Parliament appoints retired first lieutenant as sergeant-at-arms

Parliament today appointed Mohamed Haleem, of Maafanu Million in Male’, as the People’s Majlis’ Sergeant-at-arms with 56 votes in favour and one against.

Under the parliamentary rules of procedure, the Sergeant-at-arms is entrusted with enforcing discipline and maintaining security.

According to newspaper Haveeru, First Lieutenant Haleem retired from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) last month after 23 years of service.

Haleem was among senior military officers who sent a letter of concern to the Chief of Defence Forces following the failure to hold the second round of the presidential election scheduled for September 28.

Minivan News obtained Haleem’s resignation letter addressed to Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, in which he stated that he did not believe “the security services are currently adhering to the constitutional provisions stated in articles 237 and 238.”

Also, while the spirit of article 246 of the constitution is, to refrain from political affiliations and to treat equally among the people and different groups, respecting the principles of Islam and human dignity, I do not see this currently happening [within the security services],” First Lieutenant Haleem stated.

“For the last 23 years [of my military service]; I have served this country under a solemn oath taken in the name of Allah, I do not see any way that I can carry out my duties as prescribed in the constitution and the military act, while in this position, therefore I request you to relieve me from my duties,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, in July 2011, Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed called for the appointment of a Sergeant-at-arms as provided for in the regulations following weeks of disrupted sittings.


Parliament approves MDP proposal for speaker to assume presidency after November 11

Parliament today approved a proposal by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for the speaker of parliament to assume the presidency in the absence of a president-elect by midnight on November 10.

Today’s sitting was held in response to a letter to Speaker Abdulla Shahid from President Dr Mohamed Waheed requesting parliament “to take initiative in finding a solution to any legal issues that will arise if a new president is not elected by the end of the current term [on November 11].”

As a possible second round of the presidential election has been scheduled by the Elections Commission (EC) for November 16, President Waheed’s letter (Dhivehi) noted that “there is a possibility there might not be a president elected in accordance with article 111 of the constitution.”

Solih’s proposal, seconded by MDP Chairperson and Hulhuhenveiru MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, was passed with 39 votes in favour and one abstention. MPs of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) did not participate in the vote, claiming that the proposal was unconstitutional.

In the event that a new president is not elected by November 11, the motion states, “The Speaker of Parliament shall carry out the duties of the President until a person can be elected to the office.”

As interim president, the speaker “shall have all powers granted to the President by the constitution.”

The motion added that if the speaker cannot assume the office, the duties shall pass to the deputy speaker. If both are unable, a member of parliament elected by a resolution shall assume the presidency.

Moreover, the motion stipulates that a presidential election and, if necessary, a second round run-off election should take place within 21 days of the speaker assuming the role of caretaker president.

The new president-elect and vice president-elect must take the oath of office no more than 18 hours after the EC announces the official results of the election.

A second motion proposed by MDP MP Ali Waheed to grant authority and discretion to the speaker to expedite decisions required by parliament “to prepare for  the interim period” was passed with 37 votes in favour, two against and one abstention.

Speaker Shahid joined the MDP in April.

“State of necessity”

Article 124(b) of the constitution states, “In the event of the permanent incapacity, resignation, removal or death of both the President or the Vice President, and both offices becoming vacant at the same time, leading to an incapacity to carry out the duties of the President, until such time as a President and a Vice President shall be elected, the duties of both offices shall temporarily be carried out, in order of priority, by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by a member of the People’s Majlis elected by a resolution of the People’s Majlis, until successors in office are chosen.”

During today’s parliamentary debate, PPM MPs contended that the Speaker cannot assume the presidency without amending the constitution as there was no constitutional provision for the state of affairs in the absence of a president-elect after the expiry of the five-year presidential term.

Dhivehi Qaumee Party MP Riyaz Rasheed said if parliament passed the MDP’s proposal, he would file a case at the Supreme Court to invalidate it.

JP MP Ilham Ahmed meanwhile proposed that the military should take over if presidential elections are not concluded by November 11.

As the constitution states that the security services are established “to enable all Maldivians to live in peace, security and freedom,” Ilham said he believed executive powers should be handed to the security services, consisting of the police and military.

The JP deputy leader added that he could see “as clear as broad daylight” an impending takeover “by the benevolence of Allah.”

