Former police commissioner calls for independent inquiry into jailbreak

Former Commissioner of Police and Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Riyaz has called on the government to form an independent commission of inquiry to look into the escape of two convicts from Maafushi jail on Friday (October 17).

“I believe the [escape] of those who should be kept apart from society was due to the failure of an institution to properly fulfil its legally mandated responsibility,” Riyaz said during debate on an urgent motion submitted by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy at today’s sitting of parliament.

The MP for Kinbidhoo also advised strengthening the prisons department and ensuring that it is able to function professionally, claiming that the post of its highest-ranking official had changed three times during the past year.

Competent persons should be appointed to such posts, Riyaz continued, adding that he had confidence in the ability of the security services to find the escaped convicts.

In an appearance on state broadcaster Television Maldives on Sunday night (October 19), Home Minister Umar Naseer revealed that investigations were ongoing to determine whether prison guards were complicit in the escape.

“Nothing we have so far found in the investigation indicates any negligence or involvement of prison guards. However, if such a thing comes to our notice, we will take immediate action,” he said.


Opposition MPs meanwhile contended that the government’s “negligence and irresponsibility” allowed the dangerous criminals to break out from a high security prison.

Introducing the motion, Imthiyaz said the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) appeal for MPs to stay in at night was indicative of the prevailing state of fear and the government’s loss of control over “terror activity in the Maldives.”

“We believe this is an alarm bell for the loss of domestic security,” the MP for Maafanu North said.

Imthiyaz’s early day motion or motion without notice was accepted for debate unanimously with 53 votes in favour, which opened the People’s Majlis floor for a one-hour debate.

Public fears over personal safety and security was “a characteristic of a failed state.,” Imthiyaz continued.

Referring to the suspected abduction of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, Imthiyaz noted Home Minister Umar Naseer’s acknowledgement of the involvement of gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance.

Weeks before Rilwan went missing, Imthiyaz said MDP had alerted the government to the actions of a vigilante group who abducted several young men in June.

The release of suspects who attacked an MDP rally in Addu City was a further sign of the state of the nation, Imthiyaz continued.

“But the government said at the time that the case would be investigated with the utmost seriousness. Police were also attacked,” he said.

“They were caught redhanded from the scene of crime with their faces covered and with wooden planks and iron rods in their hands. But they were all released in less than 24 hours.”

MDP MP Eva Abdulla noted that four murders and more than 30 violent assaults have taken place since the end of Ramadan.

“Death threats have been sent to about 15 journalists and 16 MPs as well as our families,” she said.

Moreover, she added, the main opposition party’s office was torched, crude oil was thrown on the residence of former President Mohamed Nasheed, and the car of MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed’s was vandalised.

“This is the state of the country today. This is one side of the news,” she said.

On the other hand, Eva continued, media reports have revealed that police are unable to identify the source of the death threats, a suspect arrested after a machete was buried in the Minivan News office door was released by the court, and eyewitnesses to violent assaults are scared to testify in court.

Pro-government MPs meanwhile criticised the MDP government’s track record and referred to the military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, the arrests of then-opposition MPs Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim, and inmates setting fire to the Maafushi jail on two occasions in 2009.

Hoarafushi MP Mohamed Ismail claimed that the MDP government released 700 dangerous convicts.

MP Ahmed Nihan, parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), alleged that the MDP formed a “big cell” within the party to create ties with inmates following the prison riot in September 2003.

Referring to the arson attacks on February 8, 2012, Nihan alleged that the MDP had “sponsored terrorism”.

While the current administration should bear responsibility for the prison break, Nihan assured that the government would control jails.

“People escape from jail in all countries of the world,” he said, adding that he was pleased some MDP MPs were willing to assist and cooperate with the government.


Pro-government MPs vote against debating JSC decision on Justice Ali Hameed

Pro-government MPs have voted against a motion without notice submitted by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy to debate the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) decision last week to clear Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed of misconduct over his alleged appearance in a series of sex tapes.

The early motion – which would have opened the floor to a one-hour debate – was defeated with 44 votes against and 18 in favour at the ongoing sitting of parliament.

Presenting the motion, MP Imthiyaz said the JSC decision was “a permanent stain” on the Maldivian judiciary and an obstacle to judicial reform.

Following the vote, Imthiyaz tweeted:

The presence of a disgraced judge on the Supreme Court bench – who most citizens believe has lost his integrity – threatens the independence of the apex court, adversely affects decisions of lower courts, and robs Maldivian citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed right to a free and fair trial, the party contended in a press statement this week.


