Comment: In defence of Scottish Police training the Maldives’ police service

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have just become aware of the Guardian article ‘Maldives police accused of civil rights abuses being trained by Scottish police’ and feel obliged to make comment since I am mentioned in it but wasn’t consulted for a view on the matter.

I spent some time in the Maldives as an independent Police Consultant having been invited by the then Commissioner Adam Zahir to conduct a root and branch review of the Maldives Police Service practices and procedures in the capital Male’. My 2006 report made a total of 76 recommendations for improvement, 95 percent of which were later approved by the Force Executive.

I also spent some time assisting with the implementation of many of these recommendations and was quite confident that real progress was made in developing the service being provided to the public by what was, in effect, a fledgling police force in a developing country.

I was not alone in providing this type of assistance and worked alongside officers from the Australian Police and members of the Scottish Police College and was in fact personally instrumental in introducing the College Training input to them.

My presence in the Maldives was generated by a desire by both the police hierarchy and the government of the day who, to their credit, recognised the need for developmental training for their police staff to devise, implement and improve the delivery of a sound community-based policing model. I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and cooperation I received at all levels to achieve this end.

Quite clearly, radical change in any organisation takes time to establish itself and I was under no naive illusions when I left the country at the end of my contract that it wouldn’t take a while for the changes to become thoroughly embedded in the policing culture. I was content however that they were on track to become a much more efficient and effective law enforcement agency.

The somewhat unforeseen political developments which have taken place in the Maldives since I left are not my concern nor of my making. I spent my professional life in a policing environment which was completely divorced from political interference in operational matters, which is exactly the way it should be everywhere.

That said, any breaches of human rights which have taken place in the country and attributed to law enforcement officers are a real concern to everyone and can only serve to hinder the progress the Maldives makes into becoming a modern democratic state. Misconduct by police officers in any of the ways alleged is highly troubling and needs to be vigorously dealt with and stamped out by the organisation.

Notwithstanding, it is of considerable concern to me that Severin Carrell’s article in the Guardian seeks to establish a connection between my training input and that of the Scottish Police College and others to the alleged “thuggish” and “brutal” conduct of a minority of police officers in Male’, the inference being that the Scottish Police connection has been wholly inadequate or that I/we actually trained them or somehow influenced them to behave in that way, a thought process that is almost too ludicrous to contemplate.

The Scottish Police College can speak for themselves but it is quite obvious to me that elements of the opposition parties and others with axes to grind in the Maldives are mischief making in taking advantage of the current situation and have manipulated the platform of the Guardian newspaper to attack the integrity of the police, whom they see as an arm of the current government, and that the Guardian took the bait hook, line and sinker, producing an article which is so one-sided and biased that it barely merits the column inches it inhabits. The tack it takes however also by implication taints me personally and it is not in my nature to let that pass unchallenged.

The quotes cherry-picked from my 2006 report about the force’s Special Operations Command and used in the Guardian article – an “openly paramilitary organisation” and a “macho elite … most of whom lack basic police training” – were some of many comments intended as constructive criticism of different facets of the force and which formed the basis for structured improvements. Notably the Guardian fails to mention that as a result of these comments the SOC subsequently underwent considerable developmental training in an effort to correct the issues I highlighted.

It is well known in the Maldives and worth commenting on that opposition political parties pay gangs of youths to infiltrate so-called ‘peaceful demonstrations’ and thereby generate violent confrontations with the police to discredit them, but I also note no mention is made by Severin Carrell about that either.

Recent events in the streets of the UK involving some of the worst rioting in living memory serve to highlight that even in so-called developed democracies situations arise where policing is tested to the utmost and mistakes are made in dealing with them. While I abhor the abuse of power by any law enforcement agency it is easy with the benefit of hindsight for people who weren’t there to sit in a cosy armchair and criticise actions taken or not taken by officers at such highly charged scenarios where in reality the use of pepper sprays and batons can often be both justified and legal.

