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News in Brief

Everything will change once Rilwan is found, police commissioner tells Haveeru

Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed has said that everything happening in Maldivian society would change if missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan were to be found.

In an exclusive interview with Haveeru, Waheed denied police negligence in the investigation while again refusing to reveal any specifics into the investigation’s progress.

“Saying that Rilwan hadn’t been found, I don’t believe any slips have been made in the investigation which would justify the accusation. But there are lessons to be learned with every investigation. We are learning the lessons,” he said.

Rilwan’s family yesterday lodged an official complaint with the Police Integrity Commission, accusing police of negligence in investigating the 28-year-old’s disappearance, as well as disrespect shown towards the family.

Waheed today repeated suggestions previously made by the home minister that non-governmental and media organisations were partially responsible for the apparently stalled investigation.

A reports commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network suggested radicalised gangs were the most likely culprits in the abduction 83 days ago. Police later dismissed the findings as irresponsible, though home minister has since acknowledged gang involvement in the disappearance.

“No one should think that we have forgotten about Rilwan’s case,” Waheed told Haveeru today.

“There are many different analyses. Considering the current progress of the investigation, and given that I manage investigative teams, I cannot, at the moment, give you 100 percent confirmation that a gang or group was involved in this.”

Asked if investigations had led police to believe Rilwan was still alive, Waheed only replied that they had found no evidence he was dead.

Numerous international group – most recently Amnesty International – have called upon police to expedite investigations.

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Bank of Maldives’ net profit increases 105 percent in third quarter

The Bank of Maldives Plc Ltd (BML) has announced a net profit of MVR205 million (US$13.2 million) for the third quarter of 2014, an increase of 105 percent on the previous quarter.

The national bank noted in a press that sources of income increased while “costs were well controlled and the quality of the loan book continued to improve.”

“The Bank continues to move in the right direction across most key yardsticks. Financial performance is solid. During the quarter we demonstrated our commitment to step up financial inclusion as we launched point-of-sale cash withdrawal services in 9 islands which previously had novbanking facilities – this figure will rise to 50 islands by year end,” CEO and Managing Director Andrew Healy stated.

He also noted that the bank had taken important steps towards modernisation and improving customer service through the introduction of new technology systems.

“This is very important technology which gives the Bank much greater flexibility in terms of the services we can provide to customers. I would like to say thank you to our customers for your patience as we moved from one system to another. We are confident you will see the benefits of the changes we have made moving forward,” said Healy.

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Malaysian high commission to hold futsal tournament

The Maldivian High Commission in Malaysia will host a Maldives Futsal Carnival next month at Sunway Extreme Park on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

“The event is to include a Futsal tournament with both male and female participating teams from Malaysia and Singapore, food stalls, cultural performances and children’s games and play activities,” read a high commission press release.

The event – held in collaboration from Maldivian volunteers from the expat community – will be held in celebration of the Maldives’ Republic Day on November 15.

Futsal – a variant of 5-a-side football – has become increasingly popular in the cramped quarters of Malé, with a number of new facilities provided in recent months. Maldivian students held a similar tournament in Malaysia in 2011.

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MDP seeks members for internal committees

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has invited members to apply for membership of the party’s internal committees before November 2.

At a press conference today, MP Imthiyaz Fahmy explained that the party was seeking members for 17 standing committees.

The list includes committees dealing with international relations, transport, housing, rights, research and policies, elections, organisation, economic affairs, fund raising, fisheries and agriculture, media, membership and campaigns, legal affairs, security, health, education, and employment and social affairs.

Interested candidates were asked to submit applications to the party’s head office – Henveiru Sharasha on Sosun Magu – before 3pm on November 2.

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Parliament approves MVR46million budget for audit office

Parliament today approved an annual budget of MVR46 million (US$2.9 million) for the Auditor General’s Office for 2015 as recommended by the public accounts committee (PAC).

The PAC’s report was approved unanimously with 64 votes in favour.

