Police Commissioner denies obstructing election

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has denied obstructing the Elections Commission (EC) from conducting the presidential election scheduled for October 19, insisting that police only refused to provide security as the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court judgment were not followed by the EC.

Appearing before parliament’s Security Services ‘241’ Committee yesterday (October 20), Riyaz dismissed as “excuses” the allegations by EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek that police blocked the election, contending that the commission “was not properly prepared.”

“That is the truth. The list was not prepared,” he said, referring to the refusal of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim to sign the voter registry as required by the Supreme Court guidelines.

An hour before polls were due to open on Saturday, the EC issued a statement declaring that police had moved to prevent the election from taking place.

“As we continued with [preparation for] voting, the Maldives Police Services have said no document relating to the election can leave the commission’s offices, stopping the election,” the statement read.

Riyaz however insisted, in the face of repeated queries from MPs, that police did not block the election, conceding that a court order would be needed for police to take such an action.

“Police sent a letter to the Elections Commission on 19 October. In it I said that the Supreme Court ordered all state institutions to ensure that matters are proceeding according to the Supreme Court guidelines,” he said.

He added that “no further communication” – apart from the letter stating that police could not offer security or cooperation to the EC – was exchanged before the commission announced the cancellation of polls.

However, an internal inquiry has been launched by the police professional standards command following the allegations by EC Chair Thowfeek, Riyaz told MPs.

Non-cooperation rather than obstruction: Riyaz

Riyaz argued that the election could not take place because the EC was not “well prepared”, as he believed the time period offered for candidates to approve the voter registry was not sufficient.

Riyaz stressed that the police decided to not provide cooperation to the EC rather than obstructing the commission from conducting the polls. The decision was made based on advice from the National Security Council, he said, which consists of the president, vice president, attorney general, chief of defence forces and the defence minister.

Police considered the consequences of proceeding with the election while two candidates were refusing to participate, Riyaz said, suggesting that violence and unrest would have occurred.

He also suggested that candidates would have found it “harder to refuse” to sign-off had the EC sent the voter list in parts as soon as the re-registration forms were processed.

The commissioner assured “full cooperation” from police to the EC to conduct the presidential election, adding that he believed a president-elect must be sworn in on November 11.

In an appearance on state broadcaster Television Maldives on Saturday night, EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek was adamant that it was “the police who have stopped the election.”

“It is the people who are supposed to prevent others from obstructing the election, who have obstructed the election today. The police were also ordered to provide protection, security of ballot boxes and papers. The police stopped the election using the excuse that all three candidates did not sign the voter registry. But the Supreme Court verdict does not give the police the authority to oversee that,” he said.

“The police refused to provide security. The verdict clearly says the police must accompany the ballot boxes and papers to the polling stations. But last night the police said they will not facilitate the process. If we dispatch the boxes without police cooperation, then the Supreme Court has the space to annul the election [again],” he continued.

“In addition to that, in the morning, when our officials left the office with documents, papers, ballot boxes, they stopped them. [They said elections officials] did not have the permission to leave the Elections Commission. They stopped the election. The police officers told our elections officials they had been ordered to stop anyone from leaving the Elections Commission building with any documents relating to the election.”

“I know if [EC officials] had tried to disobey and leave, [the police] would have obstructed them, physically stopped them. The [EC officials] did not attempt to disobey, but they did ask the police why. And a sergeant there said this is what they had been ordered to do. They did not allow EC officials to leave the building with documents.”


National Security Committee supports sending Maldives troops to UN peacekeeping operations

Parliament’s National Security Committee has voted in favor of signing a memorandum of understanding with the UN to send Maldivian soldiers to UN conflict zones for peacekeeping operations.

According to the parliament, all the members of the committee were present at the meeting last Monday when the voting was held, including Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam, Peoples Alliance Party (PA) MP Abdulraheem Abdulla and DRP MP Mohamed Nashiz.

The committee will now submit the matter to parliament for approval.

On April 5, the cabinet decided to sign a memorandum of understanding with the UN to deploy Maldivian soldiers to UN conflict zones, noting that it would be important for the Maldives to contribute to these international efforts to ensure that every country, society and individual had the opportunity to live in peace and security.

The decision was then sent to the parliament for approval, and the parliament voted in favor of sending it to the National Security Committee to examine the issue further.

According to 243[b] of the constitution, “if the President, as Commander in Chief, authorizes or orders the employment of the military service in defence of the republic or as part of an international undertaking, the President shall without delay submit the authorisation to the People’s Majlis. The People’s Majlis may at any time approve the authorisation, or revoke the authorisation.”

Speaking on the matter in parliament, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP, Ahmed Mahlouf, said the issue was concerning.

