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News in Brief

MBC cancels license for TV 5

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission has canceled the broadcasting license issued for TV5 Pvt Ltd after the channel failed to begin broadcasting within a year of issuing the license.

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Police looking for man who stole money from MIRA office

The Maldives Police Service has announced it is searching for a man who stole money from the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) office.

According to police, he stole the money from a service counter at the office on 20 April 2013. The stolen MVR26,000 was kept on the counter by another person who was at the office to pay taxes.

Police have now publicised the CCTV footage of the person at the MIRA office and requested public assistance in identifying and finding the individual.

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Gender ministry explains 5-year delay in child abuse register

The Ministry of Health and Gender has explained to local media the reasons behind the failure to compile a legally mandated registry of child abusers.

State minister Dr Aishath Ramila told Haveeru that the Child Protection Services unit – required to compile the list under the 2009 Child Sex Abuse (Special Protection) Act – did not have access to the criminal records necessary to complete the register.

“Even if we look at other countries, an Offenders Registry is always with the Police of the country. This is because all the criminal records of the offenders are within the police database,” Dr Ramila told Haveeru.

Furthermore, the minister suggested that the compact communities unique to the Maldives islands made the public naming of abusers problematic.

“For example, when the child abuser’s own children go to school, they may be bullied by other children at school. These instances may occur and we need to think about this.”

A growing number of child abuse cases have been reported to police in recent weeks, with the Human Rights Commission calling for greater awareness raising and legal protection for children.

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Black widow spider found in Shaviyani atoll

A black widow spider has been found in Milandhoo, in Shaviyani atoll, prompting local authorities to search the island for more of the deadly creatures, reports Haveeru.

“We reported to the police immediately. Then, upon police instructions, we have handed it over to the council office. We checked the whole area as best as we could to see if we could find another. But we did not”, a local source told Haveeru.

The new sightings follow the paper’s reports of an “infestation” of the equally venomous brown variety of the species in Hulhumalé last month.

The source of the spiders in Hulhumalé was believed to be items entering the country at the international airport – connected to Hulhumalé, while those in Milandhoo have been linked to a garage – which imports a lot of vehicle parts - close to the site where the spider was found.

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Applications for prosecutor general re-opened

The President’s Office has re-opened applications for the vacant prosecutor general’s post following the Majlis’ failure to approve the previous nominee.

Maumoon Hameed was nominated for the position by President Abdulla Yameen last December, being selected ahead of other applicants which included former Tourism Minister Mariyam Zulfa and current Deputy Prosecutor General (PG) Hussain Shameem.

Although  Hameed – Yameen’s nephew – received the support of the majority of MPs present in the Majlis earlier this month, the total was less than the majority of the full house required for the appointment.

Prior to the vote on the full floor, the Majlis’ oversight committee recommended Hameed not be approved for the position, with committee chair Rozaina Adam telling Minivan News that the nominee had failed to meet the group’s assessment criteria.

The successful nominee will require 43 votes in the new Majlis session, in which pro-government parties will hold a majority with 57 seats. The new intake of MPs are scheduled to be sworn in on May 28.

The deadline for application to the PG’s role – vacant since November – is tomorrow (April 24) at 4pm.

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MBC warns DhiTV for airing ‘ADK’ Nashid’s picture upside down

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has revealed that it has received further complaints regarding DhiTV’s airing of uspide down pictures – which it has argued violates broadcasting practices.

The new complaint – submitted on April 5 – concerned a picture of the newly elected Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP-elect Ahmed Nashid.

A statement on the commission’s website said that the complaint alleges that DhiTV broadcast the picture of Nashid – also the owner of ADK hospital – upside down as well as accusing him of being a thief.

MBC said that the pictures of Nashid were broadcast before more recent instructions to refrain from airing such images of leading politicians and civil servants.

On April 17, DhiTV aired pictures of MBC Chair Mohamed Shaheeb following the commission’s warning that strict measures would be taken against the station for airing similar pictures of other prominent figures.

The offending photo of MBC’s Shaheeb on DhiFM’s visual radio channel – also aired on DhiTV during its downtime – was accompanied by a news sticker that read, ‘Experts say that making such a harsh announcement while [we] have been apologising in compliance with the Broadcasting Commission’s instructions is a step backwards for democracy’.

Speaking to the press at the time, Shaheeb said that the commission had not decided what action it would take against DhiFM Plus, noting that the commission did not have the authority to withhold the broadcasting license of any TV station despite being the institution empowered to issue such licenses.

