Majlis committee opens up draft Penal Code for amendments

The Parliament’s special committee reviewing the draft Penal Code Bill has announced the completion of the reviewing of the bill and has opened the bill for amendments from parliamentary floor.

In a statement (dhivehi) released by the parliament today (December 24) stated that commenting has been opened until next Thursday 4:00pm.

Furthermore, the statement added that the final report on the draft bill has now been sent to Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid upon completion of the committee reviewing stage.

The long awaited bill, first submitted in 2006 and later resubmitted in 2009, took almost seven years to surpass the committee stage.

The first draft of the bill had been prepared by the University of Pennsylvania Law School under the leadership of legal expert Professor Paul H. Robinson, upon the request of the Attorney general in January 2006. The project was also supported by the UNDP.

Professor Robinson’s team have meanwhile published two volumes (Volume 1 and Volume 2) consisting of commentaries on sections of the draft bill.

“The author’s review suggests that the Maldivian criminal justice system systematically fails to do justice and regularly does injustice, that the reforms needed are wide-ranging, and that without dramatic change the system and its public reputation are likely to deteriorate further,” Professor Robinson wrote in his summary conclusion.

The bill, upon ratification, will replace the country’s 52 year old penal law.

According to local newspaper Haveeru, members of the parliament’s special committee tasked with the reviewing of the bill had urged all members to consider the connection between sections of the bill before proposing any changes.

The parliament had previously consulted with all state authorities including the Attorney General’s Office, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and the police during the committee stage of the bill.

According to local media reports, the Attorney General’s Office alone had proposed over thirty changes to the bill including a clause mandating that the new bill will come into force within six months of ratification.


The bill had also attracted severe criticism from religious sheikhs, most notably member of religiously conservative Adhaalath Party’s Sheikh Ilyas Hussain, who insisted that the bill would “destroy Islam” should it pass.

“If it is passed, there is no doubt that there will be no religion in this Muslim society that claims to be 100 percent Muslim. There will be no Islamic punishments,” the controversial sheikh said while delivering a sermon last March. “Refusing [to incorporate] a single Hadd [fixed punishments specifically mentioned in Quran] is destroying Islam,”

The fierce remarks made by Ilyas – who heads the Adhaalath Party’s scholars’ council and sits in the Fiqh Academy – prompted in a parliamentary inquiry where the sheikh was summoned to the committee.

New changes

Professor Robinson in the final report compiled that included the two new volumes of the penal code stated that a high priority had been given to ensure that the bill reflects Maldivian values instead of European, American or any other jurisdiction.

“The drafters have relied primarily on three sources. Of first importance are current Maldivian statutes. Where there is no applicable Maldivian statute, principles of Shari’a have been relied upon, especially those of the Shafi’i school,” read the report.

“Lastly, shared community values have been given deference, as reflected in the views expressed by the many Maldivian judges, prosecutors, private defense lawyers, government officials, and ordinary Maldivians we have met during our many discussions,” it added.

The new code will consist of three parts, the first part titled as the General Part contains all of the general provisions affecting liability and punishment. The second part known as the Special Part defines all offences and the third part contains the rules governing the sentences.

Among the major changes brought in the Draft Penal Code – which consists of more that 1,200 sections – includes grouping of offences into chapters based on the subject matter, modernisation of the existing offences and grading of the offences to reflect on the seriousness of the offences.

Previously speaking to local media, Chair of the Penal Code Review Committee MP Ahmed Hamza said the new code, if passed, would revolutionise the current Maldivian criminal justice system.

Hamza furthermore expressed hope that bill would be passed before the end of the current parliamentary session.


President’s special advisor may seek invalidation of political parties bill

Special Advisor to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and Leader of government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Dr Hassan Saeed has warned that he would seek to invalidate the recently approved political parties bill if it is ratified.

Dr Saeed told local media that the bill infringed rights enshrined in the constitution and that he would file a case at the Supreme Court requesting the law be struck down.

The DQP, according to latest statistics by the Elections Commission, has a membership of just 2,099. Dr Saeed told local newspaper Haveeru that he opposed changes in the bill requiring any political party to have a minimum of 10,000 members.

Dr Saeed argued that requiring a specific number of members to register a political party violated the constitutional right to form political parties.

