Mahloof censured over areca nuts as charges loom

Detained parliamentarian Ahmed Mahloof has been denied family visits over the discovery of areca nuts in his pocket, as police prepare to bring charges against him.

Mahloof’s wife, Nazra Naseem, said police cancelled a family visit planned for Saturday on the discovery of the “illegal” areca nuts.

The most high-profile defector from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Mahloof has been attending Majlis (parliament) because of a rule specifying that detained lawmakers must be brought to sessions.

“MPs have access to things like areca nuts in the Majlis during meal times. I think that if it is unlawful, it is the police’s responsibility to make sure these things are inaccessible to him,” Nazra said.

Police said they had sent charges of disobedience to order against Mahloof to the prosecutor general’s office relating to events at a protest on March 25, but said it would be for state prosecutors to decide whether to proceed with the case.

Mahloof, a close associate of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in February after he publicly criticised President Abdulla Yameen and the government.

He is now part of the Alliance against Brutality, an anti-government coalition. He was arrested at an opposition protest on March 25 on suspicion of disobedience to orders after police said he had passed a barricade.

Mahloof has been repeatedly re-detained since then after refusing to accept a conditional release that would require him to stay away from protests for 30 days.

Other opposition figures have suggested that authorities may be planning separate charges against him.

Sheikh Imran Abdulla, head of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, tweeted that the government was seeking to press terrorism charges against Mahloof.

After his latest court hearing, an altercation took place in which Mahloof’s wife said police pinched her, twisted her arm and tore buttons from her top. Police have denied this.

Nazra has filed complaints with the Human Rights Commission and Police Integrity Commission over the incident on Monday.

Jeehan Mohmood, a member of the Human Rights Commission, confirmed that it was investigating Nazra’s case, while Abdul Aziz Yoosuf, director general of the Police Integrity Commission, told Minivan News the PIC was also looking into the incident.

“My hope is that the independent institutions will look into my case as tomorrow another woman may be treated the same way,” said Nazra.

Separately, the Human Rights Commission is also reviewing 20 cases of protesters who were released from detention on condition they stay away from protests, Jeehan told Minivan News.

Photo of police forcing Mahloof into a police vehicle on April 3, taken by Munshid Mohamed. 


MP Mahloof held for 15 days after rejecting second protest ban

Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof has been taken into police custody for 15 days after refusing to accept a conditional release from detention under which he would have been barred from protests.

Mahloof scuffled with police outside the court after the period of detention was handed down Friday evening. Police said he tried to flee while being escorted into a vehicle. He was immediately seized by officers, but said he had just been trying to speak to his wife.

Mahloof’s wife Nazra Naseem was also involved in an altercation with officers and later said they had twisted her arm, pinched her stomach and torn buttons from her top.

Mahloof is being held at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre, his lawyer said.

Formerly a member of the ruling party, Mahloof was initially arrested on 25 March at an opposition protest over the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, and was detained under house arrest for five days.

He was handed additional house arrest for refusing a previous protest ban, then was taken to the criminal court last night for a third remand hearing, as the court order to detain him was about to expire.

The criminal court ordered that Mahloof be detained again because he refused for a second time to accept the court’s condition to stay away from gatherings of four or more people for 30 days.

“Mahloof said he would not accept the court’s terms, so he was remanded for an extra 15 days in police detention,” said Abdulla Haseen, the MP’s lawyer.

The criminal court has recently released a series of protesters on condition they stay away from demonstrations for a set period of time, but this tactic has met with criticism from legal experts and the prosecutor general.

“Releasing a person suspected of a crime with conditions other than ensuring the person’s return to the court maybe unconstitutional,” the prosecutor general wrote in a letter to the chief judge of the criminal court, obtained by Minivan News last week.

Meanwhile, the constitution says people can only be held in pre-trial detention under certain circumstances: if further interrogation is needed, if they are a danger to society, if they may influence witnesses or if they might flee.


Police said Mahloof had tried to run away from officers as he was being escorted into a police vehicle after Friday’s remand hearing, a claim he denies.

