IPU to send ‘urgent’ mission over MP death threats, arrests

The Inter-Parliamentary Union will send an urgent mission to the Maldives during the upcoming months to investigate death threats, attacks and arrests of MPs in the country.

The union, which represents parliaments around the world, said they are investigating reports that 30 former and current MPs have been victims of human rights abuses, including one MP who was murdered and another who was stabbed.

After the 132nd Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly this week in Hanoi, the organization said political polarisation and heightened tensions in the Maldives “necessitated an urgent on-site mission” by the IPU’s human rights wing to gather first-hand information.

“The organisation is deeply concerned by the serious and repeated death threats allegedly made against opposition MPs in the Maldives since last year,” an IPU statement said.

Tensions are high across the country after the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges this month, with opposition parties holding daily protests.

IPU also called on law enforcement agencies to show restraint, and to abide by international and national human rights laws and standards when handling protests.

Meanwhile, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) complains that the speaker of parliament has been excluding the party from the Maldives’ delegations to IPU.

Mohamed Rasheed, secretary general of the MDP parliamentary group, said the delegation is selected in a “petty” manner without including the main opposition party.

One MDP MP was present in Hanoi, but fellow members of his party said that he was “hand-picked”, whereas in the past, the party has sent two MPs of its choice.

Eva Abdulla, an MDP parliamentarian, has been excluded from recent delegations despite being an elected representative for all female South Asian MPs at the IPU.


Eva told Minivan News that opposition lawmakers have been receiving death threats “every other day” since the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan last August. Rilwan has still not been found.

She said opposition MPs have been receiving phone calls and text messages, and sometimes stalked.

“We filed complaints at the police and with the Majlis itself. However the speaker has not even condemned the threats in public or privately,” she said.

Threats against opposition parliamentarians have caused the IPU to classify the Maldives as one of the most dangerous countries to be an MP, noted Eva.

Several opposition MPs have been arrested at anti-government protests.

Most recently, MP Ahmed Mahloof, formerly of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, was arrested at a protest last week and detained for five days.

When his detention ended, the criminal court placed him on further five days of house arrest after he refused the court’s condition to not participate in further protests for 60 days.

Similarly, MDP MP Ismail Fayyaz was given 15 days’ detention after he refused to accept release under the same conditions.

Eva said police had been slow to investigate a forced entry into Mahloof’s apartment last month, although they were handed CCTV footage of the incident.

The IPU’s list of Maldivian cases includes that of the late PPM MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, who was murdered outside of his home in October 2012, and the stabbing last year of MP Alhan Fahmy, who narrowly avoided paralysis as a result.

PPM MPs and the speaker of parliament had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.


MDP MPs refusing to accept committee allowance

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs are coming forward to declare they would not accept a Rf20,000 committee allowance on top of their salaries, if approved by parliament in the controversial MP Privileges Bill.

The MPs came forward in support of the party’s Chairperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, who yesterday withdrew her resolution to cut the allowance after the MDP Parliamentary Group voted in its favour.

“I was not at that meeting but I bowed to the party’s rules and took it out,” Mariya told Minivan News yesterday, adding that she had informed parliament that she did not wish to receive the allowance herself.

MDP’s internal branches were today criticising their parliamentary group following the decision.

Official website of MDP today carried a statement that MDP MPs Eva Abdulla, Hamid Abdul Gafoor, Ilyas Labeeb, Mohamed Gasam, Mohamed Nazim and Ibrahim Rasheed had also announced that they did not support the committee allowance and would not accept it.

Following Mariya’s withdrawal of the resolution opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf resubmitted it.

“I was the first one to raise it before Mariya, but the Speaker [DRP MP] Abdulla Shahid went with Mariya’s changes, perhaps because of the factional fight [the opposition] is having. When Mariya withdrew it I resubmitted it.” Mahlouf said yesterday.

Increasing MP salaries by Rf 20,000 would be a huge blow to parliament’s credibility, Mahlouf said, “as the public do not believe we are working to their expectations.” he said.

MDP MP Ahmed Easa also said he did not support the committee allowance, but he said the MPs who did support the committee allowance “have reasonable points.”

”It’s true what they say, MPs have so much to do with their salary each month. People can’t even imagine how many calls a MP receives each day asking for help,” Easa explained. ”Anyone in trouble from a area will run to their MP first, MPs have to lend money for people in need of medication, even for reasons such as people coming to get money to pay the school fees of their children.”

Easa also explained that most of the MPs were not from Male’, which forces them to live in rented apartments.

”As everyone knows, a standard apartment’s rent in Male’ will be Rf10000-20000 (US$750-US$1500), and what about all the phone calls that MPs have to make, that costs an additional Rf5000 (US$375) each month, and what about their family, wife and kids?” he asked, claiming that MPs “have to spend most of their salary on society.”

”As for me, there has never been a month that I have saved any amount of money in my bank account. I am ready to provide any document necessary to prove it,” he said.

However, Easa said due to the economic condition of the Maldives it was not wise to increase the salaries of MPs or any other institution of the government.

”The government’s recurrent expenditure may rise over 80 percent next year which means there will be only 20 percent of the budget to spend on development,” Easa said.