MDP proposes imprisoned ex-president to represent party in talks

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has proposed imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed, chairperson Ali Waheed and MP Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih as representatives for talks with the government.

The main opposition party’s national council adopted a resolution today to accept the government’s calls for dialogue to resolve the ongoing political crisis.

“The [MDP] believes that the anxiety and distress in the country can be resolved by all the opposition parties sitting down at the table for discussions with the government,” reads the resolution.

President Abdulla Yameen’s proposed agenda for talks focuses on three aspects: political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and legal system and political party participation in economic and social development

However, the government has ruled out negotiations over the release Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, insisting the president does not have the constitutional authority to release convicts before the appeal process is exhausted.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

However, Muaz told Haveeru before the resolution was passed that the government will go ahead with the talks even if the MDP declines the president’s offer.

During the national council debate on the resolution, MP Eva Abdulla stressed the importance of talks involving all political parties, including the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

“MDP is the first party that called to solve the political crisis. So we are happy the government took the initiative to hold talks and we accept it. But we want to hold the discussions together, not separately as the government has suggested,” she said.

President Yameen had sent invitations to the three allied opposition parties separately and assigned two ministerial teams for the talks.

Eva also argued that the agenda for the talks should be up for discussion.

“We are not going to discussions to talk only about what the government wants. The discussions will include what the government wants, but also what we want. The agenda of the talks also should be set at the discussions,” she said.

Eva also suggested MDP should not join the discussions without the proposed delegation: “I don’t think there is anything we can solve without the delegation MDP proposed.”

Nasheed is currently serving a 13-year jail term at the high-security Maafushi prison following his conviction on terrorism charges in March.

The MDP has maintained that the trial was a politically motivated attempt to bar the party’s president and presumptive candidate from the 2018 presidential election.

Foreign governments and international bodies including the UN have criticized the trial for apparent lack of due process, while the EU parliament has called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was meanwhile released from police custody this afternoon. He had been held in remand detention since his arrest in the wake of the mass anti-government demonstration on May 1.

Police have concluded an investigation on charges of inciting violence and forwarded a case against Waheed to the prosecutor general’s office. A seven-day extension of detention granted by the criminal court expired today.

While the Jumhooree Party (JP) has accepted the invitation for talks, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party proposed its detained president, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, among the party’s representatives.

Imran was also arrested on May 1 and remains in police custody.

Speaking at today’s emergency meeting of the national council, MP Ibu, MDP parliamentary group leader, noted that the acceptance of the government’s invitation does not mean the party trusts the government.

“We are going to sit down with the government not necessarily because we trust them. We should always learn from what has happened in the past. Recently we saw the Ukrainian government sitting down for talks with Russia despite the distrust,” he said.

Ibu said the planned mass protest for June 12 – organised by the MDP –  is also a call for discussions.

“The June 12 protest is also a symbol of negotiations and talks. So I call on the people of Maldives who support our cause to come and join us in discussions,” he said.

Other members of the national council questioned the “sincerity” of the government’s invitation for talks.

“The deputy leader of JP, Ameen Ibrahim, was set free by the High Court but the state once again appealed his case in the apex court to detain him again. So the intent of the government is questionable,” said MP Rozaina Adam.

Ameen is among the five-member team to represent the Jumhooree Party. Some opposition politicians contend the police’s attempt to detain Ameen is an attempt to prevent him from representing the JP.

The resolution was passed with the support of of 42 members with one vote against.

The dissenting member objected referring to Nasheed as the party’s president, arguing that the government might reject the resolution on the grounds that he no longer holds the post.

In late April, the pro-government majority voted through amendments to the Prison and Parole Act that prohibited inmates from holding high-level posts in political parties.

The revised law effectively stripped Nasheed of the MDP presidency.


Opposition to resume protests

The opposition alliance have vowed to continue anti-government protests tonight despite the arrest of 193 protesters and leaders of the allied parties after clashes at yesterday’s May Day rally.