“Mahloof said he wanted to talk to the reporters outside because police manhandled his wife,” said his lawyer.

Eyewitness Sabra Noordeen said the MP did not try to flee but “ran to his wife” because she was shouting.

“Nazra [Mahloof’s wife] was near the police vehicle and he ran towards her. He wasn’t trying to flee though,” she said.

Speaking to Raajje TV last night, Nazra said she was molested by police as she tried to meet her husband outside the court.

“One policeman pinched my stomach and touched parts of my body that he should not have. He also tore off the buttons of the top I was wearing,” she said.

“My arm and finger were twisted so badly that I thought they were going to break it. I am sure if I hadn’t screamed he [the police officer] would have broken my fingers.”

Nazra has submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives today.

Meanwhile the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned “police brutality towards Mahloof and his family”.

“Mahloof has been detained illegally for 25 days without charge. The MDP is concerned about the criminal court’s harassment of MP Mahloof and we condemn it,” the statement read.

“MDP sees the harassment towards MP Mahloof and his family as a warning to all Maldivian citizens by the government.”

Mahloof, a close associate of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) last month after he publicly criticised President Abdulla Yameen and the government.

He is now part of the opposition Alliance against Brutality, an anti-government coalition.


IPU to send ‘urgent’ mission over MP death threats, arrests

The Inter-Parliamentary Union will send an urgent mission to the Maldives during the upcoming months to investigate death threats, attacks and arrests of MPs in the country.

The union, which represents parliaments around the world, said they are investigating reports that 30 former and current MPs have been victims of human rights abuses, including one MP who was murdered and another who was stabbed.

After the 132nd Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly this week in Hanoi, the organization said political polarisation and heightened tensions in the Maldives “necessitated an urgent on-site mission” by the IPU’s human rights wing to gather first-hand information.

“The organisation is deeply concerned by the serious and repeated death threats allegedly made against opposition MPs in the Maldives since last year,” an IPU statement said.

Tensions are high across the country after the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges this month, with opposition parties holding daily protests.

IPU also called on law enforcement agencies to show restraint, and to abide by international and national human rights laws and standards when handling protests.

Meanwhile, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) complains that the speaker of parliament has been excluding the party from the Maldives’ delegations to IPU.

Mohamed Rasheed, secretary general of the MDP parliamentary group, said the delegation is selected in a “petty” manner without including the main opposition party.

One MDP MP was present in Hanoi, but fellow members of his party said that he was “hand-picked”, whereas in the past, the party has sent two MPs of its choice.

Eva Abdulla, an MDP parliamentarian, has been excluded from recent delegations despite being an elected representative for all female South Asian MPs at the IPU.


Eva told Minivan News that opposition lawmakers have been receiving death threats “every other day” since the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan last August. Rilwan has still not been found.

She said opposition MPs have been receiving phone calls and text messages, and sometimes stalked.

“We filed complaints at the police and with the Majlis itself. However the speaker has not even condemned the threats in public or privately,” she said.

Threats against opposition parliamentarians have caused the IPU to classify the Maldives as one of the most dangerous countries to be an MP, noted Eva.

Several opposition MPs have been arrested at anti-government protests.

Most recently, MP Ahmed Mahloof, formerly of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, was arrested at a protest last week and detained for five days.

When his detention ended, the criminal court placed him on further five days of house arrest after he refused the court’s condition to not participate in further protests for 60 days.

Similarly, MDP MP Ismail Fayyaz was given 15 days’ detention after he refused to accept release under the same conditions.

Eva said police had been slow to investigate a forced entry into Mahloof’s apartment last month, although they were handed CCTV footage of the incident.

The IPU’s list of Maldivian cases includes that of the late PPM MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, who was murdered outside of his home in October 2012, and the stabbing last year of MP Alhan Fahmy, who narrowly avoided paralysis as a result.

PPM MPs and the speaker of parliament had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.


