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Sunday roundup: terrorism, corruption and hate speech

A roundup of the day’s top stories.



Terrorist sympathiser arrested

A 27-year-old man was arrested on Saturday night for inciting violence and posting slogans and writings of terrorist organisations on social media. The suspect “called for endangering people’s lives and carrying out acts of violence in a manner that creates fear in the society,” police tweeted.

The arrest came two days after President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ratified amendments to the anti-terrorism law that criminalised promoting or supporting extremist groups.

US$15,000 from Sealife to ex-president Yameen

The Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating US$15,000 deposited to former president Abdulla Yameen’s private bank account by Sealife Global, a real estate developer that collected thousands of dollars in booking fees and advance payments for apartments that were never built.

The ACC is looking into a transaction that took place in March 2014, state media reported on Sunday. According to Sealife, the money was a reimbursement to Yameen for covering the cost of repairing the car of Sealife managing director Ahmed Moosa Mohamed.

Moosa is wanted on fraud charges and an Interpol red notice was issued after he fled the country.

A contract to build 3,000 flats was awarded to Sealife Global during the first year of Yameen’s administration, despite the company lacking the capacity to carry out a project of that scale. An out-of-court settlement was reached in July to compensate more than 200 buyers of Sealife apartments.

The ACC told state media that it was also looking into money deposited to Yameen’s account by a company that was awarded projects for the Independence 50 celebrations in July 2015.

Speaking at a campaign rally on Kaafu Huraa recently, Yameen denied corrupt dealings and challenged the authorities to prove that funds deposited to his accounts were ill-gotten. “Money did go into president Yameen’s account but the government and police should prove if there was wrongdoing,” he was quoted as saying.

Maldives at crossroads, warns speaker of parliament

The Maldives is at risk of heading towards “a shore of ruin” if religious disputes escalate and lead to civil unrest, Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed warned on Saturday night.

Differences of opinion over the correct interpretation of Islam have reached extreme levels in Maldivian society, Nasheed observed in his speech at the prize-giving ceremony of Ahmadhiyya School, noting that the moderate form of Islam traditionally practiced in the country has been deemed wrong.

Calls to violence and incitement to hatred have become commonplace, he said.

“[They say] ‘because he’s a bad person here’s what needs to be done to him.’ But he truly thought of himself as a good person. And many others see him as a good person. What I have to tell you children is that opinions will differ. Different people will see even good and evil differently. But we should all be able to live together with those differences of opinion,” the former president said.

The Maldives stands at a crossroads and could face the same fate as nations raved by civil war, Nasheed continued: “The decision we make today will state where our country will go, what will happen to your lives, whether you could live in the good as you see it, whether that could turn into evil tomorrow. Many people will come out to challenge that evil. And many people will come out to explain that good.”

Translation: “This picture, this vision, this thinking should not be allowed any space at all. This is the ideology sold by a few extremists in the name of loving Islam.”

MDP opposes banning NGO over anti-Islamic report

MDP national council meeting

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party declared on Saturday that it will not support shutting down NGOs after the government suspended rights group Maldivian Democracy Network over “content slandering Islam and the Prophet Mohamed” in a 2016 report on radicalisation.

Local clerics launched a campaign to ban MDN after screenshots of offensive sections in the report were widely shared on social media.

In a statement approved at an unofficial meeting of the party’s national council, the MDP condemned disparagement of the Prophet and Islamic tenets as well as extrajudicial actions and incitement of violence and hatred. Action should be taken against both the misuse of the right to freedom of expression and hate speech at rallies, public forums and social media, it added, warning against division and discord and loss of public safety and order.

It was “regrettable” that politicians were taking advantage of calls by extremists and trying to destabilise the country, the MDP said.

Yameen challenges government to punish MDN

The current administration will not take any action against the Maldivian Democracy Network for its “anti-Islamic” report, former president Abdulla Yameen told supporters at an opposition rally on Friday night.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s promise to take action came too late, the 60-year-old opposition leader said, suggesting that assurances of a probe shows that the government is incapable of taking action against the NGO, whose former members currently in government posts should also bear responsibility.

“What’s there to investigate in it? Can’t they see what was written in that report?” he asked. “The report’s authors wrote their names and signed it.”

Cardiac services introduced in Kulhudhuffushi

CT scan and cardiac services were launched on Friday at the regional hospital in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi, a population hub in the northernmost atolls.

It was the first time the services were made available outside the capital Malé. The regional hospital will now have “all necessary non-invasive cardiac testing such as echo cardio gram, treadmill testing and holter monitoring can be now performed,” the health ministry said.

According to the ministry, the regional hospital referred about 74 patients to undergo CT scanning and cardio testing in Malé during the past year. It is estimated that the new cardiac centre would serve 65,000 living in the region. The number of people seeking treatment at the Kulhudhuffushi hospital is also expected to double from 305 to 650 on average per day.

It costs MVR125,000 (US$8,100) to transport a patient to Malé on a chartered flight, Health Minister Abdulla Ameen noted at the opening ceremony. “If it’s on a scheduled flight about MVR15,000 is spent on just the travel. If we weigh the expenses and burden borne by the family during treatment I would say it would not be an easy figure to calculate,” he added.

The government plans to develop tertiary hospitals in five regions across the Maldives.