Saturday’s election an opportunity to reverse damage of February 7, says Nasheed

The long-awaited president election on November 9 is an opportunity to “regain the development lost on February 7, 2012,” former President Mohamed Nasheed said in his final campaign message ahead of tomorrow’s presidential polls.

“Through the right to vote we will secure the right to water and sanitation, housing, transport, and education,” the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate said. “Our second term will also bring contentment to the Maldivian people.”

The MDP’s “costed and budgeted” manifesto was devised to bring about the “proud citizen” who can stand tall, provide for his family through honest work and be free from anxiety over unaffordable healthcare, he said.

“I am asking very sincerely for your vote on the November 9 election,” Nasheed said.

“The election November 9 is the final result of the coup perpetrators’ devious plot to undermine the constitution and take over the government,” he said.

“Today we are able to have this election as a consequence of the efforts of many Maldivian citizens in defence of our future.”

Nasheed expressed particular gratitude to the staff of the Elections Commission.

The economy has suffered the consequences of annulling and delaying the presidential election while relations with foreign partners have deteriorated to unprecedented levels, he continued.

Establishing strong ties with the outside world does not amount to “forgoing our nationhood,” Nasheed contended, adding that Maldivian nationhood in a globalised world would be “based on Islam, the Dhivehi language, culture and human rights.”

Foreign ambassadors and diplomats were coming to the Maldives more than ever before to “save the Maldivian people from the impoverishment we could face if there is no elected government,” he said.

The Maldives could not afford to be an “isolated nation” as foreign assistance was required for infrastructure development, higher education opportunities, and medical treatment.

Development could not be secured by “oppressing, suppressing and intimidating the people,” he said.

State of the economy

The MDP meanwhile issued a press statement today calling on the Auditor General to conduct an audit to assess the state of the government’s finances.

The party contended that the Finance Ministry has accumulated domestic debt in violation of the Public Finance Act while the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) printed money to finance the government’s deficit spending.

Compared to 2012, the party noted that loans or credit sought from the domestic market increased 30 percent this year.

The MMA governor revealed to parliament’s Finance Committee recently that the government owed MVR1.5 billion to the central bank, MVR1.5 billion to the State Trading Organisation (STO) and “close to a billion to other parties that release credit to the government,” the statement observed.

MMA Governor Dr Fazeel Najeeb had said that the sums were not included in the 2013 budget while the 2014 budget had no allocations for repayment, the MDP noted.

The value of the rufiya has fallen as a result of printing MVR1.5 billion to finance government expenditures, the party argued, noting that the MDP government ceased deficit monetisation in August 2009 through an agency agreement between the Finance Ministry and MMA.

Under the circumstances, the statement continued, offering a lump sum payment to ministers was “shameful.”

Islam and sovereignty

Meanwhile, speaking at the final campaign rally of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) last night, the party’s candidate Abdulla Yameen said it was “obligatory” upon all Maldivians to vote for him for the sake of Islam and the nation.

Yameen appealed to members of Adhaalath Party, Jumhooree Party and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party to vote for him.

The PPM’s efforts during the three year MDP government showed that it was the only party that worked on behalf of the religion and the nation, Yameen said.

People should not complain or blame political leaders if they did not perform the duty of voting for the PPM candidate on Saturday, the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said.

While the Maldives is not a rich country, Yameen said it could be made a prosperous nation under the stewardship of a “trustworthy” president.

The PPM leadership was comprised of “capable, educated and sincere” people, he added.

The next leader would have to begin from “1000 feet under” as the national debt had soared such that a newborn was indebted by MVR180,000, Yameen said.

A PPM government would clear the budget deficit in its first two years and achieve a surplus in the third year, Yameen pledged.

Yameen said he could have “awarded projects any way I wanted” when he served in the cabinet and as the chairman of government-owned companies under the Gayoom administration, and could have become the richest man in the country.

“But, God willing, after a long public service, I am able to talk about the corruption of another person in front of the people at this podium today because, by the grace of God, I am free from [corruption],” he said.

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PIC concludes investigation into “brutal and inhuman conduct” by police during power transfer

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has declared it has concluded its investigation into all cases of police misconduct during the controversial transfer of power that took place on February 6-8, 2012.

