Weapons, alcohol and petrol bottles planted to disrupt peaceful protests, says MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has claimed weapons, alcohol and petrol bottles found by the police during opposition protests over the weekend were planted to disrupt peaceful protests.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz described the weapons find as “an attempt to instil fear among the public.”

On Friday, Specialist Operations (SO) police officers claimed to have found knives, daggers and iron rods in a gunny bag hidden among the trees at Usfasgandu, minutes before the MDP and Jumhooree Party-led (JP) demonstration started.

Later that night, on a live blog covering the mass protests, police claimed to have found a cardboard box containing four bottles of whiskey and one bottle of vodka on the pavement outside the Islamic Bank at 7pm.

Last night, the police also found six bottles containing petrol hidden in a pickup, a few blocks from an opposition protest.

“It is well known that police do these kinds of things to disperse peaceful gatherings,” Shifaz said.

A police spokesperson said they are conducting a forensic analysis of the weapons discovered at Usfasgandu, and said it was “not possible to say whether there is any link between the protesters and the weapons right now.”

Over 10,000 people attended Friday’s opposition rally. Protesters called for former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and MDP MP Ali Azim’s release. Nasheed and Nazim are in jail until the conclusion of a terrorism trial while Azim was arrested from a protest last week.

Friday’s protest ended unexpectedly at 6pm, but hundreds continued scattered protests in Malé calling for Nasheed’s release.

Gang disruption

At 8:00pm a group of young men barged into the crowd, attacked protesters and journalists and vandalised opposition-aligned Raajje TV’s equipment, cutting off the station’s live feed for 20 minutes. Some of the young men had their faces covered.

Shifaz said the young men were “gangsters” and were working alongside the police to disrupt the protests.

“People in the crowd heard the police saying to the attackers ‘why didn’t you leave before we came.’ This is not hearsay. Both protesters and journalists who covered the event heard this,” he alleged.

Some protesters told Minivan News that police arrested the attackers while others said the police arrested the protesters who had tried to obstruct the attackers.

Speaking to the press on Saturday, Superintendent of Police Hamdhoon Rasheed said the police had observed several people attacking protesters.

“We know that some men went into the crowd and disrupted the protests. We are investigating the matter now,” Hamdhoon said.

The police arrested 28 people from the protest, and 10 have been remanded for 10 days. Former MDP President, Dr Ibrahim Didi, is among the detainees in police custody.

A police spokesperson told Minivan News today that “a number of people who tried to disrupt the protest” are among the ten who were remanded.

Dismissing the opposition’s allegations, the police said: “It does not make sense that people who are assigned to protect the people are also attacking them.”

Former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim has also accused the police of planting weapons at his apartment in order to frame him. The police have denounced the former minister’s claims.

The opposition has long accused the government of illicit connections with Malé’s gangs, especially after Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb led a march of 400 young men through the streets of Malé on February 19.

Adeeb has denied the claims, while ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) supporters insist the opposition’s allegations stem from the lack of youth support for the opposition.

MP Ahmed Mahloof, expelled from the PPM last week for speaking out against the government, said he had been receiving threats from gangsters since his dismissal from the party.

“I have been receiving threats from members of gangs for the past three nights after I spoke against President Abdulla Yameen. But I will not step back in fear,” the Galholu North MP tweeted on Friday.

JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim yesterday said many ruling party MPs had communicated their desire to join the opposition, but were scared due to intimidation.

“The most secure platform is that of the people. And we, MDP and JP, now hold that platform. The citizens will protect you,” he said.

Related to this story

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10,000 protest in Malé, call for President Yameen’s resignation

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Hundreds march in support of President Yameen


MDP warns of a census boycott if authorities fail to find missing journalist

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it will consider a boycott of the overdue national census if authorities fail to find missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla.

Newly elected Vice President Mohamed Shifaz said the motion would require endorsement by the party’s National Council.

Rilwan – believed to have been abducted – has now been missing for 34 days. The Maldives Police Services has been criticised for its failure to reveal information regarding the investigation.

“President Abdulla Yameen’s government has been negligent towards a Maldivian citizen. We will stand up against that negligence. So we [will ask the National Council] to endorse a boycott of a census held without Rilwan,” Shifaz told the press at a briefing this morning.

“I do want to note the importance of a census. But when we do not know what happens to Maldivians, when citizens have been disappeared, I do not believe we should proceed with a census.”

The census – scheduled to take place between September 20 and 27 – will be the first time such national data has been collected since 2006.

Locals from the island of Vilufushi in Thaa Atoll have also announced that they will be boycotting the census, due to the failure to provide permanent residents for those left homeless after the 2004 tsunami.

Department of National Planning’s Assistant Director Fathimath Riyaza has appealed to all parties to support the census, and called on the public to refrain from connecting the census to Rilwan’s disappearance.

