Comment: Burial of the truth

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

Last Sunday night Lance Corporal Adam Haleem was stabbed to death on the island of Kaashidhoo. He was en route to duty and in full uniform. He died from multiple stab wounds just after midnight. He was 26 years old, and the father of a son not yet a year old.

Before the young policeman’s body was cold, his death had become a political opportunity for many. Politicisation of life and death is not a new phenomenon in the Maldives. It was on the rise before the change of government on 7 February. But the extent to which the current ‘Unity Government’ of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik is going, to squeeze every drop of political juice from the death of Lance Corporal Hameed, is a revolting spectacle to behold.

It was Dr Waheed himself who set the ball rolling.

What was this about hate-mongering? What did he mean? Was the policeman’s murder linked to the current political unrest? That was certainly the inference, as he reiterated shortly after:

One of the first political figures to put into words what Waheed insinuated was MP for Kaashidhoo area Abdulla Jabir. He told the Sun within an hour of the news breaking:

[I] condemn this murder in strictest words. It is sad that such incidents are increasing. The reason for this is the continued actions by MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] to spread lies about the police and create anger against them among the people.

Sun also reported that ‘Private MP’ Ahmed Mahloof (PPM), less than two hours after the news broke, said:

What we have seen tonight is the democracy that MDP talks about. The democracy we have seen is the one which calls to attack the police. I condemn this. Nasheed and MDP must take responsibility for this.

Several others were jostling for space on the bandwagon. Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said this:

Here are some significant others.

Human Rights Commissioner Mariyam Azra, too, appeared convinced that what the Unity Government and its supporters were saying was indeed true. Within the hour she had this to say:

Very sad that a policeman has been killed like this. Nobody should speak in ways that incite hatred against another.

Politics of death

The death of a policeman—especially when hostilities between anti-government protesters and the security forces are at an all time high—is a potent event, laden with political consequences. For the Unity Government it became the ‘evidence’ with which to prove a ‘truth’ they have been peddling from the beginning: MDP is a violent political group determined to regain power at any cost.

This strategy for criminalising dissent and constructing all supporters of MDP as ‘terrorists’ who are also the cause of all the social unrest of today, has been at the forefront of this government’s efforts to legitimise itself since day one.

The government was helped in its campaign to exploit the young policeman’s death by the police themselves. Lance Corporal Haleem died at around quarter past midnight on Sunday night. Between then and mid-afternoon Monday—despite being in possession of all facts surrounding the murder—the police did not make public any details surrounding it. The only thing said was ‘a policeman has been murdered,’ and where.

This left a long Speculation Window in which the Unity Government could air as fact its message that Lance Corporal Haleem had been murdered by an MDP thug, driven to it by calls for violence against the police by MDP leaders.

During the midnight hours, knowing that most people stay up late during Ramadan, key figures in the Unity Government saturated the media with the message. Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim appeared on his Villa TV with Kaashidhoo MP Jabir and JP’s President Dr Didi to discuss ‘the problem of MDP’s continuous incitment of violence against the police.’

They intertwined news of the policeman’s death with the narrative of ‘MDP violence against the police’ so often and with such conviction that by the time the police finally revealed more facts, most people—except the accused—were convinced MDP was behind the policeman’s murder. Here’s a tweet that encapsulates the sentiments of government supporters the following day.

Dissemination of the message did not stop at the country’s borders. In fact, when spread to the international community, the Unity Government didn’t bother with the insinuations. It just came straight out and pointed the figure at MDP. Before Monday morning, the President’s Office Spokesperson, Masood Imad, had told the AFP in Colombo:

The MDP instigated the attack on policemen at Kaashidoo and one was stabbed to death.

Here’s how a Sri Lankan newspaper ran the story the next morning:

Whither the truth?

The truth of the matter, when details began to come out on Monday, was very different. Lance Corporal Haleem was killed by a criminal he had investigated for about a year, and was about to arrest.

The murder was straightforward, and Mohamed Samah, the 22-year-old culprit from the same island, was arrested at the scene. There was an eye-witness and several people, including the police, were on the scene within seconds.

The subsequent scramble to pinpoint the political party to which the accused belonged was ugly. And it was a malaise that affected not just the Unity Government but the general population in its majority. It was as if the violent death of a young man would only begin to matter once the murderer’s political affiliation was established.