PPM MP Ahmed Shareef recommended referring the matter to the Supreme Court for legal advice, while MP Ali Arif declared the PPM’s support for President Waheed remaining in the post after November 11.

Speaking at a rally on Friday night, PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen reportedly said it would be “irresponsible” for President Waheed to resign before a new president was elected.

The PPM parliamentary group leader called on President Waheed to remain in the post and cease making statements about resigning, adding that it was the PPM that “maintained your government.”

MP Arif noted that the Supreme Court stated in its judgment annulling the September 7 election that the current president could remain in the absence of a president-elect.

“If extra time beyond that given by the constitution is needed, under the principle of necessity, to complete a specific task as specified in the constitution, it does not necessitate the end of a legal government in place. That such a government will continue to exist under the doctrines of ‘state of necessity’ and ‘continuity of legal government’ under such circumstances is recognised by both constitutional and legal jurisprudence,” the Supreme Court stated in the case summary of its judgment.

Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed said that the current administration could not continue after November 11, suggesting that a constitutional amendment was necessary to specify a process to be followed in the absence of a president-elect.

Nasheed cautioned that any motion or resolution passed by parliament in lieu of a constitutional amendment could be overruled by the Supreme Court. The independent MP abstained in both votes today.


MPs and Police respond to intel chiefs’ Nasheed assassination attempt allegations

Former Head of Intelligence Chief Superintendent ‘MC’ Mohamed Hameed has stated in his January 9 testimony to the parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee that the police intelligence department received information about two separate assassination plans against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Hameed further alleged that MP ‘RedWave’ Ahmed Saleem had stored a “poisonous chemical” in his company warehouse in 2011 and that the intelligence department learned of plans to use this deadly chemical to assassinate the then president.

Speaking in the same committee, former military intelligence head Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam also claimed to have received information about an assassination attempt planned to have been carried out during an MNDF live-fire event.

Former Minister of Human Rights of the current administration Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed has also spoken in December 2012 of assassination plans made against Nasheed by politicians she had then referred to as X and Y. She has since revealed X to be Deputy Speaker of Parliament People’s Alliance (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim and Y to be independent MP Mohamed Nasheed.

Following the public release of these allegations, MP Nasheed, MP Saleem and the police institution have responded denying the allegations.

Not involved in any assassination plans: MP Nasheed

Independent MP Nasheed has published an article on his personal blog denying involvement in any assassination plans.

Nasheed wrote that he had never spoken with former Gender Minister Dhiyana of any plans to assassinate Nasheed.

Questioning whether Dhiyana had indeed stated that MP Nasheed had spoken to her of involvement in orchestrating a coup d’etat to topple the former administration, he denied having ever brought up such a subject with her. He furthermore stated that he did not believe Dhiyana would have made such a statement.

Dhiyana’s account, released as a booklet titled “Silent Enquiry: A Personal Memoir on the issue of the Transfer of Powers on the 7th of February 2012” does not accuse person “Y”, later identified as MP Nasheed, of having partaken in assassination plans.

It however stated that through conversation with MP Nasheed she had learnt that he had pledged support to then Vice President, current President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, while he had refused the offer of the post of Vice President “should Waheed ascend to power in the coming week.”

“A week before the now disputed resignation of President Nasheed, his Vice President had invited ‘Y’ to his residence for dinner. After dinner, when he was about to leave, when he was bending over to put on his shoes, the Vice President had bent over and whispered into his ears that things would be difficult in the coming week and whether ‘Y’ would help him. ‘Y’, not suspecting that anything out of the ordinary would happen in the coming week had assured the Vice President that he would indeed help him,” Dhiyana wrote.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim has so far not responded publicly to the allegations made against him.

Will take the matter to court: MP Saleem

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP ‘RedWave’ Ahmed Saleem released a statement on Monday claiming the public release of statements given by intelligence chiefs of police and the defence forces had caused losses worth millions to businesses in which he holds a stake.

In response to the allegations of his involvement in an assassination plan against Nasheed, Saleem stated that he intends to take legal action against a number of persons he perceives as being responsible for the loss caused to him.

Saleem stated that the parliament, MDP and individual persons were included in the entities against whom he would be filing cases in the Civil Court. He furthermore states his intention to lodge a complaint with police asking them to look into the “criminal activity of the committing of unlawful activities to destroy [his] business.”

