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Maldives appoints new vice president, sacks incumbent

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Male: The Maldives on Wednesday appointed its young Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb as the vice president of the country a day after removing incumbent Mohamed Jameel from office – in the first such instance in the Indian Ocean island country. Ahmed_adeeb_tourism_minister

Adheeb was on Wednesday administered the oath of the vice president’s office by Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed in a ceremony held at the President’s office.

Parliament will convene later in the day to confirm the young minister’s ascension, said media reports.

On Tuesday, the Maldives parliament passed a no-confidence motion against Jameel, and for the first time in the history of the nation removed a vice president from office, said Haveeru Online.

A total of 78 MPs voted in favour of Jameel’s removal, while only two members challenged it. No parliamentarians abstained.

Jameel, 45, elected in 2013 with President Abdulla Yameen, was in Britain at the time. He released a statement that he had been sidelined by the government and not allowed to work.

Jameel on Tuesday slammed the no-confidence motion against him, saying it was based on “deceitful allegations” and it cannot be substantially proven in parliament.

In a statement, he termed the allegations of incompetence and irresponsibility presented against him as a “ploy to achieve a particular political end and is so removed from public interest that the entire country should be ashamed of”.

“What more can the parliamentarians present, other than a statement claiming that I worked against my own administration?” Jameel said ahead of the no-confidence motion.

“In my tenure as vice president, I have not done one thing that undermines the authority of the president or opposes the policies of our administration,” he continued.

“Instead, I used what little opportunity I had to thank and admire the president and our administration.”

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the pro-government Maldivian Democratic Alliance (MDA), opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and the Jumhooree Party (JP)’s parliamentary groups support the motion against Jameel.

Parliament also amended regulations so that the motion was no longer required to be sent to an 11-member committee. The motion was decided on at the parliament floor.

This regulation was amended in order to hasten a decision on the motion, said Haveeru.

In another development, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has cancelled his official visit to the Maldives, and President Yameen has invited Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to participate in a special ceremony to commemorate the Maldives’ 50th Independence.

Sharif had previously confirmed his arrival. However, he later last week sent a letter to the President’s Office cancelling the visit due to a severe flooding in Pakistan’s Chitral, displacing thousands of families.

President Yameen invited Sharif during his official trip to Pakistan in May.

The President’s Office is yet to receive a response to its letter to Sirisena.

(IANS)

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Is Hamid Ansari a thankless Muslim Indian?

Former vice president Hamid Ansari who lately attended an event in Kozhikode held by Delhi Institute of objective studies, co-organised by PFI faces youth's protest.

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Popular Front of India
Source: Wikimedia Common
New Delhi, September 25, 2017: The youth wing of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came out to protest against the University and former vice president Hamid Ansari who lately attended an event in Kozhikode held by Delhi Institute of objective studies.
The event was co-organised by National Women’s Front (NWF), the women’s wing of the radical Islamic outfit Popular Front of India to mark the international conference on “the role of women to make a humane society”. It has also been alleged that an Islamic fundamentalist organization, Popular Front of India (PFI) was also part of the organizing committee.
According to the reports, the criminal of radical outfit PFI was accused of cutting the hands of Professor Joseph for being offensive to the Islamic Prophet Mohammad. It has also been accused of accusing National Investigative Agency over controversial ‘Love Jihad’ cases.
The university however claim that they have received letters from certain organizations, though not being part of the event but were collaborating in it.
BJP now demand an apology from the former vice president for attending the event that was organized by the organization who has also been responsible for recruiting youngsters for the Islamic state.
The question arises what prompted the Vice President of India for 10 years to attend an event organized by a radical Islamic people of Popular Front of India?
Is he being supportive of their agenda? Or is Hamid Ansari a thankless Muslim Indian?
– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_desire

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Murdered Maldivian Blogger’s Father wants India’s help to Ensure Justice for his Son

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Yameen Rasheed , Twitter

New Delhi,  May 20, 2017: The father of a prominent Maldivian blogger murdered last month wants India’s help to ensure justice for his son.

“I want India to press the (Maldives) government to make my son’s murder case investigation go for a fair trial,” Hussain Rasheed, father of Yameen Rasheed who ran a popular blog called The Daily Panic that poked fun at politicians of his country, told IANS during a visit here.

Yameen, who was known for his fight for democracy and human rights, was found dead in his apartment in Male with multiple stab wounds on April 23.

This was the latest in a series of attacks on media persons and politicians critical of the government of President Abdulla Yameen ever since then President Mohamed Nasheed controversially resigned in February 2012 following a mutiny by a large number of army and police personnel.

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Yameen was also very vocal about the disappearance of fellow blogger and best friend Ahmed Rilwan since August 2014 and was getting threats. He approached the police in December last year but had to really push to get his concerns registered.

He is the third media person to be attacked in the last five years. In 2012 another blogger, Ismail Rasheed, narrowly escaped death after a knife attack.

