Comment: Gasim threatens violence unless declared winner

This article first appeared on Dhivehisitee. Republished with permission.

Presidential candidate No 1 Gasim Ibrahim, who came third on Saturday’s vote count with 24 per cent, has refused to accept the result and threatened to create mayhem on the streets of Male’ until he is declared winner.

“I will be taking the oath on 11 November,” Gasim declared at a rally held at Maafannu Kunooz, a Jumhooree Party jagaha [hub] in Male’.

And to make that happen, Gasim and his team of agitators will lead the kind of street activities that culminated with the 7 February 2012 coup.

Their strategy goes something like this: a) declare the Elections Commission a corrupt organisation that engineered a 45 percent majority for MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed through fraud; b) denigrate Nasheed as Laa Dheenee [godless] scum who would erase Islam from the Maldives; c) ‘protest’ on the streets of Male’ until security forces are forced to crack down on them; d) make a free and fair democratic election impossible.

“People have been convicted and punished for stealing a spoon, an egg. But nothing has been done against the man who violated our Constitution,” Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, current Islamic Minister, screamed into the microphone.

‘We have to save our country and citizens from Nasheed’s Laa Dheene philosophy. Under no circumstances must we allow him to become our leader again,’ he said, calling upon the ‘Maldivian Ummah’ to rise up against him. Scores of men and women clapped and shouted ‘Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!’

One after another the most prominent hate-mongers in the country came on stage – Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the leader of Adhaalath; State Minister of Home Affairs Abdulla Mohamed [Madhanee Ablow]; and Umar Naseer, Commando in Chief of the Coup. Looking on, applauding and cheering the hate and fitna were Gasim-allied dignitaries such as Gayoom’s brother-in-law Ilyas Ibrahim and Abdulla Kamaldeen, and educated people who should know better like Gasim’s running-mate Dr Hassan Saeed.

The speakers threatened Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek and mocked his wife as a supporter of the MDP. Umar Naseer ended his threats against Thowfeek by saying: “If you want to leave the country, you should do it now.”

Umar Naseer threatened violence, saying neither he nor Gasim or any of their followers will hesitate to spill their blood ‘for God and country.’

Expect similar hate-mongering for the next four nights, after which they will come out on the streets “until the Elections Commission gives in and declares the first round last Saturday null and void, or Gasim the winner.”

I am not sure how many international observers for these elections are still in Male’, or how many of them watched this hatred being spewed out live on Gasim’s VTV. It was all in Dhivehi, but there were many warnings intended for international ears.

“This is an internal matter that no foreigners have any say in. Stay out of it,” several of them, especially Sheikh Shaheem, declared repeatedly.

I hope the observers are, at the very least, taking note of all this and listening to the threat that Umar Naseer put thus: “Mohamed Nasheed will not be able to win these elections, whatever it takes.”

If these threats fall on deaf ears, it will be easy to make the same mistake as last time when the Commission of National Inquiry [CoNI], endorsed by the Commonwealth, ruled that the 23 nights of protests that led to the end of Nasheed’s government were “spontaneous” and “natural”.

There is nothing natural about any of this.

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]


Maldives’ police investigate suspected black magic doll at polling station

Police were summoned to investigate an alleged black magic doll after it was discovered at the Shaviyani Atoll School polling station during the presidential election vote counting.

The suspicious ‘fanditha’ (black magic) doll was first noticed on the school’s wall by an Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) election observer as well as polling station officials on Kanditheemu Island during the vote counting process Saturday (September 7). They contacted local police to investigate the suspicious doll.

“The police just checked whether the doll was real [fanditha],” MDP Kanditheemu Campaign Manager Mohamed ‘Mox’ Fahumee told Minivan News today (September 9). “They did not actually want to get involved in such [black magic related] things.”

After the police were called to the polling station they – and local islanders – asked community members, the Shaviyani Atoll School’s site supervisor, and Bangladeshi labourers working at the school to try and discover who made the doll and with what intention, explained Fahumee.

“One of the laborers told us he made it ‘just for fun’ to pass the time, since they do not have very much work to do,” said Fahumee. “He made the doll from wool, putty, and wall paint and then placed it on the wall to dry.”

The Maldives Police Service had not responded to enquiries at time of press.

Fanditha fear

“On this island [Kanditheemu] people always talk about black magic during elections. They claim that government aligned parties – the Political Party of the Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), etc – practice fanditha to gain votes,” said Fahumee.

“When people talk about fanditha they become afraid,” noted Fahumee.

“Black magic might work, there are so many stories of people dying because of fanditha. During elections people talk about that and it spreads [around the island] very quickly, but they talk in secret,” he continued.

