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News in Brief

Maldivian jailed in Thailand for 14 years

A 44-year-old Maldivian man has been sentenced to 14 months in jail in Thailand for using counterfeit US dollars and overstaying his visa.

Nahula Ali, executive coordinator at the Foreign Ministry, told local media that the Maldivian citizen was indicted in June and had confessed to the crime.

Local media has identified the man as Abdulla Saeed from Raa Atoll Ungoofaru.

The Foreign Ministry has reportedly communicated the news to the man’s family and local authorities.

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PPM MP Ibrahim Riza elected to represent Majlis on JSC

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP for Kaafu Guraidhoo, Ibrahim Riza, has been elected at today’s sitting of parliament to represent the People’s Majlis on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Riza’s nomination was approved with 47 votes in favour and 27 against. Riza was nominated by Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan and seconded by PPM MP Jameel Usman.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had decided to back Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussain for the post.

The JSC is comprised of the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, a Supreme Court Justice elected by the bench, a High Court judge elected by the judges of the High Court, a judge of the lower courts elected by the judges of the lower courts, an MP elected by parliament, a member of the public appointed by parliament, a presidential appointee, the attorney general, president of the civil service commission and a lawyer elected from among licensed legal practitioners.

Also at today’s sitting, PPM MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim was appointed as the parliament’s representative on the Clemency Board with 48 votes in favour and 29 votes against.

PPM MP Ahmed Rasheed was meanwhile appointed as the parliament’s representative to a coordinating committee created under the anti-human trafficking law passed last year.

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Majlis accepts two government-sponsored bills for further review

The People’s Majlis yesterday accepted two pieces of legislation submitted on the behalf of the government and sent the bills to committee for further review.

An amendment proposed by Progressive Party of Maldives MP Abdulla Rifau to a 1976 law governing mandatory national service for students of public schools as well as private schools operating with state financial assistance was accepted unanimously with 75 votes.

Amendments to the Lagan, Derelict, Flotsam and Jetsam Ownership Act of 1998 was meanwhile accepted with 67 votes in favour and one against. The amendment bill was sent to the economic affairs committee for further review.

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Parliament endorses nominees for four diplomatic posts

The People’s Majlis approved four nominees of President Abdulla Yameen to top diplomatic posts at yesterday’s sitting following evaluation by the national security committee.

All four nominees were endorsed with unanimous consent of all MPs in attendance.

Dr Mohamed Asim, of Galolhu Vaijeheyge, was approved as non-resident high commissioner to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh while Ahmed Shian, of Galolhu Samantha, was appointed ambassador of Maldives to Belgium and the European Union, and non-resident high commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Fathmath Inaya, of Manchangoalhi Resting House, was approved as non-resident high commissioner of Maldives to Singapore and Abdulla Hameed, of Maafanu Crescent Wood, was approved as the non-resident ambassador of Maldives to United Arab Emirates and the State of Kuwait.

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Chinese envoy sees expanded China-Maldives economic cooperation: People Daily

Chinese Ambassador Wang Fukang has told Chinese news agency Xinhua that China and the Maldives are in a position to expand economic cooperation across wide areas.

“The ambassador said that the current Maldivian government is trying to diversify itssingle economic structure and is committed to attract more foreign investments, including those coming from China,” wrote the state news agency.

“Wang noted that since Maldives is located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, it is an ideal hub for trade between East and the West and that every year a large number of cargo ships pass through the Maldivian territorial waters.

Since Maldives is also a member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), it enjoys preferential tax in the region. With the help of these benefits, the Maldivian government aims to actively attract foreign investments, establish special economic zones and develop transshipment and manufacturing industries.

The Maldivian government organized the first “Maldives Investment Forum” in Singapore in April, promoting five mega- projects, including the special economic zones, expansion of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Hulhumale’ Phase II development, expansion of Male Harbor and oil exploration.

Currently, the Maldivian government is formulating a Special Economic Zone Bill which aims to provide more incentives to foreign investors in terms of tax breaks, relaxed financial requirements and preferential land use.

Ambassador Wang stressed that China and Maldives could focus on enhancing cooperation in three areas.