“While it is a constitutional right for anybody to form political parties, I do also believe that a right could be limited through legislation. But such a limit should be placed in accordance to principles justified in other free and democratic societies. The current bill demanding a certain membership size in order for a political party to be registered is a big problem,” he told Haveeru.

Article 30(a) of the constitution states: “Every citizen has the right to establish and to participate in the activities of political parties.”

Dr Saeed publicly urged President Waheed not to ratify the bill.  He added that any decision by President Waheed was expected to be made after consultations with the Attorney General.

Dr Saeed was not responding to calls at time of press.

Speaking to Minivan News, Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail, Chairman of the drafting committee of the Constitutional Assembly that passed the current constitution, echoed similar sentiments towards the bill.

“The bill clearly violates three to four key fundamental constitutional rights, including that of freedom of association, right to acquire and sell property. In short, I see this as a very undemocratic bill,” he said.

Ibra also added that in other democratic societies, political parties were not so strictly regulated, instead being given greater flexibility.

“When major political power brokers decide to regulate political parties, it is highly unlikely it would be carried out in a fair and just way. I believe even two people can go to the Elections Commission and register a party. People would start supporting them based on their success,” he added.

The landmark bill

The bill in concern was proposed on behalf of the government during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration. It was submitted by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Abdulla in April 2011.

The bill received strong bipartisan support and was passed with 64 votes in favor while only four MPs voted against it.

If ratified and signed into law, the bill will provide a three month period for any political party with fewer than 10,000 members to reach the required amount or face being dissolved.

Of the 16 parties currently in existence, only four have more than 10,000 registered members, including the opposition MDP as well as the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP).

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) has 5,708 members, down from over 6,000 in February this year while President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP) has 3,427 members.

The bill had been severely criticised over the last week by smaller parties including the Adhaalath Party, which claimed that the bill was designed to “eradicate” Islamic ideology from the country.

“The bill is practical”

However, opposition MDP MP Hamid Ghafoor has dismissed accusations that the bill was unconstitutional, claiming it was not the first piece of legislation passed by the Majlis perceived to limit a constitutional right.

“The freedom of expression bill was passed too, which placed limitations on the constitutional right of freedom of expression. So this is not a new precedent,” he said.

“The bill was passed by a very strong majority. The parliament has political parties of different sizes. So when a parliament consisting of several political parties approves the bill, it is the moral say of all the political parties,” he added.

According to Ghafoor, the passing of the bill could be viewed in one of two ways; either in an idealist view or a practical view. He argued that the bill was practical and intended to end the current “corrupt process” of funding political parties that were not at all active.

“Are we to allow such a corrupt process to go on in the name of democracy?” Ghafoor questioned.

“We are not worried”: President Waheed’s GIP

President Waheed’s GIP has said that they are not worried about the consequences the party may face in failing to gain 10,000 members.

Speaking to local media from Malaysia, GIP Deputy Leader Mohamed ‘Nazaki’ Zaki said that panicking at this point in time may hinder the party in boosting membership numbers.

“To be honest, we do not have any concerns at all. We are confident that we can gain a membership much larger than [10,000 members]. We can achieve that result. We know what percentage of people is currently affiliated with political parties. About 40 to 60 percent people are yet to join political parties,” he was reported as saying.

“Our focus is towards that percentage of people who are currently not affiliated with political parties” he added.

The former High Commissioner to Malaysia said that, based on the support his party received from recent visits to Addu City and several other atolls including Shaviyani Atoll, Laamu Atoll and Raa atoll, he was confident of a successful membership drive.

“Not just large parties, it is equally important to have smaller political parties. Just because two major power brokers decide that the country was better off without smaller political parties does little good to the well being of the country’s democracy,” he said.

“Even in other democratic countries, we do not see a trend to destroy smaller political parties. We as a smaller party have on previous occasions proved that we can bring results, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t do so in the future.”

Zaki claimed that some smaller parties were lobbying President Waheed to not to ratify the bill but maintained that his party is yet to decide on whether to make such a move.

“We have not yet decided on [lobbying President]. But we will hold a council meeting next week. In that meeting we will discuss this issue as wall and after that we would decide on it,” he added.

Political parties were first authorised in the Maldives in May 2005 following an executive decree by then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Prior to the passage of the landmark legislation, political parties were governed by a regulation.

The regulation required 3,000 members for registration and did not stipulate that parties whose membership falls below the figure would be dissolved. However, no political party has been dissolved over the last eight years.


