“I realised it was all going wrong”: member Saeed on CNI’s final days

“I realised it was all going wrong,” recently resigned member of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed told a press conference at Dharubaaruge this evening.

During the press conference, Saeed revealed comprehensive details of the admissions from the final CNI draft which led to his resignation on Wednesday.

“I did push for the initial extension, but this time around I realised that even if the time was extended, there was no possibility that the report would come out any different,” he said.

Saeed said that he had accepted the post because he had been deeply affected by the brutality and the injustice he observed in the events following February 6, and felt he could make a constructive contribution to the commission’s work.

He emphasised that he was not a politician and did not take up these responsibilities with any political interest in mind. Saeed provided a copy of a letter which he says was presented to the commission’s co-chairs on August 26 as well as a copy of his resignation letter.

The first letter, written on August 18, detailed Saeed’s concerns about the commission’s progress, which included the following:  withheld evidence, non-cooperation from crucial witnesses, non-examination of witnesses, witnesses being intimidated or obstructed, testimonies and evidence that was not reviewed, and organisation by the CNI secretariat.

“I feel compelled to formally register with you a number of issues that I believe, if left unaddressed, will seriously undermine the credibility of the report. I also believe these matters defeat the purpose for which the CNI was established,” read the August 26 letter, sent to the other members of the commission as well as Commonwealth Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, and members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – whose pressure led to his appointment.

Saeed told the press today that he had submitted his concerns regarding Singaporean Judge G.P. Selvam’s extended absences to the Commonwealth, but that he had so far not received a response.

He mentioned that there were a total of 31 days in which the commission was not able to work with the full commission’s presence, alluding to Selvam’s lengthy absence.

In responding to questions from media, Saeed said that Judge Selvam had brought gifts for the commission members ranging from dictionaries to perfume.

He said that the last gift, which had been offered along with the draft of the CNI report, was an Apple iPad for each member of the commission.

Saeed confirmed that while he had not accepted any of these gifts, the other commission members had.

Saeed also spoke of material worth thousands of Singaporean dollars that Judge Selvam had donated to the Villingili Hiya Children’s Center and the Maafushi Juvenile Detention Centre.

In the distributed letter, Saeed decried the fact that no CCTV footage from the police or the President’s Office had been made available to the commission.

“Only three out of eight CCTV cameras in and around MNDF have been provided and these have some crucial hours of footage missing,” wrote Saeed.

Saeed added that, “after much stonewalling”, he was simply told the footage was not available.

Saeed also wrote that the CNI was unable to access the information compiled by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) despite repeated requests.

He also said that the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) report was not received until August 16, describing the eventual report as “superficial and inconclusive”.

The letter suggested that key witnesses, believed to have played crucial roles in the events of February 7, appeared to have been coached – all giving standard responses to questions such as “no”, “I don’t know”, or “I can’t remember”.

Saeed also suggested that the non-cooperation of Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer was unacceptable after he had made public statements detailing his role in Nasheed’s resignation.

He also alleged that the original members of the Commission (Dr Ibrahim Yasir, Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef and chairman Ismail Shafeeu) showed a lack of interest in witnesses, “rarely posing questions.”

Using the examples of MC Mohamed Hameed and Superintendant Adnan Anees, Saeed expressed his belief that pressure was being put on members of the security forces not to cooperate with the CNI.

He added that a number of potentially crucial witnesses had been transferred, sometimes overseas, “making it extremely hard or impossible for them to appear before the CNI.”

Writing 12 days before the report was due for release, Saeed had mentioned his concerns that a lot of evidence had yet to be reviewed in the limited time remaining.

The final point raised in the August 26 letter was the poor scheduling of the witnesses by the commission’s secretariat.

Saeed said that inadequate notice had been given to enable his preparations for questioning. He also suggested that the most important witnesses were scheduled at the least convenient times.

The quality of translations services provided by the secretariat were also criticised, being described as “inappropriate and to some extent misleading.”

Additional details of Saeed’s concerns came in the August 29 resignation letter in which he alleged that the reformed five-man commission had not reviewed the finding of the original three-man group, “despite inconsistencies”.

