Raajje TV seeking “international assistance” to investigate arson attack

Opposition-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV is seeking international assistance to investigate the arson attack that destroyed its main office earlier this month – alleging concern at potential state involvement in the crime.

Police have so far confirmed that three individuals aged 18, 21, and 24 have been arrested over their alleged roles in fire bombing the private broadcaster, with investigations ongoing to identify other suspects involved.

A police media official declined to provide any more information on the investigation at time of press, beyond confirmation of the arrest of three suspects.

Six assailants were pictured committing the attack on CCTV.  The attackers also stabbed a security guard for the building.

“I don’t think we can expect police to solve this” Raajje TV Chairman

Raajje TV Chairman Akram Kamaaluddin has questioned the efforts and commitment of law enforcement officials to solve the case, with no further information shared by police so far over the progress of the investigation.

“I don’t think we can expect police to solve this, I highly suspect they may be involved in this,” he said. “So we are seeking international help with our own investigation.”

Kamaaluddin declined to provide further information of the nature of the international assistance he was seeking at time of press.

He alleged that the attack on its offices and control room by masked figures that destroyed cameras, computer systems, as well as broadcasting and transmission equipment was “state-organised”.

The station has continued to allege police and government involvement in the arson attack, namely Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb.

Adheeb has denied the allegations, which he described as “politically motivated, biased, baseless claims.”

The private broadcaster has also accused officers of purposefully failing to protect it after reporting threats made against the station and its staff ahead of the attack.

The Maldives Police Service has previously confirmed that it had been made aware of threats to Raajje TV ahead of the attack on its office

On October 9, the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) issued a statement denying reports spread on social media that a suspect suspected injured in the arson attack on Raajje TV was being treated at a military hospital.

The MNDF statement said the military hospital treated three firemen who were injured while trying to control the blaze, rejecting allegations of treating potential suspects while criticising efforts to spread news relating to the attack without clarifying the matter first.

Meanwhile, recently released CCTV footage of the arson attack shows several of the six arsonists without masks, and implicates an additional six men in the arson attack.

The Maldives Police Service has also released CCTV footage showing two men donning masks on Ameer Ahmed Street, a few blocks away from Raajje TV offices, shortly before the fire at the station’s offices.

Global condemnation

Global NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the arson attack and criticised what it called the Maldives Police Services’ failure to defend the station despite repeated requests for police protection.

“This criminal act is a direct blow to freedom of information and we deplore the attitude of the police, who failed to do what was necessary to prevent the attack although the head of TV station requested protection a few hours before it took place,” RSF said in a statement.

Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz had previously said the institution had been unable to station officers at Raajje TV as many were being utilised at the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) protests following a Supreme Court order to suspend presidential elections.

The Maldives Media Council (MMC) condemned the Raajje TV attack as an attempt to “eliminate” one of the country’s most watched broadcasters, calling for security forces to do more to protect media outlets and journalists.

The Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has meanwhile said it continues to call for those responsible for the attack to be brought to justice.

MMC member and Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir today said he personally had not been made aware of any discrimination in the treatment  of certain broadcasters by police.

Zahir argued shortly after the that media should not cover live events and other developments in the country in a manner that would incite violence.

Zahir confirmed the MCC had published a statement before the attack criticising any media found to be trying to incite institutions or individuals to perform violent acts.

The statement specifically condemned any media found to be spreading calls for “terrorism and unrest”, something it said was not permitted even in nations regarded as leading in international standards of press freedom.

Zahir cited one notable example of media inciting unrest was by covering the statements of certain politicians who encouraged people to “violate the law” and go against state institutions.

Media violence

The attack is the second raid on the Raajje TV’s building by masked assailants. During the first attack – in August 2012 – assailants sabotaged equipment in the station and cut critical cables.

In February 2013, men wielding iron rods on motorbikes assaulted Raajje TV’s news head Ibrahim ‘Aswad’ Waheed Asward, leaving him with near-fatal head injuries.

The main office of Villa TV (VTV), a private broadcaster owned by Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader – and third-placed presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim – was attacked during anti-government protests on March 19, 2012.


Presidential polls set for November 9

The Elections Commission (EC) has set the first round of presidential elections for November 9, after the police forcibly brought a Supreme Court-ordered revote to a halt on October 19.

“We have decided to hold the first round of presidential elections on November 9, and if necessary, a second round on November 16,” Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek said.

The Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential polls held on September citing electoral fraud despite unanimous domestic and international praise over a free and fair vote. The apex court delineated 16 guidelines to hold a revote by October 20.

According to the guidelines, the EC must obtain signatures from all candidates on the voter registry. However, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) refused to approve the lists and police stopped the election an hour before polling was to begin. The move has prompted widespread international concern and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests.

Thowfeek said the EC had held meetings with the President, the cabinet and political parties on the earliest possible date for a new election.

“We have said, when we get to a certain point, when a certain party doesn’t do what they must do, it should not affect the entire election. If that is the case, we will never be able to hold an election,” Thowfeek said.

“They assured us they will not allow for these kind of obstructions in the upcoming election. Ministers have given us commitment that they will find a solution and facilitate this. That is why we have started work again. If the same thing happened as before, this is not something we must do. We are starting work again because we are confident there will be an election. I am certain we will succeed this time,” he added.

During the various meetings, the government had said it would provide facilities to verify fingerprints re-registration forms – one of JP and PPM’s conditions for approving the voter registry. The EC has said the commission does not have the capacity to do so.

The EC will continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but will seek to change them in the future, Thowfeek said. In a previous interview on Television Maldives (TVM), he described the guidelines as “restrictions.”

