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Maldives News Bulletin, 14-12-2008
Issue No: 1181
The President visits Male' Atoll Himmafushi

8th Dec: President Nasheed today visited the Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Male' Atoll Himmafushi. During the visit, the President inspected the Centre's facilities and gathered information on the programmes that were being implemented to rehabilitate drug-addicts, for their return back to the community. The President also met with the youths who were receiving treatment at the Centre and extended his encouragement to them.

Minister of Health and Family, Dr. Aminath Jameel and senior officials of the Rehabilitation Centre gave information to the President on the selection criteria, the strategies and programmes and the different activities that were on offer for the individuals undergoing rehabilitation at the Centre.

During his visit to the Rehabilitation Centre, the President joined the individuals at the Centre, for the Eid lunch.

In his visit, the President was accompanied by Minister of Health, Dr. Aminath Jameel; Finance Secretary at the President's Office, Mr. Ahmed Mausoom; Cabinet Secretary at the President's Office, Mr. Abdulla Saeed; Executive Services Secretary, Mr. Mohamed Ziyad and Mr. Ishan Saeed, a Designer.


The government expects significant number of prisoners will be released under a new legislation

8th Dec: In a joint interview to the Television Maldives' ‘Raajje Miadhu' programme last night, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Ahmed Shafeeg, and Deputy Under Secretary of the President's Office, Uz. Nazil Afeef, have provided information about a pre-existing programme under which the cases of prisoners could be reviewed, their sentences reduced, and under which prisoners could be released, where possible.

They informed that President Nasheed's government has also been working on a second programme that supplemented the existing programme. They said the goal of the government was to provide an environment where prisoners could prepare themselves to return to the society as responsible citizens.

Mr. Shafeeg and Uz. Nazeel also commented on a draft bill to be sent to the People's Majlis. They said the bill contained provisions on how to treat the cases of the prisoners sentenced before the current Constitution was ratified. In this regard, they said the bill provided for:

- Granting pardon to those sentenced for offences that did not constitute offences under the current Constitution

- Reducing sentences or granting pardon where convictions were based on regulations that were stricter or more lenient than the current standards used for convicting

- Granting pardon where the convicted had not attained the age of 18 when he or she committed the offence for which he or she was convicted. However, the cases that could be pardoned under this provision excluded murder, significant bodily injury cases, and offences for which Hadd is prescribed under Islamic Shari'ah

- Reducing sentence or granting pardon where a conviction was merely based on confession under investigation

- Granting pardon to those who were sentenced for reasons of achieving illegitimate political goals.

Meanwhile, the President's Office has informed that when this bill becomes law, the government expects a significant number of people will be released.


The President sends a message on the occasion of SAARC Charter Day

8th Dec: President Nasheed has sent a message on the occasion of SAARC Charter Day. The President's message reads as follows:

Quote:

"As we commemorate the Twenty Third Anniversary of the founding of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), it gives me great pleasure to extend warm greetings of the people and the Government of the Republic of Maldives to all the peoples of South Asia.

It is commendable that SAARC has achieved considerable progress in fostering good relations among its Member States, and achieved significant developments within the region since it's inception in 1985. While it is important to celebrate these achievements, it is equally important that the Organisation is well equipped to deal with the various challenges that the world is facing today. Our region could experience the worst consequences of the current global economic and financial crises. Moreover, the scourge of terrorism, poverty and environmental catastrophes place us in a position that could bare the brunt of these disasters.

Therefore, we need a renewed effort of the part of the SAARC Member States to build on the strong cooperation that exists in our region and generate productive results for the progress of the region. For this purpose, I wish to call on all Members to make a concerted effort to steer this Organisation as one that stands committed to the pillars of democracy and good governance.

Today, as we celebrate this important occasion, I would like to reaffirm the Maldives' firm commitment to the SAARC ideals, and fostering even stronger cooperation for the advancement of all Members of the South Asian Region."

Unquote:


Maldives Police participates in Drug Enforcement Workshop in China

8th Dec: A Drug Enforcement Workshop has been hosted recently by the Chinese Police Academy, Maldives Police Services has revealed.

