PPM to file no-confidence motion in vice-president

MPs of the ruling coalition have officially endorsed a petition seeking a no-confidence vote in vice-president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

The motion has already gained 47 signatures and will be submitted to the People’s Majlis today, said the parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Ahmed Nihan.

The motion will require a two-third majority or 57 votes to pass.

The PPM and its ally the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) control 48 seats in the 85-member house, and will need the backing of the opposition.

Jameel was not responding to calls at the time of going to press. He is reportedly abroad. The President’s Office on Thursday said President Abdulla Yameen had authorized a medical leave for his deputy.

Ruling coalition MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty.

Some opposition politicians have claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery. The PPM is seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

But Nihan dismissed rumors over the president’s health. “He is very fit. There is no truth to these rumors.”

He said MPs are unhappy with Jameel over his alleged failure to defend the government during an opposition demonstration in Malé on May 1. Nearly 200 people were arrested from the historic 20,000-strong march.

“The opposition was making gross accusations against the government. But Jameel did not make any move to defend President Yameen, he did not say a word, but instead left Malé on that day,” Nihan alleged.

Opposition supporters had been protesting against the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and other politicians.

Nihan said that he had attempted to reach Jameel by telephone on Thursday night, when a ruling party MP first started collecting signatures for the no-confidence petition. But the vice-president had not responded by the next day, he said.

MPs of the ruling coalition held a meeting at 10:30pm on Friday to officially endorse the petition. Some 33 MPs had unanimously voted in favor, he said.

Translation: “PPM and MDA members vote unanimously to submit a no-confidence motion in VP Jameel.”

For the parliament to consider the removal of the president or the vice-president, a resolution with the signatures of one-third of MPs is required.

The parliament can then set up a committee to investigate the claims laid out in the motion. The Constitution states that at least 14 days notice must be given to the president or vice-president before the debate.

He or she is also granted the right to defend themselves, both orally or in writing.

Jameel has been silent on the accusations made against him.

According to Nihan, the 47 signatures on the no-confidence petition include that of MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Jumhooree Party.

The opposition’s backing appears to signal a move towards reconciliation. Former president Nasheed was transferred to house arrest last week.

Two days later, the opposition voted to back the first constitutional amendment, setting new age limits of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and the vice-presidency.

Tourism minister Adeeb, who turned 33 in April, was ineligible for the position as the constitution previously stated that presidential candidates and their deputies must be 35 years of age.

The government then extended Nasheed’s house arrest for eight weeks, but said it was because doctors are concerned over the opposition leader’s health.

The MDP has meanwhile agreed to the government’s demand to exclude Nasheed as a representative in talks. But a party spokesperson said MDP hopes Nasheed will be able to join at a later stage.


Gayoom ‘unhappy’ with age limits for presidency

MPs of the ruling coalition have backed a constitutional amendment setting age limits for the presidency against the wishes of ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Gayoom, who heads the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), had sent a letter to the party’s parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan stating that MPs should wait on approval from the PPM executive council before supporting the amendment.

However, at an emergency meeting tonight, MPs of the PPM and its ally the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) decided that the parliamentary group does not require approval from the council.

The amendment – proposed by MDA MP Mohamed Ismail – proposes setting an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency. The constitution currently only says a candidate must be 35 years of age.

If passed, the bill would bar Gayoom from contesting presidential polls. The former president, who is now in his early 80s, had served six terms from 1978 to 2008.

“Deeply saddened”

Minivan News has learnt that Gayoom had sent a text message to Nihan on the morning of June 9 expressing disapproval with the proposal. “I reject the proposal to set age limits for the presidency. It will only bring President Yameen into disrepute. Setting a cap on the age of a presidential candidate is not done anywhere in the world.”

Shortly after the message was sent, some 44 MPs voted to consider the amendment and sent it to a sub committee for review.

After the vote, Gayoom, in a second text message to Nihan said: “I am deeply saddened. There is no point to a man whose opinions are not considered staying on as PPM president.”

The parliamentary committee has since voted to accept the bill. It will now be sent to the parliament floor for approval.

The bill has fuelled speculation that President Abdulla Yameen plans to replace vice-president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who is now 33 and ineligible for the position.

Yameen is Gayoom’s half-brother.

The relationship between President Yameen and Dr Jameel is reportedly under strain. Jameel’s cousin, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was dismissed from the cabinet last month. The government did not provide a reason for the dismissal.