On February 7 an anti-government protest led by then-opposition political parties and religious scholars,   led to a mutiny by a segment of both police and military officers against Nasheed, resulting in his premature resignation from office.

The following day, Nasheed along with the MDP and thousands of people, took to the streets in protest claiming that Nasheed was ousted in a bloodless coup d’état.

However the en masse demonstration met a brutal crackdown from both police and military officers during which MDP MPs and members of the public sustained injuries.

During a parliamentary inquiry by the Parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC), the PIC claimed that actions by police during the mutiny which led to the change in government were  unlawful and amounted to crimes worthy of prosecution by the state.

PIC Vice President Haala Hameed said during the session that the PIC had identified 29 cases of police misconduct, out of which cases concerning six police officers had been sent to the prosecutor general (PG) for prosecution.

The PIC at the time claimed it had urged then-Home Minister Mohamed Jameel to suspend the officers immediately, however the request was not adhered to, and instead at least one of the accused was promoted.

Hameed said the commission had failed to identify the police officers in five of the remaining cases while 11 other cases lacked supporting evidence. She also said the PIC was still investigating seven cases of police misconduct during the transfer of power.

“These are not disciplinary issues, but crimes. Aside from sending cases to the Prosecutor General, we also recommended the Home Minister suspend these officers, because of the delays in prosecution. We believe these officers should not be serving in the police,” Hameed said.

However in an interview with local media on Monday, President of the PIC Abdulla Waheed said the commission had investigated a total of 20 cases of police misconduct that took place on February 6,7 and 8.

Waheed said these included cases initiated by the commission itself, and cases investigated based on complaints filed at the commission, out of which only two are pending at the moment.

Out of the 20 cases, 12 cases concerned police brutality during the crackdown on protests and during the events that unfolded, while eight concerned issuance of unlawful orders, obeying unlawful orders and officers failing to comply with the law while on duty, said Waheed.

“There are very serious issues in these cases. They include brutal and inhuman conduct by police officers,” he said.

Waheed also claimed that it had sent cases of four police officers to Prosecutor General (PG) office for criminal prosecution. He added that out of the four officers, three were commissioned officers however he declined to reveal any names.

The PIC Chair also said that while there remained cases filed on allegations lacking any basis, the cases that needed to be investigated had now been completed and sent to the PG while at the same time the commission would also send recommendations to address issues with the police to Home Ministry.

“We will address the issues highlighted in the recommendations made by independent institutions and the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report. There are no cases being investigated regarding the events of February 6 and 7,” Waheed said.

Some police officers are currently facing criminal charges for their misconduct during the events including two police officers who had allegedly assaulted and attacked opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Mariya Ahmed Didi and ‘Reeko’ Moosa.

Police Officer Ibrahim Faisal is currently being charged for attacking Mariya Ahmed Didi on February 8 while another officer, Mohamed Waheed, is also facing criminal charges for assaulting MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa, hitting him on the head with a metal canister.

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“What police officers did on February 6, 7 and 8 were crimes”: Police Integrity Commission

Members of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) have told Parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) that unlawful actions committed by police officers on February 6, 7 and 8 last year were criminal activities that needed to be prosecuted.

Parliament’s EOC is currently reviewing the report produced by the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), which looked into the controversial transfer of power that took place on February 7, 2012.

The committee is also assessing the progress of institutions in following the recommendations stated in the CNI report. The committee on Wednesday evening summoned the PIC along with members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muiz.

Speaking to the committee, PIC Vice President Haala Hameed said that actions of police officers during the period of the controversial transfer of power amounted to crimes and should be prosecuted by the PG.

She claimed that the PIC had identified 29 cases of police misconduct, out of which cases concerning six police officers had been sent to the PG for prosecution. Furthermore, the PIC revealed that it had urged Home Minister Mohamed Jameel to suspend the officers immediately.

Hameed said the commission had failed to identify the police officers in five of the remaining cases while 11 other cases lacked supporting evidence. She also said the PIC was still investigating seven cases of police misconduct during the transfer of power.

“These are not disciplinary issues, but crimes. Aside from sending cases to the Prosecutor General, we also recommended the Home Minister suspend these officers, because of the delays in prosecution. We believe these officers should not be serving in the police,” Hameed said.

