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MMPRC PoI list- A political stunt or a sincere blunder?

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President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery was established on 17th November 2018 by Presidential Decree 2018/14 and 2018/16.  Following month Mr. Ahmed As’ad was appointed the President of the commission which was set to investigate all corruption cases and recover state assets from such cases which had occurred between 1st January 2012 and 17th November 2018. Though the commission’s mandate was to investigate all corruption cases, it was evident that the commission’s main aim was to investigate the MMPRC corruption scandal which had plagued the previous administration and was one of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s presidential pledges.

Two and a half years later, the topic of the MMPRC corruption scandal is yet again making rounds on local headlines. While the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset recovery has been largely silent on the matter, both the ruling party and the opposition activists has been calling to publish the findings of the commission. Following immense public pressure, Former President and current Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed succumbed to public pressure and vowed to publish the report ahead of  his party’s national congress election.

A special subcommittee comprising of the Judiciary Committee and National Security committee (241 committee) was assembled to investigate the findings from the Presidential Commission of Corruption and Asset Recovery.

However, before the joint subcommittee could officially publish their report on the MMPRC corruption case, a Persons of Interest (PoI) list of individuals who had allegedly benefitted from the MMPRC corruption scandal was leaked on the social media. The list in question was prepared by the Presidential Commission of Corruption and Asset Recovery and was the main list of persons of interest which was sent to the Parliament’s joint subcommittee on the issue.

Though it is unclear who leaked the list to the public domain, the publication of such a document puts the livelihood and reputation of all those in the list at stake.

Just hours after a second list was leaked which was allegedly from the report prepared by the Parliament’s joint subcommittee. The list in question was labelled as confidential and was allegedly prepared by the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery. This time, personal information such as the  NIC number was also included.

A third and official list was published by the Parliament on 12th May 2021. The PoI list contained within the report was the similar as the second leaked list but private information such as NIC numbers were retracted along with the names of 162 individuals.

Question remains, how did such a critical piece of information from a Presidential Commission got leaked, twice?

Then there is the issue of the lists themselves. The lists leaked and published by the Parliament’s joint subcommittee differs to each other, raising questions on the authenticity and validity of the lists. The first list prepared by the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery contained 256 names while the second leaked list contained 281 names and the third and presumably final PoI list published by the Parliament’s joint subcommittee contained only 119 names. Particularly, the names of ruling party MDP’s Chairperson MP Hassan Latheef, PG Leader Ali Azim which were present on the second list were missing from the third PoI list.

It remains to be seen why the three lists differ from each other by such a variance but, one aspect of the list that raises question is on how it was compiled. According to the list by the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery, it  was compiled based on the text messages and audio logs of wanted fugitives Mohamed Hussein (A079837), Mohamed Allam Latheef (A113095) and Ahmed Ishfah Ali (A094451). All three individuals along with Mohamed Aseel Ahmed (A037822) had Interpol Red notice issued against them after fleeing from the Maldives following their involvement in the MMPRC Corruption scandal.

Not only does this pose more questions on the authenticity of the claims made in the list, but the number of criminal charges raised according to the list also puts the effectiveness of the investigation done by the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery at question. According to the list published by the Parliament, only 10 cases have progressed further than the investigation phase with only 0.4% of the cases being closed after two and a half years of work by the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery. While over 63.1% of the cases are still in its information collection stage, the President of the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery As’ad Ahmed has also stated that not everybody in the list will be charged or is a criminal, pulling weight on the assertion that the commission has failed to conduct a proper investigation of the MMPRC corruption scandal.

The Publication of the list and the inconsistencies and conspiracies that followed has caused the public to question the motive behind the publication of a PoI list in its infancy, questioning whether it is a political stunt or a sincere blunder by the Parliament.

However, fact remains that by publishing the document, both the Parliament and the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery has created room for prejudice against the individuals named on the list.

The publication of such a list without informing the majority of the people named in the list is against the spirit of the Constitution of the Maldives in that Article 51 (A) of the Constitution of the Maldives states that “ Everyone charged with an offence has the right to be informed without delay of the specific offence in a language understood by the accused”.

Moreover Article 51(h) states that “ Everyone charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”. By publishing the list of individuals allegedly involved in the case without concrete evidence, the Parliament and the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery has gone against the spirit of democracy and rule of law by portraying the individuals named on the list as guilty unless proven innocent. This is further exacerbated by Parliament Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla’s calls to remove all the individuals named in the list from their government positions both appointed and elected even if there are no charges against them. This further reinforces the idea that individuals on the list are guilty unless proven innocent.

Furthermore, by publishing the list without any concrete evidence, the Parliament and the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery has essentially violated Article 33 of the Constitution of the Maldives which states that “Everyone has the right to protect one’s reputation and good name.”. The publication of the list has violated the rights of the individuals on the list as their reputation and good name are marked with an allegation of corruption by the Parliament and a Presidential commission regardless of their involvement in the corruption case. A Point reiterated by veteran MP Hon. Qasim Ibrahim who stated that the publication of the list violated the Constitution of the Maldives in that it slanders the good name and reputation of the individuals named in the list without providing any evidence for the allegations made against them.

