This translation first appeared on Dhivehisitee. Republished with permission
This is a translation of an extract from the former Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh’s testimony to the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) on the events of 7 February 2012. Despite being a national inquiry, none of the evidence has been shared with the public. Faseeh’s testimony was leaked on the Internet recently.
It was the evening of 6 February 2012. Like all other nights, there would be protests. Aware of this, we pushed protesters back from near MTCC to the market area. Displeased, they moved to the Artificial Beach. The protest kicked off around 9:00.
On one side was the so-called Coalition – PPM, Qaumee Party, Jumhooree Party, these parties. There were about 200-300 of them. On the other side was MDP—actually, it was pro-MDP supporters—with 200 or so people.
I was in and out of the Ops Room. The phone rang.
“Withdraw the police, Faseeh.” It was our Minister.
“Why?” I asked.
“Faseeh, withdraw the police. Every night, things end the same way now. They are the ones making things worse.”
A superior or not, I respond only when I am clear on what I am being asked to do, and when I know whether it can be done or not. I quickly assessed the situation. There were violent people on one side, some of them carried stones. People on both sides had planks of wood. Our troops were in the middle. We were concentrating on keeping them apart.
Around 9:30-10:00 [pm] the phone rang. It was the President.
“Faseeh, we cannot trust the police now. Every night this is allowed to drag on until about 3:00. Withdraw them.”
I dispatched Farhad Fikry, head of directorate, to take stock.
“The situation is very bad. If we withdraw, things will get worse,” Fikry reported back five minutes later.
It was around this time that I realised the President did not trust us either.
The only option was for the military to take over. Back when the protests began we made a collective request for military assistance through the Home Ministry. The law allows us to do that.
I rang Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim.
“Sir, here is what is happening”, I updated him. “I will not withdraw until you come.”
“No problem,” Tholhath said, “I’ll get a team ready.”
I think they took about twenty-five minutes. They are slow, not very practised on the streets. I doubted their ability to tackle the situation.
Our boys came to the Republic Square once the military took over. I think there were about three platoons. There are 30 in each platoon; and there were about 90 people.
Around 10:30, I was in my office with Assistant Commissioner Sadiq, and an older colleague, discussing the situation.
“Hear that?” Sadiq interrupted.
We went to the balcony. They were running up and down, screaming filth. I rushed downstairs from my fourth floor office. Deputy Commissioner Atheef and were running down too.
‘Ganja Bo!’ [Pothead!], the boys shouted. A lot else too.
I knew then these boys were no longer following orders.
They were leaving in lorries. Atheef managed to grab the key off one of the vehicles. Two platoons left, one couldn’t. Some may have left on other vehicles, I am not sure. I did not see that. This was Marine Drive, in front of Boduthakurufaanu Magu police [building]. I used the western exit.
I was in shock. And why wouldn’t I be? This was definitely not acceptable police behaviour.
My phone rang.
“They are going past our house towards MDP Haruge”, a close friend reported. He lives on Ameenee Magu, near Dharubaaruge.
“Police are headed West, shouting filth. We’ll destroy it, they are saying. This is about MDP Haruge. I think they are going to the Haruge. Check what’s going on!”
Soon I received information they went to the area under military control, beat up MDP people there. As if that wasn’t enough, the next platoon headed to MDP Haruge, beat more people up, vandalised the place. They did a whole lot of other things.
I felt dejected, drained, seeing such indiscipline from the police.
After doing whatever it was they did, they returned to the Republic Square. I think there were about 90 on the helipad. Some more police stood on the sides. A few Blues on standby, too. Roughly, there were about 100, 150 boys milling about.
I rang my Deputy, Muneer.
“Talk to them. Ask them about what they just did. Ask them what. Why.” I instructed him.
It was around 10:30, from what I recall. Muneer attempted to talk to a deputy commissioner.
“La ilaha ilallah!” he reported back. “Those people are beyond talking. They are barbaric; they are not following orders.”