Hulhumale Magistrate Court judges boycott parliament committee summons

The three judges presiding over the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed have boycotted a second summons by parliament’s Government Oversight Committee.

This is the second occasion where the judges from Hulhumale Magistrate Court have refused to be present at the committee, with the first summons ignored on October 9, the day the first hearings of Nasheed’s trial took place.

Local media reported that the committee meeting was held behind closed doors, after the judges informed parliament that their “last minute” decision to boycott the hearing was due to “administrative reasons”.

The committee’s decision to summon the judges to parliament has led to criticism from both the Supreme Court and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), with both claiming that holding judges accountable was the sole responsibility of the JSC.

Meanwhile, political parties aligned to the current government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan claimed that the decision by the committee – in which the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has a majority –  was an attempt to influence Nasheed’s trial. Nasheed’s party maintains that the charges against him are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him from contesting the next election, through the use of judges originally appointed by, and still loyal to, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The party also contests the legitimacy of this particular magistrate court.

“Cat and mouse”

Following today’s second snub by the judges, the MDPs Deputy Parliamentary Group (PG) Leader MP Ali Waheed condemned their decision.

He went on to describe the actions of the judges and the JSC as well as the Supreme Court’s encouragement of their behaviour as a “cat and mouse” game played by the judiciary.

“What we are witnessing is a ‘cat and mouse’ or a ‘hide and seek’ game being played between parliament and judiciary. If that is the case, we are going to play the cat and mouse chase, because we are not going to step back from our responsibilities,” he said.

Speaking in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the Thoddu Constitutency MP said the committee was not summoning the judges “to settle scores or for a personal vendetta or to destroy their reputations”, but within the course of executing their legal duties.

“As the chair of Parliament’s Government Oversight Committee, I shall continue to execute my duties and we believe the constitution allows us to summon anyone with regard to our concerns and we will do so. So I sincerely urge [the judges] to not hide behind a constitutional clause dictating the responsibilities of the judges,” Waheed said, maintaining that the committee’s intentions were sincere and that it was being very “respectful” and “patient”.

“These people are those who must lead by example [in upholding the law] but what we see is that neither the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Auditor General or even the parliament is being allowed to hold these people accountable. They can’t be above the law and should not even think they are,” he continued. “What we are repeatedly reassuring them is that we will not allow committee members to question them on matters not in their mandate.”

Meanwhile, Waheed’s fellow MDP parliamentarian Ahmed Hamza argued that the judges’ decision was in contrast to principles of rule of law, which were fundamental for a democratic state.

“In every democracy it is the people from whom the powers of the state are derived. The parliament represents the people, and their actions reflect the wish of the people, so all authorities must respect the decisions,” he said.

He reiterated that the current system of separation of powers in place is one that holds the three powers of the state accountable to each other through a system of checks and balances.

“The parliament will hold the government and the judiciary accountable and the judiciary has the power to invalidate legislation and regulations if they are in conflict with the constitution,” he added.

Hamza dismissed the claims made by pro-government parties that the committee was attempting to influence the ongoing trial of Nasheed.

“We are not trying to defend Nasheed, all we are trying to do is to carry out our duties and responsibilities vested in the constitution. We will not question them about any ongoing trial, nor will we comment on their verdicts and decisions,” Hamza added.

Quality of judiciary

Meanwhile, the current Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has also admitted that despite having some “bright minds” the overall “quality of services delivered by the judiciary remained disappointingly gloomy”.

“Our judiciary has some bright minds, but that does not exempt it from scrutiny; the judiciary in the Maldives, with the exception of few courts and judges, the judiciary as a whole has earned a deservedly bad reputation for its inconsistent judgments, lack of leadership, lack of competency and being out of touch with modern laws and views of the society,” he said in an article written for local newspaper Haveeru.

Former President’s Member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee, in her book The Failed Silent Coup: in Defeat They Reached for the Gun claimed that the controversial transfer of power on February 7 signified the return of the previous politically controlled judiciary, which was to some extent held at bay during Nasheed’s three years.

“The judiciary we have today is under the control of a few,” she wrote.

