Progressive coalition will dissolve if Gasim runs for speaker, says PPM

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has announced that the ruling coalition will dissolve if the coalition partner Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim stands as speaker of the newly elected People’s Majlis.

The 18th People’s Majlis is due to be sworn in tomorrow, with the new speaker to be elected by secret ballot.

Gasim has responded by saying he will not retract his name, claiming the PPM was the first to breach the coalition agreement made during November’s presidential elections.

“Truth is, they have been trying to kick us out of the coalition for a long time now,” Gasim told the press today.

After coming third in the presidential polls, Gasim’s support was crucial in securing a win for the PPM against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Gasim’s support was given in exchange for a 35 percent stake in executive political postings and a promise to work together during subsequent local government and parliament elections.

The Progressive Coalition secured a combined total of 53 out of 85 seats in parliamentary polls, no party won enough seats to reach the 43-vote simple majority alone.

Who broke the agreement?

PPM deputy leader, and minister of tourism, Ahmed Adeeb further warned last night that he would request President Abdulla Yameen replace JP political appointees should Gasim stand as speaker.

“From [Gasim’s] actions, we are seeing him working together with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to acquire the speaker’s seat,” said Adeeb.

“As MDP worked to present obstacles to this government when they held parliamentary majority, we cannot accept a coalition member working alongside them,” he continued.

PPM leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had also written to Gasim, describing a recent meeting with MDP leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed as being against the “coalition’s spirit”.

During the meeting at Gasim’s residence last month, Nasheed had signalled the MDP’s support for Gasim – a stance reiterated today.

Gasim subsequently called a press conference today during which he argued it was not his party but the PPM, which had breached the agreement.

Holding up the agreement, he said coalition partners had agreed to hold discussions to resolve any issues not included therein.

The PPM had unilaterally informed him they would nominate separate candidates for the position, said the JP leader, who also complained of not receiving the party’s quota of appointments.

“The agreement says 35 per cent of political appointments will be given to us, which would amount to between 90 to 40 posts when we consider the total number of political appointments in this government. However, today we have only about 29 slots,” Gasim explained.

Gasim stated that he had received the support of President Yameen, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, and Adeeb prior to publicly announcing his candidacy.

“Nazim and Adeeb said it’s a good decision and wished me luck. No one asked me to not put my name forward or mentioned they wanted to further discuss the matter. Then without any notice, they make this announcement about breaking up the coalition,” Gasim said.

“I will always work for the rights of the people. We do not want another administration where the president can unilaterally call the shots on all matters. We need a democratic system,” he continued.

JP MP Ahmed Sameer added that the coalition agreement signed by Gayoom and Deputy Leader Abdu Raheem explicitly stated that the agreement will be in effect until November 11, 2018.

“So how can they just break up the coalition like this? What more is there to say about people like them? Where is the justice in these actions of theirs?” Sameer asked.

“Parliament must be led by PPM”

Speaking to local media yesterday, President Yameen said he believed Gasim must withdraw from the speakership claiming it to be the “general norm around the world” for the majority party to hold the speaker’s seat.

Contrary to the JP’s claims, he claimed that the PPM had sent Gasim a number of letters and held discussions on the matter.

The PPM yesterday announced that it planned to nominate the party’s parliamentarians Abdulla Maseeh and Abdu Raheem Abdulla for speaker and deputy speaker, respectively.

Current Deputy Speaker of parliament Ahmed Nazim – affiliated with the PPM – has also expressed interest in the position, though Yameen has expressed confidence that Nazim would not run against the party’s wishes.

Meanwhile, the deputy leader of second coalition partner the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), Ahmed Amir, has also announced he will be running for speaker.

Saying that the PPM announced its nominees after he had already decided to contest,  Amir said he had no intention of withdrawing his name, though the PPM has promised action against any competing coalition candidates.

The MDP announced last Friday (May 23) that the party’s 25 MPs-elect would back a candidate who support’s the parties policies, including judicial reform, empowerment of local councils as well as the introduction of a progressive income tax and a minimum wage.