Police have meanwhile threatened to break up any demonstration held without prior notice as soon as it starts. The ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ coalition has urged supporters to gather at the artificial beach at 9:00pm.

The goal of the May Day protest march was to “bring an end to brutality,” but was met with a brutal police crackdown, said main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ after a meeting of the alliance’s steering committee.

Police have said that protesters assaulted police officers, damaged the property of the security services and the public, and disrupted public order and safety. Two police officers have been flown to Sri Lanka for treatment of injuries.

However, opposition leaders accused police of using “excessive and disproportionate force” against protesters after 30,000 people took to the streets of the capital.

Police cracked down with tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades, and baton charges after protesters attempted to enter the ‘green zone’ to perform dusk prayers at the Islamic centre. Gatherings are prohibited at the Republic square in front of the mosque.

Ibu said the alliance had planned to pray on the street after marching to the western end of Majeedhee Magu, but the leadership decided to pray at the Islamic centre as police had told the AP that no protest activity should take place between dusk and evening prayers.

While such an order was unconstitutional, Ibu said the opposition leaders decided not to carry out any activities during the specified period.

“We had a plan. We tried for the people gathered with us to the Islamic centre any way they could. But you saw how police acted after that,” he said.

Responding to criticism of the opposition leaders “fleeing” the scene after the crackdown, Sheikh Mohamed Didi from the Adhaalath Party said the leaders went to pray at nearby homes when it became clear they could not enter the Islamic centre.

Former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof said reports suggested the number of people arrested yesterday could be as high as 280 and not 193 as police have said.

“We are clarifying this information. This number of people have never been arrested in Maldivian history,” he said.

Mahloof also criticised the Police Integrity Commission for claiming police had acted professionally and with restraint. The independent MP said police beat up several protesters.

Further clashes took place at 8pm after protesters regrouped at Chandhanee Magu with Specialist Operations (SO) officers periodically charged the crowd and made dozens of arrest.

Police have made public video footage of protesters tripping and beating up a lone SO officer. The officer was rescued by protesters and brought behind police lines, prompting a baton charge. Police said another officer was injured when a protest pickup broke through police lines near the fish market.

Ibu said pro-government supporters had infiltrated the crowd yesterday and that the alliance is looking into the assault of the police officer on Chaandhanee Magu to determine who was involved.

Mahloof claimed the incident occurred shortly after an SO pickup charged into the crowd at high speed, which angered the protesters.

The alliance regrets the incident and does not encourage violence, he said, and suggested that the officer might have been assaulted by gangs paid by the government.

Local media reported officials at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGHM) as saying that neither the police officers nor protesters suffered serious injuries. Five police officers and six civilians were treated at IGMH while four protesters were treated at ADK.

Meanwhile, invoking authority under the 2013 freedom of assembly law to restrict the constitutional right to protest, police announced today that further protests will not be allowed unless police are given advance notice.

“We notify protest organisers that gatherings held without giving notice or providing full information to police will be stopped at the time of commencement,” the Maldives Police Service warned in a statement this afternoon.

The 2013 law requires organisers to uphold public interest and notify police if the protest is to take place on public roads. The law also states that the right to assembly can be limited in the interests of maintaining national security, public order, and stability.


Government will ensure Nasheed’s right to appeal conviction, says spokesperson

The government will ensure former President Mohamed Nasheed’s right to appeal his conviction on terrorism charges if he believes the Criminal Court did not follow due process, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has said.

The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail last night for ordering the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012.

“I believe the Criminal Court would have afforded due process in the conduct of Nasheed’s trial. If you study this case, from the beginning to the end, it is clear the charges are not politically motivated,” Muaz said.

“Nasheed can still appeal at High Court.”

The government has no power over the courts, he added.

“We have a system of separation of powers. In a democracy, the head of state does not interfere in judicial proceedings and is not to blame for court proceedings,” Muaz said.

