Comment: How do you solve a problem like the Maldives Police Service?

Today marks 79 years of Policing in the Maldives. Pity, that it has become so controversial an issue to appreciate.

A mistrust of the Maldivian police and security services has been ingrained in me for most of my life. I grew up with stories of arbitrary arrests, brutality in jails, and the concept that the police were not there to protect and serve my interests, but those of their immediate superiors. In fact, one of the fundamental things that I had to accept in 2008, after the country’s first multi-party Presidential election, was the idea that the Police were no longer ‘enemies’, or even the ‘golha-force’, but very much part of the apparatus of state that any government had to take into consideration. It wasn’t an easy task.

Controlling my body not to shudder at the sight of a blue camouflaged uniform and black ankle boots, and understanding that not every arrest the police made was arbitrary. Most of all learning to trust the police took time, commitment and a lot of stubbornness. Maybe that sense of apprehension and mistrust went both ways.

No doubt, the prospect of a MDP government would have filled most senior police officers with a high sense of foreboding. After all, these were the very people that they had seen on the other side of an investigation table, inside a jail cell and on the street loudly confronting them at every given opportunity. Let’s not take lightly the extent to which the police were a political tool of Maumoon’s authoritarian regime, and as a result, that they were very much a product of the democratic reform process in the Maldives at that time.

The Maldives Police Service was created in September 2004. Mostly out of the need to placate the international community, and to perform a PR exercise after the human rights debacle that was 12/13 August 2004.

Instead of policing duties being conducted by the National Security Service or the Army, we got the Maldives Police Service and the Maldives National Defence Force. Basically – blue and green uniforms. Two hastily divided institutions plunged into a fast-changing political environment to which they were inextricably tied. Millions were poured into the MPS – equipment, training, strategic action plans, philosophies of policing and of course, new blue uniforms. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the training went into how to use new equipment rather than how to Police within new democratic laws. Of course, Adam Zahir being at the helm was never going to help. Neither did the Hussain Solah incident, especially after Evan Naseem.

Nonetheless, the MPS emerged as an institution with heavy amounts of funding, a select group of highly educated officers, very young, not always disciplined recruits and a top brass that was intent on maintaining the status quo. Many in the top brass had spent years in the NSS, looked up to individuals like Adam Zahir as father figures and in some cases, had managed to log quite a few ‘favours’ through the Maumoon regime and therefore were heavily indebted. Add to this the ‘Star Force’, the frontline of an authoritarian defence whose very existence and modus operandi depended on the long leash of their superiors and government.

During the establishment of the MPS, human rights discourse, although in the Maldivian mainstream and a significant facet of the MPS PR machine, had not and it now seems has not filtered through to the officer on the street. The MDP government due to their personal histories of being victims of human rights violations and their voicing out against police brutality faced greater pressure to ensure that these incidents did not take place under their watch.

Political prisoners were no longer an issue, but it would be unfair to say that maltreatment of detainees in jails completely disappeared. We could say it lessened significantly and that it was no longer systematic. There was definitely more oversight, with the Human Rights Commission and the Police Integrity Commission, but it was still a work in progress. A work in progress, which was focusing on issues such as the reduction of drugs, terrorism, gang violence and theft rather than simply on political protests.

Yes, the whole institution still unnecessarily stuttered at the sight of a protest, but there was more to the ‘Protect and Serve’ during the last three years than ever before. I suppose however, that ‘works in progress’ – especially in an infant democracy – are vulnerable, and leadership was not always forthcoming.

The extent of its vulnerability and the ability to which outside forces with vested interests managed to manipulate the disenchanted and politicised officers on the inside was evident on 7 February 2012. As a result, I find myself asking, ‘now what?’

Now that the police have played such an inexplicably outrageous role in engineering a coup and bringing down the country’s first democratically elected government – who are they protecting and serving now?

It cannot be the Maldivian people. No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall, however much you hate Anni and the MDP, I cannot imagine that many people genuinely condone the actions of the police on 6-8 Feb. Unless you’re vicious Visam (MP) of course!

I for one condemn it with every fibre of my being. I don’t believe that all police officers participated or even supported the actions of the mutinying officers on the 6th night. Many went along out of an ill-begotten sense of camaraderie to their fellow officers who they believed would have been arrested by the MNDF. As they should have been – nothing justifies a coup. Especially the very politicised actions that preceded it.

