News in Brief

Thumburi Guesthouse Island invites bids for hotel development

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has invited developers to submit bids for beachfront hotel development at Laamu Atoll Thumburi Guesthouse Island.

Plots of 5,000 and 10,000 square feet are available for 25 years. The 5,000 square feet plots are to be given out at US$ 30,000 per year with a US$ 100,000 acquisition fee, while the 10,000 square feet plots are to be given out at US$ 66,000 per year with a US$ 200,000 acquisition fee.

An MMPRC announcement  said bidders must submit documents to the Thumburi project management section at the MMPRC office at Velaanaage in Malé by February 26.

The Thumburi project was launched earlier this year with the aim of making land available on the 17 hectare uninhabited island – as well as the linked Hulhiyandhoo island – for local investors to develop hotels, a diving school, water sports centres, restaurants, and shopping centres.

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Mega Maldives US$99 return tickets to Malaysia sell out in two hours

Return tickets to Malaysia priced at US$99 by local airline Mega Maldives sold out in less than two hours today.

The airline told local media that 99 tickets at the promotional price sold out shortly after it went on sale at 9:00am this morning.

The promotion offered travel to Malaysia on December 26, 27, and 31 with a return date before January 20.

Customers reportedly began queuing outside the Mega Maldives office as early as 1:30am last night.

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PPM wins by-elections in Madduvari, Kondey

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) won by-elections held yesterday for vacant seats on the Meemu Madduvari and Gaaf Alif Kondey island councils.

According to preliminary results from the Elections Commission, PPM candidate Muhthar Mohamed was elected to the Madduvari island council with 201 votes, while the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate received 198 votes.

On the island of Kondey, PPM candidate Abdulla Shihab emerged the victor with 116 votes, followed by the MDP candidate with 73 votes, and an independent candidate with 45 votes.

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Four Maldivian policemen depart for fully funded training in India

Four Maldivian police officers have today left for a year’s training in Hyderabad, courtesy of the Indian government.

The officers – all chief inspectors – will conduct training at the National Police Academy, with all expenses covered by India, including air travel.

“Training of police officials is part of the capacity building initiatives of India and the Maldives, which is a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship between the two countries,” read a statement from the Indian High Commission today.

The statement pointed out that comprehensive training opportunities were also available for government departments as well as independent institutions, pointing out a recent MoU signed between the Maldives’ Civil Service Commission and the Administrative Staff College, also in Hyderabad.

“High Commission of India is encouraging similar MoUs between Indian and Maldivian organisations in the area of training and human resource development,” the statement continued.

Earlier this month, government and high commission officials held a ceremony to mark the conclusion of the country’s largest ever ICT training scheme. The ‘Technology for the Future of the Next Gen’ project was conducted with US$5.3 million in Indian aid and implemented by India’s NIIT Ltd educational services company.

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Government to build futsal pitch for expats in Lanka

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has announced it will build a futsal pitch for the use of Maldivian expatriates in Sri Lanka, say media reports.

Additionally, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb is reported to have personally donated a gym for the exclusive use of Maldivians in Sri Lanka, thought to number just under 10,000.

The MVR1 million (US$65,000) futsal pitch is expected to be finished in two months, while the gym was opened yesterday by Ambassador-at-Large Abdulla Hameed alongside officials from Maldives High Commission in Colombo.

President Abdulla Yameen has previously announced his intention to renovate Sosun Villa – formerly the site of the high commission – to provide cultural and educational activities for Maldivians, including Dhivehi language, Islam, and Quran classes.

A youth centre was also opened at Sosun Villa in June for young Maldivians living in Sri Lanka.

Source: Haveeru

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Transparency Maldives launches Majlis-civil society ‘Dialogue Group’

Transparency Maldives (TM) has launched a Dialogue Group between members of parliament and civil society organisations, aimed at increasing public participation in decision making.

In a press release to mark the first meeting today, TM noted that the group has been established “to foster a culture of openness and transparency in the Parliament”.

Recent decisions in the Majlis regarding the reappointment of the prosecutor general and the removal of two Supreme Court judges this week prompted the anti-corruption NGO to express “grave concerns” about undemocratic trends in the country.