Police Services informed that workshop was held in Kunmin City between the 2nd and the 29th of November, and 26 delegates from thirteen different countries from throughout Southeast Asia participated in the event, including two officers of the Maldives Police Service. They were Head of Drug Enforcement Unit, Sub Inspector Mohamed Jinaah, and Staff Sergeant Ali Faiz.

Delegates participated in broad discussions about the current issues surrounding drug enforcement, and also held discussions on what actions can be taken to resolve such issues at an international level.

Delegates also discussed the issue of drug control in an attempt to identify a realistic solution.

The attending officers also had the opportunity to visit four other Chinese cities, and to participate in similar workshops in these cities, Police Services informed.


People being trained to meet aviation manpower requirements: Minister Jameel

8th Dec: Minister of Civil Aviation and Communication Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has said that he is developing human capital by training people in the areas of travel and communication.

Speaking at a ceremony held to commemorate the international civil aviation day on the 7th of December, Dr. Ahmed stated that building a skilled workforce in this sector is of grave import to the government and mentioned plans to establish a flight school in the country in the near future, under foreign investment schemes.

Dr. Ahmed conceded that there was a shortage of skilled labour within the country, particularly in the civil aviation sector, despite the fact that the sector of the country had offered the best employment opportunities in terms of working conditions and remuneration for the past 10 years.

Dr. Ahmed said that the significance of civil aviation to the country is increasing continuously and that this was because of the many advantages it offered to the citizens economically and said that there remained a lot to be done to improve the sector.


The President attends the award giving ceremony of the Interschool Singing Competition 2008

9th Dec: President Nasheed has last night attended the award giving ceremony of the Interschool Singing Competition 2008, organized by the National Centre for the Arts. The ceremony was held at Olympus. Upon his arrival, the President was greeted by Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ahmed Ali Sawad and Minister of Education, Dr. Musthafa Luthfy.

At the ceremony, the President presented trophies and prizes for the best school, which was won by Aminiya School.


The President visits Dhuvaafaru

10th Dec: President Mohamed Nasheed has this afternoon, visited the island of Dhuvaafaru in North Maalhosmadulu Atoll. The island is being developed with the assistance of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent to settle the people of Kandholhudhoo whose homes were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami.

During his visit to Dhuvaafaru, the President met with some of the senior members of Dhuvaafaru Island Developing Committee and other associations of the island, and discussed with them ways of developing the island. The President also opened Dhuvaafaru Health Centre.

In his visit, the President was accompanied by Minister of Health and Family, Dr. Aminath Jameel; Minister of Education, Dr. Musthafa Luthfy; Minister of State for Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan; Minister of State for Human Resources, Youth and Sports; Mr. Aslam Shakir; Minister of State for Home Affairs; Mr. Ahmed Mujthaba; Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, Minister of State for Human Resources, Youth and Sports; Finance Secretary at the President's Office, Mr. Ahmed Mausoom; and Executive Services Secretary at the President's Office, Mr. Mohamed Ziyad.

The President has now arrived at Male', after concluding his visit to Dhuvaafaru.


12,000 families homeless - MHRC

10th Dec: More than 12,000 families are living without adequate shelter and that 85 percent of Male' population is living in severe congestion, according to Maldives Human Rights Commission (HRCM). The commission made the statement in its survey report on the Housing Situation in Maldives conducted in April - May 2008.

According to the report despite the economic and social developments of the past years, many obstacles and difficulties are faced in providing adequate housing to the people. As such the government is faced with the immense task finding an urgent solution to his pressing national issue.

During the survey, islanders as well as Male' residents informed that their living in lowly, miserable and difficult conditions. Among issues noted are ever increasing rents of apartments, lack of available land for housing, congestion, high cost of fresh water and many others. The report also notes such deplorable living conditions lead to inevitable health issues.

A woman, one of the many interviewed, lives in a single room along with her six children. Three out of the 6 children are above 18 years. According to the woman, many others in her area live in similar conditions. She said that at time , she is forced to send the children out of the room for want of privacy and that she and her husband on many occasions has even rented day rooms just to be together.

