Home Minister Umar Naseer has begun meetings with pro-government MPs about necessary amendments to the laws in the initiative to inhibit gang-related criminal activity.
Naseer met with parliamentarians from ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in Muleeaage yesterday (October 14), as well as meeting with Jumhooree Party parliamentarians at their main campaign offices.
The proposed changes include amendments to the act on stopping gang-related crimes and to laws prohibiting the carrying of sharp weapons as well as a temporary act on stopping gang activity, Naseer told local media.
“The delay in tackling gang related crimes is a deep concern even of parliamentarians. We have now had the chance to confer with them and see what their thoughts on the matter are,” Naseer said.
“Reactions from parliamentarians of both Jumhooree Party and Progressive Party of Maldives were positive to my recommendations. At the moment, I cannot share further details of the suggested changes,” Umar Naseer told Minivan News today.
Earlier in the week, however, Naseer explained to local media some of the changes he proposed to bring to these acts.
Changes include the introduction of “soft curfews” on identified gang members, changes in the process of completing an investigation, in taking the matter to court, and in the completion of criminal cases in court.
“The problem is the period between these two regimes. After police concludes an investigation and the case is sent to court, it sometimes takes from 2 to 3 to even 10 years before the court presides over the case,” he is quoted as saying.
Naseer has previously spoken of concerns about the lack of cooperation between police and the Criminal Court.
On August 4, Naseer stated in parliament that a “special police operation” was ongoing to curb gang violence in the capital following a spate of violent assaults in recent days.
He went on to suggest that the problem was exacerbated by insufficient police resources, revisions being required for certain laws, and drug trafficking.
Special efforts from police resulted in the dismantling of ‘gang huts’ around the capital, before President Abdulla Yameen called a halt to the process, announcing that the government would instead seek more comprehensive solutions to the issue.
Following his unsuccessful campaign in the 2013 PPM presidential primary, Umar Naseer accused fellow candidate Yameen of having links to criminal gangs and the drug trade. Since being appointed home minister, however, Naseer has retracted these accusations.
The home minister announced in September that the police had identified about 30 gangs, with 50 gang leaders and 500 gang members operating in the country, especially on the streets of Malé.
He added that 13 of these 30 gangs can be considered as “highly dangerous”.
He said at the time that the government is planning an ‘attack’ to address the increase in gang related crimes – including assault, murder, and drug offences.
The issue of gang violence has become increasingly prominent in recent years, with stabbings and intimidation of journalists covering these crimes becoming commonplace.
A series of attacks on the offices and homes of journalists and MPs last month prompted concern from the EU at the level of gang activity in the country, while a private investigation into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan suggested radicalised gangs may have been involved.
A 2012 study of the Maldives’ gang culture by the Asia Foundation revealed that “political and business elites” exploit gangs to carry out a range of illegal activities including the suppression of opponents and carrying out tasks to help maintain popularity or divert media attention from political issues.