Comment: Maldivians in 2014 – What are we?

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market place, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.” – Abubakar Shekau

It took these words by Nigerian ‘theologian’ and leader of Boko HaramAbubakar Shekau—spoken in a video tape released weeks after the group kidnapped over 200 young girls from their school on 14 April—to shock a couldn’t-care-less world into action.

After mostly ignoring the news of the girls’ tragic fate for two weeks, Shekau’s words finally galvanised powerful countries into sending their experts to join the lethargic Nigerian government in its search for the girls. And, in what appears to be the most important sign that the 21st Century world is paying attention, the kidnapped girls now have their own hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

Shekau’s words appal me and they most likely appal you, but his is not an unusual view in today’s many radicalised societies. Would those outraged by Shekau, for instance, be shocked to learn that such views are more likely than not shared by a substantial percentage, if not the majority, of the Maldivian population of today? Consider the following:

Two days ago, on 11 May, most local news headlines carried the story of a 14-year-old girl who has given birth, for the second time in her short life. The first time she was only 12. The child-mother as well as her two children are currently under the protection of the Gender Ministry, and the accused is under 15-day remand. He is said to be 53 years of age. According to newspaper reports, at the time the child gave birth, the man was being investigated by police for allegations of blackmailing and threatening her.

What do Maldivian people think of the event? Following are translations of a large number of comments that appeared below the news published in Dhivehi on four popular online news outlets: Haveeru Online, and As a measure of their popularity—Sun has close to 44,000 Facebook Likes, Haveeru over 48,000, more than 26,000 and CNM almost 30,000. The comments appeared from the time of publication of the news on the various outlets on 11 May till 1:00 a.m local time on 13 May 2014. was the first to publish the news. By 1:00 a.m 13 May, it had gathered 40 comments in total. Several looked for the right authority to blame—parents, the Gender Ministry [which is mandated with child protection], the government, drugs, society at large, etc.? Some made no sense. Only five (12.5 percent) clearly empathised with the girl and was openly supportive of her. In contrast, 16 out of 40 (40 percent) was overtly critical of her, deeming her an adult, a slut or a criminal or all three. Here are the comments:

Do children give birth? A miracle (liked by 233, disliked by 34)

Can you first define what you mean by ‘children’? Are there children who can give birth? (Liked by 104, disliked by 13)

Do children give birth? Hehehe It says children give birth (liked by 107, disliked by 18)

What do you mean [abused by] ‘a person in position of trust’? Who in what position is that? In what capacity did he do it? Need an answer. (Liked by 96, disliked by 3)

Please. Do children give birth! (Liked by 68, disliked by 9)

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha LOL…sss…I am in bits laughing…it says a child has given birth a second time…look you idiots…what you are saying is the same as saying a chick has laid an egg…if a child gives birth it would be the biggest miracle the world would ever see…people who look at science, study science a bit more to understand what a child is…we, however, will not prioritise science in anything, Insha Allah..the reason is that to everything that is said in the right religion revealed by Allah we Muslims say – Sami’una Wa’athauna (have listened and obeyed)…then, na-na-na-na (Liked by 84, disliked by 6)

Can a child give birth? In that case this five year old of mine can also give birth…scary (Liked by 68, disliked by 10)

Whatever she is called [child or adult] she is liable for Hudd [punishments]. It’s not relations, it’s fornication (Liked by 39, disliked by 7)

Children giving birth is a sign of Armageddon (Liked by 25, disliked by 7)

It’s OK to do DNA testing when girls want to save themselves from blame. But, apparently, it’s not OK to do DNA testing when a husband wants to find out whose child his wife is having. A miracle. (Liked by 17, disliked by 5)

These are children even when they begin and end a year by giving birth!!! Let me tell you something, Gender [Ministry]! Even if young, these people who are giving birth know what they are doing is wrong. Fornicate and call it rape!! Rape is done by violently forcing supplication. Rape is what happened on the bus in India! Take that! Arrest that woman and the man and punish them as due, I say. (Liked by 43, disliked by 23)

Pakaas…oh, these goings on…laughing so much my head’s splitting (Disliked by one, Liked by none)

You people, do not go near fornication. It is the dirtiest of sins…repent fast, and fear Allah (Liked by one, disliked by o)

Once a girl has her period, she is an adult according to Islam… (Like by 5, disliked by 0)

Apparently the one who gave birth and the child she gave birth to are both children. Two children. When will they grow up? (No likes, no dislikes)

I think the Maldivian constitution should be amended to change the age of a minor to below 25. Then all children will be having babies…what is this 18 years that’s brought in to decide a child…if things continue like this, by the time someone is old enough to marry, they would have 4 children, won’t they?? (No likes, or dislikes)

Haveeru published the article a short while later, and had a total of 20 comments by 1:00 a.m. on 13 May. 11 of them — 55 percent — regard the girl as being the ‘criminal’/’sinner’ and deem her deserving of punishment.

What this proves is that the female human being gives birth not just over 18 years of age but also at 12 and 14! This reveals that a human being can reach puberty and become an adult even at 12 and 14! (Liked by 120, disliked by 27)

Haveeru should publish a picture of the arrested man. Isn’t that how we’ll know who it is? (Liked by 105, disliked by 5)

This child’s parents, are they neglecting her? (Liked by 87, disliked by 3)

This child needs to be lashed. This has happened a second time because it [lashing] wasn’t done the first time. (liked by 73, disliked by 34)

If she isn’t 18 despite having given birth twice, she must be dealt with as a child as the law says. According to how magistrates in courts interpret the law, they cannot authorise such children under 18 years of age to marry…now there are [people] under 18, carrying three children, begging near the Market area…If courts applied ‘Islamic community principles’ and the main principle of the current Constitution when interpreting law, such matters would not be going from bad to worse…! Note: The chapter on Interpretation in the Maldives Constitution says that its main principle is Prophet Mohammed Sunna and the Holy Qur’an…! If these things are to be confused and convoluted it would bring great tragedy upon the nation. (Liked by 54, disliked by 8)

As long as it remains an illegal act to marry that woman even if she goes on to have 5 children before the age of 18, those people who destroyed Allah’s law and made and implement their own are as sinful as the man who did the deed. (Liked by 108, disliked by 12)

What’s the agenda behind using a certain type of photo? Don’t have the guts to call fornication fornication. Why not? ‘Don’t judge’ is the policy these days. Remember the scenes from ‘Anbaraa‘? Don’t you see reports of how girls are running away from their parents? Don’t you hear about the way girls are itching to marry drug users? (Liked by 133, disliked by 26)

Hasn’t achieved much really. [If she had] given birth one after another, now that would have been an achievement… (Liked by 16, disliked by 1)

Who is to take responsibility for this, Human Rights, Gender Ministry, parents, society, or the child when she is 18. Is it still not time to wake up. Certainly, it is a question to ask that has there been a solution despite the crime being repeated. These things can be solved only by Islamic Shari’a (Liked by 8, disliked by none)

‘the child who has been a victim of repeated sexual abuse’ — Haveeru has not written this news correctly…You must reveal whether this girl became pregnant both times as a result of rape or by fornication. In spreading news and information let us give priority to accuracy… (Liked by 10, disliked by 6)

That’s a joke..!!! 10, 15 days on remand…why arrest…let him stay home :) published the news roughly the same time as Haveeru. By 1:00 a.m. on 13 May, there were three comments. Two of the three saw the girl as having done wrong. The third, while identifying the man as a criminal, called for the harshest forms of punishments possible for all criminals. All of them are translated below:

How the headline should be written, A Maldivian woman has fornicated twice by the time she turned 14. Why are you trying to hide the truth. You can’t confuse the truth. Remember that the only people who get confused are those who try to confuse the truth. (Liked by 10 people, disliked by 3)

This has to be stopped even if it is by sealing the place with mercury (Liked by 4, disliked by 0)

It would be a good sentence to pass for the male organ of people who commit such crimes to be cut off. That is — hands of those who steal are cut off, therefore penises of people who fornicate with children must be cut off! That’s the end of that! (Liked by 13, disliked by 3) a recently established online publication with a rapidly increasing readership led with the headline: “A ‘small’ [“minor”?] Maldivian girl has given birth a second time”. Why was small in inverted commas? Was it the paper’s stance that she is not that small after all, you know, given that she had given birth twice and all that?

22 hours after publication, there were two comments:

Do not believe that a child can give birth…

Very sad news…I call for heavier penalties for child abusers like this.

Such harsh views as expressed by many in the translated comments above would have been unlikely in the Maldivian society of even a decade ago. Unfortunately though, today it is more the norm than shocking. A substantial percentage of the Maldivian population believe that a girl becomes a woman as soon as she hits puberty; that she should then be made to marry so that she can avoid the sin of fornication; that it is possible for a child to consent to sex with an adult; that anyone who has sex outside of marriage whether they are forced to or underage, should be punished with a hundred lashes in public.

A large number of the world population currently expressing their sadness for the plight of the Nigerian girls via hashtags and other such modern means is also likely to be aware of the plight of the 15-year-old Maldivian girl who was condemned to a 100 lashes for fornication. A popular petition did make the rounds after all. Following the international ‘outrage’, her punishment was suspended. For now. But, as can be seen from the commentary translated above, the radicalisation of Maldivian society continues unabated. Meanwhile Maldives remains top of the world’s most desirable tourist destinations. It is only when the Shekaus begin to reign that worldwide virtual ‘outrage’ translates into something even resembling action.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: Maldives – The Hypocrites’ paradise

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

More than half of the Maldivian population is under the age of 25 and, with over a third of the population aged between 18-35, the Maldives has one of the most youthful populations in the world. This weekend around 200 of them assembled on the desert island of Anbaraa for an overnight music festival.

All elements that any reasonable person expects at a modern event of the sort were present—great DJs, young people up for a good time and, unsurprisingly, party drugs. On Friday night, when most revelers were at the peak of their enjoyment, a Maldives Police Service (MPS) team in riot gear raided the island. Apparently they were in possession of an arrest warrant, issued by one of many farcical courts that comprise the so-called judiciary.

The MPS asked no one’s permission to get on the island, respected no laws, followed no due procedure. Police statements have made it clear they were aware of the plans for the music festival, and also that it would take the form of a rave. They made no move to stop it from going ahead. When they raided the island on Friday night, they were fully aware of what they would find — a bunch of young people in a highly vulnerable state — and proceeded to assert their supremacy on them as aggressively as possible.

The MPS could not have acted more triumphantly if they had managed to bust the world’s biggest drug cartel. According to eye-witness accounts, they threw smoke grenades onto the unsuspecting revelers, barged into their tents without permission, searched their personal possessions without their knowledge, and handcuffed everyone deemed ‘guilty’ before holding them in custody for 14 hours without the right to counsel.

Once they had been humiliated, and by some accounts several beaten up in custody, it was time to turn the whole affair into a media circus. Pictures of various partygoers were splashed across computer and television ‘news’ screens as if they were members of a newly busted paedophile gang deserving the most forceful of today’s naming and shaming techniques.

The worst of the humiliation was reserved for the women, as can be expected of the misogynistic society the Maldives has become today. First came the reports across the entire media spectrum—from the mainstream to the most obscure—that several of the women had been found ‘naked’, ‘nude’, ‘everything bared’, etc. Pictures of laughing policewomen in headscarves marching the young female partygoers in handcuffs and sarongs appeared on all print and online newspapers.

As it turned out, all reports the women were naked were total lies, engineered to belittle and humiliate ‘the weaker sex’ as much as possible. The women were made to wear sarongs to court — not to cover their nudity, but to cover up the lie that none of them were naked. Wearing shorts, apparently, is now tantamount to being naked in the tropical island ‘paradise’.