Yameen is currently in Germany in an unannounced visit and is due back on Sunday.


A three- quarters majority or 64 votes will be needed to amend the constitution. The ruling coalition controls 48 seats in the 85-member house, and will need the backing of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Jumhooree Party (JP).

A three-quarters majority will also be needed to impeach Jameel.

JP leader Gasim Ibrahim has urged the nine JP MPs to back the amendment, although it would bar him from contesting the next presidential elections. He will be 66 in 2018.

Gasim announced last week that he will retire from politics once his five-year term as Maamigili MP expires in 2019. The tourism tycoon’s announcement comes weeks after the government slapped a US$90.4million fine on his Villa Group and froze the accounts of five of Villa Group’s subsidiary companies.

The claim was issued after the JP split from the PPM and allied with the MDP in a campaign against President Yameen’s alleged authoritarianism.

Gasim has since suspended the JP campaign and remained silent on the imprisonment of MDP leader and ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The JP is in disarray with two senior officials facing terrorism charges.

The MDP, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and several JP MPs are continuing the campaign for Nasheed’s release.


Penal code delayed amid opposition MPs’ protest

Parliament has approved a three-month delay for the implementation of the new penal code amid vociferous protests by opposition MPs on the People’s Majlis floor.

The new penal code was ratified a year ago and was due to come into force tomorrow, but the ruling Progressive Party of Madives (PPM) claims more time is needed to raise awareness among the public.

However, both the attorney general and prosecutor general have said there is no reason to delay enforcement. The government has trained some 1,100 individuals including state prosecutors, police officers, customs staff, lawyers and journalists on the new law.

Critics say the existing penal code adopted in 1966 is outdated, draconian and not in line with international human rights conventions the Maldives is signatory to.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) contends that the postponement is a “politically motivated attempt to continue using the current penal code as a means to harass and intimidate the opposition.”

Hundreds of protesters face harsher punishment for ‘disobedience to order,’ a charge MDP argues the government uses to suppress rights to expression and assembly.

While similar offences are included in the new penal code, the punishment for protesters who do not have a criminal record would have been less severe as judges are required to take mitigating factors into consideration under sentencing procedures.

Show of hands

The government-sponsored amendment bill to the penal code was passed with 43 votes in favour and one against at an extraordinary sitting of parliament held today.

Prior to voting, MDP MPs took over the speaker’s chair and the secretariat desk and protested with megaphones and sirens, leaving Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed unable to use the electronic voting system and forcing secretariat staff to vacate their chairs.

In a scuffle between pro-government and opposition MPs, PPM MP Ahmed Assad grabbed and smashed one of the megaphones.

Pro-government MPs meanwhile surrounded Speaker Maseeh as he used a megaphone to ask for a show of hands. The secretary-general walked around the chamber and took the count.

Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem voted against the legislation.

MDP MPs have said the voting took place in violation of parliamentary rules as there was disorder in the chamber.

“During this time of increased political opposition to the [Abdulla] Yameen government, the MDP condemns the government’s use of their political majority to cripple the criminal justice system and restrict the rights of all Maldivians,” the party said in a statement.

However, majority leader Ahmed Nihan said former Speaker Abdulla Shahid had called a vote under similar circumstances in 2011, which can be considered a precedent under the standing orders.

Human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network has called on President Yameen not to ratify the amendments as the current law “is widely understood as draconian and unreflective of the democratisation process that was introduced to the Maldives through the constitution ratified in August 2008.”


Speaking at a symposium about the new penal code yesterday, Attorney General Mohamed Anil said the country should bid farewell to the existing law “without any fear” as it was unsuited to the present day.

Former Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem told Minivan News today that 98 percent of police investigators have been provided extensive training as part of preparations for implementing the penal code.

Shameem has been involved in the training as a senior legal consultant at the Legal Sector Resource Centre established by the attorney general’s office with assistance from the UNDP to train and sensitise stakeholders.

A phone application for the penal code was launched yesterday and 12 information papers were published on the penal code website, he added.

Shameem noted that the website features an ‘ask us’ interactive function, marking the first time questions can be posed to experts regarding a Maldivian law.

“So the government is ready. The public are ready as all this information has been provided through the media as well. The documents and phone application are available. We have never been more prepared for a law than this,” he said.