However, PG Muiz disputed Hameed’s claims, suggesting that the actions of police officers did not amount to crimes but were “disciplinary issues”.

“I am not deterred or afraid of carrying out my duty. I am not influenced by anybody. By the will of God, I will continue to carry out my duty. I would have sent cases to court if there had been sufficient evidence needed for a successful prosecution,” Muiz said.

“We did not investigate those cases as a disciplinary matter. Those are criminal cases. We investigated a crime,” Hameed responded.

When a committee member asked about the police officer Ali Ahmed – who was promoted twice after the PIC recommended he be dismissed from the police force and prosecuted, Hameed said Home Minister Jameel had given a “deaf ear” to the commission’s repeated requests.

Former Chair of the PIC Shahinda Ismail earlier revealed that officers the PIC had recommended for suspension were in instead receiving promotions.

“It is really upsetting for me, a huge concern, that the police leadership is permitting a trend whereby unlawful officers are acting with impunity. This can only lead to further violence,” Shahinda said at the time.

Meanwhile local newspaper Haveeru quoted Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed as saying that the cases of police officers which the PIC recommended be dismissed had been sent to the police disciplinary board.

Jameel said that the Police Act and the regulations made under the act were very clear as to how a police officer could be dismissed or disciplinary action be taken.  He claimed that he would uphold the law and would not violate the Police Act.

“The PIC is an institution formed under the Police Act. I can’t simply remove a police officer simply based on a recommendation by the commission. That is why I sent the cases to police disciplinary board as soon as I got the [PIC]’s letter,” he told Haveeru.

Jameel also said that it would be an unfair dismissal if the court acquitted a police officer who had been dismissed prior a verdict being reached.

However, Hameed during the committee meeting, claimed there was sufficient evidence needed for successful prosecution of those officers which it had recommended be dismissed.

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President Waheed orders officials “shun” Parliament oversight committee

In a letter sent to Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid Sunday (January 20) President Mohamed Waheed stated that cabinet members, government officials, and members of the security forces will “shun” Parliament’s Government Accountability Committee, according to Haveeru.

Waheed stated that until Shahid ensures Majlis and Committee actions are “in line” with the Maldivian constitution and Parliament’s rules of procedure, government officials will not adhere to summons by the Committee on Oversight of the Government, reports Sun Online.

This continues the government’s trend of resistance to the Executive Oversight Committee probe of the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI).

The Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the controversial transfer of power that took place February of last year. It has so far interviewed senior military officers, police officers and senior officials of both the current and former government. The former Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) chiefs have claimed that former President Mohamed Nasheed had no choice but to resign on February 7, 2012, following a police and military mutiny.

The Committee previously requested President Hassan to hand over statements of key figures of the former government and military officials given to CoNI.

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Broadcasting Commission President Badr Naseer resigns over government’s allegations of “negligence”

President of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC), Badr Naseer, has resigned after the government accused MBC of negligence following the murder of Lance Corporal Adam Haleem last week.

Attorney General Azima Shukoor had said that the MBC had failed to take disciplinary measures against opposition aligned Raajje TV, alleging Haleem’s death was a result of the station inciting violence against the security forces.

“Institutions that must take responsibility are not doing their job. [We have] to take action against them. The executive will conduct necessary legal work to take such action. We will submit this case to the Majlis. We are also ready to take necessary action through the courts,” she told state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on July 23.

Naseer denied the allegations, claiming consecutive governments had expressed “no interest” in strengthening the MBC. Further, the government’s claims had increased public hatred towards the commission’s members to the point members were unable to walk on the streets, Naseer said in a statement published today.

“The government has shown no interest in strengthening the Broadcasting Commission, and this commission has now become the recipient of government and public hatred. I have been defamed in the process and hence, I do not see any reason why I should spend the rest of my life in this state of psychological and physical danger,” Naseer stated.

Tensions have been on the rise in Malé after Haleem’s death. The government has stepped up verbal attacks on Raajje TV and ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), pledging to take action against the two parties for “inciting hatred and violence” against security forces.

Police have said they will no longer cooperate with or provide protection to Raajje TV for broadcasting CCTV footage of some police officers, whom the station alleged were “caught on video” while they were stealing petrol from a motorbike parked in a small road in Male’.

The MBC has ordered Raajje TV to broadcast an apology over the report.