MP Riyaz Rasheed proposes dissolving DRP-DQP coalition

Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed, deputy leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), has proposed dissolving the party’s coalition with the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), contending that DRP MPs are working against the interests of the national unity government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

MP Riyaz Rasheed declared at yesterday’s sitting of parliament that the coalition with DRP “no longer exists” after an abstention by DRP MP Ali Azim allowed the now-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to narrowly win a vote to debate a motion without notice on police brutality.

Accusing the largest party in the ruling coalition of “making deals with the MDP,” Riyaz said at parliament yesterday that he “strongly condemn the efforts carried out jointly by DRP and MDP to plant doubt and suspicion in the hearts of people about the service of the Maldivian police and army.”

Riyaz noted that the current Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was a senior member of DQP and claimed that Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz was a member of DRP.

The Vilufushi MP was not responding to calls at the time of press. Riyaz however confirmed to newspaper Haveeru today that he has submitted the proposal to the DQP council.

“The Qaumee Party will decide to sever the coalition agreement,” he was quoted as saying. “Whether or not I remain in the Quamee Party will come down to that.”

Riyaz explained that in addition to MP Ali Azim voting in the Government Oversight Committee against a proposal by the Waheed administration to form two new ministries, Azim’s abstention in yesterday’s vote allowed the MDP’s motion without notice to be debated.

DQP’s main priority was sustaining the national unity government until presidential election in 2013 acting as “a shield for Dr Waheed’s government”, Riyaz continued, accusing the DRP of undermining the national unity government.

DQP meanwhile released a statement yesterday calling on parties in the ruling coalition to refrain from any action that could “encourage the efforts of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned on his own, to bring the two oldest institutions of the country into disrepute and cause loss of public confidence [in the police and military].”

The statement added that “abetting Nasheed’s efforts to cause division and discord among the public is against the pulse of the people.”

It was therefore obligatory upon all parties in the ruling coalition to “defeat and fail Nasheed’s efforts to bring the government into disrepute and harass the police and army,” adding that the security services had become “prey to unlawful orders” during the past three years of MDP rule.

“In spite of political rivalry, what the Maldivian people want right now is for the allied parties to work in one spirit,” the statement reads, adding that the ruling coalition should band together to “uphold the dignity” of police and army officers “working courageously and tirelessly day and night for religion and the nation.”

“Oil man”

MDP’s motion without notice to debate both alleged police brutality and recent incidents involving police and army officers in uniform robbing expatriates was voted through with the support of two independent MPs – Kulhudhufushi South MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed and Dhuvafaru MP Mohamed Zubair – and government-aligned Jumhoree Party MP Abdulla Jabir.

MP Ali Azim meanwhile tweeted today: “When MP Riyaz Rasheed voted in favour of Speaker’s no-confidence motion, QP [Qaumee Party] did not utter a single word regarding the need for unity in coalition government and the best interest of the nation.”

On her twitter page, MP Rozaina Adam dismissed Riyaz Rasheed’s claim that current Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz is a DRP member as “an absolute lie”.

“CP Riyaz is not a DRP member. Never was. He was an advisor to DRP on law and order as a professional,” the MP for Thulusdhoo tweeted.

During yesterday’s debate, Rozaina argued that any issue of national importance submitted to parliament should be accepted for debate.

“There are a lot of issues we want to raise concerning this matter [alleged police brutality]. Thus, the only solution is not to dismiss the issue. The way forward would be to debate it,” Rozaina said.

MP Abdulla Jabir meanwhile concurred that motions without notice should be accepted for a debate on the floor.

Speaking to Minivan News today, DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef lambasted Riyaz as a political opportunist whose allegiances depended on “which way the wind blows.”

“I don’t take what Riyaz Rasheed says seriously,” he said, adding that his remarks had “no weight or substance” and that his political decisions were based on personal benefit and in favour of “whomever is willing to give him the biggest loan.”

“He is the oil man,” Shareef continued. “What he says and the way he votes always depends on the availability of credit facilities to buy oil. Look at his past history of voting in the Majlis and what he has said when he was in the Special Majlis.”

On April 26 this year, the State Trading Organisation (STO) issued a press statement announcing that it would file a case at Civil Court to recover Rf19,333,671.20 (US$1,253,804.88) unpaid by MP Riyaz’s Rasheed’s Meridian Services.

