JP defection is no loss to government, says Gayoom

The Jumhooree Party’s (JP) departure from the Progressive Coalition causes no loss to the government, says Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Arriving in Malé after attending an environmental forum in New Delhi, Gayoom told media that the current government remains “strong and steadfast”.

“Initially, we had a coalition between three political parties, now there is one between two. The coalition with JP broke apart due to some disagreements that arose a while ago. However, the coalition with MDA [Maldives Development Alliance] remains very strong,” he said.

The JP has today responded by suggesting that the PPM leader was unwilling to see violations committed by the ruling coalition.

The party officially joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last week, after having officially left the coalition, though relations with the PPM were effectively severed in May last year.

After describing the opposition’s claims to be defending the Constitution as laughable last week, Gayoom again criticised the agreement.

“If they claim to be protecting the Constitution, then they must also tell us exactly how the incumbent government has acted against the Constitution. They haven’t been able to do so. The truth is, they don’t really have much of essence to say about this,” he told media.

The former 30-year ruler asserted that the administration of his half-brother Abdulla Yameen respects the Constitution, rejecting claims that the replacement of the auditor general last October, and the dismissal of two Supreme Court judges in December, was unconstitutional.

He insisted that those actions cannot be described as undermining the Constitution, as they were taken “lawfully through the establishment of laws”.

“These laws are made in ways that the Constitution allow us to. We can’t make any laws that go against the Constitution, as the contradicting clauses will themselves become void. So these actions were conducted in accordance with what the Constitution stipulates,” he explained.

Doesn’t want to see: JP

JP Spokesperson Ahmed Sameer has subsequently dismissed Gayoom’s comments, stating that the current government’s unconstitutional actions are “apparent for all to see”, suggesting that Gayoom chooses not to acknowledge them.

“Gayoom sees them, knows about them, and is deliberately using the majority that the PPM currently has to undermine the rights of the people,” alleged Sameer.

“We citizens should be deeply concerned if a man who ruled for such a long time cannot even recognise violations of people’s rights while it is happening right in front of him”.

He went on to give various instances in which the party believes the government has acted unconstitutionally.

“One of the first statements by the President’s Spokesperson was a justification of why President Yameen did not mention the judiciary in his presidential address in the parliament. He then said that the judiciary is absolutely strong and without fault. Why then did he bring such a major change to such a solid institution later on?” asked Sameer.

The spokesman went on to say that, when deciding which two judges to remove from the Supreme Court bench, the government had dismissed two of the judges most trusted by the public, while allowing a “disgraced judge” to remain in position.

He also pointed to the proposed constitutional amendment submitted to parliament, seeking to restrict persons over 65 years of age from running for presidency.

“The constitution clearly states that any citizen can run for an elected position. How then can this amendment be in accordance with the law?” he asked.

“It is a deeply concerning matter that Gayoom is turning a blind eye to the atrocities against the Constitution being committed by the rule of his party,” Sameer concluded.

The Progressive Coalition currently controls 49 of the Majlis’ 85 seats, while the opposition alliance – which has pledged to work together both inside and outside the Majlis – has a combined 34 MPs.



Related to this story

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Opposition alliance a “waste of time”, says Gayoom

Judiciary excluded from presidential address due to Yameen’s trust in the institution

Majlis removes Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, Justice Muthasim Adnan from Supreme Court

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Family of missing Maail criticise police response

The family of 24-year-old Abdulla Maail, reported missing on January 27, has expressed concerns that police have been negligent in their investigation of his disappearance.

Lhaimagu Island Council has echoed these concerns, saying they are “not at all satisfied” with the manner the police have handled parts of the investigation.

Maail – from Dhaalu Atoll Kudahuvadhoo – went missing from the uninhabited island of Firunbaidhoo in Shaviyani Atoll, where he was employed on an agriculture project.

Only one other person, 62-year-old Hassan Ali, was on the island at the time of the disappearance. He reported Maail to be missing on the afternoon of January 27, according to police.

Police officials have denied the suggestions of negligence, saying that the search up to this point had been prompt and thorough.

‘Delays narrow chances of finding Maail': Council

Lhaimagu Councillor Ahmed Shinan said the police had taken long time to respond after the disappearance was reported, expressing concern that the chances of finding Maail had subsequently narrowed.