Although the MBC was established on April 4, 2011 as an independent state institution mandated with developing and regulating broadcast media, consecutive governments had not provided the necessary technical and human resource needs for the commission to function, Naseer claimed.

The MBC had asked successive foreign, transport and finance ministers for assistance, but had received little response, he added. Furthermore, new President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan had not responded to repeated requests for a meeting, Naseer said.

Despite countless requests for a media-monitoring system, the commission at present only had facilities to monitor four TV channels, but had no equipment to monitor content on radio channels, Naseer said.

He raised concern over the lack of a monitoring system, “because we know the importance and dangers of broadcast media given the direction Maldives is taking.”

He said 20 additional TV channels will be established in the Maldives before the next presidential election.

“Although the commission is independent on paper, we have to question how independent the commission can be when the commission’s budget is controlled by the Finance Ministry,” Naseer said.

Naseer defended the commission’s record, arguing that although commission members had worked from around a conference table, they had published several laws and broadcasting standards and ethics, and had taken disciplinary action against broadcast media when necessary.

Explaining his decision to resign, Naseer said: “Instead of harassment and political hatred from the public and government, I want a peaceful life more suited to my age.”

Naseer has worked in state media until he retired at 65 years of age. He was then appointed to MBC with unanimous support from the People’s Majlis.

International non-profit organisation, the committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has expressed concerns that press freedom was “deteriorating” under the present government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“Reports of police brutality against journalists amid political chaos, and a vicious attack for writing about religious tolerance, are disturbing signs that the Maldives is backsliding on press freedom,” CPJ Senior Researcher Madeline Earp wrote on the organisation’s blog.

“[The president] must ensure that journalists are free to report if he wishes to distance himself from [Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s legacy and stabilise the nation for elections.”

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Nazim files complaint against Raajje TV with police, broadcasting commission over leaked texts

Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim has asked the Maldives Police Services and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) to investigate opposition-aligned Raajje TV over the station’s reporting of 57 leaked text messages allegedly received to Nazim’s cell phone during the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

In a press statement posted on social media twitter, Nazim said Rajje TV had violated Article 24 of the Constitution which guarantees right to privacy, and contravened the Article 37 of the Broadcasting Act which prohibits use of illegally recorded information and defamation.

The text messages received to Nazim’s phone appear to offer congratulations from security forces, family members, prominent businesses including tourism tycoon Ahmed Nazeer of Crown Company Pvt Ltd, and prominent politicians including Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer.

“Rajje TV’s actions contravene the Constitution and laws of the Maldives, as well as broadcasting ethics. Hence, I have asked the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and Maldives Police Services to investigate the matter,” Nazim said.

However, Raajje TV News Head Asward Ibrahim Waheed said the station was not responsible for the leaked text messages. Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had publicised the text messages at a rally held at its protest camp at Usfasgandu on Sunday night, and Raajje TV had broadcast live coverage of the event, Waheed said.

“Numerous print media outlets have also written articles on these text messages. Therefore, Nazim’s targeting of Raajje TV on this matter again illustrates the Maldivian security forces’ attempt to gag free media,” Waheed said.

The MDP contends former President Mohamed Nasheed was deposed through a coup d’état, orchestrated by remnants of the former dictatorship, funded by resort interests, and carried out by mutinous elements of the police and military.

Nazim, a colonel during former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration, was a central figure in Nasheed’s downfall. Video footage on February 7 shows the retired colonel addressing police and military officers gathered in Republican Square, saying he had delivered an ultimatum on their behalf demanding Nasheed’s resignation. New President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan appointed Nazim as Defense Minister the next day.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said the text messages were evidence that the “coup was pre-planned and executed to stakeholders’ satisfaction.”

Although Nazim has asked the police and MBC to investigate Raajje TV, he told local media today that he still could not comment on the authenticity of the text messages.

Controversial text messages

According to the MDP publicized document, Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid sent a message to Nazim at 1:42 pm stating “Need to talk urgently.”

Deputy Leader of PPM Umar Naseer at 2:51 pm allegedly says: “Extremely grateful for your service in saving this country and its religion, thank you, Umar Naseer.”