“Political leaders in other countries, such as Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, have been summoned and tried in court as well.”

Delivering the guilty verdict last night, Judge Abdulla Didi said the prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed as commander-in-chief ordered the arrest or “forceful abduction” of Judge Abdulla.

Reacting to Nasheed’s conviction, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP “Ibu” Mohamed Solih said today the party would not be disheartened by President Abdulla Yameen’s alleged attempts to imprison his opponents.

“President Yameen is trying to jail his opponents before the next election. But even though Nasheed is convicted he still is the leader of MDP and he will contest in the 2018 presidential elections,” Ibu said on opposition-aligned Raajje TV.

However, Muaz denied that the president wished to prevent political rivals from contesting the 2018 election.

“President Yameen does not want to jail opposition politicians or plunge the country into civil unrest. He has an economic agenda. We respect the court’s verdict.”

Addressing the party’s supporters alongside the parliamentary group leader on Raajje TV, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed meanwhile said the party would do everything in its power to free Nasheed.

“Our main work from now on will be to free President Nasheed. He will come back. So meanwhile stay united, don’t lose hope and pray for him,” Waheed said.

Following Nasheed’s arrest on February 22, MDP supporters have protested every night calling for his release.

Muaz said the government would allow the public to peacefully express their views, but stressed that protests should take place within bounds of the law.

“But we will not allow unrest in the country. Our aim is to establish peace and order in the country. We welcome freedom of expression and assembly, but they must be practiced within the bounds of the constitution. Our appeal to the public is not to disrupt public order,” he said.


Nasheed was charged with “enforced disappearance” under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, which carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.

Prior to a hearing on March 9, all four of Nasheed’s lawyers quit in protest of the Criminal Court’s refusal to grant sufficient time to examine the prosecution’s evidence and mount a defence.

The presiding judges had denied the lawyers’ request for adequate time, stating the legal team has had the case documents for three years.

Nasheed was first charged in 2012 with arbitrary detention under article 81 of the penal code, which carries either banishment or a jail term of up to three years.

On February 15, Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin withdrew the charges filed at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court. Nasheed was arrested on February 22 shortly after the PG filed terrorism charges at the Criminal Court.

Meanwhile prominent figures from both the international community and within the country have condemned the Criminal Courts verdict.

Husnu Suood, former judge and Attorney General – who was also a senior member of the team which drafted the anti-terrorism law in 1990 – tweeted: “Mohamed Nasheed is not a terrorist. Whatever act he did was certainly not terrorism. The charge not suitable, the trial was flawed.”

Deputy Attorney General Ahmed Usham also questioned Criminal Courts decision to jail Nasheed.

“Infringing the rights of one person in the name of giving justice to another person is in itself an injustice,” Usham wrote on his Facebook page.

MP Ahmed Mahloof, who was expelled from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) recently after he criticized President Yameen, tweeted: “21 days for Judge Abdulla, 4745 days for President Nasheed. Is this what they call justice? Why not jail all opposition leaders and rule the country.”

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla – who played a pivotal role in the 2012 protests against Nasheed’s administration – tweeted: “Nasheed’s trial was not conducted justly.”


Related to this story

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

Nasheed trial “not free or fair,” says Maldivian Democracy Network

Foreigners cannot meddle in domestic affairs, declares President Yameen

PPM accuses international community of “double standards and hypocrisy” in Nasheed’s trial

“This is not a court of law. This is injustice,” Nasheed tells the Criminal Court


Police Commissioner denies obstructing election

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has denied obstructing the Elections Commission (EC) from conducting the presidential election scheduled for October 19, insisting that police only refused to provide security as the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court judgment were not followed by the EC.

Appearing before parliament’s Security Services ‘241’ Committee yesterday (October 20), Riyaz dismissed as “excuses” the allegations by EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek that police blocked the election, contending that the commission “was not properly prepared.”

