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Maldives News Bulletin, 02-11-2008
Issue No: 1175

Maldives votes in run-off presidential election

28th Oct: Maldives is voting in the run-off election to elect a new president under the country's new constitution. Incumbent President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, DRP, Mohamed Nasheed, Anni of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, MDP are contesting after the historic first multi-party presidential election on 8 October which failed to give an absolute majority to any of the 6 candidates who contested in the election. Gayoom received 71,774 40.6% votes while Nasheed received 44,315 25.1% votes. 

The election created history in the island republic which has embraced far reaching democratic reform and adopted a new Constitution on 7 August 2008 after a process of lengthy and heated debate in the People's Special Majlis assembled on 19 July 2004. The reform agenda of the country is culmination of unprecedented efforts to introduce a liberal democracy in the country. 

In today's run-off, there are 208,252 eligible voters and for the first time in the history of the country, everyone over 18 years of age is eligible to vote. Government has declared today and tomorrow as public holidays to facilitate the election. Voting will start at 9 in the morning and finish at 8.30 in the night. Votes will be counted and results will be announced at the centers where voting has taken place. 

Independent observers from the Commonwealth and UN visiting will be monitoring the elections, while representatives of candidates and political parties and NGOs will also observe voting and counting of votes. There were some problems and irregularities concerning mainly on registration of votes in the first round. Many voters complained their names were not in the voter's registry and after some protests, Election Commission arranged for them to vote if they had their ID cards. Many voters had to stay long hours before casting their votes. However, international observers have praised the voting and applauded high turn out. 

Election Commission's Office has worked hard to address the registration and other problems encountered in the first election. Chief Commissioner has appealed all eligible voters to participate in the election. Police and National Defense Force Services have requested from the people and candidates and political parties to help make the election peaceful and smooth. They have also said they will make every effort to maintain law and order in the election. 

The Maldives changed to a republic twice, first in 1952 when Mohamed Amin was elected as the first president of the country. However the republic lasted only few months and the republic was abolished. The country again decided to change to a republic from a monarchy in 1968 when Ibrahim Nasir was elected President. President Nasir stepped down in 1978.Nasir was succeeded by President Gayoom who was first elected to the post in 1978. 

For the first time in the modern history of the country, powers of the state have been separated. The Constitution has also introduced multi party presidential elections in which the president will be elected by a direct vote of the people. The winning candidate has to secure over 50% of votes for election as the president. 

There has been extensive campaigning by the two candidates during the past three weeks amid allegations and verbal attacks between the two candidates and their parties.

 

Majlis endorse Media Council Bill

28th Oct: People’s Majlis at its 8 th sitting of the third session held yesterday morning passed the bill on Media Council. 

When the bill was put to vote it was passed with unanimously with all 26 members in attendance voting in favor. 

The bill on Maldives Media Council bill was submitted by the government with the objective of creating an independent institution to work to establish and enhance a free press. The bill was initially drafted by taking in to account four different models, which include Australian Press Council, British Press Complaints Commission, Press Council of India and Human Rights Commission of Maldives. 

The bill on Maldives Media Council bill stipulates the powers, the objectives and the guidelines of the council. The main objective of the Media Council is to maintain media freedom and to prevent any action that may impair the media freedom. 

Maldives Media Council is an independent, self regulatory body having powers to prosecute on its own behalf, to engage and conduct its own business as well as having powers to make out of court settlements in relation to complaints against media. The council comprises of 8 members from the media and 7 members from the general public. 
During the debate stage of the bill members expressed the Maldivian media was enjoying unprecedented freedom not enjoyed by media of any other country. Some members expressed that it is important to regulate media in order to conduct the media in a responsible manner. 

At the beginning of the sitting, Majlis passed the minutes of 6 previous sittings of the People’s Majlis (Minutes Nos. 71/2008 and 76/2008). 

Yesterday’s sitting, attended by 30 Members before break time and 24 members after break time, and was chaired by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, Mohamed Shihab.

 

Majlis approve 7 member National Security Committee

28th Oct: People’s Majlis yesterday at its 8 th sitting of the third session passed to include 7 members in the National security Committee to be formed under article 241 of the constitution. The Majlis National Security Committee as per article 241 of the constitution is tasked with the continuing oversight of the operation of all national security services. 

