Over 1,500 complaints lodged over voters list

More than 1,500 complaints have been filed at the Elections Commission (EC) concerning the eligible voters registry for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

According to the EC, the Progressive Party of Maldives submitted 1,385 complaints while the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party made 66 complaints.

A further 120 complaints were lodged by individuals, the EC said.


Elections Commission announces Saturday 5pm deadline for submitting re-registration complaints

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced a deadline of 5:00pm on Saturday (November 2) to submit complaints regarding re-registration for the first round of the presidential election on November 9 as well as a possible second round scheduled for November 16.

Voter details can be checked in the Maldives by sending an SMS to 1414 in the format ‘VIS [ID#]’, or by calling the helpline on the same number. Registration details can also be checked online at http://elections.gov.mv/index2715.html

The EC noted in its announcement that all re-registration forms submitted by citizens wishing to vote in a location other than their home island have now been processed.

In addition, complaints submitted ahead of the canceled election scheduled for October 19 have also been attended to, the EC said.

The commission also announced that Elections Complaints Bureaus have been set up in Addu City and islands with atoll council offices.

With the exception of Fuvahmulah and Shaviyani atoll, the bureaus have been established at the atoll council offices. The bureau in Shaviyani atoll is located at the first floor of the Atolhuvehi building in Funadhoo while the office in Fuvuhmulah was set up at the atoll house.

The bureau will be open until November 16 from 8:00am to 3:00pm except on Fridays. On Fridays, the bureaus will be open from 2:30pm to 5:00pm.

The complaints form is available from the EC website and the National Complaints Bureau counter on the second floor of the PA complex building as well as the bureaus in atoll and city council offices, atoll election units, and election focal points set up in island council offices.

Phone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses of the complaints bureaus can be found at the EC website.

According to the timeline for the rescheduled election, re-registration forms will be sent on November 3 to the Department of National Registration (DNR) for verification of fingerprints – a key demand by two of the three presidential candidates.

The voter registry will be finalised, printed and sent to presidential candidates on November 4. Candidates will be asked to sign the voter lists on November 5 and 6.

Ballot boxes are to be dispatched on November 8, the election will be held on November 9 and the preliminary results will be announced on the same day.

The official results will be announced on November 12, one day after the current presidential term ends.

Re-registration form verification

The DNR revealed last week that 11 out of the 500 voter re-registration forms sent to the police so far for verification have been rejected to date.

At press conferences on Thursday (October 31), the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) said that they have identified several problems with the re-registration forms, after the EC allowed the parties to review the forms last week.

Abdulla Ameen, campaign agent of PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen, told the press that a five-member team from the party reviewed the information on 11,000 forms submitted before October 19 and discovered issues on 20 percent of them.

Among the problems the PPM discovered, Ameen said, included address mismatches, expired ID card numbers, smudged fingerprints, missing signatures, missing phone numbers and incomplete information of witnesses.

The forms should have been rejected by the EC, Ameen argued.

The PPM has therefore asked the EC to verify 6,000 forms either through fingerprint verification or by contacting the re-registered voter, Ameen said.

The verification was necessary to ensure that voters were not re-registered in a different location without their knowledge, he added.

JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim meanwhile told reporters that the party’s team also identified similar problems after checking about 15,000 forms.

Gasim reportedly said that he would not allow the election to be held in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines laid down in the apex court’s judgment annulling the September 7 election.

The re-scheduled election on October 19 was cancelled after the JP and PPM candidates refused to approve the voter registry as required by the Supreme Court guidelines and police obstructed the EC an hour before polls were due to open.

In an interview on the state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM), EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek described the Supreme Court guidelines as “locks” and “restrictions” while expressing frustration with candidates having “veto power” to prevent the election from taking place.


Deceased people in voter database result of difficulties obtaining information: Department of National Registration

The Maldives’ Department of National Registration (DNR) has said there is a possibility names of deceased people could be included in the electoral register as it “faces difficulties in obtaining information” to maintain a more current database.

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of presidential elections, the EC had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll – scheduled to take place this Saturday (October 19).

The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.