Quite a long period of my police career involved working in a complaints and discipline role and I am the first to advocate harsh treatment of serving police officers who break the rules of their office, especially when it involves blatant criminal behaviour, but it is a different matter altogether when fingers are randomly pointed and uncorroborated accusations are made in the thinly disguised name of a political cause and spread across a UK national newspaper in furtherance of that.

Since working in the Maldives I have an affiliation with the country and its people and the work I did there was genuinely focused on helping to make it a better place to live and work. The fact that things now seem to be unraveling to an extent saddens me a great deal but it is disingenuous in the extreme for anyone to pursue their personal objectives by inferring wholly innocent individuals are somehow to blame for it all.

I would suggest that, as well as apologising to me, if the Guardian wants to get involved in such matters as the Maldives crisis it takes a less naive and more balanced approach and looks much more searchingly at everything going on there, as well as giving more credit for the positive things that have been achieved by dedicated people. Impugning the professional integrity of those striving to do good things may be the Guardian’s idea of a good story but I doubt if many right thinking people would agree.

A final word – the present Commissioner of the Maldives Police Service, Abdulla Riyaz, is a well respected, dedicated and fair minded individual of the highest integrity who has devoted his professional career to the improvement of policing services in his country. I have worked closely with him in the past before he was appointed to his current position and I hold him in high regard. He is well able to defend his own position and actions but I feel it is grossly unfair for his considerable achievements to be undermined in the way this Guardian article has done.

Scottish Police Superintendent (retired), John Robertson, was an independent police consultant to the Maldives Police Service in 2006 and 2008.

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]


19 thoughts on “Comment: In defence of Scottish Police training the Maldives’ police service”

  1. But the riot Police is been train from Australia thy train them wen MDP start protesting wen the reformed agenda begins on Parliament to reform Constitution.

    The training was done in Male' by Visiting from Australia

  2. Dear Mr Robertson, I think you are deluded to think the current police commissioner is untainted and honorable man.. Have you not followed the events that saw him become the police commissioner...? After reading your defense of him, I am now fully convinced that you are totally ignorant of the state of Maldives police including the brutality unleashed by the current commissioner on innocent peacefully protesting civilians. I think if you keep quite in your senior age it may serve better as then you won't get more criticism.

  3. Well said.Everything happens in front of our eyes.Highly rate this article for revealing the truth.

  4. It would've been fine if your line of defence was, let's say, "we are training Police to be more responsible and balanced, and that should be considered a good for the nation". But no, you had to defend Riyaz and piss on the opposition for "violence". That brings me to the point, your only concern is the paycheck, isn't it?

  5. It is possible that the Scottish Police Superintendent (retired), John Robertson had good intention, and tried his best to give consultancy and try and implement policing with no political interference!

    Mr. John Robertson should have POLICED better before writing this article!

    Mr. John Robertson better police how Riyaz has managed to acquire wealth that is being neatly stacked with others!
    How he managed to acquire multi millon dollar worth yachts and businesses!

    Also before coming to the end of the story Mr. John Robertson had to say, he should have policed both Adam Zahir and Riyas, what close link they had, and which path they took to after being given consultancy and working to implement what was being told!

    The final word can never erase the fact, of what brutal and undistinguished stuff today's policing in the Maldives is!

  6. You Scottish idiot!!

    "A final word – the present Commissioner of the Maldives Police Service, Abdulla Riyaz, is a well respected, dedicated and fair minded individual of the highest integrity who has devoted his professional career to the improvement of policing services in his country. "

    No, you foreign, naive, fool. Riyaz is a vicious, violent thug who helped orchastrate a coup against our first democratically elected president.

    Goodness, has this man been eating poisoned haggis or something?!