Saleem denied ever having involvement in any plans to take the life of any person.

No records of assassination plans found: PC Riyaz

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz was reported in local media as saying that there were no records of investigations having been undertaken into any suspected assassination attempts against Nasheed.

Riyaz stated that police had looked into the matter after the former police intelligence head gave his testimony to the parliament.

“We found no records of such an assassination attempt, and no indication that any investigation had been carried out on the matter. As a norm, if such serious intelligence information had been received, an investigation would definitely be undertaken,” Riyaz is reported to have said.

Riyaz further stated that the police had now been instructed to look into the matter further and to determine why no official records had been lodged if such critical information had indeed been uncovered by the police.


Parliament passes bill redefining limitations on freedom of assembly

Parliament on Tuesday (December 25) passed the bill on “Freedom of Peaceful Assembly” despite unanimous opposition from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The legislation was first submitted by independent MP Mohamed Nasheed on 5 April 2012.

The bill, which was initially called ‘Freedom of Assembly Bill’ was passed on the parliament floor with 44 votes in favour, and 30 votes against.

Among the key features of the bill is the outlawing of demonstrations outside private residences and government buildings, limitations on media not accredited with the state and defining gatherings as a group with more than a single person.

One of the main stated objectives of the legislation is to try and minimize restrictions on peaceful gatherings, which it claims remain a fundamental right.

The legislation continues that any restrictions enforced by police or other state institutions on participants at a gathering must be proportionate actions as outlined under specific circumstances defined in the bill.

The bill also provides a definition for ‘Gathering’ in Article 7(a), stating it refers to more than one person, with the same objective, purposefully attending a public or private place temporarily and peacefully expressing their views there.

Article 9(a), meanwhile, defines ‘Peaceful’ in relation to a gathering as being one where the organizers have notified [authorities] that this is a gathering to achieve a peaceful purpose, and provided no acts of violence occur, nor are there any chants, writing or drawings encouraging violence used in the gathering. Additionally, in such a gathering, no acts violating any laws must be committed, nor encouraged. Nor should participants have any items on them which can potentially be used to commit acts of violence.

Section (b) of Article 9 rejects defining a gathering as ‘not peaceful’ on the basis of words or behaviour of certain participants during a protest that may be considered hateful or unacceptable by other persons.

Under the new bill, citizens are not allowed to hold gatherings within a certain distance of the headquarters of police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

Demonstrations would also be outlawed within a certain distance of the residences of the president and the vice president, the offices of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), tourist resorts, harbours utilized for economic purposes, airports, the President’s Office, the courts of law, the Parliament, mosques, schools, hospitals and buildings housing diplomatic missions.

The bill also states that demonstrators wishing to protest against a specific individual, may not use megaphones, stand outside, or have a sit-down outside that person’s residence.

The regulation also states that although demonstrators do not need to seek authorization ahead of a gathering, police must be then notified of any pre-planned demonstrations before they commence.

Among the actions prohibited under the bill include an article stating that participants in a demonstration are not to have on them swords, knives, other sharp objects, wood, metal rods, batons, bleach, petrol, kerosene, any form of chilli (including dried or powdered), acid, explosives, any other items that can potentially be used as a weapon or any gear used by police for riot-controlling and peacekeeping.

Article 21 stipulates that participants will also not be allowed to cover their faces with masks, balaclavas or any other material which would prevent them from being identifiable.

The bill does guarantee organizers and participants of a gathering the right to decide where to hold a demonstration as well as choosing its objectives and the persons who are given the opportunity to speak during the protest.

The bill will not be applicable to activities, gatherings or meetings organized by state institutions, or those organized under any other law and to sports, games, business or cultural events.

According to the bill, if participants in a gathering have to face material or physical loss due to the negligence of police who must provide protection, then the police institution must provide compensation. It further adds that in such instances, the affected individual cannot be penalized for having taken part in the gathering.

The regulations also impose restrictions on police officers, preventing them from partaking in activities such as joining a gathering, displaying agreement or disagreement to messages or themes of a protest and ordering where or when to hold demonstrations.  Police officers are also prohibited from intervening in a gathering unless they are in uniform and states officers must not cover their faces unless as part of their riot gear under the bill.

Right to assemble

The bill also states that the right to assemble can be narrowed in the instances of a perceived threat to national security, or in order to maintain public safety as well as to establish societal peace in accordance with existing laws, to protect public health, to maintain levels of public discipline or to protect the rights and freedoms guaranteed to other individuals.