The treatment of these young people is a supreme example of the hypocrisy that defines modern Maldives. It is one of the worst kept secrets of Maldivian politics that most of the Maldivian cabinet, and a substantial number of parliamentarians in the Majlis all drink alcohol and/or take recreational drugs. Several government Ministers not only drink but also facilitate parties and raves for young people they know. On the more sleazy side of things, several do so with the goal of getting sexual favours from young people in exchange for the illegal substances provided.

Quite apart from the disgusting hypocrisy of those in power, and separate from the widespread heroin addiction that has afflicted an entire generation of Maldivian youth since the 1990s, it is also a fact that social drinking and indulging in recreational drugs are common among young Maldivians, especially in the capital Malé. In recent years the use of party drugs such as ecstasy, and even more recently LSD too, have increased as it has in most cities across the world.

Meanwhile, in a country where alcohol is only meant to be available to tourists who holiday in the exclusive resort islands, it is commonplace for copious amounts of alcohol to be sold and bought in and around Malé every weekend. Government officials—and police—are fully aware of this. Many, in fact, have a share in the profits, which are invariably huge. Young people who want a drink are forced to pool their resources and shell out as much as MVR2000 approximately  (US$130) for a bottle of alcohol, regardless of its make, size or contents. Where else do the bottles come from except tourism industry tycoons with a license to import them?

Today several of these tycoons are also running the government and the country. To pretend they are unaware of how much their profits are pumped up from selling alcohol to young Maldivians is a sham that any thinking person can see right through. Yet they keep up the façade so that a) they can keep making profits, and b) continue claiming that such things do not happen in a ‘100 percent Muslim country’ like the Maldives.

Fact of the matter is, Muslim or not, drinking alcohol and taking recreational drugs are as normal among a large section of the Maldivian population as it is in any other 21st century society in the world.  To believe that what happens in the rest of the globalised world does not happen in the Maldives is the height of idiocy. Being such a small country with deliberately weakened cultural and historical roots has made us more, rather than less, vulnerable to global influences than most other countries. Nowhere is this more evident than in the number of Maldivian youth who have found themselves bending to the radical Islamist winds that have swept across the globe since the beginning of the century.

If we are to be honest, we have to admit that the big black burugas that so many Maldivian women have come to wear in the past decade have as little affinity with our culture and religious practises as the hot pants the women at the rave were wearing – yet the former is not just embraced but almost forced upon everyone as ‘the right thing’ while the other is criticised as ‘alien’ and even criminal.

Yes, the use of drugs are against the law. But since man began to live in societies, there has been no place on earth where youth have not bent the law for their fun and enjoyment. Their infringements—if they cause no harm to society as a whole—need to be dealt with concern and understanding, not handcuffs, brutality, and long sentences. Drug laws are meant to punish traffickers and dealers and to stop dangerous substances from becoming a menace to users and society.

Young people at a rave on a desert island, whether tripping or not, poses no threat to society whatsoever. To treat the Anbaraa revelers as criminals, to set out to publicly shame them, and to punish them with imprisonment demonstrate nothing but intolerance and ignorance. And the hypocrisy of those meting out such punishmentwhile happily indulging in worse behaviour themselves, boggles the mind perhaps even more than some of the substances said to have been available at Anbaraa could have.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: Waheed flees with MVR 500,000 in cash and no dignity

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has fled the Maldives with MVR500,000 (US$34,000) in cash and no dignity. Last night, at around 10:30 pm while opposing candidates and their supporters were busy holding their last campaign rallies ahead of tomorrow’s vote, Waheed hastily got into a speedboat waiting at the jetty straight in front of his Office and beat a retreat.

Dr Manik, was the Vice President in the first democratically elected government of the Maldives but betrayed President Mohamed Nasheed on 7 February 2012 as the facade that portrayed the day’s coup as ‘a legitimate transfer of power’. He ran for President in September this year but managed to garner only 5% of the vote. He remained as ‘President’ for 21 months, the last three days of which were beyond the presidential term he illegally occupied.

He recorded a ‘farewell speech’ aired this morning on all television channels some 12 hours after his departure. He spent his last words on defending his decision to side with the coup-makers – “I was treated very badly as a VP!”; on insisting that the Supreme Court is the final authority on the Constitution – “we have to obey the Supreme Court, no matter what!”; on boasting about how he maintained peace and stability in the Maldives – “I did that under so many difficulties!”; and on praising the security forces for their “defence of the Maldives and our people.”

He sounded bitter, and was determined, even at the last minute, to attack his former President.

While hiding in whatever glorious mansion of Macau that he is in, he told anyone watching Maldivian television that Nasheed had ordered the military to use rubber bullets against the mutinying police on 7 February. Retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi appeared on television this afternoon to refute Waheed: “How would he know? He was not there.”

Waheed spent the night of the worst crisis in recent Maldivian history hiding inside the official residence while his wife Ilham dolled herself up for the presidential oath taking ceremony planned for later in the day.

Without Waheed, the coup-makers would not have been able to legitimise their illegal overthrow of the first democratically elected government of the Maldives, of which he was the Vice President. Without Waheed, the traitors would not have been able to hold on to power for 21 months, and without Waheed as a fig leaf, they would not have been able to drain public coffers of all money, renege on international agreements, destroy Maldives’ relations with the international community and allow Adhaalath Party’s Islamists to gain such traction in our socio-political affairs.

“I will have to consider what the atmosphere is like in Maldives,” he told Haveeru yesterday when asked if he plans to return. Waheed has a reputation for fleeing – when things got tough back in the 1990s when he was an MP, he ran off abroad for a job in the United Nations. He has boasted that he provided education for millions of women in Afghanistan when he was posted there after the American invasion. In the lead up to these presidential elections, he was asked on TVM’s RiyaaC programme if he would stay or flee should he lose: “I will stay,” he lied.

Waheed is one of the biggest traitors in the history of the Maldives. He is also one of its biggest cowards.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Translation: Election annulment’s confidential police report

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Just before midnight on 7 October 2013, the Maldives Supreme Court issued a ruling cancelling the first round of the second democratic elections held on 7 September 2013.

Although the election was found to free and fair by over a thousand domestic and international observers, Jumhooree Party candidate Qasim Ibrahim filed a case at the apex court citing fraud and vote rigging during the election.

The 4:3 verdict cited a confidential police report submitted to the court allegedly claiming that 5600 votes were ineligible. The report has not previously been available to the public and was not shown to the Election Commission’s defence lawyers.

On the Supreme Court’s request, a team of ‘forensic experts’ from the Maldives Police Service worked from 26 September to 3 October inside the Supreme Court premises analysing ‘evidence’ of alleged fraud and vote rigging on 7 September.

It was cited in the Supreme Court ruling as the main basis on which the court ruled in Jumhooree Party’s favour. Dhivehi Sitee discovered a copy of the report online. The following is an English translation.

Maldives Police Service, Forensic Service Directorate, Male’, Republic of Maldives

Report No: K/JER/2013/0001

Report on discrepancies found in lists compared in the case submitted on vote rigging in the first round of the presidential election

1. Introduction

This is a report on the findings of the investigation into the validity of evidence submitted against Elections Commission by Jumhooree Party in case No. 42/C-SC/2013 being heard at the Supreme Court, conducted upon a request made by the Supreme Court in its letter 197-C1/171/2013/30 dated 26 September 2013.

A large number of Forensic Document Examiners, Digital Examiners and support staff participated in the analysis, gathering and compilation of the information contained in this report. The work was conducted in the Supreme Court of the Maldives, in the presence of Court staff, between 26 September 2013 and 03 October 2013.

2. Material compared

2.1 List of 470 ballot boxes described as containing (in separate boxes) List of People Who Voted in the 2013 Presidential Election (7 September 2013): (Note: Although this is how the box files sent by the Elections Commission were marked, the separate booklets contained in the box files were labelled ‘List of Eligible Voters in 2013 Presidential Election’. From now on, all references to this list or to the booklets in this report will be as ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’. Thus, in total, the number of booklets or lists were contained in 44 box files, total 796 booklets.)

2.2 The following documents submitted to the Supreme Court by Jumhooree Party

2.2.1 Children under the age of 18 in the Eligible Voters List (41 names included);

2.2.2 List of dead people in the Eligible Voters list (list including 669 names);

2.2.3 Names of people repeated in the Eligible Voters List (list including 204 names);

2.2.4 List of people in the Eligible Voters List not included in the ID card registry of the Department of National Registration (List in which names of 1818 people are included);

2.2.5 List of people in the Eligible Voters List registered at addresses without knowledge of the home owner (Including information on 1187 people).

2.3 Personal information of citizens stored by the Department of National Registration (DNR Database);

2.4 Access logs of the computer software Ballot Progress Reporting System (or B.P.R.S) used in the Elections Commission on polling day;

2.5 Copy of the Eligible Voters List provided to the Jumhooree Party by the Elections Commission;

2.6 Eligible Voters List in the 2013 Presidential Election published in the Government Gazette.

3. Methodology of verifying validity of the lists

To establish the validity of the lists submitted to the Maldives Supreme Court by the Jumhooree Party, they had to be compared against the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ submitted to the court by the Elections Commission. The origins of the on-going case submitted to the Supreme Court by Jumhooree Party lie in doubts raised over the Voters Registry of the Elections Commission. Hence, assessing the validity of the Elections Commission’s ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ was also seen as essential and efforts were made to do so. Thus, information contained in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ was compared with personal information stored by the Department of National Registratin (DNR Databse) and discrepancies found are included in this report.

Further, the ‘Presidential Election 2013 – Eligible Voters List’ published in the Government Gazette Vol.42, No.94 of 30 May 2013; ‘Amendments made to the 2013 Presidential Election Eligible Voters List of 30 May 2013 following complaints received’ published on 29 June 2013; and the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ submitted to the Supreme Court by the Elections Commission were also compared and the findings are included.

To conduct this work, separate lists in the 470 boxes of ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ were re-typed into computers and compared with the DNR database. As more than 1 (one) list was included in one ballot box, information in such lists were looked at and analysed individually.

Further, the lists referred to in 2.2 of this report were individually compared with the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ and the DNR Database.

Access logs of the computer software Ballot Progress Reporting System (or B.P.R.S) used by the Elections Commission on polling day were obtained.  But, due to the manner in which the system was used with access allowed from many IP addresses and the short time available for research, adequate analysis was not carried out.

In examining the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ efforts were made to establish how [officials] verified the identity of which person from the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ was casting the vote. This was done with reference to Chapter 3 (Taking Votes) of the ‘Officials Handbook – Presidential Election 2013’ compiled by the Elections Commission.

Moreover, efforts were made to assess information around the lists that we believed must be looked at in conducting work of this nature. Points of note from these efforts are also included in this report.

3.1 To establish that persons named in the ‘List submitted to the Supreme Court by Jumhooree Party of 41 children who were under 18 and ineligible to vote but are said to have been allowed to vote’, referred to in 2.2 of this Report, are Maldivian citizens, the list was compared with the DNR Database. To this effect, as those not included in the DNR database are people who have not obtained a national identity card, they have been regarded as people who not eligible to vote. If the people in this List were found in the DNR database, their ages were verified and it was established whether or not they were 18 years of age by 06 September 2013 and therefore eligible to vote.

3.2 Information relating to the 669 people who are said to be dead were compared, as stated in the previous point, to the DNR Database. In addition, it was checked whether those people from the 669 whose information was found to be in the DNR database were included in the Eligible Voters List said to have been used in the polling stations of the presidential election held on 7 September 2013. It was also checked whether such an individual had voted in the presidential election on 7 September 2013.

