Police officer arrested in drug bust

A police officer was among nine people arrested in a drug bust on the island of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani atoll on Tuesday (November 11).

Briefing the press yesterday, Chief Inspector Ahmed Shifan, head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), revealed that all the suspects in custody were Maldivian men above 18 years of age from Hinnavaru.

“A police officer is under arrest but I cannot provide further information at the time,” he said.

The Hinnavaru magistrate court has extended the remand detention of the suspects for eight days, he said.

Shifan said 16 bullet-sized rubber packets of “a substance suspected to be drugs,” 241 bullet-sized rubber packets of heroin, and 145 packets of hash oil were seized during an operation conducted by the DED in Hinnavaru.

The DED searched 13 homes in the island and questioned a number of people, he said, noting that the operation was still ongoing in Lhaviyani atoll.

Similar operations would take place in other atolls in the coming days, the chief inspector said.

The operation involved 36 police officers and was conducted with the assistance of the Special Operations (SO) department, the investigative support department, and operational support department.

A police officer was also arrested in a 24kg drug haul in March, which police said was “the largest amount of drugs seized in a police operation conducted in the Maldives so far.”

Police later revealed that the officer had used a local money transfer service to send money to an Iranian agent.

Local media reported in August that the officer was among three Maldivian suspects released from custody after the Prosecutor General’s Office decided there was insufficient evidence for prosecution.

Gangs and police

Speaking at a conference of police division and atoll commanders on October 22, Home Minister Umar Naseer said criminal gangs in the atolls were attempting to infiltrate the police by forging personal relationships with police officers stationed in their islands.

Gangs attempt to “penetrate” police stations in order to gather information to carry out criminal activities, he said.

Naseer said complaints have been received from various islands about offenders quickly learning of a crime being reported to the police.

Information was thus “leaking” from within the police, he added.

“So some people hesitate to share information with some police stations. This is very regrettable,” he said.

Commanders in the atolls should ensure that police officers do not fraternise with known criminals or suspected drug dealers, Naseer urged.

Naseer said he had received complaints from various islands about police officers spending time with suspected drug dealers when they were off-duty.

Commanders should be aware of who their subordinate officers “go to coffees or picnics with,” he advised, which should be controlled to ensure the “credibility of the police force on that island or atoll.”

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Other religions will not be allowed under MDP government, says Nasheed

Religions other than Islam will not be allowed in the Maldives under a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, former President Mohamed Nasheed reiterated on Friday (November 1).

Speaking at a campaign event in the island of Velidhoo in Noonu atoll, the MDP presidential candidate said Islam has always been accorded “the highest place” in the hearts of the Maldivian people who “hold sacred the noble principles of Islam.”

“There will be no room for another religion in this country under an MDP government. This is very clear,” Nasheed asserted.

Allegations suggesting otherwise by rival political parties “to play with the hearts and minds” of the public were sowing “discord and division” in Maldivian society, Nasheed added.

Last week, a group of local religious scholars from the Maldives Society for Islamic Research released a 48-page book titled “The word of religious scholars concerning Nasheed,” calling on the former president to “repent” and “return to the true path.”

The scholars claimed that Nasheed demeaned the Prophet’s Sunnah (way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammed), rejected tenets of Islamic Shariah, and tried to foster public debate over the enforcement of compulsory Shariah punishments.

Regardless of the winner in the upcoming presidential election, Nasheed assured that there was no possibility of other religions being introduced to the Maldives.

“That is not something that we should doubt. But the doubt is created because our rivals are constantly using these words. Something that does not exist will exist when you continually talk about it. A lie becomes the truth when you keep repeating it. It enters our hearts as the truth,” he said.

The religious faith of Maldivians was actually threatened by the MDP’s political opponents, Nasheed contended, because they were “creating suspicion and doubt.”

Addressing the people of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani atoll earlier in the day, Nasheed reportedly said faith should not be “shaken so easily” because of what one hears or sees, adding that it was the five pillars rather than “backbiting” (gheeba), spreading rumours, and defaming others that were needed to uphold Islam.

Nasheed’s remarks follow persistent accusations by the MDP’s political opponents concerning the party’s alleged “securalisation agenda” and anti-Islamic policies, contending that the 100 percent Muslim status of Maldives would be threatened under an MDP administration.

