Immigration Department reminds foreigners not to interfere in politics

Assistant Controller of the Immigration Department Ibrahim Ashraf has reiterated the strict penalties for foreign nationals who engage in political protests whilst in the Maldives.

Police have begun an investigation, in conjunction with the immigration department, into suggestions that foreigners were involved in the protest that accompanied the opening of the Majlis on March 19. Minivan News was unable to contact the police for a comment on this investigation at the time of press.

Ashraf revealed that one of the suspects had already departed the country of his own accord.

Whilst being unaware of any specific instances of foreign involvement in the protests mentioned, MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor reaffirmed his party’s commitment to encompassing what he regards as global discontent into peaceful protests.

“We will be encouraging [foreign] participation. Out protests will go beyond borders. We are part of a global village and we have been violated. We will invite NGOs [to protest] and even tourists,” said Ghafoor.

“We want their voice with our cause. Peaceful protesters need to find a mechanism to lend their voice,” he continued.

Ashraf drew attention to the stipulations clearly detailed on the Immigration Department’s website which mentions the potential for immediate removal if foreigners are, “found participating in any unlawful activity or even the intention to participate or initiate an unlawful activity.” It also mentions penalties for those “suspected of disrupting the religious or political harmony.”

“Any foreigner on any sort of visa is not permitted to engage in political activity,” said Ashraf, “this is common for every country.”

Regarding the “strict” measures referred to in other media reports, the Assistant Controller said that this can involve permanent deportation or simply removal without deportation, depending on the gravity of the offence.

When asked to respond to these legal issues regarding the participation of foreigners in politics, Ghafoor responded “we might have to reconsider these restrictive laws.”

German national Patrick Crilly was taken into police custody earlier this month after photographing the police attempting to disperse a protest outside the Bank of Maldives (BML) using high-powered hoses.

He later explained that his detention was supposedly on the grounds of refusing to obey a police order, although he denies being given one. Crilly, a medical intern on a visa run from Sri Lanka, was detained for two and a half hours before being released without charge. The police denied that he had been officially arrested.

In 2006, an individual identifying himself as Michael Lord-Castle and four associates were deported from the Maldives for life after suspected involvement in political activity.

His controversial security-cum-fraud-investigation group, Global Protection Committee (GPC), was spotted on the streets of Male’ during the build up to the Maldivian Democratic Party’s planned assembly for constitutional change.

Lord-Castle originally signed a statement saying he had been invited by the MDP, a fact he later denied.