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Maldives To Blast Coral Reef Even As It Attends COP22 To ‘Save The Climate’

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At a time when 197 representatives  — including the Maldives– have gathered at 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) in Morocco to discuss climate change, government’s decision to blast coral reef of Addu City using dynamite has received flak from the opposition and people of the country triggering online campaign against it.

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The Environment Protect Agency on Wednesday asked the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to approve the use of dynamite to blast the reef project to dredge the channel between the islands of Meedhoo and Ismahelahera states.

The EIA had earlier recommended the government to seek alternatives saying the use dynamite can be dangerous and should not be used.

The main-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party criticising government for “reneging” on its international commitments said that the action will cause “irreversible damage”. The party also urged government to respect its international commitments.

“Disregarding the EIA recommendations, it is deeply worrying the Minister of Environment has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the use of dynamite to blast the reef in Meedhoo…. It is deeply troubling the Maldives government is engaged in activities that will further cause irreversible damage.”” MDP said in the statement issued on Saturday.

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Ahmed Saleem at COP22


Maldivians took Twitter to run an online campaign to bring the attention of the ongoing COP22 where Ahmed Saleem is currently representing the Maldives and Alliance of Small Island States (AIOSIS).


According to Act on Environment Protection using dynamite for blasting coral reefs is an offence punishable by huge fees.

The practice of blasting coral reefs was discontinued by former President Maumoon Gayoom in the Maldives due to its negative impact on the environment.

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More than 60% of coral in reefs in the Maldives has been hit by “bleaching” as the world is gripped by record temperatures in 2016 due a strong “El Nino” phenomenon, the Guardian reported in August. The Maldives which is just 4 feet above sea level contains around 3% of the world’s coral reefs and is considered particularly at risk due climate change and sea level rises.

Shoko Noda, UNDP Representative of Maldives had also tweeted asking for action on climate change ahead of COP22.

UNDP Maldives also called for action on climate change saying that livelihoods and economy in the Maldives depend on natural resources.

Gayoom Vs Yameen: 8 PPM MPs Revolt Against President

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The rift in ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives is now translating into act of rebellion as the MPs apparently belonging to the faction led by former President Maumoon Gayoom said they will put national interest before President Abdulla Yameen’s diktat.

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The development came after court stripped PPM’s President Maumoon Gayoom of all his powers and handed the full control to President Yameen.

In a press conference on Thursday, eight MPs announced that the decision of President Yameen has done irreparable damage and they will bring a number of changes in the Parliamentary work adding that they will no longer abide by the whip line set by Yameen.

The faction criticised lack of transparency, increasing authoritarianism and allegations of corruption by the government and vowed to work with the opposition to restore democracy in the country.

Meanwhile, MDP welcomed the decision of the MPs and said that the party looks forward to working with the MPs to bring about any necessary legislative changes to uphold the Constitution, protect fundamental freedoms, and to restore democracy in the country.

“In light of the immense difficulties that the people of the Maldives are to face, it is encouraging that 8 Government party MPs have pledged their intention to work with the opposition. We ask other Government MPs to do same, to work towards reform. This is now leading to President Yameen losing his majority in the Parliament. With this, President Yameen has lost any remaining legitimacy he may have had,” said former President Mohamed Nasheed.

On Sunday, Chief Judge Abdulla Didi ruled in favour of President Yameen citing extrordinary circumstances due to Maummon’s refusal to convene the party’s governing council and sacking of his deputy, Maldives Independent reported.

The court made President Yameen, who was the advisor of the party, as the head of PPM.

Maumoon’s Gayoom, meanwhile said that he will take the case to Supreme Court.

The rift between Gayoom brothers goes back to June when President Yameen led government introduced the Tourism Bill to which Maumoon strongly opposed. The rift got wider when Maumoon refused to endorse Yameen as the party’s
Presidential candidate for the next election followed by sacking of Faris Gayoom in reaction.

Maumoon who is in loggerheads with his half-brother Yameen has time and again criticised him for his decisions to implement death penalty and leave the commonwealth.

Maumoon daughter and former Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Maumoon and his loyal and former Home Minsiter Umar Naseer had quit Yameen-led government citing differences.

Record MVR 633 M Fine For Reef Damage Proposed For Vietnamese Shipping Company

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A Vietnamese shipping company may be fined a record MVR 633million (US$45million) for damaging a reef in the country, according to a proposal by environmental regulator.

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  • MV NGOC Son allegedly damaged the island’s south western reef on August 13
  • The carrier vessel belonging to Northern Shipping Joint Stock Company was carrying construction material for a water and sanitation project Fuvahmulah
  • The council said the ship caused irreversible damage around a diving spot
  • The company has been given 30-day period to contest the fine
  • According to the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act, the maximum fine that can be levied for environmental damages is MVR100million

Abdul Rasheed Nafiz, chairman of transport authority said:

The amount we have proposed is based on EPA’a estimation for maximum damage to the reef

400 Residents Of Mundoo Island In Jeopardy As President Declares It ‘Uninhabited’

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President Abdulla Yameen racked up another controversy after he announced two islands- Ghaadhoo and Mundoo in Haddhunmathi Atoll– as ‘uninhabited’ in a presidential decree putting the identity and existence of over 400 residents of the latter in jeopardy.