Swing voters who are not strongly in favor one candidate or political party versus another are particularly susceptible to fearing black magic will influence their vote, he explained.

“If they are finding it difficult to select a candidate and they are afraid [of black magic influence], they might vote for someone who does not represent their best interests,” he added.

Fahumee explained that while most island residents talk about possible incidents of fanditha, the discussions are conducted in secret, out of fear the island’s black magic practitioner will “come after” the person(s) talking about him.

Although not everyone believes in the power of fanditha, or “accepts those kinds of things”, it is still an issue – and precautions are taken – because it sows fear and uncertainty about the impartiality of the voting process, noted Fahumee.

More cursed coconuts

Concerns of black magic being used for election vote tampering have been raised on several islands in the Maldives.

MDP supporters on Guraidhoo Island in Kaafu Atoll reportedly began lining up to vote at 2:00pm Friday (September 6), after rumours began circulating of a black magic coconut buried at the front of the queue.

It is thought the candidate chosen by the first person in line standing over the coconut would then be the candidate picked by all remaining voters.

“We don’t believe in these things, but some MDP supporters waited just in case,” 25 year-old Guraidhoo resident Hussain Nadheef told Minivan News. “We will never let PPM [use black magic].”

Last week, police summoned a white magic practitioner to evaluate a young coconut believed to have been cursed by a black magic spell, after it was found near the Guraidhoo Island presidential election polling station.

Coconuts with black magic spells were allegedly being used to sway voters’ political party allegiance and incite confrontations between MDP supporters and police on Fuvahmulah, ahead of Saturday’s Presidential Election.

Given the widespread reporting of black magic election tampering and the cursed coconut issues on Guraidhoo and Fuvahmulah, Minivan News asked Elections Commission Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz whether the issue was raised by any election observers.

Fayaz noted that he had not discussed the issue with any of the observers, and had first read about the story on the UK’s Guardian website.

Asked if he felt that the additional international media spotlight on the election triggered by the coconut may have had a positive impact on the election process, Fayaz laughed and said “maybe”.


Cursed coconuts on Fuvahmulah allegedly used to disrupt elections

Additional reporting by Ahmed Nazeer

Coconuts with black magic spells are allegedly being used to sway voters’ political party allegiance and incite confrontations between Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters and police on Fuvahmulah, ahead of Saturday’s Presidential Election.

A ‘kurumba’ (young coconut) suspected to have a ‘fanditha’ (black magic) curse, with Arabic writing and suspicious symbols burned into the husk, was found in the garden of a home located in Fuvahmulah’s Dhiguvaadu ward yesterday (September 4), a source from Dhiguvaadu ward told Minivan News today.

The woman who found the suspicious coconut in the early hours of the morning intended to inform the police, however the homeowners – “hard core” Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) supporters – told her not to do anything until an expert investigated the coconut first, said the source.

“Neighbors supporting President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP) live in the area, so they heard about the fanditha coconut and wanted to create problems, so they contacted the police,” the source continued.

“MDP and PPM have been running strong campaigns and have many supporters in the area, however GIP only has about 15 members,” the source noted.

“Since GIP has very few supporters, they are trying to redirect attention away from the other political parties to gain votes,” alleged the source. “GIP has told PPM that MDP planted the fanditha coconut, however they are telling MDP that PPM is responsible.”

“Neighbors a few houses away were awake around 3:00am that night and did not notice any suspicious activity,” said the source.

The source believes that GIP, PPM and Jumhoree Party (JP) supporters are trying incite unrest among MDP activists on Fuvahmulah – especially GIP by involving the police in the fanditha coconut incident.

MDP supporters on Fuvahmulah remain very upset about the violent police crackdown that happened after the controversial transition of power in February 2012, according to the source.

“When MDP activists see local police they are not good with them, they do not keep calm, there is always a huge scene, shouting, etc.,” the source explained.

“[However,] these days MDP [Island] Councilors are trying to the max to keep supporters calm,” the source continued.

“And the situation is very calm right now. It [the fanditha coconut incident] was nothing huge, just a very simple thing,” the source said. “There won’t be any impact on voting.”

Fuvahmulah police did not want to get involved in the black magic incident, instead they preferred to allow the family to take action independently, a police source told Minivan News today.

“If we get involved, it will turn into a big thing,” said the police source, in reference to inciting unrest among MDP supporters.

However, local media reported that police took possession of the black magic coconut.

The Maldives Police Service was not responding to calls at time of press.