Also, in October 2012, reformist religious scholar and Member of Parliament Afrasheem Ali was killed.

Painting a grim picture of the prevailing situation in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation which is faced with growing Islamic radicalisation, the senior Rasheed said that the current government of Abdulla Yameen did not enjoy much public support.

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“I think if you hold a fair election, the government of Maldives will not get even five per cent of the votes,” he said.

According to him, this was evident from the recent local council elections in which representatives of the ruling dispensation fared poorly.

Noting that India was the Maldives’ closest friend and neighbour and the biggest democracy in the world, he said that an unstable government in his country would not be good for India’s neighbourhood.

“We want India to help us to bring the government back on the path of democracy,” Rasheed said.

On Friday, at a discussion on “Threats to Free Speech and Press Freedom: Murder of Prominent Blogger in the Maldives” organised by the Observer Research Foundation think tank, Rasheed gave an account of the events surrounding his son’s murder.

He said that after being informed by the police about it at his parental home in one of the southernmost islands of the Maldives early April 23 morning, he rushed to Male but the hospital authorities there did not allow him to see his son’s body as he could not have tolerated it.

When the body was finally handed over after being cleaned, Rasheed found that his son sustained 34 cuts on his body, including 14 on the chest, one on the throat and three on the forehead.

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Rasheed said that his son had been getting death threats since 2011 but he was not told about it because of his heart condition.

After studying till class 12 in Kerala, Yameen Rasheed graduated in computer science from an institute in Bengaluru and was working at the Maldives Stock Exchange till the time of his death.

Speaking on the occasion, Shauna Aminath, a prominent Maldivian human rights activist, said that since 2012, there has been a severe decline in the democratic environment in her country.

“I fear the situation will soon become irreversible. We are witnessing new elements coming into play, especially Islamic radicalisation,” she said, adding that President Yameen was increasingly becoming authoritarian.

“It is an ideology that is killing liberal values and democracy.”

Aminath said that most opposition political leaders were in jail and there was no press freedom with two newspapers and a TV channel being shut down under the current regime.

She said over 200 young Maldivians have left to fight in Syria.

“We are in India’s backyard. I hope India will not remain silent,” Aminath said.

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Maldives: A Tiny country whose 200 Young men have joined ISIS in Middle East

ISIS has been successfully radicalizing the youth in Maldives through the use of internet and social media

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A screen grab of a video purportedly released online by Islamic State shows militants threatening to launch strikes on the Maldives, Aug. 31, 2015. Image SOurce: BenarNews
  • The Maldivian government has asked India for help in sharing intelligence in light of an increasing threat from ISIS
  • The rise of the digital age is exposing the Maldivian youth to terrorism and turning them into radicals
  • Recently passed Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act criminalizes defamation and fines anyone spreading false information

The Maldivian couple was still struggling with the shock of their 22-year-old son being locked up in a Turkish prison after Muslim radicals almost recruited him.

“On July 12, we woke up and found him gone, his passport missing. Two days later, we got news that he was arrested in Turkey while attempting to travel to Syria to join a radical outfit,” the man’s father told a BenarNews reporter who was visiting the couple’s home in a congested by-lane of Male, the capital of the Maldives, late last month.

“As a family, we are shattered,” he said, “but relieved at the same time. At least we won’t have to live with the shame of knowing our son is killing innocent people in the name of Islam.”

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The father, who wished not to be identified, said he was well aware that his son might be looking at a life behind bars if he were sent back to the Maldives. Its government recently announced jail terms of up to 20 years for those attempting to go abroad to fight  for Islamic militant groups.

“He will get what he deserves. I only hope he gets a chance to repent,” the man said of his boy, whose identity he also shielded.

His son is one of more than 200 Maldivians who have left the Muslim-majority Indian Ocean archipelago – better known for its pristine beaches and high-end tourist resorts – to fight in the Middle East alongside militant outfits including the Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, according to the country’s main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Soufan Group, a U.S.-based security and intelligence firm that tracks terrorist threats worldwide.

The number of Maldivians fighting for these radical groups abroad is relatively high given the country’s small population of 345,000, according to a 2013 census.

The Maldives has the world’s second highest per capita of people fighting for IS, behind Tunisia, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), an American think-tank. One out of every 500 Maldivians has joined the Mid-East extremist outfit, according to research by the NBER.

At least 20 Maldivians have died in battle in the Middle East, said the Twitter page of Bilad Al Sham Media group, which appears to be run by Maldivian militants in Syria. BenarNews could not independently verify this figure.

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And even though the government of President Abdulla Yameen puts the figure at no more than 50, there is cause for concern, said a former top police official in Male.

“Even going by the number the government is stating, it is a worrisome trend considering the small population of the Maldives,” he told BenarNews.