While the Parliament’s intention on publishing the article remains to be seen, fact remains that doing so could potentially cause more damage to the multiple investigations on going surrounding the MMPRC corruption scandal  and to the individuals named on the list who are yet to be even contacted for information collection regarding the investigation.

The public’s assertion that the publication of the list by the Parliament is nothing more than a political stunt is slowly gaining weight as public frustration overwhelms the social media platforms. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has yet again called on to hasten the investigation and prosecute those involved      while the opposition party has cried foul alleging that the list and the report had been doctored by the ruling party. The unprecedented publication of such a list involving the second biggest corruption case in the history of the Maldives has definitely left its mark with the Judiciary left to take a decision on whether such a case with little to no evidence and overwhelming bias and prejudice could be fairly judged.

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Leaked documents show India refused to withdraw military personnel and helicopters from the Maldives even after their Visa’s expired.

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Allegations that Indian influence in the Maldives has been one of the most debated topics in the Maldives. Accusation that India has influenced the last Presidential Election and the current administration is a common topic for political debates. However, a series of documents has been leaked by a local news showing communication between the Maldives Foreign Ministry and the Indian High Commission during the previous administration. The documents show the Government of Maldives requesting the Indian High Commission to withdraw their Helicopter stationed in the Maldives. The documents cement the allegations by the public that India has been increasingly overstepping on the sovereignty of the Maldives.

Below is a timeline of the events, first published in Dhivehi language on “Dhiyares News”.

In a letter dated 22nd April 2018, the Government of Maldives informed the Indian High commission on its decision to return the Helicopter being operated from Addu city by the end of June 2018.  While the letter maintain diplomatic composure, based on the events that took place, it is evident that there was tension between the two parties.

A second letter was sent on 06th May 2018. In the second letter, the Government of Maldives informed the Indian High Commission that the agreement for the helicopter operated out of Laamu atoll had expired on 01st may 2018, and requested its withdrawal by the end of June 2018.

And on 10th June, an additional letter was sent to Indian High Commission. This letter acted as a reminder on the order to withdraw the Indian helicopters and their military personnel by the end of June 2018. It also requested the Indian High Commission to provide a schedule of withdrawal.

The Indian high Commission in Maldives replied with their own letter on 25th June 2018. In their letter, the Indian high Commission stated that Indian government would require “more time” to examine the order to withdraw by the Government of Maldives.

It also noted that the Visa for the Indian military personnel in the Maldives would expire on 30th June 2018, and requested their renewal.

The Government of Maldives replied to this with a  letter dated 27th June 2018, reiterating on the order to withdrawal and to provide a schedule of withdrawal.

Sovereignty at stake?

Based on what happened next, it is clear that the Indian High Commission did not withdraw their helicopters nor their military personnel. It is now a verified fact that the Indian military personnel illegally stationed themselves, against the wishes of then government without even a legal visa. However, with the change of administration, their visa’s and the helicopter agreements were promptly renewed.

The current administration and its President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih which has been marked by its close ties to India, acting as its “yes-man” since his election.

It is clear that India does not seem to view the Maldives as a sovereign nation, and is willing to go against the laws and constitutions of the Maldives and international conventions, to impose their people and influence in the Maldives.

This leak comes following weeks of online protest by locals against the growing Indian influence in the Maldives. Many have accused India of meddling with domestic elections and other issues, to increase their influence in the Maldives.  India’s seemingly unilateral decision to establish a consulate in the southernmost city of Addu has further fueled the allegations. The Hanimaadhoo, military planes, radar systems, helicopters, Police academy and military base near the capital has only exacerbated the situation.

This begs us the question, is our independence and sovereignty at stake?. Does the Maldives need to appeal to the International community that India just won’t remove their military personnel from the Maldives? Are we becoming the next Sikkim ?

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Opinion

“We even rationed food and at some point I ate only two times a day” Silent struggles during COVID-19 in Maldives.

Mariyam Mohamed

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The pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives especially our livelihoods and emotional wellbeing. While the situation in some countries is getting worse, others are slowly recovering from the impacts of Covid-19. The recent surge in cases in South Asia has also swept across the Maldives creating numerous social and economic issues.

Most Maldivians, depend on monthly wages to support their daily needs and expenses. During this pandemic, many have lost their jobs, and some are struggling to manage their expenses due to wage cuts. Some work in more than two jobs to make ends meet.

The capital Male’ is most populous city in Maldives with more than 38% of the population living in the capital making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

People migrate from rural areas to the capital city for better education, jobs, and healthcare system. A significant percentage of people living in Male’ have shared accommodations with extended families and friends due to the sky high rents in the capital. Some families share a single room with their children which is not an ideal living condition especially during a pandemic.

We took an interview from an individual to get an insight of daily her struggles throughout this pandemic. To protect the person’s identity her name will not be disclosed in this article.

Are you working?

I work freelance now mostly tuitions. I quit my job to be the full time caretaker of my son with autism. And to cater for his needs. I work during his school time.

Do you get any assistance from anyone?