‘The first is tourism cooperation. Since 2010, China has remained the largest source of tourist arrivals in the Maldives. In 2013 alone, more than 330,000 Chinese tourists visited Maldives. In the future, both sides could encourage more Chinese tourists to visit Maldives. Maldives could attract potential Chinese companies to invest in the tourism sector of the country,’ Wang said.

The second area for cooperation between the two countries is infrastructure development.The new Maldivian government could initiate large-scale infrastructure projects where Chinese enterprises could participate, he said.

The third area is maritime cooperation. Wang said that China is willing to train maritime personnel, discuss and sign memorandums of understanding in the area of maritime cooperation, strengthening cooperation in fisheries, marine research, protection of ecology and environment as well as climate change.”

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Majlis passes amendment to Territorial Waters Act

The People’s Majlis yesterday passed an amendment to the Territorial Waters Act of 1996 following review by the national security committee with unanimous consent of 80 MPs.

The amendment (Dhivehi) was proposed on behalf of the government by Progressive Party of Maldives MP Ali Shah and sent to committee for further review on July 2.

The amendment state that a two-third majority of parliament would be required to make changes to the territorial waters of the Maldives.

The legislation was among a raft of amendments submitted by the government to bring outdated laws in line with the new constitution adopted in August 2008.

An amendment proposed to the Disability Act by Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem to raise the monthly allowance provided to persons with special needs was meanwhile accepted at yesterday’s sitting of parliament.

All 81 MPs in attendance voted unanimously to accept the bill, after which it was sent to the social affairs committee for further review.

Government-sponsored legislation on repealing a law governing government acquisition of private property with legal compensation was also accepted for review at yesterday’s sitting.

The bill was accepted with 79 votes in favour, one against, and one abstention, and sent to the independent institutions oversight committee for review.

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Majlis approves reintroducing car allowance for ministers

The People’s Majlis approved a revision to the state’s wage structure recommended by the public accounts committee (PAC) to reintroduce a discontinued car allowance for cabinet ministers.

The PAC report (Dhivehi) was passed with 58 votes in favour and 20 against.

On July 14, the PAC approved a request by President Abdulla Yameen to reintroduce the MVR6,500 (US$422) monthly salary for drivers of ministers’ cars as well as a MVR1,000 (US$65) allowance for petrol cost.

Parliament also granted an extension to an MVR50 million (US$3.2 million) overdraft facility provided to the State Electricity Company (STELCO) by the Bank of Maldives.

A recommendation by the PAC (Dhivehi) to extend the duration of the overdraft facility until March 2015 was passed unanimously with 80 votes in favour.

Parliamentary approval for the extension was required under the Public Finance Act.

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Parliament approves new information commissioner, deputy MMA governor

Parliament has today approved former Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP for Laamu Maavah, Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur, to the newly created post of information commissioner with 60 votes in favour, 19 votes against, and two abstentions.

The office of the information commissioner was established earlier this month by President Abdulla Yameen under the landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The commissioner’s tenure is five years and has the power enforce a fine on information officers who deliberately refuse access to information. Such a fine may not exceed MVR5000 (US$324).

The commissioner may also fine any individual who destroys requested information, obstructs a public authority or the Information Officer’s from providing access to information. Such a fine may not exceed MVR25,000 (US$ 1621).

Parliament also approved the reappointment of Aishath Zahira as the deputy governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority with unanimous consent of 80 MPs participating in the vote.

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STO plans pharmacy and supermarket in Hulhumalé

The State Trading Organisation (STO) has plans to open both a pharmacy and a supermarket in Hulhumalé, local media has reported.

STO Managing Director of Adam Azim has said that a supermarket for the residents of the Malé suburb would ease the numbers of people having to travel across to the main island of the capital.

Meanwhile, Azim is also reported to have told media that a new 24 hour pharmacy will open within the next two weeks.

“This is something that is needed immediately for the people. The people of Hulhumalé have to travel all the way to Malé to buy medicine most of the time,” Miadhu quoted Azim as saying.

The artificial island of Hulhumalé has been targetted for a number of developments by the current government.

Plans have recently been finalised to double the size of the island, while President Abdulla Yameen has plans to develop a ‘youth city’ of 50,000 people, serviced by a bridge between the capital’s largest two islands.

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Torture victims in the Maldives tell their stories