Majority leader Nihan meanwhile told reporters that the PPM parliamentary group did not consult the attorney general’s office before today’s vote.

Nihan said ruling party MPs did not believe the public was adequately prepared, adding that the state broadcaster should show educational television programmes.

Revisions based on issues raised by religious NGOs can also be incorporated during the next three months, he said.

NGO Salaf said today that the new penal code is contrary to the principles of Islamic Sharia.


Maldives human rights watchdog under siege

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has slammed the judiciary for compromising its independence, describing the Supreme Court’s suo moto proceedings over a submission to the UN Human Rights Council as the biggest challenge the watchdog has faced in its 11-year history.

In its 2014 annual report, the independent commission noted the Supreme Court and the Juvenile Court accused the HRCM of making false allegations in the Universal Periodic Review and a confidential report into a 15-year-old rape victim’s flogging sentence.

The Supreme Court and Juvenile Court’s charges affected the commission’s independence and ability to carry out its mandate, the report said.

The controversial suo moto regulations allow the Supreme Court to initiate proceedings, prosecute and pass judgment. The first case of its kind, in March 2014, saw the apex court sack the Elections Commission’s President and Vice President for contempt of court.

Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ali Hussein said the judiciary’s “harassment of HRCM” was an indication of the “extraordinary levels of judicial activism in the country.”

“The judiciary is acting outside its boundaries, it is annulling laws, making laws, dismissing members of the independent commissions. The judiciary needs to be restrained immediately. But there is no way to hold them accountable.”

Judges must be educated and sensitised to human rights, fundamental norms and best practices in a democratic society, he continued.

However, lamenting President Abdulla Yameen’s decision to appoint disgraced Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed to the judicial watchdog Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Ali said judicial reform was only possible through a long hard people’s struggle.

Hameed was implicated in a series of sex tapes involving foreign women, but the police have closed the investigation citing non-cooperation from the judge, according to media reports. The JSC subsequently refused to take action against Hameed.

Meanwhile, parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Nihan, said the People’s Majlis must play a key role in mediating the conflict between the HRCM and the judiciary to ensure the commission’s independence.

The majority leader described the dispute as “a teething trouble in a nascent democracy,” and said the HRCM must continue to exist as “a pillar of multi-party democracy.”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) agreed the responsibility for ensuring HRCM’s independence rested with parliament, but said the PPM-dominated Majlis had no regard for the independence of the state’s watchdog bodies.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla also accused ruling party MPs of harassing human rights commissioners through the parliament.

The five members of the HRCM were summoned separately to the Majlis last week and questioned in a closed-door meeting regarding the commission’s statement condemning the Criminal Court’s 13-year sentence on former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The HRCM on March 14 expressed concern over apparent lack of due process in the opposition leader’s trial, and said the Criminal Court had failed to respond to a request to monitor court proceedings.

Eva also noted increasing threats against the HRCM, most recently that of a group of angry men on February 24 entered the commission’s officers and threatened to harm the five commissioners following a statement condemning the police’s mistreatment of Nasheed ahead of a hearing on February 23.

HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal meanwhile received threatening calls and messages after the police claimed he had called them “baagee” or traitor on February 22. The police have since withdrawn the claim.

The Supreme Court’s suo moto case is still pending “like a sword hanging over the HRCM,” Eva said.

The MP for Galholhu North also concurred with JP’s Ali Hussein, stating the judiciary should be held answerable through the JSC.

“We must end this judicial dictatorship. Within the People’s Majlis we must ensure the JSC fulfills its mandate. And above all, appoint qualified judges to the judiciary,” she said.

The HRCM in its report said the judiciary faced the most number of challenges in protecting human rights in 2014. The commission also expressed concern over the sudden dismissal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan in December.



President Yameen will not resign and go home, says PPM MP Nihan

MP for Vilimalé constituency, Ahmed Nihan, is the leader of ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ parliamentary group. Minivan News interviewed Nihan ahead of mass anti-government demonstrations planned by the Jumhooree Party and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Zaheena Rasheed: Former President Mohamed Nasheed has a lot of supporters. He has now allied with the Jumhooree Party and they are planning a mass demonstration for today. Do you consider this a threat?