I understand that many officers who don’t accept this new situation can’t just up and leave, be it because of a need to provide for their families or a sense of duty to an institution that they have helped develop, but it is difficult to remember this when faced with footage of the carnage that was February 8 and the stories that have followed since.

The re-emergence of individuals like [Police Commissioner] Abdulla Riyaz is frightening. He may have undergone a course in customer needs and conducting business through social media, but the nature of the man remains the same: brutal. Unapologetically so.

As such, the use of force although granted to policemen by law, seems again far too easy a whim for officers to use rather than a measure to be taken in the gravest of circumstances. The fact that they have to be accountable to their actions, that they must provide a greater example, is non-existent. That Abdulla Riyaz is surrounded by deputies who seem to either share his beliefs or are willing to silently submit to it is scary, that his superiors are opportunistic nitwits like Jameel and FA is even more chill inducing, and most of all that the Police Integrity Commission is powerless, is incredibly frightening.

So, how do I feel about the police now? Scared. Infuriated. Frustrated. And heartbreakingly disappointed. On the 79th anniversary of Policing in the Maldives, I do not wish Police Officers hearty congratulations. Instead, I wish for them a sense of responsibility and understanding of their role in the disruption of a democratic state. I continue to wish that action will be taken against officers who so blatantly violated the police act and abused unarmed citizens. I call for somebody to be held accountable for the actions of Police officers on February 8, I call for a re-evaluation of the need of the ‘Special Operations’ Unit, and I call for the resignations of Abdulla Riyaz, Hussain Waheed, Abdulla Phairoosh, FA and Jameel. And I call for an early election.

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17 thoughts on “Comment: How do you solve a problem like the Maldives Police Service?”

  1. It is time for the Maldivians to get rid of the Maumoon regime's controlling apparatus and rebuild the police and army anew - not to serve the vested interests of big business and dictators, but the people.

    Hasta la vista, worms.

  2. The Police should serve and protect the people, not empower and insure a corrupt dictatorship of Gayoom,s control.

  3. Cant agree with Annabeela more!
    I reiterate the call for somebody to be held accountable for the actions of Police officers on February 8, I call for a re-evaluation of the need of the ‘Special Operations’ Unit, and I call for the resignations of Abdulla Riyaz, Jameel and Waheed. And I call for an early election.

  4. couldnt agree more! it is very difficult to end a dictator ship and rebuild a nation. especially a nation like ours, with a very small populace,developing world where culture runs deep with traditions of begging and favors and living off of others misery no matter at what cost.

  5. Holy shit i thought this one was giving us a solution, but alas no.

  6. Policemen in any force anywhere in the world has to follow the chain of command.They cannot break the chain and act on their own even if they have to act against what they blv is r8.What best they can do is resign if it is a personal belief or else if it is a common view or unlawful order,they can quit work en mass and demand their rights.

    Who failed the ppl of Maldives on the 7th of Feb?It was police commissioner Faseeh and Moosa Jaleel of the defence force.What bigger failure can the commanders of the forces be than to c their own men refuse to obey their orders!that's worse than any court martial!These are the two ppl who have the key to all the answers that will decide whether it was a coup or legitimate or not!They have not yet even spoken in their defence when the whole country is bng turned upside down to dcd whther its a coup or not!

    Forget an institution like the police force,even for a private company to function normally you need to have respect,harmony,understanding and motivation within.Nasheed had neglected the forces and had made them work like slaves doing decoration and construction work for SAARC summit etc and increment in pay n promotions were empty promises.On top of that they had to act on unconstitutional orders and were facing the wrath of the public everyday who were threatening to sue individual officers while the government was urging to use more force to shutdown the protests!Next they saw criminals set free on the roads to attack protesters.A cheif judge of the country was in jail and pro-government MP's were calling to abandon the courts!!Practically speaking, Rule of law was lost in the country!There was a big vacuum created and without rule of law there is no democracy!What followed was something that was unavoidable unless Nasheed was willing to relent and give the judge a free trail in court and if he wanted to reform the judiciary done it though the elected parliament!Nasheed decided to resign rather than bend down to the will of the constitution and democratic principles!this is as simple as dat!
    If anything, the police have reenforced Rule of Law in the country which is laudable!