At yesterday’s sitting two proposals submitted at the seventh sitting of the third session of the Majlis held on 22 of October was put to vote. Both proposals were passed by Majlis majority. 

The first of the two proposals put to vote was the proposal submitted by Ha atoll MP Jaufar Easa Adam and seconded by President’s member Mohamed Saleem. MP Jaufar’s proposal proposes to form a seven member National Security Committee. According to the proposal the committee is to be comprised of three members from Dhivehi Rahyithunge Party (DRP), one member from People’s Alliance (PA), one member from Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), one member from Jumhoory Party (JP) and one member from Social Liberal Party (SLP). 

The second proposal was submitted by MP for Kaafu atoll Maria Ahmed Didi and supported by Noonu atoll MP Abdulla Yamin. MP Maria proposes that the while the constitution stipulates that a national security services committee, it must be left to the party to nominate who will represent the party at the committee. 

At yesterday’s sitting the Chair announced that parties will be informed to nominate their representative to the committee. 

At the beginning of the sitting, Majlis passed the minutes of 6 previous sittings of the People’s Majlis (Minutes Nos. 71/2008 and 76/2008). 

Yesterday’s sitting, attended by 30 Members before break time and 24 members after break time, and was chaired by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, Mohamed Shihab.

 

Majlis accepts bill on freedom of expression

28th October: People’s Majlis at its 8 th sitting of the third session held yesterday has accepted the bill on the right of freedom of expression and passed to send the bill to Majlis committee on Social Affairs. 

During the debate stage of the bill, 12 members spoke on the bill and when the bill was put to vote , to ascertain whether it be accepted or rejected , it was passed unanimously with 22 members in attendance at that time voting in favor. 

When the Chair opened the floor for recommendations to determine which committee the bill should be forwarded, Thaa atoll MP Mohamed Shareef supported by Laamu MP Moosa manic proposed to send the bill to Social Affairs Committee. As there was no other proposals submitted the Chair then ruled to forward the bill to Majlis standing committee on Social Affairs. 

The bill drafted by the government aims to bring the right of freedom of expression to international standards and principles as well as to stipulate situations where the right cannot be applied. 

At the beginning of the sitting, Majlis passed the minutes of 6 previous sittings of the People’s Majlis (Minutes Nos. 71/2008 and 76/2008). 

Yesterday’s sitting, attended by 30 Members before break time and 24 members after break time, and was chaired by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, Mohamed Shihab.

 

World Bank awards US $ 13.5 M for environmental protection

28th Oct: World Bank has agreed to grant US $ 13.5 million in soft loan towards development of capacity to effectively manage environmental protection, according to Environment Ministry. 

The project to be implemented under the name Maldives Environment Management project includes establishing proper waste disposals systems in center atolls of North Maldives, capacity building for environment management and monitoring and conducting pilot programs for research and collecting data. 

The most important component of the project will be to conduct Diploma or Bachelor’s degree level programs in environment protection. The component is to be conducted jointly with Maldives College of Higher Education with foreign expertise. According to ministry all programs will be conducted to international standards. 

6 individuals who will be acting as instructors in the programs will depart to universities abroad to follow a Masters program in environment related studies, environment ministry revealed.

 

Auditor General rejects speculations on BML

28th Oct: Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem (Makun Naeem) has rejected speculation on lack funds in the depositories of Bank of Maldives (BML). 

Speaking at the press conference held on Sunday to brief the media on audit of the finance ministry Makun Naeem said that the ongoing speculations on lack of funds deposited by the public are no longer with the bank is not true. 

“I can tell you very directly, these stories are not true at all, your money deposited at the bank is safe, there will never be a stage when the money kept by you will be lost or you will be unable to make withdrawals” the first independent Auditor General of Maldives Naeem said. 

According to Naeem, funds deposited by the bank are at Monetary Authority and that there are no difficulties in obtaining that money. 

He urged all account holders to remain calm and not to withdraw money from the bank unnecessarily. He revealed that money deposited in banks is under special protection. 

Commenting on the speculations that counterfeit currency notes are in circulation, Naeem said counterfeit notes cannot come in to the depositories of MMA or in to the state treasury. He said the security features at MMA are strong enough to prevent any infiltration. 

“As a person in charge of auditing MMA, I am telling you the controls at MMA do not allow such a thing” Auditor General Naeem said.