“This was an end reached by using the Judicial Service Commission as a means. Most members of the Judicial Service Commission betrayed the Constitution, the country, and the people. They broke their oath. There is no room for free and fair hearings. And most judges do not even know how to hold such a hearing,” Velezinee wrote, arguing that the JSC was politically compromised and reappointed Gayoom’s bench at the conclusion of the constitutional interim period in 2010, despite the requirement that they be vetted for their ethical and professional quality.

“For democracy and rule of law to be established in the Maldives, and for the right to govern them to be returned to the people, they must have an elected leader. And the judiciary, currently being held hostage, must be freed. Article 285 of the Constitution must be fully upheld, judges reappointed, and an independent judiciary established,” she added.


“Country’s education system has failed”: State Education Minister

State Minister of Education Imad Solih has said that the Maldives’ education system “has failed”, and that this failure had led to a majority of the country’s current social issues.

In an interview with local newspaper Haveeru, Solih reiterated the growing need to overhaul the education system to build a better society “where young people should have better things to do than being ‘addled on the streets’”.

Solih said that everyone would accept the fact that the young people “addled on the streets” were once school students, and that the reason they had fallen into such a state was because of lapses in the education system.

“They are a part of the population which we failed to attend to. But those that we currently attend to should be provided with proper education and training. I believe the failure of the education system has to take the blame for the current depletion of ethics and moral values within our society,” Solih said.

He further stated that compared to the government’s annual investment of MVR 2.4 billion (US$ 156 million) on education, the outcome was poor and unacceptable.

The report released by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on last December ranked the Maldives as number one in the Asia Pacific region on education spending as a percentage of GDP.

According to the report, Maldives spends the highest proportion of GDP on public education (8.1 percent) across the Asia/Pacific region, which is four times higher than countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar.

The Ministry of Education’s expenditure in 2011 amounted to Rf1.7 billion (US$110 million).

Despite the expenditure, Solih argued that the countrywide results of O’level and A’level examinations did not reflect the financial input to the education system, and that therefore changes had to be brought to the system, including new plans and targets.

Solih also stated that the failure of the education system should not only remain a concern of the education sector alone, but political leaders, parliamentarians and the general public should also share the concerns.

“I urge everyone to set aside our political differences and to take a minute to think about the current education system,” he called.

“You simply can’t blame the system” – former Education Minister

Former Education Minister and former Chancellor of the Maldives National University, Dr Musthafa Luthfee had a dissenting view of the remarks made by Solih. He stated that it was very difficult for him to agree to Solih’s remark that the system had failed.

“We built the [education] system over a very long time and it is exactly the same model that is being employed in other countries as well. But I can say that the results we ought to have achieved from this system have not yet been achieved,” he said.

He stated that it was not just the education system that was at fault for the current social issues, and the responsibility of building a better society falls on the shoulders of everyone, including politicians, the government, parents and teachers.

Luthfee stated that before declaring that the system had failed, it was important to understand the challenges it faced.

“For example, our teachers are not as experienced or competent as they should be. In other countries, you can only become a full time teacher with at least a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree and a certain amount of experience,” he said.

Luthfee also highlighted that most of the teachers currently working in the Maldives were foreigners instead of locals, and they keep constantly changing which has an impact on the student’s academic performance.

Referring to Solih’s remark on the large investment in education, Luthfee said that in reality the amount spent on “real education” was relatively low.

“It is easy for one to claim that the country invests a lot of money in the education system. But a large number of teachers in the country are from abroad. A hefty amount of money is spent on their salaries, accommodation and transportation. What we really get to spend on ‘real education’ is therefore relatively low,” he explained.

Luthfee was hopeful on the future of the education sector stating that more local trained teachers are replacing foreign teachers and that the local teaching force was gradually on the rise.

“It is a good sign that almost all the primary schools have local teachers now. A lot of local teachers are coming to teach in secondary schools as well. So the number of local teachers is gradually increasing. But there are still local teachers who need to improve their qualifications as well and they are working very hard on it too,” said the former minister.

Luthfee stated that he sees “progress” within the education system expressing confidence in the system, and through hard work, he said, better results could be achieved.

He also highlighted the success of the government of former President Nasheed.

“When we came to the government, the pass rate of O’ level five subjects was 27 percent. Within three years time we made it 37 percent, which is a 10 percent increase,” he said.

He further added that if the trend could be maintained, the figure would further increase. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) during the 2008 elections pledged to put the figure at 60 percent by the end of its first presidential term.