3.3 The list submitted by the Jumhooree Party of 1187 people from the Eligible Voters List in the Presidential Election on 7 September 2013 said to have been registered at a different ballot box without the knowledge of the voter cannot be verified through data comparison work such as this. Therefore, this work could not get to the bottom of it. But, we state that the issue must be addressed in concluding this case and propose that it be verified by the relevant complaints (elections) office or committee records.

3.4 Information relating to the 102 people noted by Jumhooree Party as repeated in the lists of eligible voters in the presidential election of 7 September 2013 were compared with the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’.

3.5 Checked whether any individual’s name was repeated in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’. It was also checked whether such a person voted more than once.

3.6 To verify Jumhooree Party’s claim that 1818 people described by Jumhooree Party were entered into the List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election without valid information, their details were checked against data comparison [sic], DNR database and the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’.

3.7 Checked whether any person was included in the lists of eligible voters used in the polling stations in the presidential election of 7 September 2013 that was not in the DNR Database or had invalid information. Clerical evidence available was used to verify whether or not any such individual voted in the presidential election of 7 September 2013.


4.1 Following are the findings of note resulting from examination of the lists submitted as evidence by Jumhooree Party

4.1.1 The ‘List of children under the age of 18 included in the Eligible Voters List’ submitted by the Jumhooree Party did not give the identity card number of the 41 children named in the list. When this list was compared with the DNR Database, 32 of them were found to have been under the age of 18 by 7 September 2013. The remaining 9 people’s information could not be verified because the list did not contain identity cards. That is, their names could not be found by the work conducted using their permanent addresses, names and ballot boxes as the basis. List of People Who Voted in the Presidential Election of 7 September 2013 notes that 12 of those 32 children voted. Information relating to the 32 persons identified are listed in Annex 1 of this report.

4.1.2 When the ‘List of Dead People Included in the Eligible Voters List’ containing names of 669 people submitted as evidence by the Jumhooree Party was compared with the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’, information relating to 637 people were found. 14 of them were noted in the List of People Who Voted in the presidential election 2013 (7 September 2013). 2 of the 14 people were recorded as having voted using an identity card that was no issued in their names. Moreover, when the Elections Commission official noted the identity card of one of the two people using a pen, one digit from the identity card number was omitted. DNR database shows that 156 people recorded as deceased died on 01 January 1800. This information is in Annex 2.

4.1.3 When the names of 204 people submitted by the Jumhooree Party as list of people repeated in the Eligible Voters List was compared with the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ 174 matching entries were found. This includes 22 people the DNR Database had noted as repeated and entered “REPEAT / REPEAT.REPEAT” as their permanent address. This information is in Annex 3.

4.1.4 When the list submitted by Jumhooree Party as containing information of 1818 people who are not in the Department of National Registration’s ID Card Registry were compared with the DNR Database it showed that DNR has not issued 1637 of these people with ID cards. Efforts to find the remaining people by matching other information were unsuccessful. This also includes 7 people referred to in Point 4.22. Records show that of the people identified, 207 did vote. 96 of them voted using identity cards that were not the same as listed in the gazetted list. Information relating to this is in Annex 4.

4.1.5 When the information relating to 1187 people listed as registered to certain addresses in the Eligible Voters List without the knowledge of the homeowners was compared with the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ and the DNR database, 1186 records were found. 44 of these people were registered some place other than their home islands. While these 44 people voted, the Registry shows 1115 people in the list voted. It is believed that more information about this list cannot be found by data comparison. Information relating to people with such discrepancies is included in Annex 5.

4.2 It is noted that the ID card numbers of some people in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ did not match with some of the ID card numbers written in pen on the list as voted. In this regard, 815 individuals had identity card numbers that did not match. Information relating to such discrepancies are given in Annex 6.

4.3 In instances where people’s information contained in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ did not match their information in the DNT Database, it must be noted that, they were given the opportunity to vote by changing such information with a pen to match that contained in the DNR Database. Information relating to such individuals are contained in Annex 7.

4.4 In sorting the names in the two lists of Ballot Box Number T03.1.4 different methods were used. While one of the lists was sorted according to the addresses on the identity cards the other was sorted according to the order of identity card numbers. Therefore, the names on the two lists were topsy-turvy and the two lists had lost their order.

4.5 Some people’s names were added to the ‘List of People who Voted in the Presidential Election 2013 (7 September 2013)’ with a pen and given the opportunity to vote. It can be noted from the lists that 07 people were given such an opportunity. Information relating to such individuals is contained in Annex 8.

4.6 It was noted that the list used to highlight people who voted in Ballot Box No. Z33.1.1 installed on “Vivanta by Thaj Coral Reef Maldives” was similar to the list gazetted by the Elections Commission. Therefore, the list did not contain important voter information such as Identity Card and Date of Birth. This is a list different from the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ and similar to the list gazetted by the Elections Commission.

4.7 It was noted that the methods used to note those who voted on the Eligible Voters List varied at different polling stations. The following are methods used to note people who voted:

4.7.1 Using highlight markers to note who voted;

4.7.2 A tick against the name of the person who voted in pencil or pen instead of using a highlight marker;

4.7.3 Writing the voter’s identity card number with pen or pencil instead of using a highlight marker;

4.7.4 Putting a cross (x) beside the name with a pen or pencil after using a highlight marker;

4.7.5 Using a highlight marker to denote a person having voted and not at all entering their identity card numbers;

4.7.6 Using a highlight marker to denote that a person had voted, then using a different coloured highlight marker to denote the person had not voted; and

4.7.7 Having noted a person as voted by writing the person’s identity card number in pen, then crossing it out with a pen, then connecting it to an identity card number against someone else’s name with a line.

“Officials Handbook – Presidential Election 2013, Chapter 3 (Taking Votes) states that it should be done thus: ‘After checking the voter’s name in the list, note the voter’s identity card number in the allocated box and, once the person who issues the ballot paper has done so, note the person’s name in the list with a highlighter marker.’

4.8 It was noted that while two or three lists were used with the ballot boxes at some polling stations, others used only one list.

4.9 While it was noted that 690 people recorded as dead on the DNR Database was included in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’, records show that 18 people recorded as dead in the DNR database voted. Information relating to these 18 people are on Annex 9.

4.10 It was noted that the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ included information related to minors under the age of 18. 39 such children were included in the list. 07 of them voted after changing their age. It is evident from the Identity Card numbers entered into the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ with a pen that 4 out of these 7 children voted using another Identity Card belonging to someone over the age of 18. One such person voted at a ballot box abroad, in Malaysia. Information related to persons noted in this point are included in Annex 10.

4.11 It was noted that votes were cast using the same identity card (repeatedly) in the lists of eligible voters in 07 September 2013 presidential election. It was noted that three identity cards (ID Card Number: A047595, A100910, A263120) were used to vote repeatedly.

4.12 ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ repeated 07 different identity cards. Information relating to such persons is in Annex 11.

4.13 Of the people included in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ 2273 people had Dates of Birth different from that listed in the DNR Database. Information relating to people in the eligible voters lists whose dates of birth were listed differently in the DNR Database is included in Annex 12.

4.14 There were 1804 people in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ whose addresses were typed in the DNR Database as “REPEAT / REPEAT.REPEAT”. The registry of people who voted in the presidential election show that 225 of these people voted in the 07 September 2013 election using this identity. Detailed information relating to such persons is included in Annex 13.

4.15 Of the people included in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ 4032 were found to have permanent addresses different from their addresses listed in the DNR Database. 2830 of these people voted. People whose permanent addresses listed in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ were different from that listed in the DNR database are included in Annex 14.

4.16 Of the people included in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’, 319 people’s gender was listed as different from that listed in the DNR Database. Information relating to these people is in Annex 15.

4.17 Of the people included in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’, 1164 individuals were found to have names different from the DNR Database. Registry of Voters shows that 952 such people voted on 7 September 2013. Information relating to people whose names were different is in Annex 16.

4.18 It was noted that carelessness when writing in identity card numbers of those who voted from ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’, meant some digits were missing or illegible. The information of 162 people were noted this way. Moreover there were 815 people in the registry of voters whose ID card numbers written in pen by the polling stations did not match the ID card numbers printed in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’. This figure includes the 162 Identity Card numbers previously mentioned. This information can be seen in Annex 07 of this report.

4.19 Of people in the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ 07 people were completely missing from the DNR Database. Of those 07 people, one person voted in the 07 September 2013 presidential election. As this person has a passport, it is believed that the person voted using the passport. Nevertheless, no information relating to this person is in the DNR database. Information relating to the 7 people is included in Annex 17.

4.20 It was noted that there were differences between the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ published in the government gazette and list given to Jumhooree Party candidate by the Elections Commission. As such, while the total number in the gazetted amended Voters registry (on the Elections Commission website) was 239956, the total number of eligible voters as per B.P.R.S was 239593. The list Elections Commission gave the Jumhooree Party contained the number 239593. The voters registry sent to the Supreme Court by the Elections Commission (on a CD) contained information relating to 239971 individuals. However, the booklets (used in the polling stations, printed on paper) containing ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ that the Elections Commission submitted to the Supreme Court to show the registry of people who voted contained a total of 239603.

4.21 Discrepancies were noted in results from ballot boxes. As such, there was a difference of 251 votes between the total number given in the ‘List of People Who Voted in the 2013 Presidential Election’ and results announced by the Elections Commission on its website and other forums. Total number of votes from 66 boxes was less than the number published by the Elections Commission. While 284 boxes had no problems, 120 boxes had more voters than announced by the Elections Commission. While the number which voted less is 123, the number of votes cast more than the total at the boxes was 254. Annex 18 contains a list which shows the discrepancies in the vote boxes.


5.1 Of the issues noted in No.4 of this report, records show 773 people were allowed to vote despite discrepancies in identity card numbers, 7 people whose names were not on the list were added by pen, 18 people voted who were listed as dead in the DNR registry, according to the Registry 07 children voted, 3 people voted repeatedly, 225 people voted who were marked as ‘repeat’ in the DNR and were not issued with identity cards, 2830 people were given the opportunity to vote even though their permanent addresses did not match, 952 people voted despite discrepancies in their names, 7 people voted whose records were non-existent in DNR, and 819 people were included whose identity card numbers in the printed Voter Registry did not match the identity card numbers entered with insufficient care by Elections Commission officials. This is a total of 5623 votes. In relation to the announced results of this election, we see this as a massive figure.

5.2 While officials in the presidential election 2013 were given training, a particular procedure was set for them to follow, and an ‘Officials’ Handbook’ was printed and shared with them, it was noted that there was no consistency in how voters’ identity card numbers were entered and in drawing the required line with highlighter markers to denote people who voted. This created additional difficulties in entering this information into the computer.

5.3 We did not receive enough technical information necessary for analysing the Ballot Progress Reporting System. Therefore, we cannot explain the system’s process and data flow mechanisms and did not have the information to assess the importance of using such a system or to identify the vulnerabilities of the system if any. When we asked for the system’s server access log and audit trail, we only got the access log. Adequate information in this kind of work cannot be gathered this way. However, as access log shows that the software has been accessed by several IPs, it is our view that these access points be identified and their legitimacy established. From analysing the access logs, it can be seen that the Ballot Progress Reporting System is a server hosted in a way that allows access to it by the general public. That is, the server had been accessed by a large number of domestic and foreign IP addresses. As such, records show that it had also been accessed several times by IPs in countries that did not host ballot boxes on that day. The IP counts of the access log also shows up information that makes us believe that some Nets used at polling stations were also connecting to the server. It is also our opinion that additional people (third-party), too, can enter the server. As the Elections Commission did not provide the audit trail of the Ballot Progress Reporting System, we could not do the work to answer complaints raised by the public about its stoppage at various times on polling day.