STO and Meridian Services signed an oil trade agreement on March 31, 2010, which offered the company a credit facility worth Rf20 million (US$ 1,297,016.86) for purchasing oil from STO, stipulating that payments had to be made within a period of 40 days.

However, in August 2010, STO lowered its credit limit from Rf20 million to Rf10 million (US$648,508.43) and shortened the payment period from 40 to 30 days, prompting Meridian Services to sue STO for alleged breach of contract.

Meridian Services however lost the case after Civil Court Judge Abdulla Jameel Moosa ruled in favor of STO.

Meanwhile, on Riyaz’s accusation that the DRP was “making deals with MDP,” Shareef said the Vilufushi MP suspected so because he was “number one for making deals.”

“He has made deals with both governments of [former President] Nasheed and [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom,” he alleged.

On the possible dissolution of the coalition agreement with DQP, Shareef insisted that the party was “not worried.”

“DRP is a party that can stand on its own feet now,” he said. “We will always work in the best interest of the nation in line with the views of the majority of our members.”


Kuredhu quad-bike unregistered and unauthorised for use, MDP MPs claim

A quad-bike that crashed into a tree in Kuredhu Resort killing two British tourists last week was neither registered nor authorised for use, MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed during debate on a motion without notice today.

The emergency motion proposed by MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik noted that the King Quad 700 model bike was not legally registered at the Maldives Transport Authority while its driver Filip Eugen Petre – a Swedish national and son of a resort shareholder – did not have a license to operate the vehicle.

“Two kinds of vehicles are commonly used in Maldivian resorts,” Moosa said in his opening remarks of the debate. “That is vehicles used for lifting goods and golf carts or buggies for transporting guests.”

Moosa alleged in parliament that attempts were made to “to hide the boy [Petre] and put the blame [for the accident] on a Maldivian employee in the resort.”

The former MDP parliamentary group leader called on the government to investigate the accident “even if it involves bringing officials from the British government to uncover how this really happened.”

Other MDP MPs expressed concern about the impact of such incidents on the tourism industry and repeated calls for a thorough investigation.

“I don’t know for what reason such a vehicle used in big mountains or at high speeds should be used in resorts,” observed MP Ahmed Sameer, deputy parliamentary group leader of the ruling party.

Several opposition MPs however strongly objected to the motion, arguing that it should not have been tabled in the agenda as it represented “a personal attack” by Moosa.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Azim claimed that Moosa was motivated to submit the motion by DhiTV’s continuing coverage of alcohol bottles found in his car – a network owned by Champa ‘Uchoo’ Mohamed Moosa, who also owns the Kuredhu resort.

The motion was however approved for debate in a 29-7 vote.

“Some people who have resorts in this country are using private media to defame others and hide their crimes,” Moosa said, referring to DhiTV.

“It is noteworthy that some media connected to this resort has not covered any news of [the Kuredu accident].”

Moosa also strongly criticised resort owners for “mortgaging state property” and propping up an autocratic regime to enrich themselves.

MP Riyaz Rasheed of minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) meanwhile accused the MDP chairperson of corruption – in a US$21 million deal to reclaim land in Thilafushi – and suggested that Moosa should be evaluated to “see if he is even fasting today.”

Independent MP Ahmed Amir cautioned against speculation regarding the accident as foreign media could report “MPs implying in parliament that this was done by Maldivians.”

In his turn, Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ibrahim Muttalib alleged that police destroyed or hid evidence in some criminal cases “probably on orders from the government.”

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali meanwhile contended that the incident should not be debated at parliament as a police investigation was ongoing.


MPs debate motion without notice on Dhiyamigili blackout

A partisan row erupted in parliament today during a debate on a motion without notice proposed by minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed condemning a four-day long electricity blackout in Thaa Atoll Dhiyamigili.

Today’s sitting was adjourned at 12:00pm after several MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) objected to the motion as the damaged engine at the Dhiyamigili powerhouse had been repaired and electricity was back on at 4.10am this morning. MP Ali Mohamed, presiding over the sitting in the absence of Speaker Abdulla Shahid, adjourned the sitting after heated rows broke out in the chamber.

Under parliamentary rules, motions without notice could be submitted to open the floor to an impromptu debate on issues of national importance. However because besides offering MPs an opportunity to voice their views, no concrete action results from a motion without notice, MDP MPs argued that such motions were “a waste of Majlis’ time.”

