Police on defense over DhiFM coverage of Muleeage mob

Police have denied asking DhiFM to cease broadcasting live coverage of a protest that took place outside the president’s official residence on Thursday night, instead claiming officers requested the station stop airing interviews featuring people calling for the government to be toppled.

A large mob of protesters marched on Muleeage just before midnight, after rumours of a police death in custody circulated around a DRP rally being held at the artificial beach.

“People were already angry about the civil servant salary issue,” said DRP MP Ali Waheed, who joined the protest outside the president’s gate and was later hospitalised after he was hit in the head by a stone.

“This was not a planned protest,” he emphasised. “DRP MPs (including Ahmed Nihan and Ahmed Mahlouf) joined the protest on the way to the president’s residence because we feel very strongly about the issue.”

Police eventually dispersed the crowd using tear gas. Three people were arrested but were later released.

“We don’t care who was leading it or what the point was,” said Inspector Ahmed Shiyam, adding that despite the large number of people clamouring at the gates of Muleeage “at no time was security threatened. Police were backed up by the MNDF and very senior police [were in command].”

Several police were injured, he added, including one who was hit in the face by an object thrown from the crowd.

Shiyam explained that during the incident officers approached DhiFM and asked them to stop airing live interviews with people calling for others to join the protest and overthrow the government through violence.

“We sent officers to tell them, ‘please don’t do that’,” Shiyam said. “They misunderstood, and I called a senior member of DhiFM and managed to convince him.”

DhiFM CEO Maassoodh Hilmy said plain clothes police arrived at the studio at 1:51 on Friday morning, showed their idenification and demanded the station cease broadcasting.

“I said we were not stopping,” he said. “We had two reporters at Muleeage and they were calling out [what they were seeing].”

Shiyam said today that police had sent a letter of complaint alleging that DhiFM had overstepped its status as an observer by broadcasting “calls for violence”.

“That statement from police is not good. They are lying, which is very wrong,” said Hilmy.

The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) today issued a statement strongly condemning the police attempt to “shut down [DhiFM’s] transmission while it was carrying out the live coverage of the protest,” calling it “a flagrant violation of the independence of the media and the freedoms ascribed in the Constitution.”

“We note that police also forced other media personnel to stop covering the incident and leave the scene, which can only mean that this is a deliberate attempt by the government to influence media content and subsequently, public perception,” the MJA said, expressing further concern about the police comments regarding DhiFM’s conduct, “which seem to imply that DhiFM’s live coverage could amount to inciting more people to violence and that DhiFM carrying out its duty as a media could pose a national security risk.”

“We condemn such attacks on democracy and Constitutional freedoms and call on all authorities not to engage in such appalling action in the future.”


Independent MP and former Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed said neither police nor defence personnel were allowed to walk into a station and ask it to stop broadcasting.

“They were asked to either put the request in writing or say it live on radio. They refused and returned to the police station,” Nasheed said.

“The next day they sent a document with a police letterhead that was not signed [by the relevant authority], claiming that DhiFM took part in an unlawful gathering calling for the removal of the existing government – this is very strong language from the police.”

Nasheed said Maldives’ broadcasting legislation contained details for disciplinary action but was intentionally designed to include hurdles to make it difficult for the government to close a station.

“Broadcast licences are issued for a year and come with 100 points for every six months, much like a driving licence,” he explained.

“[In the event of a complaint] an independent content committee appointed by the information ministry will act like jury – if the majority agree a maximum of 10 points can be deducated for an offence, and to terminate a broadcast licence the committee must be unanimous.

“Only then can the information ministry ask police or defence to enforce the order on behalf of the committee.”

Nasheed noted that police appeared to be “now varying their story” by stating that their request was regarding certain interviews rather than the live broadcast itself.


Police “strong denied” the rumour of a death in custody that triggered the protest, Shiyam said, identifying the subject as 32 year-old Mohamed Nooz of Gdh Thinadhoo.

Nooz was taken into police custody on Jan 15, Shiyam said, but was sent to hospital after he complained of “medical problems”.

“His family was informed and on the 26 Jan police heard his condition had become serious and that he had died that evening.”

Shiyam noted that no family members had filed a complaint about Nooz’s treatment by police, and that one family member had expressed concern that his death would “be used for political gain.”

Waheed said today that the DRP would be supporting an investigation into the matter after “the person who cleaned the body said he smelled something fishy about the case,” and expressed concern about what he claimed was police unwillingness to conduct an official autopsy. That person had gone to HRCM to make a complaint, he said. Waheed also noted the victim’s age as 24, differing from the police account.

He stressed he “was not saying people were killed in custody”, and added that the DRP “will never try to overthrow a legal government.”