Three phone numbers registered with the Crown Company Pvt. Ltd also offered congratulations to Nazim. Tourism Tycoon Ahmed Nazeer allegedly said at 1:28 pm: “Congratulations. Once a soldier, always a soldier. Keep up the good work, but don’t go overboard. Thanks and regards, Nazeer.”

A Malaysian number which the MDP claims belongs to retired MNDF Lieutenant General Anbaree Abdul Sattar at 4:39 pm said: “Heartfelt congratulations. I pray Allah gives you the patience and wisdom as you proceed to be magnanimous and be mindful of the vow you have made to uphold the constitution and the constitution of the Maldives, Anbaree.” Anbaree had also served as former President and ruler of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Ambassador to India.

Two text messages also appear to discuss details of then VP’s movements and logistics for a press conference. A number registered with the MNDF at 2:51 pm says: “Sir vp getting ready to move to majlis,” while a man identifying himself as Colonel Adurey at 3:21 pm asks when media briefing should be scheduled.
Several security forces personnel also allegedly sent text messages to Nazim thanking and congratulating him for his role in Nasheed’s resignation.

A text message from retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Abdul Shakoor Abdulla said: “Allah Akbar Allah Akbar Akbar Alh’amdhu Lillah. Congratulations! Abdul Shakoor Abdulla Rtd. Dy Com of Police,” whilst a number registered with Lieutenant Colonel Zakariyya Mansoor reportedly sent a text message saying, “Congratulations, Mansoor.”

Another text message from a man identifying himself as “Riya” from an unlisted number said: “Moosa Jaleel’s 15 year savage reign is now over. I was one of those forced to resign. I am really proud to say I’m done STF with you in same platoon. Congratulations, Riya, five rises.” Moosa Jaleel was Chief of the Defense Forces under Nasheed. He resigned shortly after President Waheed took his oath of office.

Attacks on Raajje TV

The government has stepped up verbal attacks on Raajje TV, following the murder of Lance Corporal Adam Haleem on Monday, claiming the station incites hatred and violence against security forces by broadcasting “baseless allegations” regarding police brutality and the police’s role in the controversial transfer of power on February 7. The police have said it will no longer cooperate with or provide protection to Raajje TV journalists.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, and Attorney General Azima Shukoor have said Rajje TV must bear responsibility for the murder Haleem, and have pledged to take legal action against the station.

Raajje TV has previously accused the Maldives security forces of regularly targeting, attacking, threatening and harassing the station’s journalists. In a July 10 statement, Raajje TV said: “Raajje TV journalists have been forced to live in fear as they have increasingly become targets of attacks by the national security forces, particularly the police service. The station also believes that these attacks and harassment has been the source of emotional distress and psychological damage to all Raajje TV employees.”

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Tensions escalate as government accuse MDP, Raajje TV of “inciting hatred and violence against police”

Following the murder of Lance Corporal Ahmed Haleem on Sunday, the government has said deposed President Mohamed Nasheed, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and the opposition aligned Raajje TV are responsible for attacks on police, and have pledged to summon Nasheed for questioning over charges of inciting hatred and violence against police.

Superintendent of police Mohamed Riyaz at a press conference this evening publicised an audio conversation held between MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi and Nasheed on May 29, in which Nasheed allegedly told Mariya to find people to fight the police. Riyaz said the police would obtain a court order to summon Nasheed for questioning within the week.

A few hours later, former Deputy Home Minister Hassan Mahir was arrested under a court warrant on charges of inciting violence against the police during a speech given at the MDP’s protest camp at Usfasgandu.

Meanwhile, in a separate joint press conference held at noon at Iskandhar Koshi today, Home Minister Mohamed Jameel and Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz said Raajje TV had spread “baseless allegations” about police brutality and the police role in the controversial change of government on February 7, thereby inciting and encouraging violence against the police and their families. Further, deposed President Nasheed was directly responsible for planning and inciting violent attacks on police, Abdulla Riyaz said.

Nasheed had resigned from office on February 7, but later claimed he was ousted in a coup d’état, planned by the remnants of the former dictatorship, funded by resort interests, and carried out by mutinous elements of the police and military. The MDP has since held regular protests calling for early elections.

Attorney General Azima Shukoor has also told state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) that the government will take action against the Elections Commission and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) for respectively failing to discipline Raajje TV and the MDP, claiming the two bodies must be held responsible for encouraging attacks on police and the death of Haleem.