The Supreme Court’s verdict delineated 16 guidelines the EC must follow in holding a new round of polling before October 20, including using the DNR’s database as the “main source to determine eligible voters”.

Today the DNR admitted it had “faced difficulties in obtaining information on people who have passed away abroad”.

“We have removed the names of deceased people from our database whose information hasbeen shared. But we cannot remove a person from the database if we can’t officially confirm their deaths,” DNR Director Fareeda Yoosuf told Haveeru.

For the annulled first round as well as past elections, the EC compiled its voter registry by collecting current data from island council and city council offices, which was cross checked with the DNR database, and then updated after the commission publicly published the list and provided voters with an opportunity to amend any incorrect information.

“It has been very hard work over the last five years to come up with a voter registry of this standard,” Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek explained to Minivan News in a previous interview.

Meanwhile, the EC emphasised today that it has not made any changes to the information obtained from the DNR database when compiling the voter register for the presidential election scheduled for Saturday, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s order.

The commission will forward all complaints regarding the voter registry to the DNR, local media reported.

Complaints submitted thus far have primarily focused on the delayed re-registration process, according to local media. Other recurring issues are due to individuals being registered to vote under incorrect addresses or in the wrong location altogether.

The commission accepted complaints submissions until 6pm today. Additionally, as of this afternoon, the EC had processed over 52,000 – of the estimated 65,000 – re-registration forms for individuals voting outside of their permanent residences.

The entire re-registration process, including the complaints procedure, was delayed after supporters of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) “threatened officials, incited discord, and obstructed EC officials’ ability to work” at the voter registration department.

The commission notified the government that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) failed to remove the protesters from the registration section’s premises for five hours “despite repeated efforts and requests for police assistance”.

A midnight ruling from the Supreme Court on October 10 ordered the commission to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.


Deadline for voter registration complaints extended to 6:00pm Wednesday: Elections Commission

The Elections Commission has accepted and finished processing all re-registration forms and has called for people to submit complaints over mismatched details by extended deadline of 6:00pm Wednesday (October 16).

The Commission warned that people whose ID card details do not match those on the voter registry would be unable to vote this coming Saturday, October 19.

Voter details can be checked in the Maldives by sending an SMS to 1414 in the format ‘VIS [ID#]’, or by calling the helpline on the same number. Registration details can also be checked online at http://elections.gov.mv/index2715.html

Following the conclusion of the complaints process, the commission has said it intends to publish the final registry before Thursday (October 17). The EC has printed the ballot papers and is currently in the process of vetting elections officials.

A sudden midnight ruling from the Supreme Court last week ordered the EC to redo the entire voter re-registration process from scratch, barely a week before the election.

Despite the extremely expedited timeline and a window of less than a day to re-register, more than 60,000 people still submitted the new fingerprint forms to vote in the first round – just 5000 short of the 65,000 who re-registered ahead of the annulled September 7 poll.

“It’s not possible to give more time. We will check the complaints we receive tomorrow, and make amendments if possible,” President of the Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek told media at a press conference last night (October 14).

Thowfeek said protesting PPM and MDA supporters in the re-registration centre the previous evening had caused a six hour delay in the registration process.

A system crash around 2:30pm on Sunday (October 13) due to the large volume of data saw the EC begin manual processing while the system was restarted. An official said the problem was fixed two hours later at 4:30pm, however some people reportedly became upset as the manual process meant they were unable to be immediately issued with a confirmation slip.

Meanwhile, PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen told Haveeru that only questionable registration forms would need to be subject to fingerprint identification.

Yameen previously told the paper that he would not sign the final voter registry – another requirement of the Supreme Court’s new election guidelines – should the voter list not be subject to fingerprint authentication, despite the lack of a comprehensive fingerprint database or institutional capacity to conduct verification on a national scale.

A police official told Haveeru that it would take 3-5 minutes to verify each fingerprint, if the print was recorded with the Department of National Registration or in the police database.


Parliament’s security services oversight committee summons Police Commissioner

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has been summoned to Parliament’s Security Services Committee for the second consecutive day, reports local media.

The Parliamentary committee, mandated in constitutional article 241, summoned Riyaz to appear at 11:ooam today over a complaint by Addu City Council. Addu City Mayor Abdullah Sodig and the Addu police-in-charge were also contacted to attend the meeting.

