Half of cabinet to be provided with MNDF bodyguards

Seven of the government’s 14 cabinet ministers have been assigned Special Protection Group (SPG) bodyguards from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

Colonel Abul Raheem of the MNDF said that the bodyguards had been designated upon the ministers’ request.

SPG bodyguards are of the same type provided to the President, Vice President and the Speaker of the House.

When asked if this was in response to any specific threats, Raheem was keen to point out that the move had not come as a specific response to recent events.

“This is not because of what happened recently – security guards have been requested previously,” said Raheem.

The security of government officials has become a prominent issue in the country following the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali last week.

Following the murder, parliament’s ’241′ Security Committee summoned Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz to discuss issues including the MP’s murder and politicians’ safety.

After failing to resolve the case, the police revealed earlier this week that they will seek foreign assistance in its investigations.

Earlier this week former Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy called for a review of security arrangements afforded to Maldivian politicians over fears of an increase in “orchestrated” political attacks in the country.

The comments were made after Luthfy had been struck in the face on October 6 by an unidentified assailant on the island of Kanduhulhudhoo, Gaafu Alif Atoll.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed last week requested, in writing, that his Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) security detail – provided under the Former President’s Act – not accompany him on a campaign tour.

The MNDF later released a statement saying that it could not take any responsibility for harm that might befall the former president whilst not under its protection.

A spate of high profile murders and an increase in assaults in the Maldives has led to criticism of the Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, with some going as far as to table a no-confidence vote in the People’s Majlis.

This week the cabinet has urged the President to take immediate measures to ensure safety and security in the country.

Local media reported that the cabinet’s security committee had decided to review businesses offering 24 hour services, and that police will conduct increases vehicle checks in an effort to maintain peace on the streets.

The government also announced its decision yesterday to submit a bill which will govern the implementation of the death penalty.

Despite being on the statute books, the Clemency Act and a lack of facilitating legislation has resulted on a de facto moratorium on capital punishment since 1953.


The Maldives: Mired in presidential intrigue

“In the end, whether it was a coup or not is academic. The chance to reverse the situation is long gone. Waheed’s government is established,” writes Will Jordan for Al Jazeera.

“But there are two other questions. Was there a conspiracy to cripple Nasheed’s government? And did Gayoom have a hand in bringing Nasheed down?

The evidence is circumstantial.

It centres on what the Danish experts describe as ‘a highly unorthodox meeting’ at the end of January between then Deputy President Waheed and the opposition leaders. Afterwards, opposition figures pledged their allegiance to Waheed.

Two key players in Nasheed’s downfall have also received senior posts. Mohamed Nazim is Defence Minister. Abdulla Riyaz is Minister for State and Home Affairs. They both watched as Nasheed signed his resignation.

Waheed was also fast to reshuffle his government, promoting Gayoom’s son and daughter to the foreign and fisheries ministries respectively.”

Read more.


“I am very sceptical of the burden we will have to carry”: PIC chair

Chair of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Shahinda Ismail has said she is “very sceptical of the burden” the institution will have to carry following the publication last week of the Commission of National Inquiry’s (CNI) findings.

The comments were made after Minister of Home Affairs Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed yesterday said that the PIC would be tasked with investigating breaches of police conduct outlined in the CNI’s findings.

Of primary concern to Shahinda was the CNI’s lack of clarity regarding the cases the PIC was to investigate, as well as loopholes within the Police Act which made it difficult to implement PIC recommendations.

“After the CNI, it’s quite confusing when they have so vaguely blanketed the actions of the police. It would have been clearer to name specific incidents or policemen,” she said

Shahinda has questioned the ability of the PIC to follow through with this mandate after having had almost no contact with, or instruction from, the now-disbanded CNI.

“I was surprised at the dismantling of the CNI. There surely must be further questions from many people,” she said.

“After the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) completed their investigations, they sent a letter to us [to guide our work]. We would like something similar from the CNI,” she said.

Shahinda revealed that, throughout both versions of the CNI, the PIC had only had one meeting and received one letter from the commission.

The meeting involved mainly introductions and talk of future co-operation, whilst the letter from the CNI to the PIC asked only when its investigations into the events of February would be completed, she explained.

Referring to the CNI’s recommendations that the PIC, amongst other institutions, needed to be strengthened, Shahinda responded:

“My question would be – while I don’t claim the PIC is perfect – what information are they working with? Throughout their investigations, they showed no interest. There was no inquiry about specific incidents. To my knowledge, no one was summoned.”