Ahmed Nihan: No. You see, there are about 50 MPs in our parliamentary group, a lot of their constituents are here. The past two days, we’ve been working on finding out how many people will attend the protests. So based on that, we do not foresee any such danger. I do not believe the state should obstruct the right to free speech.  If citizens are dissatisfied with this government, they must be able to say so. But that right must not be abused to violate others’ rights, such as closing down streets, blocking lagoons, they cannot do this. But this is a cautious situation, we must be alert, to acts of terrorism, I’m saying this because this has happened before. And I note, there are some young men who’ve been convicted on terrorism, for example I have one mother whose son was sentenced after vandalizing the Villa TV Station on March 19. What answer do I have for her? There are many on my island, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, who have terrorism charges pending against them, at least 112, following the torching of government buildings on February 8. I am sure they are not criminals, they became sucked into politics. And tomorrow, how many will be tricked into this again? We will not support vandalism and arson.

Opposition parties say President Yameen’s government is lurching towards authoritarianism. Can you tell me what you believe are PPM’s democratic successes and what you plan to do to protect democracy in the future?

Many Maldivians believe the biggest challenge the country faces is the enforcement of the rule of law. Some are able to walk free, there are many cases where young men wielding swords, machetes and weapons are shedding blood. The whole country used to be in shock when they heard of a murders, but since 2007, we’ve seen over 30 murders. Everyone believes upholding the rule of law is essential in putting an end to this. In the past year, President Yameen, has taken an important step forward for a resolution. For example, the amendment to the Possession of Dangerous Weapons Act, charges will be pressed within ten days and it will be prosecuted within 30 days. This will prevent the intimidation of witnesses, and the accused changing their confession statements. We also have a draft of the Criminal Procedure Act; with this it shows President Yameen is working to turn this country. This is not an easy task for any leader, especially with a large youth bulge.

How does this relate to democratization?

What I’m trying to say is, politics rolls from the courage and determination of politicians, not just from what is written in the law. It must be implemented. To show he has the courage to implement the law, President Abdulla Yameen has said he will enforce the death penalty, once it has passed through all necessary appeals. Delivering justice is our biggest aim. We are in a state of fear, we are seeing such gruesome scenes, who would want to see this?

When there is a link between political stability and public safety, does the government have any plans to initiate talks?

The President met with us on Wednesday, and he said he is always ready for dialogue, but on reasonable grounds. If you look at the real issue behind the current crisis, all these trials are not yet completed. The opposition’s role is to criticize the governing party, MDP is good, and MDP must criticize the government. But the JP’s motives are unclear.

They are not coming out for the people. Gasim Ibrahim is working in his own interest. He left Mohamed Nasheed in 2008, after only 21 days in government, because he did not get what he wanted. It’s the same with us. Even if Mohamed Nasheed comes to power next, if he doesn’t oblige with Gasim’s demands, he will do the same. They were behind the 22 days of protests prior to Nasheed’s resignation. These are the same people who cried and hugged each other when he resigned. And the people who carried Nasheed’s resignation letter, the people who spurred the country into two years of chaos, who forced MDP supporters to the streets shouting traitor, they cannot be clean now. So I think tomorrow’s protests will amount to zero. There will be no benefit to anyone.

They cannot say this government wasn’t elected legally. The question is are Maldivians in the business of overthrowing governments? Are we engaged day to day in overthrowing governments? This cannot become our daily lives.

When the government hands him lagoons, islands, forgives him the money he owes the government, he will turn on Mohamed Nasheed.

So what is your government’s plans to ensure political stability?

Following the events of February 7, some people believe the president will resign. Because Nasheed did. President Yameen will not do that. He is firm, he will not resign and go home. He will face challenges, and he will ensure safety for everyone, and ensure the country remains a sovereign state. This government will not allow any acts that affect our sovereignty. He will protect our sovereignty. The national security forces will stop such acts. I am certain.

Opposition parties are claiming former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister’s charges are politically motivated. What is your response?

Honestly, if you look at the sequence of events, our new constitution does not give the opportunity for politically motivated charges to be levied against any individual. This is different to previous years, when the president could arrest someone at will for their political beliefs. Political parties are free to operate now, it’s been ten years since we were granted that right. Prosecuting someone for crimes they commit, or may commit is upholding the rule of law; this is the norm anywhere in the world. This is one of the strongest facets of democracy. Justice must be ensured. If this is a society, where an individual is able to evade justice after committing a crime, then there is no democracy here. Even if its President Nasheed or former minister Nazim.