“DRP MPs will only join reasonable protests,” he said, adding that he was not sure if similar incidents would occur.

“I wouldn’t know, that’s for the public to decide,” he said. “People are suffering from the reduced civil servant salaries and increased electricity prices, while President Nasheed is trying to take the tension out of these issues by focusing on global warming and the economic crisis.”


Custodial abuse sparks Cabinet clamp down on “culture of torture”

Cabinet has appointed a committee to reform the Maldives Police Service (MPS) after allegations that the institution continues to have a “culture of police torture”.

The committee includes the Attorney General Husnu Suood, Minister of Human Resources, Youth and Sports Hassan Latheef, and Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad, a human rights lawyer. The Cabinet also elected to appoint Minister of State Principal Collector of Customs Mohamed Aswan as Minister of State for Home Affairs, giving him a mandate to reform the police service.

The decision to form the committee was made following the new government’s first emergency cabinet meeting, held on Saturday shortly after DhiTV aired a story showing six men claiming they had been arrested and tortured in Atolhuvei detention centre. The men, several of whom displayed bruises to the TV station, alleged that police kept them face down, cuffed their hands and feet behind them, tied the cuffs and jumped on them.

The president’s press secretary Mohamed Zuhair said the decision to form the committee was not made “in response to a particular incident”, and was instead an attempt to implement reform after public complaints about the culture of the police force.

“All the cabinet ministers appointed to the committee are lawyers and will listen to any allegations and those made by the police as well,’ he said, adding that the committee would act “as a bridge” by speeding up the resolution of existing complaints.

Clash with PIC

Shahindha Ismail from the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and former head of the Maldivian Detainee Network said she was unaware of why the committee was set up “because the police integrity commission has a mandate to investigate everything the committee was set up to do. They are duplicating our work.”

The PIC had “more powers by law [than cabinet] to conduct investigations,” she said. “I wish the government would give more thought to letting the PIC carry out its mandate. Right now we are stuck because of our financial difficulties, we have to go to the finance ministry for everything. We’ve sent reports on this to the president, because if the government want us to do our job they have to allow us to do it.”

Shahindha said while no one had made a complaint to the PIC, she “has a slight idea” that cabinet’s response was due to six people who were alleging they had been beaten in custody.

“When police took them to the criminal court to extend their detention periods [two] showed the judge marks and bruises on their bodies, saying they were beaten,” Shahindha said.

“My sense is that the beatings were quite severe because the judge apparently ordered them to be released because he felt they were not safe in the hands of the police – upon their release they contacted the media while they were in hospital.

“The original arrests were related to the physical sexual harrassment of women, and these people are no longer in police custody,” she added.

Shahindha said she had asked police for an official report into the matter “but they have not submitted it.”

Police spokesman Sergeant Ahmed Shiyam said the MPS was not commenting at this stage.

“A culture of torture”?

The government’s decision was surprising not only because it risked duplicating the work of the PIC, but because “these [beatings] appear to happen every day. I don’t know what’s special about this incident, I’m guessing the beatings were very severe,” Shahindha said.

Incidents of police brutality were usually confined to a minority of field officers, she said.

“I wouldn’t call it a culture any more. We find during our investigations that senior police are unware of what goes on in the field as to brutality. The problem is that some of the field officers are still carrying it around. It has reduced quite a lot, but now they do it inside and don’t let people see, unlike during the demonstrations when police used to beat people in broad daylight. Now it happens either in police vehicles or detention centres.”

She was positive about the appointment of Aswan to the new role of State Minister for Home Affairs, “although I would like to know more about the committee’s mandate.”

Zuhair said the committee’s aim was police reform following “public complaints about the culture of the force”, and “nothing to do with police integrity.”

For his part, Aswan said he had only just taken up the new post after being on holiday for two weeks and was still gathering information. The appointment was “sudden”, he said, adding that while he believed his law enforcement experience would be very valuable for his new role, he had “mixed feelings” about leaving his customs portfolio.


Former president accuses government of obstructing his social work

The secretariat of the former president has accused senior government officials of blocking funding for his office and attempting to obstruct its work.

A press release issued by the office of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom states that it was created on 11 December 2009 under legislation passed t last year by parliament to provide protection and privileges for former presidents.

“Under article eight of the law on protection and privileges for former presidents, the state has to arrange up to Rf175,000 a month for an office, employees and ‘other matters’ for former presidents ‘should they want to’ do social work of benefit to community,” reads the press statement.

It adds that the legislation leaves the formation of the office to the discretion of former presidents, and not parliament or the government.

Article 140 states, “A member of the cabinet shall be given responsibility for each authority or institute established by government or the People’s Majlis, except for independent institutions specified in this constitution or established pursuant to a law.”