Shahinda explained that the PIC was already investigating a number of incidents relating to February 7 and 8, making the lack of contact doubly confusing.

“They knew we were already investigating specific incidents – that’s what we do,” she said.

Shahinda also outlined what she saw as the weaknesses within the police act that, in certain cases, had allowed the Home Minister the option of ignoring PIC recommendations.

Article 44 of the Police Act states that any parties handed recommendations by the PIC can choose not to act on them if they inform the commission of the decision in writing.

“He is not really bound by the act,” said Shahinda, before alleging that this clause had already resulted in the Home Minister ignoring recommendations forwarded to him.

The PIC chair gave the example of a case involving police officer Ali Ahmed, whom she said had been adjudged unfit to continue to serve by the commission.  Shahinda claimed the case had been forwarded to the Home Minister.

“I know for a fact he is still a policeman and was promoted after this incident” she said.

“It is really upsetting – a huge concern – for me that the police leadership is showing a trend where unlawful officers are acting with impunity. This can only lead to further violence,” added Shahinda.

Dr Jameel was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has recently expressed his belief that around 300 members of the security services were “undermining the public interest of the entire country”.

Following the findings of the CNI’s report, which concluded that Nasheed was not removed from power in a coup, he called for legal action to be taken against implicated officers.

Nasheed’s representative on the commission Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed resigned the day before the report was published, citing – amongst other things – withheld evidence and non-examination of crucial witnesses.

The report’s findings have been welcomed by the United States, India, and the United Nations as well as the Commonwealth, although the MDP has said it will lobby for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to reconsider.


“The quality of services delivered by the judiciary remains disappointingly gloomy”: Home Minister

“Our judiciary has some bright minds, but that does not exempt it from scrutiny; judiciary in the Maldives, with the exception of few courts and judges, the judiciary as a whole has earned a deservedly bad reputation for its inconsistent judgments, lack of leadership, lack of competency and being out of touch with modern laws and views of the society.”

So says Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, the current Minister of Home Affairs, writing in Haveeru today.

“Holders of the judiciary were given security of tenure through the appointment of Magistrates and judges by an independent commission. Supreme Court justices recommended by Judicial Service Commission and nominated by the President were appointed by the Parliament.

Holders of the office of the judiciary were further secured with the provision that they could only be removed by a two third vote of the Parliament. The legislatures pinned their hopes of establishing an independent judiciary.

It was the desire of the nation to see not only an independent judiciary but also competent professionals leading it, and who are able to fulfill the expectation of a nation on the verge of embracing new found democracy, and whose inhabitants have over the years acquired knowledge and skills in various professions.”

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Home Minister claims reports of criminal activity in Usfasgandu, after criminal court drops request for court order

The Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed yesterday claimed to have received reports that criminal activity was being conducted at the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MDP)’s protest camp in Usfasgandu area.

Jameel’s comments come only days after the Criminal Court refused to grant a court order for the forced dispersal of the protest camp, which was granted to the MDP by the Male’ City Council – which has an MDP majority. The court had argued that the case fell under the jurisdiction of the Civil Court.

Jameel was not responding at time of press. However he was reported in Haveeru saying that: “No complaints of any criminal activities had been raised with us at the time [of the original court order request]. But now many complaints have been received including criminal offences.”

The Criminal Court last week decided that the case concerning the disputed jurisdiction of the Usfasgandu area fell outside of its remit. The police had requested the court order following an instruction from the Home Ministry to take over the area on behalf of the government.

The MDP have based their activities in the area since their original ‘Justice Square’ protest camp was dismantled by security forces on March 19. During the subsequent court case the MDP’s legal team decried the fact that the government forces had acted without a court order.

After the camp had been dismantled, the government defended its actions, arguing that criminal activities had been planned and executed in the area.

There had been incidents in the days immediately preceding the raid in which police had been attacked by individuals who were then reported to have retreated into the crowded camp area.

Furthermore, the March 19 raid came only hours after an MDP led march, originating at the ‘Justice Square’ camp, in protest of the re-opening of the People’s Majlis turned violent resulting multiple injuries to both civilians, police and military personnel. Villa Television (VTV)) also sustained significant damage.

During the raid itself, after a brief media blackout, the security forces paraded cases of alcohol to waiting journalists as apparent evidence of illegal activity in the camp.

The ensuing court case was inconclusive, being dismissed on a technicality shortly before the closing statements were expected. The technical issue was resolved and the case re-filed, before again being held up on a similar issue.

Hissan Hussian, a member of the MDP’s legal team, said that the MDP will not stop police investigating potential cases of criminality. She said that the police could obtain a search and arrest warrant if it had reasonable grounds to believe that illegal activity was taking place.