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Mohamed Irfan (alias Abu Yushaw Maldif) is shown before he died fighting for the al-Nusra Front in Syria, Sept. 20, 2015. [ Bilad Al Sham Media]
Opposition exaggerating figure: governmentThe government said the opposition was exaggerating the number to bring disrepute to the Maldives, whose population is largely Sunni Muslim.“No bona fide security analyst has said or confirmed the figure which has been repeated by those with close associations to former President Nasheed; who themselves fail to attribute this number to any credible source, much less ones that can be independently corroborated or verified,” Ibrahim Hussain Shihab, Yameen’s international spokesman, told BenarNews.He was referring to Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s democratically elected leader. Until Nasheed was elected in 2008, the Maldives had endured decades of autocratic rule. But he resigned in February 2012, saying a coup had forced him out. Nasheed now lives in exile in Britain, where he has received refugee status.Shihab, however, added that the present government was taking the threat posed by terrorism seriously, but he declined to say how many Maldivian youths had been stopped from leaving the country to join extremist outfits in the Middle East, or if the country had a de-radicalization strategy in place.In February, President Yameen established the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) specifically to investigate cases of radicalization in the Maldives. In June, the president followed that up by submitting a policy paper on “Terrorism and Violent Extremism” to parliament for added recommendations with the aim of strengthening national security and contributing to the global fight against terror, Shihab said.Government in denial

But security analysts described NCTC as a sham.

“It [the NCTC] is a façade to pacify critics,” Azra Naseem, a Maldivian counter-terrorism expert at Ireland’s Dublin City University, told BenarNews. “It is based in the Maldives National Defense Force – making counter-terrorism a military issue rather than a policing issue. And as far as the public has been allowed to know, there are only two members of staff on it.”

She said the government’s main policy was one of “denial and obfuscation,” making it almost impossible for researchers and journalists to get accurate figures because the “government is working actively to cover things up.”

“The government is afraid that if it becomes known that an increasing number of Maldivians are leaving to join the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as foreign fighters, it would harm the country’s exclusive tourism industry.  Rich Western Europeans, toward whom most of the Maldives’ tourism industry is geared, would not want to book expensive holidays in a country known for production of jihad,” Naseem said.

“If the tourism industry is damaged, the miniscule percentage of rich Maldivians who control it would suffer and many of them bankroll the Maldives government. So the current regime downplays the number of Maldivian jihadists, pretends it is a problem that does not exist, and labels anyone who speaks about it a traitor,” she added.

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A tourist resort is pictured in the distance from Villingili island, the Maldives, July 24, 2016. [Rohit Wadhwaney/BenarNews]
Taboo topic 

On the streets of Male, an island of close to 6 square km (2.3 square miles) that is crammed with 130,000 residents, no one wants to speak of the growing threat of radicalization, not openly at least.Naseem, one of the few Maldivians who agreed to comment on the subject on the record, explained why.“I would not be surprised if the new Anti-Defamation Act is brought to bear on those who speak of this problem,” she said, referring to the recently passed Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act. It criminalizes defamation and includes provisions to impose fines of up to U.S. $130,000 on anyone caught spreading false information.

“This government really wants to depict the problem of radicalization as a fictitious one concocted by the opposition to harm the country and by ‘jealous’ Western countries who do not want the Maldives to prosper because it is a Muslim country,” she said.

‘We are very vulnerable’

Yet on Thursday, the Maldivian government for the first time publicly conceded its vulnerability to radicalization as it asked India for help in sharing intelligence in light of an increasing threat from IS and reports of radicalization among youths.

The chief of the NCTC will be visiting New Delhi on Aug. 29 to discuss specific requirements to tackle the terror threat, Maldivian Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim told the Press Trust of India.

“Because of our small size, we are very vulnerable and we have sought India’s help in strengthening our mechanisms to tackle threats of terrorism,” Asim said.

The request came barely two months after India’s Intelligence Bureau sent a classified report to agencies indicating that the growing IS influence in the Maldives could prove to be a threat to the Indian sub-continent, whose southwestern coast lies about 320 km (200 miles) away.

The IS has been “successfully using the internet and social media in influencing youths in the island nation and is determined to expand its network further,” the report said, while putting the figure of the outfit’s sympathizers in the Maldives at about 500.

New threat from online recruitment

Acknowledging that the number of potential terror recruits in the Maldives was well beyond the figure the government had been stating, the former senior police official from Male said the problem of radicalization in the archipelago was an old one.

“Radicalization of Maldivian youth came to the fore back in 2004, when several Muslim groups came to the Maldives in the garb of helping people affected by the tsunami and began preaching radical Islam,” the former cop said on condition of anonymity.

“And now, with almost every one of the near 350,000 Maldivians connected to the internet, radicalization of our youth is easier than ever,” he said.

Counter-terrorism expert Naseem agreed.

“There are several websites dedicated to publishing jihadi literature. A lot of books published by leaders of IS and al-Nusra are translated into Dhivehi and made available to Maldivians to download and study.

“Despite the government’s claim that they are clamping down on this, this material is very easily accessible,” she said. (BenarNews)

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