 

HRCM appeals for peaceful polling

28th Oct: Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has appealed to the people to make the polling in the runoff presidential elections peaceful and smooth. The Commission made this appeal in a statement issued yesterday. 

The Commission urged all citizens to make use of the rights and freedom guarantees under the constitution responsibly. 

The Commission expressed that this was a critical and important time in the country’s political history and appealed to all voters to refrain from engaging in any violence and disturbances and to abide all electoral regulations and rules. 

Voters are urged to be responsible the exercise of their rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, to respect other’s rights and freedom and to give priority to national interest, the commission’s statement said. 

The Commission urged the government, presidential candidates, political parties, supporters of candidates and parties, and civil society to carry out their important responsibility of ensuring a peaceful and free election. The Commission also urged not to indulge in any intimidation violence or disturbances. 

The Commission also said the decision of the people is the final verdict in a democracy; therefore it is important all accept and respect the result of the election. As such the commission advised not to indulge in any action that may affect national interest and abide by the laws and regulations of the country. 

The Commission also called on police and defense force officers to remain steadfast in discharging their responsibilities and duties. Further the commission also urged the people not to obstruct police or defense officers carrying out their duties.

 

President calls on Majlis to expedite endorsing Pensions Bill

29th Oct: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has called on People’s Majlis to expedite endorsing the bill on Pensions submitted by the government. 

President Gayoom made the appeal in a letter sent to the Speaker of the People’s Majlis Mohamed Shihab on Monday. 

President in his letter to the Speaker expressed that the Pensions Bill is an important bill which would guarantee the right to enjoy the benefit of a pension for all government employees under article 38 of the constitution ratified on 7 August 2008. 

He further said the endorsement of the bill would pave the way for all employed in the country to enjoy pensions. 

The bill was submitted to the Majlis on September 2007.

 

No change in plans for Hankede City Hotel: Tourism Ministry

29th Oct: There is no change in the government plans to develop a city hotel in Hankede of Addu atoll, according Tourism Ministry. 

Ministry said government gives top priority to develop a city hotel in Hankede as such an undertaking has a direct bearing on the island’s economic development and people’s prosperity. 

Ministry further informed that the hotel development will be put up for tender soon and that the construction is hoped to commence after bidding process is completed. 

The agreement made between Thoodu Pvt Ltd and the Ministry for the development of a City Hotel in Hankede was cancelled. Ministry said the agreement was cancelled as the government no longer believed that the Thoodu Pvt. Ltd was capable of undertaking such a project.

 

Melamine discovered in more products

29th Oct: Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) have declared that the harmful chemical melamine has been found in more food items. 

Director General of Maldives Food and Drug Authority Moosa Anwar speaking to Miadhu Daily informed that in addition to some Chinese products Malaysian products have also been found to contain toxic chemical melamine. 

He said this was confirmed by Agri Veterinary Authority of Singapore and Hong Kong Food Safety Authority. 

The Malaysian products found to contain toxic melamine are Julies Wheat Crackers, Julies Golden Kaka Crackers, Julies Cottage Crackers, Julies Chez Creamy Cheese Sandwhich, Julies Sugar Crackers,Julies Waferico chocolate coated wafers with chocolate filling, Julies Minico Rich Chocolate Chip Cookies and Julies peanut butter sandwich. 

He also said most of these products are available in Maldivian markets and appealed to the general public to pay extra attention when purchasing similar products. He urged traders to remove the these products from the shelves .He further said work is under way to inspect shops and warehouses to identify the products. 

Director General of Trade Ministry Usman Shakir informed that work is underway in Male’ and atolls to inspect the shops and remove these products. He said this time melamine is discovered in biscuits varieties. Usman also said in Male’ these products are mostly in supermarkets.

Usman also revealed that import and sale of these products has now been banned.

 

Seminar on National Certificate Structure held

29th Oct: Minister of Higher Education, Employment and Social Security Dr. Ibrahim Hassan on Monday has inaugurated a seminar organized by Maldives Accreditation Board on the revised National Certificate Structure. 

The Seminar being continued at Youth Center is aimed to increase awareness on the revised National Certificate Structure and to discuss the structure with relevant parties before implementation. 32 members from 16 centers providing higher education in Maldives are taking part in the seminar. 

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony Dr. Ibrahim Hassan said that revised National Certificate Structure is the backbone of higher education. He further said collaborations between education policy makers and educators will result in meaningful and beneficial education. 

