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Maldives News Bulletin, 28-09-2008
Issue No: 1171

 

The President says that the Government appreciates the invaluable services of the staff of Maldives Customs Service

22nd Sept: The President has said that the Government appreciates the invaluable services of the staff of Maldives Customs Service. The President made this statement while speaking to the staff of Maldives Customs Service during a meeting held last night. 

Referring to the 118 years of Customs service in the Maldives, the President said that Customs Service had rendered very important services to the people and to the Government over its long and distinguished history. Further, he noted that some people had been trying to taint the image of such service oriented institutions and accuse the officials and staff of such institutions.

The President stressed that it was unacceptable that false accusations should be made against such institutions in the name of democracy.

Mr. Mohamed Anwar, Deputy Principal Collector of Customs and Mr. Fathih Ali, Intelligence and Investigation Division’s Director also spoke at last night’s meeting.

 

Ambassador briefs on political reforms

24th Sept: Maldives Ambassador to United States of America Mohamed Hussain Maniku has briefed the National Press Club on the current political situation in the Maldives, at the “Afternoon Newsmaker” news conference held in Washington, D.C on Monday, according to foreign ministry. 

Highlighting the formal ratification of the new Constitution of the Republic of Maldives which occurred on August 7, 2008 Ambassador Maniku noted that the recent developments in the legislative framework also includes the establishment of a number of independent oversight bodies, such as the Elections Commission, Civil Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission, Judicial Services Commission and Anti- corruption Commission. 

Furthermore, Ambassador Maniku briefed the press on the upcoming first multi-party Presidential elections to be held on October 8, 2007, expressing that the Government was now in consultation with various political parties, NGOs, other civil society groups and the international community to strengthen the framework in preparation for the deadline. 

Ambassador Maniku also took the opportunity to draw attention to the praise given by the international community, commending the efforts of the Government of the Maldives in moving towards a more democratic society, and engaging the voices of all Maldivians in the political process. He also expressed his gratitude, on behalf of the Government of the Maldives to the US Government for its continued support and encouragement and welcomed future opportunities for assistance from the US to the Maldives in this time of great historic change.

 

Minister concerned over allegations against drug prevention agencies

24th Sept: Gender and Family minister Aishath Mohamed Didi has expressed concerns over allegations that are being leveled against at government institutions engaged in the prevention and control of drug abuse. She expressed her concerns at a news conference jointly held by Maldives Customs and National Narcotics Control Bureau on Monday at press room Fansavees / Dharubaargue. 

Speaking at the news conference Minister Aishath said that she is concerned over spurious allegations aimed at government agencies engaged in the control and prevention of drug abuse as such accusations is likely to have adverse affects on the work and performance of these institutions. 

Minister highlighted that some presidential candidates and their associates on numerous occasions have expressed such unfounded accusations. There is nothing wrong in expressing objectives and hopes or expressing how one intends to implement something in future, minister said. But expressing outright lies without any consideration to consequences is very different and very said the minister. 

“At a rally organized by Social Liberal Party (SLP), the party’s leader Ibrahim Ismail has expressed statements that discredit the government institutions and officials working to prevent drug smuggling and preventing drug abuse, he has blamed them very unfairly, he has said at least 85% of illegal drugs reaching the drug users go through either by hands of police or by hands of customs officers” minister Aishath said. 

Aishath said despite not being certain of the accuracy of what he expressed, Ibrahim Ismail said ‘that is how it will be’, if one cares to look at it closely. Aishath said even presidential candidates must obtain sufficient evidence and proof before such an allegation can be made. She said she wonders how the presidential candidate obtained such figures.

Minister Aishath further said government is very concerned over the drug situation and that the government gives high priority to prevent drug smuggling and drug abuse. She also noted that considerable effort, time and money are spent to this effect. 

We receive considerable support from neighboring countries and other international agencies towards prevention and elimination of drug abuse, Minister said. She noted some politicians also spread false allegations against these donor countries. She said such allegations against these countries have disastrous consequences. 

“At a rally of Adhaalath Party, key leader of the party while talking about how drug offenses are controlled in Sri Lanka have expressed inaccurate and false information, consequently Sri Lanka authorities have asked NNCB for a clarification of the matter” minister explained. 

 

Majlis passes Anti Corruption Commission bill

24th Sept: The People's Majlis have passed the anti corruption commission bill abolishing the power given to the President for enacting regulations on the control and reduction of corruption and abolishing the present anti corruption board after coming into force of the new bill. The bill also requires all pending and unfinished reports and complaints in the Anti Corruption Board to be handed over to the new Commission. The bill is part of a package of laws required to establish the new independent institutions under the Constitution. 

