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Maldives News Bulletin, 20-07-2008
Issue No: 1161

The Minister of Africa, Asia and the United Nations at the Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom pays a courtesy call on the President

14th July: The Minister of Africa, Asia and the United Nations at the Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, the Rt. Honourable Lord Malloch-Brown called on the President today.

In the meeting held at the President's Office today, the President and Lord Brown discussed the changes brought to the country under the democratic reform agenda and the implementation of the new constitution.

Speaking at the meeting the President noted that there is still a lot of work and a lot of preparations to be made for the implementation of the new constitution and that this can be done successfully only with cooperation from all the political parties and the Government.

At the meeting Lord Malloch-Brown said that the British government will provide assistance to implement the new constitution.

The President also thanked the British Government for the assistance given to the Maldives by the British Government and its people, after the tsunami.

The call was attended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abdulla Shahid, the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Mohamed Hussain, the Deputy Minister at the President's Office, Dr. Hala Hameed, High Commissioner of the United Kingdom Dr. Peter Hayes and the Assistant Private Secretary, Ms. Roz Griffiths.

 

The President's Office informs all the companies with major share of the government to seek approval from the President before increasing the cost of services to the public

14th July: The President's Office has informed all the companies with major share of the government to seek approval from the President before increasing the cost of services to the public.

The President's Office also informed that this new regulation is  put into place because the Government wants to do as much as possible to alleviate the inconveniences faced by the public as a result of the negative effects on the country's economy due to the rise in fuel price, the global food crisis and the rise in prices of goods.

 

The President welcomes the removal of the gender bar in seeking presidential office under the new Constitution

15th July: The President has welcomed two important developments at today's session of the People's Special Majlis to finalise the Chapter on the President of the Republic. 

First, members voted overwhelmingly to defeat an amendment proposed by MDP MP Hussain Ibrahim to maintain the gender bar in seeking presidential office under the new Constitution. As early as June 2004, the President had proposed to the Special Majlis the removal of gender bias in seeking presidential office.

The second key development was the revision, through a successful amendment proposed by a DRP MP, of certain Articles that clearly discriminated against a particular individual seeking presidential office, and thereby facilitating candidates of all registered political parties to seek presidential office in the upcoming multiparty presidential election.  

The President highlighted that the two developments were "major steps" in realising the "aspirations of the people to usher in a modern liberal democracy in the Maldives".   While congratulating the MPs who defeated the amendment on keeping the gender bar and those who voted in favour of the amendment facilitating equal opportunities for presidential hopefuls of all parties, the President noted that the actions of some opposition elements in the aftermath of the session were regrettable.

Commenting on today's developments, the Presidential Spokesperson Mr. Mohamed Hussain Shareef said:

"The orchestrated attempts to misinform the people and international stakeholders of the outcome of today's developments bring into serious question the commitment of these people to democratic values.   These actions were taken in desperation by the enemies of democracy.  The people have a right to know the truth, and the Government will fulfil its responsibility to brief all stakeholders on the progress attained in the Special Majlis."

"Of particular satisfaction was the assurance that the current gender bar would be removed, in accordance to the President's 31-point proposal on constitution amendment of 2004."

"The DRP parliamentary group must be congratulated on its initiative to overturn the discriminatory elements in the draft on the Chapter on the President of the Republic that were designed to sabotage the presidential election bid of a particular candidate.  

The Government is firmly committed to fulfilling its promise of a free and fair presidential election.   However, it must be noted that the shameful actions of certain opposition elements to remove President Gayoom from the race could have seriously jeopardized the march towards democracy."

 

Ratification to legalize operation of guest houses in atolls

16th July: Tourism Minister Dr. Mahmoud Shaugy has stated that he hoped that the ratification of the revised constitution will legalize the operation of tourist guest houses in addu and other large atolls. He made the statement in response to a question posed by Miadhu Daily regarding the proposed resolution submitted to the Majlis which calls for the removal of ban on the operation of guest houses in the atolls.

"I think the policy of restricting the operation of guest houses to Male' and Hulhumale' needs to be reviewed and revised" said Dr. Shaugy.

He said while the operation of guest houses is lucrative business, it is important to make available economic opportunities to all citizens on an equal basis. He said the chapter on basic rights and freedom of the revised constitution is aimed at providing social, economic and educational opportunities to all citizens on an equal basis. He also said that it is the fundamental objective of the revised constitution to ensure that all citizens have equal access to such opportunities.

"I hope that with the ratification of the revised constitution will be legalized operation of guest houses in atolls especially in atolls like addu atoll" said Dr. Shaugy.