“Hassan Ali told us, in the presence of other council members and police, that he reported Maail’s disappearance to police at 4.30pm. Police, however, did not arrive on the island until after 11pm that night,” claimed the councillor.

“It took over 6 hours for police to come, when the distance between Firunbaidhoo and Fonadhoo can be travelled in just under 10 minutes by speedboat. We heard later from the island’s proprietor that police refused to come until he arranged speed boat transfer for them”.

Police today acknowledged  some “transportation challenges” after the case was reported, but said they had begun work on the case immediately after being alerted.

“We only received reports at 6.30pm and I think police reached the scene around 9pm,” a media official told Minivan News.

According to the Shinan, however, locals waited hours for police to arrive at the scene.

Locals search the island of Firunbaidhoo

“This was valuable time wasted when we could have commenced the search for Maail. We’re talking about a human being that’s gone missing, not some petty robbery. We cannot afford to be careless in the investigation,” he said.

Shinan said that the police had left the island unattended after the initial search, giving potentially guilty parties an opportunity to eliminate or tamper with evidence.

He also argued that witnesses had not been investigated thoroughly enough, suggesting that reports of a supply dinghy having visited the island minutes before Maail’s absence was realised could be key.

The councillor also expressed disappointment that it took police over two days to begin searching the sea.

Police have denied the delay, saying that the coast guard-assisted search began the day after the reported disappearance. Officials declined from giving further details as the investigation continues.

Family feels unsupported

Maail’s brother Mohamed Shifau has travelled to the capital Malé from Meemu atoll, after the family had been unable to contact Shaviyani police.

“We have continuously tried calling the head of the Shaviyani Police Station to ask for updates on the investigation, but he hasn’t answered our calls even once in the past week,” he told Minivan News.

“There are certain aspects of the investigation that we believe the police overlooked, some people that they haven’t questioned, and so on. We shared that information with the police in Malé.”

The family have also sent a letter outlining their concerns to the Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, though they have as yet received no reply.

Dissatisfied with the response from police, Shifau appealed to politicians for assistance, meeting with politicians across the spectrum.

“The Shaviyani Atoll Fonadhoo constituency’s parliamentarian Ali Saleem met with us, but said he could give us no more than five minutes. He stated that the police will investigate the matter and there is nothing else he can do for us,” Shifau explained.

After failing to contact Kudahuvadhoo constituency MP Ahmed Amir, Shifau met with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“The MDP was very sympathetic, and Chairperson Ali Waheed promptly arranged a meeting with a committee from the party. They provided assistance by guiding our family on future steps that can be taken,” Shifau said.

(PHOTOS: LHAIMAGU ONLINE)

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Jamiyyathul Salaf calls on government to cancel “sinful” Sean Paul concert

Islamic NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has called on the government to cancel a New Year’s eve concert featuring Jamaican artist Sean Paul in Malé, a day after an online group threatened to kill the singer should he visit the Maldives.

The NGO’s President Abdulla bin Muhammad Ibrahim said the ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Show’ on December 31 would encourage youth to remain ignorant and sinful and said the state was “investing in destruction” by funding the show.

“Instead of ensuring the youth, who are the future of this Islamic country, are educated in the ways of Islam and reformed into being religious, the wealthy are encouraging the youth to remain in their ignorant state by getting intoxicated with music and other sinful activities,” said Ibrahim.

The Facebook statement went on to accuse government leader of “keeping the youth on the attractive footsteps of the devil” by arranging the celebration, calling for its cancellation.

“I further call on all brothers and sisters to refrain from participating in such misleading actions, and to do whatever you are capable of doing, in whichever field you can, to ensure that such activities cannot be carried out,” he continued.

The sponsors of the event will “regret their actions on the day of judgement,” added Ibrahim.

Salaf’s statement comes in the aftermath of a video posted on December 25 threatening Sean Paul with death.

“If you visit the Maldives, the world will see your burnt and blood drenched dead body,” read the message in the Youtube video.

The video bore the logo of  Bilad Al Sham (BASM), an online group that claims to represent Maldivian militants in Syria. However, the group has denied any involvement in the video’s production.