“We are saying that if criminality is going on, they are free to investigate. We will not give cover to anyone engaging in illegal activities,” said Hissan.

She also revealed that a petition had been circulating in protest of the bullying tactics being used against the MCC. The petition seeks to remind the Local Government Association (LGA) and other government ministries that jurisdictional battles must be pursued through the appropriate legal avenues. The petition so far has arounf 150 signatures.

This follows the submission to the LGA last week of a petition criticising the MCC’s policies on religious speeches as well as its general provision of services.

Over 60 days had passed between the MDP’s relocation to Usfasgandu and the Home Ministry’s order to the police, during which time no complaints of criminal activity had been received according to the Home Minister’s comments.

Spokesman for the MDP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor saw these accusations as a furtherance of the government’s attack on basic freedoms: “This is very telling. They have tried but they are losing a battle against freedom of expression.”

“The coup administration appears to be acting on the previous constitution while we are acting on the current constitution. They have memory loss,” said Ghafoor

Ghafoor, who is also MP for Henveiru South, the constituency in which Usfasgandu lies, said that he had not been made aware of any criminal activities in the area.

“If there were serious problems I would be the first to know. I walk around the area every day,” he added.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was unable to give specific details of any of these complaints, explaining that such complaints do not always go through the police but can go directly to the Home Ministry.

Usfasgandu has become the most prominent in a series of inter-governmental disputes between the central government and Male’ City Council (MCC). The government has argued that the MCC’s leasing of the Usfasgandu area for political purposes violates the terms of the 2010 decentralisation act.

The MCC has repeatedly refuted this and refused to cede control the area to the Housing Ministry. MCC Mayor ‘Maisan’ Ali Manik has said previously that the MCC would stand aside if a court order was obtained, whilst stating his belief that that these jurisdictional issues fall within the mandate of the Civil Court.


Police forward case against Dr Jameel for prosecution

Police have concluded an investigation requested by the President’s Office into “slanderous allegations” by minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Deputy Leader Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

According to a statement released by police on Thursday, the former Justice Minister was investigated for attempting to incite hatred and disrupt religious unity.

The case has been sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the statement revealed.

In the past week, Jameel was summoned for questioning four times and taken into custody thrice by police.

However on all three occasions he was released by the Criminal Court before 24 hours after DQP filed cases challenging the legality of the arrests.


Police interrogate, briefly detain DQP leaders over “slanderous” allegations

Police interrogated and briefly detained leaders of the minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Thursday night, after the President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” statements alleging the government was working under the influence of “Jews” and “Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

DQP council members former Justice Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and ‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Ibrahim Didi were summoned for questioning at 8pm Thursday night. Former Attorney General and presidential candidate in 2008, Dr Hassan Saeed, accompanied the pair as their lead lawyer.

Speaking to press outside the police headquarters shortly after 10pm, Dr Jameel contended that the government was trying to silence dissent by arresting those who speak out against corruption and intimidation of the judiciary “with a serious warning of destroying democracy in the Maldives in its infancy”.

“By God’s will, we now have the certainty that will we will put this current President [Mohamed Nasheed] in jail for a long time,” he asserted.

Sandhaanu Didi was meanwhile taken to Dhoonidhoo detention island after midnight and released around 7:00pm on Friday night. DQP had filed a case at the Criminal Court at 3:45pm challenging the legality of the detention and seeking reasons for his arrest.

In July 2007, Didi was sentenced to life imprisonment by the former government for distributing the dissident Sandhaanu newspaper online and allegedly fomenting unrest and revolution. His role in the pro-democracy reform movement was recognised by Amnesty International and the US State Department.

Before entering the police station Thursday night, Didi insisted to reporters that his insinuation of the government’s anti-Islamic agenda was true, holding up a booklet titled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians.’

“We brought Nasheed to power by mistake. Nasheed is a madman,” he claimed, calling on the public to “rise up and defend Islam.”

Meanwhile a group of DQP supporters gathered outside the police headquarters to protest, during which DQP Deputy Leader Abdul Matheen was briefly detained for “disobeying a police order” and released after midnight.

“Suppression of free press”

The police involvement provoked a flurry of strong criticism from opposition parties, which have accused the government of resorting to dictatorial tactics, intimidating political opponents “out of desperation” and undermining freedom of expression.

Both the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – which formed a coalition with DQP last year – and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) led by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom have condemned the government’s “suppression of the constitutional right to free expression.”

