Transparency International has expressed “grave concern” about staff and volunteer safety and “alarm” over the intimidation and public allegations threatening its Transparency Maldives chapter.
“Transparency International is gravely concerned about the safety of chapter staff and volunteers following an attack on one of its volunteers and telephone threats received by chapter members,” the international anti-corruption NGO highlighted in a press statement issued today (October 7).
“There appears to be a negative campaign in the local media aimed at undermining the effectiveness of Transparency Maldives’ anti-corruption work. Last week a senior member of the cabinet publicly threatened to close Transparency Maldives down,” Transparency International noted.
“Transparency Maldives has always played an active and constructive role in advocating for government transparency and accountability. We call on the authorities to ensure the safety of its staff and volunteers,” stated Transparency International.
Transparency Maldives is part of the Transparency International anti-corruption movement that includes more than 100 chapters worldwide.
Death threats and street attack
“An elections program intern was attacked on the street and had her phone snatched away,” Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed told Minivan News today.
Death threats were issued to Transparency Maldives staff by an unknown caller who contacted the organisation’s office, explained Rasheed. Both incidents occurred within five day period, during the last week of September.
“During every election these things occur, it’s not abnormal. However, the situation in the country has worsened since the 2008 [presidential] election,” said Rasheed.
“At that time, murder was unheard of and stabbings were rare. Now the threats seem more real in the current environment [with tensions escalating],” he added.
Today a death threat tweet stating “We will slaughter all of you goats until there are none left” was directed at Transparency Maldives and the Maldives’ former UK High Commissioner Farah Didi.
— Farah Didi (@FarahDidi) October 7, 2013
In regard to the “negative media campaign” aimed at undermining Transparency Maldives’ anti-corruption work, Rasheed noted that the Maldives Media Council (MMC) and Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) “will be aware of this” given their participation in the Elections Commission’s National Advisory Committee.
It is unclear whether MMC or MBC have taken actions to address these local media issues, but given the “general environment… a lot needs to be done in this situation” by regulatory authorities, he continued.
“Keeping [Transparency Maldives] staff and volunteers safe is our number one priority,” Rasheed declared.
In light of the recent death threats and attack of an intern, Transparency Maldives is urging staff and volunteers to be more careful, he explained.
“We are monitoring the environment and updating all our people,” said Rasheed.
Staff training has been conducted as part of Transparency Maldives’ security priorities, and the organisation’s electronic equipment and office are closely guarded, he explained.
“All [election] observers and volunteers are trained to remove themselves from any situation if any violence occurs,” he noted. “Their purpose is to observe whether violence has occurred, not to determine who hit whom.”
Transparency conducted an extensive election monitoring program, fielding a team of 400 election monitors during the first round of September 7. The organisation stated that the process was fair and credible and that incidents observed on the day would not have had a material impact on the outcome of the election.
Transparency Maldives called on all parties to act with restraint and uphold the constitution to allow for a run-off election to take place.
The Supreme Court on September 23, however, issued an indefinite injunction halting the second round of the presidential election, which had been scheduled for September 28.
Following the Supreme Court injunction, Transparency Maldives noted that the failure of parliament and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to address alleged integrity issues of the Supreme Court judges have “created avenues for political and other actors to question the conduct, injunctions and verdicts of the Supreme Court”.
The following week, State Minister for Home Affairs and the Registrar of NGOs Abdulla Mohamed declared that Transparency Maldives and the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) were under investigation for “unlawful acts” and warned the NGOs that organisations acting outside of law would be dissolved.