5.4 As the database of the Ballot Progress Reporting System could not be obtained, we could not further verify the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’ submitted to the Supreme Court by the Elections Commission.

5.5 As the clerical evidence obtained cannot get to the reality of the claims that votes had already been cast in their names when some people arrived at polling stations, and because there is no time to carry out such work, and as we do not have information on complaints filed at complaints bureaus, it was not possible for this report to get to the origins of those suspicions. For the same reasons the validity of the ‘List of 1187 people included in the Eligible Voters List who were registered at addresses without knowledge of homeowners’ could not be adequately verified.

5.6 Although the figure shown in point (5.1) is not a large percentage of the eligible voters, there is sufficient room to believe that it can affect the second round of the election. But, it must also be said that in relation to the error-margin this is not that big a number. When considering what has happened, it has to be said that there is vast opportunity to say that these things were done intentionally rather than unknowingly. That is, things like the inclusion of 1804 people in the Voter Registry to whom the Department of National Registration had not issued identity cards, a large number of dead people (690) being included in the Eligible Voters Registry and some of them casting votes, 39 children who were not 18 years of age according to the Roman calendar and 07 of them casting votes, 2830 people whose permanent addresses did not match being included in the Voters Registry, including in the Eligible Voters Registry 1164 people whose names contained huge discrepancies are issues which could have been, but were not, easily clarified from the Department of National Registration. For these reasons, it cannot be believed that this was an election in which work of the Elections Commission staff was sufficiently and cleverly supervised.

5.7 Since the issues listed above creates the room in which some people can see them as actions carried out for the benefit of a particular candidate, it is our view that ensuring that such matters are not repeated in future elections is vital for maintaining people’s trust in the young Maldivian democracy.

5.8 There is a difference of 251 people between the election results announced by the Elections Commission and the ‘List of Eligible Voters in the 2013 Presidential Election’. Although we cannot say directly how this difference has emerged, this will also be added to the Registry of people who voted. But, as all officials did not mark the voters registry as outlined in the Officials’ Handbook, and did not act with consistency or use the same method in noting names of people on the list who turned up to vote [sic]. And, it could also have happened because people who were not on the registry were also given the opportunity to vote this time, differences existed in the various copies used at even the one ballot box, or some other reason that has not been noted in this work. Moreover, judging from other problems encountered in the Registry, it is our view that it is also possible that people could have cast extra votes.

6. Researchers

This proposal was researched by a team of people with knowledge in various fields. Thus, document examiners, computer forensic analysts and technical staff participated.

03 October 2013


Assistant Commissioner of Police Hussein Adam


Comment: The devil is in the judiciary

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Judicial independence is generally accepted to be a protection from the government or the legislative majority. If rulers are to be controlled, then, rule of law—which checks their power—must remain immune to their influence. But that raises the question: who checks the independence of the judiciary? Checkers being unchecked is an inherent weakness in the role attributed to rule of law in democratic theory.

There are limits, but they are easy to overcome.

One such limit on judicial power is the law. As MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed said on Saturday, judges speak the law, they do not make it. The role of the unelected judiciary is to execute the law enacted according to the will of the elected parliament. But the opportunity to override this limitation is frequently open to the judiciary. When laws are ambiguous, for example, it is the judges who interpret them, and this interpretation comes close to legislation. Precedents are set that must be followed, law-like.

Another restriction on judicial power is the principles of justice: if rule of law is inseparable from a political theory of rights, it means that judges must not only enforce laws, but must also be guided by certain judicial principles. But there are no mechanisms to ensure that such principles are adhered to—they can be easily ignored in the ‘right’ political and social environment as can be seen from the behaviour of the Maldives Supreme Court examined below.

The third restriction on judicial power is administrative—internal checks on the checkers. These include the hierarchy of courts—one court above checking the one below; ethical and professional requirements that should stop just anyone becoming a judge; and disciplinary action and legal liability that stops judges from straying the course. But who enforces these checks? The checkers themselves. In the Maldives, it is the responsibility of the Judicial Service Commission, which is under tight control of certain members of the judiciary.

In a democracy, judges are ‘protected, unchecked, and unaccountable’, and ‘we do not know why the judiciary would be politically impartial and neutral’. Often, therefore—especially, but not always, in consolidating democracies—rule of law becomes an instrument of political power.

For politicians both in government and opposition who are looking for allies to help them achieve their goals, judges—’unchecked agents whose decisions are binding’—are an attractive prospect that cannot be ignored. Over the years, several strategies have become common place: 1) politicians using democracy to subordinate the judiciary and overcome the limits set by rule of law; and 2) politicians using existing norms and independent judges to undermine democracy as a regime; and 3) although democracy is preserved, the independence of judges is turned into a political instrument to get rid of an opponent if the rules of democratic competition are not enough[1].

The Supreme Court as a political weapon to undermine democracy

The 2008 Constitution of the Maldives, based on democratic principles, envisions an ideal world where democracy and an independent judiciary co-exist in harmony and support each other. In reality, this is hard to achieve not just in the Maldives but in most newly democratising countries. In three years of democracy, Maldives did not come even close to the ideal.  The judiciary left behind by the authoritarian regime, and which remained mostly unchanged after the assumption of democratic governance, has constantly been used by politicians as a political weapon—most often as a strategy for 1) undermining democracy as a regime, and 2) to get rid of an opponent while preserving the façade of a democracy. The role of the judiciary in the downfall of the Maldivian democracy in February 2012, and in the authoritarian reversal that has followed, is by now well documented. Its current role is to prevent the restoration of democracy. To execute the strategy, anti-democratic politicians have adopted a majority of the Supreme Court bench as their main instrument.

On 7 October 2013, just before midnight, the Supreme Court issued a majority ruling making void the first round of the second democratic election in the Maldives. The election was held on 7 September 2013 and was widely heralded as free, fair and virtually free of error. Initially, only Jumhooree Party (JP), led by tourism magnate, Qasim Ibrahim, disagreed. He filed a case at the High Court on 11 September (01/SH-I-HC/2013) alleging that the Eligible Voters Registry used in the election included ‘hundreds of ineligible voters, several repeated voters’ and ‘several thousand voters’ whose addresses were problematic. JP wanted the court to allow it access to the Eligible Voter Registry. The High Court ruled in JP’s favour, ordering that JP and other contestants in the election be allowed to see the list.

But, before the High Court ruling (on 17 September), JP filed a new case at the Supreme Court on 15 September (42/C-SC/2013), treating it as a court of first instance, rather than the apex court. The Supreme Court accepted the role it was given, and later justified it by saying that Article 113 and Article 145(c) of the Constitution states that it has the final word on any matter relating to the Constitution. There is room to contradict this interpretation of the Constitution, as outlined in the opinion of Justice Mu’thasim Adnan, one of three Supreme Court justices who dissented.

JP made three submissions:

  1. The presidential election on 7 September 2013 violated relevant articles of the Constitution, Elections Law and Supreme Court ruling 39/C-SC/2013 (2 September 2013). Therefore, Supreme Court must rule that it is the right of all candidates to have access to the voters list.
  2. The eligible voters list used for the 7 September 2013 election did not fit the required legal framework or Supreme Court ruling 39/C-SC/2013. Therefore, Supreme Court must rule that it is not a valid list.
  3. The election violated basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution as well as breached Constitutional provisions and laws related to elections in addition to falling outside of the state Constitutional framework. Therefore, with reference to Article 113 of the Constitution, Article 10 (b), Article 11 (a)1 and 3 of the Courts Act, the Supreme Court must rule the election as void.

The case, which lasted from 15 September to 7 October was a farce from beginning to end. Very few legal concepts and principles are left that it did not undermine.

It may as well have been written by Kafka

First, none of the Justices would be on the bench if Article 285 of the Constitution were followed. As discussed earlier, measures available in a democracy to check the checkers are limited. In the Maldives, Article 285 of the Constitution, which outlined the qualifications and professional standards of judges, was one of such limitation imposed on judicial power.

But, with the Judicial Service Commission—-constitutionally mandated to check judicial powers—at the helm,Article 285 was dismissed as symbolic, meaning that an overwhelming majority of the country’s judiciary sits in breach of the Constitution.  The Supreme Court’s ‘ascension’ to the bench was doubly unconstitutional. Moreover, several of the judges on the Supreme Court bench are facing allegations of serious offences or misconduct. The main offenders are Ali Hameed, Adam Mohamed, Abdulla Saeed, and Abdulla Didi. [Theallegations against them are summed up here, on Minivan News.]

Second, most of the evidence presented in the case should not have been deemed admissible. Several witnesses were allowed to give evidence in ‘secret’, as if this was a major criminal investigation where witnesses had to be given protection in case of retaliation by a dangerous defendant. This was, as the Supreme Court was anxious to reiterate, ‘a constitutional matter’. Third, the State Attorney General entered the case to submit arguments against Elections Commission, a state institution. Media reports of the time revealed that AG Azima Shakoor did not even speak to the Elections Commission, an independent state institution,  for clarification of the allegations against it before deciding to side with JP, a political party.

The four Justices, meanwhile, refused to give a fair hearing to the defendant, frequently shutting EC lawyers down in the middle of an argument, or generally disregarding their arguments and submissions. Lawyers for MDP, which like Azima Shakoor had entered the case as a third party, were ejected from the proceedings and held in contempt of court for discussing the case [more specifically the judges] in public. EC lawyer Husnu Suood was given the same treatment, forcing the Commission to find a replacement at short notice. The Supreme Court ordered a report from an ‘expert forensics team’ from the Maldives Police Service (MPS) on its own initiative, and gave them access to all election-related data and the Department of National Registration (DNR) database which holds personal information and fingerprints of the entire population.

The Supreme Court allowed the case to drag on, scheduling the case, cancelling and then rescheduling at whim. It kept odd hours, often sitting late at night, and announcing decisions after midnight. Throughout the duration of the case, Male’ was in a state of unrest as MDP members and other disenfranchised voters continued to protest in the vicinity of the Supreme Court daily. Late in the evening of 23 September, five days before the scheduled second round of the election, the Supreme Court issued an injunction calling a halt to all preparations for it. The court order, signed by the same four judges named above, gave no date on which the second round could be held, making the postponement indefinite.

On 26 September it issued another ruling (06/SC-SJ/2013) again around midnight, ordering the security forces to enforce its order to postpone the election and to halt any preparations for the second round by anyone. With this order, the Supreme Court took the responsibility of conducting the election away from the Constiutionally mandated Elections Commission (EC) and placed it firmly in the hands of the security forces.

The Maldives Police Service, led by rogue Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, immediately descended on the EC in what amounted to a siege of the premises. Although defiant at first, and determined to hold the second round despite the Supreme Court order—which its lawyers described as unconstitutional—president of the Elections Commission Fuad Thowfeeq announced on 27 September, on the eve of the scheduled second round, that lack of co-operation from the security forces and other essential state institutions meant that the election could not go ahead.

As disenfranchised voters took to the streets with increased frustration, the Supreme Court plodded along with the case. The police were invited to work within the premises of the court, and finally, allowed to submit a ‘secret report’ which the Elections Commission, as the defendant was not allowed to see. That report, on which the Supreme Court based most of its decision to cancel the election, is still a secret. But, from what one of the dissenting judges, Justice Mu’thasim Adnan said, it contained nothing that justified annulling the first round of the election held on 7 September. [Here is another report prepared by the same ‘expert’ police team on 15 September, which gives an indication of the standard the Supreme Court’s report is most likely to be of]. 

