MP Nasheed alleges criminal activities in legal profession

Kulhudhuffushi-dhekunu MP Mohamed Nasheed has criticised his fellow lawyers on his personal blog, alleging that they assist criminals in covering up crimes, work closely with gangs, and intimidate witnesses, reports local media.

A recent report by the Asia Foundation highlighted the strong links between politicians, businessmen and Male’s numerous gangs.

“Due to lawyers’ influence, people often refuse to provide statements, or wish to revise previous statements, or say that they do not wish to provide statements, or travel abroad to avoid the Court process,” he wrote.

Nasheed argued that recording conversations between lawyers and clients could alleviate some of these problems.

“I am not a criminal defence lawyer. However, when the sunset bill was made, I listened to senior members of relevant state institutions discuss ways to address the challenges faced due to crime in the society,” said Nasheed.

“One and a half years later, they are still discussing the same thing. This article was based on the information obtained from them,” he added.


Hopes of victims renewed as parliament passes domestic violence bill

The Maldives parliament yesterday passed a much awaited Domestic Violence Bill which for the first time will provide legal provisions to protect victims from domestic abuse through protective orders and improved monitoring mechanisms.

The bill received broad cross party support when it was submitted by then opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) in October 2011.  It was submitted in an attempt to enact  key changes to existing legislation and address societal attitudes to violence committed against women and girls within domestic circles.

Out of the 54 MPs present at Monday’s parliamentary session, 50 voted in favour of the bill, while two members, including Jumhoory Party MP Ibrahim Muththalib and MDP MP Mohamed Gasam voted against it. Two MPs abstained from the vote.

The passage to endorsement took over an year longer than anticipated, mostly due to the resistance from several MPs who had argued the bill was “un-Islamic” and criticised it for “unduly favouring” women while at the same time making life “extremely difficult” for men, who they said, were wronged by women.

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed, who re-drafted the bill during the committee stage, noted in an interview with Minivan News today that several MPs had proposed amendments during the committee stage to revise clauses they deemed were in contravention to Islam.  However, these proposed amendments failed due to the lack of support, he added.

Nasheed insisted that the bill is actually “gender neutral” and provided equal protection to “everyone in a domestic relationship” including husband and wife, family and non-family members such as house-helps.

He added, “The argument for women is generated as a larger segment of the vulnerable victims include women and girls”.

Ministry of Gender and Family study – the first comprehensive nationwide survey of domestic violence in the Maldives – showed that one in every three women between the ages of 15-49 has been a victim of domestic violence.

The study suggested there was general acceptance of domestic violence across the country and among both sexes, who perceived it as being ‘normal’ or ‘justified’.

Seventy percent of Maldivian women believe, for example, that there are circumstances under which a man is justified in beating his wife. Infidelity and disobedience, most women accept, are valid reasons for taking a good beating from the husband.

A majority of women also accept that they have a subordinate role to men, the report stated among it’s conclusions.

The survey added that one in every three Maldivian men who commit acts of domestic violence against women do so for ‘no reason’. One in four does it to punish the woman for disobedience, and one in five does it because he is “jealous”.

One in every ten men beats up his partner because she refuses him sex, and the rest of them do it for any number of reasons  – lack of food at home, family problems, because they are broke or unemployed, because they are having problems at work, or because the woman is pregnant

The new legislation passed this week is designed to offers a holistic and effective legal framework for addressing domestic violence in Maldives. It aims to do this by providing sweeping powers to regulatory authorities to expedite investigations of abuse within private spheres, makes provision for protection orders and legal remedies for victims; punishments to perpetrators who violates the court orders; psychological and rehabilitative services for victims or perpetrators, and processes for promotion of reconciliation.

Offences and Protective Remedies

According to the legislation, sexual, physical and emotional abuse of victims, economic and psychological abuse, intimidation, stalking and harassment, deliberate damage to property of the victims are all considered offences and perpetrators are subjected to the punishments and court orders under this legislation.

A husband who deliberately impregnates a wife seeking a divorce from an abusive marriage, or impregnates her despite the known health risks will also be committing an offence under the legislation.