Black magic sabotage

A black magic practitioner from Fuvahmulah allegedly cast spells on five yellow young coconuts – kurumba can also be green or orange – and gave them to another man to deliver to a specific key location, a Fuvahmulah island council source told Minivan News today.

The island council source alleged a person named *Easa cast a spell on five coconuts and gave them to *Moosa to deliver. However, Moosa left the coconuts on his bed covered with a sheet before going to work.

“Moosa’s wife was not told about the cursed coconuts, so she was shocked to find coconuts on their bed and called the police immediately,” said the island council source. “The police went over to the house and took the coconuts.”

“She thought MDP had cast the black magic spells because the coconuts were yellow,’’ the island council source explained. “Once Moosa found out what his wife had done, he told her it was very bad that she had reported it to police.’’

Moosa and his wife then went to get the cursed coconuts back from the police, but police refused to return them, according to the island council source.

The island council source noted that Easa made a typographical error when cursing the coconuts. The coconut curse says to “get rid of [PPM presidential candidate Abdulla] Yameen”, but was supposed to read “get benefits from Yameen”.

Furthermore, during the 2008 presidential election Easa also started practicing black magic a month before the election day, noted the island council source.

“Every day after dawn prayer he went to the beach and did black magic stuff. He also went near the polling station and threw cursed objects at people,’’ said the island council source. “[But] Easa’s spells did not work the last time.”

“This hasn’t been taken too seriously by the islanders, but the MDP supporters are very concerned,’’ the island council source said.

No arrests have been made in connection with the case, the source added.

Earlier this week, police summoned a white magic practitioner to evaluate a young coconut believed to have been cursed by a black magic spell, after it was found near the Guraidhoo Island presidential election polling station in Kaafu Atoll.

*Names have been changed

Spiritual healing

This is the second cursed coconut incident reported in as many days, related to the presidential election. To better understand this “very common practice”, Minivan News spoke with Spiritual Healers of the Maldives President and Exorcist, Ajnaadh Ali.

“During elections black magic is used to gain votes and make people ill,” explained Ali.

Ali suspects a spell was read over the Fuvahmulah fanditha coconut instead of inscribed, because the coconut reads “May Allah protect us from Abdulla Yameen”.

The black magic spell cast to influence voting “is a spell of separation. It’s the same idea as a love spell. It can either bring people together or split them apart,” Ali noted. “The black magic will attack them mentally, by demanding the individual think a certain way even if they would normally know something is bad. It makes them blind in the mind.”

“While any object can be used, because coconuts represent a life structure (like eggs) they use those objects to make the spell powerful, with the advice of the devil,” noted Ali.

“There is a long history of the practice in the Maldives, but it is still very common nowadays on every island,” he continued. “There is a lack of knowledge regarding the religion. Some people who do black magic think it’s right because the Quran is used.”

“In Dhivehi, fanditha means magic – black or white – but the way it is practiced is what makes it good or bad. Black magic is when people worship or invoke jins or devils to cause harm to others,” Ali explained.

“Black magic is practiced by misusing the Quran, chanting or writing verses and the names of devils or jins (spirits) to summon their help. It cannot be done unless someone has some disbelief of Allah,” he continued. “It it also disrespectful of the Quran.”

The best protection against black magic is reading Quranic verses, particularly the last two chapters of the Quran, said Ali. ‘Ruqyah’ is a form of white magic, specifically an Islamic exorcism where Quranic verses are read and prayers recited to heal.”

“Ruqyah will neutralise black magic to rid of the evil eye or any other spiritual matter, like jin possessions or mental illness,” he explained.

It can also be conducted for the benefit of worshipping Allah, he added.

“Any Muslim can practice ruqyah by themselves, however its more effective if they have knowledge of jins and the Quran. Also, they must be following the religion,” he noted.

The five pillars of Islam are prayer, fasting, alms for the poor, pilgrimage to Mecca, and declaring belief in one God, Allah.

A 1979 law requires persons wishing to practice fanditha to “write and seek approval from the Ministry of Health.”


Police summon white magic practitioner to investigate possible cursed coconut

Police summoned a white magic practitioner to evaluate a young coconut believed to have been cursed by a black magic spell, after it was found near the Guraidhoo Island presidential election polling station in Kaafu Atoll.

Police told local media they took the coconut into their possession around 7:05am yesterday (September 3) after receiving a report that the suspicious ‘kihah’ (immature coconut) was located near the Guraidhoo Island School – the island’s polling station for the September 7 presidential election.

The coconut was discovered near the school where the polling station is to be set up, Island Council Vice President Abdul Latheef Ahmed confirmed to local media.