I saw Deputy Commissioner Atheef. I was standing outside the police [building], behind the flag, on the pavement. I intended to talk to them but I saw their behaviour and changed my mind. I saw Atheef going into the crowd. No sooner did he go in, he came back out. The place was in complete chaos, I knew then. There was no discipline, no order.
Around 11:00, I called Tholhath and went to the military headquarters. The current Chief of Defence Force General Shiyam, former Chief of Defence Force Moosa Ali Jaleel, Colonel Ziyad, Tolhath, and former Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi were there.
“The police have mutinied,” I said to Tholhath. “They are not following my orders. I don’t have a force to control them. I cannot do anything until you have them isolated. I have only the Blues, who can’t control them. I am helpless.
It’s impossible to talk to them. If approached, they shout filth. That’s the level they have sunk to. They broke into MDP Haruge, vandalised it. They are acting on their own. They are not ‘right’ any more.”
“Don’t worry, Faseeh. I will do that now,” Tholhath reassured me.
Order after order was given. Jaleel also. Orders were recorded at 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30. Nothing happened.
Outside, a rumour had taken hold: the military were coming out to beat the police.
“The military are about to come out, we must confront them,” this is what was being said. Of course, it affected the Blues and all other police. The Blues moved closer, began mingling with them. Now they numbered about 300 altogether.
Around 3:30 [a.m.] Ibrahim Didi came in.
“We don’t have the capacity to control them without causing great casualties. The police will be very strong if they come with batons and gas,” he said to Tolhath.
The same thing happened many times. It dragged on.
Meanwhile, outside, they kept calling for the President to resign. They jumped up and down. They screamed. “Ganja Boa Resign!”, reverberated across the air.
Until then, I thought this was perhaps about the arrest of Abdulla Ghaazee, or about being taken into military custody. Or maybe they were exhausted and angry, forced to control protests every night.
But, listening to the “Ganja Boa Resign!” screams, I realised. It was political.
Once again, I felt dejected.
Suddenly, the President arrived. It was 4:30, 5:00.
“Do it before sunrise, or it can’t be done. This is a small thing, is it not? Even I can do it. Shall I do it?” The President was speaking to Jaleel.
“No, no,” was the reply. The military came out then.
There were three platoons, from what I can remember. They formed a line outside the entrance of the police building. Those police were on the helipad. They were shouting loudly. The place was about to erupt. A confrontation between the military and the police seemed imminent. Any announcement we made, they responded with loud screams. It was, really, specifically, impossible to continue.
The military advanced. It retreated. Advanced, retreated. Those gentlemen just couldn’t do anything. They went out, they came back in. The military failed.
Dawn had broken, the first prayer call had been sounded. I remember it as being around 5:45. Between 5:45-6:00. Or maybe it was past 6:00. Between 5:45 and 6:15 anyway. The President called me to a meeting.
Home Minister, Defence Minister, Chief of Defence Force Jaleel, current Chief Shiyam, General Didi, General Nilam were also present.
“What’s your view?” the President asked me.
“Same as before. I don’t have any power right now. The only way is through the military. And that still has not been done,” I replied.
“Why don’t you talk to them?”
“Yes, I can do that,” I said, and left immediately.
I did my morning prayer. I had been unable to till then.
“I want to meet with them,” I told my secretary. “Assess the situation.”
“There are members of public, there are others. They don’t seem right, Sir.”
I thought it better to ask four or five senior boys among them to come and meet with me instead.
Earlier the President had given me a message to relay to the boys.
“We pardon you for all the things that we can pardon you for. Of course, if you have hit somebody, it cannot be done.”
It was a good message he came with, is it not?
“There are no seniors. We are all equal, and we speak with one voice,” was their response to my request for a meeting.
“But there would be people senior in rank!” They ignored me.
I asked Head of Intelligence to find out what the mood was like among them. To negotiate.
“They would like to come and talk,” he reported back.
I waited for a long time, then went up for breakfast. It was past 7:00. The din from outside suddenly grew incredibly loud. I went up on the terrace to look. Enmass, police on the helipad were running towards Najah Art Palace. Towards the Chandhani Magu and Orchid Magu intersection. They ran hard, they were screaming.