I want to note, it is not the government that presses charges, the constitution clearly states it is the independent Prosecutor General who presses charges. Now, some argue the PG is pro-government. A PG must be appointed to the post through the Majlis as per the constitution. Where will you go, to which court, to see if the person is independent and impartial? As we transition to democracy, there have been many events where all parties were not satisfied with the outcome. This is because we are not a consolidated, institutionalized democracy. The new constitution was most heavily influenced by the then-opposition. Are we to go back to square one again? Where do we start again? Or do we go forward with the current situation, everyone cannot be appeased all the time.

They cannot show us any evidence to back their claim that these charges are politically motivated. President Abdulla Yameen did not initiate these trials. We do not see his involvement at any level in this. But Mohamed Nasheed was involved in the arrest of the judge, he has said so in public, at three events, he went so far as to claim Judge Abdulla would not be able to go within 100 meters of the court. We can see his engagement to that level. But President Yameen has not commented even once on today’s events. I can clearly testify to this.

Many have expressed concern over the Criminal Court denying Nasheed legal representation, when the court sentenced him to pre-trial detention

The problem here is that this case concerns a former president. I personally do not believe a former president should be dragged to court just like that. I am the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ parliamentary group leader. Why? Because I proposed the law on privileges to former presidents. Even then I attempted to stop events such as this. The law had an article 9 – MDP threw it out. I had proposed that if criminal charges are to be pressed against a former president, they be passed by a Majlis committee or a majority or two third majority of Majlis. This is not saying they shouldn’t go to court. But MDP annulled it. The result is the challenges President Nasheed is currently facing.

At the time, my idea was that – not everyone becomes president. They would have to take many decisions, which they cannot share with the public, due to national security reasons. So we cannot prosecute them the same way as any ordinary person.

This is not to say that if they commit a crime, whether its Nasheed or Gayoom, the law must apply to them. But because they were former presidents, I tried to ease it for them.

Anyhow, charges have been pressed. And on Nasheed not having had enough time to appoint a lawyer, I hear Nasheed has been afforded the opportunity to defend himself. He still has the opportunity to defend himself, the opportunity to tell us why, for what reasons, he did it. I believe he has that opportunity.


Hundreds march in support of President Yameen

With additional reporting by Ismail Humam Hamid and Mohamed Saif Fathih

Hundreds of young men marched in support of President Abdulla Yameen in Malé today.

The approximately 400-strong march consisted mostly of young men wearing pink headbands and carrying placards praising President Yameen and ridiculing opposition leaders Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party (JP).

Supporters carried placards alleging Gasim and Nasheed had “gone mad with the desire for power,” that Gasim “had destroyed the economy” during his tenure as finance minister, and that Nasheed had called on youth to “remain intoxicated” during his three year presidential term.

Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) Deputy Leader and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb organised the rally after nightly opposition protests in which the MDP and JP alleged the ruling party had repeatedly breached the constitution.

Adeeb, PPM Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ahmed Nihan, MPs Yamin Rasheed, Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed, Abdulla ‘Bochey’ Rifau and Ahmed Ameeth led the walk from Artificial Beach through Malé’s main thoroughfare, Majeedhee Magu.

The walk comes ahead of two major events due to take place tonight, a PPM rally at Alimas Carnival and an opposition walk starting from Usfasgandu in Malé at 8:30 pm.

“President for youth”

Speaking to Minivan News, Youth Ministry Coordinator Ali Shahid ‘Steps Ayya’ said he had always supported President Yameen both during his parliamentary career and as president.

“The Maldivian youth are with President Yameen. He has always shown the way for the youth. The youth do not want to go to jail. They want hope and stability,” he said.

Ihusaan Hussein, 27, said Yameen’s government is a government for the youth, and he had come to the march to stand against the opposition’s attempts to create political unrest. He called on the opposition to “come to the table and talk.”

One of the few women at the rally, Madheeha, 29, said President Yameen offers development and progress for all youth.

MP Nihan said the opposition were fooling the Maldives’ youth, pointing to Nasheed’s alliance with Gasim, the same man he had called a traitor for playing a key role in his ouster in February 2012.

Yameen had promised to focus on the youth during his campaign, pledging to build a youth city with state-of-the-art sports facilities in Hulhumalé. On assuming office, Yameen erased over 2,000 criminal records of young people to allegedly facilitate employment for youth hindered by police records.

