The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) ordered soldiers to use expired tear gas and pepper spray on protestors during the presidential polls of November, dismissed Captain Abdul Muizz Musthafa told the Civil Court on Tuesday.
In a third hearing into an unfair dismissal case, Musthafa claimed he had been dismissed from the army for exercising a constitutionally enshrined right to refuse obedience to unlawful orders.
Musthafa is the first of the nine officers dismissed after President Abdulla Yameen assumed power in November to press charges against the dismissal. The nine were fired for allegedly sowing discord within the military.
The former captain said he had sent photos proving expiration of the tear gas and pepper spray canisters to his superiors via instant messaging service Viber.
But the photos were deleted immediately and the canisters were sent to the armory where razor blades were used to scratch off the expiration dates. The canisters were then sent back for use, Musthafa claimed.
He also claimed he was dismissed in a personal dispute between former Vice Chief of Defense Forces Brigadier General Farhath Shaheer and Chief of Defense Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam.
MNDF Lawyer and First Lieutenant Mohamed Naseem said the MNDF does not trust Musthafa. The former captain does not uphold military obedience and had spoken out against his superiors on social media, said Naseem.
In response, Musthafa noted the MNDF has not carried out any investigations into misconduct against him to date.
He is seeking reinstatement and has asked the Civil Court to order MVR6 million (US$389,105) in compensation for damages.
Upheaval and dissent
In a statement on Musthafa’s dismissal, the MNDF accused the captain of collaborating with former Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal in collecting signatures from MNDF officers on a letter which had been prepared “in the guise” of supporting the Chief of Defense Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam.
A copy of the letter leaked on social media expressed concern over delays in the presidential elections in 2013, and the repercussions should a president-elect not be determined by the end of the presidential term on November 11.
A statement by the military said Shamaal had leaked the letter on social media “in order to reveal dissent within the military,” and accused Musthafa of aiding Shamaal and planning “to commit dangerous acts using the troops under his captainship”.
The presidential elections of 2013 were marred by repeated delays after the Supreme Court annulled the first round of polls held in September.
Following the MNDF’s first letter of concern, the force amended its regulations to punish officers who promoted “upheaval and chaos.” Several officers were suspended and Shamaal was removed from his position as the commandant of training and doctrine.
In mid-November, as the possibility of holding presidential polls by the end of the presidential term dimmed following police obstruction and Supreme Court orders to delay the second round of election, 73 mid ranking officers circulated an appeal calling on fellow soldiers not to obey any “unlawful” orders issued by then President Dr Mohamed Waheed and his political appointees.
Shortly after President Abdulla Yameen was inaugurated, nine senior-ranking officers were dismissed.
On November 25, Chief of Defense Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam called for “100 percent loyalty” from the MNDF.
“Soldiers must have absolute loyalty. Every single man and women working in this institution must have this characteristic. Otherwise, they are lacking the most important characteristic of a soldier,” Shiyam said.
In September 2013, the Civil Court ordered the Maldives Police Services to reinstate former Head of Intelligence Mohamed ‘MC’ Hameed who had been dismissed by the police’s disciplinary board for unspecified offenses.
Local media at the time said Hameed dismissal was related to a report published by the opposition on the controversial transfer of power in February 2012. The police have appealed the case.