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Maldives News Bulletin, 31-08-2008
Issue No: 1167

OHCHR Welcomes New Directions of Reform

25th Aug: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has welcomed the ratification of the new Constitution of the Maldives.

In a letter by H.E. Ms. Kyung-wha Kang to the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, the OHCHR noted the consultative and transparent process that was adopted in the drafting of the new Constitution. The letter further elaborated that the new Constitution reflected the democratic aspirations of the people of Maldives and the commitment of the Government to its human rights obligations. Ms. Kang further welcomed the entrenchment of the independence of the judiciary and the introduction of a non-discrimination clause, which stressed the constitutional rights and freedoms guaranteed to apply to everyone under the jurisdiction of the State.

Continuing her letter, the Acting High Commissioner also conveyed hope that supplementary progressive measures will be adopted by the Maldives to ensure that the country fully incorporate its international human rights obligations into the domestic normative framework.

Ms. Kang concluded her letter by expressing her Office's gratitude to the Government "for its open collaboration with the UN human rights mechanisms and the continuous support it [continued] to extend to the Human Rights Adviser and the United Nations Country Team in the Maldives. She also conveyed that the "OHCHR would continue to collaborate closely with the Government to further promote and protect human rights."

Over the past three years, the Maldives has acceded to numerous human rights instruments. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Government continues to take strident steps to fully implement its international human rights obligations. The Maldives is also a strong advocate of a powerful Human Rights Council and has practiced a policy of open dialogue and engagement with the OHCHR.

 

Delegation of the British-Maldives All Party Parliamentary Group Calls on the Foreign Minister

25th Aug: Visiting Parliamentary Delegation from the UK has paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid today. The delegation included Mr. David Amess MP for Southend West and Mr. Brian Binley MP for Northampton South.

Minister Shahid briefed the visiting delegates on the progress of the reform agenda, and discussions further focused on the developments following the ratification of the new Constitution.

Minister Shahid concluded by expressing his gratitude to the British All Party Parliamentary Group for their committed support for the Reform Agenda, and expressed hope that this visit would further strengthen ties.

Today's call was also attended by Director at the Ministry, Mr. Ibrahim Hood.

 

President inaugurates Maldivian

27th Aug: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom yesterday night inaugurated the Maldivian, at a function held to rebrand airline division of Island Aviation Services, as Maldivian.

Speaking at the function held at Dharubaaruge, to inaugurate "Maldivian", President Gayoom said that that the rebranding would help to raise the profile of the country and its image across the globe.

Noting that the services of Island Aviation have improved over the years, President praised its staff for their high quality services. He also said the airline's reflection of our culture and nationality indicates the dreams and aspirations of the Maldivian people.

President Gayoom also said that Maldivian flights, planned to start very soon, to Sri Lanka would help expand its services and that an increase in domestic and international flights would help improve the country's economy and would provide useful services to the people,

Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom also spoke at the function. Vote of thanks was delivered by Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem, Managing Director of Island Aviation Services Limited. Welcome address was given by Ahmed Zuhair, Director, Island Aviation Services Limited.

 

HRCM calls to support election monitoring agencies

27th Aug: The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has issued a press release calling upon the concerned authorities, political parties and general public to render their support to all the organizations that has taken the responsibility of monitoring and observing the upcoming presidential elections.

HRCM welcomed the initiative of certain organizations to observe the election, at the same time, also urged the parties involved in the observation and monitoring process to follow the rules and regulations of the elections.

The Commission also called upon the authorities to soon establish an independent elections commission and formulate the laws and regulations as well as establish all the mechanisms necessary to hold a free and fair election.

HRCM also stated that it is important to ensure that all the parties and candidates contesting in the 2008 presidential elections get equal opportunities in their campaigning process and their rights are respected. The commission also urged the political parties to embrace the electoral laws and regulations and uphold the spirit of international best practices during their campaign.

 

Majlis accepts bill on amalgamation of welfare assistance

27th Aug: People's Majls has accepted a bill on amalgamation of welfare assistance after the bill was debated extensively by members. Dhaalu member Ahmed Nashid has submitted the bill. The bills aim to amalgamate all welfare assistance to one institution. Many members participated in the bill, some members supported the bill and said bill needed more details. The bill is an important one after the new Constitution when the country was embracing many changes and reform, they said.

Almost all members supported the objective of the bill but several of them said the purpose of the bill is already met with the implementation of the new Constitution. These members expressed their concern about a major welfare assistance program undertaken by the President which they said is not appropriate while there is a ministry with a mandate of social security. They said such assistance can be better provided according to the relevant policies and procedures if the whole task is handed over to the government ministry concerned.

