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News in Brief

Government hands back Kaadehdhoo Airport to Villa Air

The government has returned Kaadehdhoo regional airport to Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Air 38 days after terminating the contract with the tourism ministry.

Speaking to local news outlet Vnews, Managing Director Rilwan Shareef of Villa Air said that the airport had been handed back to the company by the government on Thursday (September 19).

Kaadehdhoo Airport, which is leased out to Villa for fifty years to develop and manage the airport, was taken by the government last month after it cited a breach of the agreement on Villa’s side.

The Villa Group – founded by Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim – suffered adversely from a number of government decisions last month just as Gasim attempted to stall President Abdulla Yameen’s flagship Special Economic Zones Act.

President Yameen denied the setbacks for Villa had been politically motivated after the JP alleged that both these decisions and subsequent death threats received by Gasim had come from political opponents.

The handing back of Kaadehdhoo Airport comes within a week of the reinstatement of Maamigili Airport, also under the management of Villa Air, as an international airport after it was downgraded to domestic status due to security concerns.

A  nearby island which was leased out to the Villa Group for agricultural purposes was also taken by the government at the same time as the airport.

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Man found dead in Haa Alif Ihavandhoo

A 67-years-old man was found dead today on Ihavandhoo island in Haa Alif Atoll.

Abdullah Abubakr had been reported as missing yesterday evening (September 17).

Speaking to local news outlet Raajje.mv, Ihavanndhoo Atoll council member Abdullah Husain said that the man had been missing since 5pm yesterday.

“After an extensive search he was found inside a well at an abandoned house. He was already dead by the time we found him,” said Husain.

The man was found by his son at around 6:30am after a search coordinated by Ihavandoo police station and the island council.

Police said that they did not notice any physical harm to the body.

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High Court orders JSC to stop headhunt for High Court Judge

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has revealed that it has stopped its search for a High Court judge after receiving an order from High Court.

In an announcement released yesterday (August 17), the JSC said that it received the order on Monday (September 15) from the court instructing it to stop its headhunt until a decision is reached on the court case seeking the annulment of current selection regulations.

The final hearing of the case, submitted by lawyers Anas Abdusattar and Hassan Fiyaz, was completed on September 10. The lawyers claim that the regulations are in contradiction of Articles 17 and 20 of the Constitution.

Articles 17 and 20 concern non-discrimination and equality, respectively.

Nine people have applied for the post of High Court judge including judges from the Criminal Court, Family Court, and Civil Court.

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Malé City Council holds first public consultation

Malé City Council held a meeting with the general public last night (September 17) to discuss its progress over the last six months.

The meeting, which was the first of its kind, consisted of a presentation from the council detailing the many projects undertaken followed by a general question and answer session during which the public was allowed to raise any concerns they had about the council and to voice their opinion on different issues.

Speaking at the meeting, Mayor Mohamed Shihab said that the main difficulty faced by the council at the moment is obtaining the resources required to manage the rapidly expanding city.

“The official population of this city is sixty thousand. With the census happening next week we will be able to get the new figure which is estimated to be around two hundred thousand.”

The meeting concluded with the council promising to hold many meetings of the like in the future.

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Fisheries minister urges others to follow Maldives in banning shark fishing

Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee has urged participants of a one-day international workshop on ‘Conservation and Management of Shark Fisheries in Pakistan’ to follow in the footsteps of the Maldives and ban shark fishing.

Shainee inaugurated the conference at the Marriot Hotel in Karachi on Monday (September 15), which was organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) in collaboration with the Marine Fisheries Department of Pakistan.

“Shark fishing is completely banned in the Maldives in order to recover the declining population of sharks due to uncontrolled fishing methods,” Shainee was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune.

Shainee reportedly advised formulation of a ‘National Plan of Action’ regarding conservation and management of sharks in Pakistan.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan – former director-general of Marine Fisheries Department and WWF-Pakistan technical advisor – export of shark fins and meat from Pakistan declined from 50,000 tonnes in 1980 to 5,000 tonnes at present due to the decrease in shark population.