Global MPs’ group calls for Mahloof release

Global MPs’ group Parliamentarians for Global Action has condemned the detention without charge of MP Ahmed Mahloof and called upon authorities to immediately release him from house arrest.

Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) expressed its “undiminished solidarity” towards MP Mahloof in a statement today.

He was arrested at an opposition rally on March 26 for allegedly “obstructing police duties and disobeying police orders.”

Noting that Mahloof may have been “targeted” by police for his criticism of the government, PGA expressed concern that freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the constitutional rights of MPs may have been violated.

After five days at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre, Mahloof refused to accept the court’s conditional release, which would have barred him from protesting for 60 days. The criminal court then placed him under five days of house arrest.

Mahloof was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives after its disciplinary committee said he brought President Abdulla Yameen into disrepute with false statements in the media.

Meanwhile, a letter from the Prosecutor General’s office was leaked to Minivan News, which arguesthat some recent decisions by the court may have limited individuals’ rights relating to pre-trial detention.

The letter, addressed to Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, said the decisions limited rights under Article 49 of the constitution.

This article says that no one shall be detained prior to sentencing unless there is a fear of the accused failing to appear at court, for the protection of public safety, or to prevent the accused interfering with witnesses.

Local media have interpreted the letter, dated yesterday, as a warning to the criminal court over the conditional release of people arrested at protests, which often stipulates they must not go to any more demonstrations for 60 days.

Previously, MP Fayyaz Ismail, of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), was detained for 15 days after he refused to accept release on these conditions following his arrest at a protest on March 8.

At the time, the Criminal Court had released 33 of the 77 individuals arrested at protests, on the condition they would not participate in further protests for 60 days.

“This is not a limitation of rights, but a violation of [the detainee’s] rights to assembly, expression, and free will,” said Shahindha Ismail, executive director of Maldivian Democracy Network’s, earlier this month.

Courts can enforce conditions on detainees to ensure a person’s attendance at hearings, for example having to obtain a permit from the court when travelling, but they cannot place a condition asking the individual not to go to a protest, she said.

The government has started implementing stronger measures in the crackdown against opposition protests, which escalated after the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22.

President Abdulla Yameen today ratified an amendment to the Civil Service Act which bars civil servants from holding posts in political parties and taking part in political activities.

The amendment comes at a time where several state owned companies have been accused of firing opposition supporters for participating in anti-government protests.

Since March 1, at least four employees of State Electric Company Limited and one from Malé Water and Sewerage Company were dismissed, and at least five were suspended from Maldives Ports Limited.


Adeeb and Mahloof in Twitter spat after allegations of threats and bribery

Former ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof has claimed a group of ten men attempted to break in to his apartment last night after Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb threatened him over the phone.

In a tweet at 10:15 pm on March 15, Mahloof claimed the group tried to forcefully enter his home around 9:30 pm.

The Maldives Police Services confirmed they are investigating a case where “a suspicious group of people knocked on Henveiru East Light before taking off.”

Adeeb has denied the allegations, claiming Mahloof was getting paid or bribed to defame him and President Abdulla Yameen. 

Adeeb shared a screenshot of an alleged text conversation between Mahloof and Adeeb, where Mahloof appeared to threaten him saying “things would get ugly tonight” and that he could ruin the tourism minister’s name with “only one tweet.”

Reload in the tweet refers to a local term for topping up credit on mobile phones.

Mahloof in a subsequent tweet claimed the screenshot of the text messages were fabricated. He also shared a recording of the phone call in which he claims Adeeb threatened him.

In the recording, which appears slightly edited, Adeeb said he had called Mahloof back because the MP had said he would pay Adeeb back.

“I don’t have to pay you, I would only have to pay back if I’d taken money from you. I don’t have to pay back campaign money. Why are you speaking so much of me, my wife, of stabbings and drugs? We don’t have to go to that level,” Mahloof said.

“I don’t talk. I’m not one to talk, if I wanted to do something, I act,” Adeeb replied.

When Mahloof maintained he did not owe any money, Adeeb says: “Yeah OK, hold on then. Let’s see if you dare to remain that way.”