Pickup arrest

Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Services this morning arrested two men aboard a pickup allegedly advertising the opposition rally tonight. They were Ahmed ‘Eagle’ Shareef and Abdulla ‘Tintin’ Rasheed. The police also confiscated the pickup and its speaker system.

The allied opposition parties subsequently held a press conference at JP headquarters, Maafanu Kunooz, where MDP MP Ahmed Falah accused the government of obstructing the right to free speech and assembly.

However, a police spokesperson told Minivan News the two men had been calling for protestors to gather near the High Court, an area in which protests are prohibited.

JP Council Member Ali Hameed said the opposition was not seeking a confrontation with the government.

“The JP and MDP represent 75 percent of the Maldivian population. If the government is thinking of going into a confrontation, please think again. We do not seek a confrontation,” he said.

MDP Malé City Councillor Shamau Shareef claimed the government was using gangs to intimidate political opponents while Falah accused Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports Naif Shaukath of assaulting a JP supporter.

Minivan News was unable to reach Shaukath at the time of press, while Youth Ministry’s Coordinator Ali Shahid said the opposition was linking the government to gangsters “because they cannot stomach the work President Yameen is doing for the youth and the development of the Maldives.”

Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Services held a press conference at noon urging all parties to exercise the freedom to assemble within the bounds of the Freedom of Assembly Act, and warned police would not hesitate to “take appropriate measures to ensure public peace, safety and harmony.”

Two men were arrested from opposition protests at the junction of Chaandhanee and Fareedhee Magu last night.

Related to this story

Nasheed defends coalition with former rivals

Opposition street demonstrations head into third consecutive night

Opposition alliance a “waste of time”, says Gayoom

Gasim defiant as opposition sign agreement to defend Constitution

Civil Court orders halt to seizure of lands allocated to Gasim’s Villa company


PPM parliamentary group leader Nihan criticises US for comments on judiciary

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan has suggested the United States should look closer to home before passing comment on the Maldives’ judiciary.

While speaking at a ceremony in Gaaf Dhaalu Thinadhoo yesterday, Nihan said the majority of the countries issuing statements on the Maldivian judiciary do so without considering their domestic circumstances.

“They are afraid to talk about their own courthouses and the rights of their citizens. For example America, one of the biggest critics, is at the verge of killing black people on sight,” Haveeru has reported Nihan as saying.

“The countries which remain quiet, even as Israel continues to kill off people in the Middle East, Al-Quddus area – they are pointing their fingers at others,” he continued.

Speaking with Minivan News today, the Villimalé MP has suggested his words had been taken out of context by local media, though he defended them as being based upon facts, defending his right to freedom of expression.

Nihan’s comments appeared to refer to two recent incidents in the US in which individuals died at the hands of police officers, prompting nationwide civil rights protests.

During a visit to the Maldives this week US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal said that judicial independence is still an issue in the Maldives, despite the young democracy’s accomplishments.

The comments came just days after the removal of two Supreme Court judges by the People’s Majlis, in a move condemned as unconstitutional by both local and international civil society groups, as well as the Maldives’ Civil Court.

Numerous Commonwealth organisations said the move had “severely jeopardised” the independence of the judiciary, while the International Commission of Jurists said the “astonishingly arbitrary” decision had “effectively decapitated the country’s judiciary”.

Nihan told Minivan News today that there was no reason why the Maldives should act upon “planned and political” statements from European countries either.

The government, and President Yameen in particular, has heavily criticised the EU for what it regards as interference in the internal affairs of the country, suggesting it had prompted the Maldives to look increasingly to China as a development partner.

When asked about the impact of his comments on diplomatic relations, Nihan said that he believed that there should be no impact as Maldives has the right to defend itself from its critics in the international arena.

Meanwhile, a PPM press release on Thursday (December 18) had slammed what it termed attempts to bring the Maldives into disrepute by Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Ibrahim Gasim, who suggested that Maldives was facing international censure over the removal of Supreme Court judges.

“We’re giving a bad signal. [We are] talking about comments made about the Maldives looking at statements from America and the commonwealth,” the business tycoon was quoted as saying in local media.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan were removed following the passage of government-sponsored amendments to the Judicature Act, which proposed reducing the number of judges on the apex court from seven to five.