Riyaz was also summoned to appear at 11:15am yesterday (October 9) to provide the parliamentary committee with a status update regarding the murder investigation of former Ungoofaaru MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Security service committee meetings are closed to the public and media, however Sun Online has claimed that the committee “expressed frustration” over the delay of Dr Afrasheem’s murder investigation and requested Riyaz provide a date when the investigation will be concluded.

Earlier this year, Riyaz declared that police officers would only attend the 241 committee and would not appear before parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) unless the Supreme Court orders police to do so. The Police Commissioner claimed that the decision was based on advice from Attorney General Azima Shukoor.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court ruled both the Police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) should be answerable to parliament whenever requested.

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


Police investigating 51 complaints of torture and wrongful imprisonment

Police are investigating 51 new complaints of torture and wrongful imprisonment after soliciting cases from an office in the Velaanage building.

The torture investigation committee led by former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal was formed by Presidential decree to investigate torture allegations against former government, and obtain information concerning prison torture carried out during both the current and former administrations.

The office was opened last week following the release of disturbing photographs of tortured victims in custody, and the arrest of former prisons chief Isthafa Ibrahim Manik, who has since been released to house arrest on order of the High Court.

The photos released so far include images of men tied to coconut palms, caged, and bloodied. One of the photos, of a prisoner lying on a blood-soaked mattress, has a 2001 date stamp.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said some of the complaints concerned “inhumane activities” and violations of human rights within the prison system, while others related to people “who were imprisoned for a long time without trial, or were kept in custody despite a court order [to the contrary].”

“Most occurred a long time ago, 20-30 years,” Shiyam said. None of the 51 complaints selected for investigation referred to incidents in the last two years, he confirmed, although the office was continuing to seek information on recent cases.

The prisons system has been under particular scrutiny following the disappearance in April of crucial files relating to an investigation into human remains found on the site of the former Gaamaadhoo prison.

“People want to see justice for what happened,” a senior government source told Minivan News at the time. “Human remains were discovered and there is a strong reason to believe that something bad happened. However it looks like the investigation has been compromised.”

Police have since claimed that preliminary investigations revealed planned and systemic abuse of prisoners over a long period of time.

Several members of government, including President Mohamed Nasheed, maintain they were tortured in custody under the former administration.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has denied allegations – among others – that incidences of torture occurred during his rule.

“All such allegations of corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of funds and property are baseless and completely untrue, as are those of torture, repression, and unlawful detention during my presidency,” Gayoom said in a letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron last year, dated October 17.

“Nearly two years after the MDP government assumed presidency, Nasheed and his government have failed to uncover a single shred of evidence to substantiate any of these allegations,” Gayoom said.

Cases of previous custodial torture can be reported to the government’s investigation committee on the 12th floor of Velaanage, by phone on +960 333 0584 or +960 333 0585, or island police posts.


JSC fails to convince Civil Court of its misconduct complaints procedure

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), an independent body constitutionally mandated to oversee the ethical standards of the country’s judiciary, yesterday failed to convince the Civil Court that it had any form of standardised procedure for dealing with complaints against judges.

The JSC is currently defending itself against allegations of allowing bias and favouritism to influence its decisions on complaints of judiciary misconduct and was yesterday required to provide documentary evidence to the court proving the contrary. However, the evidence may have opened up more questions about its operations in the court.

The current case relates to action being taken by Treasure Island Limited, which is suing the JSC over allegations that the body had dismissed three complaints of misconduct it made against Interim-Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy and Judge Ali Naseer for reasons of favour and bias towards the judges.

Civil Court Judge Mariyam Nihayath said that the documents submitted by JSC did not clarify for her – as had been claimed they would – that a standard operations procedure was in place to prevent arbitrary decision-making on complaints of judiciary misconduct. She added instead that the documents submitted to court by JSC as evidence had raised questions of whether the commission had any procedure at all for dealing with complaints.

Judge Nihayath said in addition that it appeared that any member of the Commission had been free to individually decide that a complaint did not need further investigation, despite having claimed otherwise.