Adeeb has called the recording fake and said it indicated the Galholu South MP was getting “desperate.” 

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile condemned the attempted break in at Mahloof’s house, and accused Speaker Abdulla Maseeh and the government of negligence in affording parliamentarians security.

The MDP noted threats against opposition MPs had caused the Inter-Parliamentary Union to classify the Maldives as one of the most dangerous countries to be an MP.

At today’s People’s Majilis sitting, Mahloof went up to Speaker Abdulla Maseeh’s desk and demanded that he be provided protection before he was “murdered.”

He also tweeted last night saying telecom provider Dhiraagu had called him to inform him that an individual pretending to be Mahloof had requested his mobile number be disconnected. The caller had told Dhiraagu Mahloof’s mobile phone had been lost.

Mahloof was recently expelled from the PPM for allegedly defaming President Abdulla Yameen.

PPM accused Mahloof of making statements that could undermine public confidence in President Yameen as well as misleading the public regarding the arrest of former Defense Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, Mahloof said: “I was removed from the party just like how the Auditor General and Supreme Court Justices were removed. In haste, without due process.”

Last week, Home Minister Umar Naseer alleged that a man armed with a knife and a hammer broke into his apartment building.

“A person broke the window and entered the adjacent apartment with a knife. He escaped when a woman screamed. Left a knife and a hammer,” read a tweet from the home minister the following morning.

The break-in came amidst shocking allegations of rifts within President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet. Dismissed Defence Minister Nazim last week accused Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb of using rogue police officers to plant a pistol and three bullets in his apartment.

Nazim is currently in police custody standing trial for smuggling illegal weapons.

Nazim’s lawyers told the Criminal Court Adeeb threatened to “destroy” Nazim during a conference call with Naseer. The home minister had informed President Yameen of the threat at the time, he claimed.

Adeeb told Minivan News he was “shocked” by Nazim’s lawyer’s “lies.”

Related to this story

PPM disciplinary committee decides to expel MP Mahloof

Man armed with knife, hammer breaks into home minister’s apartment building

Ex-defence minister “plotted to attack” president, police chief, tourism minister

Adeeb framed Nazim after fallout over Malé City’s Areca palms, lawyers claim

35 percent of Asian MPs’ human rights cases from Maldives, says IPU


Man armed with knife, hammer breaks into home minister’s apartment building

A man armed with a knife and a hammer broke into the apartment adjacent to Home Minister Umar Naseer’s apartment last night.

Naseer, in a tweet at 7:02am today, stated the man had entered into the apartment next door by breaking a window and fled when a woman living in the apartment screamed, leaving behind a knife and a hammer.

The Maldives Police Services have confirmed a break-in had been reported to the police at around 7:30pm on Wednesday night. Police are treating the break in as a case of attempted robbery. The police have also confiscated the knife and hammer found at the scene for further investigation.

The break-in comes amidst shocking allegations of rifts within President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet. Recently dismissed Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim last week accused Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb of using rogue police officers to plant a pistol and three bullets in his apartment.

Nazim is currently in police custody standing trial for smuggling illegal weapons.

Adeeb had ordered Specialist Operations (SO) police officers to chop down all of Malé City’s Areca palms in October, he alleged. Nazim subsequently lodged a complaint with President Yameen, angering Adeeb, the former defence minister’s lawyers said in court on March 7.

Lawyers told the Criminal Court Adeeb threatened to “destroy” Nazim during a conference call with Naseer. The home minister had informed President Yameen of the threat at the time, he claimed.

Naseer declined to comment on the matter to local media.

Adeeb has hit back at the defence’s claims saying he was “shocked” by the “lies.”

Meanwhile,  MP Ahmed Mahloof requested the People’s Majlis national security committee to investigate President Abdulla Yameen’s July 2014 decision to reduce the home minister’s powers.

Mahloof – recently expelled from ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – claimed President Yameen barred the home minister from initiating police investigations after he ordered the police to look into senior government officials using police platoons to commit criminal activities.