“I hope the government considers these restrictions in the future and finds a solution. Otherwise, holding elections will become impossible and that affects the most fundamental [right] in a democracy.”

After technical information regarding the EC’s database was shared with the Supreme Court during the vote annulment hearing, Thowfeek said the EC’s server had been compromised with external actors accessing the database and changing data. However, he believes the security glitches will be fixed before the upcoming election.

“We are working with the NCIT [National Center for Information Technology]. They have not given us a report yet. They are working non-stop. We are certain when the election comes, we will be able to block everyone out of our system and they will no longer have access to our data. We are proceeding with the assurance given to us by technical people,” Thowfeek said.

The EC said within the next three weeks, it would allow registration for new eligible voters, and re-registration for voters who will be voting in a different location other than their home island. However, voters who re-registered for October 19 will not need to submit re-registration forms again.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has said he does not wish to stay on as President even one day beyond the end of the presidential term on November 11. If no candidate wins over 50 percent in the first round of polls and a second round needs to be held, interim arrangements will have to be made. The Supreme Court has previously said Waheed’s government would continue until a new president is elected.

The JP and PPM have pledged their support to Waheed staying on, but former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has called for Waheed to resign, allowing a transitional government under the Speaker of Parliament to oversee elections.


“I do not want to stay in this position even a day beyond November 11”: President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has said he does not want to stay on as President when his term expires on November 11, as uncertainty continues to hang over the possibility of holding an election after police forcibly stopped Saturday’s polls.

“It is not in the best interest of this country if there is no elected president when the current presidential term ends on November 10. I do not want to stay in this position even a day beyond November 11,” Waheed told the press today.

The Supreme Court verdict, which annulled the first round of election held on September 7, also said Waheed’s government should continue past November 11 if there is no president elect. The Jumhooree Party (JP) and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) have pledged their support to Waheed staying on, but former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has called for Waheed to resign, allowing a transitional government under the Speaker of Parliament to oversee elections.

Waheed was Nasheed’s former deputy and took over power in February 2012 after Nasheed resigned following a police and military mutiny.

The Supreme Court and People’s Majlis must also be involved in deciding an interim arrangement, Waheed said and added that he does not know what to do should the country fail to elect a president.

“It is not me who will decide on an arrangement post November 11. It is not me who will decide that right? There are others who should shoulder the responsibility. I believe the Supreme Court and the People’s Majlis need to think about this,” he said.

The best way forward was to hold first round on November 2 and if necessary hold a second round on November 9, Waheed said. He has called on the Elections Commission and all presidential candidates to continue talks and come to an agreement on dates and solve the disputes over the voter registry.

Holding an election is not the government’s responsibility, but that of the EC, he repeatedly said. However, the government would not support an election in which majority of presidential candidates refused to contest.

Speaking of the police’s halt of Saturday’s election, Waheed said: “The government’s position was that the government could not support an election that all candidates could not participate in, in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines, an election only one candidate was to participate in. So police told the Elections Commission in writing that they would not support an election in violation of Supreme Court guidelines. Stopping support and stopping an election are very different.”

An hour before polls were to open on Saturday, police surrounded the Elections Commission and forcibly prevented it from proceeding with the scheduled election, stating that they would not facilitate an election in which all three presidential candidates refuse to sign the voter registry. Police had previously obstructed run-off elections due to be held on September 28.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek has condemned police’s obstruction of elections and said the elections process must not be subject to the whim of candidates. Further, failure of PPM and JP to do what they must do does not mean citizen should be deprived of their right to vote, Thowfeek said.

However, Waheed said elections must only proceed on procedures agreed to by all candidates. At present the elections crisis was not a legal matter, but a political matter and hence must be solved through dialogue.

“I believe not everything can be solved legally. This is a political matter. So politicians must speak to each other, give in when they need to, and come to an agreement. When a date is fixed, [an election] can only succeed when all candidates agree and facilitate the process.

“I will say again, it is not in the interest of the Maldives to hold an election in which only one candidate can contest. The entire international community in the past year and half pressured me not to hold an election that President Nasheed cannot contest. Many parties tried to take action against President Nasheed. I am happy today that President Nasheed can contest. Similarly, President Nasheed has to be happy that other candidates can take part. President Nasheed should not take part in an election that other candidates cannot contest in. If he does so, we should question his moral principles,” he said.

“An election by force cannot be held in the Maldives. An election by force will only cause bloodshed. I will not allow that. To anyone. No matter what the international community says, and no matter what political parties say, my utmost responsibility today is Maldivian citizen’s security. So I will not allow that,” he added.

The United Nations, the Commonwealth, the European Union and several foreign governments including the United States, the United Kingdom and India have urged elections to be expedited.

Waheed said although he accepted advice from foreign organizations, it would be him who made the final decision.

“People of our country are not any less capable or less educated than those in other countries, even the Western countries. They cannot come and tell us what to do. We have lived in difficult places. More difficult places than that in which people who are coming to give lessons have lived in. I have lived. I know. The dangers and opportunities in the Maldives. We do things with the advice of others. The Commonwealth’s advice and other governments. But I will make the last decision. People will slander [me]. A lot of foul things have been said about me. There is none worse than me in the international media. But today, I must not consider what people are saying. I have to consider the country’s interests. To carry the country forward without any bloodshed.”

Waheed has appointed Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim as a mediator between political parties to solve the voter registry dispute, but said an agreement had not yet been found despite several attempts.


The Maldives sits in for democracy

Non-violent sit in protests have swept through the Maldives, with thousands of citizens deprived of their constitutional right to vote determined to shut down the country until elections are held.