The report also notes that such poor living conditions have led to a rise in social problems, including drug abuse, gang violence, child abuse and rape. The report also noted poor living conditions of foreign workers.

According to the report, 23 percent of a Male' household lives in a single room ; 54 percent lives 2 room or 1 room and 77 percent lives in 3 rooms or less.

On the subject of Hulhumale', the report states that the Hulhumale' has not fulfilled the objectives and aspirations the island was constructed for and that by solving many of the existing difficulties the island can live up to the expectations of the people.

The report titled ‘Rapid Assessment of the Housing situation in the Maldives' puts forward 18 recommendations and is aimed to assist the government and all concerned in taking the necessary steps to better the housing problems in the country.


Dhuvaafaru can accommodate all living in temporary shelters: Island Chief

10th Dec: The Kadholuhudhoo islanders who were forced to abandon their island due the 2004 tsunami and living in various islands of the atoll can be fully accommodated in Dhuvaarafru Island and that providing them with housing was a top priority when the houses in Dhuvaarafaru was allocated, Island of Chief of Kadholudhoo Mohamed Ali Fulhu has said.

Speaking to Miadhu Daily from Dhuvaafaru, Kadholhudhoo Island Chief said although the some areas of the island can be further improved, basic amenities and housing are provided to all taking up residence in the island.

"Today we are transferring the Kadholudhoo Islanders living in the island of Alifushi, tomorrow we will be brining those living in Maduvvari and Meedhoo, then will come those living in Hulhudhufaaru and Ungoofar, they all have been given houses in the island" Island Chief said.

Islanders inform as some more still needs to be completed every body may not be provided separate houses, but at least everybody living temporary shelters can have proper roof over their heads. They say they are anxious to start their life in Dhuvaafaru. They say despite incomplete stadium and lack of proper harbor or lack of waste disposal means they are happy to get on with their lives, hoping that such facilities would soon be completed.


Govt working on getting better rates for domestic fish products abroad: Minister Didi

10th Dec: Dr. Ibrahim Didi said that the government is working hard to get better rates for Maldivian fish products abroad and to penetrate the European market.

Dr. Didi said yesterday that he has been working on the issue on a recent unofficial trip to the United Kingdom.

"I'm very keen to open up our products to the European markets." He told Miadhu soon after his return. "I met officials of two interested companies in England, and spoke with officials of the British High Commission about setting up a MIFCO outlet there. We discussed opening up the United Kingdom for Maldivian fish products and getting a good rate for them".

Mr. Didi said that he does not believe that domestic fish products get an acceptable rate abroad at present. The main reason for this, he said, was because domestic exports targeted one market, Thailand, which receives close tos 90% of local fish exports. He said that one of his main priorities was, therefore, to open up new markets for domestic products abroad.


Govt working on facilitating soft loans for fishermen - President

10th Dec: President Mohamed Nasheed has said that the government wants to reduce the interest rates for loans to local fisherman, as part of its efforts to develop the fisheries sector.

Speaking at Ha Dhiddhoo, the President said that he hopes that there will be lower rates of interest charged on loans for fisheries activities and that such action is important to the expansion of the industry.

Members of parliament voiced their sentiments regarding next years' budget in last week's parliamentary sittings, and expressed particular concern over the undersized budget allocated for loans to the local fisheries industry, while many called for the reduction and some for the abolishment of the interest on loans for fisheries activities.

According to the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr. Ibrahim Didi, the Fisheries Ministry has received complaints from local fishermen regarding the high interest they were being charged on loans for the purchase of fishing vessels. Dr. Didi said he would work to find a reasonable solution to the matter.


Fish Processing Plant to be built in Addu

10th Dec: The Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr. Ibrahim Didi has said that the government plans to build a fish processing plant on the island of Hithadhoo, in Addu Atoll.

In an interview given to Miadhu, Dr. Didi said that a processing plant similar to the one in Felivaru is needed to invigorate and expand the fisheries sector and that the government will try to establish such a plant in Hithadhoo as soon as possible. He said further that he is looking into means of financing the project, and that gaining access to markets in Europe and elsewhere is important to attract and sustain foreign investment needed to fund such ventures.

