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Maldives News Bulletin, 14-09-2008
Issue No: 1169

The President appoints Mr. K.D Ahmed Maniku as the Minister of State, Controller of Immigration and Emigration

7th Sept: The President has today appointed Mr. K.D Ahmed Maniku as the Minister of State, Controller of Immigration and Emigration. Mr. Maniku previously held the post of Commissioner of Elections.

 

The President appoints Mr. Ibrahim Shafiu as the Minister of State, Principal Collector of Customs

7th Sept: The President also today, appointed Mr. Ibrahim Shafiu as the Minister of State, Principal Collector of Customs. Mr. Shafiu was previously the Minister of State, Controller of Immigration and Emigration.

 

Elections will be announced early next week - Commissioner

10th Sept: President of the newly formed Interim Election Commission Mohamed Ibrahim has revealed that he will announce the presidential elections, to be held prior to be held before the October 10 this year as stipulated in the constitution, early next week. 

Speaking to the media, at the press room Fansavees/ Dharubaaruge, Mohamed Ibrahim said that following announcement of the elections and the candidates list, he will provide enough time for the candidates to campaign as called for in the constitution. However he said the campaigning period will depend on the endorsements of the pre election bills, General Election Bill and Presidential Election Bill, by the Majlis.

Election Commission yesterday revealed that an estimated 209,000 people are eligible to vote and the eligible voter list will be made public when the elections are announced early next week. Commissioner Mohamed Ibrahim said that a list of youth who will be 18 years old by November 11, 2008 has been made public and the corrections to the list can still be submitted. He said more than 800 corrections have been submitted so far and 702 have been accepted as valid. Commissioner of Elections also said the work to produce the list in Dhivehi language is under way with the assistance of Department of National Registration as the list was compiled in English. He said he is fully confident of producing the list in 2 languages on time. 

Commissioner also revealed that necessary discussions are going on concerning the participation of Maldivian communities living abroad in the voting of the presidential elections. 

"I can only tell you, at this point in time, that ballot boxes will be positioned in neighboring countries where the Maldivian communities will have no difficulties in coming to one place to vote, the details will be revealed at a later date" said the Commissioner. 

Mohamed Ibrahim also revealed that work on code of ethics is underway and will cover commission members, and staff, candidates, polling agents, observers and reporters. Mohamed Ibrahim further said work on forming the presidential election regulations is underway too. 

Most of the infra structure for the presidential elections have already been arranged, Commissioner said. In this regard, Commissioner said voting booths, ballot boxes and even markers to mark the finger of the voters have been brought. Commissioner said markers this time have been brought from UK and this is a good quality marker. 

The first round of the election will cost an estimated Rf40 million, commissioner said, although he said no approximation has been made for the run off. 

 

Maldives updates UN Human Rights Chief on political developments

10th Sept: Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Abdul Gafoor Mohamed, has updated the newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay on the completion of the country's constitutional reform program and on its ongoing preparations for this year's Presidential elections, according to a statement issued by foreign ministry. Foreign Ministry said Ambassador Gafoor delivered the update during an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner at the opening of the 9th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. 


According to Foreign Ministry Ghafoor informed that President Gayoom had ratified the new Constitution on the 7 of last month. The new constitution marks a milestone in the country's political history as it incorporates, for the first time, a bill of rights that is fully in line with the international human rights conventions and principles to which Maldives is party to, Gafoor said. The Constitution also allows for clear separation of powers between the executive, legislative and the judicial branches of government; and establishes a number of independent bodies and commissions including an independent Elections Commission. Gafoor also informed that country's first ever multi party elections have been slated for 4 th of next month. 

Ambassador Ghafoor also used his statement to congratulate the new High Commissioner on her assumption of Office and to express the Government's wish to maintain the excellent cooperative relationship with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that has been developed over recent years, foreign ministry reported.

 

 

State media to give free airtime to candidates

10th Sept: State media has decided to give fifteen minutes of free air time for all candidates competing in the Presidential Elections which is to be held on the 4th of October, according to a news item carried by television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VOM).

State media outlets reported yesterday that a meeting was held yesterday night with the presidential candidates to discuss the matter. It said that all candidates have come to an agreement regarding the matter. 

According to reports, opportunity in this program, which is to begin on 14th of this month, will only be given to those candidates who have announced their manifesto. It is also known that candidates would be assessed on the eligibility of the candidates before opportunity to take part in the program is given. 

The decision to give free air time is to to all candidates comes at a time when Dr. Hassan Saeed has complained of lack of access to state media. He has said he will sue the government for not giving him equal opportunity as given to other presidential candidates to take part in TVM program "Siyaasee fendaa". He has said that it is against the constitution that he was not given the opportunity, and deprives him of a fundamental right. 

Regarding the matter, Information and Legal reform minister Mohamed Nasheed has said that he does not believe opportunity has to be given to Dr. Hassan Saeed on "Siyaasee fendaa", under the equal media coverage agreement signed with political parties. However the minister has said that Dr. Hassan would be given free air time once the Presidential Election is announced. 

In an interview given to Miadhu Daily, spokesperson from Dr. Hassan Saeed, former foreign minister Dr. Ahmed Shaheed said they are happy that Dr. Hassan is to be given the same opportunity as other candidates from state media, whatever the name of the program. He said that they are getting ten programs of 15 minutes before the elections and also opportunity is now open for candidates to even purchase air time. 

Government media commenced to air news and information about political parties on an equal basis under an agreement reached with the political parties, the two government medias, TVM and VOM and the Information Ministry. 

