The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed caution following the Commonwealth’s decision to assign a security expert to observe police conduct during the 2013 presidential election.
The opposition party this week questioned the Commonwealth’s previous lack of success in ensuring security force reforms, adding that it remained “highly suspicious” of Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz’s conduct in the build up to the election.
Police announced this week that the Commonwealth had appointed Eldred de Klerk to assist with ensuring election security, a decision they declared was in line with “international best practices” after requesting the intergovernmental organisation provide consultancy services.
Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz met with de Klerk in Male’ on Sunday (August 26) to discuss his planned work ahead of the election.
Minivan News understands a similar request was made to the UN, which opted instead to work with others members of the international community to try and ensure the “smooth running” of next month’s election. Despite rejecting the police service’s request, a UN source today said it appreciated the Commonwealth’s contribution.
The Maldives Police Service earlier this month launched an operation to send large numbers of police officers to islands in preparation for the presidential election with the stated aim of ensuring voting goes peacefully.
Riyaz is also the subject of an ongoing Police Integrity Commission (PIC) investigation over whether he contravened regulations on political neutrality by publishing a letter written by a third party on Twitter urging officers to “say no” to former President Mohamed Nasheed.
The PIC has maintained that it had received no formal complaints concerning the tweet, but was instead investigating the case on the commission’s “own initiative”.
Contacted today on the status of its investigation into the post, the PIC said it was not the commission’s policy to give details of an ongoing case, while also declining to provide a time-line for whether such a “complicated” matter would be finished before September 7.
In July, Commissioner Riyaz said his institution would continue to refuse any orders it deems “unconstitutional”, after expressing concerns over leaked proposals allegedly devised by the MDP to reform the country’s security forces.
MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party was cautious at the Commonwealth’s decision to provide an elections security consultant after it’s lack of success in ensuring the police reforms called for in the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report it had backed.
“We will have to wait to find out if the Commonwealth is actually trying to help diffuse mutinous elements [in the police],” said Ghafoor.
The CoNI report was mandated to ascertain the truth behind the MDP’s allegations that former President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign from office on February 7, 2012, due to a “coup d’etat”, after sections of the police and military mutinied against the government.
While the CoNI report concluded there was “no coup, no duress and no mutiny” behind the change of government, the findings did urge changes to the country’s judiciary, legislature, certain independent institutions, and the police service.
The MDP added that it currently had no plans to meet with the Commonwealth’s election security consultant despite its concerns.
“It would be up to the consultant to come and talk with us,” Ghafoor said. “All we know is, if police try to cause any disruption during the election, all hell is going to break loose.”
Despite the MDP’s concerns, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said the party welcomed the Commonwealth’s appointment of a security specialist to assist with ensuring election security ahead of what was likely to be a “highly competitive election”.
Nihan said that although police should have no role in running the election or visiting polling stations – unless required by the country’s Elections Commission (EC) – it was important that officers were present in case of significant disruption.
“Things can go wrong in any given circumstance,” he said, reiterating concerns expressed earlier this week by his party that “major incidents” on the day of voting could compromise a free and fair vote.
Elections Commission criticism
The PPM maintained that it was more concerned with the competency of the country’s EC and its commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek ahead of next month’s vote – rather than security issues with the police.
Nihan maintained that the PPM, along with election rival the Jumhoree Party (JP), were more concerned at what it alleged was the “mishandling” of the upcoming election by the EC, expressing particular concern over whether the commission’s president was fit for the post.
He accused the EC over the last two and a half months of failing to address the party’s concerns about holding free and fair polls, claiming it “could have done better”, while also questioning the timing of allowing IT experts from India to be programming software for the commission. Nihan accused the EC of only offering rebuttals to the party’s concerns.
However, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek this week told Minivan News that he had met with a PPM delegation several times in the build up to voting, providing what he called detailed queries to their questions.
“Every time [the EC has met with the PPM] we have very clearly explained everything to them, answered all their queries and gave very detailed responses to them,” he said. “But there are some demands that we cannot meet. For example, one of their demands was to see our IT section. They wanted to see the hardware and software of our network system, which we cannot do and we are not ready to do for the safety and security of our system.”
The Maldives NGO Federation last week expressed concern that political parties were attempting to discredit the Elections Commission (EC) by inciting hatred toward the institution in an effort to obstruct the holding of a free and fair presidential election.