Following the signing of three out of the five independent candidates elected to the 18th parliament, the PPM currently has 37 seats, followed by the opposition MDP with 25 seats, the JP with 15 seats, the MDA with five seats, and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party with one seat.


Gasim will have to withdraw candidacy for Majlis speaker, says President Yameen

Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim “will have to withdraw” his candidacy for speaker of the 18th People’s Majlis, due to be sworn in on Wednesday (May 28), President Abdulla Yameen has said.

Speaking to reporters this morning prior to his departure to India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi, Yameen said that “a lot of discussion” has taken place with the JP leader on the issue of the speakership.

“The party has informed Gasim twice in writing of our position as well as what could happen as a result of [Gasim contesting for speaker]. However, Gasim has not accepted it yet,” Yameen said.

The “fraternity” of the Progressive Coalition – made up of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), JP and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – could be adversely affected if the business tycoon sought the speaker’s post, Yameen warned.

The “common practice” across the world was for the speaker of parliament to belong to the party with the most number of seats, he contended.

“So other parties in the coalition putting forward names is not commonly done,” he said.

While Gasim has not responded to the PPM’s last letter, Yameen said the ruling party was still open for talks with the coalition partner.

“But I don’t know what else we could do for Gasim. Gasim will just have to withdraw his name the way I see it. There isn’t anything more we could do for Gasim at this point,” he added.

Internal strife

In the wake of the president’s remarks today, JP Secretary General Ahmed Sameer told local media that the party’s council will hold a meeting to decide its stance.

The next speaker will be elected through secret ballot at the first sitting of the 18th People’s Majlis on Wednesday.

Yameen meanwhile revealed that the PPM’s parliamentary group had decided yesterday to nominate MPs-elect Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed for speaker and Abdul Raheem Abdulla for deputy speaker following consultation with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Asked about PPM MP Ahmed Nazim’s bid for the speaker’s post, Yameen said the outgoing deputy speaker was free to contest independently of the party, but expressed confidence that “a person as responsible as Nazim” would not do so.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb – deputy leader of the PPM – has meanwhile claimed  that allegations of corruption that surfaced in the press last week were linked to his refusal to support certain individuals for the speaker’s post.

Adeeb claimed that MP Nazim was behind the corruption allegations, which are currently under investigation by both the Anti-Corruption Commission and auditor general’s office.

Adeeb said he could not back Nazim as he was suspected of “blackmail” and “corruption” and declared his support for Maseeh.

“This problem [corruption allegations] has come up because my stand is strong inside the PPM. I am accused of these things because I take the stand that is most beneficial to the country. And because I have influence within PPM,” he was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

Zero-sum game

Maseeh, Raheem, and Nazim were re-elected in the March 22 parliamentary polls, which saw the Progressive Coalition secure a combined total of 53 out of 85 seats.

However, neither party won enough seats to reach the 43-vote simple majority on its own.

Following the signing of three out of the five independent candidates elected to the 18th parliament, the PPM currently has 37 seats, followed by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with 25 seats, the JP with 15 seats, the MDA with five seats, and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party with one seat.

MDP MP-elect for the Thimarafushi constituency, Mohamed Musthafa, also signed for the ruling party a week after the parliamentary polls.

While the PPM and MDA together have 42 seats, PPM MPs-elect Ahmed Mahloof and Ahmed Nihan revealed after the parliamentary elections that the pair had pledged their support for Gasim’s bid to become speaker during negotiations for forming the Progressive Coalition ahead of last year’s presidential election runoff.

However, PPM Leader Gayoom told local media this week that Gasim was not promised the speaker’s post as part of the coalition agreement between the parties.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed – acting president of the MDP – signalled the opposition party’s support for Gasim following a meeting at the business tycoon’s residence last month.

The MDP announced last Friday (May 23) that the party’s 25 MPs-elect would back a candidate who support’s the parties policies, including judicial reform, empowerment of local councils as well as the introduction of a progressive income tax and a minimum wage.


Selfies and suspensions – The Weekly Review

May 17th – 23rd

The start of the AFC Challenge Cup and that selfie dominated headlines and twitter feeds this week.