The Dialogue Group – which comprised three Majlis members and seven civil society groups – also discussed signing an MoU to clarify the group’s mandate and show commitment to further engagement.

Representing the Majlis in today’s meeting were Maldivian Democratic Party MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, Adhaalath MP Anara Naeem, and Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussain.

Civil society was meanwhile represented by TM, the Society for Health Education (SHE), the Care Society, the Islamic Foundation, Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC), and Hope for Women, as well as a group from Hirilandhoo in Thaa Atoll.

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MACL chief says airport dependent on foreign workers

The managing director of the Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) has told a Majlis committee that difficulties with local staff have resulted in a dependence on foreign employees, and even military assistance, to keep the airport running.

Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem told the government oversight committee yesterday that over 500 employees were currently on leave, and that 199 had been dismissed, reported Haveeru.

Progressive Party of Maldives MPs had called Saleem to the committee, suggesting that the company had ignored requests for further information regarding the replacement of Maldivian staff with foreigners.

“We loaded and unloaded cargo three times with assistance of army personnel. I don’t think any of you know this. Our employee attendance is low. The process of letting go an employee, so complicated. The foreigners are there to bridge all this,” explained Saleem.

He noted that Maldivians were difficult to recruit, and were often unwilling to carry out the work required.

“Maldives yellowfin tuna export now stand between 20-25 tons per day. These are packed in one ton containers. The youth of today don’t want to load and unload those containers. They will not do it,” he is reported to have told the committee.

“Now when you get older, you can’t do it at 40. Therefore we are forced to bring in people from Nepal,” he said.

The MD said that 3000 passengers and 500 tonnes of cargo were passing through the airport every day.

Additionally, MACL Human Resource Manager Ali Huzeim is reported to have told the committee that foreigners were significantly cheaper and more efficient than local staff.

Source: Haveeru

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MMA to conduct survey on spending by Maldivians traveling abroad

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) will be conducting its annual survey on spending by Maldivians traveling abroad from December 25 to 31.

The ‘Maldivians Travelling Abroad Survey’ survey will be conducted at the arrival hall of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), the central bank explained in a press release yesterday.

“The survey will mainly gather information about Maldivians spending money abroad for various purposes,” the press release stated.

“Among the information gathered will be the main purpose of the trip, the travel destination, ticket price, cost of food and accommodation, cost of medical treatment, travel expenses, and overall expenses for the whole trip.”

A statistical report would be compiled based on the collected information, it added.

The MMA noted that name, address, and other personal information would not be gathered for the survey and urged cooperation from all Maldivians returning to the country during the survey period.

Last year’s survey – conducted among 65 percent of locals traveling abroad – revealed that Maldivians spent MVR2.9 billion (US$191 million) overseas in 2013.

Maldivians spent US$70 million on medical treatment, US$64 million on holiday expenses, and US$47 million on education, the survey found.

Of the 6,184 respondents, 2,597 people traveled to neighbouring Sri Lanka, followed by 2,473 visitors to India, and 618 visitors to Malaysia.

Of those who traveled to Sri Lanka, holidaymakers spent US$1.7 million while other spent US$2.2 million for medical treatment.

Similarly, Maldivians who traveled to India for medical purposes spent US$2.1 million.

While Maldivians who sought medical treatment in Malaysia spent US$496,872, Maldivian holidaymakers spent US$714,408.

The survey also found that Maldivians spent US$48 million on airfare during 2013.

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Dunya thanks foreign partners for help during water crisis

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon has written to the foreign ministers of India, China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia to express gratitude for assistance given during the recent water crisis.

“The people and the Government of Maldives are heartened by the strong show of solidarity and humbled by the generosity of our friends,” wrote Dunya.

“With your kind support and the resilience of the Maldivian people, the crisis has been resolved and normal water supply has resumed.”

Relief efforts included the arrival of fresh water supplies in multiple Indian military aircraft as well as passenger aircraft from China and Sri Lanka. Additionally, India sent two naval vessels, with China and Bangladesh also sending ships.

Singapore provided technical assistance in repairing the damaged panels in the Malé Water and Sewerage Company’s desalination plant after a December 4 fire left 130,000 people in the capital without running water for 7 days.

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Torture victims in the Maldives tell their stories