Losing PPM Majlis candidate asks for police intelligence to prove bribery

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Ibrahim ‘Hiyaaly’ Rasheed – recent runner-up in the Mid-Hithadhoo constituency seat – has today asked the High Court for police intelligence regarding the bribery allegations he has made.

Rasheed’s lawyer – PPM MP-elect Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed – is reported to have told the High Court that was unsure whether police intelligence had information regarding bribery involved in this specific poll, though he knew there was evidence of bribery in some races.

Rasheed lost the constituency seat to Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, who won just over 43 percent of the popular vote.

Wadde alleged that the other two candidates in the Mid-Hithadhoo contest had distributed money and other things as bribes to influence the election, and also that they had withheld the ID cards of constituents.

Wadde had submitted the names of 10 witnesses to prove his client’s allegations that there was bribery involved in the parliamentary elections.

Local media also reported that Ibrahim Mohamed Didi was involved in to the case today, with Didi’s lawyer reportedly telling the court that there were procedures to follow when issues arose regarding elections, before filing a lawsuit at the court.

The judge inquired as to whether Rasheed had filed the complaints with any other institution and his lawyer told the court that he had not.

Ibrahim Mohamed Didi won the Mid-Hithadhoo constituency seat with 1,099 votes. Rasheed got 898 votes, while independent candidate Hussain Solih got 554 votes.

Ibrahim Didi is still facing charges for the controversial military detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012, though the case has been stalled for over 12 months.

Didi was also the Malé area commander in a special operation conducted by the military ‘Operation Liberty Shield’ to control unrest in Male’ following the arrest of the judge.

On 3 April, the opposition MDP condemned alleged attempts by government-aligned parties to influence voting in the recently held parliamentary elections through coercion and threats.

“The MDP expresses concern and strongly condemns the actions of government-aligned political persons to buy votes, threaten people with losing their jobs, and instruct some voters to make a special marking on ballot papers – thereby compromising the confidentiality of votes cast,” the party said in a statement issued that day.

The MDP accused the ruling parties of threatening that individuals would lose their jobs, and requiring these people to specially mark their ballot paper in order for observers and party representatives to see how the vote was cast.

Following the conclusion of the election, Transparency Maldives stated that while it was well-administered and transparent, “wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack the democratic process”.

On March 27, The Adhaalath Party spokesperson Sheikh Ali Zahir told Minivan News that the party lost many seats it ought to have won in the Majlis elections due to bribery and undue influence from competing candidates on all sides.

“It was really sad that a lot of money transactions were involved in it, it was an obstacle to electing the most capable person to the parliament,’’ Zahir told Minivan News at the time.

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Two losing candidates for parliament contests results at High Court

Two losing parliamentary candidates in the March 22 elections have contested the results at the High Court, local media reports.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate for the Shaviyani Funadhoo constituency, Mohamed Abbas, and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate for the mid-Hithadhoo constituency, Mohamed Rasheed ‘Hiyalee’, filed cases at the High Court seeking annulment of the results.

The legal grounds for annulment remains unclear in both cases.

Incumbent PPM MP Ali Saleem was reelected in the Funadhoo constituency while MDP candidate, retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, won the mid-Hithadhoo constituency seat.

According to electoral law, such cases must be filed at the High Court within 30 days of the announcement of official results by the Elections Commission.

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Hulhumale Magistrate Court schedules trials of former Defense Minister and other senior military officials

The Hulhumale Magistrate Court has scheduled hearings against former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, former Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) Male Area Commander (retired) Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.

All three are facing the same charges as former President Mohamed Nasheed, concerning the former administration’s arrest of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, in January 2012.

Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) official, Mohamed Zahir, told Minivan News that the hearings are to take place from next week.

According to Zahir, Tholthath’s trial is scheduled to take place on February 16, while both retired Brigadier General Didi and Colonel Ziyad’s trial will be held on February 25.

Zahir said that a date has not yet been set for Nasheed’s hearing.

Nasheed meanwhile failed to appear in court for his scheduled hearing on Sunday. Nasheed was on an official visit to India and arrived back in the Maldives this afternoon. The hearing was cancelled in Nasheed’s absence.

Zahir told Minivan News that the bench would meet to decide on a date to hold the hearings.

Background

An investigation led by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), on the order of the Prosecutor General (PG), found that the former President was the “highest authority liable” for the military-led detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Along with Nasheed, the report concluded that the former Defence Minister, Tholhath, was a second key figure responsible for the decision to detain Judge Abdulla.