“We will continue to protest until we can get an election. The protests symbolise that this country has no where to go without an election. Everything has to stop, everyone has to stop and think,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today.

Police arrived at the Elections Commission (EC) in the early morning of Saturday (October 19), forcibly preventing the scheduled election going ahead, in the apparent absence of explicit orders to do so from either the courts or the executive.

Police had also previously obstructed the run-off election which was due to be held on September 28.

Chief Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz told the press yesterday that police had “made the decision ourselves” after “seeking advice” from, among others, President Dr Mohamed Waheed and Attorney General Azima Shukoor, after the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP) had refused to sign the final voter lists.

The Supreme Court’s guidelines issued following its annulment of the September 7 election’s first round of polling said the EC was to hold elections before October 20 with the support of relevant state institutions, EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek has noted.

Non-violent direct action

Once the midday torrential rain abated, Maldivians nationwide spontaneously began staging non-violent sit in protests demanding that their right to vote be upheld on Saturday (October 19).

At around 2:40pm on Saturday 30 protesters gathered outside of the People’s Majlis (Parliament) in Male’, and refused to move when asked to by police.

“Who made you the voice of authority to decide all we do? You can’t tell us where to sit,” protesters told the police. “You stole our vote, we won’t let you take away everything else including our freedom”.

“I am here to ask for our constitutional right to vote,” said Hassan Shah in his early thirties, refusing to budge as a policeman prodded him from behind, asking him to leave the area.

“This country is ridiculous. There is no rule of law, there is nothing but tyranny – by the police, by an unelected coup president, by the corrupt judiciary and every other principle-less person or institute. It’s time we refused to budge. I want my right to vote,” said Ahmed Amir, 29.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters began to gather on Majeedhee Magu – Male’s main thoroughfare – in the late afternoon.

After laying down tarpaulins, people began to set up tables and chairs in the middle of the street. Whilst some played cards, presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid, and MDP MP Mariya Didi sat sipping tea and eating ‘hedika’ (traditional Maldivian snacks).

Meanwhile, a smaller crowd of about 40 people gathered on Sosun Magu – a major thoroughfare perpendicular to Majeedhee Magu – and staged a similar sit-down protest blocking traffic. Signs held my protesters read ‘Where is the voice of the citizens?’, ‘Yameen is a bodu gunda (‘big thug’)’, and ‘Hurry up the election’.

By 5pm Male’ became difficult to travel around, with police and military blocking the area around Republic Square, the Supreme Court and the President’s Office, while MDP supporters blocked traffic as their sit-down demonstration swelled in numbers, blocking more junctions.

Protesters cordoned off the streets with human chains, yellow cords, ‘joalifathi’ (traditional Maldivian seats), tables, chairs, people sprawled out on tarpaulins, and vehicles including motor bikes and trucks.

“I am embarrassed by the Supreme Court. The police are in control of this country. This is a coup. We want the Majlis members to get us our right to vote. There is no hope, but we will keep trying,” said protest participant 33 year-old artist Ahmed Khalid.

By 5:24pm, small groups of people had obstructed nearly every junction on Majeedhee Magu, with tables, with the majority concentrated near Male’ city hall listening to MPs addressing the crowd and offering their encouragement.

Shortly thereafter police attempts to drive through a Majeedhee Magu intersection failed. Protesters surrounded the vehicle, with one even laying down on the road in front of the police car, forcing it to back up and detour.

“You can’t have your way all the time, baghees (traitors),” said one protester. “This is my country too. Ride over us if you dare, or back away,” said another. “You trampled our votes. Let ‘s see if you’ll dare run over us,” said a third.

Meanwhile, a 34 year-old man at the Sosun Magu sit-down protest told Minivan News, “We are sitting in ‘joalifathi’ (traditional Maldivian seats) and blocking the road as there are no more rules according to the police. We can do anything we want now according to them.”

Speaking to supporters on Majeedhee Magu shortly before 6:00pm, former President Nasheed threatened to arrest President Mohamed Waheed, Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz. He called on his supporters to continue to block Majeedhee Magu and shut down the city of Malé.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Azim at the sit-down protest urged the public, “Don’t go out to work. Call your family and friends, tell them to stop work.”

Groups of demonstrators began praying on the road during evening prayer times.

By around 7pm protesters on Hulhumale’ had blocked the road to the airport and the island’s main streets, reported Hulhumalé resident Mohamed Haisham. Additionally, boat services from the island had been brought to a stop as part of ongoing peaceful action planned until a new election date is agreed. Around 200 people had gathered at the terminal on Saturday evening in order to bring internal transport to a stop.

The Male’ City Council then announced on local television that it would stop services until the people’s “fundamental right to vote, a right we get every five years” is assured. Male’ City Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik said that, whilst mosques would be looked after, services such as waste management and the issuing building and birth certificates would be stopped.

At around 9pm, peaceful sit-down protests in Male’ were in full swing, with thousands of demonstrators representing all age groups – from infants to the elderly – and all walks of life sitting, laying down, playing cards, smoking sheesha, cooking food, barbecuing and listening to music across the nearly the entire length of Majeedhee Magu.

Minivan News learned that local shopkeepers and residents had donated all the food for the demonstrators. Protesters named the hotdogs being served ‘Ali Hameed sausages’ in reference to the Supreme Court judge who has been the subject of investigations for his alleged role in a series of sex-tapes.

“We will protest as long as the current judiciary remains. We need to remove all the s**t from their ‘jangiya’ (white underpants), a 30 year-old women explained.

One protester, aged 28, also shared her distress at the election delay with Minivan News, “I’m lost, I don’t think we can trust these coup leaders – this is such a mess.”