Talk of national unity and a belief that the tournament could be a springboard for the advancement of the nation’s football will continue as the Maldives rode their luck to make it into next week’s semi-finals.

Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed’s luck also appeared to hold out this week as police announced investigations into the justice’s alleged appearance in a sex-tape were being suspended.

The Maldivian Democratic Party declared that this, along with the judicial watchdog’s failure to make headway with its own investigation, to be evidence of a justice system unable to deliver justice.

With criticism also coming from President Abdulla Yameen regarding the Judicial Services Commission’s failure to conclude cases in a timely fashion, the JSC stated that all procedures were being followed.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continued to strengthen its grip on judicial administration with new regulations. The court was also said to have played a leading role in the decision to change the judge in the alcohol smuggling trial of governing coalition leader Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.

Despite only one hearing having been held regarding the two-year-old charges, Shiyam had expressed concern that the presiding judge’s demeanour had indicated a personal grudge against him. Judge Abdulla Mohamed has taken over the case.

The Family Court was said to have ejected two representatives of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) this week, though the court itself denied the claims. A regional report from Transparency International urged the government to further empower the commission in order to fight graft.

The ACC received a case last week accusing Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb of using state-owned companies to withdraw millions of dollars which has not been repaid – charges Adeeb has refuted.

The government announced this week that it will soon empower one company to build the fabled Malé–Hulhulé bridge, with bidding set to open early next month. While plans for the US$7 million renovation of IGMH were also revealed.

With three minors convicted this week in relation to a fatal stabbing, the recent decision to facilitate the reintroduction of the death penalty again made international headlines. Former Home Minister Hassan Afeef, however, questioned the government’s sincerity in moving to end the sixty year moratorium.

Speaking at the country’s third Finance Forum this week, Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Dr Azeema Adam called for the government to work in concert with society to cut expenditure before a panel of experts discussed how to attract foreign investment.

The investments of the Foreign Ministry during 2011 were questioned by the auditor general this week, while the mayor of Malé City Council questioned the Finance Ministry’s assistance in the capital’s growing waste management problems.

The details of the deputy mayor’s run-in with a fellow council member – since suspended – were caught on tape. Progressive Party of Maldives councillor Ahmed Mamnoon bragged to Shifa Mohamed that he was a ‘gunda’ – thug/gangster.

Working alongside their Sri Lankan counterparts, the police this week returned convicted drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak to the Maldives after he overstayed his medical leave.

Meanwhile, seven former employees of Sheraton’s Full Moon resort were escorted from the island by police, alleging that their dismissal was linked to their union activities.

Police also dismantled a youth hangout in Villimalé, leading to criticism from local MP Ahmed Nihan who questioned the police’s approach to dealing with the youth.

In the atolls this week, a “benchmark” low carbon emission project was launched in Laamu while a continuing drought in Haa Alif atoll caused the islanders on Ihavandhoo to pray for rain.


PPM leader Gayoom announces membership drive

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) will undertake a membership drive, former president and leader of ruling party Maumoon Abdul Gayoom announced on Saturday.

At a meeting with the incumbent and newly elected PPM parliamentarians, Gayoom asserted that it was vital to further strengthen the party in order to ensure that it remains in government. He stated that the best way to do so is to increase the general membership.

He announced that the party has selected a ‘task force’ to undertake the work of increasing membership, and that work has already commenced in several atolls.


Nasheed backs Gasim for Speaker

Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has declared support for Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim as Speaker of the newly elected People’s Majlis.

Speaking to the media following a meeting with Gasim on Monday night, Nasheed said his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group will make a final decision on behalf of the party.

“Our party will decide on this matter on discussion among its members, within the National Executive Council. Tonight, I met Gasim and we held discussions in a very friendly atmosphere. So I hope the outcome will be beneficial to both parties,” Nasheed said.

Gasim placed third in the 2013 presidential elections and successfully sought a revote. After Gasim placed third for a second time, Nasheed sought his backing for the second round. However, the JP decided to back Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

On its presidential win, the PPM and JP formed a coalition – the Progressive Coalition – along with two smaller parties. The coalition fielded joint candidates in the parliamentary elections in March. The PPM won 33 seats, the JP 15 and the MDP 26.