The resignation letter detailed that no officer from the Special Operations branch of the police force had been interviewed. “The CNI has not been able to ‘summon’ any of the alleged ‘perpetrators’ or ‘culprits’,” he wrote.

Saeed criticised the nature of the commission’s work, arguing that it lacked the “investigative powers to thoroughly probe accusations.” He mentioned that the group had been unable to access key individuals’ bank accounts or phone records.

In concluding the press conference, Saeed said that he felt the Commonwealth had welcomed the final CNI report even though Saeed himself had not signed it because after his resignation, he was no longer a part of CNI and his signature would no longer be needed.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has welcomed the release of the report by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), and urged “all concerned to respect the findings of the commission so that, moving forward, all actions and reactions reflect the sense of responsibility and restraint necessary in the best national interest.“


MDP gears up for “direct action” protest as Gahaa Saeed resigns from CNI

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s nominee to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, has resigned after questioning the integrity and purpose of the commission.

In a brief statement to media around 6.30pm today (August 29), Saeed explained that he chose to resign in protest of CNI’s final report excluding testimony from key witnesses as well as photo, audio and video evidence.

Saeed said he had believed the commission would “find out the truth” after considering all the evidence.

“I thought that the commission would also include as recommendations measures that can be taken to ensure that such a unique coup cannot be brought about again in the Maldives,” he said. “And that [the report] would identify those who committed criminal acts and make a decision on taking action against them after consideration.”

“Up until today, I worked to achieve this. However when none of these purposes can be fulfilled, I don’t believe there is any use of remaining as a member of the commission. And since this is a task I undertook with no pay as a national service, and because I do not want to be involved in something that will not cool the passions of the people, I have resigned as a member of CoNI moments ago,” Saeed said.

Pressed by reporters, Saeed declined to comment further or reveal the conclusions of the report, saying he would speak once it was made public tomorrow.

Speaking at Usfasgandu at 5:00pm today, where supporters of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have begun gathering, Nasheed called on the public to take to the steet and “topple the government tonight” as there was “no other choice but direct action.”

Nasheed explained that he advocated against overthrowing the government through street protests because he believed an independent and impartial investigation would lead to an early election.

Nasheed said the CNI report could not “deny what I experienced and saw with my own eyes” on February 7, when he resigned after elements of police and the army mutinied at the Republic Square.

“I am ready to face any traitor police or army officer that confronts me,” Nasheed said. “And I urge all of you to do the same, confront them and change this country’s government tonight.”

The former president has also reiterated his calls for “national police and military officers” to “come out and change this country’s government from the street.”

Nasheed argued that by concluding that the transfer of power on February 7 was neither a coup d’etat nor the result of unlawful activities, the CNI was legitimising overthrowing the government and he was “ready to change the government the same way tonight.”

Minivan News will be bringing live updates of the situation as it develops.

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7:45pm – Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has told Minivan News that he does not expect “responsible leaders to encourage violence in country”.

“It it time for those active in politics to advise others to be calm,” he said.

“In a small country like ours, we do not want violence like in other parts of the world. Law enforcement will deal with demonstrations in a responsible manner in line with human rights and the constitution.”

7:54pm – Amidst increased tensions in the capital this evening, the Maldives Police Service has said it will be continuing to operate “random searches” on the capital’s street and its surrounding waters.  The claims were made as authorities today warned the public against creating “unrest” or gathering near areas where violent clashes were taking place.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News this evening that the searches carried out today formed part of a special operation launched earlier this week.

At time of press, Haneef confirmed that two vessels had been searched by officers. The vessels were later cleared to proceed to their respective destinations.

As of midday, official police figures claimed searches had been conducted in 17 different locations over a 24 hour period on 99 people. As part of this focus, 188 people have been questioned, 258 vehicles have undergone checks, while eight people have been taken into custody, police confirmed.

Haneef said that he did not have further updates on these figures at time of press. However, he added that figures would be available on the Maldives Police Service website as they were compiled.

7:56pm – Police Superintendent Abdullah Nawaz has been quoted in local media today as having said that any protests conducted following the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report will be “broken up without warning, if violence breaks out.”

Sun Online reported that Nawaz had said peaceful protests would be allowed as written in the national constitution, though protesters would not be able to obstruct police in their duties or break through barricades.

