Police declare opposition protests not peaceful, threatens crackdown

The ongoing nightly protests by the opposition ‘Alliance against brutality’ are not peaceful, police have declared, claiming protesters were assaulting police officers and planning to carry out acts of arson in Malé.

At a press briefing on Thursday (March 26), Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz said speakers at the demonstrations were inciting violence and that protesters have repeatedly broken through police lines, disobeyed police orders, and obstructed police duty.

Protesters have also “thrown rocks, glass and lead balls at police ranks,” and attempted to cause physical harm to police officers, he alleged.

During the past two nights (March 24 and 25), Nawaz claimed that speakers “openly” called for subverting peace and security, and “encouraged breaking laws and regulations.”

Nawaz warned that police would disperse protests “without further warning” if protesters attempt to forcibly enter barricaded zones.

Moreover, a decision has been made to disperse protests after prior warning “if any unlawful actions take place to any extent during protests after Saturday night, or if we see such actions are about to take place,” he warned.

The nightly protests first began after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) allied against the government’s alleged breaches of the constitution on February 12 – two days after the arrest of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of weapons possession. Tensions escalated further with the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22.

Following Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges on March 13, the MDP accepted an invitation by Adhaalath Party (AP) President Sheikh Imran Abdulla to form a united front against the government’s “brutality” and continued protests this week under the banner “Alliance Against Brutality.”

Shortly after the police press conference, the Elections Commission (EC) announced that it has fined the MDP and AP for allegedly attacking police officers, damaging private property, and inciting violence in violation of laws governing freedom of assembly and political parties.

The MDP and AP were fined MVR47,000 (US$3,047) and MVR33,000 (US$2,140), respectively, and ordered to pay the fine within seven days.

In a letter to the parties, the EC warned that further action would be taken if “such actions are repeated in protests conducted by the parties”.

Police and EC meeting today
Police and EC meeting today

Peaceful assembly

Nawaz meanwhile claimed that individual police officers have been confronted and intimidated at their homes, adding that efforts were underway to “psychologically weaken” police personnel.

Police vehicles and private property have also been damaged, he added.

Nawaz revealed that 162 protesters have been arrested so far and police have forwarded cases involving 95 protesters, including two MPs, to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The Criminal Court has also released 62 protesters on the condition that they do not participate in protests for a determined period. Of these, two have subsequently been arrested for attending protests.

Nawaz said the 2013 Freedom of Assembly Act requires protests to be held to achieve a peaceful purpose and be free of violence or any form of incitement to violence.

He noted that the opposition alliance had not notified police prior to any of the nightly protests, which he said has prompted complaints from the public and businesses due to blocked roads and disruptions to public order and safety.

Nawaz also accused certain media outlets of attempting to falsely portray police as brutal towards civilians and said the media cut off live feed when protesters attacked police officers. He warned the police would arrest media personnel if they obstruct police duty.

If police officers violated the law during protests, Nawaz invited political parties and the public to lodge complaints at the relevant oversight bodies.

Meanwhile, at a separate press briefing on Wednesday, Chief Superintendent of Police Ismail Naveen said police intelligence has learned of planned acts of arson and other plots to “create fear in the hearts of the people.”

The recent spike in violence against expatriates – which saw two Bangladeshis murdered and four expatriates stabbed this week – was “planned”, he said.

According to police media, Naveen met officials of the EC, Police Integrity Commission, and Human Rights Commission of Maldives on Thursday in “emergency meetings” held to share concerns regarding “turmoil on the streets of Malé planned and carried out by political parties” and discuss counter measures.

Businesses in the capital were facing “irrevocable economic losses” due to the protests and police resources were diverted from law enforcement, Naveen told the independent commissions.

If protesters use loudspeakers after 11:00pm and continue protests after 12:00am in defiance of orders by police – invoking powers under the freedom of assembly law – Naveen said police were considering “not allowing the opportunity to continue these gatherings”.

Related to this story:

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“We will secure our rights from the street,” says Sheikh Imran

Government should initiate discussions or face consequences, warns opposition

Gasim “economically paralysed,” says JP Deputy Leader

Former bitter rivals unite against “brutality” of President Yameen’s government


Majlis approves president’s nominees to Elections Commission

The People’s Majlis today approved two nominees of President Abdulla Yameen for vacant seats on the Elections Commission (EC).

Mohamed Shakeel and Ahmed Sulaiman were approved with 54 votes in favour and 16  against.