His connections with various key figures in different political parties were discussed; his identity card number was keyed into the Elections Commissions website; his membership of one party thus established without doubt—only for that party to come out and say: “There are many MDP members who signed up to other parties by mistake.” Seriously. In a ‘functioning democracy’, as Dr Waheed describes the Maldives, the facts of Lance Corporal Haleem’s death would have required a formal retraction. And, at the very least, it would have elicited an apology to the MDP for very serious wrongful accusations made against it.

But that is not what happened, for it was not Lance Corporal Haleem’s death that was important but the concurrent narrative of MDP’s violence that it was used to construct. Under the circumstances, truth was irrelevant. Thus the political abuse of Lance Corporal Haleem’s body continued apace.

After the condemnations came the heavily publicised State funeral. Of course, the fallen must be honoured. Policemen put their lives at risk protecting society, and we should appreciate that, especially so when they die on duty.

But was the public spectacle put on by the Unity Government and Maldives Police Service really necessary? It is not part of Maldivian culture to hold ostentatious, loud, photographed and televised funerals.

We are humble and simple in our bereavement. But, pictures of Lance Corporal Haleem’s coffin being carried to Islamic Centre on the shoulders of sombre looking policeman were splashed across the media. As were pictures of various key Unity Government figures consoling the family, looking appropriately grieved, and even praying. Faith, like death, reduced to a photo opportunity.

In a slight digression: I could not help but notice Lance Corporal Haleem’s distraught mother photographed at the burial ground paying her respects. I know several mothers, wives, daughters and sisters (myself included) who have desperately wanted it to be otherwise. But it has always been maintained that a woman cannot partake in the burial. What was it about this occasion that allowed the bending of a seemingly inflexible Islamic rule?

Retaliation against the wrongfully accused

As the day passed, the rhetoric of MDP’s violence against the police was only ratcheted up, not lowered. Now the Unity Government’s efforts were on making people forget the truth.

It seems as if the fact of Lance Corporal Haleem’s death has been buried with him. What remained of concern was the accompanying narrative – MDP is deliberately inciting violence against the police and must be stopped.

Thus the Maldives Police Service began ‘retaliation’ against MDP for a crime it had nothing to do with. Chief among several actions taken to avenge Lance Corporal Haleem’s murder was the ’leaking’ of a telephone conversation between Nasheed and MDP Mariya Didi, one of his closest allies and friends. In the March 29 conversation, Mariya is heard updating Nasheed about police violence and use of pepper-spray against protesters resisting their dismantling of Usfasgan’du [MDP’s protest camp] that day. She asks for Nasheed’s advice, and he replies:

There’s not much we can do. I don’t know. What is there to do? I think [we] need to get people out to fight if we can get them. If we can get people to fight, get them out. It’s very clear to me, I think we need to fight back. If we can get people to fight. Find kids from Male to fight the police.

Mariya laughs. Not the response one would expect from a person who thinks she has just been assigned the task of recruiting a gang of thugs to take on the national security forces. Regardless, the police thought it prudent to release the audio clip. For what purpose? It was certainly not aimed at calming tensions or to make real the rhetoric of reconciliation.

Nasheed’s supporters are unlikely to accept the private conversation between him and Mariya as evidence of his alleged brutality. For them, his commitment to non-violence was proven beyond doubt when not just the MDP-affiliated Coup Report but also the so-called CONI Timeline documented Nasheed’s unequivocal refusal to use weapons against the mutinying police, or anyone else, on 7 February.

The only purposes the audio clip served was to harden government supporters’ dislike and mistrust of Nasheed, and to fortify government’s efforts to construct Nasheed as the cruel leader of the violent political organisation that is said to be MDP. To support their claim that MDP leaders are all characterised by political extremists prone to violence, they have also unearthed statements made by key MDP figures encouraging—wrongly so—retaliation against the police for their brutal violence against them during the events surrounding the transfer of government.

Whether or not their words bear any relation to the murder of the policeman, once again, is of the least consequence. What it did beautifully was fit the government narrative. What use to make of the audio clip, which the police has been in possession of since March, was decided shortly after Lance Corporal Haleem’s murder and long before facts of his killing were made public. Home Minister Jameel hinted at it on the night of the murder itself:

The ‘evidence’, with the allegation, is continuing to play across the media—mainstream and social–since then.

Before they brought foreigners and shot them dead, now getting Maldivians to stab them…Bravo to the democracy Anni is bringing.