“We, too, are extremely concerned and saddened by the journalist’s disappearance. However, it is not our job to look for and find any particular person. I call on the people to refrain from connecting these two things and to give us information about themselves.”


MDP chairperson Ali Waheed said party members had suggested the boycott and said some felt Rilwan’s disappearance was an act of terrorism by the state.

The MDP has remained quiet on the matter following a request by Rilwan’s family not to politicise the issue, but “MDP cannot remain quiet, he is a citizen just like us,” Waheed said.

Criticising President Yameen’s silence on the disappearance, Waheed said the Maldives had “gone off the tracks” since the new government assumed power.

“People are afraid. People are disappearing, and the government does not care. The truth is the government is failing. It’s been a month since a journalist has gone missing, and it does not seem to be a big deal to the government. The truth is we have regressed 30 years,” he said.

Since Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) holds a majority in the parliament, the president cannot throw off responsibility for the state of the nation, he added.

The government’s actions intimidate the press, he said and criticised the government for its failure to provide security for MPs who have also received death threats.

The MDP will embark on a series of actions to hold the government accountable, starting with a rally at the Alimas Carnival in Malé on Thursday, activating internal party committees on government accountability and preparations for upcoming local council by-elections.

The party has also set up a desk to improve relationship between the MDP leadership and councilors, he said.


Arguing there is room to believe Rilwan has been disappeared, Waheed also appealed to the government to clarify the nature of Rilwan’s disappearance.

“The government’s actions are unlike any other in a case of disappearance. Comments made by senior government officials in press conferences suggest he has been abducted. Instead of commenting directly on the matter, every one is suggested he will be found alive,” he said.

Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim last week said he had hope Rilwan would be found safe and sound.

The PPM dominated parliamentary committee on independent institutions oversight in August rejected a motion to summon and question the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and Police Integrity Commission (PIC) on Rilwan’s disappearance.

MDP MP Rozaina Adam said the party would table the same request once again.

Rilwan’s family has previously submitted a petition to the Majlis with 5000 signatures calling on MPs to find answers to questions as yet unanswered by police. Local NGO Maldives Democracy Network has also released an open letter raising a number of issues regarding the cases’s progress.


Q&A: MP Mohamed ‘Shippe’ Shifaz – Baarah constituency

In a series of interviews to lead into the the 2014 parliamentary elections – scheduled for March 22nd – Minivan News will be conducting interviews with incumbent MPs.

All 77 sitting members have been contacted, from across the political spectrum, to be asked a standardised set of questions with additional topicals. The interviews will be published as and when they are received.

As part of the series, Minivan News interviewed MP Mohamed ‘Shippe’ Shifaz.

MP Shifaz represents the Baarah constituency in Haa Alif Atoll, and is a member of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Daniel Bosley: What made you enter the political arena and how?

Mohamed Shifaz: In my constituency there are about four islands – during Gayoom’s regime there was no development in my area, there was no sewerage, no proper education, there was no harbour, there was nothing. That’s what most of the people are demanding for – their needs. But during our previous term, we didn’t provide these things – in our government, the MDP government.

DB: Based on your attendance and work in this ending term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?

MS: Very few sessions missed – my attendance is good. Also I am working in the parliamentary group – I am also one of the top level. So, I can be there. I think my constituents like me. There are not questions about my performance in parliament.

DB: What are the main committees you were acting on? What particular bills did you focus on?

MS: The General Committee and also the Government Responsibility Committee. [I worked on] freedom of media, and right to information and also the establishment of the broadcasting corporation.

DB: What would you say are the biggest achievements within your term; in terms of what you have accomplished for your constituency and the country as a whole?

MS: I think the achievement is we are establishing a new system – our democracy is very young, and also our parliament is very young, MPs also young. I believe the achievement is to change from dictatorship to democracy and also we got a lot to the people. Now they have the right to a demonstration, they have the right to media, the have many rights through the parliament, through the MDP government. So they are out achievements for the people.

DB: What would you say is the biggest mistake or worst step you have taken in your career? Why?

MS: Most of our parliamentary group MPs they have personal events, so in my career also there was something, but I think it’s not an issue. It is through the blackmailing from these coup government peoples.

DB: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR 20,000? Why or why not?

MS: Yeah – I didn’t vote for that.  I’m also taking but I didn’t vote for it. Also my constituents, they don’t have any problems with it – nobody calling. But I didn’t vote for it.

I think, in my constituencies, all these people are demanding for their own development. They are always demanding for proper education, water, sewerage – these things. They don’t care about the committee allowance, because we are spending it all to them. I think it’s separate, in my own view. It’s not a good thing, but we don’t have another choice.

DB: What is your view about parliamentarians and other public servants declaring their financial assets publicly for the electorate to be able to refer to?