Intermittent but heavy downpours appear not to have diminished the numbers of protesters on Majeedhee Magu, with demonstrators using their tarpaulins as umbrellas.

‘Thugs’ beat up peaceful protesters in Male’

Protests resumed with the same calm, festive atmosphere in Male’ Sunday (October 20).

However, Sunday night’s demonstration took an ugly turn after “some gangs came to make chaos” by infiltrating the MDP protesters and acting a ggressively, a 26 year-old eyewitness told Minivan News.

“It was kinda heavy last night. These guys were drunk like hell or on some kind of drug like meth or something. They came into the crowd of peaceful protesters two times,” said the source.

“The first time they beat one guy up, but sadly no one did anything to stop him, the demonstrators just said ‘be peaceful’,” he continued.

“Police didn’t showed up [to stop the protesters from being beaten] because they were having their hired gangs come to heat things up, so they can then show a reason to storm in [to the crowd],” he noted.

“These f**king police are acting like terrorists,” he exclaimed in frustration.

Shortly after these incidents occurred, Special Operations (SO) police arrived arrested five men for allegedly obstructing police while they were trying to open to the roads closed by the pro-democracy supporters.

Police have claimed the MDP supporters attacked them by hurling stones, causing one officer to seek medical treatment, according to local media.

Islanders demonstrate amidst provocation

Meanwhile, from Addu City in the far south to Kulhudhoofushi Island in the far north of the Maldives, islanders have been staging similar non-violent sit-down protests.

This direct action has included ongoing demonstrations in Kumundhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll, Rasdhoo Island in Alif Alif Atoll, Magoodhoo Island in Faafu Atoll, and multiple islands in Laamu Atoll. Protests have also occurred in the Addu City area, Thinadhoo Island in Gaaf Dhal Atoll, and Fuvahmulah Island.

On Saturday (October 19) around 600 protesters on the island of Gan in Laamu atoll began protesting in front of the island’s province offices, explained MDP activist Naeemahtha.

“We’ve padlocked the main gates of this building which has the council offices, bank, and the majority of other service providers in it. We will not budge and do not intend to go home until we are given the right to vote,” she said.

“Police turned up and tried to take away the lorry playing campaign music but protesters wouldn’t give them a chance to do so. They’ve left without the lorry now and [as of 10pm Saturday] the protest was proceeding in full swing,” she added.

Hundreds of people from three islands of Addu Atoll have also conducted a sit down protest in the area connecting Maradhoo and Feydhoo islands, MDP MP Ahmed Adham told Minivan News.

“After a while, PPM activists we recognise turned up alongside SO officers in full riot gear with shields,” alleged Adham. “The PPM activists started throwing stones and tried to provoke us into reacting. Then SO barged into the crowd and roughed up protesters.”

Adham stated that six protesters were arrested and a number of others injured as the SO dispersed, though he noticed protests were continuing in multiple locations.

“The people are determined to continue protesting until we are granted our right to vote,” he declared.

MDP’s motivation

“Now protests have escalated [in numbers] because it is not necessarily only MDP members participating anymore. A lot of people [now] understand that the tentacles of [former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s] dictatorship are working against democracy,” explained MDP MP Ghafoor.

“The MDP is not structured like a fighting force, by default we are non-violent. Additionally, former President Mohamed Nasheed is very much an icon and he is very patient and a proponent of non-violence,” he continued.

Ghafoor explained that the demonstrators were seeking to emulate Nasheed’s patience and non-violent approach to creating change and achieving justice.

However, Ghafoor did suggest that there was a chance that, with the JP and PPM behaving like gangs, that peaceful protesters could be attacked leading to violent clashes, Ghafoor noted. “So far we’ve been able to avoid the gangs coming against us [in large numbers] because of the sheer numbers of demonstrators.”

“This is a defining moment, we can’t hold an election with the current executive [President Mohamed Waheed in power],” he declared.

“There are five rogue elements working together to stop elections from taking place: the executive, 200 key people within the MPS and MNDF security forces, the JP and PPM, as well as the judiciary,” he explained. “These five rouge elements have skewed the whole electoral process and stopped elections.”

“[Additionally] the JP and PPM are not fully formed political parties because they have not been able to compete in an election, the result is what they are doing with the Supreme Court. They used this state institution to nullify the internationally endorsed free and fair election on September 7. They don’t work like political parties, they are like gangs. The don’t understand the rules of a multi-party democracy, they don’t even understand the concept of an exit poll,” he continued.

The results of September 7 first round demonstrate that the entire country is yellow, “MDP is what is holding this nation together,” he added.

Police message to protesters

Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Service has urged anyone taking part in demonstrations across the country to show consideration to the wider public when conducting their protests.

“Since impeding on the rights of others while attempting to exercise one’s own constitutional rights is not the most responsible course of action, the Maldives Police Service strongly urges all demonstrators to not conduct themselves in such a way,” read an official statement.


Gasim calls for state of emergency to pursue criminal prosecution of Elections Commission

Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim, called on President Dr Mohamed Waheed to take action against Elections Commission (EC) members for allegedly violating the constitution “even by declaring a state of emergency.”

Speaking during a debate at today’s sitting of parliament, the JP leader contended that EC members had violated the constitution by allegedly “speaking against article 113″, which states that the Supreme Court shall have sole and final jurisdiction to determine all disputes concerning the election of a presidential candidate.

EC members should face criminal prosecution for allegedly divesting the constitution of its power and authority, the MP for Alif Dhaal Maamigili insisted.