Article 16 of the Police Act allows the home minister to command individual police officers of any rank, and gives him powers equal to that of top police officials. However, the same article also states the president may limit these powers.

Newspaper Haveeru claimed that the presidential decision came after Naseer ordered police to investigate criminal accusations against Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Speaking on pro-government DhiTV on Tuesday, Naseer said if he could influence an ongoing trial, he would “meddle” in the illegal weapons smuggling charge against Nazim.

But “trials must run their course,” he said, noting President Yameen’s policy was not to interfere in the judiciary.

“I’d like to tell Nazim’s supporters and his family, there are three stages in any trial. It doesn’t end with the Criminal Court,” he said.

He described Nazim as a very close friend and “a national hero” who had made invaluable services to the nation during a time of “immense difficulty.”

“I pray for justice for Nazim,” he said.

Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed yesterday asked the Criminal Court to summon Naseer as a witness in the illegal weapons trial to prove Adeeb had threatened the former defence minister.

State prosecutors at yesterday’s hearing claimed documents in a pen drive confiscated along with the weapons indicated Nazim was planning to attack President Yameen, Adeeb and Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed.

Related to this story

Ex-defence minister “plotted to attack” president, police chief, tourism minister

Adeeb framed Nazim after fallout over Malé City’s Areca palms, lawyers claim

President has reduced home minister’s powers, claims Haveeru

Police deny framing Nazim as former Commissioner alleges politicisation


High Court rules that MPs’ police obstruction cases cannot be refiled

The High Court has today overruled a decision made by the Criminal Court to accept a previously withdrawn police obstruction case involving MPs Ali Waheed and Ahmed Mahloof.

The case was first filed in the Criminal Court by the Prosecutor General (PG) on 9 November 2010 before being withdrawn twenty days later.

The public prosecutor had argues that the initial case was only withdrawn temporarily while police investigated a related incident.

After the case was again filed in the Criminal Court, defense lawyers of Ali Waheed – which includes former Attorney General Husnu Suood – invoked procedural issues saying that the case could not be refiled.

According to the High Court, on 12 September 2012 the Criminal Court ruled it would proceed with the case, stating that the PG had full authority under the article 5 of the Prosecutor General’s Act to do so.

Ali Waheed subsequently appealed the decision at the High Court, arguing that the PG did not have the authority to re-submit a case without first bringing changes to it.

The High Court’s ruling stated that there were three situations where the PG could withdraw a case filed at a court: to revise the case, to withdraw a case without specifying any reason, or to withdraw a case after telling the court that that the office did not wish to proceed.

The ruling today said that the PG had sent a letter to the Criminal Court on November 29, 2010, asking it to send all the files concerning the case, and that the PG had not stated that the case was being withdrawn for revision.

The High Court said that PG lawyers had explained the withdrawal was because the PG had asked for police to investigate a case where a group of people stormed into the Civil Service Commission. Both cases were related, but the police had not concluded the investigation when hearings into the first case had started.

Ali Waheed was charged with obstruction of police duty during an anti-government protest he had participated in while a member of the then opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).  Waheed, who has since defected to the Maldivian Democratic Party in May 2011, was charged for breaching article 75 of Maldives Police Services Act.

During the hearings held at the High Court, Assistant Public Prosecutor Hussain Nashid claimed that the charges had only been dropped “temporarily” in a bid to respect the “fairness” of criminal trials.

Nashid also argued that the PG had the discretionary power to decide upon the procedures as to how criminal charges can be filed.

Both Waheed and Mahloof were elected to parliament as representatives of the DRP. However, following the split of the DRP into two factions, both Waheed and Mahloof chose to leave the party.

Mahloof went onto join the Progressive Party of Maldives, the party formed by followers of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.


Commonwealth envoy criticises conduct in parliament, MPs raise bribe allegations

The Commonwealth has expressed disappointment at attempts to stifle parliament yesterday in a week that has seen the international organisation facing allegations it had been bribed by anti-government supporters.

