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Professor Hassan Ugail: The numbers don’t back the decision to establish an Indian consulate in Addu city.

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Speaking at a panel discussion held tonight by the “SaveAddu” movement, Mathematician Professor Hassan Ugail has stated that The numbers don’t back the decision to establish an Indian consulate in Addu city.  The panel discussion was held in response to the public concern raised following the Indian government’s unilateral decision to establish a consulate in Addu city, Maldives.

Speaking at the virtual panel discussion, Professor Ugail stated that a consulate is normally established if at least 20,000 to 25,000 people of  country visits the host country in a year. He questioned whether 25,000 Indians visit or live in Addu city and stated that he does not see any signs of such a number of Indians visiting Addu city in the near future even. He also stated that those who speak for the establishment of the consulate argue that it would bring economic development. But he pointed out the logical fallacy behind it  that, the economic activity should be brought first, followed by a consulate to aid the people behind the economic activity and not the other way around.

Professor Ugail also stated that the numbers don’t back the decision to establish an Indian consulate in Addu city.

Professor Ugail also talked on the importance of independence and sovereignty stating that there are some things that should not be done for no matter price offered. He related to a personal experience of his when an American firm offered him $5.5 million in exchange for an algorithm developed by him. Professor Hassan Ugail stated that  refused the offer for the chance of misuse of the algorithm by the firm. He stated that similarly, the people of Maldives and Addu city needs to evaluate the consequences of the decisions that we make today for money, which would affect the future generations.

Veteran diplomat Mohamed Nashid also spoke at the panel discussion. He stated that consulates would be established according to the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, under which the Maldivian consulate in Trivandrum was also established. He pointed out that under this convention, any Consulate that is established in Addu would have full diplomatic immunity including the staff and the building which houses the consulate. He stated that of the 79 Articles in the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, most of the articles would be of benefit to the country which establishes the consulate and not the host country.

Mr. Mohamed Nashid who has 18 years of experience in Maldives Foreign Service, pointed out that the current course of action by the Indian Government was against Article 4 of the convention which stated that “A consular post may only be established in the territory of the receiving State only with that State’s consent”.

Mr. Mohamed Nashid raised concern that Maldivians do not have a say in the establishment of a consulate in Addu as the Government of Maldives remains silent. He also stated that if the consulate were to be stationed within the Addu Police Academy currently being constructed by the Indians, then the whole academy and staff could enjoy diplomatic immunity.

He also pointed out that geopolitically, Addu city is in a historically strategic position and that if a consulate were to be established there, then it could act as a listening post similar to those is Seychelles. Mr. Mohamed Nashid also questioned the motives behind the establishment of a consulate as a consulates main scope of work would be to process visa’s and serve its people. But stated that the idea of an Indian consulate in Addu is perplexing as very few Indians live there.

Mr. Mohamed Nashid also stated that the non-alignment policies practiced by the Maldives should b restored and relations should be kept with all nations. He stated that India will always continue to remain a neighbor and that fact cannot be changed, calling to amend the current policies to make room for a more balanced foreign policy.

Retired MNDF Captain Ali Ihusaan also spoke at the panel discussion. Born to Addu city, Captain Ali Ihusaan (Rtd)  stated that 50% of the global maritime trade passes through the Maldivian seas and that control of this trade has been something that even historically vied by world powers. He also pointed out that in the past South Indian Malabar kings had usurped control of the historically northernmost atoll of Minicoy and the strategic 8 degrees channel between. He stressed that even back then, world powers knew on the importance of those channels.

Captain Ali Ihusaan (Rtd) continued to talk on the geopolitically strategic location of the Maldives. He stated that the western states are using India as their proxy within this region against China. He stated that in order to control of these channels, India is establishing their military presence in the Maldives. Captain Ali Ihusaan (Rtd) stated that it is no coincidence that the Indian helicopter and police academy is kept in Addu and the military aircrafts in Hanimaadhoo and Laamu atoll.

Captain Ali Ihusaan (Rtd) questioned India’s motives on protecting the Maldives. He stated that if India was genuine in their intention to provide security for the Maldives, then they would train and provide the equipment to the Maldivians to defend themselves instead of forcing dependence on them, comparing the situation to Madagascar and Seychelles. He also pointed out that similar consulates have been used as a cover for listening posts which would track and gather intelligence on all land, sea and air traffic and economic activities in the region.

He also talked on how Hawaii became the victim of Japanese attacks during world war 2 after US stationed their military vessels. Comparing the situation he stated that when the Maldives gets in the middle of two super powers, Maldives would be left to face the consequences, stating that an incoming missile can’t distinguish a local from a foreigner.