Following ratification of the amendments by President Abdulla Yameen, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) promptly recommended the dismissal of Faiz and Adnan, which was approved by parliament on December 14 with 53 votes in favour and 21 against.

Related to this story

PPM accuses JP of misleading public, bringing government into disrepute

ICJ says Majlis has “decapitated the country’s judiciary”

Judicial independence still an issue in Maldives, says US assistant secretary of state

Judicial independence, rule of law “severely jeopardised” in the Maldives, says Commonwealth organisations


Dr Shakeela alleges conspiracy to drive her from office

Former health minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela has suggested her removal from office was the result of a conspiracy which included death threats and a smear campaign.

Giving an interview to local newspaper Haveeru, Shakeela alleges that she was ousted in order to clear the way for corruption within the health sector.

“When I was given the post, some people said this can’t be done by bringing in someone from far outside after we worked hard to bring this government,” she told Haveeru.

“So from the start there were some people who were bent on showing that I was a failure,” she continued.

Shakeela told the paper that she had received multiple threatening phone calls – including eight in a single evening, suggesting she would be killed if she did not resign.

Dr Shakeela’s reappointment in the redefined role of health minister was overwhelmingly rejected by the pro-government majority People’s Majlis last month.

Parliamentary group leader for the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Nihan, has told Minivan News today that Shakeela’s removal was a democratic decision made by the parliamentary group.

“I cannot accept her claims in that regard, and cannot verify whether this is the case [of threats] or not,” said Nihan.

The Villimalé MP said that rejection of Shakeela by the parliamentary group after her nomination by the president sent a strong signal to ministers.

“If we [MPs] decide to give another year to Shakeela and wait for a whole year, who will be blamed?” he asked.

The President’s Office today said that it did not wish to comment on the interview, nor the allegations of death threats sent to the former cabinet minister.

Threats to politicians have become increasingly common in recent months, with Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim alleging fellow politicians were behind these attempts at intimidation.

Corruption allegations

Dr Shakeela, speaking while attending a conference in Bhutan, said that political opponents intended to utilise the position to benefit from large scale corruption in the health sector.

“I am not talking about small amounts [of money]. For example, because of the state of disrepair of infrastructure, about MVR500,000 has to be spent at least to build even one place. In most places, it goes above a million,” she explained.

“So consider the profit people could make. They could give it to whoever they want. They could do whatever they want to purchase equipment. I tried to do it without allowing any of that.”

Dr Shakeela – who served as environment and energy minister under the previous government – also alleged that negative media coverage of the health sector was part of wider efforts to engineer her removal.

A series of protests over regional healthcare services came soon after it was revealed state-owned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) had transfused HIV positive blood to a patient in February due to an alleged technical error.

In June, Fuvahmulah councillors called for Shakeela’s resignation after a case of stillbirth, an interrupted caesarean, and the death of a soldier on the island. A few weeks later, over 300 protestors demonstrated in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi over deteriorating conditions at the regional hospital.

Shakeela was up for parliamentary approval in August for the second time during President Abdulla Yameen’s administration after her initial portfolio as minister of health and gender was modified.

While Shakeela told Haveeru that she was not given adequate authority to carry out her job,  PPM parliamentary leader Nihan today said that acting health minister Colonel (Ret.) Mohamed Nazim was now doing a “tremendous” job.

“I’m sure that the work of the acting Health Minister is commendable, work that Shakeela could not have done – I’m quite sure of that,” said Nihan.

Drawing parallels with the work of former health minister Ilyas Ibrahim – brother-in-law of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – Nihan argued that the sector had needed a more proactive minister.

Nihan suggested that the money allocated to the health sector in the past two budgets had been generous, a point previously disputed by both Shakeela and Permanent Secretary at the health ministry Geela Ali


“Police did not beat them enough,” says Majlis majority leader Ahmed Nihan

Ruling Progressive Party Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan has defended police brutality during a People’s Majlis debate today, accusing opposition MPs of putting up an act using tomato sauce to pretend police beat them up.

“Honorable Speaker, police did not beat them enough. Those who say they were brutalised, came to Majlis the next day in good health with makeup on. Their health is better than before. How can anyone who was brutalised get up on their two feet and speak on this Majlis floor [the next day]?” he said.

“They say they were brutalised, bloodied, and put on a drama on hospital beds, smear themselves with tomato sauce, and take photos and the next day they speak perfectly well at this Majlis and go off.”