Dr. Shaugy criticized the present system and talked about the importance of removing obstructions to tourists staying in guest houses.

 

President appoints 2 new cabinet ministers

16th July: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom yesterday has accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Qasim Ibrahim and Tourism Minister Dr. Mahmoud Shaugy and appointed 2 new ministers to the cabinet. According to a statement issued by the president's office President Gayoom accepted Dr. Shaugy's resignation in response to his resignation letters second and third of this month while Qasim's resignation was accepted in response to his letter dated on the 10 th of this month.

President's Office after accepting their resignations appointed two new cabinet ministers yesterday. In this regard, President appointed Abdulla Jihad of M. West View as the Minister for Finance and Treasury. Abdulla Jihad was the previously the serving as the Governor of Maldives Monetary Authority. Dr. Abdulla Mausoom was appointed as the Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation. Dr. Mausoom was previously serving the government as Deputy Minister of Tourism.

Dr. Mausoom and Jihad took the oath of their office at a ceremony held in the president's office yesterday afternoon. The oath was administered by Chief Justice Sheikh Mohamed Rasheed Ibrahim.

Although President's Office yesterday acknowledged that Dr. Shaugy submitted his resignation on two different occassions, his resignation was officially confirmed by the Leader of Dhivehi Rahyithunge Party as well as the President of the country President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom during his address given at the closing the ceremony of the DRP congress held recently. After the president's confirmation Dr. Shaugy did confirm his resignation to the media, something which he declined to do so earlier, despite widespread media speculation. However it must be noted that neither Dr. Shaugy nor the government had given any reasons for the resignation. Verbal attacks were exchanged between Dr. Shaugy and presidential Spokesperson Mohamed Hussain Shareef (Mundhu) following the Shaugy's resignation which was followed by the media.

Qasim immediately after submitting his resignation spoke to media on the reasons why he resigned. He said he resigned over government's lack of cooperation to generate additional funds for the national budget. Qasim, since his resignation from the government, has resigned from the ruling party, DRP. However Dr.Shaugy has not resigned from DRP as yet but has accepted to take over another government position, the Vice Chancellorship of the Maldives University yet to be established.

 

US - Maldives trade increasing

16th July: American exports to the Maldives have doubled from approximately 9.3 million dollars in 2005 to 19.3 million dollars last year American Ambassador designated to Maldives Robert Blake Jr. revealed. He made the statement in an exclusive interview given to Miadhu Daily at the American Pavilion located at the Maldives Hotel and Trade Fair Exhibition 2008 (MHTE) which was inaugurated at Dharubaaruge yesterday.

MHTE is the biggest trade event held in Maldives and is participated by over 80 countries. US interests take up a large share of the MHTE 2008 and is represented by an American Pavilion which include 2 stalls from US Embassy, US Education and US Commercial Services as well as 14 stalls from 10 different companies. The companies include 3M, Club Car, Cummins Incorporated, Bell Helicopters, Cessna, Daily Life, Fenno Scandia, CD Services, Discovery and Commercial Lynks.

Ambassador Blake informed that Maldives Hotel and Trade Exhibition (MHTE) has been very helpful in developing trade between the countries. He said he was happy to be part of it and that he will do what ever he can to enhance trade between both countries.

Blake noted that US companies now engage in providing numerous products to Maldives tourism industry. Primary goods like oranges, apples and eggs are now being imported through US companies.US companies share a big half of egg imports to the country. He noted that companies like Cummins Inc. are doing a lot of business with private sector. Ambassador pointed out that while Cummins sells a lot of generators, every island needs a generator as well as other products that go with it. He stressed on the importance of solar and wind power, at a time when world fuel oil prices have gone up dramatically.

Speaking on the benefits of US-Maldives trade Blake called the relations mutually benefitting. He said more and more Americans are visiting Maldives and are getting more and more are getting acquainted with the wonderful opportunities here. He noted that lot of Americans are now travelling to India and are getting more aware of the South Asia. He said with the improved air links between India and Maldives, this was a wonderful opportunity for Maldives to explore.

When asked about the sea level rise, speculations of the current recess facing the country's economy , talks about failure of the state budget and the resignation of two cabinet ministers this week, Blake said the environmental issue was of global concern and that many still needs to achieved. He said the beautiful islands of the Maldives are a huge asset to the country and those issues of the government was not related to the trade going between both countries. He noted that trade was mainly between the private sector.