Health certificates were made available from an outlet in Hulhule' recently, as part of the new government's effort to assist the local fisheries sector.

MIFCO fish products, which are processed in the plant on Felivaru, are popular within the country and abroad.


President implores Fisheries Sector to work towards new ideals

10th Dec: The President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed implored the fisheries sector and related local authorities to work towards a new ideal, in his address on the occasion of the National Fishermen's Day.

In his address, he said that the Maldivian fishermen should be able to follow natural patterns and make use of technology to locate fish resources and that there is nothing stopping local fishermen from making the country renowned for its fisheries.

He also said that the government has to promote and facilitate the local fisheries sector and said that the government would perform its role in furthering the sector. He said that the government aims to make the domestic fish exports unique products and have the local fisheries industry become price setters rather than price takers, and further the income of the citizens, through sound policy implementation.

President Nasheed assured that the fruit of government's labors will be delivered promptly, and expressed his heartfelt gratitude to stakeholders in the domestic fisheries sector.


UK pledge support to new government of Maldives

11th Dec: UK's Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN Mark Malloch Brown, has assured Maldives Foreign Minister, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed of the British Government's support to the new Maldivian Government, according to foreign ministry. The assurances by British Minister were given during a meeting held between the two Ministers, on Wednesday, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

Lord Malloch-Brown stated that the British Government will provide technical assistance to the Maldivian Government and advocate support for the Maldives through multilateral donors and international financial institutions. He also assured that both countries will continue to work together on issues of mutual concern, including human rights and climate change.

Foreign Minister Shaheed, thanked the British Government for its continued support and cooperation, especially during the democratisation process. He also explained the current economic situation in the country and the challenges being faced by the new Government, as well as the plans for the future.

Foreign Minister Shaheed also met with Michael Foster, Minister for South Asia of the Department for International Development and briefed him on the development needs of the Maldives.

Minister Shaheed is currently visiting London and Brussels to hold dialogue with officials of the British Government and the European Commission to brief them on the current economic situation.

According to foreign ministry, Dr Shaheed after the meeting in London said "there is tremendous international good will towards the efforts of the people in the Maldives to consolidate democracy. I have no doubt that this warmth will translate into concrete assistance at a significant level. I am gratified by the pledges of support by the UK government and its advocacy of assistance to the Maldives. The international community fully understands the concerns and needs of the Maldives at this crucial time."

During the meeting the Foreign Minister handed over a letter from President Mohamed Nasheed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.


Democracy the basis of many rights enjoyed today: HRCM Chief

11th Dec: The President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Ahmed Saleem has stated the newly established democracy is the basis of the many of the rights enjoyed by Maldivians today. Saleem made the statement in his message to nation on the occasion of Human Rights day 2008 aired by TVM and Radio Maldives on Wednesday.

In his message HRC Chief said that human rights and democracy are two sides of the coin, and hence it is essential for a nation to adopt a democratic system in order to provide human rights to its people. Speaking about the ceremonious celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Saleem said that the historic document ensures human rights for all human beings in order to live a dignified life. Saleem also said that the fact that the new constitution of the Maldives ratified on 7 August 2008 is a ‘constitution of rights', supports and facilitates the work of the Commission.

In this message, he stated that in order to change a nation for the better, the citizens of that nation needs to commit to that change. He also called upon the people to respect and honor each others rights and to work towards establishing a human rights culture in the Maldives.

Human Rights Commission will be celebrating Human Rights day on 20 December 2008, in Addu Atoll this year. The winners of the School Children's Human Rights Art competition held to mark the 60th anniversary of the UDHR will be announced at the special function scheduled to be held in Addu on the occasion of the day. This function will be followed by a children's human rights festival and a music show which will be held later in the evening.


Misappropriation cases shall be investigated - President

11th Dec: President Mohamed Nasheed has said the cases of misappropriation of public money in the past must be looked into and such money must be recovered. The President who will be one month in office after winning the first multi-party presidential election said this in a message published on the occasion of Fisherman's Day marked in the country yesterday. The President said the Government has to find out who are responsible for the huge budget deficit due to a failed economic policy resulting in the increase of external debts of the country.

