“I realised it was all going wrong”: member Saeed on CNI’s final days

“I realised it was all going wrong,” recently resigned member of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed told a press conference at Dharubaaruge this evening.

During the press conference, Saeed revealed comprehensive details of the admissions from the final CNI draft which led to his resignation on Wednesday.

“I did push for the initial extension, but this time around I realised that even if the time was extended, there was no possibility that the report would come out any different,” he said.

Saeed said that he had accepted the post because he had been deeply affected by the brutality and the injustice he observed in the events following February 6, and felt he could make a constructive contribution to the commission’s work.

He emphasised that he was not a politician and did not take up these responsibilities with any political interest in mind. Saeed provided a copy of a letter which he says was presented to the commission’s co-chairs on August 26 as well as a copy of his resignation letter.

The first letter, written on August 18, detailed Saeed’s concerns about the commission’s progress, which included the following:  withheld evidence, non-cooperation from crucial witnesses, non-examination of witnesses, witnesses being intimidated or obstructed, testimonies and evidence that was not reviewed, and organisation by the CNI secretariat.

“I feel compelled to formally register with you a number of issues that I believe, if left unaddressed, will seriously undermine the credibility of the report. I also believe these matters defeat the purpose for which the CNI was established,” read the August 26 letter, sent to the other members of the commission as well as Commonwealth Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, and members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – whose pressure led to his appointment.

Saeed told the press today that he had submitted his concerns regarding Singaporean Judge G.P. Selvam’s extended absences to the Commonwealth, but that he had so far not received a response.

He mentioned that there were a total of 31 days in which the commission was not able to work with the full commission’s presence, alluding to Selvam’s lengthy absence.

In responding to questions from media, Saeed said that Judge Selvam had brought gifts for the commission members ranging from dictionaries to perfume.

He said that the last gift, which had been offered along with the draft of the CNI report, was an Apple iPad for each member of the commission.

Saeed confirmed that while he had not accepted any of these gifts, the other commission members had.

Saeed also spoke of material worth thousands of Singaporean dollars that Judge Selvam had donated to the Villingili Hiya Children’s Center and the Maafushi Juvenile Detention Centre.

In the distributed letter, Saeed decried the fact that no CCTV footage from the police or the President’s Office had been made available to the commission.

“Only three out of eight CCTV cameras in and around MNDF have been provided and these have some crucial hours of footage missing,” wrote Saeed.

Saeed added that, “after much stonewalling”, he was simply told the footage was not available.

Saeed also wrote that the CNI was unable to access the information compiled by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) despite repeated requests.

He also said that the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) report was not received until August 16, describing the eventual report as “superficial and inconclusive”.

The letter suggested that key witnesses, believed to have played crucial roles in the events of February 7, appeared to have been coached – all giving standard responses to questions such as “no”, “I don’t know”, or “I can’t remember”.

Saeed also suggested that the non-cooperation of Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer was unacceptable after he had made public statements detailing his role in Nasheed’s resignation.

He also alleged that the original members of the Commission (Dr Ibrahim Yasir, Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef and chairman Ismail Shafeeu) showed a lack of interest in witnesses, “rarely posing questions.”

Using the examples of MC Mohamed Hameed and Superintendant Adnan Anees, Saeed expressed his belief that pressure was being put on members of the security forces not to cooperate with the CNI.

He added that a number of potentially crucial witnesses had been transferred, sometimes overseas, “making it extremely hard or impossible for them to appear before the CNI.”

Writing 12 days before the report was due for release, Saeed had mentioned his concerns that a lot of evidence had yet to be reviewed in the limited time remaining.

The final point raised in the August 26 letter was the poor scheduling of the witnesses by the commission’s secretariat.

Saeed said that inadequate notice had been given to enable his preparations for questioning. He also suggested that the most important witnesses were scheduled at the least convenient times.

The quality of translations services provided by the secretariat were also criticised, being described as “inappropriate and to some extent misleading.”

Additional details of Saeed’s concerns came in the August 29 resignation letter in which he alleged that the reformed five-man commission had not reviewed the finding of the original three-man group, “despite inconsistencies”.

The resignation letter detailed that no officer from the Special Operations branch of the police force had been interviewed. “The CNI has not been able to ‘summon’ any of the alleged ‘perpetrators’ or ‘culprits’,” he wrote.

Saeed criticised the nature of the commission’s work, arguing that it lacked the “investigative powers to thoroughly probe accusations.” He mentioned that the group had been unable to access key individuals’ bank accounts or phone records.

In concluding the press conference, Saeed said that he felt the Commonwealth had welcomed the final CNI report even though Saeed himself had not signed it because after his resignation, he was no longer a part of CNI and his signature would no longer be needed.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has welcomed the release of the report by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), and urged “all concerned to respect the findings of the commission so that, moving forward, all actions and reactions reflect the sense of responsibility and restraint necessary in the best national interest.“


CNI draft “embarrassing for the Commonwealth”: MDP spokesperson

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has hit out at the Commonwealth over the work of Singaporean Judge G.P. Selvam, whose initial draft report on the Committee of National Inquiry’s (CNI) findings was yesterday denounced by the opposition party.