The poster with the last Tweet from President’s Spokesperson Abbas Riza reads:

6 February Massacre

Main reasons why a massacre was desired:

—to declare a state of emergency

—to abolish the JSC and give MDP the power to appoint judges

—to arrest the leaders who stepped up to defend Islam and the Constitution

—to hand MPL (Maldives Ports Limited) to a company of which India’s GMR is a shareholder

These are not the words and actions of members of a government eager to calm the political and social turmoil afflicting Maldives today. On the contrary, they are intended to cause the opposite effect.

If the Unity Government were serious about reconciliation in the five long months gone, it would have taken due action against members of the police who mutinied. It would not have given them promotions instead.

It would not have appointed as leaders of the security forces men like Mohamed Nazim, Abdulla Riyaz and Mohamed Fayaz, men who the whole country saw playing a key role in the change of government on 7 February. The seeds of public mistrust of the police were planted on that day, and on 8 February. And they grow and mushroom with every day that passes without this government’s acknowledgement of the these facts.

There can be no reconciliation without the truth.

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]


13 thoughts on “Comment: Burial of the truth”

  1. Indeed there can be no reconciliation without truth.

    For completion, we need to take ownership of what we create, be accountable, and take responsibility.
    To blame, to justify, and to make excuses can never lead to completion.
    To date what we have got from Gayoom is excuses, justifications and blame, with no ownership accountability and responsibility towards the damage he has caused to the people and our nation.
    We have seen no remorse from this man or his associates who bled our nation dry and built vast empires of wealth, power and patronisation in the 30 years he ruled the country.
    What we see is Gayoom and his associates doing whatever it takes, to regain the control they lost when Nasheed was elected President of the Maldives in 2008.

    The cult of Gayoom which ruled the Maldives for 30 years is very much alive and kicking and the narcissistic leadership of this cult, in my opinion, will never relinquish their addiction to power and control and ownership.
    If you look at the leaders of the Gayoom you see the classic symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). What are they?

    Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

    •Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
    •Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
    •Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
    •Requires excessive admiration
    •Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
    •Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
    •Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
    •Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
    •Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes

    Just look around the political leaders we have today and you will be able to tick every one of these symptoms against them.

    We need to get the reality that we will never be free of those who have controlled us and took away the future of our children unless we hold them responsible for the abuse of power and violation of our trust.
    The question is if this possible. Will this happen? I believe it can happen, but we need support from the international community to do this. We need support to build our negotiating capacity to bridge the chasm that divides the haves and have- nots of our country.

    Because this is really what this is all about, isn’t it? This war? To keep our people subservient, poor ignorant, powerless so we can exploit them for our wealth and our notions of power. This is what war is always about.
    We have to face the reality that we are at war. Whatever you may like to call it, we have a civil war in our country.

    And it’s time the international community recognised this reality. I don’t have to be a political scientist to predict that the winners of protracted political tension and loss of integrity in our systems will be the fascist movement of the Wahhaabi ideology sweeping across the world and which has taken solid root in the Maldives.
    For the people of the Maldives the tipping point to take a stand for integrity, democracy and freedom came with the death of Evan Naseem, and the custodial deaths that followed.
    And we did not look back.
    There are many in our country who bemoan the chaos and the violence and the dramas and the stress that have come with revolution. Whether you recognise it or not, we are going through revolution. What we need to understand and acknowledge is that chaos IS necessary for the old order to be dismantled. And the old order HAS to go for a new order to come in. This is basic physics.

    Unfortunately, there is no short cut and there are no easy ways out of fear and oppression.

    I am very clear that we cannot move forward without completing the past and we cannot complete the past without a Truth and Reconciliation process. The sooner this process is started the sooner we can reclaim our lives and the nation we lost.

  2. On this count, I support Azra's overall arguments.

    First of all the government's use of the tragic death of a policeman to vilify the MDP was cheap political opportunism at its worst.

    Second, all political parties in the Maldives, including parties in the ruling coalition and opposition, are doing nothing to defuse the tensions between themselves. Here it must be noted that the common Maldivian citizen who does not play an active part in politics is sitting back and merely watching the spectacle unfold.

    Where do we go from here?

    Preferably talks between political parties are needed to find a way out of this mess.

    As a precursor for these talks both sides must give way. The opposition must stop their street activities and the ruling parties must give the opposition the peace of mind they need before making that decision.