When Minivan News contacted State Minister Imad Solih he stated that he would get back after a meeting. Minivan News was still expecting his call at time of press.

Correction. An earlier version of this article incorrectly titled Solih as Deputy Minister of Education. This has been corrected to State Minister.


HRCM meets two member Commonwealth team

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has said that the commission met with a two member team from the Commonwealth on September 4.

The statement said that the President of HRCM Mariyam Azra, deputy President of HRCM Ahmed Tholal and commission member Dr Ali Shameem attended the meeting on behalf of HRCM while the two members from Commonwealth were Commonwealth Advisor and Head of Political Affairs and Goods Office Rita Yavan Raj and Political Affairs Advisor Alison Pierman.

The HRCM said it had highlighted and thanked the Commonwealth for their close monitoring of the situation in Maldives and the Commonwealth’s efforts to “provide immediate assistance when needed to ensure just and peaceful solutions.”

The Commonwealth team meanwhile noted that “HRCM had been playing a very important role in helping the country ease the ongoing political tensions and encouraged the commission to continue to do so.”


President Nasheed’s representative to CNI alleges February 7 draft report missed several facts

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s representative on the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, has today expressed deep concern over the draft report compiled by investigation’s co-chair, retired Singaporean Judge G P Selvam.

In a brief statement provided to media today outside Muleeaage, Saeed said that the draft report produced by Selvam “somewhat refutes or denies what we Maldivians saw and experienced” on February 7.  Former President Nasheed resigned during the day under what he later claimed was “duress” after elements of police and the army mutinied at Republic Square.

“I accepted membership of the Commission of National Inquiry with the weight of responsibility of carrying the hopes of you, the Maldivian people. The Maldivian people saw the first democratic government formed under the constitution adopted in 2008 as a good reform – a golden opportunity to revise the constitution and establish a democratic system and rule of the people. [The people] saw it as an opportunity to move away from the culture of arresting and banishing previous rulers and establishing a culture of changing governments through the vote and not through coup d’etats,” Saeed said today.

“February 7, 2012 was a day that shocked Maldivians – a day when the Maldivian government was changed in a sudden confusion. Now, however, the report that Judge Selvam has drafted and brought is a draft that somewhat refutes or denies what we Maldivians saw and experienced – or a draft that somewhat confuses things, the way it is now.

“While this is happening, for me to stay here, at Muleeage, would I believe be a betrayal of my country and the Maldivian people. I see the draft report as having been written without considering the witness testimony of many, many people to CoNI as well as the many scenes we saw.”

Saeed added that he would continue to work to “include my concerns” in the final report. He was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press regarding his comments.

Following Saeed’s statement, the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) convened an emergency meeting of the party’s National Council.

A resolution proposed by former minister Mohamed Shihab and seconded by MP Mariya Ahmed Didi expressing concern in line with Saeed’s views on the draft report was adopted with unanimous consent.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the information in the current “domestic draft” report was not acceptable.

“What [Saeed] is saying is that they have omitted several details that they found from the investigations, so he is asking to make the report accurate in reflecting this,” he explained.

However, he observed there was room for the CNI’s findings to still find consensus before its public release on Thursday (August 30).

“The CNI report should be something that all its members have to agree upon so without MDP’s word, the report would not be authentic,” Ghafoor said.

“There is a draft out there that appears to conclude that there was no police mutiny [on February 7], this is just not acceptable given what the public saw,” he claimed.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza and Media secretary Masood Imad were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press.

The first three-member CNI was appointed by President Mohamed Waheed, following a police and military mutiny and Nasheed’s resignation on February 7. Both Nasheed and the MDP allege that his resignation was made under “duress” and was therefore a “coup d’état”.

Facing pressure from the Commonwealth and civil society NGOs, the government eventually agreed to reform the commission to include a retired Singaporean judge and a representative for Nasheed.

Nasheed’s representative, Saeed, who was formerly both Principal of ‘Ahmadiyya School’ and Deputy Principal of the British College of Sri Lanka was finally accepted after the government of President Waheed rejected almost 11 names Nasheed proposed to the commission.

The original members of the CNI subsequently released a ‘timeline’ into events that took place from January 16 to February 7.

The MDP accused the commission of trying to prejudice the work of the new commission, and then released its own version of events in response – the ‘Ameen- Aslam’ report based on interviews with the security services. The government described the publication of this report as a “terrorist act”.

