Maldives this week: 20 – 26 May

Overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases, investigation into 6 May terror attack, arrest of alleged extremists and delayed pledges to cut data prices.

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President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on 19 May appointed Abbas Faiz, a British national who previously worked as an advisor to Amnesty International, as Special Envoy to the Government of Maldives to monitor the investigation, prosecution and trial on the 6 May terror attack against Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed.  The President's Office on 20 May refuted reports that a separate intelligence agency is to be established under its purview. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) on 20 May announced it has suspended an officer who had accidentally left a firearm in a restroom at ADK Hospital while Speaker Nasheed was being treated there. The Maldives Police Service on 22 May said that Ahmed Fathih, the fourth suspect arrested, had previously worked in police intelligence. The Criminal Court on 23 May extended the remand of three suspects arrested in the case. Minister of Home Affairs Imran Abdulla on 24 May announced that the four suspects, as well as a large number of officers involved in the investigation have tested positive for COVID-19 but that the investigation will not be hindered. 

Given the overwhelming increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Maldives, the Health Emergency Operations Center (HEOC) on 20 May announced that it will only carry out contact tracing for high risk individuals. President's Office Spokesperson Mabrook Azeez on 23 May announced plans to establish PCR testing facilities in Raa, Lhaviyani, Laamu and Faafu Dhaalu Atolls. The HEOC on 23 May announced that the case suspected for mucormycosis or black fungus, has tested negative. Government announced movement restrictions and a curfew in capital Male, with police permits required to venture outside during restricted hours. The parliament on 24 May decided to move its sitting online. On 25 May, President Solih met with press, admitted that relaxing measures in April may have led to current increase in cases; announced a MVR375 million stimulus package, discounts on water and electricity bills across the country, and plans to establish a 270-bed COVID-19 treatment facility in Hulhumale. President said assistance requested from India and Bangladesh but noted the COVID-19 situation in these countries which could make assistance difficult. Minister of Health Ahmed Naseem announced efforts to source Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, says delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines uncertain. On 26 May the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said that it will extend its full cooperation to the government in the fight against COVID-19.

Maldives Police Service in series of operations arrested a number of individuals suspected to be involved in the spread of extremist ideologies in the Maldives. The Supreme Court on 23 May annulled the appeal filed on case regarding the bomb planted near Muleeaage in 2015, ruling that experts had not been able to prove that the bomb was real. Minister of Home Affairs Imran Abdulla on 24 May said in parliament that the law does not allow for arrest of those who know how to make improvised explosive devices. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid, in his address at the UN General Assembly on 20 May reiterated the Maldives' position on a two-state solution, based on 1960 borders, in the Israel-Palestine conflict.  

Government says cuts in data prices will be announced on 25 May. Delays announcement until 27 May.

The Judicial Service Commission on 23 May stated that Criminal Court Judge Ismail Rasheed had pre-written the conviction against former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and proposes to parliament to remove the judge. The judge consequently resigned from his post on 24 May. 

Government of India announces decision to establish an Indian consulate in Addu City. President Solih on 25 May said no decision made yet but will consider proposal. 

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