A group of MDP people had arrived when police were chanting their pledge. The police were running to beat them up.
I don’t know…I did not bother with breakfast, I went straight to my room. Afterwards, I slipped quietly out to my office, that is, the Commissioner’s administrative office.
Outside the police gates! Outside the police gates there was chaos. The police—screaming, throwing stones…more.
“They have started damaging the police [building] now,” some female office staff reported.
I think I called Tholhath. I vaguely remember doing that. But I am not sure. I think I said to him, “They are now attacking police. Find a way to stop them.”
Some of the military, about 60 or 90, came out. In full riot gear. But they could not control the police.
The military and the police confronted each other. They damaged a military truck, threw things at the main gate of the military headquarters. If one threw a canister, the other did the same. If one side threw a stone, the other threw three back. Back and forth they went. Time passed. Some military personnel joined them.
“Superintendent Ibrahim Manik is being brought out, people kicking and beating him!” a female officer suddenly cried. It was true. They were kicking him like he was a football. I saw, but I could not look for long.
“Sir, you shouldn’t come out to investigate. They might see you and come for you. They may beat you too,” someone said.
“Jinah is also being taken out,” I heard next.
I saw people being beaten. I heard destruction, the sound of glass shattering, then falling.
“They are looking for you too. A Shahil and a Khithram were here asking for you,” my secretary said. Those two had been in the SO.
“We pretended you were not here,” she said.
There were about six boys standing guard at the door leading to my section. I was in there with the door to the Commissioner’s administrative office closed. There were two bodyguards with me, and my administrative staff. Some boys who wish me well were outside. I was protected.
They brought back news of places damaged.
“The mess room has been destroyed,” they told me.
“Who did it?”
“They did it. The police.”
When police started destroying police property, when they started beating people up, it really upset me. They were beyond control, beyond reason.
Around 10:30-11:00, Colonel Nazim, F.A [Mohamed Fayaz] and Abdulla Riyaz [current CP] arrived. If you are in the police, you know who these three gentlemen are. Two of them are ex-police. The third, Nazim, is ex-military.
“We are going into the military HQ to talk,” they announced.
“What are these people doing here? What is going on?” I wondered.
It was Nazim on the megaphone. I know his voice, he is a classmate of mine. Three years.
“We have met with the military leaders. I have ordered the president to resign. He will be resigning in the next one and a half to two hours. I have also ordered the Police Commissioner and his two Deputies to write their resignation letters without condition,” Nazim was saying.
All control was lost. I must save my life, I thought. I told my secretary to write a letter seeking an honorary retirement. I put the letter on my desk and sat there. I was afraid, I was a captive in the room. Time passed.
I think it was around 13:30 when I heard of the President’s resignation.
Around 2:00, I heard Superintendent Fairoosh was looking for me. They are based on the floor above me.
I had heard of outsiders entering the building — Hassan Saeed, Gasim Ibrahim, Sheikh Imran, these people. There had been a takeover, I knew.
I went up to meet Fairoosh.
“Sir, you have to meet all the officers,” he said. There were several in the room. There was destruction in the room, too. And in the Minister’s office. I walked across the shattered glass on the floor and sat down at the end of the table.
“This is not the worst day. It sets a dangerous precedent. It is sad,” I started.
“Are you not resigning?” Fairoosh asked.
“I have resigned. I have written the letter. But I do not know who to give it to,” I said.
Fairoosh was the automatic leader. Remember I said I ran downstairs, suddenly, at the start of all this? He is one of the boys who met me then.
“What is going on, Sir? This has to be corrected!” he said to me then. He was abrupt, brisk. Disrespectful. He had been a part of it from the beginning. Now he was asking me about my retirement.
“I intend to retire, but I do not know who to hand the notice in to,” I replied.
Shortly after, I heard Fairoosh was now the Acting Commissioner. I was shocked. My retirement was yet to be accepted. They took it upon themselves. Apparently, they even took a vote. Sadiq’s name was proposed, he withdrew it. Anyway, it was Fairoosh that was selected.
This is how things happened.