Following the presidential election on September 7 in which he came third with 24 percent of the vote, Gasim alleged electoral fraud and contested the results in the Supreme Court, which subsequently annulled the polls on October 7.

The business tycoon went on to call upon President Waheed to “act in accordance with the constitution even by declaring a state of emergency” as failure to do so would see “the nation fall outside the bounds of the constitution.”

Chapter 11 of the constitution empowers the president to declare a state of emergency for 30 days “[i]n the event of natural disaster, dangerous epidemic disease, war, threat to national security, or threatened foreign aggression”.

However, the declaration of the state of emergency must be submitted to the People’s Majlis for approval within 48 hours, after which parliament has the authority to revoke the declaration.

Asked about Gasim’s appeal at a press conference today, President Waheed said the EC faced a number of serious difficulties and that the commission had done a lot of work within a short period.

“I don’t believe this is the time to take legal action against them. There is still room to work together to resolve the issue,” he said.


Gasim’s remarks came during a debate on an early day motion submitted by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Azim calling on Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid to assume the presidency if a president-elect cannot be sworn in on November 11 as stipulated by the constitution.

The motion without notice – a non-binding motion that opens the floor for a one-hour debate – also called for the immediate resignation of President Waheed, contending that his administration had obstructed the constitutionally mandated presidential election from taking place.

Article 110 states, “Elections for the office of President shall be held within one hundred and twenty days to thirty days prior to the expiry of the existing presidential term.”

Presenting the motion, Azim noted that the constitutional deadline to conclude a presidential election expired on October 10. He argued that amendments to the relevant laws as well as interim arrangements with the Speaker assuming the presidency was necessary to avoid a constitutional void after November 11.

While the Supreme Court judgment annulling the September 7 election stated that the current president could remain in the post after November 11 in the absence of a president-elect, Azim said that the judgment was “unconstitutional.”

“If extra time beyond that given by the constitution is needed, under the principle of necessity, to complete a specific task as specified in the constitution, it does not necessitate the end of a legal government in place. That such a government will continue to exist under the doctrines of ‘state of necessity’ and ‘continuity of legal government’ under such circumstances is recognised by both constitutional and legal jurisprudence,” the Supreme Court stated in the case summary of its judgment.

In the parliamentary debate on the motion today, MDP parliamentary group leader, MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, contended that the Maldivian state has lost its democratic status as citizens have been deprived of “one of the most important bases of democracy.”

Constitutional void

Pro-government MPs meanwhile spoke against the MDP’s motion, insisting that the Supreme Court was the highest authority on constitutional matters.

“We have to accept the decisions of the Supreme Court,” MP Riyaz Rasheed said in response to MDP MPs arguing that the EC did not have to abide by the guidelines imposed on it by the Supreme Court judgment.

Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed – legal reform minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – argued that the speaker could not assume the presidency after November 11 even if President Waheed resigned.

Nasheed explained that the constitution did not specify a process to be followed in the event that a president is not elected by the end of the five-year presidential term on November 11. The constitution only specified a process for fresh elections if the president or vice president resigned before the end of their terms, he said.

Article 124(b) of the constitution states, “In the event of the permanent incapacity, resignation, removal or death of both the President or the Vice President, and both offices becoming vacant at the same time, leading to an incapacity to carry out the duties of the President, until such time as a President and a Vice President shall be elected, the duties of both offices shall temporarily be carried out, in order of priority, by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by a member of the People’s Majlis elected by a resolution of the People’s Majlis, until successors in office are chosen.”

“However, this constitution does not say what should be done if a president is not elected within the period in which it must be done,” Nasheed said.

If President Waheed resigns after November 11, Nasheed suggested that parliament should amend the constitution to specify a process to be followed in the absence of a president or vice president after the end of their terms.


Commonwealth’s reputation at stake over failure of polls in the Maldives: Canada

The Commonwealth’s reputation is at stake following the obstruction of scheduled elections by police in the Maldives, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has warned.

“Canada is deeply disappointed that the rescheduled first round of presidential elections was delayed. The elections commission was not permitted to fulfill its constitutional mandate of managing and conducting these elections without interference,” Baird said in a statement.

Canada offered its “continued support for the perseverance of the Elections Commission of Maldives under these unacceptable circumstances.”

Baird reiterated that international election observers – including a delegation from the Commonwealth – had agreed that the annulled September 7 polls were free and fair.

“I repeat yet again that this series of delays flies in the face of the democratic values of the Commonwealth,” Baird said.

““A new date for the election must be set without delay and upheld by all parties concerned. The elections commission must be permitted to organise free, fair and inclusive elections without interference. Canada calls on all parties in Maldives to exercise restraint and remain calm in the interest of the Maldivian people, who should be permitted to express their democratic will through the ballot box. The people of Maldives deserve to have their voices heard,” he declared.

“Canada continues its call for robust Commonwealth engagement so that the electoral process can move forward and democracy can be strengthened in Maldives. The reputation of the Commonwealth is at stake,” he added.

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said she was “deeply concerned” that the presidential election in the Maldives had again been prevented from taking place, and that the work of the Election Commission had to be halted following the intervention of the police.

“If the democratic process is to be brought back on track, a new date must be set without delay so that the Maldivian people can freely choose a new President by 11 November, in conformity with the constitution,” said Ashton.

“The EU reiterates its confidence in the impartiality and efficiency of the Maldivian Election Commission. It recalls that elections cannot successfully be held if the process can be repeatedly brought to a halt through legal injunctions. The forces of law and order must facilitate the democratic process,” she said in a statement.