When asked whether there was any plans to invite American investors to Maldives tourism sector Blake said Maldives tourism does not need any help as it was a world brand. He noted the existence of brands like John keels and Hilton in Maldives.

When asked whether there were any plans to assist Maldives at a time when global food prices and fuel oil prices were on the rise Blake said this was a world wide problem and not limited to Maldives. He said US too was facing increasing oil and food prices. He emphasized that US was facing a huge energy crisis. He said 70% of the country's oil drives the transport sector.

MHTE 2008 is the official exhibition of Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI)whose main aim is solely to establish a value added single largest international business gathering where key decision makers, Buyers & Sellers from Hotel Industry, tourism and other trading sectors can meet to forge future business Partnerships.

MCCI reports that some 109 stalls are already booked by companies from Maldives, Sri lanka, Australia, India, Thailand, Singapore and Italy. The event also includes a special pavilion from America.

According to Amir Event Coordinator from Artline more than 3000 traders are expected to visit the exhibition. The fair will continue till the 17 th of this month.

 

IGMH to increase capacity by 84 beds

16th July: A total of 84 beds, 36 general beds and 48 private rooms, will be added to the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital's (IGMH) facility once the ongoing construction of 11 storey building is completed, a statement from IGMH revealed.

The statement revealed that due to the increasing number of patients seeking medical attention from the hospital the government initiated the construction of the 11 storey building on the eastern side of the hospital aimed at increasing the hospital's capacity by a third.

The construction of the building commenced on the 7 of May 2007 and scheduled to be completed within the next 8 months. Further the statement said as difficulties are faced due to shortage of beds to accommodate, a 14 bed ward will be opened within the next two months. IGMH says once this new ward is introduced difficulties arising out of shortage of beds will be solved.

IGMH also noted that the number of patients seeking medical attention has increased 3 times since the opening of the hospital in 1994.

 

President proposes Arif as MMA governor

17th July: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has proposed Arif Hilmy name to the parliament to be appointed as the Governor of Maldives Monetary Authority.

Arif Hilmy was a former Minister of State for Finance and Treasury and a former Vice-Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority. In the past he had served in various posts at the Maldives Monetary Authority. Arif Hilmy served as the Finance and Treasury Minister from November 1993 to June 2000.

 

MTDC to give Rf.90 per share as dividends

18th July: Shareholders of Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) at the second Annual General Meeting held yesterday night passed to give Rf.90 per share as dividend.

Previously the company's Board of Directors had approved to give the same amount as dividend per share. The Board's decision at the meeting held yesterday night was passed with 95 shareholders voting in favor out of 136 in attendance.

Minutes of the First General Meeting was passed with 87 shareholders in favor out of the 134 in attendance. 5 board members were elected at the meeting out of the 14 candidates. The 5 board members who were elected were Mohamed Shihab, Thoriq Ibahim, Ahmed Shareef, Shahid Ali and Hassan Rameez.

Shareholders at the yesterday night's meeting selected the company's Auditors and determined their remunerations. Ernest & Yong was selected to be the auditors.

According to Maldives Tourism Development Corporations (MTDC) projected forecasts the company's capital assets value will reach US $ 850 Million mark by the end of the initial 10 year period and will attain net profits of around US $ 25 Million every year for the first 10 years and the profits will increase to US $ 38 Million every year 3-4 years thereafter.

Champa Hussain Afeef, Chairman of MTDC in a statement given to the company's annual report had said that based on the current plans , the company will gain capital assets worth USD 606 Million within the next 10 years and will retain a net profit of US $ 25 Million within the same period. After which the company's profit is projected to increase to US $ 38 Million per year. Afeef further said when all the 15 islands rented from the government have been subleased MTDC expects to raise the capital assets portfolio to more than US $850 and a net profit of US $ 45 Million every year.

MTDC was created with the objective of engaging in the tourism industry and to provide the citizens the opportunity to become shareholders and to create a direct link for them to reap the financial benefits of the tourism industry.

 

MTCC wins contract worth Rf.76.9 Million

18th July: Maldives Transport and Contacting Company (MTCC) has been awarded contract worth Rf.76.9 Million Rufiyaa for the construction of 4 harbors.

As part of the construction ministry's project to ease the difficulties faced with the islanders in getting on and off the islands, MTCC was awarded contract to build harbors in Vaadhoo of Raa atoll, Goidhoo of Shaviyani atoll, Gan/Mukurimagu and Mundoo of Laamu atoll.