In a press statement issued today calling on the international community to intervene, PPM condemned the current administration for “harassment and intimidation” of privately-owned media outlets, arguing that such actions have “created an atmosphere of fear and repression in Male’.”

The ‘December 23 coalition’ of eight opposition parties that united to ‘Defend Islam’ also released a statement on Friday calling for the immediate release of the DQP senior member and condemning the “act of cowardice.”

“The December 23 coalition assures all citizens that we will not be deterred by the intimidation from the government but will continue on with renewed vigor in the face of such adversity for our religion and country to ensure that our rights are protected,” the statement read.

“Invalid offence”

A statement by DQP meanwhile explained that Didi was to be charged under section 125 of the penal code drafted in the 1960s, which states “Where a person makes a fabricated statement or repeats a statement whose basis cannot be proven, he shall be punished with house detention for a period between one to six months or fined between Rf25 and Rf200.”

Noting that the provision was “one of the most frequently invoked clauses by the 30-year rule of President Gayoom to suppress press freedom and dissenting views,” DQP argued that the liberal constitution adopted in 2008 and decriminalisation of defamation in 2009 rendered the offence of slander or lying “invalid.”

“Article 69 of the constitution prohibits application and interpretation of fundamental rights under the constitution restrictively,” the statement explained, adding that article 68 requires the interpretation of fundamental rights “in accordance with prevailing practices in democratic countries.”

Meanwhile, following his interrogation Dr Jameel tweeted: “Nasheed is relying on archaic laws to suppress opposition voices but he calls himself a democrat.”

The former Civil Aviation Minister under President Nasheed also alleged that police were continuing to “harass me and I am expecting to be taken illegally at any time.”

According to local media reports, Sandhaanu Didi has been summoned to the police headquarters again at 8.30pm tonight.

“Racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic”

Sandhaanu DidiAppearing on opposition-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV last week, Sandhaanu Didi had alleged that the government was “operating under the influence of Christian priests” and had been “attempting to spread irreligious practices and principles in the country.”

In response, the President’s Office issued a statement on Thursday condemning the remarks as “racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic.”

“The DQP is playing politics with religion. They are siding with religious extremists to wage a campaign that is racist, anti-Semitic and deeply unpleasant, in an effort to damage the government. I condemn the DQP, its leader Dr Hassan Saeed, and the council members involved for their disgraceful behaviour” Zuhair said at last week’s press conference, where he announced the government’s decision to ask police to investigate the pair along with DhiTV.

Zuhair added that opposition parties were “stooping to the politics of the gutter… out of political desperation”, pointing to a string of victories in recent by-elections for the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) “and the success of government policies, such as universal free health insurance, which was introduced on January 1.”

“The outburst by the DQP council members is the latest in a torrent of intolerant slurs made by opposition parties in recent weeks, in an apparently co-ordinated effort to undermine the government’s moderate Islamic stance,” the President’s Office statement reads.

On December 23, opposition parties and a coalition of NGOs organised a mass demonstration to ostensibly ‘Defend Islam’ and accuse the government of an hidden agenda for securalisation.

“Slander and bald-faced lies”

In his weekly radio address yesterday, President Nasheed insisted that the government “did not wish for the slightest disruption to freedom of expression” and would not react to criticism with police action.

“However, when deliberate slander is spread about the government to mislead the public – especially the false claim that the government is trying to introduce other religions in the Maldives – in my view, the government has a responsibility to clear its name and refute the allegations,” he explained, reiterating that neither the ruling party nor the government “would ever attempt to bring another religion into the country.”

He added that the government should take action against deliberate falsehoods spread to “create discord between the public and myself, my party or this administration and cloud their view of the government.”

Meanwhile at last week’s press conference, Press Secretary Zuhair noted that the former government carried out an investigation while Dr Hassan Saeed was in the cabinet into MDP’s sources of funding and foreign backers, which cleared the fledgling party of alleged ties to Christian missionaries.

After declaring “unconditional” support for candidate Nasheed ahead of the second round run-off of the October 2008 presidential election, Dr Hassan Saeed said at the closing rally of the campaign that the anti-Islamic allegations were “bald-faced lies.”

“The Maldivian government carried out efforts with funds from the Maldivian treasury, with money from the state budget and using experts from England to see if there was any connection between Mohamed Nasheed or MDP to Christianity,” he revealed.

“They carried out a thorough inquiry. That project looked into whether MDP received funds from foreign parties to spread Christianity. But what did the inquiry the Maldivian government carried out with Maldivian funds show? There is no connection between Mohamed Nasheed or MDP to Christianity.”

