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Tuesday roundup: president appeals against weaponising Islam

A roundup of the day’s top stories



President appeals for peace and unity

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih urged religious scholars on Monday night not to weaponise Islam for political ends.

Clerics have been leading a campaign calling on the government to ban the Maldivian Democracy Network over the alleged slander of Islam in a 2016 report on radicalisation. The government suspended the NGO after the Islamic ministry asked police to investigate but the campaign continued unabated and opposition parties have seized upon the cause with protests of their own.

Speaking at a function held to mark National Day, Solih condemned the misuse of freedom of expression to disparage Islam and Prophet Mohamed, which has “adversely affected our nationhood and daily lives.” Such people consider the lack of freedom of religion in the Maldives a deprivation of human rights, he added.

On the other hand, religious extremists are pushing hardline ideologies, authorising bloodshed of fellow Maldivians and introducing customs that are alien to Maldivian traditions and way of life, he continued.

“I assure the beloved Maldivian people that this government will not allow the mocking of Islam and the demeaning of Holy Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, in this country,” he declared. “Likewise, this government will not allow harshness, incitement of fear and calls to murder people and joining terrorist wars in the name of Islam.”

Solih questioned the sincerity of opposition protests as the former administration had “turned a blind eye” and failed to take action. The Muslim faith cannot be shaken by written or spoken words, he added.

“We should have the capacity to resolve problems by explaining matters and persuading each other of the right way. There are scholars capable of that among us. The essence of the Islamic message is explaining to people and showing the right path with wisdom and good advice,” he said.

“What I want to say to religious scholars in the Maldives today is, don’t give the opportunity to anyone to use religion as wood to set political fires…I wonder whether living happily and contentedly is a right we Maldivians don’t have. Why is peacefulness so unfamiliar to us? I want to ask Maldivian politicians today, isn’t it time to let our people live in peace even for a short while?”

President confers national awards

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih handed out the annual national awards of honour and recognition at a function held on Monday night to mark National Day.

The president also presented the country’s highest civilian honour, the Order of the Distinguished Rule of Izzuddin, to Ahmed Adam and Abdulla Sodiq.

A public servant for half a century, Ahmed Adam was recognised for his contributions in the field of engineering and “developing electricity services, television broadcasting services, boatbuilding, mechanisation of boats, and promoting technical training through the establishment of the Vocational Training Centre,” the president’s office said.

Abdulla Sodiq, who served the government for 55 years and works as a consultant for the Dhivehi Language Academy, was described as “an outstanding litterateur” whose numerous publications include works of fiction, Urdu to Dhivehi translations, usage guidelines, poetry and lyrics.

Recipients of the National Award of Honour:

1. Late Dr Afrasheem Ali (Posthumous), for his contributions towards Islamic awareness and Islamic education;

2. Late Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari (Posthumous), for his contributions in the field of Islamic knowledge and education;

3. Mohamed ‘Madulu’ Waheed, in the area of Dhivehi literature in promoting Dhivehi language;

4. Sayyid Ali, for his contributions to sports in sportsmanship and sports development;

5. Late Sayyid Hassan (Posthumous), for his contributions in the area of sports in sportsmanship and sports development.

Recipients of the National Award of Recognition:

1. Mohamed Thaufeeq Ali, in the area of recitation and teaching of the Holy Quran;

2. Dr Abdulla Jameel, for his contributions in the field of Islamic awareness and Islamic education;

3. Mohamed Shifan, in the area of Dhivehi literature in promoting oratory skills;

4. Maryam Shathurath Shakir, for her contributions in the field of teaching children with special needs;

5. Ahmed Afaal, for his contributions in health sector development;

6. Rahma Easa, in the area of human rights and social protection, especially services to persons with special needs;

7. Abdulla Shafeeq Nishan, for his contributions in the fisheries sector;

8. Zeenaz Hussain, for her contributions in the field of tourism and training tourism-sector staff;

9. Tiny Hearts of Maldives, for its contribution to social work;

10. Aneesa Mohamed, in the area of promoting arts and crafts;

11. Ibrahim Solih, for his contributions to promoting arts and crafts;

12. Shaziya Saeed, in the field of diving;

13. Aishath Shareefa, for her contributions in the area of hair care and beauty;

14. Mohamed Shakir Abdulla, in the area of disseminating news and information;

15. Hussain Fariyad, for his contributions in the field of news and information dissemination;

16. Imran Mohamed, in the field of sports and promoting professional sportsmanship;

17. Ismail Mahfooz, for his contributions in the area of sports and promoting professional sportsmanship;

18. Ibrahim Shiuree, in the field of sports and promoting professional sportsmanship;

19. Fadhuwa Zahir, for her contributions to sports and sportsmanship;

20. Abdul Rasheed Ali, in the area of performing arts; and,

21. Aishath Shamla, for her contributions to the field of applied arts.

The National Day is celebrated on the first day of Rabi’ ul-Awwal in the lunar calendar. The public holiday commemorates the victory of Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu to end 15 years of Portuguese occupation in 1573.

At 6am on Tuesday morning, President Solih hoisted the national flag at the Republic Square in Malé, which was followed by a special prayer led by the imam of the Islamic centre.