BASM did, however condemn the concert as “filthy” and “part of the ideological attack being waged by the kuffar and their allies on the Muslim youth to take them further from their Deen.”

Police have confirmed that they are investigating the video and said they will strengthen security at the Galolhu Football Stadium where the concert is to take place.

“We are investigating the video. We also urge the public to not be alarmed or intimidated at all by the video. We are further strengthening security measures in response to the video,” a police spokesperson told Minivan News today.

Police have also issued a press release assuring the public that appropriate security measures would be taken and that a security plan, which includes blocking traffic in areas adjacent to the stadium, has been formulated.

The police said it is confident it can assure the safety of all concert goers based on its experience of overseeing security at international football matches at the Galolhu Stadium.

In addition to Jamiyyathuh Salaf, Adhaalath Party Vice President Dr Mauroof Hussain has also expressed his disapproval with the concert.

“I don’t like the planned new year eve show but I abhor more the extremism of some people issuing death threats which is more unIslamic,” a tweet dated December 26 from Dr Mauroof’s official account read.

The Adhaalath Party’s only parliamentarian Anara Naeem has meanwhile tweeted, saying the youth need Islamic education and not ‘music 24 hours’.

In a second tweet, she criticised the imitation of “Western” culture and celebration of Western festivals.

Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has commented on the threat yesterday via twitter, saying: “Bringing foreigners to hold shows coinciding with the New Year is unacceptable. Issuing death threats is also unacceptable.”

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has also condemned the video, saying that the government would not give in to threats.

The last major Western artist to perform in the capital was Irish singer Chris De Burgh in 2012. Prior to this, a concert featuring R&B singer Akon in 2010 was cancelled, with the event’s managers citing technical and security concerns.



Related to this story

Online jihadists threaten Sean Paul with death ahead of New Year’s concert

Police defiant in the face of taunts from jihadi group

Akon’s Supafest postponed “at least six weeks”

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35 percent of Asian MPs’ human rights cases from Maldives, says IPU

The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) has revealed that the Maldives accounts for 35 percent of all its human rights cases concerning Asian MPs.

“Maldives has a very high number of MPs (27) with cases before the Committee. Arbitrary detentions and violations of freedom of expression are the most common complaints reported, followed by torture, ill-treatment and other acts of violence,” said the IPU.

The union’s ‘Human Rights Abuses of MPs – 2014′ report – released to mark Human Rights Day (December 10) – shows that Africa and Asia are the most dangerous regions for parliamentarians.

Earlier this year, the union had suggested that the authorities’ response  to the growing number of threats against MPs would represent a test of the Maldives’ democracy.

The union emphasised the “high price parliamentarians are paying to defend fundamental human rights and exercise their right to freedom of expression”.

Despite being the smallest country in Asia, the Maldives made up 27 of 78 parliamentarians from 12 countries in Asia who have cases lodged with the IPU’s human rights committee.

Previous statistics from the IPU show that the global average number of inhabitants per parliamentarian is 146,000. With 85 MPs, the Maldives’ 2014 census shows the country has 1 MP for every 4,014 inhabitants.

In October, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla – the first Maldivian member of the IPU – met with the committee to raise concerns over the personal safety of parliamentarians and journalists in the Maldives.

At the time, Eva highlighted the lack of thorough investigations in cases of threats and assault, perpetrators not facing trial, the failure of law enforcement, the failure of the parliament to look into cases, and the creation of a culture of intimidation in the Maldives.

In a year in which MDP MP Alhan Fahmy narrowly avoided paralysis following a stabbing, threats against MPs and their families have become commonplace.

In October, the Maldives National Defence Force temporarily offered MPs additional personal security as well as urging Majlis members not to go out at night time unless absolutely necessary.

The IPU’s list of Maldivian cases also included the late Progressive Party of Maldives MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, brutally murdered outside of his home in October 2012.

MDP MP Ali Azim was controversially removed from the Majlis over an issued of decreed debt last year

Cases from around the world

The IPU explained that 311 parliamentarians from 41 countries had cases referred to the IPU Committee in 2014 – a 13 per cent increase from 2013, which saw 270 parliamentarians lodge cases, from 40 countries.

