Male’ braced for big Mayday rally.

Mayday rally used to be a simple affair in Male’ mostly organized by TEAM. Often times the rally is attended by less than 100 and looks more like a cause for resort workers as others don’t seem interested.  But this time it’s looking like it’s going to be different. Mayday for once is going to be attended in good numbers and for a good reason.  Apart from the ruling party PPM, every other party has joined the effort to free former president Nasheed and some other high ranking officials of the previous administration who have recently been jailed on trumped up charges. Amnesty international and EU has backed the calls for releasing the former president and former defense minister Nazim as the legal proceedings that landed them in jail were neither free from political interference nor just. It remains to be seen how the popular anger against the political trials and injustices are going to be heard by the ruling minority led government which has shown amazing naivety in thinking they can mask the discontent by threats and intimidation and remain non committal to popular sentiments.

Politics being politics every party will take as much advantage as they can out of situations and frequently lie their way through situations making small things appear big, tiny problems appear as huge but there are very good reasons for voicing discontent against the government this time.

Adheeb

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The current controversial tourism minister is by all accounts very much involved with the gangs in Male and he has made no effort to distance himself from them. It is also said that when he was made tourism minister his net worth was around minus 5000 dollars and in just 3 years he was able to present brand new car to first lady on her birthday. Former auditor general Niyaz was removed from his job for trying to probe allegation of corruption against Mr. Adheeb.

car donated by Adheeb to firstlady

car donated by Adheeb to firstlady

The courts:

Maldives maybe the only country where a sitting judge in court may have less qualification than the lawyers. It’s sad but true that some sitting judges in our judicial system have not even completed their primary education and preside over cases argued for and against by lawyers who are much learned them. Positions in courts were historically all favors by government to their loyal supporters and they basically just used technicalities in the new constitution to cement their questionably gotten positions. They have also made their positions permanent for life and wrote their own pay scale and benefits.  Against this backdrop its easy to see how any political position the government wants is easily implemented by the courts and this is exactly how the hastily conjured up sham trials of former president and defense minister were concluded.

The police

The opportunity to shine and rise to the occasion for police came when they mysteriously found an elaborate scheme collectively by all opposition politicians to murder president Yameen and tourism minister Adheeb. According to this theory, Villa group chairman (presidential contender) financed the scheme. Former defense minister Nazim wrote the sequence of events. He also kept a pistol with exactly 3 bullets (allegedly: 1 for president Yameen, 1 for Minister Adheeb, 1 for police commissioner). A trained soldier Mr. Nazim also kept an ied, the thumb drive with the murderous plans and the pistol and bullets under his pillow and he and his wife slept blissfully aware of the monstrous things under their pillow while they slept. AND WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THIS OF COURSE…

One maybe forgiven for believing that politics is for grown up people but when situations like these are actual news from Maldives, it’s hard to believe that sane people can go through this much longer. So in effect this mayday rally is warranted and for the right reasons.  The drama has to stop and sun has to shine. Maldives deserves better than this.

Worrying political developments in Male’

Maldives is going through a phase of undemocratic gangsta-rule just when we need more democracy and more and fair treatment for the people. It seems we are taking huge leaps backward and the process is too strong to halt.

It came slowly but things are getting speedy now. First it was websites having to register with home ministry so that nothing untoward can be said against the authorities. At the same time former president’s (now a convicted terrorist!) case against detaining a judge was getting dust in the court because the govt. was not decided what to do with him. The decision to make him a terrorist only happened after Rehendhi flats in Hulhumale were awarded to state prosecutor and supreme court judges. Perhaps re-activating president Nasheed’s case and make a terrorist out him was their way of thanking the regime for the generosity.

Former president was a colorful character both loved and hated almost by equal measure by the population. He was loved for his amicable character honest talk and innovative style of leadership. He was hated for some of his liberal views which are too liberal at times (such as trying to cozy up to Israel when they were bombing Gaza..) and exclusives, sometimes autocratic style of governance most probably pushed to by party activists. Whatever he may have been, he was definitely not a terrorist and the political case against him was dispensed with in a very questionable judicial process which was just a political sham as declared by world bodies such as the ICJ and Amnesty International. What the government fails to acknowledge now is their stand that they are following the law doesn’t hold much water, since every dictatorship used the same language when repressing the people. Things like apartheid, colonialism and slavery were all legal at the time it was practiced and by those who practiced it. But that doesn’t mean it was right.