  7. Mr Robertson, I don't think Guardian newspaper has fallen for anything, they have only done a thoroughly researched investigative article in which you are implicated.. and now you have possibly taken a bribe from thug Riyaz to clear his and your names... that's what I believe after reading you defense of the next most notorious and brutal police chief the Maldives has seen after Adam Zahir... do you know who these guys are or have you been misled?

  8. With all due respect Mr. John Robertson. You can't undo or cover-up something which happened in front of our eyes. You cannot cover up the brutality of the force you trained, and you cannot make heroes out of traitors.

  9. John Robertson,

    Your intentions were noble, you sought to share your experiences and bring about a well meaned change to the Maldives Police Service. The actions of police officers in Maldives who were the catalyst in bringing about the change in government of Maldives cannot be attributed or blamed on someone who gave them training.

    The comments of some of the people above are ridden with hatred, who will seek to attack anyone who doesnt agree with their view that Feb 7 is a coup.

    Before the commission of national inquiry issued out the CONI report, MDP organised mass protests with placecards stating that Maldivians were with the commonwealth, and the current govt should bow to Commonwealth's decisions. Yet when the official commission of national inquiry report came out with the conclusion that a coup had not occured, and the Commonwealth endorsed it, suddenly the commonwealth representative Don Makinon became Doctor Doom for the MDP, a co-conspirater in their supposed coup. The same happened with the Indian Ambassador Mulay, who was accused of master-minding the coup. From the Singaporean judge Selvam to the international observers in the Commission of National inquiry none has been spared of MDP's wrath, and stories have been cooked up and spread like wildfire of bribes, and conspiracies.

    As the saying goes, if you're not with us, then you're against us and if you dont believe our side of the story, you're cannon fodder for us. Screw the truth, whatever happened to our party was not fair game, and that justifies us to use whatever method and whatever tales we can cook up so as to discredit the other side. It doesnt necessarily have to be true, it just has to be outrageous and generate enough headlines.

    You my dear friend were a sitting duck, and irrespective of the consequences and irrespective of the truth MDP was willing to roast you like the sitting duck you were. The target was not simply you, the target was to discredit and defame the current govt, and the Maldives Police Service and they were willing to drive their steam-roller over you so as to bring credibility to their side of the story. Little things as facts and people'e reputations and images being lost dont matter to them, heck we have people like Farahanaz Faisal hell bent on destroying the entire tourism industry of Maldives by calling out to people in the UK to boycott resorts of the maldives ignoring the impacts that such fool-hardy calls have on families of Maldivians who work in the resorts. (Sadly she's been very successful in this). According to them, anyone who doesnt agree with their opinion that a coup occured, they will target and destroy. Resorts, ambassadors, people who trained the Police, anyone.

    It doesnt need a nuclear bomb to devastate a nation. Why all it takes is a lunatic with some connections who can cook up any tall-tales so as to destroy an entire economy.

    It is sad that international newspapers like Guardian publish one-sided news about Maldives, without giving the other side (in this case, the govt) the chance to submit their side of the story.

    Where is the patriotism people ? Just because you guys support MDP, doesnt mean that they have to destroy the entire nations image so as to get their view across that a coup happened. And look at the destruction this has brought to an innocent person such as John Robertson, who has become ostrazied in the media for simply doing his job - training cops.

    What next ? Is Farahanaaz Faisal going to pin the label on Italian companies who supply boots to Maldives Police ? Or French companies that supply boxers and underwear ? Perhaps she'll submit a petition to the European union to publicize a statement that condemns the companies that supply's boxers and underwear to Maldives, accusing them of assisting officer post-coup ? When is this madness going to stop ?

  10. Mr. Robertson. I am quite convinced you mean well, but you are talking abut a different reality. The facts speak against your assessment of our police force. Perhaps you regard your work in the Maldives as a great contribution to policing in general, and it must be hard when its effectiveness is questioned. But you damage your credibility by calling Mr. Riyaz 'dedicated and 'fair-minded'. I also cannot help feeling that your article implies that anyone who stands up against the status quo is a trouble maker. Is this a typical policeman's response? Or perhaps you have been in the business of policing for too long and have forgotten that there are times when people must stand up against what is morally wrong. In supporting Riyaz, you are supporting some of the the worst human rights abuse this country has seen.