Any help I get is paid for by me. With pandemic all incomes stopped. So I was fully relying on the government financial assistance. That’s the single parent allowance and special needs child allowance summing to MRF 3000/- (three thousand). We even rationed food and at some point I ate only two times a day. Since my son has sensory issues he cannot eat many varieties food. So I did my best with bread and cheese. And fruit based juices of a particular kind. His therapy stopped and that has led to regressions in some areas. But he also has improved in some areas as well since I am with him constantly and i got to work one on one with him. Alhamdulillah.

What difficulties do you face?

With routine being broken, it gets tough for him to adjust. Sleep patterns and some food stuff he has been taking also has stopped.

What would you request from authorities to improve?

I believe there is little any one can do in this situation. But some form of consideration for these children may be good. In terms of permission on movement and health care. And also some better way for parents like us to work and have a respectable life is essential. We are skill and knowledge rotting away at home because no one can accommodate for our situation. It took a pandemic for organizations to realize physical presence is not required for efficient work to be done. I pray they use this information and experience to help people like us make a living in a manageable way for us.

The situation may reflect that of many who are suffering in silent during this pandemic. The question is what authorities will do to help such individuals. The government support given to these individuals is clearly not acceptable considering the living standard in the capital.

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Opinion

Assisting Poor & Needy in the Midst of the Pandemic using Modes of Islamic Social Finance.

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Islamic finance has become popular today in the Maldives. The population had become well acquainted with modes of Islamic commercial finance as those modes have been institutionalized in the formal finance sector. However, like in other parts of the world, the pandemic has made us realized in the Maldives that it is not sufficient only to have the modes of Islamic commercial finance institutionalized; but there is need to activate and institutionalize Islamic social finance modes as well. In the midst of the pandemic, due to the containment measures taken by the governments to protect human race from becoming extinct, it has been reported that the world poverty clock has turned back. What has been witnessed in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic is that overnight people have become poor. This domino effect caused by the pandemic in a nutshell is shown in the figure below. As such, the poor and needy segment of the population needs financial assistance that is not compatible to be provided using the modes of Islamic commercial finance. Social finance is an approach to managing investments that generate financial returns while including measurable positive social and environmental impact.

What is Islamic Social Finance?

Islamic social finance is a branch of Islamic finance that offers product and services not for profit. The objectives of Islamic social finance are to achieve social justice via redistribution of wealth. The list of Islamic social finance institutions and tools are not exhaustive as it is an area which is still developing. Islamic social finance is also known as Islamic social safety nets or charitable sector of the economy.  It is imperative to note that Islamic social finance is different from Islamic commercial finance of which the objective is different even though some of the instrument/contract used could be same.

Modes of Islamic Social Finance

The modes of Islamic social finance include: zakat; sadaqat or infaq; waqf; takaful; and microfinance.

  • Zakat: A compulsory payment paid every year by those who are eligible for the benefit of those who are stated in Quran, 9:60.
  • Sadaqat or Infaq: A non-compulsory payment given to assist poor and needy to seek pleasure of Allah (SW).
  • Waqf: A non-compulsory irrevocable which means a permanent contribution of one’s wealth whether cash or in kind to seek pleasure of Allah (SW) for social purpose.
  • Takaful: A concept based on mutual assistance or Ta’aawun and donation or Tabarru where joint guarantee to one another is by provided by a group of people who agree to participate with each other who is known as contributors by contributing an amount of money as donation to help each other from damages caused due to happening of future unfortunate events to any participant of the group by helping them using the donation made by the participants of the group.
  • Microfinance: It is providing finance to those who are poor financing via non-profitable means such as interest free loan (qard hasan) or via profitable means such as mudharabah or musharakah to assist them.

 

Ways in which Islamic Social Finance can be utilized to help the needy and Poor

In the midst of the pandemic it has been realized that in different countries in the world, modes of Islamic finance have been activated to assist poor and needy via shared responsibility. Below listed are some ways in which in the Maldives, modes of Islamic social finance could be activated to assist poor and needy.

  • Revise the criteria of poor and needy to provide opportunity to receive zakat assistance to those whose income has been affected adversely due to the pandemic.
  • Even after giving of the debt moratorium to those who have taken financing facilities from financial institutions, but due to loss of income who are unable to pay their debts ought to be assisted by zakat or sadaqat or infaq.
  • A special waqf fund to assist the poor and needy in the society need to be created and this needs to be initiated by the private sector.
  • Islamic microfinance schemes need to be introduced to assist poor and needy to provide them with opportunities to venture into business with interest-free loans and other shariah compatible modes of financing.

 

Conclusion

The pandemic has provided with the opportunity to re-strategize our economic and financial activities. Therefore, it is imperative to innovate ways to utilize Islamic social finance tools and institutions to help those who are poor and needy. As such, the required legal, regulatory, governance and technology infrastructure need to be developed. Definitely through implementation of Islamic social finance tools and institutions, the socio-economic justice will be achieved. From Maqasid al Shariah (objectives of Islamic law) perspective, it is mandatory for one to help each other in protecting one another from hardship as one can achieve success in this world and hereafter.

 

Dr. Aishath Muneeza is an Associate Professor at the International Center for Education in Islamic Finance. 

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