The commission stated that the judge was not physically harmed during the 22-day detention at the military training island of Girifushi.

However, the HRCM did claim that the government had “violated his human dignity” and made attempts to manipulate the judge through a psychologist who visited him at the facility where he was detained.

In July 2012, the PG filed charges based on the findings of the HRCM investigation.  The accused stand charged with violating Article 81 of the Penal Code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal.

If found guilty, parties may face a jail sentence or banishment for three years or a MVR 3000 fine (US$193.5) at the discretion of the judge.

The PG pressed charges against Nasheed in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on the grounds that holding the trial in Male’ at the Criminal Court represented a conflict of interest on behalf of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, whom the case concerned.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) appointed a three-member panel of judges to oversee the trial of the former president.

The Commission’s members include two of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – Deputy of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) – and Gasim Ibrahim, a resort tycoon, media owner, MP and leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP), also a member of the governing coalition.

During the first hearing of Nasheed’s trial, his legal team challenged the legitimacy of the court and several other inconsistencies, however was this was dismissed.

Nasheed’s legal team then appealed the matter in the High Court. Despite its initial rejection, the High Court subsequently accepted the team’s appeal over the procedural points and issued a injunction on the case.

Following the JSC’s request that it look into the legality of the magistrate court, the Supreme Court ruled that the magistrate court was formed in accordance with the law and therefore could operate normally.

Meanwhile, High Court upheld the rulings of Hulhumale Magistrate Court in the appeal case filed by Nasheed’s legal team, and ordered the court to proceed with the hearings.

Arrest of the judge

The chief judge was detained by the military after he opened the court outside normal hours and ordered the immediate release of current Home Minister and deputy leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), Dr Mohamed Jameel.

Jameel had been arrested after the President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations he made that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

Nasheed’s Home Minister Hassan Afeef sought to justify the arrest claiming that the judge had taken the country’s “entire criminal justice system in his fist“.

Afeef meanwhile listed 14 cases of obstruction of police duty by Judge Abdulla, including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.

Afeef also accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, and barring media from corruption trials.

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Q&A: Former Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi

Former Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi joined the Maldivian military in 1979 as a private, rising to the rank of Brigadier General and Commander of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Southern Command. He resigned “prematurely” from his 32 year career on July 16, after the government filed charges against him alongside former President Mohamed Nasheed, for the detention of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

As a junior soldier Brigadier General Didi was instrumental in defending the Maldives from the coup attempt of 1988, which saw around 80 mercenaries from the Tamil militant group the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) launch a frontal assault on the country’s military headquarters. He recounts the experience to Minivan News.

JJ Robinson: You were a corporal on the day of the 1988 coup attempt. Can you describe what happened that day?

Ibrahim Didi: That night was my off night, and I was at my residence. Early in the morning I woke up to the sound of the gunfire.

JJ: What was your first thought?

ID: I thought something had happened in the armoury. Within a few seconds I knew something had gone wrong – badly.

JJ: There was no indication this was going to happen? There was no intelligence?

ID: As far as I understood, no. Some time after that there was speculation that the government had information, but it was not clear to me – I was too junior then.

There was no information as to exactly when they were going to attack, but there was vague information that on the 26th of that year – independence day – something might come up. But not in November.

When [the mercenaries] came, they came in two boats as far as we understood. There was a rumour there was a third boat, and some people say the third one left with some people once they knew the mission was not successful. People are not aware who was onboard – whether they were from India, or Sri Lanka – people don’t know who they are. But the rumour was there – one boat left.

JJ: You heard this gunfire, what happened next?

ID: I called the MNDF – then it was called the National Security Service (NSS). Because I was serving in the field of communication I knew most of the phone numbers. I was able to call a number and by coincidence it was Major Zahir – who later became Chief of Defence until 2008.

JJ: He told you what was happening?

ID: He told me that HQ was under attack and instructed me not to go to HQ, but to go to the place where President Maumoon was. I was instructed to go and protect him.

JJ: Was this the palace?

ID: No a private residence.

JJ: Were there many people there?

ID: No. Three of us soldiers. Later someone else came.

JJ: Most were in the military base?

ID: Yes.

JJ: So the mercenaries were attacking the base by that stage.

ID: One boat came to the ports area, the other two [near to where the President’s jetty is now].

They approached the front of NSS headquarters from behind a building where Republican square is now. They tried to make a mouse hole in the southwest corner of the base with explosives a frontal attack. There were two guards -one was marytr Hussein Adam at the main gate of NSS Headquarters.

He had an AK-47 assault rifle with two live magazines. Unfortunately the pillar box he was in was not accessible from inside the base – he was trapped inside.