The contract signing ceremony was held at construction ministry last Wednesday and the contract on behalf of the government was signed by Deputy Construction Minister Mohamed Ibrahim. The contract on behalf of MTCC was signed by the company's MD Ibrahim Athif Shukoor.

According to Construction Ministry the project is funded by the government and the contract value of the construction of 4 harbors is Rf.76.9 million. The harbors to be constructed under the contract will be 300 feet long and 200 feet wide. Ministry informed that quay walls are to be constructed by using cement blocks while sea retaining walls are to be constructed by boulders.

Under the terms of the contract the 4 harbors are to be completed in 6 months effective from the commencement of the work.

 

MTCC given contract to provide bus service

18th July: Agreement will be signed with Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) to provide bus service in Male' city in the next 10 days , Male' Municipality revealed.

Director General of Male' Municipality Abdul Hameed Ali informed that an agreement to provide bus service in the city of Male' will be reached in the next 10 days and that the decision to award the contract to MTCC was reached after negotiations with various government agencies.

DG Hameed revealed that discussions were held with Home Ministry, Housing Ministry and Transport Ministry on awarding the contract to MTCC. Hameed said the committee which included officials from the ministries decided to assign the task to MTCC based on the experience the company has in providing such services. He noted the company was already engaged in providing bus services in Addu atoll and Laamu atoll. He pointed out that MTCC is a company which deals widely in public transport.

Hameed further revealed that the MTCC has been duly informed on the Municipality's decision to award the contract. He said the delay in reaching a decision was mainly due to extensive negotiations that were held with various agencies.

MTCC revealed that the bus service will commence within 5 months of signing the contract. The company revealed that 4 buses will be brought to launch the service and that bus fares will depend on prevalent fuel oil prices.

 

President Gayyoom to announce ratification date next month

19th July: President Gayoom is expected to announce the date he would ratify the new constitution before the end of the month, according to Legal Reform and Information Ministry.

According to the latest update of the ongoing reform process issued last Thursday President Gayoom's decision to announce the date of ratification comes after having reflected upon the issues identified by the Attorney General and the ministerial committee.

Legal Reform Ministry revealed that the Attorney General's formal advice is expected to reach the president next week. The report informed that the government was working with the core parliamentarian group to expedite the introduction of the Police Bill, Criminal Procedures Code. According to government if the Bill cannot be introduced before the ratification of the new constitution some of the functions of the government may come to a stand still.

President has declared that the ratification process of the new constitution will be the quickest process of the entire constitutional reform process. Although the president is entitled to 90 days to ratify the new constitution, Legal Reform Minister Mohamed Nasheed has said the President will not take that much time as the government's ' thinking' was to ratify the constitution at the earliest and to hold free and fair elections under the new constitution.

Minister Nasheed has said that while ratification process is ongoing, government is making preparations to hold the presidential elections before 10 October 2008. Nasheed had said work is underway to form independent institutions and commissions necessary for free and fair elections.

 

The best education system is in Maldives – PP

19th July: People's Party (PP) has declared that the educational system in place in the country is the best in the region. According to the PP all school teachers engaged in providing primary and middle school education are locals. The party further said nearly all local primary and middle school teachers, in contrast to 30 years ago, have at least GCE O- level or A- Level education and are well trained. Further the party said the program initiated by President Gayoom to introduce students to take up teaching carriers is a highly successful program. In this regard the party noted most of the local teachers are young and capable teachers who have undergone suitable training either locally or abroad.

People's Party noted that when President Gayoom came in to power in 1978 there were only 2 secondary schools in the atolls but the situation has changed and that at present a secondary school is established in every inhabited island. The party also noted that in 1978 there were only 3 government school in the country but now every school in the country is either run or financed by the government.

Highlighting the importance the government attaches to education, People's Party pointed out that the government provides free education, free text books as well as necessary fees for exams.

 

Survey on accessibility of Justice System to be held

19th July: Justice Ministry is to conduct a survey to assess the level of access the public have to the country's judicial system, Ministry of Legal Reform, Information and Art revealed.

According to the latest update of reform process issued by the legal reform ministry last Thursday, the survey to be conducted with a human -rights based approach will access the level of public confidence in the system and seek to create awareness on the judiciary.

The survey to be carried out with the assistance of UNDP will be conducted in November and December this year. The assessment will be carried out in selected locations through island / atoll workshops and will focus on group discussions and individual interviews with the people.

According to legal reform ministry the outcome of the survey will be a workshop held with relevant government agencies and stakeholders to sensitize them on issues with regard to access and realizing human rights. The ministry also said the survey will provide inputs to formulate access to justice policies.

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