Maldives “tied acceptance of prisoners” to American help with IMF assistance

Secret US diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks reveal that the Maldives agreed to resettle detainees from Guantanamo Bay in return for American help with obtaining assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to the New York Times.

The paper reports that the cache of correspondence made public by Wikileaks reveals that “American diplomats went looking for countries that were not only willing to take in former prisoners but also could be trusted to keep them under close watch.

“In a global bazaar of sorts, the American officials sweet-talked and haggled with their foreign counterparts in an effort to resettle the detainees who had been cleared for release but could not be repatriated for fear of mistreatment.

It reveals that while the Bush Administration offered the South Pacific nation Kiribati an “incentive package” of US$3 million to take 17 Chinese Muslim detainees, “the Maldives tied acceptance of prisoners to American help in obtaining International Monetary Fund assistance.”

The EU observer meanwhile reported that Washington’s special envoy on Guantanamo resettlements, Daniel Fried, told ”politicians in the Maldives that other states had received US$25,000 to US$85,000 per detainee to cover temporary living expenses and other costs” and that ”the Maldives could expect something toward the upper end of the range.”

In December last year, President Mohamed Nasheed announced that the Maldives had offered to resettle two detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

“If a Muslim does not have a place to live in freedom, we will help in whatever way we can. We don’t want anyone to suffer any harm,” Nasheed then said. “We know that the Maldives, in helping just three people from Guantanamo Bay, does not mean that either the Maldives or the world would be free of inhumane treatment,” he said. “However this jail, Guantanamo jail, is very symbolic.”

Nasheed said at the time that as a result of resettling the detainees “the country will get a good name, honour and prestige. We will be noted as people who help in whatever capacity we can to help solve others’ problems.”

The decision was met with fierce opposition from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance coalition in parliament, which conducted national security committee hearings on the subject.

Foreign minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed told Minivan News at the time that “the United States has not come with a bag full of money and said: ‘here’s your reward for doing this’, but because we work with the US on this and other issues, they will try to help us where we need help.”

He added that the decision was not made on a ”quid pro quo basis”.


Majlis should welcome Guantanamo Bay detainees as Muslim brethren: Shaheed

The Majlis should welcome Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Maldives, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed has said.

One of the two detainees to be transferred to the Maldives from the United States run Guatanamo Bay prison is a Palestinian. Dr Shaheed noted that Maldivians have a profound love of Palestinians as their Muslim brethren.

He said as Muslims it is incumbent upon Maldivians to demonstrate their love by helping the detainees, reports Miadhu. Dr Shaheed was speaking at the Annual Coordination Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 24 September 2010.

Various countries across the world have offered to take in detainees from Guantanamo Bay after President Barack Obama, shortly after taking office, closed the Guantanamo Bay prison established by his predecessor George W Bush as part of the ‘War on Terror’.


Guantanamo Bay detainees not a threat to Maldives national security: Zuhair

Bringing two former detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility to Maldives is not a threat to the country’s national security, said President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair in a statement to Miadhu Daily.

The Maldives security forces are well equipped to manage the detainees, according to Zuhair who also said there is no date set for the arrival of the detainees.

The cost of hosting the detainees in the Maldives would be borne by the US government, Zuhair told Miadhu, and the US government would confirm the detainees are innocent and provide travel documents.

While staying in the Maldives they would obtain legal visas, he said.


VP agreed to bring in Gitmo detainees, claims Reeko Moosa

Maldivian Democratic Party MDP parliamentary group’s leader MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik has claimed that it was Vice president of the Maldives, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan who agreed to resettle Guantanamo Bay detainees in the Maldives.

Moosa further claimed that the government of United States has agreed to assist the Maldives to reinstate the government’s money which was allegedly taken by the former government and stored in bank accounts abroad.

He criticised the way parliament’s national security committee was operating.

”The national security committee works in a different spirit,” Moosa said, ”DRP [Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party] MP Ali Waheed has declined to explain how he became the recipient of confidential documents stolen from the government.”

Moosa said that the case of DRP MP Ali Waheed being the recipient of the documents should also be investigated by police.

”The penalty for his crime should be given according to the law,” he said. ”MDP will also investigate this case.”

He added when parliament starts its session, the MDP parliamentary group will propose a bill to prevent assaults and gang wars in Male’.

Vice President of the Maldives Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan denied the claims made by MP Moosa Manik.

”I did not agree to resettle Guantanamo Bay detainees,” Dr Waheed said, ”But a [US official] I met during my visit to the States proposed the idea to me.”

Dr Waheed said that after he concluded his visit and returned to the Maldives, he had informed the Foreign Ministry of the issue.

”The Foreign Ministry did not respond to my request to give advice about how I would deal with the issue,” he said. ”I have no information on who agreed to bring in those detainees.’