“The police brought a ‘ruqyah’ practitioner (white magician) to examine the coconut, who said it was a fake,” a police source told Minivan News today. “Because it’s a fake the police are not worried,” the source added.

No arrests have been made in the case, according to CNM.

“The four-inch coconut had a Sura [Qur’anic verse] written in Arabic and was lying on the ground near the school, easy for the public to see,” said a source from Guraidhoo with knowledge of the incident.

“When school students saw the coconut they called the principal, who then contacted the police,” he continued.

“It was not really ‘fanditha’ (black magic) on the coconut. If it was fanditha, there would have been Arabic letters and numbers written, not a Sura,” he explained.

“It seems like it was a joke, just a prank, so that people will become aware, learn the moral, and not do it again,” he noted, suggesting the coconut was a lesson for islanders not to practice black magic in an attempt to influence voting, and that the polling area would be closely monitored to prevent such activities from occurring.

“Now the police and school officials are more aware and police are patrolling the school at night, so magicians can’t practice real black magic at the school,” said the Guraidhoo source.

Currently nine police are stationed on Guraidhoo for the upcoming election. Normally only five officers are present.

Election fanditha

Using black magic to either prevent people from voting or influence them to vote for a particular party or candidate is common practice on Guraidhoo.

“Here for most of the elections people use  black magic to win [elections],” said a source from Guraidhoo on condition of anonymity.

He recalled an incident where a black magic practitioner predicted a man would die because of the election.

“Then on the election day the 45 year-old man died and people said it was because of black magic,” said the source.

In July, parents at Guraidhoo Island School refused to allow a polling station in the school for the upcoming presidential elections, due to concerns over black magic practiced by a local witch.

The parents alleged there was a witch on the island who, during previous elections, had cast spells to influence the outcome in favour of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) which had affected children after targeting the school premises.

“Girls in the school were getting headaches and having been fainting school for years,” the island source explained.

The Elections Commission ultimately decided to place the ballot box inside Guraidhoo School despite parents’ concerns, reported CNM.

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek reassured the parents that the commission would take full responsibility if any black magic incidents occurred.


Australian surfers followed, photographed, questioned for hours by Maldives police

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has confirmed that it held three Australian surfers in Male’ for five hours of questioning yesterday (August 31), before releasing them without charge.

The surf tourists, who arrived in the Maldives on August 30, were wearing ‘Save Thamburudhoo’ t-shirts, in support of a locally-led awareness campaign against the privatisation of a local surf break .

“The three Australian men were not in police custody, they were being questioned in regard to an ongoing investigation,” Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today (September 1).

“They were released without charge right after being questioned,” he added.

Haneef was unable to state why the Australian surfers who had been in the Maldives for around 24 hours would be involved in a prior investigation, or why they were being followed and photographed, explaining that the investigation was ongoing.

Asked why questioning the Australians took five hours, Haneef said he would need to clarify the details of the investigative process with the MPS Criminal Investigation Department.

Multiple sources in the surfing community with knowledge of the incident told Minivan News the Australians were questioned because government authorities thought they were involved in a political protest against the current government, due to their ‘Save Thamburudhoo’ t-shirts.

Maldivian law prohibits foreign nationals from participating in political protests.

“The Australians have been followed and photographed [by police] since they got to Male’,” a source speaking on condition of anonymity told Minivan News.

“The police kept the Australians in custody for seven hours and checked their camera memory cards,” said another person familiar with the matter. “But they were not involved in any political protests.”

The ‘Save Thamburudhoo’ campaign aims to raise awareness and end surf break exclusivity in the Maldives, particularly the practice of resort islands shooing visiting local and foreign surfers off ‘their’ breaks. The campaign has been led by local surfers in partnership with the Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) and the Liveaboard Association of the Maldives (LAM), and has been widely covered in international surf media.

Thamburudhoo has become the campaign’s focal point, as it is the only uninhabited, untouched island near Male’ with a publicly accessible surf break . However, the island is currently owned by a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) co-operative company that is seeking bids to develop a resort on the island, which would limit access to the Thamburudhoo’s left and right-hand breaks, known locally as ‘sultans’ and ‘honkeys’.

The proposal was first submitted in 2011 under the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, but appeared to have stalled until it was revived under the new government in early 2012.

Under the July 2011 proposal, submitted by senior Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) figures and Telos Investment, Telos would receive a 50 year lease on the military training island to develop a “boutique surf resort”, in exchange for US$5 million to develop an MNDF training facility on nearby Girifishi.