After two weeks of deliberation of the above evidence, the Supreme Court reached the majority verdict to annul the first round held on 7 September. Yet again, the verdict was announced at midnight, and was accompanied by brutal ‘enforcement’ by the security forces. Rogue Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz’s Special Operations (SO) police, guarding the Supreme Court premises throughout the case and monitoring the constantly present protesters in the vicinity, charged into the public at precisely the moment the court announced its decision. Pepper-spray and disproportional force were used to disperse the crowd. The message was clear: any defiance of the Supreme Court order to annul the election would not be tolerated and would be violently subdued by security forces working in tandem with the four judges.

Subverting democracy with the rule of law

A subsequent detailed MDP analysis of the Supreme Court verdict comparing it to the secret Police Forensic Experts Report shows that in actuality, the total number of votes that could have been cast fraudulently is an astounding 242 (two hundred and forty two).

That the Supreme Court ruled in this way based on such flimsy and fictitious ‘evidence’ is proof of its politicisation and demonstrates how it is being used by politicians as a means of a) undermining democracy as a regime and b) getting rid of an opponent who cannot be eliminated by abiding by the principles of democracy. Cancelling the election puts anti-democracy politicians well on the path to realising both goals. To ensure that the destination is arrived at, first the Supreme Court ordered that a re-run of the cancelled first round be held before 20th October. This gave the Elections Commission a grand total of 12 days in which to organise everything for an election in which over 240,000 eligible voters are expected to vote. It also issued Guidelines consisting of 16 conditions the Elections Commission must abide by in it preparations  for the election.

In addition to these orders aimed at making an election as difficult as possible, the Supreme Court verdict also acted against several principles of democracy and rule of law, which as discussed earlier, are among the few limitations meant to check judicial power discussed at the beginning of this analysis. This included infringing heavily on the role of the Elections Commission, not only setting a new date before which the election should be held (12 days from the verdict) but also strict guidelines according to which the election must be conducted.

These included more restrictions of democratic values and principles such as the an order minimising access to polling booths by media and independent observers, helping obscure what is meant to be a transparent process. The court also ordered that all voters who registered to vote in the second round in an electoral area outside of their home address re-register. The order also stipulated that the re-registration form should bear the fingerprint of the voter, two witnesses, and if the form was being submitted by another person on behalf of the voter, the fingerprint of that person too.

The underlying ethos of the entire ruling is that there should be as many restrictions placed on the right to vote as possible rather than facilitate it being extended to as many as possible.  Most subversively, the Supreme Court verdict does this by invoking the principle of universal suffrage. Everybody has the right to vote, therefore, we will make sure as few people as possible can do so.

The unnecessary assumption of dangerous powers

One of the gravest threats to democratic governance included in the Supreme Court ruling is the power it has given itself  to invoke the principle of necessity to resolve the current dispute should it deem fit to do so. As mentioned at the beginning of this analysis, the power to interpret laws can be akin to the power to legislate.

In 2009, the Supreme Court considered the legality of delaying parliamentary elections scheduled for 15 February 2009 by Article 296(a) of the Constitution. On 13 January 2009 it issued a ruling (02/C-SC/2009) stating that only a natural disaster beyond human control or a state of war  would justify delaying the completion of a task specified in the Constitution, as specified in the Constitution and within the time specified. The verdict of 7 October, not only breaches this verdict of its own (as highlighted in Justice Mu’thasim Adnan’s dissenting opinion in 42/C-SC/2013) but also adds ‘necessity’ to natural disaster and state of war as conditions under which such a Constitutional deadline can be neglected without legal liability.

Necessity, Machiavelli’s guiding principle, is based on the belief that infringing on the moral law is justified when necessary. It allows an actor to engage in conduct that would under normal circumstances be deemed illegal because it is ‘necessary’. The principle has a long philosophical and juridical history, and has been invoked by countries to declare a state of exception, a state of emergency and martial law. The principle is easy to distort; as Cromwell put it, ‘necessity hath no law.’ It was in this state of exception based on the principle of necessity, for example, that the United States deemed many illegal acts, such as torture, legal during the War on Terror. US government lawyers argued then that the defence of necessity permitted acts of torture that violated domestic and international laws[2].

The Supreme Court’s decision to include ‘necessity’ among the conditions in which the Constitution can be legally ignored has allowed the Constitutional deadline (Article 110) to elect a new president at least 30 days prior to the expiry of the current presidential term on 11 November to lapse without legal liability. According to the Supreme Court verdict, there is no judicial or legal basis to argue that the time the Court took to deliberate the case was responsible for the lapse—it is the duty of the Court to properly and duly examine any allegation that a state institution has acted unconstitutionally. The deadline was bypassed not because of its own actions in delaying the case for so long, but because a state institution (namely the Elections Commission), in meeting the Constitutional deadline for presidential elections, acted outside of the Constitution. Therefore, under the principle of necessity, the Court’s lengthy and erratic deliberations, during which time the Constitutional deadline passed, can be deemed legal.

Responding to the argument that this lapsed Constitutional deadline to have a new president elected and ready to takeover on 11 November before 12 October means that the Maldives entered a constitutional void, the Court again invokes the principle of necessity to deny the accusation. And what occurred when the deadline lapsed, says the Supreme Court, is not a constitutional void but a ‘defacto state’ in which the doctrines of ‘state of necessity’ and ‘continuity of legal government’ allow the extra-legal extension of the Constitutional deadline to be deemed legal. In other words, by invoking the principle of necessity, the Supreme Court has assumed the power to deem the unconstitutional and illegal continuation of the current government as legal.

How long would the state of ‘necessary’ exception continue?

According to the Supreme Court, the Maldives is now in a ‘defacto state’ where it is possible to invoke the principle of necessity—by the Supreme Court—whenever it sees fit or until such time as elections are held. What has become crystal clear, especially in the days following the Supreme Court verdict, that it is working with political parties, most obviously former authoritarian ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), to obstruct the elections as much as possible.

As discussed above, the Supreme Court’s verdict to annul the election came with strict Guidelines that make preparations nigh on impossible. Since then, the Court has issued one additional order that eases the restrictions (allowing media access to the polling booths on election day) and two orders that further complicates the preparations. All three orders were issued at midnight and signed only by the Chief Justice. The Supreme Court has not sat together as a group since.

This is because, after issuing the ruling, the most corrupt of the judges, Ali Hameed, flew to Mecca for the Haj pilgrimage in what appears to be a cynical attempt to duck and cover behind religion.  At a time when the stability of the nation hangs in balance, his eagerness to seek forgiveness for the sin of fornication could have taken a form that does not require being abroad. Repentance, for instance, is locally available to ‘Justice’ Hameed by admitting to the multiple incidents of fornication the nation has borne witness to, and accepting a public flogging.  This would have the added benefit of Hameed being able to attend to the judicial duties he has given himself tenure to perform for as long as he lives.

The whereabouts of the rest of the other three judges who have worked with Hameed to bring the Maldivian democracy to its knees is not known. Taking on their subversive role and performing it with double eagerness is Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, one of the three judges who dissented to the majority verdict annulling the election. The first of Faiz’s rulings was on Thursday October 10, ordering that the Elections Commission start the re-registration process from scratch; the second was on October 12 relaxing restrictions on the media outlined in the 7 October verdict; and the third, issued midnight on Sunday October 13 allowing fingerprint verification if any party complains, has the potential to make the election before 20 October absolutely impossible despite the Elections Commission’s determination that this not be the case.

As stated before, for as long as there is no election, the country remains in the ‘defacto state’ where the Supreme Court has given itself the power to invoke the principle of necessity and to make legal actions that are unconstitutional and illegal. Rogue Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, the disgracefully retired former Colonel who (with rogue Police Commissioner Riyaz) was instrumental in bringing the first democratic government to an end on 7 February 2012, has denied that he, and other coup-makers, are planning a military takeover. Experience has proven Nazim’s word means nothing, so such a circumstance cannot be ruled out. But, given that the Supreme Court has invoked the principle of necessity and already declared as legal the unconstitutional [and from the beginning illegitimate] ‘coalition government’ of Waheed, the declaration of martial law becomes a moot point. All it would take to stall the restoration of democracy in the Maldives indefinitely is for the Supreme Court to continue its declared State of Necessity where the rule of law is nothing but a political weapon for the subversion of democracy.

What is currently playing out in the Maldives is an all-out confrontation between democracy and autocracy in which the biggest weapon of the autocrats is the judicial independence that is widely accepted as a means of making democracy possible. If there ever was a text-book case of democracy being subverted by the rule of law, the unfolding events in the Maldives is it. If there is no election on 20 October, the only power that can stand up to the unchecked power of the judiciary is the source from which both judicial power and democracy stems: the power of the people.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Translation: September 15’s secret police report on election

This translation first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Shortly before midnight on 7 October 2013, four of the seven judges on the Maldives Supreme Court Bench put out a majority verdict annulling the first round of the 2013 Presidential Election held on 7 September 2013. The election was heralded as free, fair and largely free of errors by both local and international observers. The four judges ignored this consensus and, instead, chose to rely heavily on a ‘secret report’ compiled by a team of ‘forensic experts’ from the Maldives Police Service as the main evidence to support claims of Jumhooree Party, the complainant in the case. The report was so secret that it was not shared even with lawyers of the defendant, the Elections Commission, depriving them of the essential undeniable right of reply.

The following is a translation of another secret report the so-called expert forensic team compiled on 15 September 2013, the same day the Jumhooree Party filed its case at the Supreme Court. It was leaked on the internet yesterday. Although it is not the secret report which the Supreme Court ordered from the police after the case began, it is among the documents the court considered, and gives a taste of the quality of the greater report these experts later prepared. Hopefully, this latter report will also be soon made available for public perusal by a concerned citizen, as it should rightly be.

Read original (Dhivehi)


Maldives Police Service,



J2 (A)/2013/926

Issues noted in the Eligible Voters Registry used in first round of the presidential election & other problems with the election


This report is [to] verify whether or not the allegations being made by political parties and political figures about validity of the results of the presidential election held on 7 September 2013 have any provable basis. Thus, this report compares and includes discrepancies noted in: the ‘Presidential Election 2013 — Eligible Voters List’ published by the Elections Commission on 30 May 2013 in the Government Gazette Vol.42, No.94 and “Amendments made to the Presidential Election 2013 Eligible Voters List published in Government Gazette on 30 May 2013 based on complaints received” that appeared in Government Gazette Vol.42, No.101 of 29 June 2013, and citizen information records kept at the Department of National Registration.

This report is based on multiple comparisons of a large number of records. Moreover, as the Elections Commissions has not even up to this day made public any list or registry of those of who voted in the presidential election on 7 September 2013, any discrepancies in the lists or registries used in the activity will enter this report also. However, it is believed that such an error-margin will be extremely slim. As this report regards the Department of National Registration Database as its main source, any incorrect information in it would also naturally enter this report. If the Elections Commission omitted listing the district when entering someone’s address, this report does not consider it as a problem or a discrepancy in address. Nor does it consider variations in spelling a person’s name as a discrepancy.

Points of Note:

In examining the Eligible Voters List, or Voter, and the records received from the Live Link of the Department of National Registration, several discrepancies were noted. They are listed below:

1865 people who were not given ID cards by the Department of National Registration were included in the Elections Commission’s Voter Registry. Information regarding those persons is included in Annex 01 of this Report

07 people whose information is not found in the Department of National Registration records were included in the Voter Registry. This information is included in Annex 02 of this report. One of these persons has made a Maldivian Passport.

588 who are believed to be now dead are included in the Elections Commission Registry. These dead people’s information is in Annex 03.