On March 24, 2014, MBC asked private media outlet DhiFM Plus to issue a public apology for broadcasting the upside down picture of former Elections Commissioner President Fuwad Thowfeek.

In a statement issued at the time, the commission noted that the act was in violation of the broadcasting code of practice and that it had violated the honour of Thowfeek

On February 12, 2014, the MBC advised private TV station DhiTV and its sister company, the radio station DhiFM Plus, to stop using the upside down images then Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek.

MBC had given similar advice to the two stations in November last year after they had shown upside down photos of three members of the Elections Commission – Thowfeek, Ahmed Fayaz, and Ali Mohamed Manik – with a caption alleging that they had committed electoral fraud in the annulled September 7 presidential election.

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Government to provide electricity to all islands before Ramadan

Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim has stated that the government aims to provide sufficient electricity services to all inhabited islands prior to the month of Ramadan – likely to fall in late June.

Speaking at a conference of the government-owned Fenaka Corporation’s managers, Nazim acknowledged that currently some islands do not have sufficient electricity services. He stated that the utilities company Fenaka can play a major role in the government’s initiative to provide electricity to all the inhabited islands.

Nazim opined that the interferences in the supply of electricity in islands is mainly caused by the lack of proper maintenance of the generators, and the difficulty in obtaining spare parts.

Nazim stated that the current project undertaken by Fenaka to acquire new engines would contribute to providing a solution to the matter, while also highlighting the importance of having a plan to install and maintain the engines.

“We will need to panic at the last minute unless we have a plan to install them before they come to customs. Unless we do so, we cannot accomplish this in the right manner. The government now wishes to provide sufficient electricity to all inhabited islands prior to Ramadan. We can achieve this if this project proceeds in the right manner,” he stated.

Noting that Fenaka provides basic services, Nazim stated that employees at the company should work in line with government policies. He said that this does not require employees to act within political interests.

“If there is a difference in political ideologies, then it is best to let us know this through a letter. There are many people who are seeking jobs. The important thing is for those with different ideologies to step aside and give space to these people who are seeking jobs. I do not accept that any employee of this company needs to have a difference in political ideologies interfere with the work they are meant to do,” Nazim stated.

Nazim stated that the conference of Fenaka’s managers would assist in formulating effective policies to finding a solution to the problem of electricity service interruptions in the islands, while also building relationships which will assist in future cooperation between managers from various islands.

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MIRA quarterly revenues shows 10.5 percent increase compared with previous year

The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) has released it’s first quarterly report of 2014, revealing that a total revenue of MVR2.78 billion was collected – an increase of 10.5 percent on the corresponding period in 2013.

91.5 percent of revenue was collected from five sources: Goods and Services Tax (GST) – 12.7 percent, Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) – 31.9 percent, Business Profit Tax – 27.9 percent, Tourism Land Rent – 9.3 percent, Tourism Tax (bed tax) – 5.3 percent, and Airport Service Charge – 4.4 percent.

MIRA noted that increased collection of fines for nonpayment as well as a “significant” rise in Land Sales Tax collected (0.3 percent).

59 percent of the total revenue was collected in US dollars – 29.5% more than the share of the previous quarter’s collection, and 7.7% more than the first quarter of 2013. The rise was driven largely by increased revenue from GST, Airport Service Charge, and Business Profit Tax – which grew by 24.7 , 45.1, and 16.4 percent respectively compared with twelve months ago.

MIRA’ s revenue streams are set to further increase from next month as telecommunications services will be subject to GST for the first time. T-GST is also scheduled to increase from the current rate of 8 to 12 percent in November, although the bed tax will be withdrawn in the same month.

The current government is considering a number of revenue-raising measures in order to address the MVR3.4 billion (US$224 million) shortfall in this year’s record MVR17.95 billion budge.

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Foreigners removed from pension scheme as voluntary amendment is passed

Following the passing of the second amendment to the pension act at the parliament yesterday, the Maldives Pension Administration Office (MPAO) has said that foreign employee participation in the pension scheme is now voluntary.

In a statement issued yesterday, the office said that employers are now permitted to delay the foreign employee pension contribution for the month of May.

Quoting Ismail Sujau, a director at MPAO, Sun Online has reported that the office has decided not to collect from those who are registered with the scheme this month as a lot of people have already started withdrawing from the scheme after it was made voluntary.

As of April, a total 3854 foreign employees have registered with the retirement pension scheme, reported Sun.

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Torture victims in the Maldives tell their stories