MDP slams home minister’s “irresponsible” remarks on Rilwan disappearance, death threats

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has slammed Home Minister Umar Naseer’s “irresponsible” remarks concerning the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and death threats sent to journalists and politicians.

In a press release yesterday, the main opposition party referred to Naseer having stated at a press conference on Thursday (November 6) that it was too early to determine whether Rilwan was kidnapped, abducted, or missing.

Naseer’s remarks were an example of his “incompetence and irresponsibility,” the press release stated.

“And we note that it contradicts his earlier statement about gang involvement in Ahmed Rilwan’s disappearance.”

In an appearance on state broadcaster Television Maldives last month, Naseer said police “already know there is a gang connection to Rilwan’s case.”

Moreover, police arrested four suspects in relation to Rilwan’s alleged abduction, of which one suspect has been held in remand detention for nearly six weeks.

During Thursday’s press conference, Naseer compared Rilwan’s case with the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

“Not every crime is solvable. And when a crime remains unsolved, it does not mean police were negligent. We are doing all we can in Rilwan’s case. We will not leave any stone unturned,” the home minister told reporters.

Rilwan has been missing for 92 days and is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment at 2am on August 8.

Naseer also criticised the opposition for prematurely concluding that Rilwan was abducted.

Rilwan’s family have meanwhile accused the police of negligence and filed a complaint with the Police Integrity Commission,which is currently being investigated.

“If the abduction had been investigated immediately at the right time, the police would have been able to find the victim and clarify if it is our brother or not,” Rilwan’s sister Mariyam Fazna told the press earlier this month.

Despite eyewitnesses having reported the abduction at knifepoint at 2am on August 8, police only took their statements on August 14, the family noted. The police had also failed to track down and search the car used in the abduction.

The police only searched Rilwan’s apartment 29 hours after the abduction was reported and searched his office 11 days afterwards. The police also failed to make a public announcement on Rilwan’s disappearance – despite a request by the family – and did not inform the public on how to act if they had any information related to the case, the family explained further.

The People’s Majlis last week threw out a 5,055 signature petition urging MPs to pressure police for a through and speedy investigation. The parliament secretariat later admitted the rejection was “a mistake,” according to MP Imthiyaz Fahmy who sponsored the petition.

In September, human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network released an investigation report implicating radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance.

Death threats

The MDP press statement also condemned Naseer’s response to a question regarding death threats sent via unlisted or private numbers to journalists and opposition politicians.

Naseer made a “joke” out of the death threats and claimed recipients were not intimidated or scared, the party contended.

The home minister, however, was surrounded by bodyguards provided by the state and had requested pistols earlier this year, the press release added.

Naseer had claimed that the opposition was using the death threats for political gain.

Last week, MDN urged police to expedite investigations of death threats and provide security to journalists while Amnesty International demanded police intensify their efforts to find those responsible for the numerous death threats and violent attacks against journalists.

The Inter Parliamentary Union has previously said the government’s reaction to the death threats would be a test of its democratic credentials.

After meeting with the IPU earlier last month, union member and MDP MP Eva Abdulla raised concerns over the personal safety of MPs and journalists in the Maldives.

Meanwhile, the MDP also expressed concern with the prevailing atmosphere of fear in the country with serial stabbings, violent assaults, drug trafficking, and death threats.

The party contended that the government was failing to prosecute perpetrators who commit crimes in “broad daylight”.

Naseer’s remarks were prompted by his inability to establish domestic peace and security, the party argued.

“The MDP calls on Home Minister Umar Naseer to not make such irresponsible statements and to fulfil the responsibilities of his post,” the press release stated.