Government to return Maldivian detainees from Syria

Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, speaking in a meeting at the Maldvian Democratic Party (MDP) headquaters, has announced that the government will return Maldivian detainees from Syria.

Dr Shaheed said that he would soon travel to Syria with the main purpose of releasing the Maldivian detainees from Syrian jails.

”The main reason of scheduled trip to Syria is to release the Maldivian detainees from prison,”  Dr Shaheed said. ”Hopefully, we can release these prisoners and bring them to the Maldives.”

He said the detainees had been kept there for a long time.

”We will bring them and hand over them to their parents,” he said.

He said the Foreign Ministry was a ministry which worked “in transparency making everything visible to the people”.

Speaking in the meeting, Dr Shaheed responded to claims made by the Peoples Alliances (PA) that the current government was trying “to please white people.”

”When the Maldives ran for a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council, 185 countries voted for us. Are they all white people?” questioned Dr Shaheed.

”Last week the United Arab Emirates (UAE) asked us if they could establish a Maldivian Embassy. Are they also all white people?”

Dr Shaheed did not mention who the detainees were or what they had been arrested for.

Spokesperson for the Foreign ministry Irushadha Abdul Sattar said the ministry was trying to return two Maldivians detained in two different prisons in Syria.

Irushadha said that the two men were detained in Syria due to drug related charges.

”one of them has been detained since 2003 and the other since 2008,” She said.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom said if the detainees were Maldivians and innocent people, “the government should not wait a single minute without helping them.”

”If there are innocent Maldivians detained anywhere the government should help them,” Dr Mausoom said.

The Maldivian government has recently announced that it will resettle two detainees from Guantanamo Bay jail, creating public outcry. President Mohamed Nasheed dismissed concerns and claimed it was a “humanitarian” act.

Parliament’s National Security Committee is now investigating the case of the detainees the Maldivian government allegedly agreed to bring in to the country, which some MPs claimed might disrupt the peace and sovereignty of the country.

Dr Shaheed and State Foreign minister Ahmed Naseem was on an official trip and was unable to get a comment, while the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair is on leave.


Salaf claims government not eligible to resettle gitmo detainees

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has claimed that the current government of the Maldives is not eligible to import detainmees from Guantanamo Bay, economically and religiously, and settle them in the country.

Salaf, writing on the website raajjeislam, said that according to the religious and economic situation of the country, ”it does not seem to be a wise to take a step forward for such a move.”

”We have the threat that there are unknown allegations behind the government’s decision, although it is a must for Muslims to help Muslims,” Salaf said. ” In Islam there is a procedure arranged to follow when helping Muslims,” the group noted.

Salaf said it would be more appropriate for the Maldives to help the Muslims of a neighbouring country.

”There is no evidence to prove that the two inmates scheduled to be brought to the Maldives are really inmates from Guantanamo,” the NGO said, claiming to have evidence that would confuse [the people] as to the government’s sincerity over the issue.

Salaf claimed that the Maldivian government did not help two allegedly innocent Maldivians when they were arrested in Pakistan.

On 13 December, President Mohamed Nasheed in his presidential speech said that the Maldives would receive three inmates from Guantanamo Bay jail.

“If a Muslim does not have a place to live in freedom, we will help in whatever way we can. We don’t want anyone to suffer any harm. We know that the Maldives, in helping just three people from Guantanamo Bay, does not mean that either the Maldives or the world would be free of inhumane treatment,” he said. “However this jail, Guantanamo jail, is very symbolic.”

He said most of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were innocent people caught up in the war in Afghanistan, and that offering assistance to other nations in whatever capacity was “a national duty.”

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair is currently on leave.


Foreign Ministry accuses Nihan of “creating mistrust” over Gitmo claims

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused DRP MP Ahmed Nihan of “irresponsibly” spreading false rumours that Guantanamo Bay detainees had been secretly brought to the Maldives, calling his claims “not only false but designed to mislead the public and create mistrust.”

Nihan yesterday claimed he was “99.99 percent sure” that the detainees had already been brought to the Maldives, an assertion the government has “categorically rejected”.

“The Maldives government, last December, publicly announced its intention to contribute to the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by receiving a few innocent detainees in the Maldives,” the Ministry said today in a press statement.

“The governments of the United States and the Maldives are carrying out bilateral discussions to establish the legal framework within which the humanitarian transfer will take place, in full compliance with the laws of the two countries, and in manner that will ensure that the persons invited to the Maldives will not a pose a security threat to the Maldives,” it added.

Accepting detainees would “directly contribute to the enhancement of the national interests of the Maldives, through promotion of human rights and solidarity with fellow Muslims, and strengthening partnership with countries who cherish freedom and human dignity,” the Ministry said.