“Khan said that there are 144 shark species in Pakistan, adding that a few of them are endemic but their status is unknown. He said that the biology of about 35 species is regularly studied and there is an immediate need to declare at least some of the area as a shark sanctuary along the coast,” the Tribune reported.

“Hussain Sinan, of the Maldives Fisheries and Agriculture Ministry, discussed the ban on shark fishing in the Maldives and its impact on tourism. He claimed that shark population is increasing due to the ban in his country, adding that the same needs to be done in Pakistan.”

In 2012, the Maldives government assisted in a programme designed to retrain former shark fishermen in marine farming and aquaculture.

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President Yameen to attend International Conference of Asian Political Parties

President Abdulla Yameen is due to depart to Colombo, Sri Lanka today to attend the 8th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) at the invitation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“The General Assembly is scheduled to be held at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, on Thursday, 19th September 2014,” explained the President’s Office in a statement.

“Following his visit to Sri Lanka, President Yameen will make an official visit to Singapore, at the invitation of Singaporean Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong. During his visit, the President will meet with the Prime Minister.”

President Yameen would be accompanied by Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef, and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor during his visits to Sri Lanka and Singapore.

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Maamigili Airport returns to international status

Villa Airport, also known as Maamigili Airport, has been upgraded to an international airport just 23 days after it was downgraded to domestic status.

Speaking to local news outlet Vnews, Managing Director of Villa Air Rilwan Shareef said that the airport was downgraded after the government pointed out some security concerns which needed to be addressed by the airport.

“We have been reinstated because we have addressed those issues,” said Shareef.

The downgrading of the airport coincided with Jumhooree Party leader and Villa Group owner Gasim Ibrahim boycotting the committee stage of President Abdulla Yameen’s ambitious special economic zones (SEZ) bill.

After saying that the law would enable the SEZ board “to sell off the entire country in the name of economic zones”, Gasim’s party subsequently issued a three-line whip to its MPs to support the bill.

President Yameen has denied any political motive in the downgrading of the airport stating that, even though Gasim is the biggest business man in the Maldives, “he will be equal before the government in upholding rules”.

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Mohamed Saleem appointed as deputy prosecutor general

Mohamed Saleem has been appointed as deputy prosecutor general at a meeting held at the Prosecutor General’s Office today.

He was appointed to the position by the current prosecutor general (PG) , Muhthaaz Muhzin.

Mohamed Saleem, who has been a staff of the PG’s Office for six years used to be the head of the prosecution department of the office. After completing his Master’s Degree in Law in New Zealand, Saleem has been working in related fields for eight years.

The former deputy PG, Hussein Shameem, resigned in May after accusing the Criminal Court of obstructing justice. Shameem had been holding the position of acting PG since the resignation of former PG Ahmed Muiz in November 2013.

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MMPRC to host UK journalists in October

The Maldives Media and Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) will host a familiarisation tour for UK journalists between October 10 and 15.

“The main objective of this FAM trip coordinated by the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation in collaboration with McCluskey International (official PR representative Maldives in UK) is to allow journalists from a vast range of media to experience the Maldives tourism product and in line generate positive publicity to the destination,” read an MMPRC press release.

The corporation also announced earlier this month that it was launching a global advertising campaign with the BBC, running throughout September and October, which would target regional markets in Europe, Asia Pacific, South Asia, Middle East, America and North Africa.

Next month, UK journalists from four five magazines will be hosted in Four Seasons KudaHuraa, Anantarah Kihavah, and Traders Hotel in Malé.

Visitors from the UK to the Maldives currently account for 7.4 percent of market share, making it the third largest source market behind China and Germany.

During the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinpeng earlier this week, President Abdulla Yameen said that he hoped to increase Chinese tourists – who already make up 30 percent of all arrivals – three fold over the next four years.

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Torture victims in the Maldives tell their stories