MDP’s Hamed Abdul Ghafoor fails to attend court appearance, cites parliamentary privilege

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamed Abdul Ghafoor reportedly failed to attend a court hearing today where he faces charges of refusing to provide a urine sample following suspicions of alcohol consumption.

Sun Online reported that Ghafoor’s legal representatives told the court he was unable to attend the 2pm hearing due to his presence in the People’s Majlis – therefore excusing his absence under parliamentary privilege.

During his last court appearance, Ghafoor denied he had been asked to provide a urine sample following his arrest on the island of Hondaidhoo last November, asking for the case to be thrown out.

Ghafoor allegedly failed to provide the urine sample after being arrested on the uninhabited island along with a group of MDP politicians and other senior political figures.  A number of those arrested with Ghafoor were charged with alcohol and drug possession.

In a case related to the same incident, the Prosecutor General’s Office had previously told the Criminal Court that it had 11 witnesses prepared to testify against Ghafoor, proving that he was in possession – and under the influence – of alcohol when arrested.


Supreme Court issues injunction indefinitely delaying election run-off

The Maldives Supreme Court has issued an injunction delaying the second round of the presidential election until it has finished looking into alleged discrepancies in the first round.

The second round had been scheduled for this coming Saturday – September 28.

“Based on Article 144 (b), we order the Elections Commission and other relevant state institutions to delay the second round of the presidential election scheduled for 28 September 2013 until the Supreme Court issues a verdict in this case,” read the Supreme Court injunction.

The ruling was discussed by all judges on the seven member bench, before being signed by Justice Abdulla Saeed, Justice Ali Hameed Mohamed, Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla, and Justice Dr Abdulla Didi.

The decision came today just hours after Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members held a demonstration outside the Supreme Court, brandishing stills from one of the numerous sex-tapes allegedly involving Justice Hameed.

The MDP – the party with the most votes in the first round, with 45.45 percent – reconvened the People’s Majlis in order to push for the reconstitution of the Supreme Court bench.

“We will not allow a courthouse that consists of some disgraced judges who face allegations of lewd conduct to abrogate the will of the people and disrupt the constitution,” the MDP said in a statement last week.

Despite chaotic scenes inside the Majlis yesterday, the party was able to push through a motion today calling for the second round to go ahead as scheduled.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has said he was not surprised by the decision.

“The Supreme Court has gone against all common sense, international opinion and the majority of the country without any evidence to do so,” he said.

Ghafoor added that any indefinite postponement of the second round vote was unrealistic, while claiming the decision had been made by the court without any real evidence to support its decision.

The MDP said it was too early for the party to announce how it would seek to move forward on the basis of the court’s verdict today, though he said it would “likely involve direct action.”

A meeting of the party’s National Council has been announced for 10:30pm at Male’ City Hall.


The court accepted the case six days ago, after the Jumhooree Party (JP) – which placed third in the first round – filed a case to annul the vote, alleging multiple discrepancies and fraud.

In a week’s worth of hearings, the complainant has still to produce concrete evidence, with the Election Commission’s lawyer – former Attorney General – Husnu Al Suood likening the case to a “fishing expedition”, alleging the JP was hoping to file another lawsuit based on any evidence collected from the current case.

The JP has rejected any assumption that an indefinite postponement to the country’s election may lead to political instability in the nation.

JP Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi said that ensuring a free and fair election was ultimately the most important factor in assuring stability within the Maldives and a “sustainable democracy” going forward.

“Political stability depends on political leaders’ actions, reactions and their party’s activities,” he said.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen, who was set to stand against MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed in the run-off vote, told Minivan News there was “nothing unconstitutional” with the court verdict.

“The Elections Commission got the opportunity to argue out their case and establish the credibility of the process,” he told Minivan News.

Yameen, who came second in the first round vote with 25 percent, said the country “should elect” a president soon.

“There’s time for that.  In [the presidential election of] 2008, voting was held on October 28,” he said, arguing that a postponement would not lead to any form of political instability.

Article 144 (b) of the constitution, titled ‘powers in constitutional matters’ states that, when deciding a constitutional matter within its jurisdiction, a court may make any order that is “just and equitable”, including:

“An order suspending the declaration of invalidity (of a statute, regulation or action due to inconsistency with the Constitution) for any period and on any conditions, to allow the competent authority to correct the defect.”