Dr Saeed’s running mate in 2008, former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed explained in an interview with Minivan News in June 2011 that the previous administration hired UK security and private investigation firm Sion Resources in 2007 for a surveillance operation dubbed ‘Operation Druid.’

“The [Gayoom] government may have wanted to see what was going on. What these operations did was try to see who was who. And a lot of the operations the government felt were against it came from Salisbury, and I think the government of the day felt justified in engaging a firm to look into what was going on,” Dr Shaheed revealed.

“We’re talking about people who they had deported from the Maldives for proselytisation, people involved in all sort of activities. They felt they needed to check on that, and what came out was a clean bill of health. Nothing untoward was happening, and these people [MDP members working in exile] were by and large bona fide.”

The accusation from the Gayoom campaign that MDP and Salisbury Cathedral were conspiring to blow up the Islamic centre and build a church was “just a mischievous suggestion, a very mischievous suggestion,” Dr Shaheed said.

“Hassan Saeed and I – the last election rally we had, October 7 2008 or thereabouts, the last rally in our campaign against Gayoom, at the time everyone was accusing each other of being non-Muslim, and this accusation that the MDP was non-Muslim was getting very loud,” he continued. “So we came on stage and said we were former government ministers and that we were aware about this allegation against MDP and that Gayoom had hired a firm to look into this allegation, and that their report had confirmed there was no such connection to MDP. Both of us said this on record.”


Election dream still alive, says Dr Hassan Saeed

The dream of the 2008 presidential campaign is still alive and within reach of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), its newly elected leader Dr Hassan Saeed has said.

Speaking at the party’s first congress on Saturday night at Bandos Island Resort, Dr Saeed, who resigned from both the former and current governments, said it was not too late to realise the aspirations of his presidential campaign.

“Our leaders don’t have to always go begging to Europe or the Middle East,” he said. “[Our leaders] won’t have to say with pride that I begged more and secured more money than my predecessor.”

Dr Saeed said Maldivian politicians have never ruled to serve the the people: “They rule to fill their pockets.”

Hard times

Apart from difficult economic circumstances, Saeed continued, islanders were struggling to pay their electricity bills, the cost of living was rising and the government was ruthlessly dismissing elderly security guards.

Dr Saeed said his law firm, Raajje Chambers, was under pressure from banks to take prominent businessmen and resort owners to court to reclaim unpaid loans.

“As a result, it is likely that many resort owners in the country will go bankrupt in the near future,” he said. “Thousands of employees could lose their jobs.”

Meanwhile, development of over 60 resorts was stalled due to failure to secure loans.

While government expenditure increased threefold in the past five years, the quality of life for citizens has not seen any improvement.

“Political posts have increased from 500 to 1,000,” he said. “But has the service from political appointees to the people similarly increased? It has not. The number of police officers has increased by thousands. Crime has not fallen. As the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court in 2003, I earned Rf4,000 (a month). Today the person in that post receives Rf30,500. Has the justice system been strengthened? Has [the judicial process] become faster?”

Moreover, he added, the number of embassies abroad has increased threefold without a corresponding spike in foreign investment.

Looming bankruptcy

The state of affairs today was so dire that local businesses were unable to get foreign loans at an interest rate of even 12 per cent, said Saeed.

“The 65 resorts in the country have not been developed because they couldn’t get loans at even 15 per cent, let alone 12,” he said.

Moreover, he added, the government was giving away assets cheaply and handing over management of schools to foreign parties without considering the benefits to the Maldivian people.

The former special advisor to the president said the government has not given any thought to enriching Maldivian businesses or putting struggling small business back on their feet.

“Maldivians are a talented, educated, young and industrious people,” he said. “All that Maldivians need is just a little opportunity. What Maldivians want is a day when they won’t be forced to fill a form to join the ruling party whenever there is a change of government.”

He added the DQP will not falter in its “national jihad” and would work together with other parties to reach its goals.

“God willing, we will win the upcoming local council elections and the presidential elections after that,” he said.


In his speech, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who was dismissed from his cabinet post last year, said the country was in a state of “despair and hopelessness”.

Those who had claimed not to want power was now trying to stay in power at all costs, he said.

While the former government spent Rf4.8 million a month on political appointees, he said, the figure has climbed to Rf9.1 million a month under the Nasheed administration.

Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed, one of the party’s two MPs, said the party has now matured and was ready to play its part in the political arena.

“We did not come out to topple the government. We will try to hold the government accountable…[Only] the people can change the government,” he said.