But he attacked those foes without any orders, knowing they were besiegers. And that’s the main reason why the troops in the MNDF base – then the NSS – were alerted.

Hussein was shot dead after he ran out of his 60 rounds. During this they were charging the mouse hole [at the back of the base] but luckily we had a machine gun covering it.

But the first line of ammunition was running out, and the main armoury was locked. Normally the keys in those days were with the Deputy Defence Minister, and he was at his residence. At that time the Defence Minister was the President himself.

I was at the President’s location and was ordered to go to the Deputy Minister’s house and find the armoury keys.

I came across four enemies while I was behind cover. I had an AK-47 with live rounds, but I judged not to meddle with them without knowing the strength of the entire force. I didn’t know how many [enemy soldiers] there were, what was their power or their strength.

My sixth sense alerted me to not meddle with these people, because if I did I would be giving up the location of the President. Now I firmly believe it was a perfect decision that I made.

Since I was asked to go to the deputy defence minister’s house, I left my ammunition and arms with the other soldiers. When I went there I ran across then-corporal Farhath, later Vice Chief of Defence and a Brigadier.

When we approached the house it was cordoned off by the enemy, who had barred the entry. So we approached from the other side and thought a disguise might work, so I disguised myself as a schoolboy.

Near the house, I went in to look. They didn’t bother stopping me – I went through the enemy cordon. They didn’t say anything; they just ignored me, and let me go inside. I found the [minister’s] driver killed inside.

I was looking for the Deputy Minister of Defence. He was not in the house, but there were two other soldiers, friendlies who had been captured and had their hands tied. They told me the Deputy Minister had been killed, and were asking me not to go inside the house.

JJ: He had been killed?

ID: No – somehow they had got the wrong information. They asked me not to go inside the house but I figured that wearing a school uniform, in the worst case I would be captured and have my hands tied too. So I went inside.

I found his wife, and was able to find the keys for the armoury. That was lucky. The keys were in a secret place. Somehow the Deputy minister had been injured, and he didn’t want to come back because he feared they would kill him. He left his wife behind in case the MNDF was looking for the keys.

I was an authenticated source for them so there was no problem getting the keys. I escaped from the house, but then I was looking for a way to deliver the keys, as the NSS headquarters was encircled.

What I did was jump up and down the walls and roofs of the buildings on the to the base – I knew how important the task in front of me was for the nation.

JJ: What did it feel like? You must have felt under a lot of pressure.

ID: The pressure was just to do it. I knew how critical it was. I heard ‘Do it’, ‘do it’, ‘do it’ – nothing else. It was God’s blessing.

I was able to climb over the walls to a house behind the MNDF headquarters. As I went inside that house, a mortar shell landed nearby – it was very scary.

JJ: They were using mortars?

ID: Yes, the whole house shook but nothing happened – it fell in an empty area. It was very lucky – the entire carry out was lucky and full of blessing.

I asked the people in the house to lie down on the floor – there was nothing we could do. You can’t go out or hide behind anything if you don’t know what is going to happen next.

During the entire process I had been informing [the MNDF] via land telephone where I was, so they would know from where I was approaching. From the house opposite the back of the base, I finally informed them that I would throw the keys over the wall.

There were two enemy soldiers outside, and the dead body of a MNDF soldier near the old minaret. Three enemies were on the other end near where the explosion had occurred.

It looked like I could go out and throw the key over the wall. I had to go out about six feet. I knew I could move out and throw it over the wall before they saw me – but I knew they could shoot at me afterwards.

JJ: Did you get shot at?

ID: No – I went back inside immediately once I knew the keys were inside the headquarters, and the MNDF opened up the armoury. By that time there were only 210 rounds left. That was how critical it was.

After opening the armoury they had ammunition and heavy arms, and defended the headquarters as well as they could.

At around 10:30am when they knew they couldn’t get into the headquarters, the enemy soldiers began their escape plan – to hijack a cargo vessel, and take hostages from the locals. By 10:30am that morning they must have declared to themselves that they could not achieve their mission.

JJ: How long had they been attacking?

ID: Since around 4:30am in the morning. By and large they didn’t leave, they were there until nearly midnight.

By the time the Indians came there were none of them left on the ground in the Maldives, they were out the country.

ID: When did India arrive?

After midnight. By coincidence, their flight was landing as [the mercenaries] were going out through the Gaadhoo channel in a cargo boat.

JJ: The usual version is that India saved the Maldives in 1988, but you’re saying it was over by the time they arrived?

