Police destroy confiscated alcohol worth MVR4 million

The police destroyed confiscated alcohol with an estimated street value of MVR4 million (US$259,400) yesterday.

Police officers poured the contents of 1,200 cans of beer, 600 bottles of liquor, and 60 containers into a hole in the ground in the presence of journalists.

The elimination of alcohol seized during the past six years was carried out at the Dhoonidhoo island near Malé. The last time police destroyed evidence in completed cases was almost six years ago.

According to Sun Online, Superintendent Ahmed Shifan, head of the drug enforcement department, told the press that police are facing storage problems due to a large amount of seized alcohol bottles.

Shifan said seized alcohol and drugs seized were stored safely and police will be destroying the evidence in concluded cases every Saturday.


Police commissioner discusses expediting cases with prosecutor general

Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed met Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin this morning to discuss measures to fast-track investigation and prosecution of serious crimes following a crime wave in the capital during the past six days.

According to police media, discussions focused on expediting the investigation process with police working closely with state prosecutors to ensure that the evidence collected is sufficient to establish guilt at trial.

Senior investigating officers, senior officers in charge of operations, and members of the police executive board also participated in the meeting at the police headquarters at Iskandhar Koshi.

Muhthaz Muhsin was formerly a judge at the Criminal Court.


Leaked HRCM report questions Supreme Court’s election annulment

A leaked Human Rights Commission (HRCM) report obtained by Minivan News has questioned the credibility of the evidence used by the Supreme Court to annul the first round of presidential polls held on September 7.

It also says that the apex court does not have the authority to delineate guidelines for a re-vote.

The document suggests that the 16 guidelines compromise the independence of the Elections Commission (EC) by involving various state institutions and candidates in the conducting, managing, and facilitating of the elections.

A member of the HRCM has confirmed that the organization carried out an analysis of the Supreme Court verdict, but declined to comment on the report’s authenticity.

The court annulled the September 7 polls, claiming 5641 cases of fraudulent votes – a number that could have altered the election result due to the 2677 vote margin between the second and third placed candidates.

However, the HRCM’s analysis of the 5641 cases show only 1033 votes could be considered irregular.

“The commission does not believe this is a number than can affect the elections results,” the report stated.

The document also noted the Supreme Court is tasked with administration of justice and the People’s Majlis with law making powers, and as such the Supreme Court did not have the authority to compile guidelines on electoral conduct.

“We note that the Supreme Court’s guidelines include obligations that are not present in General Elections Act (No 11/2008) and Presidential Elections Act (No 12/2008) and we believe the Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction [to issue new obligations],” the report said.

The police halted the Supreme Court ordered re-vote on October 19, saying they would not support the election after the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) had refused to approve the voter registry.

Irregular votes

The four judges making the majority decision contended that 5641 irregular votes were cast. According to the verdict, these included:

  • 773 people with discrepancies in their national identification numbers
  • 18 dead people
  • 7 minors
  • 225 people without national identification numbers
  • Three people who voted twice
  • 2830 people with discrepancies in their addresses
  • 952 people with discrepancies in their names
  • 7 people who were not registered in the Department of National Registration’s (DNR) database
  • 819 people whose national identification numbers had been written down incorrectly by elections officials at the time of voting

In the HRCM’s analysis, only 1033 of the 5641 votes could be considered irregular – a figure which addressed:

  • The seven people whose names were added to the voter registry by pen may have been to ensure an eligible voter was given the right to vote despite not being on the voter registry
  • 3 repeated votes for which the report said it was unclear how many times these people voted and hence, incomplete information should not be used in a verdict
  • 2830 address mismatches: “We do not believe address mismatches can influence the result of this election as this is not constituency specific,” the report said and noted that such information should be used in a verdict only if the individual has used this mismatch to violate another’s right to vote or used the information for undue benefit
  • 952 name mismatches which may have been used to ensure that an eligible voter is not disenfranchised, especially if the voter is given the right to vote when all other information and picture on the identity card matches the person who comes to vote
  • 819 people whose national identification numbers had been written down wrong by elections officials at the time of voting: this may be a human errors and can be crosschecked at the time of voting

The report states that the remaining 1033 cases of irregular votes does not change the outcome of the election.

In contrast to majority four judges, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Judge Abdulla Areef found only 473 instances of irregular votes. The two judges said the amount was not enough to invalidate entire election. In case of fraudulent votes, only the result in a specific geographic location can be annulled, not the entire election, the judges said.

The two judges also argued jurisdiction in the matter lies with the High Court, not the Supreme Court.


The HRCM report noted that the Supreme Court guidelines included obligations that are not included in the election laws.

These include obtaining candidate’s signatures on the voter registry, obtaining candidate’s approval for all elections officials active in the polling booths on polling day, and the prohibition on the use of files, phones, handbags or any item that may infringe upon a candidate’s rights.

The EC may find it difficult to implement the guidelines, as they do not state what the commission must do in the event candidates refuse to vet elections officials or sign the registry, the report said.

“Further, the prohibition on the use of phones and files inside the polling booth obstructs the duties of observers, candidate’s representatives and monitors as per article 41, 42 and 43 of the General Elections Act,” the report said.

The Supreme Court also ordered the EC to ensure, along with “relevant authorities” that acts which violate this guideline do not take place. However, the HRCM report notes that the relevant authorities are not defined and hence, “it is not clear what various state institution’s roles are in elections and may create additional issues.”

The HRCM report appears to foreshadow the difficulties the EC was to face in conducting the poll on October 19. On the eve of elections, the PPM and JP refused to sign the voter registry demanding that the EC verify a sample of fingerprinted re-registration forms.