“Failure to hold credible elections would be to deny the Maldivian people their democratic rights. Further instability would also damage the country’s economy and its relations with its international partners,” Ashton added.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meanwhile said the 88 percent voter turnout in the September 7 poll clearly expressed “the aspirations and the will of the Maldivian people”.

“The Secretary-General strongly believes that the legitimate will of the people should not be denied,” read a statement from the UN.

Expressing “deep concern” over the delay of the vote “despite concerted efforts by the Maldives Elections Commission”, Ban Ki-moon urged “political leaders and state institutions to live up to their responsibilities, respect the democratic process and participate in a credible, peaceful and inclusive re-run election as soon as possible, so that a new president can be inaugurated on 11 November in accordance with the Constitution.”

Diplomatic spat

Earlier in October President Mohamed Waheed wrote a letter of complaint to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accusing Baird of making “inappropriate and derogatory remarks” towards Acting Foreign Minister Mariyam Shakeela during the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)’s meeting on September 27.

In his letter to Prime Minister Harper, Waheed complained that Baird “posed several harshly worded questions… concerning domestic politics in the Maldives”, and said these “put unnecessary pressure on an otherwise excellent relationship” between the Maldives and Canada.

Baird’s office responded to Waheed’s complaint by pointing out “the irony of the Acting Foreign Minister of the Maldives representing that country at CMAG, when her President received five percent of the vote in the first round of the election. Perhaps that is where President Waheed took offence.”

“It might have also been when Minister Baird pointed out to CMAG members that the second round of elections were ‘suspended’ under mysterious circumstances and called on Maldivian officials to proceed with the second round of elections without delay,” said Baird’s Spokesperson Rick Roth, in a statement.


Police Commissioner denies obstructing election

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has denied obstructing the Elections Commission (EC) from conducting the presidential election scheduled for October 19, insisting that police only refused to provide security as the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court judgment were not followed by the EC.

Appearing before parliament’s Security Services ‘241’ Committee yesterday (October 20), Riyaz dismissed as “excuses” the allegations by EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek that police blocked the election, contending that the commission “was not properly prepared.”

“That is the truth. The list was not prepared,” he said, referring to the refusal of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim to sign the voter registry as required by the Supreme Court guidelines.

An hour before polls were due to open on Saturday, the EC issued a statement declaring that police had moved to prevent the election from taking place.

“As we continued with [preparation for] voting, the Maldives Police Services have said no document relating to the election can leave the commission’s offices, stopping the election,” the statement read.

Riyaz however insisted, in the face of repeated queries from MPs, that police did not block the election, conceding that a court order would be needed for police to take such an action.

“Police sent a letter to the Elections Commission on 19 October. In it I said that the Supreme Court ordered all state institutions to ensure that matters are proceeding according to the Supreme Court guidelines,” he said.

He added that “no further communication” – apart from the letter stating that police could not offer security or cooperation to the EC – was exchanged before the commission announced the cancellation of polls.

However, an internal inquiry has been launched by the police professional standards command following the allegations by EC Chair Thowfeek, Riyaz told MPs.

Non-cooperation rather than obstruction: Riyaz

Riyaz argued that the election could not take place because the EC was not “well prepared”, as he believed the time period offered for candidates to approve the voter registry was not sufficient.

Riyaz stressed that the police decided to not provide cooperation to the EC rather than obstructing the commission from conducting the polls. The decision was made based on advice from the National Security Council, he said, which consists of the president, vice president, attorney general, chief of defence forces and the defence minister.

Police considered the consequences of proceeding with the election while two candidates were refusing to participate, Riyaz said, suggesting that violence and unrest would have occurred.

He also suggested that candidates would have found it “harder to refuse” to sign-off had the EC sent the voter list in parts as soon as the re-registration forms were processed.

The commissioner assured “full cooperation” from police to the EC to conduct the presidential election, adding that he believed a president-elect must be sworn in on November 11.

In an appearance on state broadcaster Television Maldives on Saturday night, EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek was adamant that it was “the police who have stopped the election.”

“It is the people who are supposed to prevent others from obstructing the election, who have obstructed the election today. The police were also ordered to provide protection, security of ballot boxes and papers. The police stopped the election using the excuse that all three candidates did not sign the voter registry. But the Supreme Court verdict does not give the police the authority to oversee that,” he said.

“The police refused to provide security. The verdict clearly says the police must accompany the ballot boxes and papers to the polling stations. But last night the police said they will not facilitate the process. If we dispatch the boxes without police cooperation, then the Supreme Court has the space to annul the election [again],” he continued.

“In addition to that, in the morning, when our officials left the office with documents, papers, ballot boxes, they stopped them. [They said elections officials] did not have the permission to leave the Elections Commission. They stopped the election. The police officers told our elections officials they had been ordered to stop anyone from leaving the Elections Commission building with any documents relating to the election.”

“I know if [EC officials] had tried to disobey and leave, [the police] would have obstructed them, physically stopped them. The [EC officials] did not attempt to disobey, but they did ask the police why. And a sergeant there said this is what they had been ordered to do. They did not allow EC officials to leave the building with documents.”


Five arrested for obstruction, as police clear sit down protests

Police have arrested five men for allegedly obstructing police while they were trying to open to the roads closed by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters in protest over the cancellation of presidential elections by police on Saturday.

In a statement police said they had opened all the roads that were closed by the MDP.

Police said that they had previously warned people who closed the roads to refrain from acting in a way that would disrupt transportation and people who walked on the roads.

Police noted that in some of the areas people were cooperative and removed the things they had used to block the roads after being warned.

However, police said people gathered on Majeedhee Magu in between Alikileygefaanu Magu and Chandhanee Magu did not listen to police warnings to open the roads, and that they had to forcibly open the road.