However the statement adds that “it is clear” that a cabinet minister does not have to be responsible for the office and moreover, it was “regrettable” that senior government officials were claiming that the former president did not have the authority to create such an office and were “attempting to obstruct” the work of the former president.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Hassan Afeef, political advisor to President Mohamed Nasheed, denied the president’s office was obstructing the social work of the former president.

“What he has to do first is state what kind of social work he wants to do and then inform the relevant authority – that is the finance ministry,” Afeef said.

When the request was made with the finance ministry, he said, it will issue funds depending on the type of work and the number of employees needed.

Afeef argued that the office would be created by a law passed by parliament and therefore would be overseen by a ministry.

Since the law clearly states that funds should be issued for “social work” the former president must specify the kind of work he wants to undertake.

“I don’t understand why he is trying to do everything by using power instead of respecting the law,” he said.


President to return home today

President Nasheed returns to Male’ today after playing his part in the United Nations Forum for Climate Change held in Copenhagen.

While the president played a pivotal role in the summit, media across the world reported that many countries present at the conference showed little respect for the work done by President Nasheed and other leaders.

The president is will give a press conference later today.


Tepid response to Copenhagen accord, but a win for the Maldives

The Danish Prime Minister has called Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed “the real hero of Copenhagen” following a marathon 30 hour negotiation session, however global response to the final accord is proving underwhelming.

Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen told a press conference that intense pressure from the Maldives reignited the debate when it threatened to stall. When talks broke down, Nasheed appealed to argumentative nations “to leave pride aside and adopt this accord for the sake of our grandchildren.”

The Maldivian president joined world leaders including Barack Obama (US), Gordon Brown (UK), Nicholas Sarkozy (France) and Angela Merkel (Germany) in drawing up the Copenhagen Accord, which was then adopted by more than 150 countries following fiery debate.

The accord recognises that global temperatures should rise no higher than two degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels, but does not commit developed countries to legally-binding emission reduction targets.

The flavour of the talks revealed that sovergnity and development remain a higher priority than climate change for many large growing economies. China was particularly irritable on the subject: Prime Minister Wen Jiabao stormed out of the conference after disagreements with the US over international monitoring.

“This was our sovereignty and our national interest [at stake],” said the head of China’s delegation, Xie Zhenhua, before sending a low-ranking protocol officer to resume negotiations with Obama.

China’s revised agreement, which was backed by many large developing nations including Brazil and India, commits to a two degree limit but does not force cuts on any country.

Meanwhile Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping caused carnage when he stood up and described the final accord as “a solution based on the same very values that piled six million people into furnaces in Europe”.

The most tangible success was an agreement to deliver US$30 billion in short-term funding to developing countries over a three year period, in an effort to help them adapt to climate change and adopt clean energy technologies.

“Small island developing states” were highlighted in the agreement as potential beneficiaries of this money, which included US$10.6 billion pledged by the European Union, US$11 billion from Japan, and US$3.6 billion from the United States.

It appeared there would also be more to come: the accord promised the developing world an annual US$100 billion by 2020 to aid ‘clean’ development, drawn from public and private sources.

“The world stood at the abyss last night but this morning we took a step back,” President Nasheed said, following yesterday’s negotiations.

“The Copenhagen Accord is a long way from perfect. But it is a step in the right direction. We did our best to accommodate all parties, we tried to bridge the wide gulf between different countries, and in the end we were able to reach a compromise,” he said.

However the two degree temperature limit fell short of his expectations: “To save our country from climate change, we need an agreement that limits temperature rises to 1.5 degrees and reduces atmospheric carbon concentrations to 350 parts per million,” Nasheed said.

“While this accord does not deliver these targets there is room within the agreement to migrate toward 1.5 degrees and 350 parts per million, pending scientific assessments.”


Media response to the accord was rather tepid, while some campaigners have called it “a disaster.”

In the UK, the Guardian described the final two page agreement as “vaguely worded, short on detail and not legally binding,” while the Times blasted it as “lukewarm” and “meaningless”.

Al Jazeera reported that the deal had left “only bitterness and anger at the deal done between the US and the world’s emerging economies”, while the Wall Street Journal observed that the final wording of the accord and a lack of formal approval “means countries are left with the choice of associating with the agreement or not.”


Comment & Analysis: From the rising sea into the crossfire

Jihadwatch is watching the Maldives. Jihadwatch, set up by the David Horowitz Freedom Center in the United States after the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York, is run by prominent rightwing American conservatives convinced that Western civilization is in danger of being annihilated by ‘Islamic terrorism’.

The chief aim of Jihadwatch is that of ‘correcting popular misconceptions about the role of Jihad and religion in modern-day conflicts’.