The minister said the revised structure will facilitate more training opportunities for Maldivians joining the labor market as well as more opportunities for Maldivians to obtain training and skills acceptable to employees and government. 

Information at the workshop was given by a quality assurance expert Dr. Ali Manik. He spoke about increasing and maintaining the quality of higher education. 

At the seminar group discussions were held on the revised certificate structure and points noted by groups were submitted. Maldives Accreditation Board informed that the points noted will be addressed before the implementation of the structure. 

Maldives Accreditation Board revealed that seminar is intended to smooth path the implementation of the revised structure and that more activities are planned before the introduction of the structure.

 

STO medical store destroyed in fire

29th Oct: Fire broke out in STO main medical store yesterday destroying Rf 24 Million worth of goods. The fire broke out yesterday at around 1330 hours. 

Officers of Maldives Police Services and Maldives Defense Force were quickly at the scene to control and contain the fire. 

Speaking at a news conference held after the fire was extinguished Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of STO Ahmed Mohamed said despite destruction of the goods at the medical store, the medical supply service afforded to hospitals and other drug stores would continue uninterrupted. He emphasized that medical supplies to cater for immediate needs are available. 

“Half of the medical supplies needed for the next 45 days are already here in customs; the rest of the order is on the way. Further more medical supplies need is being ordered. Private parties who import medical supplies have informed that they will provide all assistance required. STO medical stores always maintain 2 month stock, so when the fire broke out more than Rf.24 Million worth of medical supplies were stored. Fortunately all of our medical supplies are kept in the store are insured, especially fire protection is covered, our prices will not be affected because of this incident” CEO Ahmed Mohamed.

 

People in vicinity of brunt STO medical stores report facing allergies

29th Oct: General public who move through the burnt down STO medical stores zone are reporting various health issues especially that of allegories. 

According to information received to Miadhu daily people who had for various reasons moved through zone have reported various health issues, such as skin irritations, itching of eyes, headaches and itching of various areas of the body. 

According to IGMH only one person has been treated from the hospital so far and that the patient was treated for headache and eye irritation. IGMH said the patient after being treated has been released. 

The medical store burnt down yesterday was the main medical store of STO. According to information the store in addition to medical supplies also stocked large amount of chemicals.

 

Bus service commenced with hourly trips

29th Oct: The bus services between Hulhumale’ and Male’ International Airport which commenced on Monday will operate hourly trips, Maldives Airports Company has revealed. 

Speaking at the news conference held to launch the service Chief Executive officer of Maldives Airports Company Mohamed Amir said the services at present is provided only provided to airport staff residing in Hulhumale and passengers from Hulhumale’ travelling to airport. He also said the busses operated can also accommodate the luggage of passengers. 

“The bus service commenced today will be operated free of charge till December, we hope that the service will be a great convenience for those who make use of the service, two our buses will operate daily, 26 people can cross within 15 minutes, even though there is no charge as yet, from December onwards we will be introducing fares, the fare will not be above Rf.15.00, right now we are in probation period” said Amir briefing the media. 

According to Amir even though the service is restricted only to airport staff residing in Hulhumale’, the service will be expanded in future depending on the demand. Amir further said services will be operated hourly commencing from 0545AM till 01.00 PM daily. 

Hulhumale’ Development Corporation (HDC)Deputy Director Suhail Ahmed briefing the media said bus service will commence daily from Airport and International Terminal and will stop at the bus stop near no 7 residential block of Hulhumale’.

 

Nasheed elected as next president

29th Oct: The main opposition leader presidential candidate of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) coalition Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) has been elected as the next president of Maldives, according to provincial election results. 

Provincial election results of the second round of first ever multiparty presidential elections puts Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) in the lead with 54 percent votes. Provincial results of the 404 ballot boxes stationed in capital Male’, inhabited islands, resort islands, industrial and in some foreign countries, as of 0500 this morning, indicates that Nasheed received 96,964 votes. This is 54.20 percent of the 178,905 valid votes of 403 ballot boxes. Dhivehi Rahyithunge Party leader and presidential candidate Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who contested the second round of elections received 45.80 percent. Provincial election results of 403 ballot boxes gives Nasheed some 15,023 votes more than Gayoom. 