Two of the five were arrested on charges of obstructing police duty and objecting to police order, while another was arrested for hitting a police officer with a stone. Another was arrested for threatening police.

According to police, the officer who was hit by a stone was admitted to the hospital after receiving injuries to his leg. He has since been discharged.

MDP protesters started gathering on Majeedhee Magu near the Male’ City Hall building after the second attempt by the Elections Commission (EC) to hold presidential elections was obstructed by police on Saturday.

The first round of the presidential election, held on 7 September, was invalidated by the Supreme Court based on a report made by the police. The was filed submitted by the JP, with the court subsequently ordering that the first round be re-held before October 20.

With the ruling, the court also issued a guideline consisting of 19 points which the EC was obliged to comply with. The guidelines require the EC to obtain the signatures from all the candidates to ensure that they do not have any issues with the voter registration list.

While the EC was making the final preparations to hold the elections for the second time on October 19, the government aligned political parties refused to sign the voter lists as required by new Supreme Court guidelines.


Elections Commissioner slams Supreme Court, police, PPM, JP over annulment of first round

Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek has criticised the Supreme Court, the government, the police, Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP) over the annulment of the first round of presidential elections held on September 7, the Supreme Court’s 16 guidelines for a revote and halt of the elections hours before the polls were due to open on Saturday morning.

Speaking on the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) Raajje Miadhu (Maldives Today) program, Thowfeek said the Supreme Court annulled the first round of elections based on non credible and “bizarre” evidence. Thowfeek described the Supreme Court’s 16 guidelines as “restrictions” and called for a return to the time periods and tasks outlined in the Constitution and elections laws when a revote is held again.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has asked for an election on October 26, but Thowfeek said such a date was “impossible.” The Elections Commission is now considering either November 2 or 9 as dates for a new election.

“We agree we can hold elections on November 9. We believe it is important to see if we can hold an election on November 2. Because then, we can hold a second round by November 9,” Thowfeek said.

“We will do all we can to hold a presidential election. A presidential election needs to be held for the nation’s future to become clear. We need and appeal for the support of all political parties, citizens and government institutions to hold a new election,” Thowfeek added.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

Possibility of an election on October 26

“Not possible. Not possible. Everything one wants to do is not possible to do. If they had been wiser, we wouldn’t be in this situation today. But this situation is here now. And no doubt, there are parties who have to shoulder responsibility.”

Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round held on September 7:

“The first round was free, fair and transparent. However, in quite bizarre events, the case was submitted to the Supreme Court and the [vote] was annulled. The government and the PPM [Progressive Party of the Maldives] advocated in support of the Jumhoree Party who filed the case.

“The [Supreme Court] annulled the vote on bizarre evidence. For example, a person called Mohamed Waheed Hassan, may have his name on ID card as Mohamed Waheed. When we gave him the right to vote, they counted it as a fraudulent vote. But the ID card number, address, date of birth and photo is the same. About 1900 of these cases were identified. A person called Mariyam Waheeda, may have her name spelled as Maryam on one list and Mariyam on the other. We know it is Mariyam Waheeda. We know it is the same person, the date of birth is exact, the ID card number is the same, photo shows it is the right person. When we give these people the right to vote, [the Supreme Court] has said that is giving the right to vote to a person who doesn’t have the right to vote.

“Similarly, the problem of address, it is quite weird. I could have made my ID card when I was on the Haajaraage registry, but when I change my address to [Thalhamathuge], the ID I have is the previous ID [with a different address]. Even though I am now registered at Thalhamathuge, I still have the same ID card number, same date of birth, same photo. It is very clear it is the same person. We gave the right to vote to these people. And when we did that, [the election] has been annulled. Even if a person who has mismatches in address, if they go to vote with their passport, they can vote [passports do not have addresses on them]. There are over 2800 cases of address mismatches. They invalidated the election based on such evidence, and ordered a revote.

“Everyone knows, anyone who is responsible knows, what the Constitution says, who has jurisdiction over such cases, which court. However, outside of the law, they have submitted the case to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court accepted the case and annulled the vote. They paved the path to today’s situation. This is very sad. But we need to go forward one way or another.”

Police role in halting elections on October 19

“The government assured us of its full support for a new election. But this assurance is not new. The government has always assured us of its support, and they have provided support [at times]. However, but when we are about to hold the election, we see the election being stopped. This time, it is the police who have stopped the election. It is the people who are supposed to prevent others from obstructing the election, who have obstructed the election today. The police were also ordered to provide protection, security of ballot boxes and papers. The police stopped the election using the excuse that all three candidates did not sign the voter registry. But the Supreme Court verdict does not give the police the authority to oversee that.

“The police refused to provide security. The verdict clearly says the police must accompany the ballot boxes and papers to the polling stations. But last night the police said they will not facilitate the process. If we dispatch the boxes without police cooperation, then the Supreme Court has the space to annul the election [again]. In addition to that, in the morning, when our officials left the office with documents, papers, ballot boxes, they stopped them. [They said elections officials] did not have the permission to leave the Elections Commission. They stopped the election. The police officers told our elections officials they had been ordered to stop anyone from leaving the Elections Commission building with any documents relating to the election. I know if [EC officials] had tried to disobey and leave, [the police] would have obstructed them, physically stopped them. The [EC officials] did not attempt to disobey, but they did ask the police why. And a sergeant there said this is what they had been ordered to do. They did not allow EC officials to leave the building with documents.