However, MP Nasheed observed the stated offences in the Domestic Violence Law are considered “civil offences”, but it does not prevent the criminal prosecution of the perpetrator under penal code and other relevant legislations.

The legislation also offers several civil remedies for alleged victims to protect themselves and families from further abuse from assailants through protective orders, restraining orders and custody/maintenance orders.

The protective orders include “certain things that cannot be done or acts from which the victims are protected,” Nasheed explained.

The restraining order meanwhile prohibits an alleged perpetrator from committing specific acts pertaining to the complaints. For instance, where the perpetrator and the victim share the same household, the court can restrict the victim from “entering and exiting their private dwelling, place of work, employment, teaching, learning or any other commonly visited place.”

Meanwhile, in the event a wife applies for a protection order, the bill gives courts the authority to evict the husband from the residence, if the need arises.

The court can grant a three-month provisional order without a trail or to the knowledge of the alleged perpetrator while he or she is given the right to challenge the order during the trial to make the order permanent.

Violations of these orders are constituted as a criminal offence and the perpetrator is subjected to a maximum fine of Rf50, 000 and maximum three years of imprisonment.

Police and Family Protection Authority

Under the legislation, in cases where the police has reasonable evidence to believe a person is a victim of domestic abuse, the police can enter the place of crime without a court order and arrest perpetrators.

It also mandates the police to transfer the victim from the abusive environment to a secure location, if necessary with their own expenses.

“Once the legislation is ratified, the police must decide and announce protocols to address domestic violence cases, assess the level of damage to the victims and if necessary remove the victim from abusive environment and give shelter,” Nasheed noted. “Once these protocols are activated, [police] don’t wait to decide who takes care of the expenses.”

Police media official Hassan Haneef said today that the police will comment on the legislation after a thorough study.

Health professionals and care workers are subjected to statutory obligations to report and act on suspected domestic violence cases.

Meanwhile, an institution named “Family Protection Authority” (FPA) must be established under the legislation with the primary mandate to implement the legislation and create awareness.  The authority must establish easy mechanisms among other responsibilities, to allow victims to report abuse, provide psychological and rehabilitative services for victims and perpetrators, and processes for promotion of reconciliation.

According to Nasheed, the existing Department of Family and Child Protection Unit under the Health Ministry is likely to “ripen into the full fledged institution [FPA]”.

The Gender Department had earlier echoed concerns over the lack of a budget required to implement the legislation and asked the parliament to pass it with the necessary budget.

However, Nasheed responded although a budget has not been allocated under the legislation it does not” prevent the legislation coming from into being” and added that once the law is passed, it “gives the authority the right to charge the consolidated fund.”


Majlis committees approve VP and cabinet, will assess ongoing coup investigations

Majlis committees have approved President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s cabinet and vice president nominee – resort owner Waheed Deen – and have decided to assess independent institutions’ ongoing investigations into the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

The executive oversight committee will now submit cabinet and VP nominees to the floor for final approval. MPs of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) voted against the move.

The MDP refuses to recognise Dr Waheed’s administration, alleging former VP Waheed deposed the party’s Mohamed Nasheed through a coup d’état.  The MDP claims it continues to be the legitimate party representing the government in Majlis.

The MDP holds 32 of the 77 Majlis seats, and commands half of the seats in all parliamentary committees except the executive oversight committee.

MDP spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor said the nominees were approved at committee stage because parties allied with Dr Waheed control a majority in the executive oversight committee. “As the party representing the government in parliament, we believed the opposition must have majority seats in that committee.”

Meanwhile, the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee has decided to assess the extent to which the state’s independent institutions are fulfilling their mandates in investigating the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power on February 7.

The Human Rights Commission (HRCM) and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) have previously told Minivan News they will not investigate the transfer of power, claiming the matter is out of their mandates.

Deputy chair of Independent Institution Oversight Committee and MDP MP Ahmed Sameer said the MDP wants to summon the HRCM and PIC to evaluate ongoing investigations into the alleged coup d’état.

The HRCM and PIC told Minivan News that the commissions will respectively investigate human rights violations and police conduct on February 7, but not the circumstances of the transfer of power.