“That is the truth. The list was not prepared,” he said, referring to the refusal of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim to sign the voter registry as required by the Supreme Court guidelines.

An hour before polls were due to open on Saturday, the EC issued a statement declaring that police had moved to prevent the election from taking place.

“As we continued with [preparation for] voting, the Maldives Police Services have said no document relating to the election can leave the commission’s offices, stopping the election,” the statement read.

Riyaz however insisted, in the face of repeated queries from MPs, that police did not block the election, conceding that a court order would be needed for police to take such an action.

“Police sent a letter to the Elections Commission on 19 October. In it I said that the Supreme Court ordered all state institutions to ensure that matters are proceeding according to the Supreme Court guidelines,” he said.

He added that “no further communication” – apart from the letter stating that police could not offer security or cooperation to the EC – was exchanged before the commission announced the cancellation of polls.

However, an internal inquiry has been launched by the police professional standards command following the allegations by EC Chair Thowfeek, Riyaz told MPs.

Non-cooperation rather than obstruction: Riyaz

Riyaz argued that the election could not take place because the EC was not “well prepared”, as he believed the time period offered for candidates to approve the voter registry was not sufficient.

Riyaz stressed that the police decided to not provide cooperation to the EC rather than obstructing the commission from conducting the polls. The decision was made based on advice from the National Security Council, he said, which consists of the president, vice president, attorney general, chief of defence forces and the defence minister.

Police considered the consequences of proceeding with the election while two candidates were refusing to participate, Riyaz said, suggesting that violence and unrest would have occurred.

He also suggested that candidates would have found it “harder to refuse” to sign-off had the EC sent the voter list in parts as soon as the re-registration forms were processed.

The commissioner assured “full cooperation” from police to the EC to conduct the presidential election, adding that he believed a president-elect must be sworn in on November 11.

In an appearance on state broadcaster Television Maldives on Saturday night, EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek was adamant that it was “the police who have stopped the election.”

“It is the people who are supposed to prevent others from obstructing the election, who have obstructed the election today. The police were also ordered to provide protection, security of ballot boxes and papers. The police stopped the election using the excuse that all three candidates did not sign the voter registry. But the Supreme Court verdict does not give the police the authority to oversee that,” he said.

“The police refused to provide security. The verdict clearly says the police must accompany the ballot boxes and papers to the polling stations. But last night the police said they will not facilitate the process. If we dispatch the boxes without police cooperation, then the Supreme Court has the space to annul the election [again],” he continued.

“In addition to that, in the morning, when our officials left the office with documents, papers, ballot boxes, they stopped them. [They said elections officials] did not have the permission to leave the Elections Commission. They stopped the election. The police officers told our elections officials they had been ordered to stop anyone from leaving the Elections Commission building with any documents relating to the election.”

“I know if [EC officials] had tried to disobey and leave, [the police] would have obstructed them, physically stopped them. The [EC officials] did not attempt to disobey, but they did ask the police why. And a sergeant there said this is what they had been ordered to do. They did not allow EC officials to leave the building with documents.”


Over 300 new members sign for MDP from Hinnavaru

Over 300 people from Lhaviyani Hinnavaru signed for the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) at a rally on Saturday.

At the rally in Hinnavaru, two Independent councillors from Baa Atoll Hithaadhoo also signed for the party, giving control of the island council to the MDP.

Speaking at the rally, MDP MP for Hinnavaru Ibrahim Mohamed Solih – who is also the current parliamentary group leader – announced that the constituency of Hinnavaru now had the most number of MDP members out of the 77 voting districts in the country.

With the additional members, the ruling party now has over 1,200 members in the constituency.

Meanwhile in a press release today the party announced results of a primary held on Sunday to select a candidate to compete in a by-election scheduled for November 19 to replace a vacant council seat in Fuvahmulah. Out of three contenders for the MDP ticket, Shaffaf Naseer, of Fuvahmulah Hazaarumaage, won the primary with 121 votes.