Presenting the motion, MP Riyaz Rasheed urged the people of Dhiyamigili to sue the utility company for compensation as refrigerated foodstuff had been damaged in the island.

Riyaz’s Thaa Atoll colleague, MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa meanwhile alleged that Home Minister Hassan Afeef was behind the blackout and urged the people of Dhiyamigili to “chase out the utility company employees.”

Other MDP MPs however pointed out that MP Riyaz Rasheed’s company Meridian Service was being sued by the State Trading Organisation (STO) to recover over Rf19 million (US$1.4 million) owed for oil released on credit as well as Rf384,198 (US$29,800) as fines for non-payment.


MPs clash over maritime agreement with Sri Lanka

MPs clashed today over a motion without notice calling on the government to terminate a reported agreement with Sri Lanka to allow its vessels passage across Maldivian waters, raising fears of increased illegal fishing in the country’s economic zone.

The motion was proposed by MP Ali Saleem of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in the wake of reports in the Sri Lankan media about the maritime agreement and contradictory statements by Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi and President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair in the local media yesterday.

“Parliament has to look into what is hidden behind this,” said Saleem in his opening remarks. “Did you know that even if Sri Lankan fishing vessels traveling to the Arabian sea are carrying sharks or fish catch, there is no way to know because of this agreement signed yesterday?”

The motion states that there was room to suspect “the beginning of hidden deals” behind the agreement and asks to clarify which maritime law facilitated the arrangement of vessels informing the Sri Lankan embassy 48 hours in advance to ensure safe passage.

In the ensuing debate, MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suggested that “it would be better for us to find out accurate information on the matter” if fears of illegal fishing had resulted from misinformation.

DRP MP for Mathiveri Hussein Mohamed called on the government to inform the public  of “measures to protect Maldivian fishing areas and incomes of local fishermen if this [maritime agreement] is going forward.”

DRP MP Ali Arif argued that Maldivian foreign policy should remain “non-aligned” and neutral as “a small authorisation like this” could threaten “hundreds of years of independence.”

“Because the Sri Lankan government authorised many MDP activities in that country before the 2008 election when MDP was formed, I believe this is a gift to them in return for that,” claimed Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ibrahim Muttalib.

The government’s foreign policy was threatening sovereignty and independence, Muttalib continued: “We heard recently that from now on we will vote the way India wants at the UN. This is slavery, this is enslavement,” he said.

MDP MP Mohamed Shifaz meanwhile concurred with other MPs that the Maldives did not have the capacity to monitor foreign fishing vessels. All MDP MPs agreed with the consensus view that unmonitored illegal fishing posed dangers to the local fishing industry.

DRP MP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali noted that Sri Lankan trawlers had been found fishing illegally in Maldivian waters in the recent past.

“And it is a fact accepted by all our fishermen that our country, our government, does not have the capacity to identify, locate and stop foreign vessels illegally fishing in our seas,” he said, warning that the new maritime agreement would further complicate monitoring of the economic zone.

Thasmeen added that Sri Lankan fishing vessels were known to engage in shark fishing, which results in dwindling fish stocks.

There must be “broad consensus” before such a maritime agreement was signed, the opposition leader said.

MDP MP for Billedhoo Ahmed Hamza however pointed out that previous government in 1982 had acceded to the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, which stipulates that foreign vessels must be granted passage across territorial waters for sea travel.

While the convention allowed “innocent passage,” said Hamza, fishing by such vessels was strictly prohibited.

Hamza urged MPs to continue the debate after seeking official documentation to determine whether the maritime agreement with Sri Lanka was required by the UN convention.

“Why are we concerned about passage across Maldivian waters? [Because] we are talking about at least 424 nautical miles [of territory from the shore],” said DRP MP for Kelaa Dr Abdulla Mausoom.

While innocent passage was not an issue, said Mausoom, “history shows for certain” that Sri Lankan vessels would fish in Maldivian waters as trawlers from the neighbouring country had been detained by the authorities in the past.

MDP MP Ilyas Labeeb meanwhile accused the previous government of “selling the EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone]” to enrich senior officials of the regime.

“We do not want to do anything that could harm Maldivian fishermen,” he said. “Before this government, fishermen got Rf3 or Rf4 for a kilo of fish. Now fishermen are glad that they get Rf20 or Rf30 [for a kilo].”