With regard to the media’s right to cover demonstrations, the bill adds that the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) must draft a regulation on accrediting journalists within three months of the ratification of the Bill on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. It is only those journalists who are accredited by the MBC who will be granted access to cover and report on gatherings and police activities in the vicinity.

If an accredited journalist is believed to partaking in the gathering’s activities, treating these journalists as equal to those assembled is left at the discretion of the police. The bill, however, does not define what could be considered such an act.

The Maldives Media Council and the Maldives Journalists Association have expressed concern over these stipulations on Wednesday.

The limitations defined in the bill will bring positive changes: Home Minister

Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has stated that the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Bill would bring positive changes to the country’s political environment and that it would provide guidance to politicians.

“It’s been established today that every right comes with accompanying responsibilities. I believe even the constitution reflects these principles. However, these principles need to be broken down into a law that would bring convenience to the people. Some among us thought when the constitution came that these are limitless freedoms that we’ve got. These past days we have seen people acting under that belief,” Jameel was quoted as telling the Sun Online news service.

“Under the name of this freedom, they were violating the personal and individual rights and protections of citizens. They were going at people’s residences, gathering outside and yelling vulgarities at parents and families, depriving children and families of sleep. All under the excuse of freedom of assembly.”

The Home Minister said that this bill would bring necessary limits at a time when many undesirable activities were being carried out under the guise of freedoms. He noted that the freedom of assembly was granted within limits in all other developed countries.

Not an ideal time to tamper with fundamental rights: MDP

Responding to the claims, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor expressed concern that the fundamental right to assemble was being limited through the bill at “a time like this.”

“It is not wise to tamper with constitutionally provided fundamental rights at a time like this, when we are in times of a coup. But even that can be understood only by persons who can at first understand democratic principles, of course,” Ghafoor said.

“We need time for the Maldivian psyche to be able to grasp the concepts of fundamental rights first.”

“Home Minister Jameel is a prescriptive, Salafiyya-educated, uncivilized man. He has never yet been able to partake in and win any elected posts, his statements hold no weight in the eyes of the people. He is a man who obviously does not even understand this very basic, fundamental concept,” Hamid said in response to Jameel’s statements in media about the freedom of assembly bill.

Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), which is cited in the parliamentary committee report as an entity that provided written feedback on the bill was unable to comment on the bill at the time of press.

MDN said that the NGO had today received the final bill which had been passed by the parliament, and that they were currently reviewing it to establish how much of their recommendations had been featured in the final bill.

Minivan News tried to contact MP Mohamed Nasheed, who was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Chair of the committee MP Riyaz Rasheed and Vice Chair MP Ahmed Amir were also not responding to calls this evening.

Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Vice President Ahmed Tholal’s phone was switched off at the time of press.


MP Yameen proposes Parliament look into EC Member sexual harassment allegations

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yameen has proposed that the Committee on Independent Institutions investigate allegations of sexual harassment against a member of the Elections Commission (EC).

Following a staff protest at the EC in March, a complaint was lodged with the oversight committee that some members were acting in breach of existing laws and regulations. A female employee of the EC who had attended a related committee meeting in June stated then that a member would take hold of her hand while she was serving drinks.

Chair of the committee Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed shared details of the issue. He stated that Yameen was referring to a matter where a female employee had stated that when she served coffee to a particular EC member, he would “take hold of [her] wrist and do something.”

Stating that the accused member had been summoned and questioned on the matter previously, Nasheed clarified that the issue was not an actual complaint filed by any staff member of EC.

Nasheed stated that after reviewing the responses the committee had at the time decided that it was not an issue that needed further attention.

However Yameen said that the matter should be reviewed under the clause regarding Personal Relations of Employees. He proposed that the employee who had made the allegation be summoned to committee to clarify more details of the matter.

Yameen raised the issue the day after the President of the Civil Service Commission Mohamed Fahmy was voted out of his post under sexual harassment allegations.

All PPM MPs who participated had voted against the removal of Fahmy.

Speaking at the debate on Fahmy’s removal, PPM MP Shifaq Mufeed said “We might be faced with an unrecoverable loss if we remove Fahmy, as he is a member of both the CSC and the JSC (Judicial Services Commission). If we remove Fahmy, there may come planned false allegations against other members of independent commissions.”