The bill was extensively debated in the Majlis and revised by an ad hoc committee. Addu member Mohamed Aslam and G Dh member Abbas Ibrahim proposed some further amendments to the bill in the last stage of the bill in yesterday's meting. Except for one, these proposals were accepted to be incorporated in the bill. The bill was amended by the committee after incorporating many amendments on the suggestions made by members in the main debate. In these amendments, Anti Corruption Commission was empowered to handle cases of corruption of Majlis members and NGOs. 33 members out of 35 members present voted for the bill. 

Legal Reform Minister replying questions raised by members said, he is happy the bill has been improved on the basis of the suggestions made by members. He said he hopes the bill will be ratified soon and the President will submit the names to be approved by the Majlis to establish the Commission. He also expressed the hope that the work of the interim anti corruption commission will start soon and the commission will remain until the new Majlis is elected, when a permanent anti corruption commission will be established. In yesterday's, meeting members pointed out it is important to receive all names of those who apply for membership of the commission in order to select the best possible persons for this very important commission. 

During the main debate of the bill, several members spoke with serious concern about the worsening situation of corruption in the country. They said it is a matter of deep regret the Anti Corruption Board set up by the Government has not produced any tangible results and incidents of big corruption is increasing unabated. Some members said high ranking government officials including ministers become very rich the moment they take up these posts, and they are constructing multi storied buildings and acquiring other properties while there is no way of finding how they are getting all that wealth. The country and people are subjected to great loss of their resources because of the high corruption in the country. 

Members pointed to public companies which they claimed are involved in serious corruption amounting to millions of dollars. There is no action taken to investigate these big cases while very minor cases involving katheebs and ordinary employees are investigated and prosecuted. Some members said Maldives will have the highest record of government corruption, and this is because the government is not sincere and serious to reduce corruption. They blamed the government for evading several major cases of corruption involving senior government officials. 

Members said the bill must have stronger mechanisms so that the Anti Corruption Commission shall have the powers and means without any influence to deal with corruption appropriately. The Commission must have teeth to get its strength, they said. Members also referred to more than 150 cases of corruption handled by the present Anti Corruption Board and said they must be transferred to the new Commission intact. They also spoke of the need to revise the existing Corruption Control Law as a matter of urgency. They also said members of the Commission must have the necessary qualifications and good record of service, while those serving in the Commission must also have means for their personal protection. 

 

President ratifies bill on Anti-Corruption Commission

25th Sept: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has yesterday ratified the bill on Anti-Corruption Commission, which was passed by the People’s Majlis in its 56th sitting yesterday. Following ratification, the Bill has been published in the Government Gazette. 

The Anti-Corruption Commission is an independent and impartial institution, and it will comprise of five members. 

The responsibilities of the Anti-Corruption Commission include inquiring into and investigating all allegations of corruption; to recommend further inquiries and investigations by other investigatory bodies; and to recommend prosecution of alleged offences to the Prosecutor General, where warranted. 

The Law on Anti-Corruption Commission would come into effect from the day the bill was ratified and published in the Government Gazette. 

 

Maldives Corruption index worse by 31 place

25th Sept: Maldives has been ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world according to international corruption watchdog Transparency International. Maldives has slid 31 places down this year from 84 to 115 in the rating of perceived corruption. The organization placed Maldives in the 17th place of the most corrupt countries while India holds 14th, Nepal 16th, Sri Lanka, 21st, Bhutan 36th places. Bangladesh was the worst in South Asia securing 10th position, but the Transparency International has said Bangladesh has made significant improvement compared to last year. According to this report, in the Maldives, level of corruption in public sector has deteriorated significantly compared to last year. 

Maldives has a bad record of perceived corruption of public sector although the government has passed law on controlling and reducing corruption. Anti Corruption Board was entrusted with the responsibilities of fighting and reducing corruption. But the Board has not been able to achieve any tangible results while the level of corruption has increased significantly. People's Majlis has strongly criticized the government for failing to fight corruption. There are concerns expressed by anti government forces and reformists about the lack of political will and sincerity of the government to fight corruption. Anti Corruption Board is accused of withholding major cases of corruption. 

Last week the People's Majlis passed an Anti Corruption Commission bill which empowers the Commission to function as an independent body to fight corruption. The Constitution requires having an independent Anti Corruption Commission and having a proper legislation to that effect. The Bill has been ratified by President Gayoom yesterday and it is expected the Commission will be established before 6 October 2008 as stated in the Constitution. 

The new law abolishers the power given to the President to make regulations regarding control and reduction of corruption and handover all the pending work of the Anti Corruption Board to the new independent Anti Corruption Commission. 

