Taxi driver refused to take my guitar in the taxi

Yusuf Islam - Where do the children playYusuf Islam performing one of his Nasheed's while playing live guitar

Today, a taxi driver refused to put my guitar in to his dicky, apparently admitting it as ‘Haraam’ to take. However, he was ready to fit all of my luggages including a DISH and its Receiver in to his car dicky but not the guitar. I am confused and terribly worried of this. I wonder wouldn’t he give taxi services to certainly disbelievers like visiting tourists and foreign expatriates. Transport Ministry and Islamic Affairs Ministry has to do something about this. Alarmingly radicalism is spreading in the Maldives. May be one day such taxi drivers will leave their taxis to give camel service in Malé. Former superstar singer Ali Rameez is to be responsible for misleading some of us. World renowned Muslim advocator and scholar Yusuf Islam also plays guitar. If we use guitar to promote prohibited activities in Islam then it might get ‘Harram”…, what do you say ?


Bus service in Malé gaining momentum

This afternoon I was sitting on a bench near National Art Gallery located in the Sultan Park. In a while my attention was caught by roaring sound of a bus engine. Within next hour or so I went on to see several buses maneuvering to get in and out of the stop in front of Sultan Park. It was fairly packed. Some were sitting while few were standing on the small sized white-painted bus. Office workers, students and foreign expatriates were the most common type of passengers on the scene. The passengers on the bus were funny, and sometimes they go crazy over the engine sound, as you know most locals experiencing bus service for the first time.

After prolong delays this service commenced in Malé, the capital city of Maldives on Thursday, 23rd of June. But some are suspicious over this project. Still their argument is how feasible it would be to successfully operate public bus services on, sometimes heavily congested narrow streets of Malé.  It is an everyday seen to view lined-up cars, motorcycles and other types of vehicles mainly due to traffic jam.

Taxis are one of the most common modes of transportation in the densely populated capital of Malé. You can reach any point of this one square mile capital city by a taxi just for 20 Mrf, though you are going to a distance of merely 100 meters or over a kilometer.

At a special ceremony to begin bus service to Malé President Nasheed inaugurated the service. Along with his party officials, senior government officials and senior members of the MVK the service provider joined him and drove the bus starting from Alima Carnival to Maafannu No 1 café known as “Alibe Kada” for their morning breakfast. President Nasheed was reported to have taken a Disk-Mashuni (Maldivian traditional breakfast). The president, who came to power pledging establishment of a public transportation service across the country, fulfilled another segment of his endeavor.

It is being hailed as another milestone of his government. However, originally previous government planned this. They had lots of deliberations and planning’s but was short of implementing it.  That time around, I guess they faced pressure from well over 500 taxi drivers in the city. They believed apart from being traffic-jammed it would upset taxi drivers’ business. They felt before starting such service they had to plan the streets adding up extra piece of land to make bus stops and bus stands.

Originally I wrote this article on the 23 June 2011. Today, I see bus service is gaining momentum as more and more people are taking up the service. 

Cases of Information Refusal

Access to information is one of the key aspects of a healthy democracy. Allowing people to seek and receive public documents serve as a critical tool for enhancing transparency, accountability and service delivery.

Broadcast Commission's Chair Badur Naseer (R), Vice Chair Shaheeb (L)

The Constitution of the Maldives guarantees right to information held by offices, officials and by private bodies that carry out activities that affect the public in general.
Nevertheless, time and again various Government offices, public and private institutions and officials refuse or fail to facilitate journalists and media organizations access to information.
Regrettably, both the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) and the Maldives Media Council (MMC) have been so far silent on these issues. MBC also has a mandate to establish public service broadcasting, while MMC has a mandate to advocate and stand guard to protect the rights of free media and promote strong press.
MJA believes that with the lack of strong voice and active role by MBC and MMC may have only exacerbated an ongoing situation.
Number of media organizations have been repeatedly singled out and discriminated in receiving information. Some high-level public officials including Government ministers have been telling that they do not want to provide information to those Media Organizations who do not entertain or propagates as they wants. A recent statement by Minister of Finance Ahmed Inaz, shown repeatedly on Dhi-TV on 18th of June, also may suggest the attitude of these officials towards media.
Maldives Journalist Association urges MBC and MMC to become proactive in their responsibilities in promoting freedom of information, and help to change a culture of secrecy. MJA also urges these two regulatory bodies to hold accountable any official who refuse to share information and discriminate any media organization.

