Police Commissioner violated Police Act with political tweet, determines PIC

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz violated the Police Act by posting a letter on Twitter urging police officers not to vote for former President Mohamed Nasheed, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has determined, recommending administrative action against the police chief.

The PIC said in a press statement today that an investigation was launched following media reports of Riyaz’s tweet on August 20. The case was already under investigation when the Elections Commission (EC) forwarded a complaint regarding the letter, the police oversight body said.

The PIC found that the police chief violated articles 7(a)(3) and 69(b) of the Police Act as Riyaz admitted to posting the letter on his official twitter account, which the commission determined to be declaring “support for the content of the letter” despite it first appearing on another twitter account.

Article 7(a)(3) of the Police Act stipulates that all police officers must act impartially and without bias in performing his or her duty while Article 69 of the Police Act states, “It shall be illegal for any police officer to commit any of the following acts even in his or her personal capacity, a) Committing any act or participating in any activity that obstructs the performance of an officer’s duty without bias or partiality b) Committing any act or participating in any activity that could create doubts among the public concerning the performance of an officer’s duty without bias or partiality.”

Based on its findings, the PIC advised the Home Minster to take “administrative action” against Riyaz under article 67(a) of the Police Act.

The types of administrative penalisation provided for in the law include counselling, requiring completion of special training, providing special counselling to improve capacity, transferring to another post, placement under close supervision, demotion and termination.

In a dissenting opinion noted in the commission’s statement, PIC member Ali Nadheem contended that in addition to recommending administrative action, the case against Riyaz should be forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office for criminal prosecution.

“Overtly political”

Following media reports of Riyaz’s tweet, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik told local journalists last month that he imagined the tweet had been posted in the commissioner’s personal capacity.

The letter posted by Riyaz called on police officers to “say no” to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate just as they had on February 7, which the anonymous author described as a “jihad.”

Former President Nasheed resigned on February 7, 2012 in the wake of a violent mutiny by police officers of the Specialist Operations (SO) command, who disobeyed orders and broke the chain of commandassaulted government supporters, ransacked the MDP Harugelaunched a protest at the Republic Square, clashed with the military and stormed the state broadcaster.

In the aftermath of the police mutiny and clashes at Republic Square, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz – a civilian at the time – was among three senior ex-servicemen under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who went inside military headquarters to relay the protesters’ demand for President Nasheed’s “unconditional” resignation, after which they accompanied Nasheed to the President’s Office where he announced his resignation at a live press conference. Riyaz and current Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim were seen taking Nasheed’s resignation letter to parliament.

However, Nasheed’s insistence that his resignation was “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” orchestrated by the then-opposition working with elements of the security forces loyal to Gayoom was later rejected by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), while also calling for action against unlawful acts committed by the security forces.

Commissioner Riyaz meanwhile posted an interview on the police website in July this year asserting that police would refuse to follow any orders deemed “unconstitutional.”

“Whichever individual becomes president tomorrow can no longer just change the constitution, the existing law. That individual, holding the presidency, can only bring such big changes with a parliamentary majority,” said Riyaz, challenging the MDP to confirm or deny the authenticity of a leaked document purporting to be the party’s policies for reforming the security services.

Following Riyaz’s tweet last month, the MDP released a statement expressing “grave concern over the overtly political actions taken by Abdulla Riyaz, appointed Commissioner of Police by Dr. Mohamed Waheed following the overthrow of the Maldives’ first democratically elected government in February 2012.”

“The MDP notes that this is unfortunately not the first instance where Mr. Riyaz, appointed in dubious circumstances, has used his position in a blatantly politically manner. The MDP would like to draw attention to Mr. Riyaz’s role in the February 7, 2012 forceful overthrow of government, subsequent police brutality, impunity and lack of accountability, politically motivated detentions, unconstitutional barring of Raajje TV from Police Service events, the refusals to accept summons by parliamentary select committees and the extensive interview he recently gave on a policy which was alleged to be the MDP’s,” the statement read.


Comment: Journalism in the Maldives

I sit to write this after hearing the news that another journalist has been attacked in the Maldives. Aswad Ibrahim, a journalist for Raajje TV was left critically ill after being repeatedly beaten about the head with a metal bar. We all pray he will recover, just as fellow journalist Ismail Hilath Rasheed recovered after having his throat slashed last year.