During the debate of the bill several members spoke with serious concern about the worsening situation of corruption in the country. They said it is a matter of deep regret the Anti Corruption Board set up by the Government has not produced any tangible results and incidents of big corruption is increasing unabated. Some members said high ranking government officials including ministers become very rich the moment they take up these posts, and they are constructing multi storied buildings and acquiring other properties while there is no way of finding how they are getting all that wealth. The country and people are subjected to great loss of their resources because of the high corruption in the country. 

Members pointed to public companies which they claimed are involved in serious corruption amounting to millions of dollars. There is no action taken to investigate these big cases while very minor cases involving katheebs and ordinary employees are investigated and prosecuted. Some members said Maldives will have the highest record of government corruption, and this is because the government is not sincere and serious to reduce corruption. They blamed the government for evading several major cases of corruption involving senior government officials. 

Members said the bill must have stronger mechanisms so that the Anti Corruption Commission shall have the powers and means without any influence to deal with corruption appropriately. The Commission must have teeth to get its strength, they said. Members also referred to more than 150 cases of corruption handled by the present Anti Corruption Board and said they must be transferred to the new Commission intact. They also spoke of the need to revise the existing Corruption Control Law as a matter of urgency. They also said members of the Commission must have the necessary qualifications and good record of service, while those serving in the Commission must also have means for their personal protection. 

 

Diplomatic Community praises government efforts

25th Sept: The Diplomatic Community based in Colombo has praised the government for the progress and success it has achieved under the Reform Agenda initiated by President Gayoom in 2004, according to a statement issued by Foreign Ministry. Foreign Ministry said the comments were received at a briefing held at the Maldivian High Commission in Colombo yesterday afternoon.

The Maldivian delegation headed by the State Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdulla Hameed provided details on the constitutional reform taking place in the country. Minister briefed the diplomatic community on the transitional arrangements set up with the enactment of Constitution 2008 as well as the preparations underway for the forthcoming first multi-party presidential elections next month. Details were also given on the engagement of international observers in the election process, foreign ministry said. 

Members of the diplomatic community praised the government and the people for the smooth transition and tremendous achievements to usher in a liberal democracy. Emphasizing the short time-frame in which this progress was achieved, the members expressed that the Maldives had accomplished the goal of successfully moving towards a multi-party state committed to preserving good governance and human rights. They also assured their continued support and assistance to the Maldives in all its endeavors. 

Foreign ministry said the briefing is part of the Governments’ engagement with the international community to share information on the political and legal developments, and is a continuation of the briefing provided in March of this year. Ministry said the briefing was attended by 27 Missions based in Colombo. 

The Minister was accompanied by High Commissioner of Maldives to Sri Lanka Ali Husain Didi, Fathmath Inaya and Aishath Liusha Zahir, Directors at the Foreign Ministry. 

 

The President officially launches the new Dhivehi translation of the Holy Quran

25th Sept: The President has tonight, officially launched the new Dhivehi translation of the Holy Quran published by the Government. It was launched at tonight’s meeting to revive and renew the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan, held at the Islamic Centre.

Speaking at the meeting, the President noted that fully conveying the great depths of the meanings of the Quran was beyond the scope of any other language. He said that therefore, it was important to possess the necessary knowledge of the Arabic language to fully understand the true meaning of the Quran.

At the meeting, the President acknowledged and thanked all those who had contributed to the translation, compilation, layouting and publishing of the Dhivehi translation of the Holy Quran. The President also presented a copy of the Dhivehi translation of the Holy Quran to those who had contributed to this important work, as well as to the participants of tonight’s meeting.

 

HRCM expresses concern over provisions of Election Act

26th Sept: Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has expressed concerns over some of provisions of the recently ratified Election Act. 

HRCM has expressed the commission is deeply concerned over clause (a) of article 5 of the General Election Rules which bars convicted criminals serving time in jail for periods in excess of 5 years from voting. Further the commission has expressed over the short time allocated for the voter registration. The Commission expressed that it fears that short time period may affect the voter turnout on the Election Day and has called on employers to facilitate easy and convenient mechanisms for their employees to vote. 

HRCM also welcomed the Election Commission to allow Maldivian Diasporas to vote and noted that forthcoming election will be historical as it will be the first time in the country’s history Diasporas as well as criminals serving time is allowed to vote. 

HRCM also revealed that during the draft stage of the General Election Rules and the Presidential Election Bill , the commission has urged and encouraged Legal Reform Ministry ,to draft the regulations and the bill to reflect clause (a) of article 26 of the constitution which guarantees every Maldivian citizen over 18 years of age the right to vote. The commission also stated that it had encouraged Legal reform ministry to include Maldivian communities living abroad to vote in the elections. 

However HRCM has pointed out that while Maldivian Diasporas living in India, Sri Lanka , Malaysia and Singapore are given the opportunity to vote, Diasporas in United Kingdom has not been granted the same privilege. The commission said this was regrettable and sad as UK has a Maldivian Mission and an accredited Ambassador. 