Having witnessed the chaotic protests that occurred inside the Majlis yesterday as Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs heckled and unsuccessfully tried to prevent President Waheed from giving an address, Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon issued a statement criticising the developments.

As well as stressing disappointment at the “manner” in which the opening session of parliament was conducted yesterday, the special envoy also raised concerns over the “security situation” in the nation.

McKinnon therefore called for maximum restraint from all sides of the political spectrum after violent clashes between civilians and security forces gripped the capital.

The statement comes on the back of a controversial few days for the Commonwealth and its relationship with the Maldives, with the organisation accused of political bias and even taking bribes by the MDP.

Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed has claimed the opposition MDP have bribed the Commonwealth after the body’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) called for early elections on Friday.

CMAG—the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm—said elections were necessary to legitimise the executive after former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged his deposition on February 7 was through a bloodless coup d’état.

Speaking on local television Dhi TV’s “From the News” programme on Saturday, Riyaz also accused the CMAG of intimidation, called the British Queen “physically challenged” and said the United Kingdom was “not a democracy.”

Riyaz was joined by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof, who threatened the country could potentially leave the Commonwealth should the intergovernmental organization repeat its call for early general elections.

Riyaz’s DQP is among the alliance of seven parties that support President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

Bribery and Intimidation

CMAG—authorized to assess infringement of the Commonwealth’s political values—has come under intense criticism following its call for early elections. The Maldives government called the CMAG’s statement “biased” and said it may reconsider its membership in the commonwealth.

Riyaz said the CMAG representatives in the Maldives “were slaves who have been bought by the MDP”, and only wanted to “reinstate the MDP to power”.

British citizens had supported and financed the MDP’s rise to power in return for permission to establish churches in the Maldives, he claimed. He also said the British hated the Maldives for having gained independence.

“What have the Commonwealth done for us? Why do we have to comply with them? That is the question. The English hate us. Why? Because Ibrahim Nasir saved us from slavery and brought us independence, since then what have the English done for us?” he said.

The CMAG’s elections calls were an act of intimidation, Riyaz said. “They come here and intimidate us, intimidate the president, intimidate the political parties, we will not be intimidated. This government will not be intimidated. The political parties will not be intimidated”.

“We know what the commonwealth is concerned about,” he said, “We know the current president [Waheed] will not drink alcohol from the same cup with them [as Nasheed did]”.

Riyaz repeated the government’s stance that early elections can only be held after constitutional amendments.

“Has the Commonwealth lost all sanity?”

Riyaz claimed the MDP was a terrorist organisation and condemned CMAG’s allegd lack of criticism at the time regarding MDP’s continued protests. “Has the Commonwealth lost all sanity? Are they sane? Are they sane? Is the Commonwealth sane? Who gave them visas to come here? They must not be allowed here,” he said.

The CMAG’s lack of action over the detention of senior then-opposition leaders during Nasheed’s administration were further evidence of their bias, he suggested.

He also appeared to threaten the CMAG saying, “I say very firmly and clearly, if they want to have security and leave safely, there are certain sovereign issues that they must not interfere with, if they were to, we are Maldivians, we will not be submissive.”

The Commonwealth Secretary General’s special envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon arrived in the Maldives on Friday to resolve the current political crisis. He met with former President Nasheed on Saturday and met with President Waheed on Sunday.

The body suspended Fiji in 2009, after the country’s military seized power in 2006.

The Queen is “Physically Challenged”

Riyaz attempted to discredit the Commonwealth’s commitment to democracy by slandering the British Queen and claiming the UK was not a democracy.

“Look, the Queen has been in power for 50 years. Is that good? No, that’s inappropriate. If we wanted to point fingers, we can,” he said.

“Ater 50 years, the English Queen, she is physically challenged. But she is still Queen, and if she wants she can remove the Prime Minister. Where is democracy? Where is democracy? That is not a democracy,” he added.

