Former president denies human rights abuses in 30-year rule

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has denied that human rights abuses and torture in prisons occurred during his 30-year reign.

Taking questions from listeners yesterday on DhiFM’s “One-to-One” live call-in show, Gayoom categorically denied that he ordered anyone to be tortured.

“No Maldivian citizen was unjustly punished that I was aware of or on my orders,” he said.

He added he was not aware of torture in jails or custodial deaths and it would not have taken place on his orders.

“When I received complaints, I looked into it. I did get complaints of torture in jails or unjust punishment in other ways. Every case would have been investigated,” he said.

In some cases, commissions were formed to investigate the allegations, he continued, while other cases were sent to court.

Responding to a question on whether he could prove his 30-year rule was not autocratic, Gayoom said he always governed in full compliance with the constitution and was re-elected in free and fair elections.

“I did not come to power or remain in power by using military force,” he said.

Appearing on the same show last week, President Mohamed Nasheed, a former Amnesty International “Prisoner of Conscience”, said he recently found a letter to the former president, also minister of defence at the time, from the officer-in-charge of police.

“It says in a lot of cases many citizens were taken before court without any evidence in the way the government wanted,” he said.

At the time, said Nasheed, such things were commonplace.

Asked about the letter, Gayoom said he could not recall a particular letter as he would have received thousands during the past 30 years.

“I might remember if it happened or not if that letter is shown to me and how I acted upon it or if I didn’t,” he said, adding he could not recall it off the top of his head.

If Nasheed showed him the letter, he continued, he would explain how it happened.

Although the pair has not met since the hand-over of power last year, Gayoom said he has had telephone conversations with the president and exchanged text messages.

Fielding questions

After thanking him for “getting rid of drugs in four months”, a caller asked Gayoom about a man from Fuahmulah who was “brought to Male’ on an allegation, punished and killed in Dhoonidhoo” in 1982.

Another caller asked, “Do you know that an island called Mandhoo exists?”

Gayoom addressed a number of issues ranging from tsunami reconstruction, his future in politics and the state of the nation.

The former president said he has not made a decision on remaining as leader of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party or contesting for the presidency in 2013.

“I am still thinking about it. God willing, the people will know my decision very soon,” he said.

Defending his record on island development, Gayoom said there was only one government school in the atolls when he took office in 1978, but there were schools now in all inhabited islands.

Moreover, he built island offices, atoll offices and atoll houses as well as mosques, health centres and harbours.

Infant mortality was reduced from 120 from every 1,000 births to 10, he said, while life expectancy rose from 48 to over 70 years.

International institutions and agencies have noted that of all the Asian countries affected by the tsunami, he said, Maldives made the best use of foreign aid.

Gayoom said about US$80 million pledged by the institutions and foreign nations was not delivered.