ID: Yes. What India did was able to help us get back the hostages and capture some of the enemies. An Indian navy ship attacked the cargo vessel. They had heavy explosive charges on the vessel – it was heavily shaken.

JJ: Where was the cargo vessel by the time the Indians arrived?

ID: On the high seas somewhere between the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

JJ: Afterwards, what was the reaction? What changed in the MNDF?

ID: That’s a very interesting question. The government realised that the Maldives required a fighting defence force. Previously it was a police force. So we got assistance from the US and UK as well as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to develop a fighting force.

The British Green Berets came to develop a special task force unit.

JJ: What was its role?

ID: It was basically a fighting company named a Special Task Force – a foundation of the defence force. Based on that it has been developing until today.

At that time we didn’t have a proper coastguard. That has changed as well.

JJ: How was your own role recognised?

ID: I was awarded a Medal for Exceptional Bravery and was immediately promoted to Sergeant, and later to a Warrant Officer. I attended a signals office course at the US Army Signal Centre, and later received a commission.

I did a Basic Officer Course and Advance Officer Course with the US Army, and a Basic Staff and Command and Staff Course with BSC Honours in War Studies in Pakistan.

I did a Security Studies Course at the Asia Pacific Centre in Hawaii, and a National Defence Course with Mphil in Defence and Strategic Studies at the National Defence College in Delhi.

JJ: Why did so few details of the coup attempt emerge? Do you think the government was nervous about Indian influence after their assistance?

ID: I don’t think the government was nervous about Indian influence. Unlike in the UK or US perhaps, people didn’t talk about such things here in our country.

I recently retired from service. Today, everyone has a lot of questions – and the media is asking questions about what happened. Twenty years ago people weren’t asking questions. Nobody bothered to ask simple questions in the media during the late 80s and early 90s. People knew something had happened, but nobody bothered to clear it up.

I believe that on the particular day, martyr Corporal Hussein Adam was the savior of the nation. He sacrificed his soul attacking those soldiers, and allowed us to protect the headquarters. If he didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have been able to protect the headquarters. They could have captured everything – at least until India saved us.

Martyr Hussein Adam should be given all the credit. His was pure initiative – that was very much God’s hand. He used his 60 rounds with no instruction – used his own initiative to save the nation. He was crying for ammunition – we could not provide it to him from inside in the base. Somebody would have had to go outside – the pillar box had no access from inside.

He was trapped in there, and he utilised all the ammunition he had. But there was no way of providing more to him because of the enemy attack. The gate was locked. He was the hero of the day.

JJ: Let’s fast forward to more recent times. Yourself along with two other officers and former President Mohamed Nasheed are being charged over the detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed. Can you explain why you decided to resign over this?

ID: At this present time a lot of people are asking these questions – the media is all over me. I am trying not to engage with the media at this time as there is a court case against me.

JJ: What was your reason to not wear your uniform to the Civil Court hearing?

ID: Because I didn’t want my uniform to be politicised there. It was my personal choice.

JJ: Without politicising the MNDF or discussing specifics, what is your perspective on what happened on February 7? What actually happened, objectively?

ID: I have very much kept quiet on what happened on February 6-7, because there is an inquiry commission conducting a fact-finding process. So I think it is not right for me to talk to the media. Let [the commission] finish it.

JJ: Yourself and former Chief of Defence Moosa Jaleel were highly respected officers. Moosa Jaleel left after February 7 and you have now chosen to resign. What is the sentiment in the MNDF?

ID: I don’t know, because I haven’t involved myself with what is happening in the MNDF. I don’t think it is right for me to comment at the present time on the feelings of serving people. I should stay away from that.

JJ: So you weren’t ready to resign, or ready to retire – without talking about the specifics, what was your feeling about the decision?

ID: Obviously it was a premature retirement. There is a reason for premature retirement. As I said, I did not want to wear my uniform to the Civil Court.

JJ: What is your impression of the public sentiment – particularly the rhetoric – towards the security services? Should people be supporting the police and the military?

ID: This is a very difficult question to answer. I don’t want to politicise anything.

JJ: Generally speaking, it’s an unstable time for the Maldives and there are a lot of economic challenges. What needs to happen to stabilise the place and ensure security and stability?

ID: Sincere reconciliation from all sides. For the sake of the nation.

JJ: Do you think that is likely to happen.

ID: If the politicians love our nation – then yes, it has to happen.

JJ: How much responsibility do you think politicians have for the current state of the Maldives?

ID: Entirely 100 percent.