“We have received information of plans to create violence following the CNI’s report, especially in Male’. We urge the public to refrain from such activities, and would like to inform that such activities will not be tolerated by the Maldives Police Service,” he was quoted as saying.

8:09pm – The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Elections Commission (EC) have both today released statements calling for peaceful reconciliation following the scheduled publication of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

The statement issued by HRCM has stressed the importance of citizens respecting each others’ human rights, while also emphasising the need to solve issues through discussions and to not allow unrest to take place in any form.

Meanwhile, the EC has called on all political leaders to refrain from any actions that might incite any form of unrest in the country.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives has also released a press statement calling on all stakeholders to ensure that the CNI is allowed to work with full independence.

While calling on state institutions to maintain integrity and public trust, the NGO has also asks all stakeholders involved in the current political process to “show restraint” and calm so that the political situation does not further deteriorate.

8:22pm – MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has told Minivan News that opposition demonstrations have started at 8:00pm this evening at the Usfasgandu area in Male’.  The demonstration is expected to include a march around the capital.

“The message is simple. We are appealing to security forces to remove the coup-government, the Defence Minister and the Commissioner of Police,” Ghafoor added.

When asked if former President Nasheed would lead the march, Ghafoor replied; “He has been on national radio this evening and told his supporters ‘If you are ready, I am ready’.”

9:22pm – The government has claimed that UN and Commonwealth observers placed on the CNI have today told President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan that there had been “no issues” with the work of the commission, according to local Media.

Newspaper Haveeru quoted President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza as saying that international observers had said the commission was of “internationally accepted” standards as its work was concluded.

The report added that President Waheed had been thanked for the support provided to the CNI investigation. Abbas contended that the observers noted that similar investigations were “seldom” as supported by governments in other parts of the world, reported Haveeru.

Both Abbas and President’s Office Media Secretary Masood were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

9:50pm – Former President Nasheed is presently addressing a large number of MDP supporters as the party’s march around the capital is halted by a military roadblock near to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) base on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, reports Minivan News’ Daniel Bosley.

10:03pm – Minivan News has observed both police and military officers officers gathered in front of protesters.  “Police officers wearing gas masks are lining up in front of the recently arrived soldiers,”  Daniel Bosley observed.

10:16pm – Protesters are witnessed becoming increasingly animated and jeering police. Some officers are seen chanting back in response, Minivan News observes.

10:20pm – Violent clashes have started with protesters hitting out at the shields of military officers.

10:28pm – Minivan News’ Daniel Bosley observes security forces with boxes marked ‘tear smoke munitions’.  Military officers are meanwhile holding their lines.

10:34pm – An estimated 300 to 400 people remain at the front lines of the protests.

10:40pm – Police have told crowds that the protests will be dispersed without any further warning, Minivan News observes.

10:52pm – A large number of protesters are observed making their way back to Usfasgandu area, observes Daniel Bosley.  Police are moving back down Boduthakurufaanu Magu in similar direction behind demonstrators.

11:07pm – A large number of protesters have now returned to Usfasgandu area.

11:23pm – Police have confirmed an arrest has been made of an individual accused of trying to force their way through police barricades.

11:55pm – Around 10:45pm, Minivan News observed a man emerge from the front line of the protest near the Maafanu stadium holding his head. A photo from the MDP youth group ‘Yellow Force’ later surfaced on social media.

After protesters turned back to head toward Usfasgandu, Minivan News also observed Special Operations (SO) officers with their faces covered with balaclavas, marching behind the MDP supporters and singing “for the sacred religion of Islam and the nation.”

Clashes occurred between protesters and the SO police near the petrol shed. Minivan News observed a man taken into custody behind the patrol shed where police and MNDF vehicles were parked.

An elderly man holding an MDP flag was also taken into custody near Usfasgadu.

12:00am – Speaking at the Usfasgadu rally, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’ says the party will submit evidence to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which will consider the CNI report.

Former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed meanwhile tweeted earlier in the day: “Without Saeed’s consent, CONI report is not worth the paper it is written on! CMAG will reject it!”

12:18am – MDP rally closes with a speech by MP Mohamed Nazim. The party plans to hold a large gathering tomorrow to coincide with the release of the CNI report.