Tension has risen within the coalition on the question of which party should control the Speaker’s position.

Nasheed told the media that he agreed to support Gasim without any conditions and that there were benefits for the MDP and the JP from supporting Gasim as Speaker.

Gasim said all parties must come together and discuss over important issues in a democracy.

He told the press he will hold discussions with President Yameen to obtain backing from the PPM for his Speaker bid.

Meanwhile, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is also PPM’s honorary leader spoke to newspaper ‘Haveeru’ at the airport after arriving from Srilanka and said that the normal procedure followed when appointing a Speaker of the parliament in most countries was selecting someone from the party that has the most number of MPs.

Gayoom said that PPM had not decided on the issue and will hold more discussions within the party in the upcoming days.

He also said that Gasim had told him about his interest in becoming the Speaker of parliament and said that he had not agreed to it.

In March 2014, President Abdulla Yameen said that PPM will forward its own candidate for the position of speaker of the People’s Majlis.

Parliament should be an institution that “sincerely and responsibly” fulfils the duty bestowed by the public, Yameen told his supporters in speaking at a rally at the time to celebrate the Progressive Coalition’s garnering of a 53 seat majority in Majlis elections.

“For this reason, our party wants the speaker’s post in the next People’s Majlis,” he said during the rally.

Previously, local media reported PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof as saying that both he and fellow re-elected PPM MP Ahmed Nihan had pledged to support Gasim’s candidacy for speaker while negotiating during the 2013 presidential election.

Mahloof suggested that the nomination of a PPM candidate would be likely to cause a rift within the Progressive Coalition, and would be a decision he would find difficult to support

The election of the new speaker – a position that was held by the MDP’s Abdulla Shahid in the previous parliament session – is scheduled to take place through a secret ballot of MPs at the first sitting of the new session.

Majlis regulations note that the speaker “shall be the highest authority of the People’s Majlis responsible for the conduction of all matters pertaining to the People’s Majlis including the administration, the sittings and the committees of the People’s Majlis in accordance with the Constitution and the Regulations.”

The speaker is also charged with preserving “order and decorum” within the Majlis, as well as observance of the institution’s regulations.


Legendary performer Meynaa Hassaan bids farewell to music

The news came out yesterday – famous musician ‘Meyna’ Hassaan is going to end his musical career at 49-years-old. His final performance will be at Raalhugandu – the capital Malé City’s surf spot – tonight at 8:30pm.

The farewell show’s title ‘Hayyaru Kurumuge Kurin’ (‘Before being arrested’) refers to the fact that Hassaan has been summoned to the Criminal Court on a drug-related case and may soon end up in prison.

His potential incarceration is not the reason Hassaan is ending his musical career, however. His carefully considered decision has been made – in his own words – “to move away from heroin and to move closer to God”.

Tonight’s nostalgic show is going to be as fun and enjoyable as his performances from the nineties, Hassaan promised, with the catchy, hummable, sing-along hits from his earlier albums alongside brand new material.

The lineup – ‘Hassaan and Friends’  – will feature the famous traditional boduberu group ‘Habeys’ – just some of the fellow musicians who will play alongside Hassaan for free this evening. Indeed, the whole show is without any corporate sponsorship.

For Hassaan, the show is very personal and comes with with a personal message. As well as sharing good music, the main objective of the show is to transmit a message regarding heroin addiction – something the majority of Maldivians are directly or indirectly affected by.

“I want to warn the people of Maldives against heroin and drugs. Because I have struggled with it, I lost my family and everything, my whole life was ruined. I want to share my experience. My intention now is to do everything I can to help everyone, old and young, to get out of heroin [addiction],” Hassaan explained.

Musical beginnings

Meyna Hassaan (Hassaan Mohamed) is from Holhudhoo in Noonu Atoll, grandson of the famous Meyna Kaleyfaanu – founder of one of the first schools in the country.

