Media Council slams Defense Ministry over threats to media

The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has expressed concern over the Ministry of Defense’s threatening the media for criticizing the dismissal of nine soldiers.

In a statement on Saturday, the Ministry of Defense threatened to take action against any party who criticized the ministry’s “routine” disciplinary actions.

The MMC – an elected 15 member council with media and public representatives – said the ministry’s statement infringes on freedom of the press and stressed that the freedom of press cannot be limited any more than is stated in the constitution.

The council appealed to the Defense Ministry to forward media complaints to the council instead of taking direct action against media outlets and reminded the Defense Ministry that the MMC is the legally authorized body to discipline any media.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has also criticized the “politically motivated and unjust” dismissal of nine high-ranking officers at the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF).

The nine were dismissed on charges of sowing discord within the military during the political tension surrounding the annulment, cancellation and delay of several round of presidential polls.

At the time, 17 high ranking officers signed a letter expressing concern over delay of polls and the repercussions in the absence of a president elect by the end of the presidential term on November 11.

Shortly afterwards, 73 mid ranking officers circulated an appeal calling on fellow soldiers not to obey “unlawful” orders issued by former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan or his political appointees following the expiry of the presidential term.

The MMC has recently expressed concern with the Supreme Court asking the police to investigate a report aired by opposition aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV.

The police on Sunday sent case documents to the Prosecutor General’s office and requested charges be filed.

The military deployed soldiers to protect media outlets in October after masked men torched Raajje TV’s headquarters. The fire completely destroyed the station’s offices.


MNDF dismisses three senior officers in ongoing firing spree

The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) dismissed Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal, Captain Abdul Muizz Musthafa and Sergeant Major Naushad Ali on Saturday.

The dismissals are the latest in a firing spree following the inauguration of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Last week, the MNDF dismissed six soldiers including former head of military intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam.

According to an MNDF statement, Shamaal had prepared a letter and collected signatures from senior and rank and file soldiers “in the guise” of supporting the Chief of Defense Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam.

However, he proceeded to leak the letter on social media “in order to reveal dissent within the military,” the statement said. The MNDF further accuses Shamaal of sowing discord within the military by speaking to rank and file soldiers.

A leaked copy of the letter expresses concern over the presidential poll delay and the repercussions should a president elect not be determined by the end of the presidential term on November 11.

Musthafa is accused of being an accomplice to Shamaal and of “intent and plans to commit dangerous acts using the troops under his captainship.”

Naushad Ali is accused of keeping his and other soldiers signing the letter a secret from his superiors.

Following the letter, the MNDF amended its regulations to punish officers who promoted “upheaval and chaos,” and several officers were suspended and Shamaal was removed from his position as the Commandant of Training and Doctrine.

In mid November as the possibility of holding presidential polls by the end of the presidential term dimmed following police obstruction and Supreme Court orders to delay elections, 73 mid ranking officers circulated an appeal calling on fellow soldiers not to obey any “unlawful” orders issued by President Dr Mohamed Waheed or his political appointees.

The nine soldiers dismissed this week are all accused of sowing discord in the military.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the dismissals as “politically motivated and unjust,” and noted that no action had been taken against the soldiers who mutinied on 7 February 2012.

“On 7 February 2012, some uniformed soldiers publicly called for the resignation of the President and Commander in Chief and protested along with the opposition at the time. They have publicly violated global norms of military discipline. The CONI report has highlighted this act and called for action against them.”

Instead of penalising mutinying soldiers, the Ministry of Defense awarded them promotions, the MDP said.

“Such actions politicize the military, undermine professionalism and demean the institution,” the MDP added.

The party also praised Brigadier Generals Shamaal and Nilam as “highly educated, experienced and professional soldiers who have maintained high standards and served for a long time in the military with sincerity.”

In response, the Ministry of Defense said it routinely takes disciplinary action against any soldier who violates the law.

“However, some political actors via some TV channels are criticising such [disciplinary] actions and are saying such actions cannot be taken against those who violate the Defense Forces Act and subsidiary regulations,” the statement said.

“Any responsible media, political party or citizen must not commit such acts for political gain. [We] strongly condemn such unlawful and politically motivated acts. [We] appeal on all parties to stop adverse unlawful acts and announce that [we] will ask the relevant authorities to take action against those who repeat such acts,” it added.

Re-appointed Minister of Defense Mohamed Nazim was a key figure in ouster of former president Mohamed Nasheed. Video footage shows Nazim telling a group of police, military and opposition activists that he had told President Nasheed to “resign without any conditions.”

Meanwhile, former Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam has told local media that his dismissal was “irresponsible and prejudiced” and said he will appeal the case through the courts.

The opportunity to establish democracy as per the 2008 constitution was “fraying and unraveling,” Nilam said.

In additional developments, Colonel Abdul Raheem was dismissed as MNDF Spokesperson and Major Hussein Ali was appointed to the position last week. The MNDF has also promoted Colonel Ali Zuhair to the rank of Brigadier General.


Civil Court orders the immediate release of Supreme Court’s key

The Civil Court of the Maldives has today ordered Ministry of Defense and National Security to release the Supreme Court’s key immediately, and allow the reinstatement of the interim Supreme Court.

The case was presented by the Prosecutor General to the Civil Court this morning. The first hearing was conducted almost immediately and the verdict was delivered this afternoon.

‘’We declare in the absence of state Attorney General’s office, to the Ministry of Defense and National Security and to all concerned authorities of the state, the key of Supreme Court should be issued to the Supreme Court at any time Supreme Court wishes immediately,’’ said Chief Judge Ali Sameer, delivering the verdict.

Citing articles 284 and 141 of the constitution, Judge Sameer declared “that no person shall hold the key of the Supreme Court without the consent of the court.’’

Judge Sameer said the PG’s office had the authority to present the case when the work of the Supreme Court was obstructed, or if the Supreme Court came to a halt by any cause, because it potentially obstructed the PG from fulfilling his responsibilities.

The judge also noted that the court order to summon the Attorney General was delivered and that the AG office failed to send representation to the court, and did not inform why.

State Defense Minister Muiz Adnan said he had not seen the verdict and would not comment until  he had read it.

When questioned according to the last declaration how long the key will be held by the military, he said  he had no information regarding the issue.

Major Abdul Raheem, also a spokesperson of Maldives National Defense Force, said the keys of all the state institutions were kept with the MNDF and issued according to a procedure established by the defence ministry.