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek previously told Minivan News that the constitutional timetable for the transfer of power could not be met should the run-off be delayed.

“120 days before the end of the current president’s term a presidential election must be held. If there is no election then the [democratic] constitution, presidential and general election law will not be satisfied,” he said.

Despite the vehement criticism from sections of the media, civil society and the JP, the conduct and capability of the EC has been universally lauded by international observers.

After Commonwealth Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, this weekend joined in calls for the September 28 run-off to go ahead as schedule, the Maldives Foreign Office warned international observers to “help, not hinder” the state’s institutions.


MDP MPs alcohol possession case continues

The second hearing into Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamed Abdul Ghafoor’s alcohol and cannabis possession case was cancelled today after the accused failed to attend.

A Criminal Court official told Sun Online today that Hamed did not appear at the 10am hearing.

Sun also reported that Hamed’s fellow MDP MP Abdulla Jabir – also accused of possession of alcohol and cannabis – had his passport held by immigration officials when trying to leave the country yesterday.

Jabir’s wife – former Attorney General Dhiyana Saeed – told Sun Online that a passport could only be withheld after announcing the charges against the accused at a first hearing.

Whilst Ghafoor was in attendance at the cases first hearing at the start of the month, Jabir did not. Dhiyana today explained that her husband had not been handed the summons requesting his attendance for this hearing, as he had been campaigning with his party in the atolls.

Both MPs are facing charges of smuggling alcohol into the country and consuming it, as well as possession of cannabis and objecting to urine testing.


MDP campaign continues despite court summons, sea blockade

The Maldivian Democratic Party’s southern campaigning continues whilst legal sparring continues in the capital Male’.

A request for the delay of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s criminal court trial has been rejected as the MDP reaches the tour’s 10th island.

Spokesperson for the Department of Judicial Administration Latheefa Qasim confirmed that the Hulhumale’ court had received the request on Friday night, which had given the southern campaign as a reason for the postponement.

“This reason is not included in the regulations so the court cannot act upon it,” said Latheefa, who explained that the trial would go ahead as scheduled – tomorrow at 4:00PM.

After Nasheed’s decision not to attend his first hearing on Monday, instead leaving Male’ in contravention of a travel ban, the police were requested to present the MDP’s presidential candidate in the court for the re-scheduled hearing.

Nasheed stands accused of illegally detaining Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January of this year.

Despite rumours that security forces had been dispatched to return Nasheed to Male’, the flotilla of ships on the MDP’s ‘Journey of Pledges’ have as yet  seen no sign of any police of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) vessels.

Police have today said that it under the current court order, Nasheed could only be brought before the Hulhumale’ court with his consent.

MDP spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor did mention that the MDP had encountered some opposition from locals on Gemanafushi in Gaafu Alif atoll.

A large tree was floated across the entrance to the harbour in order to prevent the flotilla from gaining access to the island, although Ghafoor said that the log was soon moved and a warm welcome was given by many of the islanders.

“We expected trouble,” said Ghafoor. “It was a weak attempt to make news. Eventually, the protesters could not overpower our numbers.”

The MDP also reported that a boat named ‘Orchid 101’ attempted to block the harbour entrance.

Local media reported that the protest was organised by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), speaking with the Island Council’s President Asim Mohamed.

“The people protested against Nasheed about three issues. One is that he has ignored the fact that the nation is mourning and is continuing with his tour, the second issue is that he disobeyed Court Orders, and the third is the unrest created in the island during his previous visits,” Asim told Sun Online.

Ghafoor also noted that the party had prepared an appeal to the high court regarding Nasheed’s criminal court trial.

“The National Executive Committee (NEC) said we do not accept lower courts. The president will appeal to the high court,” said Ghafoor.

“Democracy has gone wrong – summons to court represents corruption in the courts,” he added, stating that the lower courts were not recognised due to their failure to have adhered to article 285 of the 2008 constitution.

This article required that all judges not having met a level of qualifications outlined in article 149 within two years of the constitution’s ratification, be removed from the bench.

Latheefa said she was not yet aware of any high court appeal regarding the Abdulla Mohamed case.