Members who found it difficult to vote for the bill said, there is a separate ministry and program for welfare assistance, and the welfare assistance provided by the President is different from the normal welfare program. They said in many countries there are similar welfare assistance budget given to the head of state, hence what is being practiced in the Maldives is not new. Answering questions raised by some members who opposed a welfare program to be undertaken simultaneously by the president and the discriminatory manner in which this assistance is given, members who spoke against the bill said, this welfare budget is being managed according to the government regulations and all information and data will be available. They also said the new Constitution has provided for a responsible government official to answer any questions raised by the Majlis.

Some members said the issue of welfare assistance will be solved with the introduction of the health insurance scheme. Members also pointed out a huge amount of foreign exchange are being spent for welfare assistance abroad, and it is important to establish some of the urgent medical care in the country. There was mention of training more doctors and improving the quality of medical services.

The bill was passed by the smallest majority to pass a bill. 15 out of 28 members voted to accept the bill and the bill was referred to social committee for improving it on the basis of the ideas and suggestions expressed.

 

HDC invites bids for development of apartment complexes

27th Aug: Hulhumale' Development Corporation (HDC) yesterday, announced bidding for lease and sale of land for development of apartment complexes in Hulhumale'. In a press statement HDC informed that, 8 plots of land will be offered for sale and 5 plots of land will be offered for lease. The approximate size of the plots of land is 2400 square feet. According to HDC, only Maldivian individuals, and organizations which has a 100% Maldivian ownership can participate in the bidding.

HDC states that a main objective of leasing and selling land to private parties for development of apartment is to facilitate private sector contribution in the achievement of the goals and objectives of the National Housing Policy. The National Housing Policy, states that in order to facilitate housing units to cater the backlog in the central region, a system of allocation of land for housing development through private developers will be pursued. HDC says that the corporation believes that with these kinds of opportunities, real estate market in the country can be established.

The terms and conditions for the bidding are determined in close consultation with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, HDC said. The plots of land offered for sale will be sold at a fixed price of Rf 475 per square foot. Bidding parties for the land on sale basis will be evaluated based on the prices at which they propose to sell the apartment units to be developed on the plots of land. The party quoting prices leading to the lowest average price will be awarded the highest points, HDC said in the press statement.

According to HDC the land on lease basis will be offered for a lease period of 25 years and the successful bidder will be chosen based on the proposed land rents for the plots of land, with the highest points to be awarded to the highest proposed rent.

HDC said Bidding Documents for these two projects will be sold effective from 28 August 2008, until 25th September 2008 and HDC says interested parties can submit application forms to HDC office in Hulhumale' to purchase the Bid Documents. According to HDC application forms are available from the website of the Corporation and also from the Male' and Hulhumale' offices of HDC. The purchase price of a Bidding Document is Rf 500.

 

Appointment of PS as Ministers shows CSC procedures are good – CSC

27th Aug: The appointment of Permanent Secretaries (PS) of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to government ministerial positions show the comprehensiveness of the procedures used by the commission to appoint its members, according to Civil Service Commission.

Civil Service Commissioner Mohamed Fahmy speaking to Miadhu Daily that he is happy to see some of the Permanent Secretaries accepting cabinet portfolios. He said this indicated the commission's procedures on selecting its staff are very comprehensive and complete.

With regard to the appointment of Youth and Sports Ministry's Permanent Secretary Aishath Shiham as Minister of Youth and Sports, Fahmy said the commission welcomed the appointment. He said the appointment will increase the confidence and respect the citizens have for the commission. He said each and every citizen must look for the best opportunity to serve the country and that citizens apply to become Permanent Secretary on this very principle. Fahmy said it was matter of pride to see the commission's permanent secretaries getting the opportunities to serve the country in positions that enables them to share their experience and wealth of knowledge in higher positions than they were in previously.

He further said Dr. Shiham's appointment will lift the spirits and aspirations of other Permanent Secretaries working in various government ministries and offices. Fahmy revealed that each PS prior to being appointed has to sign an agreement with the commission. He also revealed the agreement stipulates in addition to the code of ethics, the duties and responsibilities of the PS. Further under the agreement all PS are barred from any political activity.

 

LDP President Hughes congratulates government

28th Aug: The President of the Liberal Democratic Party and Shadow Leader of the Liberal Democrats at the House of Commons of the UK MP Simon Hughes congratulated the government in a press conference, held at news the press room Fansavees / Dharubaaruge.

