“I did not authorise the release of the statement”, Police Integrity Commission (PIC) President Shahindha Islmail has said, a day after the police watchdog released a statement dismissing the reports of police brutality and use of excessive force against Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protesters.
Ismail told Minivan News on Thursday that she did not agree with the point which said police had not used excessive force, and therefore provided clear instructions to revise the draft statement to include the unlawful actions of the police observed by the commission.
However, she confirmed that the statement was released on Wednesday while she was on leave and that none of her suggestions were included, except the point that the protests had turned peaceful since July 21.
“As the protests have changed, I told [the commission members], the time had passed for us to comment on it and it was not a good idea to release the statement now condemning the protesters, as it has a possibility of causing further disruption of the peace,” the PIC President observed.
The contentious PIC statement said that police had not used excessive force to disperse the consecutive protests held by the MDP since early July, and that those protests were only broken up following the “removal of police barricades by the protesters and use of loud speakers after midnight ,and attacks against police with coins, pavement bricks, marble, metal pieces, chili water and plastic water bottles.”
“I did not disagree with the points that the protesters threw water bottles and different things that the police. The main thing I disagreed with was the point that police did not use excessive force. From what I have personally witnessed on the TV coverage and is PIC investigations, it is very clear this is not the case,” said Ismail.
She continued, “There have been several occassions when the police obstructed the protests by putting barricades down, despite the fact that the protests were going on in unrestricted areas. This I believe is a clear violation of people’s constitutional right to peaceful assembly.”
Furthermore, she observed that the “police have been acting in a way it seems to provoke the crowds,” Ismail alleged.
“We saw police officers walk into the crowds [protest] several times. Sometimes, it is to bring the barricades taken by the proterstors or to arrest someone. But, some times it is without any reason. I believe it is a form of provocation from the police side.” Ismail explained.
She added that PIC observers had also witnessed police using foul language with the protesters and sometimes against them: “The police stop it once they realise we are commission observers,” she said.
Asked whether the release of statement reflected attempts by the other commission members to override her authority, PIC President responded: “I don’t think of it as overriding my authority, but they are are trying to undermine me.”
She further claimed that the statement was backed by the commission members who seem to be “biased in favour of the police”. She did not name anyone.
As the watchdog body of the police, Shahinda emphasised that PIC should not take sides between the police and the people, and must always prioritise the role of overseeing whether the police actions were within legal boundaries, and if not, provide instructions of what needed to be improved.
“When the PIC failsto inform police what needs to improved, the police officers who are acting unlawfully will see it as an encouragement to ignore the rule and regulations,” Shahinda contended.
Indicating that it was to late to retract the PIC statement, Ismail noted that the “damage is already done” and “police are likely to participate in further unlawful actions.”