“The president is a citizen. He says he was deposed in a coup. His rights have been violated. Moreover, citizen’s right to elect government has been violated. So I do not understand how the HRCM and PIC can claim this matter is out of their mandates,” said Sameer.

“The HRCM and the PIC and the Prosecutor General have to take the initiative in this investigation. Especially the PG, because Article 223 of the constitution mandates the PG to oversee legality of preliminary inquiries and investigations into criminal activity and to uphold the constitutional order, the law, and the rights and freedoms of all citizens,” Sameer added.

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs opposed the committee’s move to assess the commission’s investigation into events on February 7, claiming the committee must also look into whether commissions were also investigating the events preceding the transfer of power.

The DRP and other political parties allied with Dr Waheed say the police and military mutiny on February 7 in fact upheld the constitution. They allege Nasheed’s administration orders to arrest Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January were unconstitutional.

Chair of the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee Mohamed Nasheed has asked the two parties to submit proposals next week on how to proceed with the assessment.

“We will decide on how to proceed after merging the two proposals,” Independent MP Nasheed said.

Nasheed also said he believed an independent and impartial investigation into the transfer of power must take place, and was “more pertinent” than MDP’s call for early general elections.

“I was first to call for a credible, open, transparent investigation with international oversight. Even if early elections are held, and a president is elected democratically, questions will remain unanswered regarding the transfer of power,” he said.

The Majlis was a possible avenue for an independent investigation, Nasheed said. “The Majlis is in a position to empanel MPs or outsiders, experts to get the process going. The Majlis could either submit a resolution to create a committee of MPs to look into the matter or enact a law to delegate authority to an outside panel to conduct investigations.”

However, no MP has yet made a move to instigate the process through Majlis, Nasheed said.


MNBC staff cannot work with MBC board, says Independent MP Nasheed

Staff at the former Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VoM) – now the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) – cannot work with the parliament-approved board of the Maldives Broadcasting Company (MBC), Independent MP and former Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed has said.

Responding to a question by a journalist at a forum organised by the Maldives Media Council (MMC) Monday night, Nasheed explained that the MBC Act was intended to transform the corporatised state media into a public broadcaster but the board voted through by opposition MPs was engaged in “political football.”

“Everything went right, but because of those who were chosen for the director’s board, the whole thing turned into political football,” MP Nasheed said, according to Sun Online.


Ministry of Finance asked to provide list of political appointees

Minister of Finance and Treasury Ali Hashim was asked today to provide the Parliament with details of the number of political appointees, their titles and salaries under the current government.

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed requested the information from the minister.

He said there had been a “war on words” regarding the number of political appointees in both the former and current governments, with some people saying there were as many as 600 appointees while others claimed there were fewer than 300.

“There has always been a comparison between this government and the previous one,” Nasheed said, referring to one of the things the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) criticised most about the former government: that it was =‘top heavy.’

Nasheed said he did not ask Minister Hashim for a list of cabinet members or even for the VP’s salary, only for the number of appointees, but the minister “is providing more than I asked for.”

State Minister of Finance Ahmed Assad said the Ministry of Finance would provide Parliament with the list of appointees soon since “there is no reason to withhold it.”

Whether or not the list would become a matter of public knowledge, he said, was “for Parliament to decide.”

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Visaam Ali said the DRP was “really concerned” about the number of political appointees under the current government.

She said she was not only concerned about the government being “top heavy” but was worried because “they advocated different views” during their election campaign in 2007.

“What they are doing is different to what they promised the people,” Visaam said. “They promised the people an MDP government would be different.”

She added that the number of political appointees is even “worse than under the previous government” and there are more political appointees now earning higher salaries that they were under Gayoom’s government.

MDP Spokesperson Ahmed Haleem said government appointees “are not an issue” for the party, but issues dealing with civil servants were a major priority.

Haleem said during the 2007 presidential campaign, MDP had told the people they wanted the government of Maldives to be smaller.

“The former government had over 1,000 political appointees,” claimed Haleem. “Now we have just over four hundred.”