Met office warns of bad weather

Torrential rain, thunderstorms, strong winds and rough seas are expected in northern and central atolls over the next 48 hours, the Maldives Meteorological Services warned on Tuesday.

The heavy rainfall is caused by a low pressure trough formed between Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which is travelling northwest towards the Arabia Sea, the Met office explained. Swell wave surges are also expected across the country. Earlier on Tuesday, the Met office issued yellow alerts advising seafarers to exercise caution.

The National Disaster Management has also advised taking precautionary measures to protect houses from possible flooding.

MP Ghassan Maumoon questioned over MMPRC corruption

Opposition MP Ghassan Maumoon was questioned at the police headquarters on Monday night in relation to the theft of more than US$90 million from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation during the previous administration.

According to media reports, the MP for Thaa Guraidhoo is among 16 lawmakers on a list of 267 beneficiaries of the stolen funds.

Ghassan is the son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and nephew of former president Abdulla Yameen. When the Progressive Party of Maldives was split over a power struggle between Gayoom and his half-brother Yameen, Ghassan took his uncle’s side and remained a state minister during the former administration. He contested for parliament on a PPM ticket against a candidate endorsed by his father, whose Maldives Reform Movement is part of the four-party ruling coalition.

Ghassan was accompanied to the police station by his brother Faris Maumoon, who had been jailed for long periods after leading a breakaway PPM faction loyal to his father. The former lawmaker waited outside and stayed next to his brother as Ghassan spoke to reporters.

Speaking to Raajje TV, Ghassan said he was summoned in an attempt to divert public attention and denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Tuesday that Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussain had voluntarily gone to the police on Sunday night to explain why his name was among the beneficiaries. According to Mihaaru, former vice president Ahmed Adeeb gave Ali Hussain MVR500,000 before the 2014 parliamentary elections. But the MP for Kendhoo insisted that it was part of a payment owed to his law firm. “Documents of the work done has been submitted to the relevant authorities,” he told the newspaper.

As proof of his innocence, Ali Hussain pointed to his consistent voting record against the former government. Adeeb cancelled agreements made with the law firm after he voted against a constitutional amendment that paved the way for the tourism minister’s appointment as vice president, Ali Hussain said.

STO posts net profit of MVR95 million for third quarter

The State Trading Organisation earned a net profit after tax of MVR95 million (US$6 million) during the third quarter of 2019, according to a quarterly report published on Monday.

“A cumulative revenue of MVR6.97 billion was achieved for the nine months of 2019, which is an increase of MVR131 million compared to the same period of 2018,” the report noted. The Q3 profit was made despite a fall in revenue from fuel sales due to lower prices, which was offset by gains in other segments and lower operational expenses, it added.

The state-owned company employs 2,113 workers, of which 81 percent are Maldivian.

STO is a public limited company with an 82 percent stake owned by the government. Its subsidiaries include the Allied Insurance Company, Fuel Supply Maldives, Maldives Gas, Lafarge Maldives Cement, the Maldives National Oil Company and the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company.

The bulk of rice, flour and sugar sold in the Maldives is also imported by STO and sold at prices set by the government.

Wife suspected in disappearance of ex-husband

The presidential commission on deaths and disappearances has been questioning the former wife of a man who went missing in Fuvahmulah on July 14, 2017.

The inquiry commission suspects the 42-year-old Mohamed Shafeeu was murdered and buried on the southern island, local media reported on Monday.

A family member told newspaper Mihaaru that Shafeeu’s wife Aishath Nasheedha was questioned for six hours on Sunday and summoned again the following day. She was shown a chart and told to reveal where Shafeeu was buried, the source said. But Nasheedha denies any wrongdoing and insists that she last saw Shafeeu on the night that he went missing.

The commission declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Ex-housing minister summoned over Noomadi payout

Former housing and infrastructure minister Dr Mohamed Muizz has been summoned to parliament’s public accounts committee next Monday over US$55 million paid as compensation to Noomadi Resorts and Residences for the cancellation of two housing projects.

Muizz is accused of conceding during arbitration proceedings at The Hague that the contracts had been cancelled unlawfully. The deputy leader of the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives has yet to address the allegations.

An out-of-court settlement was reached last August after Noomadi filed two cases at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands, seeking US$155 million in damages and legal costs, according to the housing and urban development ministry.

Noomadi was first enlisted in January 2011 during former president Mohamed Nasheed’s administration to build 600 housing units under a private villa model. The second agreement was signed during former president Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration in May 2013 to build 500 housing units as well as a police academy and sewerage on three islands.

Both deals were cancelled by former president Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

Defending the out-of-court settlement, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer told the oversight committee on Monday that an arbitration award could have exceeded US$200 million.

In addition to the parliamentary committee, both the audit office and anti-corruption watchdog are looking into the Noomadi projects.

Corruption complaint filed against chief prosecutor

A complaint was filed with the Anti-Corruption Commission on Monday against Prosecutor General Aishath Bisham over her decision not to press charges against a former presidential affairs minister over alleged corruption in the selection of a caterer for the official independence day banquet in July 2015.

The ACC confirmed the complaint was filed but it is unclear whether a formal investigation has been launched.

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