According to the proposal, the 3.6 hectare island “does not have the normal beauty found in Maldivian resorts”, as it does not have natural lagoon or sandy beaches. Furthermore, the strong currents limit recreational swimming, and therefore “the only development for Thanburudhoo which is sensible is that of a boutique surf resort.”

The surf resort would “open its doors to Maldivian surfers for a special surfing session twice per month,” the 2011 proposal notes.

“Unlike other resorts which do not allow local Maldivians to surf, Thanburudhoo would make available two surfing sessions per month, most likely Friday mornings or Saturday afternoons. The Maldivian surfers coming to Thanburudhoo for the special local surfing session must be in good standing with the Maldivian Surf Association and must abide by all the rules and regulations of Thanburudhoo surfing activities,” the proposal stated.

A ‘Save Thamburudhoo Expression Rally’ organised by MSA and LAM was planned to be held yesterday (August 31) but has since been delayed.

The rally would have involved over 24 vessels cruising between Male’s surf point ‘raalhugandu’ and Thamburudhoo’s surf breaks, as well as a petition to end surf break exclusivity.


First hearing held into alleged alcohol possession by MDP MPs

The Criminal Court today conducted the first hearing into the case of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and Abdulla Jabir allegedly being caught in possession of alcohol last November.

Jabir did not attend the hearing, and prior to concluding the session the judge warned that the court might have to keep him in detention if he did not comply with future summons.

The MDP last week released a statement describing the “politicised police summons and prosecutions” as attempts by the government to obstruct its election campaigning.

Local newspapers present at the Criminal Court reported that the prosecution lawyers told the judge police had received information that a group of people were in possession of and consuming alcohol on the uninhabited island of Hondaidhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.

They subsequently raided the island, where Ghafoor was found in possession of alcohol.

Newspapers reported the prosecution lawyer as telling the court that while police were searching the island, MDP MPs Jabir and Ghafoor and a person identified as Jadhulla Jameel were sitting near a hut that looked like a bar, that Abdulla Jabir was holding a glass containing alcohol, and that Ghafoor was holding a mug which he threw away when he saw the police officers approaching them.

There were three bottles on a chair near the hut which tested positive for containing alcohol. The liquid inside the glasses the three were holding also tested positive for alcohol, media reported.

Ghafoor, given the opportunity to respond to the charges, he requested the opportunity to appoint a lawyer. The judge asked him to appoint one before the next hearing.

A total of 10 people were taken into police custody on November 16 after police raided and searched Hondaidhoo with a court warrant. Officers alleged they found large amounts of suspected drugs and alcohol upon searching the island.

Two Sri Lankan nationals named Raj Mohan and Anoor Bandaranayk, as well as a Bangladeshi named Suhail Rana, were taken into custody following the island raid. Their cases have not been filed at the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office.

On August 22, criminal court media official Ahmed Mohamed Manik told Minivan News confirmed that the PG had charged Jabir, Ghafoor, and Jadhulla Jameel with smuggling alcohol into the country and consuming it, as well as possession of cannabis and objecting to urine testing.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiza were also charged for objecting to take urine tests, said Manik.

According to the Drug Act, Sections 123(a), 161(a), and 161(b), any person arrested on suspicion of having abused alcohol or narcotics has an obligation to comply with police requests for routine urine examination by promptly providing urine samples, and failure to comply is a criminal offence punishable with a one-year jail sentence.

Additionally, the son of Nasheed’s former special envoy, Mohamed Hamdhoon Zaki,  has been charged for trafficking illegal drugs into the country – the penalty for which is 25 years and a fine of up to MVR10 million (US$650,000).


Maafushi Council chair arrested in connection with missing half-million rufiya

Police have arrested the chair of Maafushi island council in connection with the alleged theft of MVR 520,000 (US$33,722) from the council’s budget, which was found missing from a safe in the island council secretariat.

Local newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported a local councillor as claiming that Abdulla Mufeed of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had been taken into custody.

Police revealed that the case had been reported on 26 August before the council chair was arrested on Thursday night (August 29), while he was in Male’.

Police said the investigation team had obtained documents related to the case as well as questioned people to clarify related information.

The island council obtained the money by renting a house in an auction, and the money was paid by the buyer according to an agreement between the two parties, said police.

Police also said the buyer had paid the monthly payment of MVR35,000 (US$2,269) in advance, a total of MVR 420,000 (US$27,237) in advance for the year, as well as paying MVR 100,000 (US$6,485) for the council to spend on social activities.

The fraud and financial crime department is investigating the case.

The councilor also told alleged to the paper Mufeed had stolen MVR 51,000 (US$3300) given to the council by the Youth Ministry.