President Nasheed said his Government is concerned about the difficulties and losses faced by fishermen including their families who inherit burdens of unpaid loans. President Nasheed said fishermen face a sad plight of earning an income in six months of the year while they go through hardships in the remaining six months. There were reasons for these difficulties which would have been alleviated. Therefore, his Government is now engaged in a process to introduce a financial environment conducive to the fishermen and allow meaningful change to them.

Nasheed emphasized on the importance of making fishermen more prosperous, to solve their problems of lack of resources and difficult weather conditions. He said the Government will strive to maximize the catch through out the year, and would establish networks to facilitate purchase of their catch from every harbor. Vessels and resources would be introduced to do fishing for long periods of time instead of one day.

The President went on to say the abundant fisheries wealth surrounding the country must bring benefits directly to the pockets of fishermen. Fishermen must be able to expand their occupation in the Indian Ocean beyond the country's borders in all weathers; the President expressed his vision for the development of the vast fisheries resources in the country.

There is no reason why Maldivian fisherman cannot compete with the world and earn a reputation in the technologies and learning of marine species, the rotating natural system and technologies to locate rich fishing grounds and related birds, he said.

Nasheed said the Government will make every effort to develop the huge potential of the fisheries wealth of the country and bring its benefits to the country and earn Maldives fish first place in global market. The President appealed to the People's Majlis to help the Government in removing all legal barriers to implement Government's policy to transform the fisheries industry.


Fisheries Training Center to be established this year - Fisheries Minister

12th Dec: A fisheries training center is to be established before the end of the year to provide training and skills on fisheries related activities, Minister of State for Fisheries and Agriculture Dr. Ibrahim Didi has said.

Minister Didi made the statement in his address given on the occasion of national fisherman day marked every year on 10 December. He said the training center will be established in Vilingili of Kaafu atoll and that the center will be in operation early 2009. Minister said that center will conduct various programs aimed at improving and introducing advanced skills of the fishing trade to fishermen from the atolls.

In his address, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr. Didi expressed that one of the main priorities of the government is to facilitate purchasing of entire fish catch of the fishermen and that in order to facilitate this certain rules and regulations of the ministry will be eased.

He revealed that by the end of October 2008, 4 operators licensed by the government to purchase fish, in 4 different regions of the country, exported fish worth of Rf 842 Million and that this is an increase of Rf 194 Million from previous year. He said most of the fish were exported by Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company Ltd and that the company exported some 612,585,410.43tons. Minister said that this was an increase of 145,996,788.56 tons from the previous year. He also noted various efforts of the government and the private sector to increase and improve and expand Maldives fisheries industry.


Dr Razee to guide Dhuvaafaru development

12th Dec: The President of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) has revealed intentions to appoint Dr. Ahmed Razee as his Envoy to provide guidance and advice to Dhuvaafaru Development Committee, a committee that is to be formed shortly.

President Nasheed said the main reason for his decision is to manage the committee under the guidance and advise of person with strong leadership qualities. Dr. Razee is well known to the Kadholhudhoo islanders and has maintained close relationship with the islanders, according to many Kadholhudhoo islanders.

Speaking to the islanders after officially declaring Dhuvaafaru as an inhabited island, President Nasheed said "the next priority task of the government will be to establish a committee to work for the development of the island and the community".

He said further development of the island will take place with the consultation of the committee and as advised by the committee. He said the committee will apart from looking in to the developmental aspects of the island will also handle day to day management of the island's affairs and the committee should not fall prey to useless squabbles which has the potential to render the committee ineffective. He expressed that the committee despite differences of opinion among members should be able to reach decisions according to democratic principles.

President Nasheed noted that when the completion of the relocation of Kadhulhudhoo islanders take place, Dhuvaafaru population will be close to 4000 and that he would like to continue the island's future development and welfare of its people in a manner conforming to decentralized principles. President Nasheed noted the importance of starting such a venture on the correct footing and said that the experiences gained here in Dhuvaafaru will be useful in the development of other islands in the country.