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The government made the declaration saying that the inhabitants of Ghaadhoo had moved to Fonadhoo, and Mundoo had moved to Gan.

 

Mundoo Council President Ibrahim Naeem expressed anger as they alleged that the government did not hold any discussions on declaring the island as uninhabited, and added that the island residents are shocked by the news.

He, further, emphasised that even though inhabitants moved to other island, how can an island be declared uninhabited when people are still living there, VNews reported.

The shock on the decision also floated on social networking sites and top influencers on Twitter questioned President Yameen for the decision.

President made the declarations on September 22 in a presidential decree in accordance with the Decentralisation Act. Meanwhile, he also declared declared Fuvahmulah- one of the most beautiful islands in the – as a city.

Cherie Blair’s Omnia Strategy Paid £210,000 By MMPRC- Company Implicated In Country’s Biggest Corruption Scandal

in News/Politics by

Amid the allegations of money laundering and terror financing against President Yameen, involvement of Cherie Blair, chairperson, Omnia Strategy, in the biggest corruption scandal has hit the headlines.

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According to a revelation by The Daily Mail, Omnia strategy, signed a deal with the Yameen government to provide consultancy on “democratic consolidation”, has been paid more than £200,000 by a company allegedly involved in the biggest corruption scandal in the country.

The British daily, after investigating leaked invoices and bank records, found out that Omnia had billed Abdulla Ziyath, former managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) for £210,000 in August last year.

This amount of £210,000 was the half amount of total fee charged by the firm for a six-month contract that was signed with the government in mid-2015.

The payment, however, was made by a local textiles importer called MC Maldives Pvt Ltd. Its owner Abdulla Rafiu claimed that he wired the money on the request of Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ the owner of SOF Pvt Ltd, who was unable to make an international payment due to Eid holidays.

According to Rafiu, he wired the money from an account at the Bank of Ceylon branch in Malé to an HSBC account in London unaware of the fact that where the money was going. The money was deposited in his account by Latheef.

“When I found out I was very unhappy,” Rafiu told The Daily Mail.

Who is Abdulla Ziyath?

Ziyath.


Abdul Ziyath, former managing director of the MMPRC, was arrested in connection with the President’s speedboat blast on September 28 along with former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb. Ziyath, now, faces charges of corruption for misappropriation of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion agency.

Who is Mohamed Allam Latheef?

Mohamed Allam Latheef, lead singer of a popular local band called Scores of Flair (SOF) is a close associate of Adeeb and among the five suspects wanted in connection with the boat blast.

An Interpol red notice issued for his arrest states that he is wanted for “threatening catastrophe, criminal property damage, use of dangerous weapons during an offence, trafficking, manufacture, sale, or possession of catastrophic agents or firearms, terrorism, and corruption.”

Maldives biggest corruption scandal

An audit report of the MMPRC has revealed that the company has siphoned off US$70 million into SOF’s bank account. The company also deposited millions of dollars of resort lease payments to SOF’s account on the signature of Ziyath. He also endorsed the cheques made out to MMPRC to SOF.

After the release of audit report, SOF said that it was a payment received for providing a brokerage service to the MMPRC and claimed that the funds were distributed to Yameen and his wife and other politicians as requested.

Yameen denied the reports of involvement in the corruption scandal and said that he will get back the stolen funds.

The Omnia angle

Omnia Strategy, the London and Washington-based consultancy, founded and chaired by Cherie Blair signed a deal to advise President Yameen’s government on “democracy consolidation”.

The consultancy charged the Abdulla Ziyath, former managing director of the MMPRC, on government’s behalf for £210,000 (half the total amount for 6-month of service). The MMPRC, which allegedly misappropriated US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion agency, siphoned off US$70 million into SOF’s bank account.

Of US$70 million, £210,000 was transferred to an HSBC account in London, apparently belonging to Omnia, via MC Maldives Pvt Ltd. owner Abdulla Rafiu.

The Daily Mail suggested that Omnia could become the subject of an anti-corruption investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office as well as the US government.

Omnia said that it terminated six-month contract early due to unpredictable domestic events and is no longer instructed by either the government or the MMPRC.

The Daily Mail also revealed that Omnia was hired to advice on “strategic diplomacy, media training, international media relations, and the management of international coverage” of jailed former President Mohamed Yameen and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

The Maldives government also hired Washington based lobbyist firm, Podesta Group in September for a sum of US$300,000 and London-based PR firm BTP Advisers in November.

According to Maldives Independent, government spent MVR 297,510.88 (US$19,293.83) on visits of Omnia’s barrister Toby Cadman, between June and September.

Omnia was also pulled in to help government to submit a 110-page response to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention after it ruled Nasheed’s terrorism charges politically motivated and imprisonment illegal.

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