Elections Commission Vice President Ahmed Fayaz said that he had no knowledge of the matter.

“I have never received a complaint as such from any staff member about any EC members. Nor do I have any knowledge of such a complaint being even officially lodged, verbally or written, at either our commission, the police, gender ministry or anywhere else,” he added.

Minivan News tried contacting Yameen at the time of press, but he was not responding to calls at the time of press.


Independent Institutions Committee disrupted after disagreement over summoning JSC

A meeting of Parliament’s Committee on Independent Institutions on Wednesday was disrupted due to heated verbal exchanges between Chair of the committee independent MP Mohamed Nasheed and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Parliamentary Group Deputy Leader Ali Waheed.

On agenda for the meeting was a motion submitted by MDP MPs Ali Waheed, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and Ahmed Sameer, who is also Vice Chair of the committee.

The motion was in reference to the establishment and continuation of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court and the appointment of judges to that court.

Speaking on the issue, Ali Waheed proposed to summon the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to the committee, reports local media. However this proposition was not supported by MDP MPs Ahmed Sameer and Ahmed Abdulla.

Nasheed had responded that certain documents needed to be acquired by the committee before summoning the JSC, adding that there was “no need to rush the matter” since PPM MP Abdulla Yameen also agreed to summonthe commission.

Nasheed further said that the committee’s decision would “hold more weight” if all parties reached a consensus, adding that if this was the case the JSC would not face any difficulties in obeying the decision.

The official parliament website reports that it was been decided at the meeting that all documents prepared by the JSC regarding the Hulhumale’ court after 21 October 2010, any documents submitted to JSC regarding the Hulhumale’ court, the minutes of any meetings held regarding the appointment, transfer or any other matters that were in relation to judges, were to be obtained and further researched at the next meeting of the committee.

Ali Waheed alleged that PPM was attempting to prolong the Hulhumale’ court issue in the committee by not attending the meeting. He also said that the committee lacked “seriousness” when dealing with the matter.

He further alleged that there were “some persons within the MDP who wished to see [former President] Nasheed convicted”, saying that they would not stay by idly while Nasheed’s presidential candidacy was on the line.

Despite attempts by Sameer to escort Waheed out of the committee meeting hall, Waheed continued to pace around the room and make loud statements aimed at MP Nasheed.

The meeting was discontinued when Nasheed started responding in kind to Waheed’s loud statements, making it impossible for members in attendance to speak over the noise.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by independent MP Mohamed Nasheed, MDP MPs Ahmed Sameer, Ali Waheed, Ahmed Abdulla, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed.


MPs claim bill on the right to remain silent contradicts constitution

Parliament has divided opinions on the Bill on the Right to remain silent submitted by independent member of parliament, Mohamed Nasheed.

The bill had its second reading in parliament on Tuesday, following the first reading on October 3. During the ensuing one hour debate, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs mainly spoke against the bill, while most MPs aligned with the ruling coalition supported the bill and advocated for it to be expedited.

“The right to remain silent is a fundamental basis on which the criminal justice system in many other countries are built upon. They do not have to explicitly define this in their laws as it is already well established in their respective societies,” Nasheed explained in parliament today.

“Our case is different. We first heard the phrase ‘the right to remain silent’ with the ratification of the 2008 constitution,” Nasheed said, adding that unlike other countries, Maldivians did not have any local material to refer to for better understanding of the right.

He said that the bill therefore aimed to define clearly what comes and what does not come within the boundaries of the right to remain silent, where this right can be applied and the legal outcomes that may ensue.

No threat to MPs

A number of MPs, some from the ruling coalition parties and some independent, spoke in favour of the bill. They insisted that narrowing the right to remain silent would assist in police investigations, thereby contributing to bringing down crime rates.

Some MPs stated that this bill only caused inconvenience to criminals, explicitly stating that it posed no risk to MPs and politicians.

Independent MP Ahmed Amir said that the MPs themselves needed to prove to the nation that all of them were people who refrained from getting involved in criminal activities, asking “Why then must we be concerned about this bill? I do not believe any member here needs to be concerned about this bill.”

Amir said the parliament had narrowed the same right in the Act on Sexual harassment against children, adding “why then are we so reluctant to pass an act to narrow down this right as a whole? That this may cause a loss to us, or the nation, is in my view an irresponsible stance to take.”