39 children who, according to the Department of National Registration Database, were not 18 years of age by 7 September 2013 were included (by modifying their date of birth) in the Elections Commission Registry. Annex 04 contains information on the children whose dates of birth are believed to have been altered.

Voter Registry shows 22 records of people who were on two ID card numbers. Annex 05 contains details of such people.

3568 people were noted whose Date of Birth on the Elections Commission Registry was different from that on their ID cards. Such persons are listed in Annex 06.

1627 people were noted as having discrepancies in their names. Their details are in Annex 07

10020 people’s records were found whose address on the National Registration Database did not match with their address in the Elections Commissions Registry. Their details are in Annex 08

747 people were found whose male female sex did not match[sic]. Their details are included in Annex 09. It is believed that the following problems arose as a result of mismatched sex:

  • According to the Registry gazetted by the Elections Commission a total of 5 women were registered to vote in Z.43.1.1 Lux Resort. It can be seen from the results announced on the Elections Commission website that 6 women voted in this box. Therefore, it must be believed that 1 woman more than was registered voted here.
  • 502 women were registered to vote in Ballot Box No. NT.0.2 for Thaa Atoll in Male’. Results published on the Elections Commission website shows that 517 women voted in this box. Therefore, it is known that 15 women more than were registered voted here.
  • 79 men were registered to vote in Box No.Z.50.1.1 placed on Robinson Club Maldives Resort. It is known from the results published on the Elections Commission website that 81 men voted here. Therefore, it is known that 2 men more than were registered voted here.
  • 1 woman was registered to vote in Box No. Z.51.1.1 placed on Jumeirah Dhevanfushi Resort. It is known from the results published on the Elections Commission website that 2 women voted in this box. Therefore, 1 woman more than was registered voted in this box.

But, no votes were cast in these boxes more than the total numbers registered to vote there. Problems in votes cast in these boxes can be found in Annex 10. Detailed information about these will be found in Annex 10.

Below is a graph based on information listed above including the total number of problems found:


Problems that could arise with reference to points noted above:

In considering what has been noted in the Voter Registry, it is seen that there is some opportunity for fraud and rigging. Whether the problems in the Registry are intentional or otherwise, there is ample room to form the view that this could create opportunity for some people to vote illegally. Although the issues noted cannot be confirmed without first verifying them against the list checked at the polling booths, it must be accepted that even children under the age of 18 were allowed to vote. There is also room to say that people without a national identity card had the opportunity to create a card that is not valid and use it to vote. The view can also be formed that since there were 02 ID card numbers, one person could have had the opportunity to vote 02 times.

Other points of note:

Even though the Elections Commission acted according to Article 9 (a) of the General Elections Act which requires it to publish the Eligible Voters Registry in the Government Gazette at least 45 days (forty five days) prior to the election, it cannot be seen that the Commission published the information on their website as required. And, while second round of the 2013 Presidential Election is scheduled for 28 September 2013, the information still does not appear on the Elections Commission website.

Information has been received that Retired Judge Johan Griegler [sic] sent to the Maldives by the UN on request of the Elections Commission has not been given the opportunity to work there. Information has also been received that UN made a plea at the National Complaints Bureau to use his expertise. But, information has been received that he was not given the opportunity to work there that day.

It was also noted that even though Intelligence received information that the Elections Commission’s web server was hacked a few days before the election, and this information was relayed to the Commission, nothing was done about this for days. Even though it cannot be said for certain that information that could be ‘compromised’ was released as a result of hacked web server, it is believed that the server does contain such information. And, given that remote access has been granted to the server, it is certain that anyone who knows the password of that server will be able to access it from anywhere in the world. It was also discovered that it is this server which fetches the information and graphs needed for the Elections Commission website.

Because there is no one to take responsibility for the IT Department of the Elections Commission, that work has been assigned to Aminth Majda responsible for voter registration. That person works as Assistant Director of voter registration. Since most of the problems with this election is related to technology and registration, it is necessary for those investigating this to have information that it is one person responsible for these two things.

Although it was announced that arrangements were made for Indian citizens working in the Elections Commission to be absent from office on that day, information has been received that they were inside the premises on that day.

It was noted that, although percentage of voters was connected through net books assigned to those boxes through a web service, the link was broken at 15:00 on 7 September 2013 and could not be updated. Some people say that it was 71% of eligible voters who had voted at this stage. Information has also been received that, to ensure as many people as possible could vote in relation to this problem President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thowfeeq met with leaders of Jumhooree Party at 15:45 of that day. [The sentence structure is the Forensic Experts’, not mine.] And, the figure remained unchanged as voting continued until it showed a voter turnout of 88% at dawn. 2008 was a year when a lot of people voted, wanting a change. In comparison, unlike that time, various poll results showed that there were a large number of undecided voters. Even in the second round of the 2008 presidential election when citizens wanted a change, the voter turnout was 86%. Therefore, questions can be raised that there would be an 88% turnout this time.

While only one candidate, No.1 Qasim Ibrahim had a photo beside their name in the ballot papers used in the presidential election this time, some voters in Addu City saw ballot papers with photos of all candidates. In this regard, 4 people from Addu City have said they received this kind of ballot paper for voting.

Before the election, a person who played a lead role for a political party’s canpaign [sic] in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi printed some ballot papers similar to those used in this presidential election. This person and someone else were arrested in relation to this, and are being investigated.

Intelligence received reports sometime in the middle of this year that some people had got some ID cards printed abroad and were going to use it to voter registry using these cards, and investigations began to check the extent of truth in this information. Details about dead people were gathered through notes sent to various councils, and Intelligence began checking if any dead person had been included in the voter registry. But this work had to be brought to a halt temporarily because political actors and councils did not extend much co-operation to this work, Voter Registry was made public, media sources raised questions about this action by the police, and because of the extra work related to security of the election.

Some people are saying that when some people went to the voting stations to vote votes had already been cast in their names.


  1. It is proposed that since investigations so far reveal problems with the Voter Registry, the Voters Lists used at polling stations on that day must be made public.
  2. It is important that an audit be conducted of the server connected to the laptops at the polling booth, the server used in this work, and the system where the Voter Registry is kept.
  3. Because some people are saying that when they arrived at the polling booth votes had already been cast in their names, this information must be collected. It is also the view that file information on how the records were updated on netbooks used must be checked, and how polling duty was changed must also be checked.
  4. Given that the above noted problems can create more problems in the second round and could result in loss of peace, and given that even the work done up to now reveals a lot of problems that should not, relatively, exist in the voter registry, and because this creates the room for various parties to create doubts over the current preparations being done by the Elections Commission, and to ensure that people’s trust in elections preparations are upheld, and to seek public confidence in the results of the presidential election, it is the view that validity of the election must be proved to the public even if through government intervention.
  5. When the points above are considered, there are problems that can affect the results of this presidential election. Therefore, it is the view that re-counting the vote boxes a second time will erase the doubts about the election in people’s hearts and reduce potential unrest related to this.
  6. It is the view that because different people are saying that they saw different kinds of ballot papers, the ballot papers must be checked even if through random sampling.
  7. It is proposed that in the future arrangements should be made to prevent foreign technicians from having access inside the Elections Commission. It is also proposed that, in circumstances where foreign technicians and experts are necessary, this information should be given to the public before people raise questions about something like that.
  8. It cannot be accepted that registering voters through political parties is the best thing to do in the infancy of the Maldivian democracy. Therefore, it is the view that arrangements must be made so that everything to do with voter registration is done by the Elections Commission, and mechanisms established for easy registration.
  9. This election has revealed the importance of recruiting staff to work at the polling stations well ahead of time so that it is assured such people are not affiliated with any political party.
  10. It is the view that, to give people certainty and confidence, a security future [sic] be included in the ballot paper when they are being prepared. In circumstances where such a future [sic] is not included, and if a vote-related problem later arises where it has to be checked, then, if the only security futures [sic] it possesses are only futures [sic] that can be checked via a machine, it will be very time consuming and contains the potential for technical problems. It is the view, therefore, that some security futures [sic] visible to the naked eye be included in the ballot papers used in the election.

15 September 2013

Directorate of Intelligence


Comment: Speaking of sovereignty – US interest in the Maldives

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

It is misguided to focus the current Maldivian sovereignty debate on possible military intervention by a foreign power. The Maldives is a long way away from the kind of humanitarian disaster that today qualifies for foreign military intervention and such talk serves no other purpose than provide politically inflammatory rhetoric to be used in the current political crisis. If we are to discuss threats to sovereignty, it would be more fruitful to talk about the role that non-military foreign relations play in shaping Maldivian domestic affairs.

For the better part of the twentieth century, Maldives held little interest for global, and even regional, powers. This status-quo of Maldives as inconsequential in international affairs changed shortly after the beginning of this century, not from its own doing, but due to two major changes in global politics: the dramatic change of world order in which several developing states—among them India and China—have risen to challenge the United States’ post-Cold War only-superpower status; and the United States-led global War on Terror.

Both matters made the Maldives, for the first time in its history, a country of interest to the United States, signalling an end to the days in which it could remain sheltered from the threat of becoming a pawn in global power games.

The rise of China: United States, India and the Maldives

China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy in 2016, according to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). India, too, is no longer just the strongest regional power, but is rapidly becoming a global force to be reckoned with.

US relations with India has been dictated by its own interests almost from the time of India’s independence. Throughout the Cold War, when India doggedly stuck to its non-aligned stance, US foreign policy vacillated wildly between favouring India and favouring Pakistan as best suited its fight with Soviet Russia. Once George W Bush’s declared the War on Terror and invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan once again became a premier ally, while India was made to take a backseat until US relations with Pakistan soured once again, and George W Bush signed a nuclear treaty with India in 2005. Today, as India’s foreign policy has gone from one of determined non-alignment to the formation of a strategic alliance with the US, America has begun to view India as ‘a swing state’ in Asia’s balance of power.

Control of the Indian Ocean, which connects West Asia, Africa and East Asia with Europe and the Americas is important to not just India and the US but also for China as it  rises to global preeminence. Maldives is strategically located 450 miles off the south-western tip of India, making it of significant strategic interest to all those fighting to maintain a dominant presence in the region.

Recent analyses predict that China will become the world’s largest importer of oil by 2017, and 80 percent of this oil is transported through the Indian Ocean (Kumar 2012). Given the long-existing US dominance in the Indian Ocean, China—not surprisingly—is keen to ensure that its vital energy routes remain open and have strengthened its military presence in the region. This is where China’s interest in the Maldives lies.

Countering China is thus one of the main reasons for United States increased interest in the Maldives and its expressed desire for a military presence in the country, even if it is not the boots on the ground as outlined in the draft SOFA as discussed here. The United States may have denied the draft SOFA and a possible military base, but it did not deny that negotiations for some sort of an arrangement — whether a lily pad or whatever other name it is called — is underway.

The geo-strategic alliance between the US and India helps both countries counter China’s expanding ambitions. The US has long been the dominant player in the Indian Ocean and will fight to maintain this at whatever cost. It will be US’ strongest card to play in stalling the unbridled rise of China if and when it needs to do so. Thus the increased maritime activity in the Indian Ocean region in general and, more specifically, the so-called Asia Pivotin US foreign policy.

With US as a strategic ally, China is less likely to confront India over the many disputes that exist between the two countries such as those over the borders of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh and the continuing Chinese financial and military assistance to arch enemy Pakistan.The importance of India’s new alliance with the US is apparent from the fact that since 2005 India, which from 1995-2005 opposed the US in the UN in 80 percent of all its votes, has voted with them on sanctions against Iran, opposition to a Small Arms and Light Weapons Treaty and on the Kyoto Protocol (Chenoy & Chenoy :2007).