The pair were subsequently sworn in and presented letters of appointment at a ceremony this afternoon at the President’s Office.

Despite being presented with three nominees last month, the Majlis only approved Amjad Musthafa, leaving the five-seat commission with just two members following the expiry of Mohamed Farooq and Ali Mohamed Manik’s five-year terms.

The five-member commission that oversaw last year’s presidential election was reduced to four after Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed resigned for health reasons during the poll.

The commission was further reduced in February this year, with the Supreme Court removing Chair Fuwad Thowfeek and Deputy Chair Ahmed Fayaz.


Kodey councillors sworn in seven months after election

Three councillors-elect for the island council of Gaaf Alif Kodey took their oaths of office on Thursday (August 21) seven months after the local council elections in January, reports local media.

Independent members Murthala Saleem and Ahmed Ibrahim along with Adhaalath Party member Siyam Mohamed were sworn in by Gaaf Alif Villigili Magistrate Azeem Hassan at a ceremony at the Kodey school.

A fourth councillor-elect, Shan Mohamed, meanwhile informed the Local Government Authority (LGA) that he no longer wished to serve on the council.

Shan told Sun Online that he has moved to Malé since January’s polls and begun practicing law in the capital.

Elections Commission (EC) Director Ahmed Abubakur, however, insisted that Shan must first take the oath of office and then resign if he did not want the seat.

He added that the EC would make a decision once the LGA informs the commission of Shan’s letter.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s annulment of the Kodey island council election.

In February, the High Court ordered a revote for the five-member island council. The decision was, however, appealed at the Supreme Court by the EC.

In its verdict (Dhivehi) – delivered more than four months after the appeal was filed – the apex court ordered a revote to be held among the two fifth-placed candidates and the sixth-placed candidate.

The fifth-placed candidates received 88 votes while the candidate in sixth place received 87 votes.

As the margin between the candidates for the last seat was just one vote, the High Court had invalidated the election after it emerged that an elderly Kodey man residing in Dhaandhoo had cast his ballot in the wrong box.


Majlis elections: EC announces preliminary results, coalition secures parliament majority

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced preliminary results of Saturday’s parliamentary elections for 71 of the 85 constituencies.

Acting EC Chair Mohamed Farooq told the press yesterday that the delay in the full announcement had been due to result sheets faxed from across the country being unclear.

Farooq had explained earlier that preliminary results are uploaded to the EC website after double checking the sheets to ensure there were no errors or inconsistencies.

While the results of more than 40 constituencies were announced yesterday, the EC resumed announcing the rest this morning, reaching 71 as of the time of press.

With almost all result sheets checked, the results published on the EC website for the remaining 14 constituencies are unlikely to change.

The EC reopened five ballot boxes in the presence of candidate representatives and the media last night after discovering mismatches in the number of votes received by candidates and the total votes cast.

The recount did not affect the outcome of the polls in any of the five constituencies.

Seat count

Preliminary results show that of the 85 seats in the People’s Majlis, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) won 33 seats along with 15 seats and five seats respectively for coalition partners Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA).

The Progressive Coalition secured a combined total of 53 seats, well above the 43 simple majority required to pass legislation.

Independent candidates won in five constituencies while the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) took one seat.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) secured 26 seats, which was the same number of seats it won in the first multi-party parliamentary elections in May 2009.

The main opposition party suffered surprising defeats in traditional strongholds such as the capital Malé, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, Haa Alif, and Addu City.

Of the 28 incumbent MPs who failed to retain their seats, 17 were from the MDP, four from the PPM, three from the JP, two independent MPs, one Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP and one Adhaalath Party MP.

While 23 female candidates competed in the elections, only five were elected, including three MDP candidates, one PPM candidate and one Adhaalath Party candidate.

In a preliminary statement on the polls, NGO Transparency Maldives noted that the Maldives was “currently ranked 129th place in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s index of parliaments in terms of gender balance.”

With 189,482 votes cast, the turnout on Saturday was 78.80 percent. The number of eligible voters was 240,652.*

Voter turnout in Male’ was well below the national average. With the exception of Galolhu South at 70 percent, turnout in other constituencies in the capital was below 65 percent.

The lowest turnout was for the Maafanu North constituency at 50 percent.

Obstacles and independents

In the wake of the coalition’s victory at the polls, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb – deputy leader of the PPM – has asserted that that there are now no “obstacles” now for the administration of President Abdulla Yameen to implement the PPM manifesto and fulfil campaign pledges.