Ironically, he also said he planned to submit a bill to parliament to give former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom the same status and respect as the Queen since Gayoom had ruled the country for 30 years and was responsible for all development the country had seen.

Commonwealth Membership

Gayoom’s PPM MP Mahloof said he also “shared Riyaz’s frustrations.” However, he appeared to be more diplomatic highlighting the Commonwealth’s assistance during the drafting of the new constitution.

He echoed Riyaz in saying early elections would destroy the constitution.

“Their help and support is very important,” he said. “But if they tell us to destroy the constitution, we can only say sorry! For example, if the Commonwealth’s final decision is that we need to hold elections before 2013, then we will leave the Commonwealth before they suspend us! Why not?”

Mahloof said he believed the MDP’s only hope now was the Commonwealth with the party stepping up its protests over the past week to influence the CMAG’s decision.

“If the Commonwealth’s decision is to suspend Maldives, then I believe the Maldives should not join the Commonwealth ever again. We saw why the Commonwealth suspended countries such as Pakistan. [Military] went out with guns and shot [people], that was the level at which government was changed. It did not reach that level here,” he said.


American scientist’s car set on fire in Addu

The police are investigating an apparent arson attack on a car used by a team of American scientists conducting research in Addu.

South police division Commander, Superintendent Yoonus Sobah told Minivan News that police were alerted to the incident around 12:51am on Sunday. The fire was put out when the police team reached the scene.

Sobah said it is too soon to say whether the fire was a deliberate attack or a random incident.

“We are continuing the investigation. So far we have not found any evidence to prove the fire was set deliberately,” Sobah said.

The car was rented by the American research team involved in the Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) project based on Gan in Addu atoll.

According to DYNAMO project Research Assistant Justin Stachnik, one of 13 American researchers currently in Addu, the car was parked outside the house they are currently residing in Hithadhoo.

He said the details of the incident remains “unclear”, and it was the neighbours who spotted the fire and put it out.

“What I believe happened was that someone put a half litre of petrol between the tire and the outer gate wall, ignited it and ran away. The tire burned and popped, there’s some damage to the metal and the bumper, as well as the electrical system–some of the wires have been fried,” Stachnik said. “But overall, the damage is fairly minimal.”

From looking at the char and soot marks in the car, outer wall and the leaves in an overhanging tree, Stachnik estimates the flame was between three and three-and-a-half metres high.

Although “there is no doubt” that the act was intentional, Stachnik does not believe it was “directed specifically at him by an organised group.”

Stachnik said neighbors have told him that nothing like this has happened before.

According to a senior official at Addu City Council, the office has received reports that the research team is seldom disturbed by some locals who “dislike” foreigners or non Muslims.

The official attributed the fire incident to the recent increase in religious tensions and the December 23 protest, which he claimed has exacerbated religious intolerance in Addu.

“We have received information that some parents with extreme views are telling their children the American scientists are Kafir [non muslims] and they must not speak to them. It is possible the fire was set by the children as a prank,” he said.

However, Stachnik who arrived in the Maldives nine days ago to track tropical rainfall during the final intensive leg of Project DYNAMO said that aside from the car incident, the team has been warmly welcomed to the area.

“People are smiling and saying hello as I go by on my bike, sometimes stopping to offer help if I need anything. The grocer had us over for dinner the other night and some people have been making plans for picnic boat rides to other islands.” He said he hasn’t heard of any discrimination against foreigners.

Project DYNAMO is a component of the first in-depth study of equatorial tropical storms between the Maldives and Papua New Guinea, designed by the US Energy Department’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) climate research facility.

It is scheduled to finish in April.

Meanwhile opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has condemned the attack on the car.

Spokesperson for PPM and MP Ahmed Mahloof alleged that the government is behind the fire incident claiming it is part of a “government conspiracy to provoke conflict between the opposition and foreigners”.

“Foreigners have been coming to this country for a long time and they have always been living in harmony with the local community. However, the attack is suspicious because it happened not long after the December 23 protest. The government is trying to defame the opposition and religious groups by conspiring against us,” Mahloof accused.