Further the Human Rights Commission highlighted the hard work of the Election Commission to complete election formalities in time for the Election Day and called on all concerned agencies to extend the election necessary support in its efforts to make the election as smooth as possible. 

 

Key Industries being used for political gains: MP Aneesa

26th Sept: Dhivehi Rahyithunge Party (DRP) parliamentary group leader and Vice Speaker of the People’s Majlis Aneesa Ahmed has expressed her sadness and dismay over the fact that key industries of the country are being used to achieve various political gains. She expressed her sentiments at a news conference held at Maumoon 2008 campaign office on Wednesday in response to allegations DRP and the incumbent is responsible for withholding the rights of workers engaged in a key industry of the country. 

She revealed that when the government initially proposed the employment bill it had no exclusions, the bill then did not deprived any workers from any of their rights. However the exclusion was made only after it came back from the Majlis committee to which it was sent for scrutiny and to be amended to reflect the members views expressed during the debate of the bill on the Majlis floor. 

“It is not the intention or the objective of DRP to exclude any body engaged in any industry from the bill” Aneesa said. 

Speaking at the news conference MP for Addu atoll Ibrahim Shareef (Mavota) said the bill was submitted to the Majlis on July 1, 2008 at the 13 sitting of the second session of this year. The bill after being widely discussed and debated on at three Majlis sittings was decided to be sent to Majlis standing committee on National Development with the aim of amending the bill to reflect the members views expressed during the debates, Shareef said. He also said the committee commenced work on the bill on 28 July 2008. 

“Any legislation should be interpreted in the same spirit as it was completed by the Majlis” Shareef said. Shareef said his biggest concern is that members who proposed amendments and actively engaged in the debate of the bill now speak in a different tone. “Members like Ibrahim Ismail (Ibra) have changed their tone completely, he who proposed many amendments to the bill is now speaking against the bill to gain political support” he said. 

“All DRP members of the Majlis will fully support the bill; I would like to assure all concerned that DRP will provide all necessary support” Shareef said. 

Shareef further expressed hope that Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives will act responsibly and give up their planned strike for October 5. 

President establish Advisory Board on Wages

26th Sept: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has established the Advisory Board on Wages and Benefits stipulated under the Employment Act. 

According to a press release issued by Higher Education, Employment and Social Security Ministry President Gayoom established the Board on Monday to offer guidance and advice to the minister on matters relating to the wages and benefits given by various organization including private sector organizations, to determine a minimum wage and to study work carried out by employees with regard to wages and benefits given. 

The 5 member Board is to be chaired by Dr. Abdul Mohushin, Vice President of the Civil Service Commission. In addition to Dr. Mohushin, the board comprises of Permanent Secretary of Trade and Economic Development Ministry Yousuf Riza, Mohamed Khaleem of Eboogasdhoshuge, President of Maldives tourism workers association Ahmed Easa and president of Maldives Association of Construction Industry Mohamed Ali Jinah.

 

Basic facilities not up to the mark at Hathifushi Jail – HRCM

26th Sept: Basic facilities provided to the inmates of the low risk jail established by Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) at the island of Hathifushi in Ha atoll is not up to acceptable standards, according to report published Human Rights Commission of Maldives. 

The report was published following a monitoring visit by HRCM to Hathifushi low risk jail on the 21 of August this year. The report was based on observations of the HRCM team and the information obtained from DPRS staff. 

According to the report transfer of inmates to the jail facility before the human resources development was completed prevents the full implementation of rules and regulation established for the welfare of staff and inmates. The report highlights the staff is concerned with the security arrangements of the facility and states that additional staff and resources are needed to cope with any emergency situation that may occur.

The low risk jail facility which started housing inmates as of July 30 this year uses well water for cooking and for showering purposes and that rain water is used for drinking. Electricity generator from a 5 Watt generator is not sufficient for the entire facility and sewerage system is not up to the mark. As such the staff as well as inmates is facing difficulties, the report said. 

The report also high lights lack of a suitable communication system at the jail facility. The report notes that this is causing numerous difficulties in exchanging official correspondences as well as making private calls. Family visits are not allowed although jail authorities have indicated that they were considering it, report notes. 

Further, the HRCM report also noted that the facility had no means of providing any medical assistance to either an inmate or staff. The facility also lacked trained staff to respond to any medical emergency and the nearest island which the inmates or staff will have to be evacuated to Huvarafushi of the atoll. 

HRCM said the lack of boundaries marking the facility poses a potential threat to the local community of the island. Lack of entertainment facilities and adequate staff to look after the inmates were also noted. 

 

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