An audio clip of Saeed’s statement


Comment: HRCM “deaf and blind” to abuses of coup perpetrators

Independent institutions play a pivotal role in a democracy. Their independence from political influences is one of the key reasons such institutions remain a vital part of democracy and a functional mechanism for check and balances of a democratic system.

One such institution established by the Maldivian constitution was the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM). An institution set up under the article 189 of the constitution to ensure that the Maldives has made the much needed necessary transition from the days of police brutality and human rights violations during the ‘Gayoom era’ to the present day, and to protect and uphold the values of human rights of all citizens.

But the tale seems to be going in the wrong way. It is going to be almost four months after the country’s first democratically elected president was ousted in what was an obvious coup d’etat. It is going to be four months from the day where a few petty politicians, with the financial backing of a few self-centered business tycoons and mendacious preachings of deceitful sheikhs, led to disillusioned patriots within the security forces make an absolute mockery of the people’s rule.

With the coup came not only a change of a regime, but a return to the nightmares of Gayoom’s 30 year long dictatorship that the Maldivians never ever wanted to see again. Nepotism has come back in full swing. Police brutality once again has become abundant. Reports of human rights violations are slowly re-surfacing.

On February 6, the night before Nasheed was forced out of office, a police platoon broke the chain of command and came storming into the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ‘Haruge’ and ran riot in the premises, beating down anyone that unfortunately came into their way – a direct violation of the article 246 of the Constitution of the Maldives. The HRCM failed to come up with anything substantial.

On February 8, the day after the toppling of Nasheed’s administration, the ousted president and senior officials of his administration and several MPs, along thousands of citizens who were convinced that their vote had been ‘robbed’ by ousting their elected leader, took to the streets exercising the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and freedom assembly entitled in the articles 27 and 32.

The protesters were met with one of the most violent crackdowns in the history of the country. But the HRCM merely concluded with a condemnation statement and the publishing of a report.

But alas, they found it an utmost priority to investigate the matter of the arresting of the chief Judge of the Criminal Court, the notorious man who is the root of the problems of our crippled judiciary. Yes, I do not disagree that arresting of a Judge was indeed a controversial move, given how flawed the check and balance mechanism is in our system is.

But when one protecting a notorious Judge with a history of ‘bending justice’ for his own personal interest becomes more of a priority than to looking into the human rights violations of hundreds of ordinary people beaten down ruthlessly by the police and the military, who were supposed to serve and protect them?

On March 6, a country that boasts of working to empower and uphold the rights of women and advocate against gender disparity, suddenly forgot what they had been preaching, and found the respect and dignity of the women they advocated for blasted by saltwater cannons. A group of female protesters went to the president’s office with an innocent intention of delivering a petition to the regime leader. Despite having a female in the presidency of HRCM, what a shame it was when it barely made a move. Where were the rights of women that day?

On May 29, another wave of police brutality struck again, as the coup regime’s unprecedented sudden nightmares over a ‘cursed rooster’ lead to police sieging into the MDP protest camp at ‘Usfasgandu’ under the excuse of alleged practice of black magic and sorcery, only to find no substantial evidence that gave rise to any criminal activities going on in the camp.

Furious protesters again began protesting in front of the barricades and yet again the police barged into the crowds with batons and pepper spray, beat down protesters and even pepper sprayed a cameramen of a local TV station who had tried to film the violent arrests.

But it seemed that the officials of HRCM present during the police takeover of the camp were either not in sane mind, or blinded and deafened as the commission issued a statement applauding the actions of police for their ‘professional handling’ the situation. What a fantastic way to mock the people again as the video footages revealed the extent of barbarity of the police. When did violent brutality become professionalism?

The Human Rights Commission is bitterly failing. They are far behind in following up with the police brutality and human rights violations of the coup regime. They have become a deaf and blind toady of Gayoom, Waheed and the senior officials of the coup regime instead of being the lions of the throne. They ought to have been defending and upholding the rights and liberties of the Maldivian constitution. Indeed a disheartening story to tell.

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]


Fresh protests erupt after police dismantle MDP camp at Usfasgandu

Police cracked down on a fresh wave of demonstrations that erupted in Male’ on Tuesday, after police raided the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest camp ‘Usfasgandu’ and later began dismantling it.