Political record

Among Nasheed’s alleged transgressions, the scholars listed the “idolatrous” monuments placed in Addu City, efforts to legalise sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, remarks suggesting addicts should be able to use drugs, and a speech in Denmark in which he allegedly criticised the Sunnah.

On December 23, 2011, a coalition of eight political parties and an alliance of NGOs rallied at a mass gathering to “defend Islam” from Nasheed’s allegedly liberal policies and conveyed five demands to the then-MDP government.

The mass gathering followed the release of a pamphlet titled “President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians” alleging that the MDP was working with “Jews and Christian priests.”

Meanwhile, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party – presently allied with the Jumhooree Party and backing its presidential candidate business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim – released a press statement on Thursday (October 31) claiming that the MDP would amend the constitution to allow religious freedom if the party gained a majority in parliament.

The Adhaalath Party referred to an amendment to the Drug Act recently proposed by an MDP MP to shorten the jail sentence for the offence of refusing to provide a urine sample to police from one year to 15 days.

“Therefore, in the ‘Other Maldives’ that Nasheed wants to bring, the punishment for a person caught redhanded using drugs is only a 15-day detention. Drug use cannot be encouraged any more than this,” the press release read.

The Adhaalath Party contended that, with a larger majority in parliament, the MDP would not hesitate to “decimate” Islam in the Maldives and “open up the country to other religions.”

With the provisional support of nine Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MPs, the MDP currently has a simple majority of 39 votes in parliament. However, a two-thirds majority or 52 MPs is needed to amend the constitution.

In the face of religion-based attacks, the MDP has maintained that rival parties were using Islam as “a political weapon to sow discord.”

In a press statement in September, the MDP reiterated that the party would not allow other religions to be introduced in the Maldives.

The statement referred to the MDP’s achievements in government: establishing a Ministry of Islamic Affairs, allowing freedom to preach for local scholars, building 42 mosques as well as a number of prayer rooms in schools, training 150 Islamic teachers, strengthening the National University’s faculty of Shariah and law with foreign assistance, opening of an Islamic Bank and the construction of a new government-funded building for Arabiyya School in Male’.

The party’s 2013 manifesto meanwhile includes the construction of an “Islamic Knowledge Centre” in Male’ for MVR 200 million (US$13 million) that would include a library, lecture halls and a mosque with a capacity 5,000 worshippers.

Among other policies for the next five years include conducting an international Islamic conference in the Maldives at an estimated cost of MVR 25 million (US$1.6 million) with the participation of renowned foreign scholars, training 300 Quran teachers to first degree level, and allocating MVR 36 million (US$2.3 million) for renovating mosques across the country.

“We note that all these projects are costed and budgeted and the manifesto includes details for implementation,” the press release stated.

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Bangladeshi waiter stabbed while delivering food

A Bangladeshi waiter was stabbed with a knife on the island of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani Atoll whilst delivering food, local media reports.

A council member from Hinnavaru told local media that the victim had worked at “Ibiza” restaurant on the island, and was stabbed while delivering food to a house.

The councillor said that the Bangladeshi man was stabbed in the stomach, and is currently being treated in the island medical centre. His condition is not serious, the councillor said.

Police told local media that a 17-year-old had been taken into custody in relation to the attack.

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Comment: Justice unserved

The Maldivian justice system works on a somewhat ‘He who smelt it dealt it’ routine. Criminal law, procedure or policy is drastically lacking, with personal reputation, political affiliation and physical appearance forming the basis for arrest, and in some circumstances: conviction. T

The country relies, heavily, on the two witness rule, lacks any institution dealing with forensic science and allows incompetent judges to interpret the Quran. The word ‘warrant’ does not even exist in the Maldivian criminal dictionary and ‘probable cause’ or ‘rights’ are alien concepts to local police. When one party lodges a complaint with the police, the opposing party immediately takes the role of defendant; being arrested at the police’s pleasure and held for lengthy periods of time without charge. This is what they call the ‘investigation period’ which may only be performed whilst the accused is in custody. Point the finger at someone you claim smelt it and the police will assume he dealt it.

I am not politically affiliated. My cause, more or less, has been the Rule of Law and I am not aware that any government in the Maldives, be it dictatorship or elected has gone a long way to implement it.

Within the first few weeks of being in Hinnavaru as a volunteer teacher, a boy was placed under house arrest by the police for 14 days. This was 2009 and the first democratically elected government was in power. The police claimed the accused had intoxicated a minor and served as judge and jury in convicting him of the crime; even though no witnesses came forward and the minor’s toxicology report was negative.  I screamed bloody murder in the police station; I showed vehemence and flashed a printed copy of my law degree under their noses to no avail. They cared nothing for they believed in the power they possessed.