Hassaan’s unique style of music and poetry can be described as melodic, Maldivian, and relatable. The combination of traditional beats and rhythm accompanied by unique Dhivehi lyrics makes him the most ‘Maldivian’ in the modern local music scene. It is for this reason he has received such huge support across generations. His music reflects his poetry, and his poetry reflects the Maldivian traditions, environment, lifestyle, and ethos.

The roots of Hassaan’s music and poetry lie in his childhood. His father was well versed in the Dhivehi language, while his grandmother was a poet who used to sing lullabies and educational and religious songs. Hassaan was also influenced by the Quranic literary form and the local form of melodious recitations.

His brother’s ‘music band’ with home-made instruments also influenced him greatly, along with a musician who was banished to the island when he was young. By the time he was twelve, Hassaan had started writing his own poetry as well as singing and dancing at ‘Hithaanee’ circumcision functions.

“Poetry usually comes to me when I am by myself, and it usually comes in rhymes and in metric forms. I dont have to sit down and fit them, it just comes naturally like that. Then as soon as I write them down and learn it by heart it becomes a song in my head. There it is…and when I go sing it to a musician, they will play some chords and it would all fit perfectly and become a real song.”

In the nineties Saikura Ibrahim Naeem, a poet himself, labelled Hassaan ‘Eesa Dhari’ – a poet from folklore, known for spontaneously making ‘raivaru’ form of poetry after being touched by the raivaru monster’s tongue.

Hassaan came to Malé to study at around 15-years-0ld and soon found himself missing the sound of his brother’s music practice so much that he found it hard to even sleep. Hassaan promptly started his own band with his own friends.

At just 16-years-old he took a job at his brother’s tourist resort, studying in Malé only in the off-season. This is where his musical career and the mixing of traditional and modern musical styles would begin.

Rannaalhi resort would also be the birthplace of the legendary group ‘Zero Degree Atoll’ (ZDA). The band’s member ‘Mohoj’ was a manager at the resort who would meet Nashid and perform at the resort on the weekends. Hassaan would join them, knowing how to please the crowd by mixing Italian and other languages with his poetry.

Rise to fame

Around 1988, Hassaan went with the ZDA group on a trip across the islands to collect the natural and cultural sounds of the Maldives – to be included in their ‘Dhoni’ album. On the trip they gave a show in Naifaru, in Lhaviyani atoll, which would be Hassaan’s first real public performance. The support he got was noted by Nashid and the other musicians who subsequently asked Hassaan to perform with them in Malé.

It was through his performance at the ‘Dhivehi Fannaanun Ge Musikee Eedh’  – an annual music festival for local artists – that the whole country would come to discover Hassaan’s music.

In 1992 he released his first two albums ‘Maldives Fantasy’ and ‘Maldives Ecstasy’.

“After that it seemed impossible to give a show in Malé without my participation. The fame had an impact on my personal life as well. By that time I had already started thinking about leaving the profession,” Hassaan recalled.

His performances were particularly praised by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and he soon received a government scholarship to study music in India.

“I was doing really good there, but after an year I lost interest. If I really had a full interest in music, I would have produced more songs though my career. After the first few years [of my career] I started losing interest in it. I loved God too much to focus on these things. I keep singing because of other people’s influence. Wherever I am people see me as a singer.”

This would Hassaan’s first turn towards religion, and his first attempt to quit music. He would grow a beard, wear more Arabic clothing, and spend most of his time in the mosque. He was trying to “live a clean life”, as he puts it.

Fall and return

“Whatever I do, I have to do it right. I can’t follow Islam in parts, I have to follow it completely. But the government at the time did not like that, so I was arrested while I was at the mosque – my beard was shaved with chilli sauce and I spent around forty days in Gaamaadhoo Prison. I thought there was no escape from this whether I do good or bad. I realised there were no democratic or Islamic values here.”

He was asked to write a letter to President Gayoom justifying and detailing his lifestyle change, after which the president himself met Hassaan and offered his unsolicited religious advice. Gayoom explained to him that another man named Hassaan (a companion of the prophet) had used his skills in poetry to prevent a war during the prophet Muhammad’s time.

