In a ceremony to celebrate the 79th year of the police service, Police Commissioner Abdullah Riyaz and Minister of Home Affairs Dr Abdullah Jameel announced the promotion of around 1000 police officers – approximately a third of the force.
The appointment of four new Assistant Commissioners was also announced, more than doubling the previous number holding this rank – the third highest position in the service.
Additionally, the police have revealed plans to recruit 200 new officers to the force this year.
Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that these promotions were in line with normal police regulations, and were awarded “based on performance, merit, and number of years served.”
The weekend’s celebrations continued as President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan announced plans to allocate 74,000 square feet of land to develop homes for police personnel.
Dr Waheed also expressed his gratitude for the police’s actions on February 7. “I state that the police worked on February 7 to uphold the constitution of Maldives,” he said.
The anniversary of the police service comes after months of intense scrutiny in which it the service been accused of brutality, human rights abuses and complicity in the downfall of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
On Saturday, Commissioner Riyaz stated that he did not intend to pursue an internal investigation into the alleged events of February 7 and 8, citing the lack of credibility that such an investigation was likely to have.
The unrest on February 8 saw a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest swiftly suppressed by the security forces while the footage of police aggression was beamed around the world.
Instead, Riyaz declared his decision to focus on repairing the organisational damage done to the institution.
“I can’t just come in here and investigate the alleged police brutality as the first order of business. It is essential to establish who was occupying which post first by assessing the organizational structure. The whole institution had been politically influenced,” the Commissioner told Haveeru.
“We all know that the positions within the police institutions had not been assigned in accordance with police regulations and had functioned in violation of the police system. Hence, I am compelled to drag the institution back into its proper system,” said Riyaz.
He also stated that he had discussed any potential investigation with the President and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) shortly after taking up his post, requesting that the HRCM take up the responsibility.
Amnesty International had last week criticised this method of investigation after having spoken to HRCM regarding the investigation of alleged sexual abuse of female detainees.
“HRCM has told Amnesty International that they have serious limitations in terms of trained investigative staff and dealing with human rights issues in a highly politicised environment is an overwhelming challenge for them,” said Amnesty’s representative in Male’, Abbas Faiz.
“By referring cases of police abuse of power to the HRCM, when it is clear that such investigations are beyond its capacity, the government is in effect forfeiting its own responsibility to enforce respect for human rights within the police force,” said Faiz.
President Waheed’s speech at the anniversary’s official function event focussed on the difficult environment the police had found themselves since the upheavals of February.
Waheed called on public to show respect for and cooperation with the police while urging all officers to respect human rights and human dignity in the course of their duties.
The strong public discontent with the police’s role in, and its reaction to, the events of February 7 and 8 has led to simmering tensions which have erupted in sporadic violence.
The President also expressed his sadness at the physical and emotional distress suffered by the police in recent weeks.
The opening of the people’s Majlis on March 19 was accompanied by clashes which saw the police suffer multiple casualties. This was followed by a series of attacks which saw four police officers hospitalised in five days.
Popular discontent also saw the staging of a large rally on March 15 in support of the International Day Against Police Brutality.
Both Commissioner Riyaz and President Waheed have been reported expressing concerns that people in the media were attempting to defame the image of the police force, expressing concern that this was damaging the country.
“I am aware of their contempt towards the institution. I will try to resolve the matter. The biggest challenge would be to win back their trust and confidence,” Riyaz told Haveeru.