After the party’s legal team revealed its concerns over the legality of the Hulhumale’ Magistrates Court – assembled to handle the case – its executive council released a statement announcing it would no longer recognise the authority of the judiciary.

Reform of the judiciary is one of the key recommendations made in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) which, in August ruled that Nasheed had not been removed in a coup.


MDP’s ‘Journey of Pledges’ reaches Nilandhoo with no sign of security forces

The Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) ‘Journey of Pledges’ has today reached Nilandhoo in Ghaafu Alif Atoll with no sign of the security forces.

Local media yesterday reported that boats had been sent to return former President Mohamed Nasheed to Male’ to face trial .

Party spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor said that the five boat flotilla had received a warm welcome from the island’s 1000-strong population as well as the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) dominated council.

“We don’t see the [political] tension here,” said Ghafoor. “Everyone is in high spirits.”

When asked about the reports in local media that the coastguard had been deployed from Male’ yesterday, Ghafoor said that the party had not received any official word from the authorities.

“As far as we had heard, boats left from Male’ at 4:00pm and should have arrived in Villingili by midnight,” he said.

“There were also rumours that a platoon was leaving from Addu but we haven’t heard anything from the police yet,” he added.

Yesterday the police declined to comment and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) denied that any officials had been sent to retrieve Nasheed.

The day after Nasheed left for the Southern atolls, in contravention of a travel ban, the courts instructed police to produce Nasheed at a rescheduled hearing in the Abdulla Mohamed detention case this coming Sunday.

Security forces made no attempt to prevent Nasheed from leaving Male’ on Monday.

Judicial Administration Department Director Ahmed Maajid told Minivan News yesterday that, despite the order, the former president was “not to be detained”.

In the event of Nasheed being taken back to the capital, Ghafoor was uncertain as to whether the trip, scheduled to visit over 30 islands in 14 days, would continue.

“The trip is very much driven by a charismatic leader. It may fizzle out if the government acted aggressively like that,” said Ghafoor.

“We are not fighters – it would be silly to have a fighting force confront us on the high seas. But you can’t put anything past them,” he continued.

Maldivian law does include provision for trial in absentia if the defendant in a criminal case is not produced by the police.

However, MDP lawyer Hassan Latheef said that this would be very unusual and, to his knowledge, does not have any precedence in Maldivian case law.

Nasheed has requested in writing that his MNDF security detail – provided under the Former President’s Act – not accompany him on the tour.

The MNDF released a statement today detailing this, saying that it could not take any responsibility for harm that might befall the former president whilst not under its protection.

It was also stated that the defence ministry had asked the Majlis for advice on how it should act in such circumstances.

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has been summoned to the Majlis’ 241 security committee to discuss the protection provided to politicians following the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali on Monday evening.


MDP to hold nationwide protest following Nasheed’s travel ban

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has announced its intention to conduct a nationwide protest on Friday following the decision to place former President Mohamed Nasheed under island arrest.

The Department of Judicial Administration yesterday told local media that the travel ban was “standard procedure” followed by all courts.

Nasheed has also been charged with two cases of defamation, for calling the Defence Minister and Police Commissioner traitors. He has been summoned to the Civil Court on September 30 in relation to the defamation charges.

The party has refrained from larger demonstrations since the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) at the end of last month.

In their observations, the CNI’s international observers were critical of the MDP’s tendency to demonstrate on the streets, describing it as “bully-boy tactics involving actual and threatened intimidation by a violent mob.”

Following apparent absolution by the CNI, the Maldives Police Service announced that it would arrest anybody found using the word ‘baaghee’ towards police.

Nasheed will also appear in Criminal Court on Monday, October 1, in relation to the detention of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed which preceded his ousting in February.

Should he be convicted of the latter offense, Nasheed would be constitutionally barred from standing in next year’s scheduled presidential elections.

The MDP – still the nation’s largest party by membership – has previously declared that it would boycott such elections should Nasheed be blocked from participating.

Tomorrow’s protest will coincide with a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in New York, where the issue of removing the Maldives from the group’s investigative agenda will be discussed.