“God willing, we will use the trust placed in us by citizens responsibly and work through parliament to give legal power to the [policies] in our manifesto,” he said.

The government’s 207-bill legislative agenda includes amending pension laws, designating special economic zones, and strengthening the legal framework for foreign direct investments.

Adeeb said the government has received congratulations from international partners and foreign investors.

Adeeb also revealed yesterday that some independent candidates have expressed interest in joining the PPM.

While 114 independent candidates contested the Majlis polls, only five were elected. Of the 302 candidates, 188 contested on party tickets.

Following his loss to an independent candidate, JP MP for Lhaviyani Naifaru, Ahmed Mohamed, accused the PPM of attempting to “destroy” its coalition partner.

The veteran MP explained to online news outlet CNM that PPM members contested as independents in constituencies assigned for the JP in the seat allocation deal reached among the coalition parties.

While the independent candidate – Ahmed Shiyam – used the PPM party office, colour and logo in his campaign for the Naifaru seat, Ahmed alleged that the government gave jobs and promotions in the nearby Felivaru fish cannery at his request.

“And if that wasn’t enough, [they] anti-campaigned against me while voting was ongoing,” he claimed.

JP MP for the Hithadhoo South constituency, MP Hassan Latheef, also accused the PPM of campaigning against him after two senior members of the ruling party contested as independents.

Speaking to the press in Hithadhoo yesterday, Latheef reportedly alleged that the PPM members used money to bribe voters and influence within the government to provide jobs.

Latheef also noted that he was not invited to a campaign rally in Hithadhoo last week that was attended by President Yameen. The two independent candidates were however present at the rally, he said.

JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim meanwhile told the press yesterday that the party lost 12 out of the 28 seats it contested for because of coalition party members contesting as independents as well as Adhaalath Party candidates competing in 12 constituencies.

He however added that the winning independent candidates were likely to join coalition parties in the near future.

Along with the five independent MPs-elect and the Adhaalath party MP-elect Anara Naeem, the Progressive Coalition would be six votes short of the super-majority needed to amend the constitution.

*Figures amended upon the release of the Majlis official results – 29.03.14


Supreme Court gives green light for Majlis polls despite missing candidate signatures

The Supreme Court has advised the Elections Commission (EC) that Saturday’s parliamentary elections can go ahead despite 16 independent candidates not signing voter lists for 13 electoral constituencies.

The court advised that candidates refusing to sign voter lists during the period offered by the commission without raising any concerns through the official complaints mechanism “would not be an obstacle” to conducting the polls, the EC said in a press release today.

“Therefore, the Elections Commission has decided that the 18th parliamentary election will be held as scheduled on Saturday, March 22, 2014,” the press release stated.

The EC sought counsel from the apex court this week after 16 out of 114 independent candidates did not sign the voter lists. All 188 candidates representing political parties had signed the lists by noon on Sunday.

Obtaining signatures of candidates on the voter lists used at polling stations was among the 16-point guideline imposed on the EC by the Supreme Court in its judgment annulling the first round of the presidential election held on September 7 last year.

A revote ordered by the Supreme Court for October 19 was obstructed by the police hours before polls were due to open after Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party candidate Gasim Ibrahim refused to sign the voter lists.

On the morning of October 19, police officers prevented EC staff from taking any election-related documents out of the commission’s office.

The police commissioner then informed EC members that the Maldives Police Service would not support an election held in contravention of the Supreme Court guidelines.

The Supreme Court however advised the EC yesterday that submitting complaints regarding the eligible voters registry during the window offered by the commission was the “legal responsibility” of candidates.

A candidate refusing to sign the voter list without officially lodging complaints would not affect either the legitimacy of the election or decisions made by the EC, the Supreme Court stated.

None of the 16 independent candidates who have yet to sign off on the voter lists have reportedly submitted any complaints.

The Attorney General has meanwhile advised police to cooperate with the EC in conducting the polls despite the 16 missing signatures.

The local council elections on January 18 also took place as scheduled despite candidates signing voter lists for just 81 out of 464 ballot boxes.

Of 543 independent candidates, only 147 candidates had signed the lists.


Supreme Court strips Fuwad, Fayaz of EC membership

The Supreme Court has stripped Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz Hassan of their membership in the commission and sentenced the former to six months in jail.

The jail sentence was however suspended for three years.

The Supreme Court judgment also ordered the executive, parliament and the EC to “make all necessary arrangements” within six days to conduct the parliamentary elections as scheduled on March 22.