According to Interim Election Commission 209,294 voters were eligible to cast their votes in the second round of elections and although initially 403 ballot boxes were stationed in Male’, atolls and in some foreign countries, the number of ballot boxes was later increased to 404. An additional box was stationed to facilitate voting for those who faced voting difficulties due to their names being on the voter list caused errors on part of the election commission. 

A second round of elections was called for as none of the six candidates who contested the first round of elections held 8 October failed to obtain 50 percent majority. Under article 111 of the constitution ratified on 7 August this year, if none of the candidates contesting the first round elections obtained 50 percent of the votes then a second round of elections is required between candidates who achieved most votes and the runner up candidate. 

The runoff elections of the 2008 presidential elections were contested between Dhivehi Rahyithunge Party (DRP) presidential candidate Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed (Anni). Atolls Minister Ahmed Thasmeen Ali contested the runoff as the running mate of DRP’s candidate. Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, chairperson of the Maldives National Congress, contested the runoff elections as the running mate of MDP coalition’s candidate. 

As of 0530 this morning provincial election results of 396 ballot boxes puts Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) in the lead with 95,207 votes (54.04%). Gayoom received 80,981 votes (45.96%).

 

Seychelles fishing boat stranded on uninhabited island

29th Oct: A fishing boat from Seychelles has been discovered stranded on the beach of Hukuru Elhi, an uninhabited island of Alif Alif atoll, according to Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF). 

According to MNDF the Seychelles vessel was discovered by staff of Rangali Resort who was out fishing in nearby waters. MNDF said the discovery was reported to them via Mahibadhoo Police Station yesterday morning at around 0730 in the morning. MNDF said following the report Coast Guard 106 Nirolhu Launch was dispatched. 

The 9 meter fishing vessel left Seychelles with crew members and due to failure of engines drifted on to the shores of the island, MNDF said. Further MNDF revealed that the surviving crew member had informed that other member died due lack of food and water and that the dead body has been thrown overboard. 

The surviving crew member is currently undergoing medical treatment at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and that his condition is poorly MNDF revealed. MNDF also said the boat had sustained some damages.

 

Commonwealth Secretary-General congratulates President Elect

29th Oct: Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has congratulated President Elect Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Alliance on their election victory. 

Secretary-General Sharma in a statement issued on Wednesday said multi-party presidential elections completed on Tuesday represents a new phase in the country’s democratic development and a significant landmark in the bold process of democratic reform initiated by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. 

Sharma said MDP, as the country’s first opposition party, played a crucial role over the years in raising public awareness of democratic rights and freedoms, and in leading the popular movement for political change. Sharma said that he look forward to working closely with Mr. Nasheed for the benefit of the people of Maldives. 

Sharma also said he had contacted the outgoing president to congratulate him for his statesmanship, leadership and vision in opening up the democratic and political space for others. Gayoom leaves a legacy of impressive growth and development in Maldives, and should be proud of his role in leading the country to a prosperous, democratic future, Sharma said. 

Secretary-General Sharma said he was greatly encouraged by the spirit of inclusiveness and co-operation that has been demonstrated by all the presidential candidates, and by President Gayoom’s own speedy and gracious acceptance of the will of the people. He said spirit of this transition was welcomed in the Commonwealth. 

The Commonwealth has closely supported the democratic transition in Maldives since 2005 by close political engagement through the good offices of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Tun Musa Hitam and others, as well as the required technical assistance, in consultation with the Government, Secretary General said. He further said Commonwealth will continue to support the country’s new leadership as it addresses the many challenges of governance. 

A Commonwealth Observer Group led by Owen Arthur, former Prime Minister of Barbados, has been present in Maldives throughout the electoral process, and will make an interim statement on the run-off election, Secretary-General Sharma said. 

 

Government provides Hilaaleege to President elect Nasheed

29th Oct: The Government has arranged government guest house Hilaaleege for the use of President elect Mohamed Nasheed as a residence pending his inauguration on 11 November. Government has also arranged necessary security and other facilities for Mr. Nasheed. 

President elect Mohamed Nasheed has already started some official works in Hilaaleege. He has also met some foreign dignitaries and others in the residence.

 

The Transition Committee commences its work

1st Nov: The Transition Committee established by President Gayoom has today, commenced its work. Its first meeting was held this morning at the President’s Office.

This Committee was established to facilitate a peaceful and smooth transition of power to the government of President-elect, Mr. Mohamed Nasheed.

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