Just as everything is connected to everything else, the current political intrigues all connect with president Yameen and tourism minister Adeeb. There will be lots of questions they will have to answer to come clean through things that are going very wrong, such as the wrongful conviction and framing of a once political ally, the former defense minister Nazim. In a plot straight out from comics, the former defense minister was sentenced for 11 years for allegedly plotting to kill 3 people including Adeeb, the president Yameen, and police commissioner Hussein Waheed.

The ‘plan’ is a sad but elaborate hoax which is better suited for movies than real life. In the plan the subjects all have nice pictures and proper names and even describes their ends in plain words suitable for laymen to understand the implications. The plan also connects all current government foes such as Villa group of hotels as accessory to terror and doesn’t even leave anyone out, even the religious extremists. The saddest part is that the ‘court’ accepted this hoax and sentenced a potential political rival to Yameen to kill his career.

And then there are the gangs… Even before Yameen became president there were allegations he was controlling some gangs in Male’. Notably Masodi gang was always mentioned by the opposition. Politicians are always labeled with this and that but there are worrying indications that these allegations have some weight in cases such as the notorious drug dealer Safa who was flown to Sri Lanka from jail and later he won appeal against his case being a fugitive in Sri lanka. We have something like 11 gangs operating in Male’ and its almost common knowledge that the authorities have failed to stop them. Gang wars happen daily in Male in full day light, despite Male’ being such a small place. Only last week we had 2 murders by gangs in Male’, one a Bangladeshi waiter was killed in his café’ and despite the gang being known, the police have not apprehended any gang member yet. Although they have searched a local parliament members residence for the murderer’s clues. The gang is known to associate with the said MP. The implication from the latest murder was that government decided to shorten business hours by one hour forcing the shops to close at 10 and cafes at 12. This hasty decision comes as opposition parties are holding nightly demonstrations against the government and will be seen as a punishment for the business community.

If all the above weren’t enough, worst is yet to come. The government has decided that they will use special powers to prevent demonstration starting from Saturday which means that all demos will be dispersed with no notification and as soon as it happens. This is a serious infringement on the right to protest and it appears that the government is seriously weak to handle any more pressure from the streets. They have failed to checkup on what was pointed out by the opposition as serious wrongs and seems to be on an unstoppable descent to electoral defeat in 2018 or some possible event even sooner.

Links:

http://minivannews.com/news-in-brief/home-ministry-opens-up-second-call-for-newspaper-magazine-re-registration-91854

https://raajje.mv/33750

http://www.vaguthu.mv/en/12853

http://www.icj.org/maldives-grossly-unfair-nasheed-conviction-highlights-judicial-politicization/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2015/03/maldives-mohamed-nasheed-convicted-terrorism/

http://www.haveeru.com.mv/news/58544

http://www.haveeru.com.mv/news/59861

http://www.dhivehisitee.com/judiciary/getting-away-with-murder/

Former president Anni sentenced for 13 years behind bars

In a deeply flawed trial, the former president Anni was found of guilty of terrorism and sentenced 13 years behind bars. This is a deeply shocking news to many as the twists and turns of this saga were closely followed by friends and foes alike, although nobody believed he would anyhow get a free or fair trial. President Nasheed (popularly known as Anni) had many friends and foes, but even most of his foes agree that this time he has received more than he deserves.

Some facts about the trial:

  • Anni’s defense witnesses were prevented from giving witness; the court essentially said the prosecution witnesses were too strong to be negated by defense witness.
  • One of the three sitting judges was a prosecution witness in the first lesser charge. The state prosecutor was also a witness to the case.
  • The prosecution changed the charge sheet almost overnight without giving Anni’s lawyers time to make defense. The original charge was a lesser charge of wrongfully imprisoning a person, the later was terrorism.
  • Anni’s lawyers had to quit because the court essentially made it impossible for them to work by giving them strange and unworkable deadlines to defend the former president.

Despite these setbacks this will be a blow to the sitting government for allowing this farce of a court case to have gone to completion. In the middle of the court case there were frequent allegations and sightings of govt. officials such as the all powerful tourism minister meeting with sitting Judges and even supreme court judges. The allegations were that current government wanted the courts to windup the case as quickly as possible so as not to allow more media scrutiny into the case. It is also interesting to note that this court case was quickly revived up after being left gathering dust for 3 years just a few weeks after government owned apartments were given to court judges.