According to article 175 of the constitution, at least three members are required to “constitute a quorum at a meeting of the Elections Commission, and any decision of the Elections Commission shall be taken by a majority of votes of the members present and voting.”

With the Supreme Court’s removal of the EC’s president and his deputy, the remaining members are Ali Mohamed Manik and Mohamed Farooq.

Thowfeek was sentenced under article 88 of the penal code, which states that it is an offence to “disobey a lawful order”.

The Supreme Court summoned EC members on February 27 and began a surprise trial on charges of contempt of court under new ‘sumoto’ regulations that allow the apex court to initiate proceedings and act as both prosecution and judge.

Of the five judges on the bench hearing the case, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla issued dissenting opinions.

The majority opinion was formed by Justice Abdulla Saeed, Justice Ali Hameed Mohamed, and Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi.

Delivering the verdict, Justice Saeed contended that EC members had “openly and systematically” brought the Supreme Court into disrepute, “deliberately challenged Supreme Court rulings” and “serially held [the court] in contempt” during press conferences.

The EC’s announcement for dissolving political parties without a minimum membership of 3,000 was in violation of the Supreme Court judgment that struck down articles in the Political Parties Act, the verdict stated.

Moreover, Fuwad Thowfeek’s public statements against the Supreme Court’s “procedures and jurisdictions” contravened the Judicature Act and constituted an act in violation of article 141 of the constitution – which states, “No officials performing public functions, or any other persons, shall interfere with and influence the functions of the courts.”

The court determined that the president and vice president must bear responsibility for “disobeying and challenging” Supreme Court judgments and orders, which were issued in its capacity as “the guardian of the constitution.”

Fuwad and Fayaz’s actions also contravened article 145(c) – which states, “The Supreme Court shall be the final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution, the law, or any other matter dealt with by a court of law.”

The court ruled that the pair had “lost the right and legal status to remain members of the commission” and declared the seats vacant.

“Practical difficulties”

While testimony given to a parliamentary committee was used to implicate commission members of contempt of court at the second hearing, at the last hearing of the ‘sumoto’ trial on March 5 the Supreme Court imposed a travel ban on EC members pending a judgment.

Following the Supreme Court’s summoning of EC members last month, former President Mohamed Nasheed declared that the MDP will boycott the parliamentary elections if the court removes EC members.

The Supreme Court’s actions have also been been criticised by civil society and the European Union.

Speaking to Minivan News tonight, Thowfeek said he was unsure how the parliamentary polls could take place as scheduled in less than two weeks.

He noted that the president would have to invite applications from interested candidates for the three vacant EC posts and forward nominees to parliament, after which a parliamentary committee would evaluate the nominees ahead of a vote on the Majlis floor.

“It’s very difficult for me to say anything because the Supreme Court reason given for our punishment is because of when I spoke about the impracticality of the 16 point guidelines,” he said.

“When I talk about the practical difficulties, they say nobody is supposed to talk about the practical difficulties.”

Today’s Supreme Court judgment meanwhile stated that Thowfeek had admitted to attempting to hold the second round of last year’s presidential election despite a Supreme Court stay order halting the electoral process.

Following the first round in which former President Mohamed Nasheed emerged the frontrunner with 45.45 percent of the vote, third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim sought annulment of the results alleging widespread electoral fraud.

Pending a ruling on the business magnate’s appeal, the Supreme Court indefinitely suspended the second round scheduled for September 28 and issued a supplementary midnight ruling ordering the police and military to forcibly prevent the EC from conducting the polls.

The EC had said it intended to comply with the constitutionally-mandated deadline for the run-off, but was forced to capitulate after it was surrounded by special operations police with orders to storm the building, arrest officials and confiscate ballot papers.

On October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the results of the first round of the polls conducted on September 7 in a controversial 4-3 decision – citing a confidential police report – despite unanimous positive assessment of the polling by more than a thousand domestic and international election observers.

The eventual revote on October 19 was also obstructed by police, after Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdulla Yameen and Gasim refused to sign the voter registry – a requirement from a 16-point guideline imposed on the EC by the Supreme Court judgment.

* A previous version of this article stated that all four members were sentenced to jail. The Supreme Court verdict later shared with the media however stated that only Fuwad Thowfeek was sentenced.


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 dissolves eight parties

The Elections Commission (EC) dissolved eight parties on Thursday for failing to reach the mandatory minimum of 3,000 registered members.

