The restriction of the home minister’s prerogative to order individual police officers has not affected police effort’s to combat gang violence, Home Minister Umar Naseer insisted in parliament today.
Appearing for minister’s question time, Naseer explained that the home minister could no longer issue direct orders to police officers due to “changes” made to his mandate by President Abdulla Yameen, who exercised “his discretion under the law”.
“However, there has been no change to the role of police in this country. Police are fulfilling their responsibilities and will continue to do so,” Naseer insisted, adding that “special measures” were being taken to ensure security in the capital Malé.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) alleged yesterday that “the present climate of fear in Malé and several islands began to escalate following [Naseer’s] constitutional powers as the minister in charge of police being reduced”.
Local daily Haveeru reported last week that President Yameen’s decision to reduce the home minister’s powers came after Naseer ordered police officers to investigate Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb – deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – for alleged unlawful activities.
Contrary to Naseer’s remarks today, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali had denied any changes to the home minister’s mandate.
Naseer meanwhile told MPs today that a “special police operation” was ongoing to curb gang violence in the capital following a spate of violent assaults during the past six days.
Naseer suggested that the problem was exacerbated by insufficient police resources, revisions required for “some laws”, and drug trafficking.
Crime in the Maldives stemmed from drug use, Naseer said, adding that efforts to combat drug trafficking have increased “manifold” under the current administration.
Efforts were currently underway to renovate and upgrade the rehabilitation centre in Himmafushi, he noted.
The government would continue “supply reduction” and “harm reduction” efforts, he added, reiterating that a period of 15 years would be needed with a “sustained effort” by successive administrations to address the country’s drug problem.
Asked by PPM MP Ahmed Nihan if there was any intelligence information suggesting that opposition politicians were behind the gang violence in a “deliberate attempt to incite unrest”, Naseer said he could not share confidential information at “an open forum”.
“But I would say that it is likely that scheming by some people might be involved in what’s going on now,” he said.
Naseer was summoned to the People’s Majlis today after a question was tabled by MDP MP Eva Abdulla concerning his allegations made in the wake of losing the PPM presidential primary to Yameen in March 2013.
Naseer had contended that the election was “rigged” and alleged that criminal gangs, convicts and drug smuggling “networks” were part of Yameen’s campaign team.
The PPM subsequently expelled Naseer from the party after he refused to apologise.
Asked how far any investigation of the president’s links to gangs and drug trafficking had progressed, Naseer said he was not legally obliged to answer the question as the remarks preceded his appointment as home minister and was not related to his present duties.
Naseer had previously retracted the allegations and categorically asserted that there were no links between Yameen and criminal enterprises.
In an interview with Minivan News in January, Naseer had dismissed the allegation as “political rhetoric” borrowed from the MDP.
Moreover, in April, Naseer told state broadcaster Television Maldives that he was “not a political threat” to Yameen.
At today’s sitting, Naseer repeatedly alleged that former President Mohamed Nasheed encouraged drug use and had resigned in “a state of intoxication”.
Nasheed would test positive for drug use “even if his urine is tested right now,” Naseer said.
Moreover, Nasheed was responsible for attacks against police officers and their families following the transfer of power in February 2012, he claimed.
In followup questions, MDP MPs suggested that Naseer could not answer truthfully for fear of losing his job.
Naseer responded by saying that he would not hesitate to order investigations of senior government officials “if a case reaches me.”
MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy meanwhile argued that Naseer by his own admission must have been lying either in parliament or when he made the allegations against Yameen last year and asked whether he had apologised either to the president or the public.
Naseer said he had “nothing to apologise for” and suggested that MDP leaders should apologise for causing MVR200 million worth of damage by allegedly setting fire to police stations, vehicles and courts on February 8, 2012.
Asked by an irate MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – former MDP chairperson – if provoking the main opposition party was part of his mandate, Naseer said he was “responding in kind” to MDP MPs’ “pestering” questions.
The deputy speaker advised Naseer to show more respect to a party with the support of over 105,000 people.