President Waheed’s government has insisted that the CNI’s verdict of ‘no-coup’ regarding the February transfer of power means the Maldives should be removed from the agenda, while the MDP have pointed out that institutional deficiencies exposed in the report demonstrate that the Maldives case still falls firmly within CMAG’s remit.

Whilst in New York, Waheed spoke before the United National General Assembly (UNGA) where he aimed a thinly veiled attack at the Commonwealth’s understanding of the rule of law during its recent dealings with the Maldives.

Impunity Watch

The restriction on Nasheed’s movements came days after the party released a document titled ‘Impunity Watch Maldives’.

The document, stated to be the first of a monthly summary of human rights violations, follows two damning reports earlier this month by both the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Amnesty International.

Amongst the figures included in the ‘Impunity Watch’, the report stated that the number of MDP MPs having faced prosecution or questioning by the government was now seven, a figure which party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor stated was a third of the party’s representation in the Majlis.

This number jumps to twenty nine if party officials are included such as Nasheed himself, and the party’s chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, who is facing charges of disrespecting the judiciary.

It lists the number of instances of police brutality against protesters since February 7 as 130 and the numbers detained by police in relation to opposition protests as 851.

The MDP criticised what it sees as the failure of the government or of United Nations Resident Co-ordinator Andrew Cox to condemn these human rights violations.

Meanwhile, the document gives the number of police officers arrested in relation to human rights violations as zero, as well as highlighting the case of one officer who was promoted twice after the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) recommended he be prosecuted.

PIC Chair Shahinda Ismail has named the officer in question as Ali Ahmed, stating that his promotions came after the commission had recommended his removal to the Home Minister.

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

In the first of three PIC reports into the events surrounding the transfer of power, nine separate incidents were highlighted, with the commission unanimously pledging to pursue further legal action in five of the cases.


“Too little, too late”: President’s Office dismisses chances of MDP coalition

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has decided not to include the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in his national unity government, his advisor Ahmed ‘Topi’ Thaufeeg has told local media.

“It is too little, too late”, said President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad, adding, “[the MDP] remain a viable opposition.”

Immediately after his accession to the presidency, Waheed announced that he would leave some cabinet posts vacant for the MDP.

However, feeling President Waheed to have taken power illegally, the MDP refused these overtures.

After the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) concluded that the transfer of power on February 7 did not amount to a coup, MDP Chairman ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik attended the newly-coined ‘Leader’s Dialogue’ meeting on Sunday.

Whilst local media had reported that Moosa requested a place for the MDP in the current government, Moosa himself told Minivan News yesterday that he had only asked for clarification on the MDPs position – whether it should be considered the ruling, or the opposition party.

Responding to this argument, Masood today said: “The point here is that the MDP fails to understand is that this is not a parliamentary system, it is a presidential system.”

This constitutional problem was also included in the observations of the CNI’s international observers.

“There are tensions within the Constitution itself with a Presidential system engrafted onto a Parliamentary system which will always be problematic,” commented Sir Bruce Robertson and Professor John Packer.

MDP Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who described some of the observers comments as “mocking a young democracy”,  today said the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will discuss requesting a Supreme Court ruling on its role in the government.

“We don’t know who we are in government,” said Ghafoor.

“This is a sticky problem. The CNI’s assumptions are that the government has not changed, so it is the President’s prerogative to deliver on the MDP manifesto,” he continued.

President Waheed and his Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP) joined the former coalition government, which included the MDP, the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Adhaalath Party, to win the 2008 elections.

The coalition, however, began to break up after only 21 days when the JP withdrew. The Adhaalath Party was the last part to withdraw from the coalition in September 2011.

Local media today reported the Adhaalath party as having publicly lauded Waheed’s decision.

Sun Online reported Deputy Leader of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ibrahim Shareef as saying that the MDP ought to be allowed into the government if it adapts its policies.

Ghafoor interpreted these comments as evidence that certain leaders are “jittery”: “They want to straighten this out”.

The issue of a constitution comprising elements of both presidential and parliamentary systems was discussed by Waheed his official visit to India in May.

“You know our constitution is pretty much a cut-and-paste constitution. We have elements of parliamentary system as well as presidential system,” Waheed told the diplomatic community in New Delhi.

