Releasing of convicted criminals will not increase crime rate, says Zuhair

The impending release of close to 400 convicts will not result in a spike of crime rates in Male’, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair insisted today, citing research conducted over the past few years.

Zuhair explained that based on the screening process the 400 prisoners to be pardoned were unlikely to become repeat offenders.

“Our statistics show that there will be nearly 400 convicted criminals that have been granted a second chance,” Zuhair said. “Out of the 119 people released on a previous occasion only two people had to be taken back to prison for committing an offence.”

Zuhair added that the inmates will be released on the condition that they would be returned to prison to complete the rest of their sentences if they committed any sort of offence in the next three years.

Apart from being hired for government jobs, the released inmates would be required to participate in rehabilitation programmes as well as national service programmes over the next two years.

In his address to the nation on Independence Day, President Mohamed Nasheed announced that close to 400 youth currently serving sentences would be offered “a second chance” and released from prison.

He explained that in classifying the 400 convicts to be freed, priority was given to inmates with serious illnesses and those who could pursue higher education or be trained to acquire new skills.

400 inmates represent almost half the Maafushi prison population in 2009.

“A rehabilitation programme will be established for those who meet the conditions and will be rejoining society under the second chance,” Nasheed said. “The basic purpose of this programme is to train them, find job opportunities for them and to ensure that they become people who are beneficial to their families.”

Speaking to press at the President’s Office today, Zuhair said that the government was grateful for the efforts of minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) to undermine the support President Nasheed has from the international community.

“They have said they will try and lessen the support President has in the international community and we are very grateful for that because the DQP has been working very hard as the opposition,” Zuhair said. “However the President has many invitations from other countries but he does not attend unless it is so important that it could not be dismissed.”

Zuhair said that the President had been scheduled to visit Seychelles, France, America and the UK this year on official trips which would be funded by the inviting nation.

On the allegations made by opposition parties that the government’s policies risked undue influence of foreign powers in the Maldives, Zuhair suggested that such claims sprang from the government’s decision to sign a concession agreement to hand over management of Male’ International Airport to Indian infrastructure giant GMR.

“Those who opposed to the agreement should have rather filed a lawsuit in court rather than protesting on the streets,” he said.