The eight parties were the People’s Alliance (PA), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Islamic Democratic Party (IDP), the Maldivian Labour Party, the Social Liberal Party, the People’s Party, the Maldivian National Congress (MNC), and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Social Democratic Party.

The EC explained in a press statement that the eight parties were removed from the political parties registry after providing a three-month period to increase party membership.

“While most of these parties are not active at all, the Elections Commission made a public announcement in 2013 to find out where their offices were located as letters and other documents sent to the parties were not being delivered,” the EC stated.

“We also note that these parties to whom funds have to be released every year from the state budget have not been regularly submitting audit reports to the Elections Commission.”

As inactive parties were provided large amounts of state funding, the EC noted that dissolving the parties would alleviate the strain on the state budget.

In December 2012, parliament passed the Political Parties Act with a clause requiring a minimum of 10,000 members for registration.

The Supreme Court however struck down the article in September 2013 and the EC decided that the minimum party membership would fall to 3,000 as stipulated in the previous political party regulation.

The commission decided to dissolve the eight inactive parties last month and asked the parties to inform the EC of any debts or assets before February 7.

“We sent a letter to parties with membership below 10,000 to increase their members. But these parties are not being dissolved because they do not have 10,000. It is because they do not have the 3,000 member minimum,” EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz explained at the time.

The councils of the Maldives Reform Movement (MRM) and the Gaumee Iththihaad Party (GIP) meanwhile voted to voluntarily disband in December.

With the dissolution of the eight parties, the Maldives currently has six active political parties. They are ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and its coalition partners – the Jumhooree Party (JP), the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), and the Adhaalath Party. The remaining parties are the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Among the six, only MDA has membership below 10,000. According to the EC website, MDA currently has 7,537 members.

President Abdulla Yameen formed the PA in 2008 following a disagreement with half-brother and then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Yameen resigned from the party and joined the newly-formed PPM in 2011.

Gayoom’s Attorney General Hassan Saeed set up the DQP in September 2008 ahead of his presidential bid. After unconditionally backing MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed in the run-off against incumbent Gayoom in the 2008 presidential election, the party left the MDP-led coalition and became a vocal opponent of the Nasheed administration.

The party backed Yameen during the second round of the 2013 presidential polls after its coalition partner JP failed to make the run-off.

Current Home Minister Umar Naseer set up the IDP in 2005 and ran for president in 2008. He quit the party to join the DRP in 2010.

PPM MP ‘Redwave’ Ahmed Saleem established the Maldivian Labour Party in 2008 while the Social Liberal Party was a splinter from the MDP – founded by former MP and presidential candidate, Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail.


President Yameen nominates three names for Elections Commission vacancy

President Yameen has sent the names of three individuals who applied to fill in the vacancy in the Elections Commission (EC) following the resignation of commission member Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed.

Earlier in October, Waheed stepped down from the five-member commission citing that doctors had advised him to not work in a stressful environment.

President Yameen sent a letter to parliament today (November 20) nominating former Deputy Commissioner of Police during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, Mohamed Rishwan, former EC Director General Ismail Habeeb, and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM)’s Elections Committee Chair, Mohamed Tholal.

According to local media reports, both Tholal and Habeeb have been previously sacked from prior positions at the Elections Commission.

Both the individuals however contested their dismissal in the Labor Tribunal, but the tribunal had only ordered Habeeb to be reinstated – which never happened, as Habeeb was later was appointed to the Civil Court as its Senior Administrator in March 2013.

Tholal, although he challenged the dismissal from the commission, later was appointed to a political position shortly after former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan took over power on February 7, 2012.

Former Deputy Commissioner of Police Mohamed Rishwan – after his retirement from the police force – applied for the membership of Police Integrity Commission (PIC) but upon the request of parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee, former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan withdrew his name.

The committee at the time noted that there were pending cases involving Rishwan.

In October 2011, the PIC found that Rishwan had ordered subordinates to cut the hair of a number of youth in police custody while he was serving as deputy commissioner in July 2010.

Following its investigation, the PIC asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to press charges against the former deputy commissioner.

Rishwan retired from the police service in July 2011.

According to the constitution, the parliament will appoint a member to the Elections Commission through a vote taken in its floor after a committee interview. The individual who attains the highest number of votes during the parliamentary vote will be nominated to the commission.

The parliament has not yet announced a date as to when the interviewing and nomination of the nominees will take place.