Hughes expressed that the Maldives had attained a significant achievement in moving towards a multi-party state in a significantly short period of time. He further stressed that the Maldives had made remarkable developmental progress, drawing specifically on the graduation of Maldives from LDC status. Hughes also conveyed that his visit to the Maldives was in the role of "an encourager", and expressed hope that the forthcoming elections would be conducted in as free and fair manner as possible, in line with the basic principles of democracy.

Continuing his press briefing Hughes, Hughes drew attention to the issue of avoiding negativity in politics, and urged all those involved, to turn politics into positive messages and to give people positive reasons for voting. He took the opportunity to encourage all citizens of the Maldives to actively participate in the election process by giving their vote. While encouraging all youth to enthusiastically engage in the reform process, Hughes emphasized that the future looks fantastically bright for many young people.

During his official visit to the country, Hughes also paid a courtesy calls on President Maumooin Abdul Gayoom and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid.

 

Majlis considers committee report on bid evaluation

28th Aug: People's Majlis at its 41 sitting held yesterday considered the Majlis ad hoc committee's report on the evaluation of the bids of 11 islands leased out in 2005 by the government for the development of tourist resorts.

The report was presented to the Majlis by chairman of the ad hoc committee Thaa MP Hassan Afeef. According to the report full information as detailed in the Bid Evaluation Manual was not provided to the bidders. Further the report also revealed that bid proposals were disqualified based on information not furnished to bidders. The report also highlighted inconsistencies in the procedures used. The report also said that time taken to complete evaluation of all bid proposals is far less than time normally taken for such a scrutiny and as such cannot be accepted as genuine. The reported noted that while pre qualification officially commenced on 15 March, completion of evaluation by 17 March is unrealistic.

Several members spoke on the matter, including Laamu MP Moosa Manik, Dhaalu MP Ahmed Nashid , Addu MP Mohamed Aslam , Mulak atoll MP Aneesa Ahmed. President's members Mohamed Saleem and Abdul Rasheed Nafiz also spoke on the report.

All members agreed that shortcomings highlighted in the report need to be addressed and rectified prior to further bid evaluation by concerned ministry. The chair at the end of member deliberations decided to send the report to concerned government ministries.

Majlis also continued the second reading on the bill on establishing free economic zones; however, during the debate stage the bill was withdrawn as government decided to introduce more amendments to the bill.

Yesterday's sitting was attended by 38 members before the recess and by 35 members after the recess and was chaired by Speaker Mohamed Shihab. Majlis is scheduled to meet again on 31 August 2008.

 

HRCM publish report on Home for People with Special Needs

29th Aug: HRCM has publicized its report on its visit to Home for People with Special Needs, at K.Guraidhoo on 28 August 2008. This report is based on the commission's second visit Guraidhoo this year, which was carried on 14 August 2008.

According to the report Rf. 9,000 is spent weekly to purchase mineral water for drinking purposes due to lack of a facility to produce good quality drinking water. The report revealed that Home for People with Special Needs has been using mineral water since July this year due to contamination of ground water previously used for drinking. The report also recommends the use of syntax tanks as water storage tanks until such time as the Home acquires a desalination plant for processing ground water.

The report also highlighted despite the Commission's previous recommendations, the management of the Home has not provided any increment to the food and risk allowances of attendants and security personnel.

Although a suitably acceptable procedures and regulations have been set up to hand over the patients after recovery from the Home back to the families, the report noted that such procedures have not been implemented. The report also noted system is not in place mainly because the families are not willing to take charge of the patients even after treatment.

Some 46 attendants, 8 security officers are working in the Home for People with Special needs which have a capacity of 168 patients. The report highlighted despite the budget provisions for an additional 10 attendants, the management has not employed them.

Despite the Commission's previous recommendations of November last year regarding improving the services of Medical Center , in order to limit the frequency of medical visits made to Male', little or no effort were made to improve the services. However the report noted that a laboratory investigation system has been tendered.

 

Gender ministry opens Children Service Centers in 5 atolls

29th Aug: Family and Children Service centers have been established in all atolls of Maldives.

Gender Ministry said that Family and Children Service Centers have been established in all atolls and centers were opened yesterday in Kaafu atoll, Alif Alif atoll, Alif Dhaalu atoll, Vaavu atoll and Faafu atoll. According to gender Ministry, these centers will work towards providing social security to the people. Gender Ministry says that administrative staff and skilled staff will work in these centers.

According to Gender Ministry, UNICEF and Maldivian Government provided assistance in this project.

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