Commonwealth workshop promoting dialogue between government and opposition begins in Malé

A Regional workshop promoting dialogue between government and opposition begins in Maldives on Monday.

The 3-day workshop jointly organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which is the first workshop of its kind in Maldives brings together members of parliament and other senior politicians from ruling and opposition parties from Commonwealth countries in Asia.

Parliament Speaker Shaahid speaks at the opening ceremony at the Ballroom of Traders Hotel

A broad range of issues will be discussed during the next three days reflecting the fact that government and opposition parties are the fundamental building blocks of a strong and effective parliament.

Speaking at the opening ceremony Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba said Government and opposition have to see themselves as partners.

“Government and opposition parties therefore need to find ways of working constructively together. It is important to remember that today’s government may be tomorrow’s opposition. Political parties represented in parliament need to see themselves as partners in the development of the democratic process” said Ms. Mmasekgoa.

The Speaker of the Maldives People’s Majlis (Parliament) Abdulla Shahid, who also spoke at the opening of the workshop, called on the government and opposition to rise above their differences to offer hope to citizens.

“We need to live up to their expectations and aspirations. Our role is to carve out a better life for our people through the laws we design. Our duty is to hold the government accountable by upholding the Constitution. In short, our role as the legislature is to enforce democracy, not fail it,” said Mr Shahid.

He stated that democracy is in a state of infancy in Maldives and acknowledged that it is the responsibility of Members of Parliament to consolidate young democratic institutions to serve the interests of the people by paving the way for social justice and equity.

Mr Shahid said Maldives faces challenges in consolidating democracy and expressed appreciation for the Commonwealth’s support in promoting democracy, good governance and institution building.

Representatives of Maldives governing MDP and main opposition parties are attending the workshop.

According to Commonwealth Secretariat the workshop is also attended by selected resource persons, civil society representatives and observers from regional and international partner organisations of the Commonwealth.

Indian High Commission displays paintings of Buddha in Maldives

Recently I was able to walk-in to an art exhibition organized by Indian High Commission at Maldives National Art Gallery located in the northeast corner of Sultan Park. The exhibition went on from 2nd – 12th of June. It came in to spotlight as I was walking to Islamic Center for prayers — I saw the big banner hanging down at the entrance of the ‘Chinese aid’ building.

portrait of Buddha being displayed at the Art Exhibition held by Indian High Commission in Maldives

After prayers I was returning back from mosque. There I met an old friend and both decided to go into the Art Gallery to find out what actually the exhibition portraits. This is my 1st visit to the new building of Maldives National Art Gallery.

Many large canvases were hung in the gallery. We were just giving the first impression of it one at a time.  Some of them don’t illustrate anything except a topic. Later we noticed it as a contemporary art exhibition. Nothing has been in detail. Except three paintings, all rest were contemporary art works. The three fine art works which we found were well drawn with stunning colors often seen in the South Asian’s sub continental countries.  But the alarming thing was all three depicts Indian Gods and Goddesses.

Another portrait displaying South Asian's Hindu and Buddhist idols

You might remember recently Maldives Customs seized statues brought in to the country to be used as decoration items at a spa. They seized it because it was iconic to those you found in Thailand’s temples. Likewise these portraits show unerringly the image of Buddha. But I wonder why they [authorities] allowed Indian High Commission to displaying them at a public exhibition.

The exhibition was inauguration by President Nasheed and, at the time we went there one of his close aid, and a family relative, Health Minister’s husband ‘Sikka’ was promoting the ongoing French festival in the same premises.

The brochure   given to us says, all the paintings came from the “Puducherry Blue”, the artist’s camp at Puducherry, India which was held under the auspices of ICCR in 2011, with a view to bring together artists from the South Asian region. The camp gave creative artists from nine South Asian nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka a platform to interact and mingle each other socially through the medium of art.