This recent attack has prompted me to share some thoughts from my own personal experiences of working as a journalist in the Maldives for much of 2012. The name of the newspaper I worked for was Minivan News – the word ‘Minivan’ meaning independent in the local language.

My time in the Maldives was a fantastic one, but also one of frustration and bemusement at the persistent refusal by many to accept the existence of political impartiality within Maldivian society. Many will already be reaching for their keyboards as they read this, to write disparaging comments about myself, about Minivan News, or about the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – who founded the newspaper in 2005. This was a persistent tactic used by commenters on most of the articles I wrote for Minivan and many of the pieces I produced for other publications at the time.

The most commonly repeated rumours were that we worked very closely with the MDP leadership, in particular with Nasheed himself, and that we were all given a strict editorial line to follow. In actuality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Personally, I met with Nasheed only once during my time in the Maldives. Three days before I left, I requested a personal meeting with him as he was somebody I had come to admire greatly (and also, because I had never met a President before).

As for the strict diktat, filtering down to the writers from the upper echelons of the MDP, this would take a great deal more organisation than a handful of overheated foreigners hunched over their laptops around a kitchen table can really manage.

A brief account of my background may assuage any accusations that I was, as one commenter put it, an MDP “stooge”. I believe my history to be, if not the same as, at least indicative of, the majority of westerners who come to work for the paper – arriving open-minded, without prior political predisposition.

I ended up in the Maldives shortly after moving to London in search of career opportunities. Prior to this, I had worked as a postman in the north-west of England. The first internship opportunity I secured was with the Maldives’ High Commission.

Despite being an International Relations graduate, I have to admit that prior to my feverish preparation for the job interview that week, I had barely heard of the Maldives, nor could I have pointed it out on a map. All of this begs the question of naysayers who consistently queried my credibility: Why would a postman from Cheshire have strong political affiliations in country he’d never heard of, 5000 miles away?

I will admit that the High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner during my time at the High Commission were strongly pro-MDP. Indeed, both resigned shortly after President Nasheed left office. It is this assumption, however, that contact with persons of a certain political persuasion forever diminishes one’s ability to think clearly, that I found particularly insulting.

This attitude was exemplified by the response of business tycoon and politician Gasim Ibrahim when I met him during last year’s parliamentary by-election in Kaashidhoo. Feeling I had nothing to hide, I mentioned to him that I had worked at the High Commission with these people. It was at this point that he smiled knowingly and turned to the rest of his supporters saying “there, you see it”.

Perhaps this was the misperception that those raining blows down on Aswad laboured under. That they were attacking something bigger than him, that he is simply a mouthpiece for a far larger movement. As I experienced, it seems never to occur to people that the writer could be his own person; could have his own integrity; that his words could stem from his own thoughts.

One particularly interesting example of this attitude was the case of Dr Hassan Saeed, whom I met whilst working at the High Commission in London. Dr Saeed, a former Presidential candidate and current Special Advisor to the President, came to London shortly after the change in government in February 2012 to speak with the media. As part of my duties there, I helped to arrange an interview for him with the BBC. During that day we chatted about politics, Maldivian and British, and I found him to be a very pleasant man. However, during my time in the Maldives, I was unable to get him to even sit with me for a cup of coffee.

Understandably, Dr Saeed was surprised to see me in the Maldives when we met at President Waheed’s first public reception at Muleeage. After greeting me, Dr Saeed asked if I was in Male’ in relation to my work with the High Commission. I replied that I was now working with Minivan News, at which point his smile slipped a little.

Thinking I was talking to a friend, I jokingly asked if this would be a problem. He simply replied “no, every paper has its philosophy.” After this we agreed to meet for coffee. Unfortunately, after being politely stalled a few times, Dr Saeed would not return my messages and I realised with disappointment that an excellent opportunity to build a relationship between Minivan and this powerful politician would be missed as, in his mind, I had ceased to be Daniel Bosley and had instead become Nasheed’s mouthpiece.

After this, Dr Saeed failed to respond to almost all of the paper’s calls regarding stories, just as most government ministers do. Read any story published on the site and you will find it littered with phrases such as “the state minister was unavailable for comment”, “Minivan News was awaiting the government’s comment at the time of press”. The article is then almost inevitably followed by many comments stating how biased and “one-sided” it is.