 

Members raise doubts on achieving Oct 10 election deadline

11th Sept: At the Majlis sitting held yesterday morning members have raised questions on the viability of holding the presidential elections 2008 prior to the deadline October 10 deadline imposed by the constitution ratified on August 7 this year, in light of the slow progress in completing the pre election bills and establishing the Supreme Court. 


The questions arose when Majlis failed to complete the 2 important pre election Bills, the Presidential Election Bill and the General Elections Bill. While the Majlis yesterday accepted the Presidential Elections and sent it to the Majlis standing committee on Public Affairs for evaluation, the General Election Bill is still at the committee stage. Nominations for Supreme Court judges have not been submitted to the Majlis as yet. 

The newly appointed Commissioner of Elections Mohamed Ibrahim speaking at the media briefing held a press room Fansavees / Dharubaaruge on Monday said that if the pre election bills, the Presidential Election Bill and the General Election Bill are completed this week and Supreme Court established, he intends to slate the presidential elections for the October 4. In addition he said if the pre election bills are ratified this week he will announce the elections early next week. 

According to Speaker Mohamed Shihab, Public Affairs Committee will be able to present the two Bills to Majlis floor sometime next week and that he hoped to receive the nominations for the Supreme Court judges next week as well. 

Members at the Majlis yesterday raised concerns on not being able to hold the presidential elections as specified in the constitution. While members expressed concerns on not being able to hold elections as called for in the constitution others expressed that it is vital to follow the constitution. 

Yesterday's sitting attended by 34 Members was chaired by the Speaker of the People's Majlis Mohamed Shihab.

 

 

Majlis sends Presidential Election Bill to Committee

11th Sept: People's Majlis at its 50 th sitting of the second session held yesterday passed to accept the Bill on Presidential Election Bill and sent it to the Majlis Committee on Public Affairs. 


During the plenary debate of the bill, thirteen members spoke on the subject. Following the plenary debate the bill was to put to vote to ascertain whether it be accepted or rejected by the Majlis. People's Majlis passed to accept the bill by 32 members voting in favor out of 34 in attendance. 

After the bill was accepted by the Majlis, the speaker announced the committee stage of the bill. The bill was ruled to the Committee on Public Affairs, as this was the only proposal, put forward during this stage. The proposal was by submitted by Presidential Appointee Mohamed Saleem.

The presidential election Bill was formed to ensure the presidential elections held in the country follows democratic principles with the full participation of the people as well as to ensure that such elections are held in a free, fair and transparent manner. Further the bill also lays down the legislative frame work for such elections and provides for rules and regulations governing the presidential elections. 

MP for Thaa atoll Hassan Afeef, speaking at the Majlis yesterday said that state media should afford equal opportunity to all candidates. He also said employees of the state media should be working for specific candidates. 

MP for Dhaalu atoll said free and fairness of the forthcoming elections are questionable. He said at this juncture, it was important to check on the arrangements and planning made for the elections. 

At yesterday's sitting members repeatedly called on Speaker to expedite completion of works required to be completed during the transitional period. Speaker of the Majlis in response said the all necessary works to complete the transitional period will be completed by end of next week. He further informed he intended to give members leave on completion of transitional arrangements. 

Yesterday's sitting attended by 34 Members was chaired by the Speaker of the People's Majlis Mohamed Shihab. 

 

"With millions under threat, inaction is unethical": President Gayoom

12th Sept: The President has said that with millions under threat, inaction is unethical. The President made this statement in an opinion piece to the editorial of the International Herald Tribune. The President's opinion piece was published on the 9 September issue of IHT.

In the opinion piece, the President noted the significance of the Oxfam International's groundbreaking report on "Climate Wrongs and Human Rights" which demonstrated how climate change was violating the rights and freedoms of millions of people, especially in vulnerable countries like the Maldives. The President also expressed his hope that this report "would help to move the world from this tragic status quo to quick action in order to achieve a better future based upon international and intergenerational solidarity and climate justice."

Further, the President highlighted the unethical trade-off between human lives and economic growth being made by rich industrialised countries.

 

Guidelines on providing legal counsel established

12th Sept: Attorney General's office has formed guidelines on assigning lawyers to suspects charged with severe criminal offenses. 


At a media briefing held on Tuesday Attorney General Azima Shukoor informed that the state will assign lawyers to suspects needing legal counsel under the special procedures established provided if the suspect is single and earns monthly income is less than Rf.3000 a month. For married suspects legal counsel is to be provided if the suspects earn a monthly income less than Rf.5000. 

Severe criminal offenses are considered any offense which have a penalty of 25 year jail sentence and also include murder, rape and sexual offenses, drug offenses, prostitution, violence and gang fights, terrorism related offenses and any offense which endangers the country's sovereignty. 

According to the guidelines formed by Attorney General the state will provide legal counsel to suspects who are financially incapable of hiring their own lawyers to defend themselves. Under the guidelines suspects can apply for legal counsel during the investigation stage as well as during the trial.

 

 

Prosecuting of criminal cases to commence

12th Sept: The newly appointed Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz has revealed that lawyers will commence attending to criminal cases as stipulated by the new constitution under his jurisdiction. 


Speaking to Miadhu Daily Muiz revealed that delay in sending lawyers to attend cases prosecuted under his office is that when his office was established lawyers were under the civil service. He said while the lawyers are attending cases in court most of the logistical arrangements, such as office furniture and office equipments are not in place. 

"The main delays were caused due to lawyers being in the Civil Service, first we had to transfer them from the civil service" Muiz said. 

Muiz who was appointed as the country's first prosecutor general with the consensus of the Majlis said today his lawyers will be attending criminal cases being prosecuted under his office. 

The guidelines which are referred to in the constitution to be followed by the Prosecutor General in prosecuting suspects were recently formed by the Attorney General.

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