“By exhibiting these works in Maldives, The High Commission of India expects further interaction among the art lovers based on the styles and sensibilities that bench marked the creativity of the artists”, noted in the preface of the brochure.

The aim is very perfect. However, they have somehow manage to symbolize their Gods in our National Art Gallery. Nobody tend to notice this. Nobody cares. This is how Indian High Commission tries to influence their smallest neighbor, displaying their idols, putting their religious festivals at Public arenas like Dharubaaruge and so on.

After all present government of Maldives has take-up trade and bilateral relations of the two nations to a high elevation, bringing new investors like GMR to Maldives while Indian Government has offered huge sum of loan and grant packagers to the President Nasheed’s Government, everyone knows kind influence Indian would be pounding on us. Authorities are silent as Indian High Commission is continuously arranging Hindu Religious and Cultural festivals mainly focusing to huge number of Indian workers living in the country.

During previous regime every thing has to be conformed in prior to the event. needs to organize such events in the Maldives they have to submit their plan, drawings, and films, Posters and such other items to Maldives Censure Board before being displayed in the public arenas.

Gayoom attempts to reform his party

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for the first time in months addressed his supporters of opposition DRP’s Z-faction on Wednesday evening, reiterating his calls for the need of reforming his very own party.

Marking the seventh anniversary of the democratic reform package which he announced in June 9, 2011, he went on to say that even way before he came to power there wasn’t any such thing called democracy in the country adding that unfortunately even today it’s the same.

Former President Gayoom addressing the gathering held to mark 7th anniversary of his democratic reform package

Gayoom said the main aim of establishing and strengthening the democratic institutions are to refrain citizens from deliberate act of political intimidation adding that it is a system that gives guarantee to all that no one will have to face any form of threat or punishment from the regime as long as they abide by the law.

“[in a country] where citizens kept in fear cannot be regarded as a democratic system“, Gayoom said.

Separation of power, establishing independent judiciary, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech along with forming political parties were some of the fundamentals of his reform package.

However, he says, some of the democratic reforms which he tried to thrive during the later years of his regime since has derailed from its track and its pillars are now in ruin. In his speech he highlighted some of the oppressions carried out by then President Ibrahim Nasir’s regime and went on to exemplify how he was given a sentence of four year banishment to a remote island after having been convicted for simply expressing political views inside his residence in Malé. He said during early days of his 30 year old regime he concentrated on two main elements of development, educating the people and build a vibrant economy. He insisted by saying from the very outset he has started institutionalizing government’s structure in line with democratic principles.

Highlighting some of the difficulties facing his own party, he said, “there is a great need of democratic reforms within DRP, members of the party has to decide whether to hold a national conference to restructure party leadership and if they decide so I will be also ways with the party members in support of holding such a conference”.

“Handing over the [party] leadership [putting] on a tray is the biggest mistake I have made. Now I am not going to repeat the same mistake”, Gayoom said recalling how he handed over party’s leadership to present leader Thasmeen. He said things didn’t went that smartly and smoothly ever since Thasmeen took the leadership. He went on to say how party’s rules and regulations were put aside to expel one of the deputy leader Umar Naseer and claimed that party council is totally controlled by leader Thasmeen.

“In many democratic parties elsewhere, we see party leadership and party ticket being given through a popular vote of party members.  We also have to taking up similar principles giving way to reform the party through democratic consolidation”

“No matter who gets the party ticket for crucial 2013 election – my support will always stay with him”, said Gayoom. He stressed that this time he is not going to repeat the mistake by pointing out  a particular person to support.

A contradicting view of Gayoom’s comments later shared to press by DRP’s Thasmmen faction. Officials from DRP-Thasmeen faction told a press conference that Gayoom has no right to call for a national congress and, only the party council which was elected at the last congress has the sole power to decide on its future.

Commenting on Gayoom’s address, later President Nasheed’s Press Secretary blamed that former president is trying to make a comeback to active politics.