Police have arrested Mohamed Samaah, 22, over Haleem’s death, but have declined to give any further details. The MDP have said Samaah belonged to government coalition member and former President of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).

Nasheed- Mariya conversation

Nasheed and Mariya’s leaked audio conversation appears to have been held during the police’s attempt to dismantle the MDP’s protest camp at Usfasgandu on May 29. Police had obtained a search warrant claiming MDP was performing black magic, conducting criminal activity and damaging public property in the area.

In the audio clip, Mariya says: “[Police] are forcing people back! They are using pepper spray! That is why we are unable to hold a national council meeting. And we have also received a second letter, ordering us to vacate the area by ten o’clock tonight. We cannot file an appeal at court or do anything. We cannot even hold the National Council meeting. We won’t have [enough members for] quorum. Shihab is here. But they are using pepper spray and forcing people back. Can only vacate the place if we could only get in there. This is all very unjust. What shall I do?”

Nasheed then replies, “There’s not much we can do. I don’t know. What is there to do? I think [we] need to get people out to fight if we can get them. If we can get people to fight, get them out. It’s very clear to me, I think we need to fight back. If we can get people to fight. Find kids from Male to fight the police,” Mariya laughs at this point, but Nasheed continues, “That is what I think. I don’t know if we can get people to fight. I want to fight against them.”

Amnesty International released a statement on June 11, alleging the police had used excessive force against protesters on May 29, by pepper spraying, beating and arresting peaceful protesters, bystanders and journalists. Police denied the allegations.

Superintendent of Police Mohamed Riyaz today said the police had decided to publicize the audio conversation “because we have no other choice.”

Riyaz said Mariya had been summoned for questioning over the audio clip on June 20, but the MDP had spread baseless allegations that the police were arresting and harrassing opposition politicians for no apparent reason. Hence, “the time has come to reveal the truth,” Riyaz said.

The audio clip was obtained legally through a court warrant, he added.

At approximately 9:00 pm this evening, former deputy Home Minister Hassan Mahir was arrested for comments made at Usfasgandu, in which he had allegedly incited violence against the police. Video footage of February 7 shows Mahir being attacked by men in civilians as police in riot gear watch outside the Police HQ and another man screams, “Kill him!”

The MDP has consistently raised concerns over new President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s failure to prosecute the police for brutality on February 7, 8 and at subsequent MDP demonstrations.

“Enemies of the state”

Speaking at a press conference at noon, Home Minister Jameel and Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz condemned MDP and Rajje TV’s alleged incitement of hatred and violence against police and their families.

Jameel described MDP and Raajje TV as “enemies of the state,” while Riyaz said Nasheed and senior MDP officials were behind the planning of psychological and physical attacks on the police.

“I note that former President Mohamed Nasheed is behind the planning of the attacks and damage caused to police property and repeated physical attacks on police officers.” Riyaz said.

Claiming Raajje TV’s reporting was “not responsible journalism,” Riyaz said that the station had spread baseless allegations regarding police brutality towards protesters and police role in the controversial change of government.

“Raajje TV has repeatedly attempted to defame and raise questions over police professionalism by broadcasting baseless allegations to create distrust towards the police,” he added.

He went on to refute a recent Raajje TV report that police had stolen fuel from parked motor cycles, claiming Raajje TV was attempting to falsely cast the entire police force as “brutal” and as “thieves.”

Earlier in the day, the Police released a satement saying they  will no longer cooperate with Raajje TV or provide protection to the station due to its attempts to defame the institution. The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) subsequently told Raajje TV to issue an apology for the report on police officers stealing petrol.

Conversely, Raajje TV has also accused police of targeting, assaulting and harrasing its reporters during MDP’s protests.

A statement from Raajje TV on July 10 read: “Raajje TV journalists have been forced to live in fear as they have increasingly become targets of attacks by the national security forces, particularly the police service. The station also believes that these attacks and harassment has been the source of emotional distress and psychological damage to all Raajje TV employees.”