President Nasheed’s representative to CNI alleges February 7 draft report missed several facts

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s representative on the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, has today expressed deep concern over the draft report compiled by investigation’s co-chair, retired Singaporean Judge G P Selvam.

In a brief statement provided to media today outside Muleeaage, Saeed said that the draft report produced by Selvam “somewhat refutes or denies what we Maldivians saw and experienced” on February 7.  Former President Nasheed resigned during the day under what he later claimed was “duress” after elements of police and the army mutinied at Republic Square.

“I accepted membership of the Commission of National Inquiry with the weight of responsibility of carrying the hopes of you, the Maldivian people. The Maldivian people saw the first democratic government formed under the constitution adopted in 2008 as a good reform – a golden opportunity to revise the constitution and establish a democratic system and rule of the people. [The people] saw it as an opportunity to move away from the culture of arresting and banishing previous rulers and establishing a culture of changing governments through the vote and not through coup d’etats,” Saeed said today.

“February 7, 2012 was a day that shocked Maldivians – a day when the Maldivian government was changed in a sudden confusion. Now, however, the report that Judge Selvam has drafted and brought is a draft that somewhat refutes or denies what we Maldivians saw and experienced – or a draft that somewhat confuses things, the way it is now.

“While this is happening, for me to stay here, at Muleeage, would I believe be a betrayal of my country and the Maldivian people. I see the draft report as having been written without considering the witness testimony of many, many people to CoNI as well as the many scenes we saw.”

Saeed added that he would continue to work to “include my concerns” in the final report. He was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press regarding his comments.

Following Saeed’s statement, the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) convened an emergency meeting of the party’s National Council.

A resolution proposed by former minister Mohamed Shihab and seconded by MP Mariya Ahmed Didi expressing concern in line with Saeed’s views on the draft report was adopted with unanimous consent.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the information in the current “domestic draft” report was not acceptable.

“What [Saeed] is saying is that they have omitted several details that they found from the investigations, so he is asking to make the report accurate in reflecting this,” he explained.

However, he observed there was room for the CNI’s findings to still find consensus before its public release on Thursday (August 30).

“The CNI report should be something that all its members have to agree upon so without MDP’s word, the report would not be authentic,” Ghafoor said.

“There is a draft out there that appears to conclude that there was no police mutiny [on February 7], this is just not acceptable given what the public saw,” he claimed.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza and Media secretary Masood Imad were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press.

The first three-member CNI was appointed by President Mohamed Waheed, following a police and military mutiny and Nasheed’s resignation on February 7. Both Nasheed and the MDP allege that his resignation was made under “duress” and was therefore a “coup d’état”.

Facing pressure from the Commonwealth and civil society NGOs, the government eventually agreed to reform the commission to include a retired Singaporean judge and a representative for Nasheed.

Nasheed’s representative, Saeed, who was formerly both Principal of ‘Ahmadiyya School’ and Deputy Principal of the British College of Sri Lanka was finally accepted after the government of President Waheed rejected almost 11 names Nasheed proposed to the commission.

The original members of the CNI subsequently released a ‘timeline’ into events that took place from January 16 to February 7.

The MDP accused the commission of trying to prejudice the work of the new commission, and then released its own version of events in response – the ‘Ameen- Aslam’ report based on interviews with the security services. The government described the publication of this report as a “terrorist act”.

An audio clip of Saeed’s statement


MDP’s CNI member rejects government allowance

New Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) member Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed has informed the government that he will not claim the allowance allocated to commission members by the government, local media has reported.

“I told (President) Waheed even on the first day that I do not want an allowance. Deen (Vice-President Mohamed Waheedeen) was also present in the meeting. President said that he would allocate an allowance”, Saeed told Haveeru.

Upon contacting Saeed, Minivan News was told that the new CNI member would not be making any further statements to the media outside of the fortnightly press conferences arranged by the commission’s secretariat.

Saeed’s addition to the CNI is part of the recent reform of the group which is tasked with investigating the events surrounding the February’s transfer of power.

After pressure from both the local and the international community, the original CNI has been supplemented with a nominee from former President Mohamed Nasheed – Saeed – and an international component – retired Singaporean Supreme Court Judge G.P. Selvam.