The demonstrations were sparked following a MDP National Council meeting held right next to the police barricades near the swimming tracks. The clustered meeting of 43 members of the council took the stand that “enough was enough” and that party should take  to the streets to get their constitutional rights.

Immediately, 400 protesters gathered in the area to challenge the legitimacy of police and demand the return of Usfasgandu, saying that they had not done anything violent. Minivan News observed objects thrown at police barricades, which triggered a brutal police crackdown leading to arrests and injuries.

Minivan News observed one protester sustain a head injury after he was hit in the head by a police baton, and was taken to the hospital in a pickup truck refueling at the nearby petrol shed.

Minivan News also observed a cameraman from local TV station Raajje TV being pepper-sprayed by police while he was attempting to film police arresting a protester.

The confrontations between the police and the protesters continued up until around 6:45pm whereupon the protesters made several attempts to cross the police barricades towards Usfasgandu. The frustrated protesters threw two police barricades into the swimming tracks.

At around 8:45 pm the protesters left the area and headed towards the junction of Majeedhee Magu and Chaandhanee Magu in the centre of Male’.

Protesters gathered in the intersection calling for an end to police brutality and for the resignation of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and senior officials of the government, including Home Minister Mohamed Jameel and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, claiming that that the government came to power by a coup d’état. The protesters also called for early elections.

Soon after the protesters gathered, a lorry arrived with a sound system and participants began chanting over a mega phone.

The protesters said they had gathered in the area because the police had taken over their protest camp at Usfasgandu, and called on police to leave the camp.

At about 10:00pm, two vehicles containing police in riot gear arrived at the protesting area and began dispersing the crowd, which lead to heated confrontations between the police and the protesters. The police resorted to tear gas and pepper spray, and more protesters were arrested.

During the confrontations, the window of a shop in Majeedhee Magu was smashed after it was hit by an by an object thrown during the confrontations.

During the crackdown, police were seen using pepper spray on several bystanders who were standing in front of their houses on Majeedhee Magu who had not taken part in the protest.

At about 11:30pm, an injured young protester was taken into a nearby house, and then to hospital.

At the same time, some protesters again began gathering near the swimming track and the petrol sheds on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, where the protests earlier began.

Earlier at about 9:30 pm, the Civil Court issued a temporary injunction ordering the police and the military to stop dismantling the protest camp at Usfasgandu. The Criminal Court had earlier issued police only a search warrant.

The police let two protesters inside the police barricades near Usfasgandu after they produced a copy of the court order.

At about 12:10am, a group of pro-government supporters arrived and confronted the protesters, leading to heated arguments.

The protests ended at about 12:40am in the morning. Police revealed that 56 arrests had been made during the clashes, out of which two had been released at time of press. Those arrested included MDP MP and Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy, the wife of former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, and two MDP councilors.

Confronted on twitter about the arrest of Naseem’s wife, President Mohamed Waheed tweeted back: “I am sorry to hear about Mana. I did all I can to expedite her release.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Police Media Official Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that a total of 56 protesters were arrested. He confirmed that out of the 56 arrestees, two had been released.

During the skirmishes, Minivan News observed a 17 year-old boy being arrested by police. Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that police had no record of the arrest of a minor.

“Even though it is not on our records, there may have been an arrest made, but he was not taken into custody,” said Haneef.

Minivan News understands the boy’s name is Hamdhaan Mohamed, who is at time of press was summoned to Criminal Court for extension of his detention period.

When Minivan News asked about the pepper spraying of Raajje TV Journalist, Haneef said that police would not have done it deliberately, and the cameraman may have been the unfortunate recipient of a pepper spraying that targeted at protesters.

“The police during such a time would not be able to distinguish between innocent observers and violent protesters. So there are chances that even someone who was observing might get pepper sprayed,” he explained.

“That is why we issue a warning before we begin dismantling the crowds. No one is supposed to stay after the warning is issued,” he added.

A photo of the incident on Sun Online appeared to show the cameraman was wearing a media pass and was directly targeted with the spray. Haneef maintained that it was difficult to identify a person.

“How can we see whether he had a MDP pass or DRP pass or a DhiTV pass?” he questioned.

He maintained that he was certain that the “boys” would not do such a thing deliberately, but he said if such a thing had happened, there was a mechanism to file a complaint.