However, Riyaz stressed today that the police force did not discriminate.  “I believe the police are professional. I am not under any political influence,” he added

During MDP’s protest on February 8, 64 policemen had been injured while police stations had sustained over Rf 130,000 (US$ 8387) worth damages, Riyaz said. It was Raajje TV’s broadcasting of false reports that police had killed a man in Male’ that led to the vandalism and arson attacks on police stations and court buildings throughout the Maldives, Riyaz alleged.

“We will take action against whoever incites violence against the police, no matter who it is or what kind of position they hold or have held in the past,” Jameel said.

Police have already filed criminal charges against Nasheed for his alleged role in the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January and the discovery of alcohol bottles at Nasheed’s residence following his resignation. The Prosecutor General (PG) this month filed charges against Nasheed at the Hulhumale’ Island Court over Abdulla’s detention, but the court has rejected the case claiming the case was outside its “jurisdiction.”

The Commonwealth’s Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon and the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay have expressed concern over the state’s attempt to prosecute Nasheed.

Complaints against EC, MBC

Attorney General Azima Shukoor, speaking on TVM’s Raajje Miadhu programme, said the Elections Commission (EC) and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) had failed to discipline Raajje TV and MDP for inciting violence despite the government filing numerous complaints.

Azima said MDP’s call for violence were “a fact. You cannot dispute this. Look at the tweets, the materials on Facebook, and the speeches at meetings and protests.”

However, the failure of independent oversight institutions to take action had put the democratic process in the Maldives in jeopardy, Azima claimed. “The country is not functioning when space is given for democracy,” she said.

“Institutions that must take responsibility are not doing their job. [We have] to take action against them. The executive will conduct necessary legal work to take such action. We will submit this case to the Majlis. We are also ready to take necessary action through the courts,” she stated.

In response, the Elections Commissioner Fuad Thawfeeq told TVM that the commission “will not yield to threats and intimidation.”

Regarding the MDP’s protests, he said: “The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and speech. The elections commission cannot narrow such freedoms.” Thawfeeq said it was the executive’s resonsibility to investigate criminal activities.

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Ports Workers Union accuse MPL of employee “rights violations” for political activism

The Maldives Ports Workers Union (MPWU) has accused the Maldives Ports Ltd (MPL) of violating employee rights, alleging the state-owned company has unfairly dismissed four employees due to their political activism.

In a letter on July 12 to MPL CEO Mahdi Imad, Chairperson of the MPWU Ibrahim Khaleel said: “Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, it is now common within MPL to stop employees from expressing certain political views, and violate the Employment Act by unfairly dismissing employees and transferring employees to different departments without prior warning or explanation of any offense committed.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Khaleel said the company mainly targeted employees who supported the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“They send people with cameras to MDP protests to check which MPL employees take part in the protests,” Khaleel said. The MDP has taken to the streets for the 11th consecutive day demanding fresh polls, alleging President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in a coup d’état on February 7.

In addition to the four employees who have been dismissed, 30 have been suspended and 10 have been transferred from their position at the Malé port to Thilafushi Island port, Khaleel said.

In his letter, Khaleel called on the MPL to “respect an employee’s right to exercise freedoms granted in the constitution and by participating in political activities in his or her free time” and asked the company to withdraw blocks on “social media including facebook, twitter and gmail.”

In response, Imad in a letter on July 16 accused the MPWU of dividing employees and promoting the interests of a certain political party and threatened to take action against the union.

“We have received reports that the union is attempting to divide employees and promote the interests of a certain political party. Hence, I order and advice you not to do so. If this happens in the future, we will have to take action against you,” he said.

Further, access to social-networking sites had been blocked because they “often propagate un-Islamic, sinful activities and propagate the interests of Jews,” Imad said.

Khaleel denied Imad’s allegations, stating that “When MDP was in power, we had a lot of difficulty in registering the union. The MPL management at the time wrote a letter to the Home Ministry requesting that they deny our registration. We are not a political organization, we work for employee rights.”

The MPWU has been contact with other ports workers unions in the region to discuss steps to take next, Khaleel said.

In May, porters working at MPL went on strike after the management confiscated their TV for “watching too much Raajje TV.” Government aligned parties have accused Rajje TV of being aligned with the MDP.

Minivan News also documented the suspension of seven staff at MPL in April. The company claims staff were suspended for violating “norms of good behavior” outlined in the code of conduct, but staff told Minivan News they had been suspended for taking part in MDP protests.

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Commonwealth Envoy expresses concern at “rising political tension” in the Maldives

The Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, has expressed concern at “rising political tension” in the Maldives –  specifically over ongoing street protests and the criminal charges filed against ousted President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has taken to the streets for the tenth consecutive day calling for an early election, alleging the former President was deposed in a coup detat on February 7.  Police have clashed violently with protesters resulting in injury to police and public as well as the arrest of hundreds of protesters. However, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has insisted the earliest constitutionally permitted date in which fresh polls can be held is July 2013.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz on Monday filed criminal charges against Nasheed for his alleged role in the detention of Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed in January.

The Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has urged for early elections to be held in 2012, and has played a crucial role in the reconstitution of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), set up to investigate the controversial transfer of power.  The composition was changed after the Commonwealth raised concerns over the body’s impartiality during its first iteration. The CNI is expected to release its report by the end of August.

In a statement released yesterday, Sir Donald called for dialogue among political leaders, urging all parties to show “restraint and restore calm.”

“It is absolutely essential that all relevant actors in Maldives refrain from any actions that could jeopardise the stable environment necessary to allow the Commission of National Inquiry to complete its work and produce an outcome within the stipulated time-frame,” he said.

“Restore calm”

Sir Donald added that he has been in contact with President Waheed and Mohamed Nasheed to discuss the MDP’s ongoing protests, along with the response by security forces to these demonstrations and the charges filed against the former president.

“What is very much needed in Maldives right now is for all concerned to show restraint and restore calm. Any actions that create or exacerbate political instability cannot be helpful to the national interest, including in the difficult economic circumstances at the moment in the country and the global context,” Sir Donald said.

The Maldives is facing a foreign currency shortageplummeting investor confidencespiraling expenditure, a drop off in foreign aid and a crippling budget deficit of 27 percent.

Speaking on the need for a stable environment for the CNI to complete its work, and urging all parties to refrain from jeopardising the commission’s efforts, Sir Donald said: “We have all invested a huge amount of time, energy and resources in reconstituting the Commission of National Inquiry, to establish the truth about the events of 7 February 2012 and help Maldives move forward. The international community has been supportive of these efforts.”

Hence, Sir Donald has called on Maldivian leaders to engage in dialogue, stating that “Ultimately, any resolution of contentious political issues in Maldives can only come about through inclusive political dialogue.”

“I therefore urge the leaders of Maldives to engage in genuine dialogue, with the interest of the people of Maldives in mind,” he added.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor welcomed the Special Envoy’s statement, but said that MDP protests would continue. “You must remember our protests are non-violent and are aimed at restoring political stability,” he told Minivan News.

Stalemate

Sir Donald’s comments come at a time when renewed attempts at restarting the All-Party talks appear at a stalemate.

The talks were conceived as one of two internationally-backed mechanisms – alongside the CNI – to resolve the political deadlock in the Maldives following the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

The Convenor of the All-Party talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, on July 12 announced that a series of “high-level” discussions will be held between President Waheed and the leaders of the largest political parties after sixteen previous attempts had resulted in “no breakthrough.”

However, a spokesperson for President Waheed on Tuesday said the president will not hold talks with Nasheed as long as street protests continue, condemning the protests as an “act of terrorism.”

Meanwhile, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – who served as the country’s autocratic leader for 30 years up to 2008 – said he would not negotiate with Nasheed.  Gayoom claimed that Nasheed had made baseless comments about him in both the local and the international community, particularly that the former President had masterminded a “coup d’état” on February 7.

Nasheed subsequently released a statement on Monday arguing that his allegations were based on public statements made by Gayoom and those closely affiliated with him politically, including his family members – many of whom now hold senior positions in government. Nasheed then offered to apologize if Gayoom agreed to participate in the all-party talks.

“Given that not for a single moment would I wish for someone unelected by the people of Maldives to entertain himself as leader to them, I believe now is the time for all parties to come forth in support of the best interest of the nation and its citizens, and as such, if President Gayoom indeed was not party to the coup, I have decided to apologise to President Gayyoom for the fact that I said he was behind this coup,” Nasheed said in his statement.

However, Gayoom told local media today that he believed Nasheed’s apology was “insincere” and has asked Nasheed to issue a formal apology on local and international media.

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