It should come as no surprise then that India and the US supported each other in the rapid recognition of Waheed’s presidency of the Maldives as legitimate.

The War on Terror: United States and the Maldives

When the US launched its global War on Terror, it force-created another bi-polar world: those with the United States and those against it. The Maldives, led by President Gayoom, was firmly ‘with the US,’ despite the War’s decidedly anti-Islamic overtones. This status of the Maldives—as an Islamic state willing to co-operate with the US in the War on Terror is how the Maldives first appeared in the American consciousness. Unfortunately for the Maldives, this is still her primary (and often only) identity as far as the United States is concerned. Unlike India, and even Britain, the US has no experience or knowledge of Maldivian culture and its long relationship with Islam that is so vastly different from the radical Islam that dominates its society identity today. Nor did it, until very recently, have any tourism or travel related interests in the Maldives, unlike other Western states.

If the United States was honestly interested in tackling the rapid radicalisation of the Maldivian society instead of its own counter-terrorism efforts in the region, it would have taken steps to understand the root causes and nature of extremism in the Maldives. Very little is known about how and why Maldivians have succumbed so easily to radical Islamist ideology. Neither is it known whether the people who outwardly show signs of radicalisation—change of religious practices, clothing, general behaviour— in fact have anything to do with the adoption of an ideology. Serious intent of curbing radicalistion would involve attempts to understand it, followed by a counter-radicalisation strategy custom-designed to solve the problems so identified.

The United States has a vast budget and plan for counter-radicalisation efforts that go beyond its borders, but it has not initiated or supported any research in the radicalised Maldivian community. Instead, it sends dubious US ‘terrorism experts’ to teach Maldivians about tackling radicalisation, according to what the Americans know and has defined radicalisation to be. Rather than tap into the vast potential for building a knowledge base on how an entire population can embrace radical Islamist ideologies after remaining far removed from them for centuries, the US tells Maldivians what their society is about, and implement actions governed not by what is at stake for Maldivians, but by a generic idea of what the US perceives should be done in a ‘rapidly radicalising Islamist society’.

This lack of knowledge and cultural disinterest has meant US foreign policy towards the Maldives is entirely governed by its own realist interests, which has had a largely negative impact on Maldivian attempts to consolidate democracy. These detrimental effects have been created by, and are manifest in, several characteristics of US engagement with the Maldives.

American view of the Maldives as a backward Islamic state which is a breeding ground for Islamist radicals and Jihadhis was made obvious, for instance, by its push to have the PISCES border control system installed in the Maldives. The PISCES, as explained here, is not a border control system but a system designed and installed in various countries designated by the United States as ‘terrorist hotbeds’.

That the Maldives would willingly participate in the invasion of privacy of its own people and millions of visitors without consultation or debate is bad enough; what is even worse is that the system has been installed ‘for free’, at the cost of Maldives’ authority and ability to control its own borders.

Attempts to implement the PISCES in the Maldives met with intense opposition from almost all senior local immigration officials. Their objections do not stem from corruption and bias towards Nexbiz [the Malaysian company originally contracted with designing and implementing a sophisticated border control system for the Maldives] as was widely portrayed in the media, but from what the PISCES does not do.

The system is so basic that Immigration officials who attended the training programme had a module on ‘how to use a keyboard.’ Anyone familiar with Maldivian culture would know the Maldives is also one of the most Internet and technology savvy countries in the region. Computer literacy among the youth must be close to a 100 percent, not to mention the complete saturation of the Maldivian market with smart phones and all other modern technological gadgets. For Maldivian immigration officials, used to operating the most advanced immigration control system in the region for years, the ‘Computers for Dummies’ class was an affront.

If only things stopped at imperial condescension.

The PISCES is unable to do even the most basic of border control work—it cannot, for instance, keep track of the number of tourists coming to the Maldives. There is no Drop-Down Menu to automatically select which resort a tourist is staying in. There is no way to automatically feed and calculate the number of days a tourist will be staying in the country by inputting dates. Now it is essential for immigration officials to keep pen and paper as well as a calculator beside them when manning the Immigration counters at various ports across the country. In addition, immigration officers need to have two other systems running simultaneously to the PISCES if they are to check visas and monitor the arrival and departure of expatriates for PISCES can do neither. Not only is this causing great frustration among officials highly trained in maintaining a sophisticated border control system, it is also leading to negligence of some of their most important responsibilities.

The most important thing for us is to compare the person standing at the counter and the passport that s/he presents to the official. Is it the right person? We can’t do that now because we are so busy punching the buttons on our calculators or manually typing in the person’s address in the Maldives. Of course, mistakes are being made (A senior immigration official, September 2013).

To circumvent  immigration officials’ resistance to PISCES, the Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim—with whom the United States has been negotiating to have the PISCES installed in the Maldives—handed over their work to staff at the National Centre for Information Technology (NCIT). When Immigration officials resisted this handover, their senior IT personnel were summoned to the Defence Ministry, sat down with large numbers of uniformed military personal in a highly intimidating atmosphere, and told to agree to the new arrangement, or else.

One of the main problems that modern Maldives has to confront, flagged by the United States itself, is the issue of human trafficking. Tens of thousands of Bangladeshi labourers are in the Maldives illegally. They are heavily exploited by ‘employers’  who make them work for little or no money, and regularly treat them inhumanely. The PISCES does not have the capacity to trace the movement of any foreigner in the Maldives—be they expatriate workers or tourists. The Nexbis system included the introduction of an ID card with a 3-D Bar Code that, even a photocopy kept by an expatriate, would allow immigration officials to trace their whereabouts, greatly reducing the opportunities for them remaining in the Maldives illegally and/or their exploitation by those running the slave labour trade in the country.

With PISCES, nobody knows where anyone is—it just counts the number of Mohameds and Ahmeds and other passengers with Muslim names [terrorists by default] who enter and leave from the geo-strategically important Maldives so that US’ Terrorist Database is kept up to date. There is huge corruption involved in the ousting of Nexbis and the Maldives’ agreement to accept the PISCES as our ‘border control system’, but that is for another day’s discussion. The relevant point here is that the US—which, by the way, does not consider PISCES to be a good enough system for monitoring its own borders—is quite happy for the Maldives to totally lose control over its own borders and become wholly inept at handling the human trafficking crisis that it confronts. What matters to the US is having an additional weapon in its ‘crusade’ against radical Islamists.

What governs US foreign policy in the Maldives?

Discussed above are two examples of how US has ridden roughshod over Maldivian domestic affairs and interests since it noticed the Maldives as important to its power play in the region. Common to both matters is the imperialist neo-colonial attitude with which the US conducts its business with the Maldives. These interests, and this attitude, very much contributed to the role that the United States has played in bringing the Maldivian democracy to its current crisis.

The US was the second, after India, to rapidly recognise the incidents of 7 February 2012 as a ‘legitimate transfer of power.’ Just as the United States designated the Maldives as a backward Islamic terrorist state without knowledge of the characteristics and nature of its radicalisation issues, it began meddling in the Maldivian democracy without a clue about Maldivian culture and traditions. Instead of attempting to find out, it brought into play its own preconceived notions of what a democracy, and what a leader of a democracy, should be.

Mohamed Nasheed, according to a view widely propagated by US Embassy officials, and almost as widely accepted among the diplomatic community, is that he is ‘not a statesman’. Waheed, on the other hand, educated in Stanford, San Francisco, and by all likelihoods the holder of a US green card and the father of children who are US citizens, is the embodiment of what counts as a statesman for the US. It does not matter that it is precisely the non-statesman like behaviour of Nasheed that has appealed to a majority of the Maldivian population. It is Nasheed’s willingness to get out of a suit more than his eagerness to get into one, his ordinary language, his fluency with Dhivehi vernacular and history, and his ease with people of every age that inspires people of all ages to unite behind him for democratic reform in the Maldives. For thirty years Maldivians had a leader who fit the international community’s idea of a statesman—he did nothing to empower the people. Why should they want another ‘statesman’?

But, US embassy officials—who swan into the country on a brief visit from their ‘Virtual Presence Post’ in Colombo, usually stay in the swanky five-star Traders Hotel where a room costs over US$300 a night [the monthly salary of an average Maldivian worker] for one or two working days, then speed off to a resort island for the weekend to sip cocktails and unwind before returning to their lives in Colombo—are adamant that what the Maldivian democracy really deserves is a ‘statesman’. They have no idea what a majority of Maldivians think of Nasheed. None of them stay long enough to watch the rallies, the street demonstrations, the Door to Door campaigns, and the hard graft of the grassroots based community efforts that have enabled Nasheed to wake a majority of Maldivians to dream of democracy.

So US ‘virtual’ staff in the Maldives quickly moved to have Dr Waheed [now widely known as Doctor Five Percent after gaining only that much of the vote in the elections held on 7 September] installed as the legitimate president. Ironically, US attitude towards Nasheed—enthusiastically endorsed by the current Obama government—is one that most closely resembles the Republican Tea Party attitude towards Obama with the mad Birthers and whatnot. It is totally ridiculous and out of touch with how a majority of domestic and international populations think of the leader in question.

Just as influential in shaping US policy towards the Maldives as its Orientalist condescension are the realist national security interests of the US discussed above. The US did not just stop at saddling the Maldives with an incompetent statesman, it capitalised hugely on Waheed’s presence to push its interests in the Maldives as rapidly as possible. Negotiations regarding the PISCES were initiated by Waheed who became the chief procuring agent of the PISCES system, having opened discussions about Maldivian border control problems with the US during a visit to New York in 2009.

Once Waheed ‘rose to the presidency’, he appointed the dishonourably discharged former army general [Baaghee] Nazim as the primary go-between the US and the Maldivian government. Despite Nazim’s very public role in the forcible removal of Nasheed from presidency, he was quickly adopted as a darling of the US diplomatic community.[Dubious generals, it seems, are quick to win favour with Washington.]  Nazim is the main mover and shaker not just in having the PISCES implemented but also in securing a SOFA with the Maldives for the United States. Until the current political crisis, Nazim’s main preoccupation since early this year was to put pressure on all immigration staff to have the entire PISCES system up and running everywhere in the Maldives by a specific date—October 20th—for unspecified reasons.

It is not just the PISCES or the SOFA that have been pushed on the Maldives since the US, with its strategic ally India, helped Waheed the statesman and Nazim the General into top positions in government. US state department officials have since been given access to certain areas of the Maldives to conduct an ‘economic and social survey’, a US company—Blackstone—has bought out the entire seaplane industry of the Maldives, and it is also to a US company that the MNDF training island of Thanburudhoo, complete with a popular national surfing spot, has been sold. It is makes one neither an alarmist nor a conspiracy theorist to suspect there is a lot more we do not know about.

Since authoritarians began conspiring to disenfrachise Maldivians by cancelling the second ever democratic presidential election in the Maldives, most of the international community seems to have moved away from, if not officially revised, their assessment of the 7 February 2012 events as ‘a legitimate transfer of power’. Where a majority of the international community reacted with concern over the indefinitely postponed election, the United States’ first response was this statement.

We note the Maldivian Supreme Court’s ruling to delay the second round of presidential elections, scheduled for September 28, as Justices continue to hear arguments. While this judicial process moves forward, we encourage all political parties to work together peacefully and ensure that the democratic process can continue in a way that respects the rule of law and that represents the will of the people.

To describe the current farce in the Maldivian Supreme Court as ‘the judicial process’ and the ridiculous claims of opposition parties challenging the election results as ‘the democratic process’ is to know nothing—and/or to care nothing—about the current state of the Maldives and its fight for democracy. Despite a flurry of statements expressing concern over the Supreme Court behaviour from various other members of the international community, the second US statement was not much better than the first.