One of the most bizarre experiences I had personally was a President’s Office spokesman calling me a “little shit” over the phone, after I had spent five minutes explaining to him why I needed a quote for a story and could not just write my own opinion. This failure to understand the basic tenets of journalism seems to be the main reason why journalists in the Maldives, like Aswad, are more often becoming the victims of violence.

Dr Hassan Saeed was also rumoured (note that I include the word ‘rumoured’ as I cannot personally substantiate this) to be behind a comical attempt last year to establish a rival English-language news outlet – Maldivian Daily.

This endeavour involved flying in two young journalists from the UK, assigning them minders, and refusing them any of the freedoms a normal journalist would expect – including a warning to steer clear of any Minivan employees (who, me?). This farcical scheme ended soon after the pair began asking too many questions. The employees of Minivan News were given all the details at the airport bar shortly before the first journalist flew home, to be followed by the second weeks later.

This incident would be funny were it not indicative of the repeated attempts to manipulate and coerce the Maldivian media. I fully understand that Raajje TV takes an unashamedly pro-MDP line, but this in itself does not make its content necessarily fallacious. Again, the basic (and often wilful) misunderstanding of the difference between an editorial line and propaganda has led to the refusal of the Maldivian Police to offer Raajje’s journalists even the most basic protection.

In the UK, the Guardian newspaper takes an openly liberal line but its journalists are not labelled communists and beaten in the streets; similarly, Daily Mail writers are not condemned as Nazis. My advice to anyone who feels a news outlet is printing inaccurate information would be to send them to court, not to hospital.

If you are reading this on Minivan News itself (I did not have any particular publication in mind when this stream of consciousness began), you will likely note a thread of derogatory comments below. It is not the policy of the paper to reply to comments made on the site, so I would like to redirect anyone particularly incensed by my remarks to my twitter feed (@dbosley80).

I write this not as an MDP stooge, not to win favour with any individual, not even as a practising journalist. I write as someone disturbed to see a man beaten to within an inch of his life for putting pen to paper; to see a peaceful nation brutalising itself.

The URL at the top of the page should not detract the veracity of my claims, nor should the name of a paper diminish the credibility of a writer’s argument. Similarly, the organisation which Aswad Ibrahim works for does not immediately denigrate his integrity as a journalist.

Perhaps more importantly, it does not remove his rights as a human being – something which many in the Maldives appear to have forgotten.

Daniel Bosley worked as a journalist for Minivan News in 2012.

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]


UN defends role in Maldives, emphasises “political impartiality”

The Office of the UN Resident Coordinator has issued a statement defending the UN’s activity in the Maldives and reiterating its “strict impartiality toward political parties”.

The statement follows a recent accusation from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that while “the IPU, CMAG, Canada, the Human Rights Committee, the EU and certain international NGOs such as Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights have expressed varying degrees of alarm at the Maldives’ backsliding on democracy and human rights, others including the UN Resident Coordinator and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have remained shamefully silent.”

“Since February’s overthrow of the Maldives’ democratically-elected government, key parts of the international community have remained silent regarding the widespread human rights violations taking place,” the party’s spokesperson, MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, said in a statement.

“To remain silent in the face of injustice is to be an accomplice to that injustice,” he added.

In a statement released on Sunday, the UN said it “continues to be concerned that the current situation in the country may have an impact on the country’s development”, and noted examples of the international organisation’s activities in the Maldives.

“As a trusted partner, the UN has spoken repeatedly in public and in private over the course of several years and three governments on democracy, development, and human rights. Most recently, the Secretary-General spoke of the need for political dialogue, national reconciliation, and respect for the constitution. He called on all parties to exercise maximum cooperation and restraint,” the UN stated.

“The High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteurs have engaged robustly and provided considerable support over the years on human rights, which has been further strengthened by the recent deployment of a human rights adviser,” the statement noted.

“The UN team in Maldives, led by the Resident Coordinator, works as part of the larger UN strategy focusing on development, human rights and support to democracy. Our primary and overriding interest is to work for the development of the country and the betterment of the lives of its people. It does this on the basis of a programme of cooperation signed with the government in the interest of the people of the Maldives. We do our work with national institutions in government and civil society, the private sector, and directly with communities.

“The UN team has been deeply engaged in building national capacity, and in urging and assisting Maldivians to take the lead in overcoming deep rooted national challenges. We will continue to provide support and advocate vigorously a renewed focus for development that builds on the gains of the past, and focuses on the needs of the country,” the organisation stated.