Hassaan was not convinced that his songs could in any way be compared to this other Hassaan’s poetry. But he felt he had no choice but to return to music as requested by the president.

Hassaan performed at some major shows after the return, such as the O’Neil Deep Blue Open surf event in 2003, the One World Beat music festival to help children with HIV/AIDS in 2004, and the Dhidhooo Eid Festival in 2005.

After another break he returned to music once again in 2007, now describing himself as a moderate Muslim. During this period he released the ‘Oivaru’ album.

Hassaan subsequently disappeared once again from the music scene, returning around 2010. In 2011 he was seen with Maldivian Democratic Party – something he states was based on principles rather than on money – with his political performances being seen as recently as March’s parliamentary elections.


Hassaan, like thousands of others around the country, went through a great deal of suffering from heroin addiction for a large part of his life.

“It was around 1996 I think, back then people didn’t have a clue about what heroin really was. A friend would give you some and you would use it, a few days later you realise you absolutely have to use again and then there is no escape from it. At the time people used it to get the cannabis feel, which is not such a harmful drug compared to heroin. But we should not use it either. Human beings do not need any of these drugs. A pure and clean mind is what is best for us, now I am like that.”

Within a year of being released from prison by President Gayoom, Hassaan relapsed. He stayed in Holhudhoo to escape his addiction for a while, but eventually had to return to Malé for work.

“After feeling better I would take some money from my wife before returning to Malé, I would promise her never to use again. But by the time I reache Thulhaagiri I am already thinking about certain houses in Malé. I am thinking about it before I even reach Malé. This is the level of power heroin can have over a person. To come over this strong power, we need a stronger power. And for me that is God.”

For Hassaan, the biggest encouragement to stay away from drugs came when it cost him his marriage and his relationship with his children. Without a place to live, Hassaan realised he had to be clean for good.


Escaping heroin by turning to God is the main reason Hassaan wants to quit music, as he believes music to be drawing him closer to heroin while turning to God keeps him away from it.

“We have to question ourselves about our purpose in life, we have to be courageous and fight. God has given me courage, and I have fallen in love with God. I love God more than anything else. Merely believing in God is not enough or believing in Islam is not enough. Focusing on God is the only way.”

His turning toward religion came with certain elements of the literalist Salafi form of Islam. Hassaan no longer believes in celebrating birthdays and he no longer believes music is good for people.

“I won’t say it is forbidden in Islam. I can’t tell other people what to do, but I know it has a negative impact on my behavior. It is hard to sleep at night when I get into music, so it is best to stay away from it. As soon as I returned to music I went back to heroin. Why did he [Gayoom] have to bring me back to music?”

Hassaan doesn’t believe that using drugs makes musicians any better in performing or composing, but does feel that turning to God makes him lose interest in music.

However, his body and movements during performances suggests he still loves music. Even during practice sessions last week he still seemed intoxicated with the music, dancing as if in a trance.

Hassaan admits that he still enjoys himself and to this day feels ecstatic whenever he is performing, though he maintains that he does not want to do it anymore.

He is completely abandoning music and poetry, with the exception of patriotic and religious songs without music. When asked if there is any way that he could make music and God coexist in his life, he replied:

“Please let this performance at Raalhugandu be my last. I don’t think I have many days to live.”

Hassaan requests everyone who loves him and his music to join him tonight and stand against heroin.


Home minister violates Anti-Torture Act

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has failed to publicise a document as specified in the recently passed Anti-torture Act, thereby violating the articles of the landmark legislation.

The actwhich came into force on March 22 this year – states that within 15 days of coming into force (6 April), the minister must publish a complete list of places where people are detained in state custody.

“The deadline for the home minister to make public all places of detention designated as such has passed, and it is disheartening to know that the first violation under this act has been by the state,” Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) member Jeehan Mahmoud has said.

The ministry has confirmed that it was not published by the deadline, with one official explaining that this was mainly due to issues with obtaining information from other institutions with such centres under their authority.

The official said that the ministry is attempting to publish the list by Sunday (April 13).

Within seven days of publishing the list, the ministry was also required to submit a report to the HRCM with the locations of all detention facilities and details of persons held in those places.