Months later I, myself, had a brush with the law when I was hauled down to a Male’ police station in a case of domestic disturbance (or so I suppose since I was not told why I was escorted to the station).

Whilst moving from my flat, my boyfriend, who had come over to help me pack, and I made some noise which upset the landlady’s brother. He burst into my room in a rage and held a screwdriver to my boyfriend’s neck. In a twist of events, his sister, my landlady, called the police. My shirtless boyfriend was escorted out of the building by officers and I was asked to come with them to the police station. The treatment offered him and I was vastly different; him being seen as the dark skinned aggressor with yellow eyes and I the British national working at a local TV station.

We were questioned separately, I again waved my printed degree in their faces and we were allowed to leave. Screwdriver boy was never questioned on his role in the incident; his side called the police first, hence he would be the victim evermore.

Some weeks later, whilst I was visiting Hinnavaru, my boyfriend was dragged off to Naifaru jail, under court order, to face charges for a crime; he had, allegedly committed 8 years earlier. The whole case was based on the hear say evidence of young men who claimed my boyfriend had assaulted them. The two boys lodged the complaint against him with the police and also served as the two requisite witnesses in their own case.

The irony was hardly lost on me. I again screamed bloody murder and dragged myself across Male’ spewing words like ‘arbitrary arrest’, ‘statute of limitations’, ‘rule of law’ and ‘reading of rights’. My words were considered worthy of Thilafushi. My boyfriend was exonerated as the witnesses recanted from their earlier statements in court. The Prosecutor could have saved everyone time, money and heartbreak if he had even bothered to check in with his star witnesses.

Recently I started to hear of strange happenings on my old island of Hinnavaru. Boys found on the street after 10pm are arrested, taken over to the local station and coerced into peeing in a cup. They need no warrant and no probable cause. The police has imposed an un-official curfew and breaking it means they have access to fluid from your person. Young boys are arrested every night and this is not hear say. It is on-going.

On 31 July my boyfriend was arrested for allegedly ordering an assault on a young man, who was brutally beaten earlier in the day and hospitalised.

The victim claims that although my boyfriend was not present during the incident, he is sure the attack was ordered by him. In this case he doesn’t even claim that the fart was dealt, but that my boyfriend must have provided the beans. The police did not think to question him as would be customary to do in such a situation, but arrested him and took him over to Naifaru jail. I have no idea how long he will be there or how long this ‘investigation’ will continue.

The worst part is; no matter what the outcome, the trial shall not be held for years to come, but this arrest will hang over his head until such a date. People in the Maldives do not have criminal records; rather they have what is called a ‘police report.’ One may not have a job or travel abroad whilst their police report states they are awaiting trial.

In the Maldives, you are not innocent until proven guilty; you are guilty until the slow machine called the justice system, chugs itself out of the hole it resides in.  I hear the cries of a corrupt judiciary and I find myself nodding in acquiescence for I have seen this corruption. I plead to the government of the day or those incumbent to pay more attention to the Rule of Law, however. Arbitrary arrests, incompetent police officers and mainly the lack of a criminal code are as responsible if not more so for the death of justice.

My favourite time in the Maldives was the month of Ramadan. For this one month, the air was tranquil, gossip at an all time low, children played on the streets into the wee hours of the morning and prejudice desisted. Whether you were an old, gossipy jolifathi lady, a jagah boy, a shop vendor or politician you just got on and enjoyed the month. I hate to think of this month as the month of arrests; it unnerves me.

Lubna Awan was formerly a volunteer teacher on the island of Hinnavaru.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

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Football stadium opened in Hinnavaru

President Mohamed Nasheed opened a football stadium on Hinnavaru island.

The stadium was built by Palm Beach Resort and Spa and was opened in a ceremony on Sunday, which was followed by a football match was played between a Hinnavaru team and a Palm Beach team.

Nasheed said the stadium would assist the development of sport in the region.

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Hinnavaru harbour to be expanded

Work has begun on expanding the harbour at Faadhipolhu Hinnavaru.

TVM reported that under the tsunami development project, Amin Construction has taken over the project. The harbour expansion is expected to be complete after one year.

The existing 300 foot harbour currently does not meet the requirements of the people of Hinnavaru, TVM reported.

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