Saturday, January 23, 2010

Minivan no more

A group calling itself the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme  MWSRP, registered as a UK charity, has had its research permit temporarily suspended by the Maldives government. This follows clashes with local divers and complaints by the Divers Association of Maldives DAM to the authorities about the research methods used and the possible impact on marine life. The conflict is fast developing into an all out propaganda war, with one of the country's top news source taking sides.

In this Minivan News article, the writer JJ Robinson dedicates 721 words out of a total of 1401 words to MWSRP’s own version of the events, painting a picture of uncivilized, uneducated Maldivian divers from dive safari liveaboards engaged in guerrilla tactics to sabotage all-important research being done by enlightened Westerners.

As if that were not enough, Robinson gives an additional 173 words to an official of the Diva Island Resort and Spa to describe crew of liveaboards as bottom-baring, reckless louts, out to cause harm to other people’s guests. Robinson does not bother to interview a single liveboard crew or diver against whom his article levies serious allegations. Indeed, only 201 words are given to a representative of the Divers Association of Maldives, currently raising concern with the government about the methods used by the MWSRP, which may be causing of the dwindling number of whale sharks in the protected area.

JJ Robinson’s article is a glaring example of the violation of the code of impartiality, a fundamental ethic of good journalism, and it seriously undermines the pioneering work done by Minivan News to raise reporting standards in the Maldives.

Minivan means independent in Maldivian a, claim Minivan News can no longer make.



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Husnu Sood's flawed special needs bill

President Nasheed did the right thing by heeding the concerns of disability NGOs and sending the controversial special needs bill back to parliament without ratifying it. And, although his attorney general Husnu Sood is said to support the move, Anni must now question him on why his office produced such legislature in the first place.

The bill addresses people with disability as "people with special needs", ignores the obligations of the state under the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities signed by the Maldives in 2008, and essentially tries to wash its hand off PWDs with a monthly handout. 

Maldives Dissent has learned that Husnu Sood paid students at the law school do draft the bill, an indication of the importance he gives to legislature of this nature. Sood's failure to background research the subject of disability, read international conventions signed by the Maldives, and consult stake-holders has resulted in wasting valuable time and resources and embarrassing the government.

MPs are no better. By passing the bill they've shown their own ignorance on the subject and their laziness to research the issue before going to parliament. And, as it has now emerged, their failure to listen to the concerns of people involved in disability prior to the voting, seriously raises questions about whether they are acting in the best interests of the people.

Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed, who proposed the handout, displayed astonishing arrogance when he told TVM that the bill would remain unchanged and that the civil society couldn't do anything about it.

But it is heartening that Anni has chosen to listen to the civil society in this instance.

He must now have a chat with Husnu Sood to ensure that nonsense like this doesn't come out of his office again.