“I am not saying such a thing happened but if it did, the person can lodge a complaint with Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), the Police Intergrity Commission or even us, we would then look into it,” he added.

Not a good sign: MDP

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor alleged that the police were cooperating with “thugs from the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM)”, accusing them of infiltrating the peaceful protests to incite violent responses from the police.

“We have experienced all this in 2005, we have dealt with this mentality before, but now a large section of the population is aware of their rights and the stage is huge,” he warned.

“Tensions are high because of frustrations around the party talks and the commission of national inquiry, and that the administration is fragmented and not in control – this could be headed to a fist fight,” he added.

Ghafoor claimed in addition that a number of people in the national council had decided that they would no longer recognise the authority of the police as they had mutinied, and that some people had walked through the barricades.

“Lots of people were very angry [over the police actions],” he remarked.

He said that the police were “not acting like police”.

“The institution has broken down so much that people are having trouble believing there are innocent police out there on the street. Police are acting with impunity and clearly breaking the law, by sealing off the Usfasgandu area,” he said.

“People are talking about standing up to police and this is not a good sign.”

A female protester told Minivan News that the actions of the police were “animalistic” and “barbarian”.

“They were like animals at that time. Brutality has gone way out of control. They would stay at a distance and then they would barge in like barbarians and take away those that even were not a part of the protests,” she said.

The protester alleged that police had pre-identified political targets and sought to arrest them in the chaos.

Police crackdown on demonstrators near the Usfasgandu barricades:


MDP holds series of protests as Dr Waheed’s government marks two months in power

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held two protests on Saturday, continuing the party’s call for early elections and the resignation of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Both protests began from ‘Usfasgandu’ behind Dharubaaruge, the party’s new protest hub following the government’s recent closure of the MDP’s permanent protest site near the tsunami  monument.

The first protest started at 5:30pm from Usfasgandu, and concluded at Sultan Park near the Islamic Centre at 6:30pm.

Former Education Minister Shifa Mohamed, former Home Minister Hassan Afeef and former National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal were seen in the frontline of the protests.

The protest was peaceful and there were no reports of police confrontations or arrests. However, angry protesters had some verbal arguments with the police.

The second protest started at around 10:00pm from Usfasgandu. The protesters marched their way from Sosun Magu, passing the parliament and towards President Waheed’s residence, Hilaaleege.

The protesters made their way in front of Dr Waheed’s residence at around 11:00pm.

Surprisingly, only a handful of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officials were on guard at the time when protesters arrived.

Some of the protesters sat down in front of the presidential residence, and continued their call for resignation of President Waheed and his government, and called for early elections.

Spokesperson for Dr Waheed, Masood Imad, said the protesters called for President Waheed’s death, and accused the party of “inciting fear”.

MNDF officials later dispersed the crowds from the premises and closed routes leading towards Dr Waheed’s residence.

The protesters peacefully retreated several blocks and there were no reported confrontations.

After the MNDF had blocked all the routes to Dr Waheed’s residence, protesters headed towards current Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s residence.

The protesters gathered outside the minister’s residence and reiterated their calls for the “coup government” to step down and hold elections, and then headed towards artificial beach along Majeedee Magu.

During the protests, a recording of former president Mohamed Nasheed stating that MDP “would not sink” was played continuously, with crowds roaring in support every time the recording was played.

MDP’s women’s activist Aishath Aniya led the protests while former Ministers, Shifa Mohamed and Dr Musthafa Luthfy, and MDP MP Rugiyya Mohamed, were seen in the frontline of the protest.

The protests concluded back at Usfasgandu, and MP Rugiyya handed the MDP flag to its flagman at Usfasgandu.

Shifa addressed the crowds at Usfasgandu and said that the government needed to hear the people’s voice, and the call for early elections.

“Today marks two months after the democratically elected president was brought down by a coup. We will not stop until democracy is restored,” she said.

MP Rugiyya and Dr Luthfy also spoke to the protesters at Usfasgandu, and thanked them for their determination.

The protests ended with a prayer from Mohamed Hafiz, the head of MDP religious affairs council.

A police media official confirmed that there were no confrontations or arrests during the protests. The MDP is to hold another protest tonight.

The MDP has been holding series of demonstrations after the transfer of power that took place on February 7, claiming that the government was brought down illegally in a coup d’état led by rogue police and military personnel, and funded by several local resort owners with political interests.