The EC said it did not have the capacity or time to crosscheck fingerprints.

With the PPM and JP refusing to approve the voter registry, the police – mandated by the court to oversee security of ballot papers and boxes – refused to transport materials to polling stations. An hour before polls opened, the police stopped EC officials from leaving the commission’s headquarters with any documents relating to the vote.

The commission yesterday released a statement arguing that the police’s blocking of the vote contravened the constitution, the Police Act, and the Elections Act.

The EC also accused the police of obstructing vote, questioning their mandate to do so. The guidelines only ask police to oversee security of ballot boxes in transit, the EC said.

“The Supreme Court 16 guidelines delineated in the verdict are restrictions. These are locks, blocks. With those locks, it will be very difficult for us to hold elections,” EC President Fuwad Thowfeek has said in an interview to Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC).

“But if we could hold an election according to the constitution, elections laws and presidential elections laws, we will be able to hold a free election.”

After cancellation of polls on Saturday, the government, following international pressure appealed again for an early election date. The EC set a new presidential poll date for November 9, and if necessary a second round on November 16.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Thowfeek has said he hopes the government finds a solution to the Supreme Court’s restrictions in the future.

“Otherwise, holding elections will become impossible and that affects the most fundamental [right] in a democracy,” Thowfeek said. Further, failure of candidates or any other state institution to do what they must to should not affect the citizenry’s right to vote, he added.


Murder suspect at large

The Maldives Police Service has appealed for public assistance as it searches for fugitive Ibrahim Shahum, 20, of Galholhu Cozy, the principal suspect in the gang-related murder of 21-year old Ahusan Basheer last week.

Shahum was arrested in August last year in connection with the murder of 17-year old Mohamed Hussein on July 30, 2010, which occured near the Maaziya playground in Male’.  The suspect had later turned himself in after three weeks of police searches.

However, he was released six months later on 17 February by Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed after police claimed that the Health Ministry had not complied with requests for the medico-legal report from Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGHM), where the victim died while undergoing treatment.

According to Haveeru, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed observed that six months was “a bit too much” to respond to a police request, ordering the release of the suspect “to hold [Health Minister] Aminath Jameel responsible.”

A statement issued by police on Thursday notes that upon request the Prosecutor General’s Office appealed the Criminal Court ruling three days later.

“Police are extremely concerned about such incidents. The Maldives Police Service will be taking special measures to curb the rising crime in society,” read the statement that also appealed for the cooperation of the authorities and the public to aid police efforts.

Meanwhile, the authorities continue to shift blame after the Criminal Court last week issued a statement defending the court from public criticism over the release of dangerous suspects.  The Criminal Court stressed that persons brought before it had constitutional rights and should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

The statement claims that court records show a number of defendants brought before the court had previously been sentenced to jail and “none of the relevant authorities of the state could prove that any of these people had been released to society on a Criminal Court order.”


Malaysian vessel hijacked by pirates two days before dinghies arrive in Maldives

Somali pirates have hijacked a Malaysian vessel west of the Maldives on Friday, according to reports from the EU’s anti-piracy force, days before a pair of dinghies containing 10 Somali nationals were discovered stranded near islands in the country’s south.

The EU’s Operation Atalanta taskforce reported that the ‘Albedo’ was hijacked 900 nautical miles east of the Somali capital of Mogadishu in the early hours of November 26. The vessel was carrying containers and was bound for Mombasa from Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the Vesseltracker website.

The crew consist of 23 people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran. The EU taskforce’s report did not say whether the ‘Albedo’ crew were being held hostage, however it noted that Somali pirates are currently holding 22 vessels with 521 hostages.

Two days (November 28) after the taking of the Albedo, a dinghy containing seven Somali nationals was brought ashore after it was discovered in Gnaviyani Atoll. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) discovered a bullet shell during a search of the vessel.

On November 30, a second dinghy containing three Somali nationals was discovered by a Maldivian fishing near Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.

The captain of the fishing boat Mohamed Hussain told Minivan News that one of the men had a stab wound in his neck and was seriously injured.

During an MNDF press conference yesterday, Brigadier General Zakariyya Mansoor said that Somali nationals found in Maldivian waters recently were potentially not castaways, as they may have appeared.

“They pretend to be out fishing when they lose contact with their main vessel,” he explained.

”They are actually coming from a [mothership] used for hijacking yachts and cargo ships,” said Mansoor. ”When they lose contact with the main ship they shutdown their engine to save diesel until they find land.”

Mansoor noted that many of the ‘castaways’ found in the Maldivian waters had both diesel and food, and that their physical condition was not weak.

”Although piracy decreases during this season because of rough seas, when the sea is calm, more than 400 to 500 such boats will be active in these waters,” said Mansoor.

He advised fisherman not to get too close to anonymous boats without first informing the island offices and the MNDF.

”Without doubt they are very dangerous,” he said.

Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the government was working with their Somali counterparts to repatriate Somali nationals stranded in the Maldives, but added that this was difficult because of the “logistics and funds required.”

“At the moment [the arrivals] are alarming but not a direct threat,” Dr Shaheed said. “They are at the outer limits of their reach at the moment, but their reach is increasing.”

According to the ICC Commercial Crime Service, suspected Somali pirate vessels have been reported attacking vessels off the Seychelles and west of the Maldives.

“Pirates use ocean going vessels ‘mother vessels’ to sail far from Somali coast to attack and hijack passing vessels. Smaller skiffs are launched from the pirate “mother vessel” to attack passing merchant vessels, the ICC reported. “Pirates are heavily armed with automatic weapons and RPG launchers.”