Meanwhile, DRP MP Mausoom stated the importance of expediting the bill, pledging complete support to the draft bill.

“At a time when we started moving towards democracy, one reason which led to a number of citizens expressing discontent with a democratic system is that the rights of criminals began exceeding those of regular citizens,” Mausoom said, stating that it was of extreme importance that the bill on the floor be sent to the relevant committee and passed at  the earliest.

PPM MP Ahmed ‘RedWave’ Saleem also supported the bill, and put forward his opinion in parliament.

“On judgement day you cannot exercise the right to remain silent. If you do, your organs will speak for you. However, organs cannot speak today, and so we must speak with our own tongues. If police ask you if you have committed a crime, you can simply say no even if you have committed it, so what is there to be afraid of?” Saleem said.

Addressing the MDP MPs Saleem said, “I want to tell my MDP brothers that this poses no threat to them, only to criminals. There is no threat to any politicians either.”

Contradictions with the Constitution

MPs who spoke against the bill pointed out that the bill directly contradicted articles in the constitution.

Article 20 of the proposed bill states that should a person choose to remain silent, after which sufficient evidence is provided in courts to prove without doubt that he is guilty as accused, then his decision to remain silent can be viewed as further proof against him. It further says that this is because instead of trying to prove his innocence, the accused had chosen to remain silent.

MDP MPs Ali Riza and Ali Waheed stated that this article was in direct contradiction to Articles 51(a), 51(c), 51(d), 51(e), 51(h) and 52 of the constitution.

Ali Waheed further stated, “I do not believe that any Act has the power to completely turn around a right guaranteed in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.”

From the government coalition parties, Jumhoree Party MP Abdulla Jabir also spoke against the proposed bill.

“We have heard in the past that two or three people would be arrested, tortured, forced to confess, and then claiming the investigation to be completed, these people would be sentenced undeservingly. Are we to move back into that again?” he said.

Jabir stated that he would not support the bill as he felt it would bring back the culture of torture, forced confessions and convictions of the innocent.


MP Nasheed proposes bill criminalising sexual offenses

Independent Member of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed has published on his personal blog a bill he submitted to parliament in June this year, proposing to criminalise sexual offences.

The bill defines actions to be taken against specific types of sexual offenses, including rape, spousal rape, prostitution, bestiality and incest.

Nasheed stated that he felt a bill like this is immensely important because of the serious nature of modern day sexual offenses. He states that the current legislative framework governing such offenses is too lenient, and that the proposed bill would provide a stronger penalisation structure.

Nasheed has said that he believes it is equally important to criminalise sexual offenses against adults, similar to the existing laws criminalising such acts against children.


Islamic Minister, MPs, PPM and religious groups condemn UN Human Rights Commissioner

Statements by visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay calling for a moratorium on flogging as a punishment for fornication and criticising the Muslim-only clause for citizenship in the Maldivian constitution have been widely condemned by religious NGOs, public officials and political parties.

In an address delivered in parliament last Thursday, Pillay said the practice of flogging women found guilty of extra-marital sex “constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country.”

The UN human rights chief called for a public debate “on this issue of major concern.” In a press conference later in the day, Pillay called on the judiciary and the executive to issue a moratorium on flogging.

On article 9(d) of the constitution, which states “a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives,” Pillay said the provision was “discriminatory and does not comply with international standards.”

Local media widely misreported Pillay as stating during Thursday evening’s press conference that she did not believe the Maldives had a Constitution, which prompted a great deal of public outrage. Her comment, however, was in response to a challenge from Miadhu Editor Gabbe Latheef, who asked “if you believe we have a Constitution, why are you speaking against our Constitution?”

“I don’t believe you have a Constitution, you have a constitution. The constitution conforms in many respects to universally respected human rights. Let me assure you that these human rights conform with Islam,” Pillay said on Minivan News’s recording of the press conference, however her phrasing was widely misinterpreted by the media.

Shortly after Pillay’s speech in parliament, Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari told local media that “a tenet of Islam cannot be changed” and flogging was a hudud punishment prescribed in the Quran (24:2) and “revealed down to us from seven heavens.”

