Forgeries, fraud and dead people appearing on party membership forms: Elections Commission

The Elections Commissions (EC) has said it has noticed a surge of discrepancies on membership forms submitted by certain political parties including forged documents, forms with false information and even forms filed under the names of dead people.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz said the commission noticed the discrepancies after it received a large number of membership forms ahead of parliament’s decision that parties with under 10,000 members would be dissolved.

According to Fayaz, within the last few weeks the EC noticed that a large number of membership forms had major forgeries including forged signatures and duplicated national identity card numbers.

He also said the commission had received forms submitted in the name of people who no longer were alive.

Fayaz said the commission had now forwarded the cases to relevant authorities, including police and the Department of National Registration (DNR) to investigate the matter.

Speaking to Minivan News, Secretary General of Elections Commission Asim Abdul Sattar said the commission was now working to verify and validate all the forms that it had received from the parties.

He added that the commission felt the forged membership forms began appearing after the parliament previously ordered the commission to stop using fingerprint verification on membership forms.

In April 2010, the Elections Commission introduced a new political party registration form to avoid the recurrent problem of people being registered to political parties without their knowledge.

President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq at the time said the commission had uncovered an estimated 900-1100 people registered to political parties without their knowledge, “from all political parties.”

The new form introduced required the person’s fingerprint, two witnesses and their signature. It came under heavy criticism from political parties alleging that the EC was biased in approving forms by certain political parties.

On November 2012, Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee requested the Elections Commission cease requiring fingerprints on applications for political party membership.

The committee members questioned the efficiency of fingerprinting technology, arguing that no mechanism or database presently existed in the Maldives that could store the required amount of information.

Explaining the decision to discontinue the EC’s request for fingerprints at the time, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Institutions Committee, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer, said the Maldives did not presently have a mechanism or system to collect and store such information.

“In regards to issues with the fingerprinting system, the EC, Department of National Registration and the Maldives Police Service all agreed they do not have enough records or verification systems available,” he told Minivan News at the time.

The DNR was also reported to have confirmed that no fingerprint database presently existed in the Maldives.

The EC Secretary General added that another factor causing the sudden boost in forged forms may have been the passage of Political Parties Bill, which requires parties to achieve a prerequisite of 10,000 members before being recognised as a political party – and receiving state funding.

“Some political parties began campaigns to achieve 10,000 members and during the process we started noticing such [invalid] forms. They may have predicted that the Political Parties bill would be passed,” he said.

Sattar admitted the commission was facing “technical difficulties”, such as the technology required to verify fingerprints.

“Now we are working to formulate political parties regulation under the newly passed act, and we believe that when this regulation comes into force, it will significantly lower the problems the commission is currently facing,” he said.

However, Sattar declined to reveal the names of the parties that were involved in the scandal, stating only that “the commission will decide whether to reveal the details after investigations by relevant authorities conclude.”

Following the parliament’s decision to speed up the drafting of political parties bill, several smaller parties began membership sprees to reach the limit of 10,000 members, including President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP), business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).

Waheed’s GIP was accused of trying to induce people to join through illegitimate means, in a bid to shore up the party’s membership base. The inducements included offering “music equipment and a place to play for free” as well as “hosting shows and parties” for young people.

Apart from luxurious parties and entertainment, GIP also allegedly promised highly paid government jobs and promotions in return for joining the party.

Meanwhile, contrary to GIP’s approach, the Adhaalath Party (AP) employed a more conservative approach running membership campaigns under slogans such as “Join Adhaalath to defend Islam” and “Adhaalath, the path to paradise”.

At the time of the ratification of Political Parties Act, the Adhaalath Party managed to attain 10,000 members along with the Jumhoree Party (JP), while GIP failed and was removed from the list of political parties.

The Elections Commission has called on the public to be wary of the situation and report to the commission as soon as anyone noticed they were registered to a political party without their knowledge.


Laamu Atoll councilors dismiss JP’s claims they had joined the party

Two councilors from Laamu Atoll have expressed concern over business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP) falsely announcing they had joined the party.

During a rally held last Friday on Gan in in Laamu Atoll, the JP announced that Laamu Atoll Councilor Mumthaz Fahmy, Laamu Atoll Kunahandhoo Island Councilor Lirgam Saeed and several others had joined the party during a membership drive.

However, both councilors denied the claims saying they never had any interest in joining the party.

Speaking to local media, Mumthaz Fahmy – who is also a member of Local Government Authority (LGA) – said although he welcomed Gasim’s contribution to the country, he had not decided to join the JP or support Gasim’s presidential campaign.

“When they announced that I was to join the party, I left the rally. I condemn the act of announcing my name,” he told local media outlet Sun Online.

When Fahmy did now show up on stage, JP Vice President Ameen Ibrahim told the media that due to travel difficulties, some of the “new members were unable to join the rally”.

“I took part in the rally following an invitation by Gasim Ibrahim. I never joined or planned to join the party,” Fahmy said.

Laamu Atoll Kunahandhoo Island Councilor Lirgam Saeed made similar comments.

“Even though I was in Gan, I did not even attend the rally. I have not decided to join the party. I was very disappointed when they announced my name without my consent,” Saeed said.

Ahmed Hussain, a key activist of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in the region, also claimed that despite his name being announced, he had never intended to join the JP.

“I have always been behind President Gayoom. Since the formation of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and later PPM, I have been like that. I condemn JP’s act of announcing my name,” he said.

Hussain also said that JP announced the names of several other people who had not joined the JP.

Hussain further said that he plans to sue JP for their “fraudulent announcement” of names from PPM members when they had no knowledge of such an announcement.