Parliamentary elections expected early Feb - Elections Commission

12th Dec: Parliamentary elections under the new constitution are expected to be held early in February 2009, according to the Commissioner of Elections Mohamed Ibrahim. In response to a question put forward by Miadhu, the Commissioner said that there remains a lot to be done prior to the elections including the passage of bills concerning parliamentary elections and the determination of electoral boundaries.

Provisions in the new constitution have lead to an increase in the number of constituencies and the Elections Commission now needs to inform the public on how those constituencies are determined as well as providing prospective candidates with the opportunity to contest in the elections and announcing the list of eligible voters and parliamentary candidates. The Commission also needs to oversee the campaign and make the necessary arrangements in preparation for the elections, the Commissioner has said.

"We have requested the bills to be passed by the 18th of December this year", said Ibrahim, referring to the aforementioned bills. "The bills have passed their first reading. We are hoping the bills will be passed as soon as Parliamentary sessions resume following the Eid holidays. Any delay will create difficulties in holding the elections."

The Parliament has announced that the parliamentary elections Bill will be up for general debate on the 14th of December. As both bills were drafted following consultation with political parties, they are expected to be passed with little opposition. Under the new constitution, parliamentary elections have to be held before the 15th of February 2009 and a number of decisions taken during the transitional phase need to be passed by Parliament. These include the appointment of the Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court as well as the establishment of a new Elections Commission.

As the term of the present parliament ends this December, significant undertakings of the new government and proposed bills can be passed only after the new parliament has been established.

The new parliament shall consist of 74 members and will consist of a total of 74 representatives, with 11 members from Male', 6 from Addu, 5 from H.Dh Atoll, 4 each from Ha., R, L, and G Dh Atolls, 3 each from Sh, N, B, Lh, K, Th, Ga, and Gn Atolls, and 2 each from Aa, A.dh, V, M, F, and Dh. Atolls.

Elections for the current parliament were rescheduled from December 2004 following the devastation brought about by the tsunami to January 2005.


7 Maldivians injured in a bus accident in Sri Lanka

12th Dec: Seven Maldivians were injured in a bus accident in Sri Lanka, when the bus they were traveling in rolled over. The bus, which was travelling from Kandy with the seven Maldivians, rolled over around 11.30am as a result of the bus driver losing control of the vehicle. The Maldivians are now receiving treatment in the Apollo Hospital in Sri Lanka.

A family member of one of the injured Maldivians said that they had sustained various injuries in the incident, although none were life-threatening. According to the person, five of the seven were admitted at the hospital and the two remaining people were discharged after they received medical attention.

Speaking to Miadhu from Sri Lanka, a relative of one of the admitted Maldivians said that their conditions were improving.


Former President Gayoom's security withdrawn

12th Dec: The security provided to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been withdrawn. The security guards placed at Maafannu Alivaage where President Gayoom has resided after his term of office ended on 10 November has been withdrawn today. The Constitution says the State must provide protection and immunity to a person who has held the office of the President according to the law.

New President Mohamed Nasheed has said the Government would provide the former President the necessary security and protection and President Nasheed has arranged the same for the former President. President Nasheed has also met with the Speaker of the People's Majlis and requested the Speaker to expedite the relevant Majlis decisions on the issue. Majlis has also deliberated a bill submitted by former President Gayoom's party DRP's parliamentary group leader Meemu Member Aneesa Ahmed which the Majlis has accepted after a long and heated debate with several amendments.

DRP's Secretary General former Environment Minister Abdullah Mausoom confirmed former President's security has been withdrawn and when he contacted the concerned authorities, he was informed security for Mr. Gayoom was withdrawn because there is no law regarding the procedure.

Former President left the country on 30 November to attend a Climate Summit in Hong Kong at the invitation of former US President Bill Clinton. The Summit was organised by Clinton foundation. There was a protest held at the artificial beach last week calling to prosecute and punish the former President on allegation of corruption and crime committed during his 30 year rule.

The Clinton Global Initiative meeting was held from 2-3 December and it is not known when the former President would be returning. Some political observers think Gayoom might not return because of the hostile sentiments brewing in Male'.

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