The most common human rights complaints are arbitrary detention, lack of fair trial, violation of freedom of expression and unlawful suspension and loss of parliamentary mandate.

Other dangers faced by parliamentarians include death, torture, threats and arbitrary arrests, explained the IPU

As per the 2014 statistics, the highest number of parliamentarians who have lodged cases at the committee are from Africa with 38 per cent, followed by Asia with 25 per cent.

Middle East and North Africa have 18 percent, while the Americas have 14 percent, and Europe 5 percent.

71 percent of these parliamentarians are from opposition parties, and 89 percent are male.

“These figures are extremely worrying as they show that all over the world MPs face serious harassment and sometimes even death, in a clear attempt to intimidate and silence critical voices and dissent,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong.

“The figures we are presenting today are cases reported to IPU, but there are other abuses that remain beyond our scope, as the Committee can only intervene at the request of the MP concerned, family members, legal representatives, fellow MPs or human rights organisations,” he continued.

The statement reads that the majority of cases have been under the committee’s consideration for less than five years, while 10 percent of the cases are from more than 10 years ago, and another 5 percent date back to the 1990s.

It also notes that 101 new decisions were adopted by the IPU this year, calling on authorities of the relevant countries to “take effective steps towards a satisfactory settlement of the cases”.

Of the 314 cases, 71 are new cases involving parliamentarians from the Maldives, Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Iraq, Israel, Oman, Palestine, Venezuela and Zambia.

The Committee also closed cases involving 12 parliamentarians in 2014.



Related to this story

Government’s reaction to death threats is a test of democracy: IPU

Inter-Parliamentary Union requests urgent visit to Maldives

Opposition MP Alhan Fahmy stabbed

MPs urged to stay in at night as MNDF offers personal security

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Dealing with the dry spell – Malé’s water crisis continues

Five days since the fire at Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) – the capital city’s sole provider of running water – disrupted water supplies, residents and local businesses struggle to make do with the limited resources available.

As politicians begin finger-pointing, the inhabitants of the capital continue to cope with the crisis in any way they can.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the Maldives Red Crescent have been distributing bottled water received as aid from neighbouring countries to citizens since December 5.

The drinking water distributed by the MNDF in this manner is being transported to the capital city voluntarily from nearby islands by local businessman Adam Manik of Galolhu Sentuge, owner of Tug Service Marine Pvt Ltd.

Adam Manik has also taken the initiative to set up nearly a dozen large water tanks near the Water Jetty, where drinking water is dispensed free of charge.

“I purchase the water, transport it to Male’ on my boats and distribute it for free to all and any citizens. I see this as a national effort and will continue to provide this service as long as the current water difficulties continue,” Adam Manik told Minivan News today.

Adam stated that his employees have been working relentlessly for the past 4 days on all his boats.

Three of his boats are being utilised for water transportation – ‘Adam 60′, which has the capacity to carry 200 metric tonnes of water, ‘Ifba’ carrying 60 metric tonnes and ‘Namoona’, carrying 20 metric tonnes.

Meanwhile, Happy Market is currently producing ‘Life’ bottled water at maximum capacity, catering to the public, businesses, and resorts.

Happy Market Purchases and Procurement Manager Akram stated that, while the company is unable to provide unlimited supplies, they are working to sell water at an equitable rate.

The public can at the moment purchase one case of four 5 litre bottles at any of the Happy Market outlets in the city for MVR56 (US$3)

Akram stated that other producers of bottled water are slowly resuming retail, which would stabilise the situation while taking some pressure off the sole seller of bottled water.

Leaving water troubles behind

While the queues at free distribution centres grow shorter, there are reports that many residents of Malé have chosen to travel to other islands, especially nearby Villingili and Hulhumalé – both of which have unaffected supply.

Guest house owners confirm that all accomodation at these islands are now fully booked, while some guesthouses have started a new strategy of only renting rooms to Malé residents on an hourly basis.

Traditionally, December is the time of the year when customary circumcision parties are held in the Maldives – which typically include a week long celebration after young boys undergo the procedure.

Fathimath Waheeda stated that on December 4, she had to move her son from the hospital to Villingili as, due to the water shortage, she could not cater to the multitude of guests who would visit her son’s party.