Nihan appeared to be referring to police officers brutalizing several opposition MPs during a demonstration following the controversial ouster of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

On February 8, MPs including MPs Mariya Ahmed Didi, Reeko ‘Moosa’ Manik, Eva Abdulla and former MP Mohamed ‘Bonda’ Rasheed were severely beaten.

Nihan’s comments came during a debate on revising clauses in the 2008 Police Act that state the police must forward criminal cases to the Attorney General (AG) for prosecution.

The amendments – accepted by the Majlis today – propose placing prosecutor general (PG) instead of AG in clauses relating to prosecution, as the Constitution of 2008 states only the PG can press charges on behalf of the state.

Nihan said opposition MPs had politicised the issue by digressing from the debate and focusing on police brutality.

Death of officers

Nihan also suggested the deaths of police officers, Adam Haleem on Kaafu Atoll Kaashidhoo Island in 2012 and Misbah Abdulla in Malé in 2013 were linked to opposition’s defaming of the Maldives Police Service.

Referring to Haleem’s murder, Nihan said: “This is the result of a specific people protesting and calling for attacks on Maldivian police and soldiers during that week and weeks before that.”

Haleem was stabbed to death in July 2012 and several government officials including current Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed blamed the MDP for the death. The MDP said the government was politicising the death for political gain.

Abdulla was killed in an accident after a speeding motorcycle hit him while he was manning a vehicle checkpoint.

“In every event, in every discussion, [they say police] are brutal, arresting – were you arrested when you were prostrating [in prayer]?” Nihan said.

“Harassing police is harassing us, playing with our arteries, our blood,” he continued.

Police Brutality

On August 6, AG Mohamed Anil told parliament five February 8 brutality cases involving four police officers are ongoing at the Criminal Court.

At minister’s question time, MP Eva Abdulla asked how far investigations into police brutality – as recommended by the 2012 Commission of National Inquiry’s (CoNI) – had progressed.

“With respect to the administration of justice, in particular concerning allegations of police brutality and acts of intimidation, there is an urgent need for investigations to proceed and to be brought to public knowledge with perpetrators held to account and appropriately sanctioned,” read the second recommendation of the report.

While it concluded that the transfer of presidential power was constitutional, CoNI had found that “there were acts of police brutality on 6, 7 and 8 February 2012 that must be investigated and pursued further by the relevant authorities.”

Anil explained that the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) had investigated 45 cases of alleged police brutality and made a recommendation to the home ministry to dismiss six police officers. However, only one officer was sacked, Anil said.

February 8

Thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé on February 8, 2012, in a protest march after former President Nasheed declared his resignation the previous day had come “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinying police officers of the Special Operations (SO).

Following an investigation, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) concluded that the heavy-handed police crackdown on the MDP walk was “brutal” and “without warning.”

The HRCM recommended the PIC investigate the “disproportionate” use of force that left dozens of demonstrators injured and hospitalised.

In May 2013, the PG’s Office pressed charges against two police officers accused of assaulting MDP MPs ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Mariya Ahmed Didi during the violent crackdown.

Amnesty International meanwhile warned that failure to prosecute police officers accused of human rights abuses and “serious failings in the justice system entrenched impunity”.

In June 2013, former PIC member Hala Hameed told parliament’s government oversight committee that the cases involving the six police officers were “not disciplinary issues, but crimes,” expressing concern with the home minister’s refusal to suspend the officers.

Moreover, former PIC Chair Shahinda Ismail told Minivan News in September 2012 that a staff sergeant caught on tape kicking a fallen demonstrator “was promoted after this incident.”

In February this year, Shahinda told Minivan News that detainees arrested in Addu City on February 9 were “forced to walk on smoldering coals”.

According to the HRCM report, 32 people filed complaints concerning varying degrees of injuries sustained in the crackdown, while 20 people submitted medical documents of their treatment of injuries.

Two fingers on the left hand of one demonstrator were crushed, the report noted.

Al Jazeera filmed parts of the crackdown, reporting that “police and military charged, beating demonstrators as they ran – women, the elderly, [with] dozens left nursing their wounds”. The BBC meanwhile reported “a baton charge by police on crowds gathered outside one of the main hospitals.”

In a report in May 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul warned that there could be more instability and unrest unless serious human rights violations of Maldives’ authoritarian past are addressed.