Bari noted that article 10 of the constitution established Islam as “the basis of all the laws of the Maldives” and prohibited the enactment of any law “contrary to any tenet of Islam,” adding that the Maldives has acceded to international conventions with reservations on religious matters such as marriage equality.

In his Friday prayer sermon the following day, Bari asserted that “no international institution or foreign nation” had the right to challenge the practice of Islam and adherence to its tenets in the Maldives.

Meanwhile, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party issued a statement on Thursday contending that tenets of Islam and the principles of Shariah were not subject to modification or change through public debate or democratic processes.

Adhaalath Party suggested that senior government officials invited a foreign dignitary to make statements that they supported but were “hesitant to say in public.”

The party called on President Mohamed Nasheed to condemn Pillay’s statements “at least to show to the people that there is no irreligious agenda of President Nasheed and senior government officials behind this.”

The Adhaalath statement also criticised Speaker Abdulla Shahid and MPs in attendance on Thursday for neither informing Pillay that she “could not make such statements” nor making any attempt to stop her or object to the remarks.

The party insisted that Pillay’s statements and the SAARC monuments in Addu City were “not isolated incidents” but part of a “broad scheme” by the government to “pulverize Islam in the Maldives and introduce false religions”.

Later that night, the Civil Society Coalition – a network of NGOs that campaigned successfully against regulations to allow sale of alcohol in city hotels to non-Muslims last year – announced a nation-wide mass protest on December 23 against the government’s alleged efforts to securalise the country.

Spokesperson Mohamed Didi claimed the current administration was pursuing an agenda to “wipe out the Islamic faith of the Maldivian people” through indoctrination and “plots” to legalize apostasy and allow freedom of religion.

He suggested that “the few people who cannot digest the religion of the people should immediately leave the country.”

The NGO coalition said it expected “over a 100,000 people” to participate in the planned protest.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) announced today that it would join the protest. PPM interim council member and religious scholar MP Dr Afrashim Ali told newspaper Haveeru that Pillay “can’t say that to us” and condemned the statements on behalf of the party.

Afrashim called on the executive, parliament and judiciary to enact a law prohibiting any statements that “opposes the principles of Islam.”

In a statement today, religious NGO Islamic Foundation of Maldives (IFM) strongly condemned Pillay’s remarks and criticised MPs for not objecting at Thursday’s event.

Pillay’s statements in parliament amounted to calling on MPs “to legalize fornication and gay marriage,” IFM contended.

“Therefore, anyone who agrees to this surely becomes an apostate,” the statement reads. “And if this [fornication and homosexuality] is spread anywhere, Almighty God has warned that fire will be rained upon them from the seven heavens.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook group was formed yesterday with members calling for her to be “slain and driven out of the country.”  The group currently has 207 members.

One member posted a banner to open a public debate on whether citizens should rise up and either “kill or lynch” those who “deny the Quran, not tolerate Islam and undermine the constitution.”
The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) also issued a statement calling on the government not to accept Pillay’s suggestion for a public debate on flogging.
Although DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali was the first to shake Pillay’s hand after her address, the party’s statement argued that “neither a Maldivian nor a foreigner has the right to consider the enforcement of a punishment specified in Islam a violation of human rights.”

Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru that Speaker Abdulla Shahid had to “bear full responsibility” for allowing Pillay to “talk about changing penalties of Islam in front of Muslims,” adding that Dhivehi translations of her address were distributed to MPs in advance.

“This is a very serious problem. You can’t say flogging is a form of violence against women,” he said.

Nasheed explained that Pillay’s remarks were tantamount to proclaiming in the Indian parliament that “worshiping cows is so uncivilised.”

Echoing Nasheed’s sentiments, MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said allowing Pillay to make her statements was “a mockery of parliament”, arguing that the Speaker’s decision to allow her “to openly speak against the constitution” violated parliamentary rules of procedure.

Local daily Haveeru also published an op-ed by editor Moosa Latheef censuring Speaker Abdulla Shahid and the MPs in attendance for not objecting to Pillay as her call for a public debate on flogging “made it very clear that she was working to shake the main pillar of Maldivians.”

Speaking at a UNDP event yesterday, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ahmed Faiz noted that the constitution placed limits on free speech and the right to free expression “cannot be used under any circumstances outside of Islamic principles or in violation of a tenet of Islam.”

Protests led by religious groups that began outside the UN building yesterday are set to continue tonight near the tsunami memorial.