“I rented a room in Villingili and we are having the party here. Less people turn up, but at least there are no concerns of hygiene or catering here,” she said.

Limited water, Limited services

Local businesses are also facing hardship due to the water troubles, with some opting to temporarily close down business until water services resume.

Others continue to persevere, with many gathering water from distribution centres, or collecting water at the limited dispensing hours.

Fahari Cafe’ – run at the North Harbour of Malé – said it is attempting to run business as usual, assigning one employee the task of going to queue at water distribution centres, while another stays alert to collect water during dispensing hours.

Abdulla Saeed, owner of a food outlet called “Home Delivery” stated that they are following the same process.

“What else can we do? This is the work we do to feed ourselves. We cannot give it up regardless of how difficult it may be,” he said.

Marble Hotel owner Athif Saleem said that guests are aware of the crisis and that therefore very few complaints are received.

“We are providing well water to the guestrooms and notifying them of the water supply dispension hours. We are also using rainwater in the cafe for washing purposes and services are available. However, we are getting fewer local customers in the cafe’ during this crisis,” he explained.

Hair salons are also facing difficulties in providing normal services. Many claimed to be open only to offer a limited number of services – those which require a minimal amount of water usage.

Cyza Salon also spoke of decreased number of customers during the crisis.

“Like most others, we also bring water from the distribution centres. We aren’t getting too many customers these four days but if someone does come, we will try to provide services as best as we can”.

According to Special Task Force member Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer, it will take upto 10 days or more for regular water supply services to resume.

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MDP says government should decrease foreign relations budget to fit “policy of exclusion”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called on the government to decrease its budget allocation for foreign relations, saying current policy made such expenditure unnecessary.

“Such an increase in funds will not be needed as the incumbent government has revealed that its foreign policy is one of exclusion,” said former Speaker Abdulla Shahid.

Speaking at a press conference given by the International Relations Committee of the MDP today (November 12), Shahid said that the current budget allocation was too great for such a policy.

“From the president’s speech on Republic Day, as well as various other statements by himself and foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, it has become apparent that this government’s key foreign policy strategy is to exclude itself and cut ties with the rest of the world”.

Speaking on the occasion of the Maldives’ Republic Day, President Yameen yesterday criticised “Western colonial powers” for anti-Islamic policies, suggesting that the Maldives was turning east toward China as a partner which does not involve such challenges.

Meanwhile, Yameen’s enthusiasm to participate in China’s silk road project has prompted opposition fears of strained regional relationships. The government maintains, however, that it is watchful of regional security issues.

The Yameen administration has pledged an improved foreign investor environment in order to restore confidence in local investment. Despite the introduction of the Special Economic Zone Act in August, the only najor interest shown in the government’s proposed ‘mega projects’ has come from China.

Shahid stated today that the budget allocations for foreign relations had risen by 22.7 percent from 2013 to 2014, and that the estimated MVR533 million (US$34.5 million) in the 2015 budget amounted to an increase of another 20 percent.

“An increase in this budget should only come in a government which is aiming to build ties with the international community, not break them. The MDP maintains that the budget should be reflective of the government’s policies,” he added.

Shahid highlighted that in 2014, the government shut down or downgraded a number of international missions.

He also took the closure and reopening of the missions in Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates as examples of the government’s weak foreign policies.

“Such indesicive action in matters like this affects relations with these countries. Additionally, the government has also downgraded the mission in London, which indicates that the government has no interest in maintaing strong ties with UK or the Commonwealth,” Shahid said.

The MDP alleged that such actions demonstrate to the world that the incumbent Maldives government does not have a long term foreign relations plan or objectives.

The MDP also expressed concerns that the number of political positions in foreign missions are on the increase.

“I don’t see why taxpayers should continue to pay for PPM activists to fill positions at foreign missions, when they don’t do any constructive work and do not even possess the skills necessary to do the required work,” Mariya Ahmed Didi stated.

Shahid added that the increase in political positions posed a disadvantage for better trained senior professionals at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose opportunities to work at foreign missions have decreased by half within the year.

He also emphasised the failure to provide incentives which allow female professionals to take up jobs in foreign missions, including allowances for child care and education.