“I also believe, holding an election is something we must absolutely do. We must start work again to hold an election. A lot of money has been wasted. Approximately RF 30 million was spent on the annulled first round. For the second round, we spent RF 27 million and that election was forcibly stopped. And now, in this round, approximately over RF 25 million has been spent. I do not know the exact figures. We have to start again. It is a huge expense. We want the certainty, we must get the certainty that this time, when the work is completed, anyone, whether it is the police or anyone else, cannot stop the election. The defense minister has assured us of this. That there will be no obstruction in the upcoming work. But there is a higher authority than [the government], the Supreme Court. If there is a Supreme Court order [to halt elections], it will not be easy to find a solution. And also, most of the time, the Supreme Court issues orders at midnight. And it is not easy for an ordinary person to challenge such an order at that time. Hence, it is not easy to hold an election now. In addition to this, the Supreme Court 16 guidelines delineated in the verdict are restrictions. These are locks, blocks. With those locks, it will be very difficult for us to hold elections. But if we could hold an election according to the Constitution, Elections Laws and Presidential Elections laws, we will be able to hold a free election.”

Government’s role in next election [President Waheed appointed Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim as his representative on holding new elections]

“I do not know what Nazim’s role is. I was informed he is the government’s representative in this. I believe [his role] is to find agreement on the disputes between all the candidates. Some candidates have demands, and if we were to fulfill those demands, it will take more than a month. For example, one of PPM’s demands is to select a random 10 percent of the re-registration forms – note this is not forms with problems, but a random sample, and to verify the fingerprints on these forms. When I asked the Police’s Forensic Department, I was told checking a single fingerprint will take at least 5 minutes. This means in 24 hours of non stop work, only 288 records can be checked, 300 at the most. To check over 7000 forms will take more than 20 days. If we were to do so, there is not enough time before November 11. Even now, we only have 20 days between now and then [November 11].”

On the earliest date for a new election

“The Elections Commission believes it will take us 21 days to hold an election at the earliest. So if we start immediately, November 9 is the earliest date, with a shortened time frame for tasks. The Constitution, Elections Laws give a 60 day period to call an election if the post of President and Vice President are vacant at the same time. In addition to this, even to hold a by election for the local councils, a 45 day period is allocated.

“That period is given to complete all necessary tasks, such as publishing the voter registry, and giving the opportunity to check and revise the registry. Even if we were to say we want to hold a speedy election, not necessarily the best election, then within 21 days, with a lot of hard work, we can do it. However, this time, we did it within 11 days. But in these 11 days, we worked like slaves in Pharaonic times. All day, all night, until we fell over, we worked. When we fell over, we go and sleep for two hours, washed our faces and started work again. That is to achieve the tasks in the Supreme Court’s supreme order. Our staff destroyed themselves working [like that]. But however, ultimately, at the last minute when we were about to dispatch the ballot boxes, the police refused to support us. They made it so that [an election] could not be held. Our staff are disheartened, saddened, concerned, hopeless. It will not be easy to make our staff work like Pharaonic slaves again. Earlier they sacrificed themselves for a national cause. But the police did not accept [our work].”

EC database compromised after SC access to data

“If you were to [meet all the demands of the political parties] it is not possible to hold an election within 21 days. We do have questions over whether our server is being accessed. Our data is being destroyed. With the Supreme Court case, we had to submit a lot of information about our computer systems to the Supreme Court, including many records of logs, technical information, and involve the NCIT [National Center for Information Technology] in it.

Previously, access to the system was very restricted to very few people, not just anybody could access it. But now the system is open. Now we are seeing people accessing and changing our database. No one had the opportunity to access the system in the annulled first round of presidential elections. People are destroying our data. So we cannot give that kind of certainty they [political parties] want, NCIT cannot give that kind of assurance now either. Earlier, they said they could not notice any external access in the annulled first round of election. They have not said anything yet [about the revote]. But I am certain, I know that if they check now, they will find there are ways for people to access the database. Because we see changes that should not take place happening to our data.”

On JP and PPM’s refusal to approve voter registry

“As far as I know, their signature is required to ensure that the voter list present at the polling station has been prepared by the Elections Commission. No matter how much they check, they cannot verify the information of 239,000, people unless they have two to three years. No matter how clever they are they will need at least six months to check and approve the voter registry. We cannot hold an election as they want to. The Maldives will never be able to hold an election according to their demands. So far in the Maldives, elections have not been held the way candidates want. Elections Commission will decide what to do. Elections must proceed on the Elections Commission’s decisions. If medical care were to be given as the patient wants, then what is the use of doctors? I do not believe an election can be held according to their demands.

“We followed the Supreme Court’s guidelines. The only task that was not completed was the signing of the voter registry by the representatives of the PPM and JP candidates. They failed to do what the Supreme Court order ordered them to do. Because of their failure, the police refused to allow the election to proceed. They stopped the election. Because of that, the Maldives is in a dangerous situation. The state is very vulnerable now.

“It is not easy for us to hold an election according to the Supreme Court’s restrictions. Before we hold a new election, we want to check and clarify with the Supreme Court if we have to permanently follow [the guidelines]. The official in charge of the ballot box is not allowed to carry a phone. In no other place in the world, does a Supreme Court make a decision like that.”

Calls for a return to holding elections within constitution and elections laws

“The problem here is that we are acting outside the law. Otherwise, we do not have to ask anything of the candidates. The laws state the time for this task, that task. These time periods have been written in the law and these laws have been ratified. We have to obey them and the candidates have to obey them as well. If we were to discard these laws, then we have to get approval of the candidates or else they will have the opportunity to raise problems and not accept the results. This is what will happen in a next election. But if we were to go back inside the laws, then the time periods have to be obeyed by the Elections Commission, by the state institutions and all candidates.”