    Also parties should agree to allow the Commission of National Inquiry to address the issues surrounding the transfer of power if the exercise is to mean anything at all.

    Lastly and most importantly, political parties and their leadership must have some sincerity in addressing the structural weaknesses in our democracy that led us to this point. A workable solution must be found through talks and institutional as well as legal reform.

    In the absence of such a process what is left would be outright confrontation. In such an event any opposition is at a disadvantage regardless of whichever party lands on that side. The Executive remains structurally too strong allowing it to buy out the Parliament with government contracts and rents while the judiciary remains subject to the whims of both the other institutions. Meanwhile independent monitoring bodies are too weak to hold any of the State institutions accountable. An opposition political party faces the threat of having their sympathetic media outlets shut down (VTV and DhiTV suffered attacks of vandalism and harassment from the Nasheed-regime while the current ruling coalition has responded to RaajjeTV's activism by taking a confrontational stand), having their members harassed etc. etc.

    A solution is to be found in continuing the democratic reform process. Any election held now will only consolidate the power of one side while ending any chance of having a multiparty democracy. This much has been acknowledged by both major political parties in the country with MDP promising the end of PPM if they come to power and vice versa.

  3. Now these low IQ local thugs will come here to say that this article is misleading. Anything that is fact base will be misleading.

    Dr Waheed Its a shame to become a president illegally to full fill your life long dream. No excuse to be in the post. Enough of your propagandas and hate mongering to Nasheed. Leave the job which you clearly are not capable to do!

  4. Azra naseem,

    you yourself, is politicizing the death of Adam by defending MDP when all along MDP was the gamaaru party to instigate violence against the security forces
    (be it verbally or whatever)
    leave him alone with god, will ya!

  5. The funeral of Haleem was rather odd in terms of its grandeur and political posturing by the regime. Not only are such funerals outside our cultural norms; indeed they are not even part of our faith, i.e. Islam.

    Ever seen the funeral of a Saudi King? No, I didn't think you did. The reason is that they are very modest affairs. A simple coffin is carried on the back of an ordinary ambulance and buried in an unmarked grave.

    Once a person has departed this life, there is no room for posturing and grand farewells. The duty of Muslims is to bury the dead in the simplest possible manner without pomp and circumstance.

    Of course, we do know why the grandeur and posturing took place. It was all for a political show. The lie that Masood Imad was spreading to foreign media deserves to be addressed very seriously. Lying, after all, is a very serious crime for any Muslim to commit. But, here we have a senior regime figure clearly lying, with impunity.

    Where will all this lead us to? I have no idea and my hunch is that we will continue to be at each others throats for at least another generation or so. In the meanwhile the country will descend further into economic and political turmoil.

    There is no saviour in any of the political figures currently on the scene. All of them are tainted in one way or the other. We need a clean and selfless leader to emerge to save us. Perhaps, that's like asking for a miracle!

  6. Powerful, insightful. Yes it is deeply disturbing, painful, that the tragic loss of a sacred human being, a Husband, Son, and Father, was exploited for political gain.

    It is the mutilation of empathy both within ourselves and within others, to USE something so deep, ones sense of grief over the loss of a loved one, for selfish purposes.

    I believe, that we become so ruthlessly power hungry, as a direct result of feeling threatened at a subconscious level, threatened by violence. Extreme power hunger like this is socially constructed.

    It begins with, historical pain and rejection, oppression of the Maldivian, perhaps by the Portuguese, or perhaps there is an even deeper route in all of this related to squabbles between Sri-Lankan Royal Family contenders of ancient times.

    This defensiveness then becomes a culture of hatred of the other, expressed through a discourse on sovereignty and Religious Unity. This hatred, however, once the external threat no longer seems real, is turned in on itself. The leaders, feeling anxious that they are not again hurt, become power hungry, hateful towards their own people, and, in the name of the creation of national unity and sovereignty.

    Seriously, the 'scabs' (to use Tsk Tsk's profound expression) have to be picked at, though tsk tsk no doubt vehemently dismisses my opinion as the intrusion of an outsider, which fits my social hypothesis. I think that underneath the scabs lie wounds which are deeper than most people could imagine, and, this is the reason that in the language of the Dhivehin, sentiments of empathy are repressed, as, it is less painful to become deeply STOIC in defiance, power hunger. It is easier to resist forgiveness and the need for unity, rather than go through the pain of accepting the necessity for genuine self sacrificial love and forgiveness (the reconciliation founded on the TRUTH, as most eloquently described by the deeply wise and compassionate poet who wrote this article.)