While the audit office had requested a MVR93 million (US$6 million) budget, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury advised the public finance oversight committee that the audit office’s annual expenses would not exceed MVR46 million.

The finance ministry pledged to provide additional funds out of the contingency budget if the audit office’s functioning was affected by budget restrictions.

The Auditor General’s Office had requested allocations of funds for the construction of an office in Hulhumalé. However, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told the committee of plans for a building to house all independent institutions.

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Coastguard to conduct joint military exercise with India, Sri Lanka

The Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) coastguard will be conducting the 12th edition of the ‘Dosti’ joint military exercise with the Indian and Sri Lankan coastguards from October 28 to 31.

The Indian High Commission explained in a press statement yesterday that 11 editions of the joint exercise have taken place since 1991.

The aim of India-Maldives-Sri Lanka Tri-Lateral Exercise ‘DOSTI’ is to further fortify the friendship, enhance mutual operational capability, and exercise interoperability and to build cooperation between the Coast Guards of Maldives, India and Sri Lanka,” the press release stated.

“The focus areas during Dosti-XII will be to exercise the important charter of Coast Guard duties, including Maritime Search and Rescue (M-SAR), Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Marine Pollution Response (POLRES) and Anti-piracy operations.

“For the first time the exercise will also be viewed by representatives from maritime forces of Seychelles and Mauritius.”

The military vessels involved in the exercise – two ships from the Indian coastguard, one from Sri Lanka, and two from Maldives – “will practise responding to actual emergencies of Search and Rescue, Medical evacuation and Pollution Control response at Sea which will further enhance the ability of each Coast Guard to attend to real emergencies at sea.”

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New UN resident coordinator presents credentials to President Yameen

Newly-appointed United Nations Resident Coordinator for the Maldives Shoko Nada presented her credentials to President Abdulla Yameen at a ceremony at the President’s Office this morning.

According to the UN in Maldives, Noda – who assumed office on October 19 – has served as the Country Director for UNDP Nepal from 2011 before joining UNDP Maldives.

She began her United Nations career in 1998 as a Junior Professional Officer  and went onto fill various positions in UNDP Headquarters in New York and other UNDP Country Offices around the world.

Shoko has also worked for the UNDP in Mongolia, Former Republic of Yugoslavia, in Kosovo and in Tajikistan. Between 2005 and 2010 she worked for the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, and has also worked as  the Special Assistant for the then-UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown.

“We look forward to closer collaboration with the Government, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other relevant development partners to ensure continued progress and development of Maldives,” Ms Noda stated upon assuming office.

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Police statements taken from six children after unrest at Villingili shelter

Statements were taken from six students at the Villingili orphanage over a disturbance in which both staff and property were harmed last night (October 26).

A police media official confirmed that police were called to the scene by the children’s shelter staff and that they questioned and took statements from six of the children.

The refused to give further information stating that investigations into the incident were still ongoing.

The children’s shelter also refused to comment on the matter, while officials from the Ministry of Health and Gender were unavailable to comment at the time of publication.

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MP Nazim left Maldives on same night travel restrictions were placed

Former Deputy Speaker and Dhiggaru MP Ahmed Nazim reportedly left the Maldives for Malaysia the same night that travel restrictions were placed on him following a Criminal Court order.

Haveeru reported that Nazim left the Maldives last Wednesday night (October 22) while the Criminal Court issued an order to immigration authorities to withhold his passport on the same night at 9.45pm.

Police confirmed that Nazim’s passport has been held but refused to give any further information as to why the passport was held in the first place.

An independent report into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan also mentioned the Dhiggaru MP’s name, alleging that Nazim had attempted to implicate the tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb in the case.

The report by private UK-based intelligence firm suggested that Nazim had promised to provide a journalist with information linking Adeeb – also deputy leader of the PPM – with corruption if he could be linked to the disappearance of Rilwan.

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Torture victims in the Maldives tell their stories