Former Deputy Mayor of Addu city Hassan Shahid who also spoke on the panel stated that his concerns does not stem from him being with or against any parties involved but due to the motives behind the establishment of a consulate in Addu city. He stated that he was one of the people who made the Presidential manifesto for Addu city for the current administration and that there was no talks of an Indian consulate. He raised question on the benefits of a $200 million loan from India, which would be spent on what India dictates. He questioned the government on why the people of Addu are not being consulted or allowed to participate in the decision making process of the development of Addu city.

He also stated that during former President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, over $1 billion worth investments were brought to the Velana International Airport alone and questioned why the current administration is so focused on bringing just a $200 million loan to Addu city.

Social Sector Advocate Mohamed Shihab stated that historically even Addu has been an intellectual hub. He stated that main heritage of the Addu people are their resilience, hard work and their intellect. He raised points on the development of Addu city as an educational hub, questioning the motives behind the decision to establish a consulate in Addu city.

The panel discussion comes following a advocacy by the “SaveAddu” movement which has a strong online presence. The movement voices against the establishment of an Indian consulate at the Indian police academy in Addu city, stating that it would lead to colonization and further Indian military presence in Addu city. The “SaveAddu”movement has been conducting online protests aginst the growing Indian influence in the Maldives under the banner of “Indiaout” and “IndianMilitaryOut”.

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E-Learning programme launched by Visit Maldives in the German market

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Visit Maldives has launched an e-learning programme with FVW Akademie, one of the leading media channels for the travel industry in Germany, targeting the travel trade of the German speaking markets.

The programme which is set to run from June till November 2021 will educate the participants by showcasing the Maldives as a safe destination, information on the products, travel guidelines and the latest updates of the current situation said Visit Maldives.

According to the article published in the official Visit Maldives website, Approximately 400 attendees are expected to take part in the programme. To incentivize participation, Maldives will also set to feature in two monthly newsletters of FVW with a raffle draw sponsored by Nakai Dhiggiri Resort at the end of the programme.

“This campaign with FVW e-learning is in line with Visit Maldives strategy to strengthen the destination brand as well as the focused promotion of individual products and experiences.” Said Visit Maldives

Visit Maldives also participated in the virtual edition of ITB Berlin held this March, and is currently in a year-long campaign with Connoisseur Circle targeting the luxury segment in the German speaking countries.

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Potential of Waqf to Finance the Social Development Projects.

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Ministry of Islamic Affairs is the executive body responsible in Maldives to carry out religious tasks and waqf is also regulated by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The concept of immovable waqf is not common in Male’ as land is a scarce resource and further, the Land Act prohibits land in Male’, to be declared as waqf. In this regard, it is observed that Section 37 of the Land Act states: (a) any land in the Maldives or any fixed assets on such a land can be declared to be a religious endowment only if declaring it to be a religious endowment does not conflict with government policies on land use for the particular island and this shall further be subjected to the attainment of a written approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment; (b) land or fixed assets on a land in Male’ cannot be declared as religious endowments. However, it is imperative to note that waqf is an Islamic social finance institution and a tool that could be utilized for the social developments of islands without relying on the government budget to support such causes.

What is Waqf?

Waqf (Islamic endowment) is an Islamic social financial institution which is also considered as a redistributive institution. Though the term “waqf” is not found in Quran, Muslim jurists have derived its legitimacy from various sources of Islamic law including Quran and Sunnah. There are two kinds of waqf: immovable waqf and movable waqf which is cash waqf that has been approved by the Islamic scholars.  Irrevocability, perpetuity and inalienability are essential conditions to create a waqf. The purpose in which waqf has been utilized is not limited only to religious matters; but it can be used for any purpose which is beneficial to the society that does not contradict with the tenets of Islamic law. Waqf is known as a sadaqat jariyah (on-going charity) while sadaqat is known as a one-time charity that could be given to any type of beneficiary identified by the giver at any time. Waqf is also different from zakat. Zakat is the third pillar of Islam which is compulsory for all eligible Muslims to pay to the legal beneficiaries mentioned in Quran. As such, zakat is a due right on specific items of assets/properties, in specific percentages with consideration of the passage of a year (hawl) and the satisfaction of nisab.

Awqaf Sector of Maldives

There are only two cash waqf funds established by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. They are the Religious Awareness Waqf Fund and the Mosque Waqf fund. These two funds are maintained in a Public Trust Account formed under the Public Finance Act 2006. There is a Trust Committee set up to specifically deal with the funds and the ultimate supervisor of the fund in the Ministry of Finance & Treasury. Dharul Eeman Waqf project is an innovative waqf project successfully implemented by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs where the Ministry has developed a building on a land and has dedicated all the revenue received from renting of the building to Mosque waqf fund. By doing this, the Ministry intends to have enough financial capability to renovate mosques every year without waiting the government to approve funding for the purpose. Due to weak governance, though the project faced issued in implementing it as anticipated, it is hoped that the Ministry would be able to resolve governance issued and implement the project in a sustainable manner.

