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News in Brief

Elections Commission announces official results of Kolhufushi by-election

The Elections Commission (EC) yesterday announced official results of a by-election held on the island of Kolhufushi in Meemu atoll on Saturday (October 18) for a vacant seat on the five-member island council.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Hussain Shamil won the by-election with 355 votes while ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Mohamed Nasir received 333 votes.

Of 964 eligible voters, 694 people cast their ballots.

The by-election was called following the resignation of Councillor Ibrahim Rasheed.

Opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed told the press following the MDP’s victory that the result was indicative of public dissatisfaction with the current administration.

The opposition party also won a recent by-election held in Addu City for a vacant seat on the city council for the Feydhoo constituency.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – leader of the PPM – meanwhile said on social media that the ruling party “must learn” from the by-election defeats.

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Government to freeze hiring in 2015

The state will not be hiring any new employees in 2015 in a bid to reduce recurrent expenditure, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told parliament’s public accounts committee last night (October 22).

Jihad told MPs that government ministries and various state institutions have proposed creating more than 5,000 posts next year.

However, President Abdulla Yameen has decided to “freeze employment” during 2015, Jihad revealed.

All state institutions should consider reducing expenditure as domestic debt has reached MVR16 billion (US$1 billion), he added.

Jihad noted that the government’s economic council was currently reviewing the estimated annual state budget for 2015 ahead of submission to the People’s Majlis for approval.

President Yameen’s campaign pledge to create 94,000 new jobs would be fulfilled through spurring job creation in the private sector, he added.

In August, Jihad warned that the ballooning fiscal deficit could affect the government’s ability to pay civil servants.

Jihad explained that shortfalls in revenue of MVR1.5 billion would see the deficit increase to MVR4 billion – equal to 10.6 percent of GDP.

The government currently employs just under 25,000 civil servants, representing over seven percent of the population.

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National University provides MVR2.7 million worth of research grants

The Maldives National University (MNU) has provided grants worth MVR2.7 million (US$175,097) at a ceremony this morning to five individuals to conduct research.

The research projects include a study of renewable energy in the Maldives by Faculty of Engineering’s Dean Dr Muaviath Mohamed, and a study to monitor air pollution in the capital by Dr Mizna Mohamed from the post-graduate research centre.

Dr Nashia Mohamed from the Faculty of Arts received a grant to study the effect of foreign languages, while studies on distance learning by Roza Ibrahim from the Centre for Open Learning, on growing capsicum using hydroponics in Laamu Gan, and on improving teacher training all received funding.

A special committee was formed by the university to oversee the research grant scheme. The committee reportedly evaluated eight proposals and considered potential benefits to the nation.

MNU Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Ali Shareef – chair of the evaluation committee – said at today’s ceremony that the university plans to provide further grants and invited interested parties to submit proposals.

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Majlis sitting adjourned after minister’s question time

Today’s sitting of the People’s Majlis was adjourned after minister’s question time with no other items on the agenda.

Following a 30-minute question and answer session with Housing and Infrastructure Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz regarding the construction of a harbour in Thaa Omadhoo, Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed adjourned proceedings and announced that the next sitting would take place on Monday (October 27).

Two previous sittings had been canceled due to the absence of agenda items. Parliament returned from a one-month recess this month.

However, meetings of parliamentary committees took place today with the public accounts committee reviewing the annual budget proposed by the Auditor General’s Office and the national security committee interviewing President Abdulla Yameen’s nominee for Maldivian ambassador to India, Ahmed Mohamed.

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Dharumavantha mosque Imam to be held in pre-trial detention

The Criminal Court ordered police yesterday to hold an individual arrested for leading an independent prayer congregation at Dharumavantha mosque in Malé in remand detention until the conclusion of his trial.

The 34-year-old man was arrested on September 30 on charges of “attempting to incite religious strife and discord” and leading prayers without authorisation from the Islamic ministry in violation of the Protection of Religious Unity Act of 1994 and regulations under the law.

According to police, the Prosecutor General’s Office filed charges against the accused at the Criminal Court on October 19.

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Thief offers to return stolen phone in exchange for sex

Police arrested a 30-year-old Maldivian man on Monday night (October 20) after he offered to return a stolen phone in exchange for either sex or MVR1,000 (US$65).

The suspect allegedly snatched the phone from a woman while she was walking on a street in Malé and the theft was reported to police around 8:30pm.

The thief made the offer to return the phone when the owner called the number.

Police revealed that the suspect has a criminal record for drug abuse, theft and assault. He had been previously been arrested 24 times while 11 cases had been forwarded for criminal prosecution, police said.

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Cancer society launches SMS quiz

The Cancer Society of the Maldives has launched an SMS quiz to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Running from October 20 – 29, the quiz’s winners will be in with a chance of winning a weekend for two at Reveries Diving Village, in Laamu Atoll.

Participants must SMS ‘BC’ to 360 and answer all 10 questions correctly to be entered for the prize. The competition is being run in association with Dhiraagu.

The Cancer Society of Maldives seeks to raise awareness of the disease within the community as well as producing a cancer patient database in the country, which currently has no official record of the illnesses prevalence.

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Housing Ministry opens bid for Malé roads improvement project

Housing Ministry has invited national and foreign companies to participate in a bidding process to recruit a design and management consultant for the Malé roads improvement project.

In an announcement made today, the housing ministry stated that the government has decided to address the numerous issues of the poorly constructed roads in Malé.

A large portion of the roads were severely flooded in the heavy rainstorms last week with some of the roads having to be drained using pumps by the MNDF.

The deadline for submitting bids is November 19.

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Parliament repeals law on detention procedures

Parliament today repealed an outdated law specifying procedures to follow in arresting and detaining suspects for longer than seven days.

The national security committee had reviewed the government-sponsored bill (Dhivehi) to repeal the 1978 law and forwarded it to the People’s Majlis floor, where it was passed unanimously with 51 votes in favour.

The legislation was part of a raft of bills submitted on behalf of the government by ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MPs to bring outdated laws in line with the new constitution adopted in 2008.

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Torture victims in the Maldives tell their stories