Nihan, who said he was on his way to Mecca for a pilgrimage, today claimed that “a press statement is not enough to prove I’m wrong.”

“I wonder why they are so worried about what I said?” he asked, accusing Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed of “speaking in double tongue.”

Nihan argued that the government had not been open with the public on the matter, saying “I’m sure the government can clarify that 0.01 percent. Parliament’s National Security Committee will be requesting information from immigration regarding people who had visited the Maldives with improper passports.”

He said the government, “especially President Nasheed and the Foreign Minister Dr Shaheed”, “should be more open to the public regarding the Guantanamo Bay issue if they really want to prove that the gitmos are not here already.”


Resettling GITMO detainees will tarnish tourism industry: MATATO

The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has warned the government that its plans to resettle Guantánamo Bay prisoners in the Maldives, and the recent Afghan peace talks that took place in the country, could “tarnish the prestigious name” Maldives has made for itself as a tourism destination.

“The association notes that the international media has been writing on the matter of bringing in the prisoners, who have been allegedly linked to severe inhumane crimes,” the association noted, adding that the BBC had described the government’s plan as “transforming a tourists’ paradise to a paradise for terrorists.”

Their concern was that tourist arrivals would decline due to the international perception of the country, creating a devastating domino effect in the country’s tourism industry.

Furthermore, they said “bringing Guantánamo Bay prisoners will badly affect the tourism industry and so this association calls on the government not to do anything that would pave the way for such a thing.”

MATATO board members have been planning a meeting on the issue this week, but it has been postponed twice due to several members being out of the country.

Secretary General of MATATO, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, said they did not have quorum to hold the meeting yesterday, but are trying to gather enough members to hold it as soon as possible.

He told Minivan News yesterday “we are meeting regarding the Afghan talks, which is quite a sensitive issue.”

Board and council member of MATATO, Sharif Ibrahim, said whether or not the recent events will have a negative impact on the tourism industry in Maldives “is all about how you see things.”

Referring to the Afghan peace talks, he said the international community “might see us as a loving, peaceful country. Somebody had to step in and help. Some people will see this as a good thing.”

As to the resettlement of Guantánamo Bay prisoners, he said “it may have a negative effect,” but added everyone must keep a “broad mind” before jumping to conclusions.

“I haven’t seen any bad reactions yet,” he said, “I don’t think it will have a bad impact. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Although MATATO have voiced their concern, other associations are not so worried about the Maldives’ reputation, or its effect on the tourism industry.

Maldives Resort Workers posted an article on their blog titled ‘Gitmo resettlement will NOT damage Maldives’ reputation’.

In the article, they repeatedly argued that MATATO’s concerns of the resettlement of Guantánamo Bay detainees and the recent Afghan peace talks are exaggerated views, and are sure that neither issue will have a negative effect on the industry.

They gave several reasons back up their argument, saying that resorts in the Maldives are usually visited by “high spenders” who “generally have their heads with them. So they could not possibly be unaware of world politics or ramifications of it.”

They also argue that Guantánamo Bay detainee centre is “not a terrorist camp or training ground for terrorists,” and they support US President Obama’s bid to close it down. They also added that, “this time, the president [Mohamed Nasheed] is correct. Absolutely correct to ZERO decimals without error.”

The article further reads the opposition parties in the country are “taking advantage of the ignorance of the masses to gather support,” and they have applauded President Nasheed for refusing to answer journalists’ questions at a press conference last week.

“In this case,” it continued, “the opposition is using media to the hilt to discredit a rather commendable move by the president.”

They add that MATATO members are “just individuals who make a life selling package holidays to unwary tourists” and they are “the most worker unfriendly people who works [sic] in the tourism industry.”

The Maldives Association for Tourism Industry (MATI) did not wish to comment on the issue, because “we don’t want to lend anything to either side of the argument.”

The government has sustained any prisoners resettled in the Maldives would be first cleared of any criminal charges, and have repeatedly assured “they are not terrorists” and the transfer is “purely humanitarian.”

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ali Sawad, did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Foreign Ministry reports leaked documents to Police

Foreign Minister, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, has filed a case at the police regarding leaked documents concerning the Guantánamo Bay detainees issue, reports Miadhu.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News last week “some papers between the President’s Office and some ministries were leaked.” State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, confirmed documents between his ministry and the President’s Office had been leaked.

The documents include a copy of a letter from the Foreign Ministry to the Attorney General, seeking advice on the legalities of the transfer. A note from the US Embassy outlining the legal framework of the transfer was also included.

Dr Shaheed said the documents were forged to some extend, according to Miadhu, making the public worry about the issue.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has also asked the government to release accurate information on the issue.