The ministry has assured that the compilation of this report is also currently in progress.

The act gives the HRCM overall responsibility for the implementation of the new law, empowering the commission to prevent all crimes underlined in the act by taking direct action.

Jeehan has said the commission is monitoring the deadlines and will take action against any and all schedules that are disrespected by the state.

According to the commission, a written reminder was sent to ministry as soon as the law came into force and another reminder sent yesterday. The issue will soon be discussed in the commission which will then decide on next course of action.

Criminal charges

Commenting on the issue MP Eva Abdulla, who introduced the bill to the People’s Majlis, said it was “not surprising that a government controlled by the Gayoom family would be hesitant, even reticent to implement anti-torture legislation.”

Eva said that the bill has to be implemented on schedule to address the return of torture to prisons.

“We are very concerned about reports of ill-treatment and physical abuse in the prisons again. The legislation needs to be implemented on schedule to address this and to address the feelings of past victims. Implementation needs to be flawless,” said the recently re-elected MP.

The HRCM noted last month that incidents of torture in detention are now on the rise. Minister Umar, who himself served in the National Security Service (police and military service under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom) has previously been accused of torture himself – an allegation he has always denied.

Under Article 23 (g)- 2 of the Anti-Torture Act, establishing, running or maintaining a place of detention other than those publicly announced is considered a crime.

Article 23 (g)- 3 states that failure to publish the mandatory report to HRCM is also a crime. The penalty for both is 1 – 3 years
imprisonment. Criminal offenses underlined in the act are to be investigated and forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office for prosecution.

The HRCM did not comment on the possibility of criminal charges against the home minister, stating that the commission will address the matter as mandated by the act.

Umar Naseer was unavailable for comment as he is currently abroad.


Comment: The politics of the death penalty in the Maldives

In a presidential campaign rally in 2008, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom dismissed the issue of death penalty:

“Maldivians won’t accept it. The international community no longer accepts it…this can’t be done in the Maldives.”

Five years’ on, and such a statement from a major politician seems unthinkable. In fact, in 2012, in the aftermath of the murder of Afrasheem Ali, Gayoom stated: “Death penalty is an option.”

Not mainly a religious or human rights issue

Coming from a secular liberal background, a person may conveniently blame the changing nature of this issue to a rise in ‘fundamentalist Islam’, Islamism, or Salafi puritanism.

Without denying the reality of re-Islamisation, this explanation comes partly from a fundamental fear of Islamism by secular liberals. The death penalty goes deeper than religion or liberal human rights.

While none in this debate claim that criminals should be set free, in 2008 Gayoom eloquently argued that forgiveness is more preferred in Islam. The Islamist side has been largely silent on the emphasis of mercy in Islam, thus making it difficult to limit the Islamist calls for death penalty to religion.

Even during President Amin’s time, the execution of the death penalty was not particularly meant to fulfill a religious obligation by a religious state. Amin’s constitution – based on Ceylon’s constitution granting dominion status – was one of the most secular and authoritarian of all Maldivian constitutions. Back then, Ibrahim Shihab claimed: “I could not find in the Republican Constitution any concern for Islamic principles and Divehi conventions’. Amin himself was accused of being ladini (irreligious).

Now take human rights. The right to life is the main basis for rejecting capital punishment under mainstream liberal conception of human rights. Yet, the death penalty has no equal juridical, advocacy, or enforcement status to other basic rights like freedom of religion, which has been completely denied in the Maldives.

In reality, for both sides, death penalty is about the very identity, the very nature of the state. It is indeed one test case for the ‘Islamist state’ – or the ‘secular state’, depending on which side one stands in the debate. The death penalty is about this mutual fear of the perceived influence and control by one side over the other with regards to the nature of the Maldivian state.

A matter of secular yet illiberal politics

While the death penalty may be a life-and-death issue about the nature of the state for liberals and the Islamists, the real actors and the real issues in this debate are neither religious nor liberal – though Islamism and human rights now feed into the background context of this issue.

The real actors who will determine the issue one way or the other are the secular (yet illiberal) politicians.