 Sustainable Waqf Models for Island Councils to finance Social Development Projects

Island councils can play a leading role in reviving waqf in the country for social development activities. Below are some successful ways in which other countries in the world has implemented waqf for the purpose and the same approach could be customized and replicated in Maldives.

  • Waqf Share Scheme (successfully practiced in Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait and the UK): In waqf share scheme, any specified institutions appointed by the government may establish this scheme and become the mutawalli (trustee). The appointed trustee will issue waqf shares in different values and sell the shares to donors for a specific project. The donors can buy the shares according to their affordability. The donors will receive cash waqf certificates as evidence of purchasing the waqf shares of the specified amount for the specified project. The amount collected from the sale of waqf shares will be managed by the trustee in terms of investment of the funds. The revenue generated from the investment will be used for financing the specified projects.
  • Waqf Share Scheme (successfully practiced in Singapore): In this scheme, Muslim employees’ salaries are deducted through the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board, i.e. Singapore’s national social security organisation. Monthly contributions of between USD$1 and USD$7 are made by Muslim employees. The amount of deduction depends on the Muslim employee’s monthly gross salary. The salaries of the Muslim employees are automatically deducted through an automatic check-off system whereby the salary is deducted by their employer and channelled through the CPF with Majlis Ugama Islam Singapore (MUIS) as the collecting agent. The collected amount is to finance charitable purposes such as building and maintaining mosques, funding educational programmes and building da’wah centres.
  • Corporate Waqf Scheme (successfully practiced in Malaysia, Turkey, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh): In this scheme, first founder, either a private or public corporation known as the mother corporation/main founder, will establish an associated waqf institution as the trustee. The main founder will ask all its subsidiaries to contribute part of their profits or dividends to the corporate waqf on a regular basis, besides calling other donors such as individuals, companies and institutions to contribute cash waqf to this associated waqf institution. The associated waqf institution, in its role as the trustee, will manage and invest the accumulated cash waqf from the different contributors. The revenue generated is then channelled to the specific project after operational expenses have been deducted
  • Waqf Takaful Model (successfully practiced in in South Africa and Pakistan): In this model, Takaful operator donates a seed fund to establish a Waqf fund for the product/policy. On a monthly basis, premium contributions made by participants are split into two portions – a portion for tabarru’ contribution to Waqf fund and a portion to participants’ risk account. The appropriation (based on percentage of premium contributed) shall be decided and agreed upfront between the takaful operator and participants. Any takaful claims will only be paid/deducted from the participants’ risk account while any surpluses will be credited back into the same account. Both Waqf fund and participants’ risk account will be invested in Shariah compliant instruments to generate returns where the return from the participants’ risk accounts will be credited back to the account. Returns from the waqf fund however, will be channelled to the waqf beneficiaries as approved by the takaful operator’s Shariah Committee. In the event of death, the deceased’s beneficiaries will be compensated with the takaful benefit from the participants’ risk account. No further amount is paid on behalf of the deceased to the Waqf fund (hence, the contribution to waqf fund is limited to the amount contributed while the participant is alive).

 Conclusion

Apart from the above described waqf models, there are many other successful waqf models practiced in the world as well. The other successful waqf models that could be considered are: cash Waqf-linked Sukuk; Cash Waqf Deposit Product; MyWakaf Initiative; Waqf Fund Model for Education; Waqf Unit Trust Fund; and Waqf Using Blockchain Technology. It is anticipated that the stakeholders of waqf in Maldives will try to revive waqf in the country by adopting the contemporary application of it.

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

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Progressive Party of Maldives joins Clubhouse.

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Opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has joined the popular social media platform “Clubhouse”.

According to  PPM Council Member Zahid Rameez, the official name for the party’s club on Clubhouse will be “PROGRESSIVE PARTY”. He also announced that the leadership of the opposition coalition including PNC President Abdul Raheem Abdulla, MP Ahmed Shiyam, MP Mohamed Saeed, Dr.Mohamed Muizzu, MP Ghassan Maumoon, MP Adam Shareef Umar, PNC Vice-President Ibrahim Shujau and MP Hussain Mohamed Latheef will be joining the discussions held by the club.

We reached out to Zahid Rameez who stated that they would be conducting open forums and discussions on critical issues faced by the society and the country. He encouraged everyone to follow PPM on Clubhouse stating that equal opportunity would be given to all who are willing to participate in civil discussions.

Clubhouse is a social media platform which allows individuals to discuss and listen into discussions on a lightweight and easy to use platform. As of May 2021, Clubhouse has over 10 million users up from 600,000 in 2020. It has been ranked as amongst the unicorn startups like Uber and Airbnb.

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