MS: I don’t have any business other than this, I’m not doing anything to raise finance. So, I can do everything they need and I show statements and everything. Every year I submit to Majlis so they can collect it from me. I think it’s not a problem also.

DB: Are you re-contesting in the next elections? What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected for a new term?

MS: Yes. I think I can do it. I can do it and my constituents also, they want – because I didn’t fulfil their needs this term. I believe my job is not finished, not done yet. That’s why I need next term.

I am going achieve the water, sewerage, also the harbour, education, health sector. There are major issues, most of the people are jobless – we need to create more jobs. I think my main goal is to achieve that, jobs for them. Also the drug issues, the child abuses – this is also a very serious issue in the constituency, especially the drug issues. Most of our youngsters are the victims of these things.

DB: What improvements do you feel the 18th parliament will need to make to improve as an institution?

MS: From government, we need more support from them. They are favouring their few members – this is not the way I think. We must have these immunities, the privileges. If they want to arrest, they can arrest – anytime. We don’t have any independence to work here. I think this is from government we need support.

DB: What are your thoughts on party switching – do you think it undermines the party system?

MS: I think the party system is the only think we’ve got. Without the party system we couldn’t get anything for the people. The party is very important for the Maldives, these small nations. But I think most people that because of the party system we have some social issues, but after five or ten years everything will be fine.

DB: What do you feel the major issues of concern will be for you constituents over the next five years?

MS: The situation has not changed, several needs they are demanding so I think I am always representing from them. If they don’t want me to do something, I’m sure I will not do that. If they don’t want me to be in parliament, I will not be there.

I think the most important thing is to establish rehabilitation for the youth, I mean for drug victims. Next five years, my target is to establish a rehabilitation centre in my constituency for the drug victims.


President appoints Aasandha Board

President Mohamed Nasheed has appointed the Board of Directors for Aasandha Private Limited, the joint venture company tasked with overseeing the government’s Universal Health Insurance Program.

Ali Arif has been appointed Board Chairman, while Mohamed Shifaz, representing Allied Insurance Company of the Maldives Pvt. Ltd., is the Managing Director of Aa Sandha Pvt. Ltd.

Aasandha is a public-private partnership with Allied Insurance. Under the agreement, Allied will split the scheme’s shared 60-40 with the government. The actual insurance premium will be paid by the government, while claims, billing and public awareness will be handled by the private partner.

The Aasandha program was officially signed at Artificial Beach on December 22 with hundreds of Maldivian citizens in attendance.


AG proposes narrowing ‘the right to remain silent’

The Attorney General Husnu Suood has proposed a bill to be presented to parliament removing the right to remain silent during investigation of people suspected of commit serious crimes.

The bill removes the right given under Article 48[N] of the Constitution that a person need only reveal their name and thereafter remain silent during police questioning.

The bill proposes that the right to remain silent should be removed in such cases such as threatening a person, attacking a person or his property, assault on a person using sharp objects or weapons, murder, drug trafficking, storing drugs to deal, importing drugs, using a sharp object or dangerous weapon in public without a valid reason, storing a sharp object in secret without a valid reason, gang rape and terrorism.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the government believed it was necessary to remove the right to remaining silent on these cases.

”Why should we provide the right to remain silent for a man arrested with five kilograms of dope?” Zuhair asked.

”If the bill is passed people arrested in connection with these kind of crimes will be convicted for objection to order if they remain silent.”

He said the police would only arrest a person in the first place if they had conclusive evidence.

Spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group Mohamed Shifaz said the MPs had tried very hard to introduce the right to remain silent.

”The government would try to remove it in certain cases only when they notice a credible reason,” Shifaz said.

Vice president of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Umar Naseer, a former police officer, agreed, saying the right to remain silent “should be removed for all the cases.”

”This would make it very easy to prosecute criminals, so I think it is very important,” he said.

The Maldivian Detainee Network issued a statement saying it was “concerned by the news that the Attorney General proposes to narrow fundamental rights afforded to persons accused of certain serious crimes.”

“We urge the Attorney General and Parliament to ensure that any legislation proposed or passed fully embodies the principle that all persons are innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, any narrowing of rights must be done in accordance with Article 16 of the Constitution which states that “Any such law enacted by the People’s Majlis can limit the rights and freedoms to any extent only if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

The NGO added that while it was concerned about the recent rise in crime and “the inability to successfully prosecute criminals, we would like to caution against reactionary steps which threaten fundamental rights.”

“The answer to rising crime in society is the full and effective implementation of a rights-based system by addressing the numerous issues within the criminal justice system,” it urged.

“The rush to discard fundamental rights is not only a short-sighted strategy which not only ignores the moral and practical imperatives behind those rights, but also risks returning to a society in which innocent citizens needed to fear the criminal justice system.”

Deputy Attorney General Abdulla Muiz did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.