Spike in violence against expatriate workers; two murdered, two stabbed

A 25-year old Bangladeshi national, Shaheen Mia, was stabbed to death in a Malé café in the early hours of the morning on Sunday (March 22), while a Bangladeshi national identified as Bilal was found dead in Alif Alif Atoll Thoddoo Island last night.

Speaking to Minivan News, President of Thoddoo Council Hassan Ibrahim said Bilal, estimated to be between 20 and 25 years of age, was found naked with a piece of cloth tied around his neck.

Bilal’s employer Hussein Hassan found the dead body at 9:55pm at Seenusanfaage where he had been living with three other expatriate workers. Police officers from Rasmadhoo Island arrived at 10:45pm.

“The police questioned the people living with him if there had been any disputes between the Bangladeshi and anyone. They said there had been none, as he had only come to the island very recently,” Ibrahim told Minivan News.

Bilal’s body was brought to Malé at 4:00am today.

Thoddoo Council’s Assistant Director Ali Adam said a suicide was “highly unlikely” as Bilal could not have strangled himself with a piece of cloth.

The Maldives Police Services said they have not yet determined the cause of death and have not made any arrests.

Local media have said there were injuries to Bilal’s face when his body was discovered.

Meanwhile, two expatriate workers were stabbed in Malé tonight. According to the Maldives Police Services, one worker was stabbed at 7:30pm, and another was stabbed at 7:40pm near Malé fish market.

A police media official said an Indian and a Bangladeshi were injured, and that both have been hospitalised. The circumstances of the attacks, including the nationality of attackers, are not yet clear, the police said.

Meanwhile, at approximately 4:00am on Sunday, masked men dragged Shaheen Mia out from his workplace, Lhiyanu Café, in Malé’s western harbour district, and stabbed him in the chest. The expatriate staff work and sleep in the café.

The stabbing occurred after repeated threats the previous day. According to local media, a violent confrontation had occurred between Lhiyanu Café staff and a group of young men in the early hours of Saturday morning when the expatriate workers refused to serve coffee free of charge. The group vandalised the café before they left.

The same group came to the café at 6:00pm on Saturday and allegedly threatened to burn the place down. Staff had reported all threats to the police.

According to the Bangladeshi High Commission, Shaheen’s father on receiving news of his son’s death suffered a heart attack and died. Shaheen’s mother has also been hospitalised.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Umar Naseer said the government is considering closing restaurants and cafés by 12am and closing shops by 10pm.

Over 25 expatriate workers gathered in protest near the Bangladesh High Commission on Sunday, but were sent away by the police.

Human rights group Transparency Maldives has called on the Maldives Police Services to expedite the investigation of Shaheen’s death, and urged the state to prioritise and promote rights of migrant workers.

“Migrant workers are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country today. They face huge difficulties in accessing justice and get very little support from the community at large in protecting their rights,” the NGO said.

There are over 50,000 expatriate workers in the Maldives, according to the 2014 national census.

Street violence is common amongst Malé City’s numerous gangs. There have been 11 murders since November 2013.


Home minister and pro-government MPs discuss legislative steps to curb gang activity

Home Minister Umar Naseer has begun meetings with pro-government MPs about necessary amendments to the laws in the initiative to inhibit gang-related criminal activity.

Naseer met with parliamentarians from ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in Muleeaage yesterday (October 14), as well as meeting with Jumhooree Party parliamentarians at their main campaign offices.

The proposed changes include amendments to the act on stopping gang-related crimes and to laws prohibiting the carrying of sharp weapons as well as a temporary act on stopping gang activity, Naseer told local media.

“The delay in tackling gang related crimes is a deep concern even of parliamentarians. We have now had the chance to confer with them and see what their thoughts on the matter are,” Naseer said.

“Reactions from parliamentarians of both Jumhooree Party and Progressive Party of Maldives were positive to my recommendations. At the moment, I cannot share further details of the suggested changes,” Umar Naseer told Minivan News today.

Earlier in the week, however, Naseer explained to local media some of the changes he proposed to bring to these acts.

Changes include the introduction of “soft curfews” on identified gang members, changes in the process of completing an investigation, in taking the matter to court, and in the completion of criminal cases in court.

“The problem is the period between these two regimes. After police concludes an investigation and the case is sent to court, it sometimes takes from 2 to 3 to even 10 years before the court presides over the case,” he is quoted as saying.

Naseer has previously spoken of concerns about the lack of cooperation between police and the Criminal Court.

On August 4, Naseer stated in parliament that a “special police operation” was ongoing to curb gang violence in the capital following a spate of violent assaults in recent days.

He went on to suggest that the problem was exacerbated by insufficient police resources, revisions being required for certain laws, and drug trafficking.

Special efforts from police resulted in the dismantling of ‘gang huts’ around the capital, before President Abdulla Yameen called a halt to the process, announcing that the government would instead seek more comprehensive solutions to the issue.

Following his unsuccessful campaign in the 2013 PPM presidential primary, Umar Naseer accused fellow candidate Yameen of having links to criminal gangs and the drug trade. Since being appointed home minister, however, Naseer has retracted these accusations.

The home minister announced in September that the police had identified about 30 gangs, with 50 gang leaders and 500 gang members operating in the country, especially on the streets of Malé.

He added that 13 of these 30 gangs can be considered as “highly dangerous”.

He said at the time that the government is planning an ‘attack’ to address the increase in gang related crimes – including assault, murder, and drug offences.

The issue of gang violence has become increasingly prominent in recent years, with stabbings and intimidation of journalists covering these crimes becoming commonplace.

A series of attacks on the offices and homes of journalists and MPs last month prompted concern from the EU at the level of gang activity in the country, while a private investigation into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan suggested radicalised gangs may have been involved.

2012 study of the Maldives’ gang culture by the Asia Foundation revealed that “political and business elites” exploit gangs to carry out a range of illegal activities including the suppression of opponents and carrying out tasks to help maintain popularity or divert media attention from political issues.