    As for fearing maldivian police so much, you need to have a taste of how it feels like to be in the hands of any UNIFORMED policemen in any country in the region or in today's world even in europe and elsewhere where policemen are getng ever increasing r8s to arbitrary arrest n detention due to anti terror and secuirty laws.All police forces even in the west are constantly scrutinized by human r8s orgs alwez and ppl like Amnesty have become world famous only by doing that!This is a universal problem that can end only with the death of human vanity and greed becox armed policemen afterall are the very people supposedly enforcing the law.That seems impossible so atleast every1,starting from the president himself- can start giving more authority and respect to the written law of the state, because the LAW will be our salvation if injustice is done to any of us.

  7. Strengthening the institution of the Police requires several legal and institutional reforms that the Nasheed regime could not and did not advocate for. These include;

    - Amending the Police Act to remove the Home Minister's power to command the police force thereby decreasing political influence over them.

    - In the absence of strong local government institutions we are required to continue the practice of maintaining central command over a national police force. Therefore we need to allow for the Police Commissioner to be appointed through a nationally representative process. Elections are costly so an appointment made through Parliament might be to everyone's benefit.

    - Strengthening the local oversight body, the Police Integrity Commission. It needs to act as a more effective guarantee of preventing excessive use of force, unfair treatment or breach of law by the police. The current PIC lacks teeth and should coordinate more with Parliament's Security Forces Scrutiny Committee.

    - Ensure continuity in police operations by guaranteeing job security for heads of Police under the rank of Commissioner.

    - Maintain consistency in enforcement of laws regulating political public assemblies. The law itself is adequate at the moment however there have been inconsistencies in how the law is applied. Participants in political assemblies should be made aware of their rights and the rights of police officers in policing them.

    We need to stop focusing on personalities and individuals as systemic issues can never be solved if our solution to them is to replace one person with the other.


  8. People respond to incentives, business as usual after a crime, encourages more crime. There is no incentive not to carry out another coup if those involved do not pay for their crimes.

    What we need is a proper revolution, not just changes in names and faces. Gasim and cohorts, the senior officers involved, need to be made an example of.

    Then years afterward a businessman, a police officer contemplating a shortcut to power would arrive at the conclusion that the personal price exacted from them would be too terrible. A strong incentive is needed.

    Crime flourishes where criminals go unpunished. This country needs to be burned if necessary, but we must not allow this travesty of justice to pass unpunished.

    A paradigm shift in thinking is needed. Law abiding citizens need to understand and recognize good and evil in all its forms. We need more people to be disgusted with coup organizers celebrating amicably in suits. But sadly the discourse is about the "indecent" behavior of MPs protesting the coup in the Majlis.

  9. Sadly, the 3 yrs of MDP government failed to bring meaningful reforms to the MPS that was slowly becoming a modern service oriented organization. In contrast, the political medling of MDP government reversed the slow reforms it was seeing also (the appointment of 3 DCPS in 2010). While Nasheed was taking radical actions to reform other organizations,including the MNDF, he also wanted to keep the police as it is, so that it could be, perhaps, used as a political tool. The way promotions were given to the very people that MDP is now critisizing, is eidence to that. Whatever changes MPS witnessed during last 3 yrs has litle to do with govt or gvt policies, but it is the result of few reform minded young, educated individuals who were influencing reforms.

  10. People! Just stop untrue narrative about police. this is all propaganda. Anni is just a politician and his only aim is to come to the office again. That's not bad even. Its a politicians job to work hard to achieve the position. A good worker is a hardworker, understadn?

    Whatever happened on that fateful day Anni resigned, it happened because of him. He is just inexperienced to command military. If he had let the military top brass deal with the situation, he would still be cic. So just chill and shutup, there is no coup, Waheed and buruma are not capable of designing something like a coup! I would batha lonu laigen nukaan if they can even organize a wedding party event! 🙂

  11. In reality the country or the government of Nasheed did not did not fail the people of this country to justify a mutiny within the Police and MNDF. It is more justified now because there are more people against this Baaghee government than the days led up to the coup. The mutinous police are not loyal to the nation. They are still loyal to the old corrupt system of the dictator. Nasheed's government did not bestow them untold benefits that the dictator did. So the disgruntled golhaa force had always been waiting for this chance promised by the Golhaa. The place need a good clean up for a decent service to the community and to regain the respect lost.

  12. Baggi Gayoom has corrupted police force to the core. We have to start from scratch and get rid of the the current police leadership.

  13. Simple! Give a job to Sabra Nooredeen from Intelligence and give more jobs to Zuhair (Juha) and the likes!

  14. I wonder where juha zuhair is now.

    He is the perfect comedian. No body else I know can speak while his tongue is sleeping.


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