The real issue is instrumentalisation of religion and Islamo-nationalist sentiments of the people for political gain by ordinary politicians. This has created a vicious cycle in which every politician/party has a high premium to show their religious or Islamo-nationalist credentials, and discount the opponents’ credentials.

The result is what I call the ‘instrumentalist dilemma’ – the situation where a person (or a group) individually or privately holds a position/belief that they collectively or publically can’t hold. The instrumentalist dilemma is at play not only in the death penalty, but also in religion-based discrimination such as citizenship restriction.

Gayoom’s apparent turnaround or Foreign Minister Dunya Gayoom’s position seems to be none other than this dilemma. More clearly, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson’s recent support for it, or the MDP’s retraction of a statement rebuking the death penalty in 2012 – is this dilemma in action.

Stop the instrumentalist madness

The upshot of these instrumentalist dialectics is the irrational, out-of-hand outcome that the collective don’t necessarily want as individuals. If anything will see the death penalty implemented, it’s such secular, illiberal instrumentalist madness – not Islamism, Salafi puritanism, or religious fundamentalism.

But an outcome of madness neither serves religion nor human rights. And, much less does it address the issue of murder.

As for religion, irrespective of the question whether or not capital punishment is a religious obligation, without personal pious intention (niyah) the act doesn’t become a religious act. As for human rights, saying no to capital punishment is saying yes to the right to life.

As for murder reduction, a 2009 survey of criminologists – people who know the stuff about crimes and crime reduction – revealed that an overwhelming 88% believed death penalty was not a deterrent to murder. Similarly, murder rates have remained consistently lower in non-death penalty states over death penalty states.

Therefore, the religious and the liberals and those who are genuinely concerned about religion, human rights, or crimes should oppose this political madness, not each other.

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Saudi crown prince greeted with ceremonial welcome

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz arrived in the Maldives yesterday afternoon, being greeted at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport by President Abdulla Yameen.

After a brief meeting between the two in the airport’s VVIP lounge, the prince received a ceremonial welcome in Malé’s Republic Square, stated the President’s Office.

The Saudi Gazette has reported a joint statement after what it described as “extensive talks” with President Yameen, reiterating a determination to fight extremism and terrorism.

“The two countries also underscored the significance of boosting bilateral security cooperation in fighting piracy, drug trafficking and money laundering,” reported the Gazette.

Prince Salman, accompanied by the Saudi minister of defence and the deputy prime minister, received a seven-gun salute before being introduced to senior government officials.

The joint statement was said to highlight both countries’ basis on “moderate and tolerant principles of Islam,” with Yameen offering gratitude to King Abdullah for the support offered to the Maldives through the Saudi Development Fund.

“The leaders also discussed bilateral economic relations and ways to further strengthen them in a way serving the interests of the people of the two countries,” said the Gazette, which also reported that the prince had met with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The announcement last week of a US$100 million resort project by a Saudi real estate firm Best Choice was said to be unrelated to the royal family or the prince’s official visit.

Prince Salman’s arrival was preceded by global media interest in his reportedly lavish accommodation arrangements – said to encompass three resorts for nearly one month.

The visit – part of an Asian tour taking in India, Pakistan, and Japan – had been reported to include discussions regarding potential investments in energy, tourism, transport, and Islamic affairs, as well the provision of a soft loan facility of US$300 million.

The visit comes amid growing ties between the Yameen administration and the Saudi kingdom. Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed visited Saudi Arabia earlier this month, meeting with the Imaam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah.

The vice president stressed the importance the government placed on enhancing ties with the Arab world and in strengthening religious unity in the Maldives. Shortly after Jameel’s return, the government initiated its pledge to introduce Arabic lessons in schools as part of a drive to increase Islamic learning in the country.

Jameel’s trip followed the January visit of Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, during which time an MoU was signed regarding the increase of air traffic between the Maldives and Saudi Arabia.

After being invited by the Maldives Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed in January, the Saudi Arabian Muslim Scholars Association agreed to provide a grant of MVR1.6 million to assist in the provision of Islamic education in the Maldives.