Sunday roundup: police tape and implicated lawmakers
A roundup of the day’s top stories.
Police tape drawn outside PPM office
The Progressive Congress Coalition on Sunday vowed to continue protests demanding the banning of NGO Maldivian Democracy Network over the alleged slander of Islam in a 2016 report, despite a police line and cones placed outside the opposition’s main office in Malé.
Nightly demonstrations outside the Progressive Party of Maldives office are being staged in violation of the 2013 freedom of assembly law, police said on Sunday, warning of action against unlawful gatherings.
Briefing the press on Sunday afternoon, opposition MP Ahmed Shiyam said the protest against MDN will resume outside the party office on the capital’s outer ring road at 8:30pm on Monday night.
Opposition leadership figures have been facing threats and intimidation due to the campaign, he alleged.
Speaker seeks disclosure of MPs implicated in corruption
Speaker Mohamed Nasheed has urged the authorities to disclose the names of 16 lawmakers who were among the beneficiaries of an embezzlement scheme that saw more than US$90 million looted from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation during the previous administration.
The speaker made the request in order to uphold the integrity of the institution as pledged during the majority party’s campaign, Parliament Secretary-General Fathmath Niusha told the press. “I believe that asking for the names of lawmakers that are involved in the corruption scandal is the first step in the inquiry to find out corrupt MPs,” she said.
The request came after the police together with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the presidential commission on corruption and asset recovery briefed the press on Thursday about their joint investigation into the country’s biggest corruption scandal.
Nasheed also met with the Civil Service Commission on Sunday and requested that the oversight body “encourage civil service staff to not take part in political rallies calling for unrest, while acknowledging that civil service staff was entitled to freedom of expression and assembly,” she said.
Legislation drafted for new associations law
The Attorney General’s office has submitted draft legislation to the president’s office for a new law to govern civil society associations.
The bill is due to be submitted to parliament to replace the 2003 Associations Act, according to the AG office. New provisions in the proposed law include bringing all registered non-government organisations under its limit and introducing rules for merging associations and authorising the activities of NGOs registered in other countries. A new committee would also be formed to advise the registrar of associations.
Rules and procedures would also be introduced on taking measures against NGOs that violate laws and regulations. If an association is proven with evidence to have contravened the law, the registrar would be authorised to issue orders to stop such activities or require compliance with the law.
Other provisions deal with fund raising, transactions, debt and maintaining financial records.
The AG office also shared revisions to the 2009 land vehicles law with the president’s office for submission to parliament. The proposed changes include amending procedures for impounding vehicles for speeding, fining illegally parked vehicles and introducing a complaint mechanism to challenge fines.
New rules would also be introduced to issue driving licence without a test to persons who have a license from another country.
Special chamber to resolve Maldives maritime boundary dispute with Mauritius
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has formed a special chamber of nine judges to adjudicate a maritime boundary dispute between the Maldives and Mauritius.
The tribunal’s president formed the chamber at the request of both parties after consultations in Germany last month, according to a case brief by SCC Online.
“The Tribunal decided to accede to this request and formed a special chamber of nine judged to deal with the dispute. They decided on the composition of this chamber with the approval of the Parties,” the website reported on Sunday. “They decided that the proceeding of this body would be governed by the provisions contained in the Statute and the Rules of the Tribunal. The Maldives notified the tribunal of its choice of Mr. Bernard Oxman to sit as judge ad hoc in the special chamber.”
In May, the Maldives voted against a UN resolution calling on Britain to cede the Chagos archipelago to Mauritius, contending that support would have undermined a bid to extend Maldivian territorial waters. Maldives permanent representative Thilmeeza Hussain said the resolution “prejudges” the 2010 submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
According to the foreign ministry, Mauritius objected to the UN secretary general when the claim was filed to delimit the continental shelf between the Maldives and Chagos. In 2010, the Maldives sought an extension of its Exclusive Economic Zone on the grounds that the UK had no right to claim a 200 nautical mile EEZ if the islands were considered uninhabited.
The Chagos island chain was known to locals in the southernmost atoll of Addu but were never settled by Maldivians.
Committee probes dismissal of transport ministry staff
Parliament’s government oversight committee on Sunday decided to look into termination notices issued to several employees of the ministry of transport and civil aviation.
Following informal meetings with the staff, MP Hussain Mohamed Didi said the civil servants allege that their dismissal is politically motivated and complained that the action was taken without prior warnings or disciplinary measures.
The committee decided to summon members of the Civil Service Commission and the transport ministry’s permanent secretary, the highest-ranking civil servant at government offices.
A transport ministry official told state media last week that the 11 employees facing dismissal had arrived late between 70 to 80 days during a year.
Earlier this month, about 50 staff from the transport authority submitted a petition to the president over fear of losing their jobs. An audio clip was subsequently leaked of a staff meeting with Transport Minister Aishath Nahula in which she warned that action would be taken against employees who were careless in providing services to the public. Too many staff were out of office during working hours, she was heard saying.
Appearing at the oversight committee after the audio was leaked, Nahula stood by the warning and declared that she would hesitate to sack staff with poor work ethics.
Tugboat captain and engineer convicted over Adeeb escape
The captain and chief engineer of the Virgo 9 tugboat were convicted last Thursday on charges raised over former vice president Ahmed Adeeb’s attempt to flee the Maldives.
Adeeb escaped as a stowaway on the tugboat in defiance of a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court. He was held by the Indian authorities upon arrival at the Tuticorin port and handed over to the Maldives police.
Viwan Gunawan and Ikra Basree, captain and chief engineer respectively, were each sentenced to three months and 18 days in prison after they confessed to their role in helping Adeeb escape.