The council seat for mid-Fuvahmulah was previously filled by an MDP councillor, who lost his seat after the Supreme Court ruled that he had a decreed debt and should have been disqualified from the local council elections in February.


Parties stake positions on economic reform bills

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) have staked rival positions on the economic reform bills currently before parliament.

With two pieces of legislation of the 18-bill reform package completed by committee and up for a final vote next week, the majority and minority parties in parliament declared their stands at press conferences yesterday.

Briefing press at the MDP office, Majority Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih stressed that the ruling party was “open to amendments from the opposition and ready to incorporate changes” to the General Goods and Services Tax (G-GST) bill and amendments to the Import-Export Act to excise and reduce import duties.

As of the 4:00pm deadline on Tuesday to submit amendments, Ibu Solih revealed that the MDP has proposed amendments requested by the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) and taken on board recommendations by the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), Maldives Association of Construction Industry (MACI) as well as small businesses.

MDP has proposed completely excising import duties for fisheries and agriculture equipment and machinery, Ibu said, while maintaining current tariffs for imported fruits and vegetables to protect local farmers.

The proposed GST of five percent would meanwhile be reduced to 3.5 percent from October to December 2011, explained MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, after which it would be raised to five percent next year.

Small businesses and “corner shops” would be exempt from the General GST, he added.

DRP Deputy Leader Ahmed Mohamed and MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom meanwhile told press yesterday that the party would oppose the introduction of a personal income tax.

“The main reason is that is going to be taken directly from the people,” said Ahmed Mohamed, former CEO of the State Trading Organisation (STO). “We will do everything we can to see that the bill does not get passed.”

As MDP currently has enough votes to pass the bill, he continued, the party would seek the support of other opposition MPs and Independents.

In addition, the main opposition party would attempt to delay the implementation of the tax bills to provide more time for both the public and businesses to adapt to the new system.

Moreover, the minority party would oppose an amendment to the Immigration Act, which would provide resident visas for skilled expatriate workers, as the party believes the move would make it harder for Maldivians to find employment.

DRP MP for Kelaa Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News earlier this week that the party would propose retaining import duties for “watermelons, papaya, bananas and mangoes to protect local farmers” to ensure price competitiveness for local agricultural produce.

“The rest is the way the MDP wanted,” he said. “With the numbers in parliament right now, MDP can pass bills the way they want.”

Following a meeting with President Mohamed Nasheed Saturday night, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told press that the party “will not accept” proposed growth in state expenditure for 2012 and 2013 as “it would not be sustainable.”

Appearing on private broadcaster DhiTV the following night, Thasmeen said that state expenditure levels reaching over 60 percent of GDP was worrying.

“The figure has become so high because expenditure from the budget increased in response to special circumstances of the [December 2004] tsunami has been maintained at that level,” he explained.

While acknowledging that additional revenue was needed to finance the deficit accumulated since 2005, Thasmeen said that he objected to a proposed growth of about Rf1 billion in expenditure in 2013 since it was unclear how the increased spending would spur economic growth and improve productivity.

Responding to the minority leader’s statements, Ibu Solih said yesterday that increased expenditure was necessary to plug the inherit budget deficit and service high levels of public debt.

“13.9 percent of expenditure from the 2010 budget was for paying back loans,” Ibu noted. “There is no way we can escape that.”

The MDP MP for Hinnavaru asserted that the “answer to opposition concerns of how taxation proceeds would be utilised” was the fiscal responsibility bill proposed by the government, which would impose limits on spending and restrict annual growth of public debt to 3.5 percent per year.

Meanwhile at today’s sitting of parliament the committee report on the G-GST bill was presented to the floor, after which MPs were invited to submit amendments.

Some 39 amendments were submitted to the draft legislation while voting is due to take place when the sitting resumes at 10:00pm tonight.