JJ: You said the 1988 coup really changed the defence force. Do you think the MNDF still needs to be the size that it is?

ID: The MNDF has been decentralised – I was the first appointed area commander in the Maldives, in the south – March 2009. It is a very good system – it is not yet 100 percent instituted, but once it is developed it will be an excellent system for the MNDF.

JJ: Apart from politics, what would you say are the greatest security threats facing the Maldives?

ID: We are a very small country. My Defence and Strategic Studies on National Security MPhil thesis focused on the national security of the Maldives.

Small countries have to have a good system as far as our economy, internal security, energy security, food security, external security – all these pillars – are concerned. We have to be careful. [Problems with] any of these pillars might erode our national security in the Maldives. These are very important pillars.

Foreign policy is one pillar of security – our policy makers have to make sure our policy for particular countries is of a particular dimension to make sure our geostrategic security is not threatened.

There are also concerns such as drugs, terrorism and money laundering.

JJ: A lot of these would seem police-related?

ID: These are concerns – security is not just a military concern. We have to take care of strategic security – I should say ‘they’, as I’m out of it now.

JJ: Indian intelligence – and press – occasionally raise concerns about rising fundamentalism in the Maldives, with claiming groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba have tried to establish links in the Maldives. Realistically, based on your experience, how much a threat is fundamentalism to the Maldives’ security?

ID: As you understand we are a 100 percent Muslim country. I believe that if we go by the principles of Islam – the fundamentals of Islam – Islam is the religion of peace. There should be no reason [for concern] if we follow Islam. My argument is always that we should follow Islam, as it is. Then we won’t have a problem.

JJ: What about external [fundamentalist] influences?

ID: Even in that case, if we can follow these principles, everyone knows what Islam is all about, then no matter what comes in, people will understand what Islam is and there won’t be any room for extremism.

JJ: What about security concerns such as Somali piracy?

ID: I strongly believe we need to strengthen our coastguard. The MNDF is going to do that. They must be very capable of taking care of those challenges.

JJ: Lastly, what would you say is the top security threat facing the Maldives right now?

ID: I don’t want to say anything at this time. Because it might be quite critical. I’m not in a position to define the top security threat to the Maldives.

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MNDF Brigadier General, Maldives EU Ambassador resign from government

Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) submitted his resignation yesterday, a day after the Prosecutor General (PG) announced his intention to press charges against the decorated general over the military’s detention of Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

His resignation was followed today by Maldives Ambassador to the EU, Ali Hussain Didi ‘Alidi’.

Hussain is the fourth senior Maldivian diplomat to resign from the coalition government of President Mohamed Waheed, following in the footsteps of Maldives’ Ambassador to the US and United Nations Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, High Commissioner to the UK Dr Farhanaz Faizal, and Deputy High Commissioner to the UK Naushad Waheed Hassan – President Waheed’s brother.

Meanwhile a statement by the MNDF yesterday confirmed that Didi, who was serving as the MNDF southern area commander, requested retirement or honourable discharge from the army.

Didi’s resignation after 32 years of service follows in the wake of the Prosecutor General’s Office filing criminal charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfan for allegedly ordering the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed on January 16.

Nasheed and Tholhath were charged with violating Article 81 of the Penal Code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal, an offence that carries either a three-year jail term, banishment or a MVR2,000 fine (US$129.70).”

In a statement on Sunday, PG Ahmed Muizz said he intends to press the same charges against former Chief of Defense Forces Moosa Ali Jaleel, Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad for their role in detaining the judge.

Local media has reported that the charges were filed at the Hulhumale’ magistrate court today.

Didi, 51, was serving as the Male’ area commander at the time of Judge Abdulla’s arrest and was transferred to the southern area command following the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

Judge Abdulla was accused of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from facing justice for alleged human rights abuses and “high-profile corruption cases”.

Brigadier General Didi meanwhile told local daily Haveeru yesterday that he decided to resign out of respect for the military uniform as he did not wish to attend court and face charges in MNDF uniform.

“I’ve always respected the military uniform during my entire 32 years of service in the military. It’s my belief that I must be present in court after removing the uniform. I do not wish to face the court while wearing this uniform,” Didi was quoted as saying.

Didi noted that the highlight of his military career was defending the nation during the failed coup attempt on November 3, 1988. He was subsequently awarded a medal for bravery.

Didi declined to comment on the arrest of Judge Abdulla.

Didi becomes the third senior military official to retire from active service after Chief of Defence Forces Moosa Ali Jaleel and Vice Chief of Defence Force Brigadier General Farhath Shaheer in February.

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