Shahid went on to say that , while the next session of the SAARC Summit is scheduled for 2015, he feels that the government should exclude budget allocations for the event as past actions show the government “has no interest or intention to maintain ties or hold discussions” with neighbouring countries.

“The MDP maintains that its foreign policy will always remain non-discriminatory and open to all countries. We will continue to build ties with any interested countries as much as we can without compromising our country’s sovereignty or independence”.

The Maldives currently has 13 overseas diplomatic missions in China, Saudi Arabia, and Japan, with high commissions in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

The Chinese mission in Malé is the latest addition to the Maldives’ small diplomatic circuit which otherwise includes only the SAARC countries of Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

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AG seeks to strengthen prohibitions on carrying of sharp weapons

Attorney General Mohamed Anil has today submitted to parliament a number of amendments to the act prohibiting carrying and threatening use of sharp weapons.

Speaking at a press conference held by the cabinet’s Social Council, Anil revealed that amendments included the narrowing of certain rights that the accused currently have.

Among these, the right to remain silent and the right to consult with legal representatives will be narrowed, while police will be given the right to hold suspects in custody for purposes of community safety until the court considers the case.

The proposed changes comes as the number of stabbing incidents in the country continues at an alarming rate, with 18-year old Ibrahim Shifaaz last week becoming the latest in a list of incidents that have resulted in three deaths this year.

Anil explained that the present law only stipulates penalties for the carrying of sharp weapons and for threatening individuals with the use of sharp weapons.

“Both the home minister and we at the AG office find it to be very concerning that the law does not describe penalties for damages caused by such actions, such as the taking of a life, loss of a limb, or other physical harm to the victims,” Anil stated.

“Currently, these crimes are tried under the existing old Penal Code, which has in it far too lenient penalties. Thus, the proposed amendments will include new penalties that can be given to perpetrators for commission of such an act.”

He described the newly proposed penalties as including 7 to 15 year jail sentences and even the death penalty, depending on the seriousness of the crime.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer prompted international concern when calling for an end to the country’s 60 year moratorium on the death penalty earlier this year, completing the required regulatory changes in April.

The new amendments also stipulate that crimes falling under this act should be investigated within 15 days of arrest, while the Criminal Court must complete the case within 30 days from its submission.

Anil also announced that three additional bills have been submitted to parliament. These are the goods and services tax bill, the construction bill, and the mutual legal assistance bill.

Earlier on October 15, Umar Naseer conducted meetings with pro-government parliamentarians about amendments to these same laws.

“Reactions from parliamentarians of both Jumhooree Party and Progressive Party of Maldives were positive to my recommendations,” Naseer said at the time.

At today’s press conference, Naseer also revealed that the government has plans to commence a MVR4 million  (US$260,000)  project to further develop the security of the prisons in the coming week following the recent escape of two convicted murderers last weekend – both since apprehended.

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High Court grants Humam a month to appoint lawyer in death penalty appeal

The High Court has granted a man convicted of killing MP Dr Afrashim Ali one month to appoint a lawyer.

Hussein Humam had requested the period at the first hearing of the appeal at the High Court this morning.

The Criminal Court sentenced Human to death on January 16, finding him guilty of intentional murder, stating Humam had assaulted the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP with a sharp object and intentionally killed him.

Dr Afrasheem was found brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building on October 1, 2012.

Humam gave contradictory statements in court regarding his involvement in the crime. Although he initially confessed to the crime, he later retracted his statement claiming the statement had been given under duress.

He appealed the death sentence in May, just before the 90 day appeal period for lower court rulings was about to expire.

Death penalty

Shortly after the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer announced plans to implement the death penalty ending an unofficial sixty year moratorium on the practice.

Speaking on a show on state broadcaster TVM on Sunday night, Naseer said the incumbent government will not “shy away” from implementing the death penalty despite pressure from foreign countries and human rights organizations.

“We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned,” Naseer said.

He said that while he respected the views of European countries which are calling on the government to continue with the moratorium on the death penalty, he believed that the decision lies solely with the Maldivian government.

“While European countries are speaking against the death penalty based on their set of principles, the US, Indonesia, China are not, even though they are by far the more populated countries. Each country has a separate viewpoint on it, and I understand and respect that. However, I believe there is a need for the death penalty to be implemented here, and come what may, we will implement it”.