  7. Elections is the answer.. soon. what we have right now is an unelected government who came to power on the power of a police mutiny backed by Islamic extremists and a few tourism tycoons... we need people's rule first so we can have justice...

  8. Love all the comments, Khadeeja's response, bin-Suvadheebs, tsk tsk, so much wisdom.

    I want to clarify one point of what I was trying to get at. I would have to have a little more time than the three second spaces every few hours I give myself to elaborate clearly what is in my head without all of the mistakes I make...

    What I was getting at is that, when a nation is wounded, rejected, oppressed, the leadership style becomes defensive. They develop what is known in International relations terminology as deferential politics. This implies that they maintain their own power over all of their own people based on the idea that they are protecting their own people's sovereignty. In Maldives Islam is a big part of this struggle to maintain national sovereignty.

    However, in their insecurity and defensiveness, the leadership act oppressively towards ANY of their own ppl who may have benefited from, or who remind the leadership of, the external force which hurt them in the first place.

    Out of anxious tension, they act oppressively towards their own people. The anxiety, the fear of the other feeds ones greed and power hunger. This is expressed in tyranny against their own people as they seek to build up their own power, and treat others with suspicion, they create a climate of FEAR amongst their own people through spying on, arresting, and watching their own. Of course, the fear that it creates effects allmost everybody in the nation, as, if one can be arrested because of suspicion or unfounded fear that they are sympathetic to the outside, why can't any body be arrested, seems, anybody could be suspected.

    The fear creates tension and a defensive attitude, in all. Many people create HATE within themselves to meet the threat, and, they hate their Government.

    So, there is all of this fear, hate, suspicion, disunity, tyranny, rebellion, militantly stoic attitude created in the name of defending sovereignty, national unity and peace.

    Out of fear, and hatred of the other, which has been created (hate begets hate, suspicion begets suspicion, it tears everyone apart from one another as like a cancer everyone turns that hate and fear against everybody else)

    The true cure for fear, is not hate. You ancestors chose the wrong cure, as hate masks the symptoms but is an even worse disease. The true cure for fear, (of fear), is self sacrificial love and forgiveness.

  9. Mahloof Kills Haleem (not so dhon billeh). It is widely beleived that Waheed guided Mahfool.

  10. @ Shimy

    How about you read what Khadeeja has written , could be an education for you.

  11. @
    i just read it, but that doesn't mean the Gamaaru party can take their heads out of this. they did instigate the attacks verbally in their rallies. they did even attack some police officers in the protests(like the one with temporary memory loss)
    and in my opinion no good political party will do this.
    revenge for revenge will never gain any good, you dork!!

  12. Whoever commented here regarding MDP being innocent is lying to their own conscience!

    We all know how much hatred the RAA bodudhogu tv spread in the 8th of february protests. the police did treat some of the MDPians inhumanely but the malicious lies spread by the TV(like three people being killed) also accounted for the criminal acts carried out in the later rallies.

    so who is trying to bury the truth here??!!

  13. Very interesting article. The author presents strong messages but is politicising the death of the policeman as well. I'm not going to pretend I am not politicising his death because it already is, sad as it is.
    I don't understand why she is being so defensive when people say MDP incites violence. There are countless speeches, tweets,and actions by MDPians that openly incite hatred and violence towards the police and given the current context who wouldnt point fingers at MDP. Nobody is saying that MDP literally killed the man but are saying they are indirectly responsible for it. As a party that works for the good of this country MDP should own up to the negative consequences of their actions, be it direct or indirect. Maumoon never tortured anyone himself (I think!)butwe know that he should take responsibilty for the countless torture cases etc during his regime and in the same manner MDP should take responsibilty, not for Haleem's death , but for the unfortunate consequence of their obvious hate campaign against the police. The motive for killing maybe personal but the murder of a policeman within the current context we cannot rule out environmental drivers. The fact that the murderer was PPM, intoxicated etc do not reduce the responsibility of the government or MDP for empowering criminals in this country.
    MDP needs to stop whining and shying away from taking any responsibility for the negative consequences of their actions and this goes out to all political parties.


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