This has meant reducing the inherent complexities of the Islamic concept of Jihad to a singular understanding of the term: Jihad is a Muslim Holy War against the West. Some of the contributors to Jihadwatch are among those who have made the most prolific contributions towards cementing the dangerous theory of a clash between Islam and Western civilization.

With the announcement by President Nasheed on 21 November 2009 that he was seeking advice on whether or not the Maldives should ban places of worship for other religions, the Maldives provided Jihadwatch with just the kind of material to spread their message of Islam as an enemy of human freedom and civilization. The article itself, and the comments left by visitors, make interesting reading for the government, and for the purported religious readers that currently seem to hold sway over what happens in the country.

Clash of civilisations

The issue here is not that the Maldivian government should let its policy be informed by the output of a website such as Jihadwatch. After all, it is such advice and thinking that informed the policies of the previous U.S. administration that led the world into the disastrous ‘War on Terror’.

No, the reason why being watched by Jihadwatch should be of concern to the Maldivian government is because it raises the question of how the Maldives ended up being involved in this ‘Islam versus West’ debate at all.

If President Nasheed is seeking ‘advice from religious scholars on Islam’s position on allowing non-Muslims to worship in an Islamic community’, he would also do well to seek advice on how to deal with the dangerous issues that the country will have to face once it finds itself well and truly caught up in the so-called ‘clash of civilisations’ debate.

The most pressing issue here is that the Maldivian government should realize the direction in which these ‘religious leaders’, with their proposals for introducing intolerance into Maldivian laws, is taking the country.

If the government fails to recognize the implications of allowing them to lead the Maldives into the maelstrom of the dangerous Islam versus the West debate, the nation will soon find itself in deeper waters than those that threaten to force it under rising sea-levels.


For centuries the Maldivians have been Muslims. Its constitution has always dictated that to be a Maldivian citizen, one has to be a Muslim. Yet, until now, it has managed to avoid being predominantly identified as an ‘Islamic state’ – extremist or otherwise – in western security discourse. Even in the immediate aftermath of 11 September 2001, the Maldives escaped from being grouped into either of the two camps into which the former US administration divided the world: ‘either you are with us [the West], or you with the terrorists’.

This is no small achievement, for a nation of 300,000 people who have been Muslims by law since 1153 AD. How did the country manage to distance itself from being typecast in this crude manner?

By practicing Islam peacefully. By being Muslims who were not dictated to by the diktats of sects and factions within Islam. By adhering to the tenets of Islam that make it a religion of peace. By being united in their faith in a manner that was uniquely Maldivian.

The Maldives has escaped war, ethnic conflict and civil strife in this war-torn world precisely because its people have been united in their belief and practise of Islam in a manner that has been unique to their own cultural and social identity.

In the last eight years or so, however, a particular brand of Islam has been imported into the country by persons whose underlying motives the government has failed to question and whose activities the government has left unchecked. The number of ‘learned clerics’ whose methods and sources of learning no one knows, have mushroomed with breathtaking rapidity.

The Muslims of the Maldives and their unique identity have been marauded by the force of the dubious religious rhetoric that now reverberates in its parliament and its public sphere.


There has been a thought-revolution in the Maldives the force of which has affected the Maldivian people as profoundly as Mao’s Cultural Revolution affected the people of China.

The government needs to question how this silent yet so starkly visible revolution happened without protest, how a people’s identity has been taken away so completely, how they have been so easily persuaded into leaving centuries of cultural norms and ingrained ways of practicing their faith for methods and practices that have been imported en masse from other cultures, from certain sects within Islam.

The last government and the barriers it had set up against intellectual development is just one of many reasons. But there is more, and the government needs to ask the right questions and find the answers, if it is to halt the relentless regression towards disaster that the Maldives is currently caught up in.

If the Maldives continues along this path of radical change, it is going to come under more than just the watchful eye of those trying to blame Islam and its teachings for all the woes of the world. The saddest development of all is that a country such as the Maldives, which until now has been a shining example of peace, among Muslim nations is now providing ammunition for those who are perpetrating the belief that Islam is engaged in a war against the West.

President Nasheed fought long and hard for a democratic government in the Maldives, and made personal sacrifices to achieve the goal. He has been busy attempting to bring about much needed reforms.

But, he is showing himself to be extremely weak in facing up to the forces that are impeding his progress. It is time for President Nasheed and his government to realize that if he fails to stand up to these agents of conflict and intolerance, the loss will not only be to his political ambitions but to the nation that he has promised deliverance from dictatorship.

It is laudable to try and save the nation from going under when the sea levels rise; but the ability to hold cabinet meetings underwater is not going to help stop the nation from sinking into troubled waters once it gets caught in the crossfire of the ‘War on Terror’ and the advocates of a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial news policy. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]