“They have to accept that they have committed a wrong and they should apologise. Due to this, people have questioned my sincerity, therefore I plan to consult with senior people of PPM and take the matter to court,” he added.

Meanwhile local newspaper Haveeru reported that former national football team member Shamweel Gasim’s name was included in the JP’s membership list without his knowledge.

“When I checked with elections commission I came to know I was listed as a member of JP. But I have never joined the party. I have never even thought of doing so,” Shamweel was quoted in Haveeru.

“I am really surprised. My name should not be in a party list unless I signed up to join,” he added.

However, Vice President of JP Ameen denied the allegations claiming that the party had announced names of people who had promised to join the party.

“We announced a list of people who gave their word to us. That included those who had already joined the party and those who were planning to join,” he told Haveeru.

“When the rally concluded, some people came and complained to us for not mentioning their names during the rally. A large number of people have joined the party and others agreed to join the party,” he said.

Responding to the allegations, JP Spokesperson Moosa Rameez said that they had not deceived anyone and the announcement of councilors’ names who had not joined the party was an “error made by the party secretariat” while compiling the list.

Rameez said the list was compiled from names of councilors and other people who had given word that they would join Jumhoree party.

“During our trip to Laamu Atoll, a minimum of 25 councilors joined our party. I think the problem came up with two names. It is an error made by the person who had compiled the list,” he explained.

According to Rameez, the party has already sent apologies to the councilors who had expressed their disappointment and he said the party was willing to apologise in the future as well.

“I don’t think we can bring anyone to our party by force. It was a genuine mistake. Anybody can make one. Even in universities, sometimes there are mistakes made in printing certificates. Such mistakes happen with GCE O’level certificates too,” he added.


Elections Commission deputy backs dropping fingerprinting for party membership applications

A decision by Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee to cease requiring fingerprints on political party application forms has been welcomed by Vice President of Elections Commission (EC) Ahmed Fayaz, who downplayed concerns over the potential for future membership fraud.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Fayaz stressed that the EC would not be officially commenting on the parliamentary commission’s decision yesterday until speaking with various party leaders. However, he claimed that he personally believed the Majlis recommendation to discontinue the use of fingerprints would make the system of membership applications more efficient and easier for both the EC and political parties.

Announcing the decision yesterday to recommend an end to fingerprinting, the Independent Institutions Committee members questioned the efficiency of such technology, arguing that no mechanism or database presently existed in the Maldives that could store the required amounts of information.

Nonetheless, local NGO the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) told Minivan News that while it was unsure of the efficiency of the EC’s fingerprint system, fraudulent membership registration for Maldivian political parties remained a significant problem that needed to be addressed. MDN claimed that alternative methods of party member verification should now be sought by parliament and the EC.

Fayaz responded that under regulations adopted in 2005, political parties had not been requested to submit membership forms to the EC. Instead, he said they have been required every three months to produce a list of their members including names and their ID number.

“When these lists are sent, these members should not be registered with other political parties,” he said. “[Parties] must check for themselves that these members are genuine.”

Fayaz said he believed that the present system of checking party membership lists every three months left little room for “fraud” within the system. He claimed therefore that a larger issue facing party membership rather than fraud was the state system of giving payments to parties on the basis of which group had the largest number of followers.

Fayaz accepted that the use of a verification system “like fingerprinting” could help stop possible fraud within party memberships, particularly in the case of people charged with recruiting members for the country’s political parties.

“I think some of the people doing recruiting [for parties] may in cases go beyond the rules,” he said, noting that there had been an improvement in following regulations in recent years.

Upon taking his oath of office along with current EC President Fuad Thaufeeq back in 2009, Fayaz claimed they had discovered “a culture” at the commission where regulations were often not being followed as required under laws outlining political party memberships.

“Perhaps under pressure from political parties there was a regulation where membership lists were not being checked every quarter,” he added, claiming that regulations were now being upheld up by the EC.

Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, MDN Executive Director Humaida Abdul Gafoor said the NGO was extremely concerned at ongoing cases of members being signed up to parties fraudulently.

“Often, people are not aware they have been signed up,” she stated. “It is imperative that it is down to an individual to decide which party they want to belong to and no one else.”

Humaida Abdul Gafoor said it was vital that some form of verification mechanism was in place to ensure party memberships were genuine, adding that a bigger issue facing the committee was in finding alternatives to the fingerprint technology, rather than simply halting it.

“We don’t know if the EC’s adoption of fingerprinting was a move in the right direction in first place,” she added.

System criticism

Explaining the decision to discontinue the EC’s request for fingerprints, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Institutions Committee, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer, said that the Maldives did not presently have a mechanism or system to collect and store such information.

“In regards to issues with the fingerprinting system, the EC, Department of National Registration and the Maldives Police Service all agreed they didn’t have enough records or verification systems available,” he told Minivan News.

One ongoing critic of the EC’s fingerprint system is MP Ahmed Mahloof of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Back in September, Mahloof alleged via local media that close to 8000 membership forms from his party have been rejected by the Elections Commission (EC) – mainly due to the quality of fingerprints appearing on the forms.

The MP claimed that the fingerprint issue had arisen because the EC did not have sufficiently modern machinery to look at the fingerprints, relying instead on the perception of its staff – drastically limiting memberships numbers for the party.

A spokesperson for the EC told Minivan News at the time that similar complaints had been received from other political parties including the Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

PPM MP Mahloof, DRP chief Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and DQP Leader Dr Hassan Saeed were not responding to phone calls by Minivan News at the time of going to press.