  11. "A final word – the present Commissioner of the Maldives Police Service, Abdulla Riyaz, is a well respected, dedicated and fair minded individual of the highest integrity who has devoted his professional career to the improvement of policing services in his country"

    LOL Mr. Robertson's opinion is too absurd to refute - it would be akin to arguing with the Flat Earth society.

  12. Anyone who are not in favor of Nasheed are traitors ?

    What is going on with these Nasheed and his associates. They think that Maldivian are only them and other have no brain.

    Majority of Maldivian do not like Nasheed and his friends and you are a big time failure and you have no capacity to run our nations and you need to rule your own house and not the country.

  13. Anni only tried to cure the woman(Maldives)who had been raped violently by gayyomm and his pones. And some don't like him for that.

  14. "attack the integrity of the police, whom they see as an arm of the current government"
    @Mr.Robertson:This is really the case.Opposition be it MDP or PPM labels Police as an arm of the Party in power and there is truth to it.This will change the day when Officers stop acting like sheep and follow orders within the law.In order to do that we need a generation of professional,well trained personal with a good educational background(most of the current officers would not even qualify for a foot soldiers post since police recruitment procedures are same as 1940s).

    "A final word – the present Commissioner of the Maldives Police Service, Abdulla Riyaz, is a well respected, dedicated and fair minded individual of the highest integrity who has devoted his professional career to the improvement of policing services in his country"

    As someone who had to work closely to Mr.Riyaz for past 10 years, I have to disagree and would like to advise you to stay away from him.

  15. Adam Zahir and Abdulla Riyaz and the "Animals" who ever trained and bred them in the "Special Operations Force" of the Maldivian Police are well known both locally and internationally!

    I believe that many Organizations, Authorities and so on have been calling for a halt to their brutal activity!

    Mr. Robertson's so called "Consultancy" and his engagement in assisting implementation of the many recommendations he recommended falls within the times when Maldives was going through a phase of "coming into Democracy", and the time when the local Police were being trained by Australian Police and Scottish Police College personnel.

    Mr. Robertson seems to be trying to defend the current PC, and the then hierarchy as well trying to find a way out of the mess made out of the Consultancy he had given and the recommendations he made! Or, is trying for another "Consultancy"!

    I think The Guardian should find more about the relationships between Mr. Robertson, Ex Commissioner of Police (retired), Adam Zahir, his then Deputy, but today the Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz!

  16. Yeah, this was a good article until the part where it defended Riyaz then it went down the drain.

    Riyaz is nothing more than a violent thug who is backing, fueling and defending the corrupt elements of the Police. What can a good policeman do when everyone else is so corrupt?

    It was Riyaz, DRP, PPM and the 23 Coalition that corrupted and politicized the police force. Nothing less than a complete overhaul and a cleaning up of the higher powers in the police force can a good non politically aligned police force be created.

  17. @ John Robertson (the writer of the letter).

    How in the world could you give your judgement on an individual with whom you've spent a few days?

    And just how the heck can you justify the dishonest bank cheques (relating to his private businesses) that Riyaz has issued while being the deputy Police Commissioner when Nasheed was the president?

    How would you justify the day when Riyaz being a dismissed officer (due to the huge dishonest bank cheques) and being just a mere civilian (and also being officially attached with a political party) walks into a mutiny-situation and calls for the resignation of an elected president?

    How would you justify the integrity of such a person?

    How do you explain the news, pictures, videos of all these together with all the violence, state terrorism, bloodshed and atrocities committed by members of the police since 06th Feb 2012 and till present day?

    Presuming that you're still not blind of your old age (since you're retired); I suggest you to Google and do your re-search.


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