Politically this is a big mistake by PPM who have majority of parliament, government and judiciary all in their hands to be seen as crushing any form of dissent. The government cannot hide under the slogan that they are unable to interfere with judicial proceedings. This is a well-known tactic everywhere used by all sorts of dictators to crush dissent. They used just one mantra and it won’t buy them any legitimacy. It is unlikely that the govt. can stand the negative pressure from media and global community.

http://www.haveeru.com.mv/dhivehi/news/167021

Biggest stories of 2014

2014 ended with two important stories for Maldives tourism.

One is the opening of Amillafushi in Baa atoll which has been a long time in the works and looks a little bit different compared to most other resorts. Amilla Fushi has 71 rooms and is the newest addition to the tourism industry.

There was also the all important story of Gasfinolhu resort going fully solar powered which is a first for any resort in Maldives. According to the resort they have installed 6000 sq meters of solar panels which is enough to power 1.6mw of electricity per day. Gasfinolhu has been renovated from a 30 room resort to 52 rooms which includes 30 water bungalows and is fully solar powered. The owner estimates he will be able to recover the cost of investment in 6 to 7 years.

It’s a good start which will get other tourism big shots to think about what to do next to reduce the energy bill for their resorts. Since the story and in very unrelated news the oil producer club of nations has started cutting down on fuel prices which is currently just the double of price level before the first Iraq war. Nobody seems to know the reason for the sharp decline in fuel price; some citing this as a price war initiated by oil producing nations to kill off fracking industry in US to make the practice and other alternative fuel sources unviable (including solar). Whatever the politics of oil there is no reason not to tap off to the energy of sun especially when we have it all year round and in abundance.

Male’ out of water

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Following a massive  fire in the MWSC, water supply in Male has been cut off. According to sources in Male’, the control panel boards of the water production facility caught fire and serious damages was caused which resulted in the water outage. The facility produces 17000 cubic meters of water per day and serves a population of 150000. In comparison a typical resort of 200 rooms will have ro plants capable of producing 500 cubic meters of water per day. A typical swimming pool might have anything from 20 cubic meters to 60 cubic meters of water. As the water situation in Male’ is being worked on it reminds us all of the preciousness of water, something we all take for granted. There are tremendous scope for growth and improvement in the area of water production both in resorts and in islands such as newer and better pump designs, pressure exchangers, membranes and controls to manage flow etc. In the case of congested cities such as Male’ there is the additional need to have redundancies in the system as well decentralize production to minimize risk of total outage.

Why do we still use brass locks in resorts?

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Beats us all, doesn’t it? This is 2014 and this is about using technology of the era of pyramid’s in most expensive resorts in Maldives. Even locals have started using electronic locks in homes especially in Male’ and yet most resorts are still using these heavy brass monstrosities (keys) maybe with the thinking that guests are stupid and can’t handle something as advanced as an RFID embedded plastic card. Apart from the clumsiness of having to carry them around often with heavy wooden tags there is the little worry of cutting lost keys, keeping of records, originals of all keys and occasional changing of key barrels and so much more that goes with it. In comparison the electronic locks are simple, easy to replace, light weight, much more secure and cheaper and environmentally friendly. So basically there shall be no excuse to use brass locks and keys in resorts at this age and time other than callousness which by the way is all too common.

Good things just happen… sometimes

In a heartwarming announcement, the gender ministry is at last trying to do a long overdue good thing for the country. This is about providing employment for the disabled. The stated goal is to provide 30 jobs for thirty individuals by this year from participating public companies and government affiliated institutions.

Providing jobs to people able or disabled has never been a priority of any government past or present although politicians will vehemently disagree. Although much noise was made about just doing that, actions spoke louder and the results are there to show. We have a huge unemployment problem the size of which will be known once the census data comes out by then end of this month. In developed countries like USA they do actually estimate how much jobs was shed or created during a particular month. We are far from that level and the ‘authorities’ are really trying to grapple the unemployment monster by doing their typical baby steps. But estimation of our unemployment problem shall not be a very big problem at all. This is a tiny country where we don’t have lots of legacy systems and compatibility of datasets and lots of red tape to hinder such work. All we have is lots of inefficiency and unproductively, lack of imagination to solve problems and passionate political thinking everywhere.

All hope is not lost yet, good things are happening albeit slowly and with every improvement there is reason for optimism.