“The presidency is very much fashioned after presidency in the United States, and the parliament functions as a parliamentary system like in the UK. So there are issues that have to be resolved around that,” he continued.

Ghafoor also drew comparisons with the US system, arguing that after the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon, his Vice-President and successor Gerald Ford did not reshuffle the executive.

Referring to the MDP’s purported requests to join the current government, Masood said, “If they are allowed to join the current government now – where is democracy?”

“We are one year away from elections where we can let the Maldivian people decide,” he added.


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.


Police crack down on ‘harassment’ of politicians

Police are taking stronger measures against people who harass politicians and such incidents are falling, according to President’s Office Abbas Adil Riza.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile alleged that freedom of speech is being unfairly restricted by the crackdown.

Commenting on the arrest of an MDP activist known as Okay Zahir – who allegedly called the Islamic Affairs Minister a ‘baaghee’, or ‘traitor’ – Abbas said that Zahir stood accused of harassment.

Local media reported yesterday that Zahir’s period in detention had been extended by a further 10 days after his original arrest on August 7. Zahir is a former director of the Thilafushi Corporation (TCL).

Abbas alleged that the accused “verbally abused the Islamic Minister”, engaging in “indecent behaviour” towards Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Seed whom he claimed was in the company of his nine year-old son at the time of the incident.

Neither Sheikh Shaheem nor Police Spokesman Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef were responding to calls at time of press.

A source who had seen the arrest warrant claimed that Zahir was accused of approaching Shaheem’s son on a number of different occasions, inquiring as to the whereabouts of “baaghee Shaheem”.

The source stated that police obtained the warrant due to their belief that this alleged offence would be repeated.

MDP spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor stated that the charges against Zahir seemed “very bizarre”, and expressed his concern that “the scope of freedom of speech is being severely constrained.”

“One could argue it is unconstitutional,” continued Ghafoor. “I don’t see how giving your opinion of the truth equals harassment”.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Lawyer Hisaan Hussain used social networks to express her belief that calling someone a ‘baaghee’ is not a criminal offense.

Meaningful dialogue

Since his accession to the Presidency, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s public appearances have often been accompanied by heckling crowds disputing the legitimacy of his government.

As well as calling for early presidential elections, the anti-government demonstrations have attempted to mock and ridicule leading government figures as part of a well-choreographed non-violent strategy.

The harassment of politicians has recently been central to the government’s negotiations with the opposition MDP.

During the last round of the UN-mediated roadmap talks in June, pro-government parties presented the MDP’s representatives with a list of 30 suggestions for resolving political tensions in the country which included calls to stop the harassment of political figures.

However, the list also included calls for the MDP to stop the use of “black magic” and “erotic tools”, leading the MDP to interpret a lack of sincerity on the part of the pro-government group.

More recently, President Waheed said that he would not engage in the all-party talks until the harassment of his officials stopped.

The MDP announced last week that it intended to suspend its program of anti-government demonstrations in order to “facilitate meaningful dialogue”.

This move was initially welcomed by the government, before protesters targeted Vice President Waheed Deen as he attended a ceremony in Hulhumale, causing Abbas to tell local media that the government’s participation in talks may have to be reconsidered.

Freedom within limits

During a speech given in June, President Waheed stated his belief that freedom of expression ought not to be permitted to the extent that it impinged on the rights of others.

“People misuse the right to freedom of expression and yell whatever words that come to mind at other people. You have seen and heard this, not just on TV or radio, but on the streets, in front of houses and schools. This is not how it should be,” Dr Waheed was reported as saying.

As well as being enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of expression is listed in the 2008 Maldivian Constitution as one of the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens.

The right to freedom of speech, however, has long been met with caveats and provisos which in effect limit the ability of individuals to unrestricted expression.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights espoused the right to freedom of expression whilst delineating restrictions it describes as “necessary in a democratic society”.

The list of exceptions includes constraints “for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others”.

Similarly, the right to freedom of speech is guaranteed by the first amendment to the US constitution but has been restricted by subsequent Supreme Court rulings which have included issues concerning incitement, false statements of fact, and obscenity.

During the speech, Waheed expressed his hope that the People’s Majlis would move to curb the actions of those who, he felt, were abusing this fundamental freedom.