It is states like the US, and their realist national security interests that threaten Maldivian sovereignty today more than direct foreign military intervention. It is such interference that in the long run takes away from the power of the Maldivian people to have an independent country led by a leader of their choice in a government of their own. We are better off preparing for resisting such invasions of our identity and ‘sovereignty’ by foreign powers than inviting or contemplating the repercussions of armed military intervention. When ‘soft power’ is packed with so many dangerous explosives, who needs guns or boots on the ground?

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: When you’re voteless in the Maldives, resistance is not futile

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Saturday dawned as crisp, sunny and beautiful as any other day in the Maldives. The clear blue skies belied the dark cloud that descended over a majority of the country’s population after the beleaguered Elections Commission announced shortly before midnight on Friday that the Supreme Court, and other allied state institutions, had left it with no choice but to call off the second round.

What the Elections Commission has been forced to call off is hope — the expectation that democracy will be restored in the Maldives on 11 November 2013.

For 19 long months, a majority of Maldivians have dedicated most of their lives to winning back democracy from the authoritarian gang that came to power on 7 February 2012. The fight has been all-consuming and has affected every single Maldivian one way or another.

In the immediate aftermath of the coup came the violent confrontations with the security forces. Hundreds were beaten up, arbitrarily arrested, detained without charge, and ordered to obey, or else. Basic human rights—freedom of assembly and expression—were rolled back. Foreign ties were broken coldly, with little care for international norms or the inevitable consequences. The economy suffered blow after blow, leading to bankruptcy with little hope for recovery in the foreseeable future.

Working with unscrupulous ‘religious scholars’, intense nationalism was promoted in parallel with virulent xenophobia against any foreign actor that promoted democracy. Ties with autocratic regimes were fostered, along with relations with international gangsters known for drug trafficking and money laundering. National assets were sold off and deals made with unscrupulous foreign governments that spoke democracy but acted with nothing but their own national interest in mind. Unexplained murders, gang-related crimes, drug abuse and sexual offences increased exponentially.

The international community’s decision to condone the coup and endorse it as ‘a legitimate transfer of power’ was a major blow, but not enough to kill the Maldivian people’s desire for democratic governance. In the face of intense pressure from the international community to obey, to put stability before rights, to follow ‘the democratic process’, combined with brutal force by domestic authorities, the street protests could not be sustained. But supporters of democracy did not give up. Led by Mohamed Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party, Maldivians channeled their frustrated hopes into campaigning for a democratic election instead of protesting on the streets.

MDP’s presidential campaign has been an exemplary democratic exercise – the ‘costed and budgeted’ manifesto it brought out in August this year is the embodiment of a majority of Maldivians’ hopes and dreams for the future. It is based on views and opinions gathered from people on every inhabited island and it envisions a future in which the Maldivian people will, at long last, be empowered to work for their own socio-economic progress under a government that a majority of them have elected of their own free choice. Of course, it is naive to think that every desire would be fulfilled, but at least everyone was asked what they wanted, everyone had a say, and everyone could take ownership of their own future. No such bottom-up exercise has ever been conducted in the long authoritarian history of the Maldives.

On 7 September, 88 percent of the electorate turned out to vote. 45.45 percent of them voted for Mohamed Nasheed, 25.35 percent for Abdulla Yameen, 24.07 percent for Gasim Ibrahim, and 5.13 percent for Mohamed Waheed. Nasheed did not get the 50 percent plus one needed for an outright win, but the Maldivian map, from north to south, was all yellow at the end of voting that day. Most people in all atolls bar two want a democratic government led by Nasheed.

The authoritarians know this, always did. Plan B was there from the start – let them have their vote if they must, but the results will always be ours, as we want it. Over a thousand observers, local and foreign, verified the election as free and fair. Except for minor errors, expected in any election anywhere in the world, it went without a hitch. Only 25 percent of the Maldivian people want Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s autocratic rule to continue. That’s when the stubborn septuagenarian called in all the stops and brought into full play the dregs of dictatorship that continued to infect Maldivian democracy throughout the three years or so it lasted.

Gayoom has played his old house-boy Gasim well. Taking full advantage of Gasim’s indignation about not having received the votes he paid for, Gayoom has dictated most of the Supreme Court bench – the most corrupt of the many corrupt state institutions – to rule in Gasim’s favour, bringing the Maldives to where it is today: a constitutional vacuum into which Gayoom can effortlessly step in and ‘rescue’ us from ourselves. If Gasim thinks that Gayoom will let him take the president’s oath on November 11, he is an even bigger fool than he has repeatedly shown himself to be.

The Supreme Court did not just issue an injunction against the second round, it also ordered the security forces to act against anyone who tries to go ahead with the polls. One can only imagine the elation of the baton-happy coup-Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz who immediately deployed his forces to the Elections Commission, sealing the Commissioner and staff off from interaction with anyone local or foreign.

Efforts for mediation by the international community were not just prevented by the police, but strongly criticised by Gayoom’s minions. With his daughter at the helm of foreign relations as the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, it summoned India’s High Commissioner for a good telling-off for attempting to help disenfranchised Maldivians. The government has not stopped spurning the international community since, and will not stop until it becomes clear to everybody – at long last – that Gayoom and his followers will not allow democracy in the Maldives, whatever it takes.

The truth of the matter is, and has been since 7 February 2012, is that there will be no election in the Maldives as long as Nasheed, the champion of the Maldivian democratic movement, is in the running. So the focus has now returned to the farcical prosecution of Nasheed, through the very courts that have proved again and again that they are neither independent nor respectful of the ‘judicial process’. The machinations are fully underway to annul the first round and put Nasheed behind bars before calling fresh elections, if there are to be any. Reports say Gayoom himself is planning to run if and when new elections are held, his ‘economist’ brother having failed to live up to family expectations by not being able to garner much support.

Having lived under Gayoom for most of their lives, a majority of Maldivians remain oblivious to the fact that indefinitely delaying the elections is a robbery of their fundamental right to vote, and not just that of MDP members or supporters of Nasheed. Their gloating about the cancellation of the election is both sad and sickening. They will do everything in their power to help bring Gayoom, and their own enslavement, back to life.

For the rest of Maldivians, the only choice left is to refuse to obey. Power, contrary to popular belief, is not something that can be taken away by force. It can only be given away, by the people, if we so decide.

Resisting a full-fledged authoritarian reversal has been a long hard slog that has taken a heavy emotional, financial and social toll on all of us. Sustaining the resistance will be difficult, and all out civil disobedience would be even harder; but do it we must, if we are to be in control of our own destiny. What we must keep in mind is: nobody can govern us without our consent. It is within our power not to give it.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: The audacity of dictatorship

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

There’s a sense of foreboding in the air as Male’ waits for the Elections Commission’s decision on whether they are going to defy the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional ruling to indefinitely delay the election scheduled for tomorrow.

Yesterday, Fuwad Thowfeek, the president of the Elections Commission was adamant that he will hold the second round tomorrow as scheduled, despite the Supreme Court injunction. This gave immense hope to Maldivians committed to the restoration of democracy, and several gathered at Raalhugandu for a final MDP rally ahead of voting on Saturday. The mood at the rally was slightly less cheerful than the usual MDP dos with several talkers highlighting the need to vote “come what may.”

Mohamed Nasheed, ever the optimist and the tireless activist-leader who lifts everyone’s spirits, sought to reassure supporters that voting would go ahead. Yet, he spoke of the need for everyone from nurses and teachers to boy scouts and girl guides to watch the vote boxes, to be mindful of the  ballot papers, leaving it unsaid that if the Elections Commission makes the brave decision to go ahead with the election, it would be without the support of crucial state institutions.

Despite it being close to midnight, the Supreme Court responded with an order to the security forces to act against anyone who defied its indefinite injunction against the second round. Within minutes, pro-democracy news channel Raajje TV was reporting that the Elections Commission had backtracked on their earlier defiance, saying they had halted all preparations for the election. This turned out to be untrue, too.

The disinformation may be a deliberate ploy to confuse and to dishearten the electorate. But it is not succeeding. Supporters of democracy are getting ready for MDP’s last campaign activity scheduled for this afternoon — a parade around Male’, much like the one on 6 September ahead of the first round. No doubt it will draw a massive crowd. Tens of thousands of voters are upset by the shenanigans of the Supreme Court, and are ready to come out on the streets to express their displeasure.

One judge, in particular, has become the focus of everyone’s ire and the subject of national ridicule. Judge Ali Hameed—now internationally famous for having sex with three prostitutes in a Sri Lankan hotel after a lengthy video of his ‘adventure’, which lasted over a long weekend was leaked on the Interne— is one of seven judges adjudicating on Jumhooree Party’s application to have the election delayed.

Yesterday, as Hameed sat inside the plush courtroom in Gayoom’s former palace clad in the full ‘Supreme Court Justice’ regalia, outside hundreds of people gathered with large white briefs, representative of the Y-fronts he was seen wearing (on and off) during the sex tape. That he is still not just sitting on the bench, but also signing court orders that violate the constitution and potentially rob over 200,000 people of their chance to vote has made a mockery of the Maldivian Constitution in more ways than one.

Police controlling protesters outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Aznym:

Police controlling protesters outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Aznym

The gist of yesterday’s arguments during the ongoing hearing has added to the frustration and anger. Three judges—Ali Hameed, Abdulla Saeed and Abdulla Mohamed—continuously interrupted all arguments by Elections Commission lawyer to defend the institution. When he attempted to point out that their ruling was in violation of the Constitution, one of the three judges responded by saying, “We have the power to change the Constitution.”

When EC lawyer argued that delaying the elections would leave the country in a legal black hole, one of them responded: “No it won’t. If the Constitution is not in force, Shari’a will be activated by default.”

This would, no doubt, be good news for the radical religious ‘scholars’, but it adds to the sense of foreboding in the air today.

Immediately after Commissioner Thowfeek’s announcement that he will hold the election regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, all Commission staff began receiving death threats in the form of text messages sent to their mobile phones. The message, posted on social media by various members of the staff reads [translation]:

If you take Fuad Thowfeek’s side and join him in his violation of the Constitution in defiance of the Supreme Court and continue with voting activities, you will be killed. Allah Akbar.

Added to this is the court order to the security forces to act against anyone who defies their ruling to delay the election.

Does this only apply to Elections Commission, or to all those who turn out to vote tomorrow? Are the security forces to crackdown on all voters? Does the court order amount to an all-clear for a full-fledged military takeover? If so, is the entire military willing to participate, or is the institution too divided? Reports of divisions within the military have been rife since the coup of 7 February 2012.

High ranking officials within the forces have confirmed  to Dhivehi Sitee that a significant section of the military will not support a military takeover, a coup within a coup. MDP is aware of this, and have called on supporters to appeal to those personnel for protection.

Nasheed made a similar appeal on Thursday night, heavily criticising the Generals who facilitated the 7 February coup, and calling [by name] on other Generals to cease their inaction and stand up in support of democracy. A lot of bad can happen when good men do nothing, he warned.

As time  for the election draws near, people are expressing their anxiety in different ways. At noon today, in the heat of the blazing sun, Male’s surfing community and other participants made beautiful coral sculptures on the eastern seawall. The various shaped corals stacked precariously on top of each other, they said, represents the current state of the country—finely balanced on the edge of a precipice. One unthinking, or deliberate, act will bring it all crumbling down.

But today’s parade will also show the determination of a majority of Maldivians to protect the fragile Maldivian democracy. A showdown between the audacity of dictatorship and the hope of democracy is imminent. The world is watching, and hopefully, rooting for the Maldivian people.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]