheed had already hinted that he is prepared to hold mid term elections if the opposition agrees to amend the constitution and reelect parliament too.

The British High Commissioner to Maldives in his courtesy call on the President said on 29th that as a long term solution, the constitution will have to be amended to rectify elements that led to the current political crisis. An UN mission led by Tamrat Samuel heading the department of Political Affairs visited Maldives for two days on 31st July and 1st August and met the leaders of the main political parties, NGOs and government officials and discussed the current situation.

The Special Adviser to President Nasheed, Zaki is said to be in India, perhaps to discuss the current political impasse.

The best way would be for making the amendments, including extension of the transition arrangements and go for fresh elections that should necessarily include the parliament too. This is a costly affair but appears inevitable unless there is a change of mind in the opposition ranks.

Some say that President Nasheed should have gone in for a “Truth & Reconciliation” Commission as was done in South Africa. But it is too late now.


Salman Khan donates blood in Maldives

Big macho man of Bollywood is someone who has a heart of gold too. We are aware of his charity. Recently, Salman set an instance by donating blood at the blood donation camp at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) located in Maldives.

The donation camp was organized by the India–Maldives friendship festival 2010 that is held on an annual basis. Eminent and important personalities like Mohamed Nasheed, the First Lady Laila Ali Abdulla, some ministers and elder officials of the government were also in attendance.

Having beforehand participated in a charity programme for the MAP or the Medical Assistance Programme at the Villingili Children’s Home, Maldives, Salman took off some time to judge a kid’s painting exhibition held at the Iskandhar School. Not only did he chose the best painting, but also entertained the kids through songs and dance at their request.

The media was requested not to be there by Salman himself; however media or no media; Sallu bhai and the kids had a gala time.


100,000th visitor arrives for romantic wedding in Seychelles

Africa – A bride-to-be – Katy Uijleman from Holland – disembarked from Qatar Airways yesterday morning as the 100,000th visitor to Seychelles this year.

The lucky visitor is traveling with her Chinese fiancé, Xizhi Tang, and they are here for their wedding ceremony tomorrow.

The couple, both cabin crew members on Emirates Airlines, arrived here on the 0645 flight from Doha, and were welcomed by staff of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) as Ms. Uijleman stepped down from the plane.

She was presented with a flower garland and a bag of giveaways by the STB chief executive Alain St.Ange and PR coordinator Line Mancienne.

The clearly surprised Ms. Uijleman said she couldn’t believe her luck but was happy with the welcome.

Both she and her fiancé have been to Seychelles before and chose it for their wedding day, above Mauritius and Maldives.

“We wanted a romantic location for our special day, and we had three choices – Seychelles, Mauritius, or the Maldives. We went on the Internet to find more information and finally picked Seychelles. We are glad we did,” they said.
The couple are staying at Le Meridien Barbarons and will leave on Sunday as newlyweds.

Seychelles has reached the 100,000th visitor mark three weeks ahead of last year, when it happened in the week ending August 30.

Mr. St.Ange said the tourism board is happy with the visitor arrivals performance so far, and all indications are that 2010 would be a good year.
“We are very well on track for this year, and if we continue like this, it will be one of our best years,” he said.

The tourism board works in collaboration with the National Statistics Bureau to monitor visitor arrivals.

PHOTO: Katy Uijleman & Xizhi Tang / Photo from Seychelles Tourism Board


SAARC women entrepreneur meet

The SAARC Chamber Women Entrepreneur Council (SCWEC) is organising a two-day event on ‘Innovative entrepreneurship’ aiming to create a wide network of women entrepreneurs from SAARC nations to improve their knowledge of marketing management methods.

The event will begin on August 6. Forty delegates from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Bangladesh will participate. They will take part in several discussions on socio-economic issues.


New High Commissioner of Bangladesh to the Maldives

The government has appointed Rear Admiral A.S.M.A. Awal of Bangladesh Navy as the new High Commissioner of Bangladesh to the Maldives.

He is the eldest son of Shaheed M.A. Wahed, an eminent organizer of the Liberation War in the then Jamalpur Sub Division.

Rear Admiral A.S.M.A. Awal joined the Bangladesh Navy (BN) in 1976.

During his distinguished career, Awal served in many important appointments in Bangladesh Navy, including Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Operations and Personnel).

He also served in Bangladesh High Commission in Sri Lanka as Defence Adviser