The decision to reintroduce implementation of the death penalty  has given rise to public debate.

While Islamic groups have said that capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari’ah, Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University graduate Scholar Al Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan previously told Minivan News that Islam is a religion of forgiveness first, and called on the state to abolish the death penalty.

“In taking qisaas, it is prescribed that it must be done in the manner that the crime was committed. Like the metaphor an eye for an eye. Taken in the exact same manner. How can this be done in cases of murder? How can the life of the murderer be taken in the same manner as that of the murdered? This is prescribed so as to discourage the taking of qisaas,” Mueed said at the time.

The government has previously announced that lethal injection is the state’s preferred method of implementing capital punishment.

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Prisoner’s escape was our fault, but we will find them: Home minister

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has accepted that loopholes in the prison system allowed two dangerous convicts to escape from Maafushi prison on Friday (October 17)

Ibrahim Shahum Adam and Fariyash Ahmed of Javaahiruvadhee in Gaafu Alifu Maamendhoo were both serving life sentences for separate murder incidents.

Naseer told Television Maldives yesterday (October 19) that the Maldives Police Services will doubtless recapture the two criminals and return them to prison.

Describing the escape during his interview, Naseer said that necessary changes to procedure had been identified which would now be implemented.

“There is no prison in the world from which someone or the other has not escaped from. The strength of a prison system is in how quickly we recapture escapees and return them to their cells,” said the home minister.

“We will find them. The government is willing to use all the powers vested in them to find them, recapture them and return them to prison,” he added.

The search has today expanded to the capital Malé after investigations in Maafushi and neighbouring islands proved fruitless.

The escape

Naseer described the layout of the Maafushi Prison as being divided into two subsections, referred to as ‘The Pentagon’ and ‘U2′.

U2 is the facility where criminals who pose daily threats are kept, whereas prisoners in Pentagon get a few hours a day out in the prison grounds. The two escapees were placed in the Pentagon wing of the prison at the time of escape.

Naseer stated that the prison houses over 700 inmates, all of whom are convicted on serious charges including murder, rape, and pedophilia.

The escapees had placed dummies made of pillows on their beds at the time of the routine headcounts, the minister explained, resulting in the guards miscounting.

This particular method of escape was made famous by the 1979 film ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, which was itself based on a 1962 escape attempt from the island prison in San Francisco.

Umar Naseer said that it was common for inmates to be asleep under blankets at these times, meaning that nobody noticed anything was amiss.

“We have now realised that it is not alright for us to just count people in a cell, and that we must instead wake everyone up and have them line up for the count,” Naseer said.

In the meantime, the prisoners had escaped out of a barred window and onto the prison roof before reaching the ground via bed sheets tied together.

The escapees had used a broken saw to cut through 22 bars on the window, with Naseer suggesting that the work had been done in a series of days on the windows, which are about 10 feet above the ground.

Naseer admitted that the saw may have been acquired from the prison grounds as there is currently an ongoing construction project to build a new check post in the U2 wing of the prison.

“This wasn’t planned and done in a single day. It was done under a well-planned systematic attempt,” Naseer said.

Opportunity for improvement

“We can look at this as an opportunity to improve upon the current prison system,” Naseer said, describing the prison system as a “learning experience”.

“We have now noticed loopholes in our way of doing things. In future, we will improve upon them. I can guarantee that no other convict can escape using this technique again,” he stated.

“The prison system is largely manual now. The locks on doors, monitoring the grounds, all of this is done manually. We will in future work to automate these things,” he said.

He revealed that the cells have cameras, but that inmates often avoid being on them by spending time in the attached bathrooms or through other tactics.

Naseer said that investigations are currently being conducted into whether the escape was made possible due to the negligence of prison guards.

“Nothing we have so far found in the investigation indicates any negligence or involvement of prison guards. However, if such a thing comes to our notice, we will take immediate action,” he stated.

While the minister noted that the prison system is being maintained on a tight budget, he maintained that his philosophy is to “make do to the best of our levels on whatever budget allocation is available”.

Naseer dismissed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s labelling of the escape as symptomatic of the government’s failings as a “rant released from a desperate party”.

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