The JSC, set up by the 2008 Constitution, is required to get a majority or consensus vote from members in all complaints-related decisions. It is also required to keep records of how each member voted for a specific decision to be reached.

At the behest of Treasure Island, the court had asked to see records of meetings at which Commission members agreed not to look into the company’s allegations any further. The JSC failed to locate the documents after conducting a “thorough search”.

Last week, the JSC admitted that some complaints procedures did not conform to either constitutional stipulations or its own regulations, though the commission maintained that it did have a specific method in place nonetheless.

This method, as explained by the JSC in the court, involved a process of “administrative screening”, whereby the Chair pre-selected which complaints were about judiciary misconduct and therefore worthy of deliberation and decision by members.

The rest were responded to by a letter, signed by the Chair, informing the complainant that a decision had been made not to investigate the matter any further. Treasure Island had received two such responses to its complaints.

This ‘administrative’ method, the JSC said, was far less time-consuming than that stipulated in the Constitution and saved members time to attend to their constitutional duties.

Of the three randomly selected such responses submitted to court by the JSC yesterday, Judge Nihayath noted that they were not signed by the Chair – only one of them was found to have been signed by the Vice Chair and another by a member.

Furthermore, she said, two of the letters included the words “the Commission has decided”, allowing the inference to be made that the decision not to investigate had been taken by the JSC and not the signatory acting alone.

JSC Legal Representative Abdul Faththah said he could not explain why the decisions had been conveyed by the three different figures instead of the Chair alone, as in the “administrative screening” process he outlined last week.

The phrase “the Commission has decided” being included in the responses, Faththah explained, was not about the individual decision itself, but related to a decision taken in November 2008 in which the ‘administrative” alternative to the Constitution had been agreed upon.

Judge Nihayath also asked Faththah why it was that two of the letters had been signed by the then JSC Chair and Vice-Chair respectively, yet a member with no other authority, Hassan Afeef, could also write to a complainant dismissing their claims.

“I don’t really know why that happened on that day”, Faththah said. “Perhaps, I said in the last submission that the procedure was for the Chair to sign the responses’, but, he said, that did not seem to be the case.

Fathah added that he had randomly selected the letters shown during the case from a file especially kept for responses to complaints dealt with by the “administrative screening process” of the JSC as opposed to its Constitutional stipulations.

Judge Nihayath will also hear Treasure Island’s response to JSC evidence on January 5, when she will also rule on whether or not to summon witnesses that have been requested by both sides.

She has scheduled the last hearing for 19 January 2010 when both sides are expected to make their closing submissions.


HRCM annual report on human rights reveals concerning statistics

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) held a press conference this morning to present their annual report for 2009 on human rights in the Maldives.

The press conference was led by President of the Commission Ahmed Saleem and Vice President Mohamed Zahid.

The Commission expressed concern and regret that when MPs debate on bills presented at the People’s Majlis, they sometimes ignore the Commission’s comments.

The report mentions complaints made by the public directly to the HRCM.

Out of 490 total complaints made in 2009, 322 were resolved and 168 are still pending.

The highest number of complaints, 139, were job-related cases. The HRCM said most of these complaints were from people working at resorts. Thirty-seven of these cases are still unresolved.

The second highest number was relating to housing and property rights, the HRCM having received 57 complaints last year, 26 of which are still pending.

Police-related complaints amounted to 55, and eight were related to violence (all of these being marked as ‘resolved’).

Two complaints were relating to murder. Both are still pending investigation.

There were 16 complaints relating to child abuse, which was one of the issues they listed as their main priority to tackle this year. Nine are pending investigation.

The report claims the crime rates in the country have risen. It reads that communities in the Maldives have reached a state of fear mainly because of “failure to enforce sentences for convicts.”

It adds that “a large number of convicts are loose in society.”

Complaints relating to the judiciary system were 31, ten of which are still unresolved.

Problems with riots in jails were also listed as a main priority.

Members of the HRCM visited several jails last year including Maafushi jail, Malé jail, Feydhu Finolhu jail and S. Gan temporary jail.

They also visited Hinmafufhi Rehabilitation centre, Dhoonidhu police custodial and the Emigration detention centre, where they conducted their research.