“This is no joke, this is a very serious issue,” he said. “I do not think any honorable member would want to send some Maldivians abroad to their deaths.”

Mahlouf said death was a real possibility in peacekeeping operations. He also noted that it was possible that terrorists would target the Maldives if Maldivian soldiers were sent to participate in peacekeeping operations.

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf also expressed concern over the issue and called on the government to withdraw the decision.

Salaf at the that time claimed that any Muslim who assisted non-Muslims in a war against Muslims would themselves be branded infidels.

“Muslims will be obliged to treat him as a non-Muslim in all ways, such as if dead, burying without enshrouding the body, burying the body with other non-believer, and when dealing with inheritance matters the terms and condition that applies to a non-believer who dies in a war against Muslims will be applied to him,” the NGO said.


Parliament has authority over Police and MNDF, declares Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the Maldives has declared that both the Police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) should be answerable to parliament and its National Security Committee – known as the 241 Committee – whenever requested.

The Supreme Court said the decision was made after all judges unanimously agreed on the matter, which relates to overseeing the procedures of the nation’s security forces.

The declaration was delivered after parliament, under article 95 of the Constitution, requested the Supreme Court provide legal council on the issue back in November last year, when the police and military failed to attend the Majlis for questioning when called.

Article 95 states that ”The People’s Majlis may, by resolution, refer to the Supreme Court for hearing and consideration of important questions of law concerning any matter, including the interpretation of the constitution and the constitutional validity of any statute.

The Supreme Court shall answer the questions so referred and shall provide the answers to the People’s Majlis, giving reasons for its answers.

Parliament last year attempted to summon the Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Faseeh and MNDF Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel for questioning, who then both dismissed the parliament’s requests and refused to attend the meeting.

The Supreme Court said Article 239 (b) states that ‘’the security services shall be subject to the authority of the People’s Majlis.’’

The Supreme Court also said that, according to article 99 (a) and (b), it was clear that the parliament is obliged to supervise every action of the security services and to ensure that their actions are within the constitution and laws.

It is a legal responsibility of the parliament to question cabinet ministers over their work and cabinet ministers are obliged to answer truthfully to the parliament according to the constitution, the Supreme Court said.

The Parliament’s 241 Committee is chaired by opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Waheed.

When the 241 committee tried to summon both the police commissioner and the MNDF’s major general last year, the committee’s scheduled meeting was cancelled after alleged clashes with some Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs.

MDP MPs then accused the 241 committee of attempting to influence bribery investigations into Jumhoory Party leader MP Gasim ‘Buruma’ Ibrahim and Peoples Alliance (PA) Party leader MP Abdulla Yamin, who were then kept under house arrest.

Yamin and Gasim are both also members of the 241 Committee.


241 committee cancels confidential meeting with police and defense chiefs

Parliament’s ‘241’ security services oversight committee has canceled a confidential meeting that was to be held today, after summoning Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh and Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel for questioning over their handling of the current political deadlock.

Commissioner Faseeh was to be summoned at 4:30pm and the Major Jaleel was to be summoned at 6:30pm, but the the committee concluded its meeting the moment it started.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Shifaz said that the committee meeting was cancelled on a request by MDP MPs.

“Because there are two MPs charged with criminal offences, we recommended the committee cancel the meetings,” said Shifaz. “It does not make much sense when two MPs accused of criminal offences summon the Police Commissioner and Chief of Defense in order to question them.”

Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim and People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdulla Yameen were charged last week for bribery and treason and are currently under house arrest while police investigate the matter.

Parliamentary regulations state that detained MPs must be released to attend parliamentary proceedings and committee hearings, and initial attempts by police to retain them in custody were overruled in the High Court last week.

As Gasim and Yameen are members of the opposition-led parliamentary committee, they can thus be temporarily freed to question their captors, who, according to article 98(a) of the Constitution, “must respond under oath truthfully to questions put to them and to produce documents, required by the People’s Majlis relating to the due performance of the obligations and responsibilities of such person.”

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf said MDP MPs invaded the meeting and disrupted it.

“They first removed the board on the outside wall of the committee room,” said Mahloof. “Then they all went inside the room and disrupted the meeting.”

Mahlouf said that most of the MDP MPs who disrupted the meeting were not members of the committee.

A small gathering of MDP supporters gathered outside the parliament prior to the start of the the meeting.

Members of the committee include DRP MPs Ali Waheed and Yousuf Naeem, People’s Alliance (PA) MPs Abdulla Yameen and Moosa Zameer, Jumhooree Party MP Gasim Ibrahim, Independent MP Ibrahim Riza, and MDP MPs ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Alhan Fahmy and Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed.