PPM undecided over leaving government despite “concerns” with President Waheed

The government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has said no formal decision has yet been taken on whether to retract support for the government, despite growing “complaints” from its members over the conduct of President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

MP Ahmed Nihan today told Minivan News that both the PPM’s senior leadership and ordinary members held significant “concerns” over the conduct of President Waheed in the build up to this year’s presidential election, with the party accusing the incumbent and his supporters of unfair campaigning.

The PPM is the largest party in terms of MP numbers serving within the coalition government backing President Waheed, which came to power following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

Despite this ongoing support, PPM vice presidential candidate and former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed yesterday (July 14) accused President Waheed in local media of providing harbours to islands on the provision that their councils signed with his Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP).

The allegations were today rubbished by the President’s Office, which claimed that projects such as harbour developments had been allocated by the government last year and were not related in any way to the GIP or its campaign.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad contended that President Waheed would had no say on the placing of harbours earmarked for development before electioneering had begun, adding that the GIP had the least influence within the current government to influence such projects.

While not having personally seen the allegations raised by Dr Jameel, Masood criticised what he claimed was a culture of politicians “saying anything they want” to try and damage political rivals. He added that politicians attempting to attack political rivals without facts or evidence were in danger of disgracing their own parties in the long-term.

“National interest”

Dr Jameel was quoted in local media criticising President Waheed for dismissing him as home minister earlier this year and sacking other PPM supporters from key government posts, which he said reflected a failure of the incumbent to favour “national interest”.

He additionally pointed to recent concerns raised by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) over allegations the GIP had fraudulently registered party members in a bid to reach minimum membership.

The ACC said last month after interviewing 100 members of the GIP that 85 percent of those polled had no knowledge of ever joining the party.

Dr Jameel also compared Dr Waheed’s principles – in an unspecified manner – to those of his predecessor former President Mohamed Nasheed, who is himself standing in the election as candidate for the opposition Maldivan Democratic Party (MDP).

The MDP is the country’s largest political party both in terms of numbers of MPs and registered support.

However, Dr Jameel was quoted in local media as dismissing Nasheed’s chances in the upcoming election, claiming he had been “discarded by the people” and had become a “joke” with his attempts to strengthen democracy in the country.

“I don’t believe President Nasheed even has a chance. Also I don’t see a reason he should even be given that chance,” he was reported to have said by newspaper Haveeru.

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

Incentive allegations

PPM MP Nihan said that alongside allegations that the president had been promising harbours to local councils to garner electoral support, the party had also received complaints that senior positions in government companies were also being offered to secure ballots ahead of September’s vote.

“Besides the harbours, there are attempts to try and influence voters. Maybe this is not the work of the president, but there may be strong people belonging to the GIP behind this,” he said.

Nihan said no decision had yet been taken over whether to formally review the PPM’s support of the present coalition government “in the near future”.

However, with the presidential election scheduled just over a month away on September 7, he did not rule out possible the potential for talks on the matter.

“Unofficial” Adhaalath talks

The PPM has also confirmed this week that it had held informal talks over potentially standing in a coalition with the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) for the election after retracting its support for President Waheed. Nihan said there had been no further progress on reaching an agreement.

He claimed that a PPM Council meeting held yesterday evening had not included discussions on forming a coalition “with any party” on its agenda. Nihan said the PPM  was presently involved in “unofficial negotiations” with AP “senior leadership”.


PPM confirms “talks” with Adhaalath Party over prospective coalition

The government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has confirmed talks have been held with “senior members” of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) over potentially standing in a coalition for this year’s presidential election.

PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Nihan has told Minivan News that “several meetings” had been held between the party’s vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, AP President Sheikh Imran Abdullah and Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

Nihan could not provide further details of what conclusion had been reached between the two parties, but claimed that the AP’s potential support would be a “huge boost” for the PPM’s election campaign.

Confirmation of the talks follows the AP’s announcement on Thursday (July 11) that it had quit President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s ‘Forward with the Nation’ coalition due to “mysterious events”.

The decision was taken just 24 hours after the AP publicly criticised President Waheed, accusing him of telling international media that the party had “extremist” elements.

However, AP President Sheikh Imran today rejected local media reports that his party had held any discussions with any other political groups following the termination of its coalition agreement with President Waheed.

Sheik Imran was not responding to calls at time of press.

Coalition uncertainty

PPM MP Nihan said today that with recent reports of “uneasiness” between the AP and President Waheed, talks had been held with senior leadership over a possible collaboration. However, he said it was uncertain if any coalition could be reached between the PPM and AP at present.

Nihan added that any potential agreement would still need to be approved by the PPM’s council before being finalised, though he said that the party’s charter did allow for presidential candidate MP Yameen and his running mate to hold talks with other candidates over key issues.

A meeting of the PPM Council has been scheduled for tonight, according to party officials.

Nihan said that he remained of the view that a coalition government was not a solution to run the Maldives effectively at the current time – an argument he claimed had been proven conclusively by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) coming to power backed by a number of parties in 2008.

Parties including the now government-aligned Jumhoree Party, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and later the AP all eventually left former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government after backing him as their presidential candidate.

Nasheed later controversially resigned from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military on February 7, 2012, with the MDP alleging a “coup d’eat” had toppled the country’s first democratically elected government.

“We believe it is difficult to have a coalition here,” Nihan claimed, adding that multi-party democracy in the country was still a very new concept.

He said that despite any potential boost the AP would provide to the PPM’s support base during the presidential election, concerns remained about how successful a coalition could be in the country.

In May, Nihan claimed that although the PPM would continue to lend its support to the present coalition backing President Waheed, the party was not looking to enter into a collaboration ahead of the election scheduled for September.

“Originally in the first round of the 2008 elections, former President Gayoom failed to obtain enough votes to get re-elected. As we know, [former President] Nasheed then formed a coalition to win the election in the second round,” he said. “What we saw then was after 20 days, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim resigned without much reason from the government. This has put a big question mark over the strength of coalitions.”

Speaking at the conclusion of a campaign visit in Raa Atoll yesterday (July 13), MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, President Waheed’s running mate for the upcoming election, was reported in local media as saying that no other candidate had as strong of a team in the upcoming election as the incumbent.

Thasmeen, Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), claimed President Waheed continued to be backed with the “most capable” people that would be able to run a government responsibly, according to Sun Online.

“Considering the ongoing campaigns, it wouldn’t be an untruth if I said that no other candidate has a team as strong as the ‘forward with the nation’ team. You would see who are included in the teams, if you look at the front row during major ceremonies, and if you watch party rallies on TV and the people who speak on stage during these functions,” he was reported as saying.

“I think that the team behind President Waheed consists of capable people who can responsibly run the government, even if they assume this responsibility tomorrow.”

Thasmeen also reportedly praised the president’s patience for being able to run a government with parties who did not always support him on key issues.

Thasmeen and President Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP) Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza were not responding to calls at time of press.


President’s Office dismisses two ministers at behest of DQP

The President’s Office has today dismissed Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal and Minister of State for Economic Development Abdulla Ameen from the government at the insistence of their former party.

The President’s Office said the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), part of the present coalition government, had requested the dismissal of both men, as well as recommending replacements for their positions. The names of the suggested replacements had not been revealed to the public at time of press.

A statement released by the President’s Office said that the positions of deputy tourism minister and minister of state for economic development were assigned to the DQP as part of the conditions under which President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s coalition government was formed.

The present government, formed by a number of former opposition parties, came to power following the controversial transfer of power in February, 2012, when former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned from office following a violent mutiny by sections of the police and military.

Election support

Mohamed Maleeh Jamal told Minivan News that he had been informed of his dismissal today via a phone call from the President’s Office.

He alleged that both former State Minister Ameen and himself had been sacked for refusing to back President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s election campaign, claiming he could see no other reason for the dismissal.

Although Maleeh said he was yet to receive an official termination notice confirming his dismissal, he expressed his belief that he had been fired because of his support for the presidential candidate of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), MP Abdulla Yameen.

He said that he had not been surprised by his dismissal after pledging support to the PPM, adding that he would not allow “the fear” of losing his government post to change his mind on whom he believed was the best candidate to back in the election.

“To bring the nation forward, we need a strong government in order to boost investor confidence in the country and bring about economic stability,” Maleeh said. “I believe there is only one candidate who can do this and it is the reason I have decided to join the PPM and support Yameen.”

He argued that the new constitution adopted in August 2008 guarantee that no citizen should be scared of making a democratic decision over the fear of losing a job, adding that he had nonetheless decided to sacrifice his government position to back his preferred presidential candidate.

DQP Leader Dr Hassan Saeed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Former DQP Deputy Leader Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who was dismissed last month as home minister by the government after announcing his decision to stand as the running mate of PPM candidate Yameen, today slammed President Waheed for the dismissing the two ministers.

Writing on Twitter, Dr Jameel questioned the president’s capability to serve as a leader of the nation by allowing the dismissals of Maleeh and Ameen from the government.

Speaking to local media, he later denied the government’s claim that the DQP had been exclusively allocated the positions of deputy tourism minister and minister of state for economic development within the government.

The PPM said following Dr Jameel’s dismissal last month that it would continue to support President Waheed’s administration, despite condemning what it called the the “harsh and abrupt” sacking.

The PPM, the minority party in the People’s Majlis with the highest number of MPs after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), has since accused President Waheed of campaigning unfairly for September’s election by using state funds and resources.

Earlier this month, the party also slammed the manner in which President Waheed opted to terminate an airport development contract with Indian infrastructure group GMR last year, accusing him of failing to heed its advice on first negotiating with the developer.

However, the party was accused at the time of making “contradictory statements” on the GMR issue by coalition partner Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), which is backing Waheed in September’s election.

PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Nihan was not responding to calls at time of press.


PPM will address Maldives’ strained relationship with India: Gayoom

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has pledged during a visit to India that the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) will repair strained relations between the two countries should it come to power in September, local media has reported.

The three day visit, which concluded Thursday (June 6), saw the former president meet with dignitaries including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss bilateral relations and the impact of the Maldives government’s decision to last year cancel a US$511 million airport deal with India-based infrastructure giant GMR.

In interviews with Indian media, Gayoom expressed sadness that the Maldives’ relationship with India had been impacted by President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration deciding to evict GMR from the country with seven days notice.

Gayoom blamed Nasheed for not obtaining parliamentary approval and “consulting all political parties” before signing the deal with the GMR-Malaysian Airports consortium.

“This was a mistake. Had he consulted all political parties, the public would not have formed the impression that corruption had taken place. Then we told the next President Mr Waheed that he should hold discussions with the GMR Group and the Indian government to arrive at an acceptable solution, after which the government was free to act on its own. Unfortunately, this was not done and suddenly there was this unhappy ending,” Gayoom was reported as saying in the Hindu.

Waheed’s government late last year declared the contract between GMR and the Nasheed government, which was vetted by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), as ‘void ad initio’, or invalid from the outset. It is currently disputing its obligation to compensate the company in arbitration proceedings, arguing that the termination clause could not be applied to a contract it had deemed invalid.

Gayoom told Indian media that former President Mohamed Nasheed – whose government was controversially replaced in February last year – had to take the majority of blame for the GMR contract dispute, despite not being in office at the time of its cancellation.

“The GMR experience was not a very good one for us. It began badly with [Nasheed] not informing parliament,” Gayoom was reported as saying in the Indian Express.

“By law, he should have had it passed by parliament. Some may even say it had an illegal beginning. [The cancellation] was a very populist move at the time as the public had a perception that the contract was bad for the country. The way it was handled was not good. I am sad that this has somehow affected our bilateral relations. We want to overcome that and restore our relationship with India to its former level,” Gayoom told the paper.

The government’s sudden eviction of the Indian investor did not however appear on a list of 11 grievances handed to all senior Maldivian reporters by the Indian High Commission in January, which instead included concerns such as discrimination against Indian expatriates and the confiscation of passports by Maldivian employers.

The list’s release was followed by the Indian High Commission issuing a statement in early February slamming local media in the Maldives for “misrepresentation and twisting of issues”.

Gayoom nonetheless told the Hindustan Times publication this week that he would endeavor to maintain strong bilateral relations with India, claiming that people who were “anti-GMR” were not “anti-India”.

The PPM is presently part of the coalition government backing President Waheed, whom Gayoom said had been requested to find an “acceptable solution” for both GMR and the Indian government that addressed concerns about the airport deal.

Fierce criticism

Among the most fierce critics of the GMR airport deal before its cancellation last year were the now government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP ), led by President Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed.

Saeed in November last year appealed to Prime Minister Singh to terminate the GMR deal, writing that “GMR and India ‘bashing’ is becoming popular politics”.

While in opposition in December 2011, the DQP also released a 24 page pamphlet alleging that allowing GMR to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) was “paving the way for the enslavement of Maldivians in our beloved land”, and warning that “Indian people are especially devious”.

Former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, the DQP’s Deputy Leader at the time of the pamphlet’s publication, was recently unveiled as the running mate of PPM Presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen – Gayoom’s half brother.

SOFA a concern: Gayoom

Gayoom – described in the Hindu as a “sprightly 76 year-old” – also expressed concern about the Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement being negotiated between Waheed’s government and the United States.

“I am not happy. I didn’t want that to happen,” he said, warning that such a move risked upsetting the balance of power in the Indian Ocean.

A source within the PPM said former President Gayoom, during his 30 years as head of state had forged strong relations with various regional powers such as India and Sri Lanka.

The source said that while the handling of the GMR contract remained a controversial issue, the recent strain in the relationship between India and the Maldives was the result of a number of factors, including “certain difficulties” facing expatriate workers from India living in the country.

“We have a large number of professional expatriates from India working here in health, education and accountancy. The [Indian] embassy here in Male’ has aired some of the issues with us,” the party source claimed, adding that the Maldives also had grievances over obtaining visas to travel to India that needed to be resolved.

The party official claimed that Indian authorities had raised these issues not only with the PPM, but all other stakeholders both in government and the country’s political opposition, presently represented by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Highs and lows

Despite admitting that every country has high and lows in their bilateral relations with neighbours, Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare has previously emphasised what he called the country’s “unshakable” long-standing relationship with the Maldives.

“During my tenure, I will endeavour to further strengthen the relationship between India and the Maldives, which is already very strong with an unshakable foundation,” he said on April 10, shortly after his appointment.


Presidential election regulations unveiled as rival parties slam state commitment to free and fair polls

The Elections Commission (EC) has unveiled new regulations  for the presidential election set for September 7 this year, claiming “comprehensive changes” have been made to the legal framework used five years ago.

EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz told Minivan News that the latest regulations were drawn up with consultation from political parties and NGOs – providing more than just a “cosmetic change” to the framework used for the country’s first ever multi-party democratic elections in 2008.

Both opposition and government-aligned parties competing directly against President Dr Mohamed Waheed in September have alleged that even with new regulations in place, there were concerns that the incumbent was using state resources unconstitutionally to unfairly influence voters.

The allegations have been denied by the President’s Office, which maintains that it has done nothing to try and unfairly influence voters.

EC optimism

EC Vice President Fayaz said that despite the allegations raised by various parties this week, the commission was “very optimistic” about its ability to ensure elections were free and fair in September with the new presidential election regulations – said to have undergone drastic changes since 2008.

“The 2008 regulation was actually formatted in a rush and the EC was given about 60 days to do its work,” he said of the legal outline used for the last presidential election. “From the feedback we have received [regarding the new election regulation] nobody has said that they were bad,” he claimed.

The Regulation on the Presidential Election was published online Monday (May 20) in the Government Gazette.

Fayaz added that the EC had so far received “no formal complaints” from political parties in the country regarding concerns that September’s elections would not be free and fair.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said he had not personally had chance to review the new regulations for September’s election at present.


Ghafoor said that despite concerns about the functioning of the country’s independent institutions, the MDP had been “comfortable” with the ongoing work of the EC.

Yet no matter how comprehensive the new elections regulation for September’s vote was, he said MDP continued to hold concerns that credible elections were being undermined by both the recent conduct of the government and the country’s police and security forces.

Ghafoor claimed that party fear’s were partly based around the recent conduct of police around the country, as well as ongoing concerns raised by both the party and independent experts over the independence of country’s judiciary, as well as its watchdog body, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

Meanwhile, the Maldives’ Police Service has previously denied arresting approximately 50 people – primarily MDP supporters – the night prior to President Mohamed Waheed’s arrival in Addu City on May 8.

Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig told Minivan News that before Waheed’s arrival, close to 50 people were arrested, “and about 90 percent of those taken in were MDP supporters”.

These arrests were made under the “’Our Peaceful Addu City” operation, which the police have said was established to make the atoll “crime free”.

Political ends

Ghafoor also leveled criticisms at President Waheed directly, accusing him of unconstitutionally spending state fund on his own campaigning, while also making development pledges not included within budgeted funds during recent tours of the country.

He also pointed the centralised utilities ‘Fenaka’ corporation that was formed last June as an example of President Waheed’s use of government-owned enterprise to provide his own supporters with jobs.

“We have seen this government rape institutions like the police and state companies for their own political ends,” Ghafoor claimed. “These are unconstitutional actions we are seeing by the state.”

PPM “concerns”

MP Abdulla Yameen, presidential candidate for the government-aligned PPM, this week told local media that he understood “concerns” raised by MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed regarding President Waheed’s use of state resources for campaigning.

“That is, the way [the government] is doing things, there are problems over whether we could reach free and fair elections. The Auditor General and ACC [Anti-Corruption Commission] have taken note of this,” Yameen told local media.

While accepting an incumbent would have advantages for campaigning while in power, Yameen called on the government to consult with the Auditor General’s Office and ACC to put rules in place for campaigning within legal bounds and in line with the principles of good governance.

The PPM parliamentary group leader also criticised the government’s decision to sack Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed from his position of home minister following his decision to stand against President Waheed as Yameen’s running mate.

The government at the time cited Dr Jameel’s decision to stand as Yameen’s running mate as representing a conflict of interest, claiming any other cabinet minister standing directly against Dr Waheed would also have to be dismissed ahead of September’s voting.

Cabinet ministers in a coalition government are not obliged to assist the president’s election campaign, Yameen added this week.

He also claimed that PPM has not been given the number of government posts promised by Dr Waheed more than a year ago with the formation of the coalition government.

Former Home Minister Dr Jameel, meanwhile said he believed that appointments to government posts and creation of government-owned companies ahead of the election was intended to influence the outcome.

Government response

The President’s Office has rejected allegations that the government was working to exert undue influence on voters through state resources or funds, accusing both the MDP and PPM of making allegations without any evidence.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said that politicians seeking to run for office should therefore act responsibly and avoid making baseless accusations against the government.

“I will say on the record that we are not engaged in any activity that would give us an unfair advantage [in September’s election],” he said.

Responding directly to the MDP’s allegations that the state were using government-owned bodies such as the Fenaka Corporation to gain political influence, Masood claimed that the company was presently headed by a PPM member, leaving president Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) with little influence to do so.

“Fenaka has much more PPM and MDP members working for it than it does GIP supporters,” he said. “Fenaka is headed up by a PPM member, so we do not have any control over this. We do already have difficulty with GIP members ringing us up and asking for jobs,” he said,

Masood concluded that President Waheed had done nothing to exert his influence on voters, claiming appointments made to state institutions following the controversial transfer of power remaining almost unchanged since they were formed under the present administration.


Maradhoo detainees allege physical abuse in police custody

Eight young men arrested on the island of Maradhoo in Addu City last week have alleged that they were physically abused by Special Operations (SO) officers while under police custody.

Police arrested the youth on Wednesday (May 15) for allegedly obstructing police duty outside a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) campaign office, which prompted clashes between SO officers and members of the public.

Eyewitnesses told local media that the SO officers used pepper spray and excessive force to arrest the Maradhoo youth.

Former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – dismissed from the post earlier this month following his appointment as the running mate of PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen – told local media that Maradhoo islanders have made a number of allegations concerning police brutality and the behaviour of SO officers during the arrests, including the use of foul language.

Dr Jameel reportedly met PPM members and families of the detainees in Addu City this weekend to gather information. The arrested youth included PPM members as well as Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members.

Photo from MVYouth.com

Jameel told newspaper Haveeru that the party would provide legal assistance to the PPM members, whose detention was extended to 10 days by the Hithadhoo magistrate court on Thursday (May 16). One of the eight detainees was however released by the court.

The former home minister said he advised the families to file complaints with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) for investigation.

Asked if he believed police could have been violent towards civilians, Jameel said he “could not say that such actions  would not be seen from police.”

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

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz meanwhile tweeted on Saturday (May 18) that a Professional Standards Command (PSC) team was “already in Addu to investigate the complaints against police.”

Following the arrests last week, former President Mohamed Nasheed also took to twitter to condemn “the actions of a few policemen who’ve arrested members of pol parties, used excessive force, violated the sanctity of their premises.”

Nasheed resigned on February 7, 2012 in the wake of a violent mutiny by SO officers, who have since been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Maradhoo on Friday night, MDP lawyer Ahmed Abdulla Afeef said he met the detainees  separately and all of them claimed to have been physically abused in custody.

The detainees said they were driven around in a police vehicle, taken to a bridge and beaten, Afeef said.

“For about half an hour, they were kept there and beaten with police ankle boots, police helmets and with their fists,” he said. “I did not see them being abused, but there are still fresh injuries on their bodies. So this has happened.”

They were then taken to the police station and stripped naked before being subjected to more physical abuse, Afeef continued.

The youth alleged that their hands were cuffed behind the back and police jumped on the handcuffs while the detainees were made to lie on the ground, Afeef said.

Photo from MVYouth.com

The detainees also claimed that the SO officers told them that they “toppled the government” and were untouchable, he added.

Afeef said he would file complaints at the PIC and Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) but doubted that any SO officer would be held accountable.

“The Police Integrity Commission will come here and taken statements. But in the end their report will say, ‘there are allegations of abuse but we cannot identify [the responsible officers], so we cannot take any action.’ That is how it has happened in the past,” Afeef said.

Afeef said the clashes with SO officers occurred after four police officers stopped in front of a young man sitting near the PPM office and demanded that he remove a necklace.

The young man had long hair that was dyed in the back, Afeef noted.

“In any case, when police started asking these questions and harassing him, he asked, ‘what’s the problem? am I not free to wear a necklace?'” Afeef recounted.

Police responded by dropping him to the ground and cuffing his hands, Afeef continued, which prompted his friends to intervene and clash with SO officers.

Afeef observed that individual liberty was guaranteed by article 19 of the Maldivian constitution, which states, “A citizen is free to engage in any conduct or activity that is not expressly prohibited by Islamic Shari’ah or by law. No control or restraint may be exercised against any person unless it is expressly authorised by law.”

Custodial abuse

Meanwhile, PPM-aligned news website MVYouth.com published an account yesterday of one of the young men arrested on Wednesday and released after 24 hours without being taken to court.

Mohamed Zaufnaz ‘Zauf’ Shinaz, an employee of a community news site called Maradhoolive.com, told MVYouth that he went to the area upon learning of a disturbance outside the PPM office.

Photo from Addu Online

Zauf said he saw two young men – currently in police custody – being manhandled by plainclothes police officers and was urged by the people there to take video footage of the incident.

More plainclothes officers soon arrived on a police vehicle, he recounted, and one of the officers grabbed Zauf by the neck and asked him if he had a media pass.

Zauf said he was hauled into the van before he could respond.

The police took off with Zauf and three others, he continued, noting that the police officers used obscene language inside the vehicle.

The officers tried to intimidate the detainees and threatened to smash Zauf’s camera, he added.

The four young men were taken to the Hithadhoo police station and shoved and pushed up the stairs, Zauf said.

They were taken inside a room and made to kneel down facing the wall, he said. Everyone except Zauf was in handuffs.

A police officer asked Zauf to delete the pictures and videos on his camera while the others were beaten for about 20 minutes by the officers in plainclothes, he continued.

A second group of detainees were soon brought in and Zauf learned from them later that they were taken to the Hankede bridge and beaten.

Shortly after their arrival, Zauf said he was taken to a room for interrogation. Two officers then took him inside another room and forced him to undress.

After he took off his boxers, the officers forced Zauf to walk naked around the room twice. He was then kept facing the wall while an officer took videos from a mobile phone.

Zauf said he heard the police officers sniggering behind his back.

“I heard the police mocking and laughing at me while I made the two rounds. But I hung my head down and did not look at them,” Zauf was quoted as saying.

After he was allowed to sit down again, Zauf said the officers made him lift his arms up and down three times. When he emerged after being frisked, a statement was prepared and he was made to sign it without reading its content.

Zauf was kept kneeling down again and heard the second group being beaten.

A plainclothes officer gave Zauf his camera back after deleting his photos and videos. An officer had bitten and damaged the memory card on the camera.

Zauf said he saw police officers jump on handcuffs while the others were kept on their knees. Zauf saw an officer smash Aafaq’s head against the wall.

Another officer told one of the young men to cut his hair and threatened that he would do so by force, Zauf said.

Zauf was then handcuffed and placed in a cell with the others. The detainees were given a meal at around 9:40pm. All eight men were forced to sleep in handcuffs.

The detainees complained of impurities in the drinking water and was promised clean water the next day, Zauf said, adding however that he was not given clean water when he was released in the late afternoon the following day (Thursday, May 16).

MVYouth reported today that Zauf’s family has decided to send him to Male’ for counselling as the young man appears to have been traumatised by the experience.