The criticism, backed by an MDP resolution, was first raised by former President Nasheed’s representative on the CNI panel, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed.

“I think it is embarrassing for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). This is a bad show – it is not worthy of such an institution,” said MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

After concerted pressure from the Commonwealth and the MDP to reform the CNI, Selvam – a retired Supreme Court Judge from Singapore – was installed as co-chair of the body charged with investigating the events surrounding former President Nasheed’s resignation on February 7.

The Commonwealth’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, released a statement today regarding the report’s scheduled publication on August 30.

“I look forward to the imminent completion of the work of the reconstituted Commission of National Inquiry and to its being able to agree on its report. As we approach the release of that report, I would encourage all stakeholders to respect the commission’s findings, and to take time to reflect carefully on how to act upon them in a manner that maintains harmony in Maldivian society and helps strengthen democratic practice and institutions in the country,” he said.

The changes to the commission also included the addition of a Nasheed nominee Saeed, who yesterday revealed his deep dissatisfaction with Selvam’s initial draft of the body’s report.

“The report that Judge Selvam has drafted and brought is a draft that somewhat refutes or denies what we Maldivians saw and experienced – or a draft that somewhat confuses things, the way it is now,” Saeed told the press.

“While this is happening, for me to stay here, at Muleeage, would I believe be a betrayal of my country and the Maldivian people. I see the draft report as having been written without considering the witness testimony of many, many people to CNI as well as the many scenes we saw,” he added.

Ghafoor, who today described the situation as “unacceptable” and “embarrassing” for the Commonwealth, suggested that Sir Donald McKinnon ought to be asked “who the hell this guy [Selvam] is.”

“Mr Selvam’s integrity is at a critical level,” he claimed. “Yesterday he got caught out.”

McKinnon’s statement today acknowledged that many issues would undoubtedly arise after the report’s release.

“I encourage political leaders to increase their efforts towards engaging in genuine dialogue, in order that consensus may be achieved, in a constructive and peaceful manner, on the path forward,” said McKinnon.

Meanwhile, local television station Raajje TV – linked closely with the MDP – yesterday aired a video of Singaporean-born lawyer and long-time critic of Judge Selvam, Gopalan Nair, in which he describes Selvam as a man “totally devoid of integrity”.

Nair has been writing about Judge Selvam on his ‘Singapore Dissident’ blog since 2010.

Moreover, in January this year, Malaysian media reported that Judge Selvam was accused of lying by chairman of the Malaysian Democratic Action Party (DAP), Karpal Singh.

Singh accused the retired justice of “lying to clear the air on an alleged plagiarism case involving a Malaysian Court of Appeal judge.”

A letter from Selvam to the Malaysian Chief Justice, clarifying that there was no case for plagiarism against the court of appeal judge, reportedly contradicted a statement from Selvam published in the Singaporean Straits Time.

Selvam was quoted as saying that the Malaysian judge had obtained a copy of his judgement through a lawyer, and “copied chunks from me without acknowledging”.

Meanwhile, MDP MP Mohamed Shifaz was also reported in local media as labeling Selvam “Singapore’s Abdullah” in reference to Maldivian Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed, whose controversial detention earlier this year by the military has been the subject of investigations by numerous independent institutions.

Abdullah was arrested in January, with the former Home Minister Hassan Afeef accusing the judge of having “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist”.

The incident proved to be a major turning point in anti-government protests against the Nasheed administration, leading to sustained periods of unrest in the run up to the former President’s resignation on February 7.

However, President’s Office spokesman Masood Imad was dismissive of attacks on Selvam’s credibility.

“Selvam is a man of stature chosen by the Commonwealth,” said Masood, who also criticised Saeed’s outburst as “lacking professionalism”.

Masood noted that both Selvam and Saeed had been added to the commission at the MDP’s request.

The MDP’s National Council, yesterday evening, unanimously backed a resolution refusing to accept the report in its current format.

In the evening, the MDP recommenced its campaign of protests, which had been suspended for the final period of Ramazan in order to encourage political negotiations.

In response to questions over rising tension in the country, Ghafoor said that the party was not seeking confrontation.

“We are demanding two things – early elections and an agreement on a post-CNI scenario,” he said.

The MDP forwarded a list of suggested outcomes to the government earlier in the month to which the President’s Office responded that it would not discuss the findings until their official release on August 29.

Ghafoor accused President Waheed of “cunningly destabilising the country” by refusing to make arrangements for the report’s release.

He also said that the party remained hopeful that the commission’s final report would reflect its opinion that President Nasheed was removed in a coup.