Rilwan’s family remain concerned at investigation progress as third suspect released

The family of missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan have again expressed concern regarding the police’s investigation after a third suspect was released from detention on Friday (September 10).

The Maldives Police Service has confirmed that a 25-year-old man held in connection with the disappearance was released after being taken to the Criminal Court in an attempt to extend his detention for the third time.

Rilwan, who has been missing for 65 days, is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint outside of his Hulhumalé apartment at around 2am on August 8.

Rilwan’s brother Moosa Rilwan told Minivan News today that the family is very concerned police did not release enough information about the arrests, expressing concern at shortcomings in the investigation.

The 25-year-old is the third suspect to be released after four men were arrested on September 30 in relation to Rilwan’s disappearance. A single suspect remains in custody.

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) had applauded the four arrests made by MPS, noting the development as a clear sign of progress in the investigation.

The police are yet to suggest any possible theories or lines of inquiry into the disappearance and have previously stated that there was no concrete evidence linking Rilwan and the reported abduction in front of his apartment.

MDN released an investigation report three weeks ago identifying the possible scenarios related to the disappearance.

The investigation conducted by Glasgow based Athena Security implicated abduction by radicalised gangs motivated by religious extremism as the most likely explanation for the disappearance.

The report said that Rilwan had “regularly received clear threats to his life” for his outspoken criticism of religious extremism and fundamentalism.

It also noted that there had been an influx of extremist ideologies in three of the major gangs operating in the capital Malé, stating that gang leaders were exposed to radical Islam during incarceration in prison.

One of the gang members named in the report was subsequently caught on tape removing a CCTV camera from the Minivan News office, for which he was arrested before being released the next day with demands from the Criminal Court that he cooperate with the police investigation.

A Minivan News journalist received death threats shortly after the attack on Minivan’s office, which also saw a machete lodged in the door.

The attack was followed by dozens of death threats to journalists, senior members, and parliamentary members of the opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) from unlisted numbers.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed – who also received threats during a visit to the UK this month – alleged that the death threats against journalists and MPs were sent using an online texting website.

Nasheed has also been critical of the police’s response, suggesting they were not taking enough action to investigate the growing number of threats.


Sri Lankan police to support Maldives Police Service

Inspector General of Sri Lankan Police Mr N K Illangakoon has “reassured” President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik that Sri Lanka will continue to provide support and cooperation to strengthen the Maldives Police Service, during a meeting held in the President’s Office.

Waheed highlighted the “political challenges” the Maldives police face and “commended” their professionalism while executing their duties.

Waheed and Illangakoon further discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral relations, “especially in the area of police service”.

Amnesty International have accused police of using disproportionate force against protesters.


MDP willing to discuss interim government with PPM: Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed announced the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) willingness to discuss enacting an interim government with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which the party believes is essential for free and fair elections to occur.

The MDP has desired the establishment of an interim government since the controversial transfer of power of February 7, 2012 and is open to holding discussions with the PPM to establish a transitional government prior to September’s Presidential elections, Nasheed stated during a press conference held at the Mookai Hotel in Male’ today (May 16).

“If PPM wants to bring in an interim government, we are ready to hold discussions. MDP wants an interim government. We at MDP have always wanted an interim government. But we need support from other parties to do that in parliament. If PPM is so inclined, we are ready to hold discussions with PPM to achieve this,” Nasheed said.

“For free and fair elections [to take place], we are encouraged that PPM has pledged to stop Waheed from campaigning on state funds,” he added.

The MDP is continuing its call for the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) recommendations to be implemented, with the supervision of the international community. Nasheed stated he was disappointed CoNI recommendations have yet to be enacted – especially regarding holding to account those who mutinied against the government and committed various brutal acts, including destroying the MDP’s headquarters.

Nasheed said that the MDP did not believe free and fair elections were possible with Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and Defence Minister Colonel (Rtd) Mohamed Nazim in their current positions, and has asked they be “transferred” from their current posts.

He distinguished between ‘rank and file’ Police Service and Maldives National Defence Force (MDNF) and their leadership. Nasheed said action should be taken against the highest ranking officers for their role on February 7.

MDP Spokesperson Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News today that local media reports of Nasheed calling for Riyaz and Nazim to be “forcibly removed” are inaccurate, however the former President has called for their removal and transfer “as far away from their current positions as possible”.

“They are already enacting measures of intimidation under the guise of ‘coordination’ by requesting political parties give the name of a person to work with the police. The Elections Commission should be enacting such a policy, not the police. It’s very strange and highly suspicious,” said Zuhair.

Should PPM be of the same view that an interim government is necessary for credible elections to be held, MDP would work through the parliament to discuss with PPM, Zuhair explained.

“PPM’s President and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said their party would ‘go it alone’ and not form a coalition, because that would not allow policies to be implemented effectively. Then the natural next step [for the PPM] would be to gain parliamentary support from the only player able to give support, MDP,” said Zuhair.

PPM Spokesperson and MP Ahmed Nihan today rejected the likelihood of the government-aligned party working with the opposition MDP to remove President Waheed from office ahead of elections in September.

“I do not believe this is a possibility. If it was possible, we would have done this already I believe,” he said.

Nihan claimed that the PPM’s main concern at present was for free and fair elections to take place. However, he added that with the Commonwealth-backed CoNI concluding that President Waheed’s coalition government – which includes the PPM – had come to power legitimately, it would not back the MDP’s calls for the present administration to be removed.

Nihan added that, while continuing to support the present coalition government, many PPM supporters believed that the party presently represented one of only two political ideologies in the country. These philosophies he said were those of PPM founder former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and former President Nasheed and the MDP.

Nihan claimed that the majority of the country’s smaller parties, including those choosing to side with President Waheed in a pre-election coalition, were all rooted to former President Gayoom and his “political wisdom”.

“Strange bedfellows”

Nasheed also addressed the recent addition of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to the President Mohamed Hassan Manik’s coalition – which includes his Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP) and the Adhaalath Party (AP) – and it’s incompatibility with a democratic presidential system of governance.

Nasheed expressed his happiness about Gayoom’s statement that coalitions do not work because they are not in line with a presidential governing system and are instead more reflective of a parliamentary system.

“I am very happy that President Gayoom – [who is] no doubt is the most experienced political leader [in the nation] – has been very clear about how inefficient for democratic policies the formation of coalitions are in a presidential system,” said Nasheed.

Nasheed noted that the Adhaalath Party and Sheiks’ extremist views will pose difficulties for the GIP-led coalition. Although the DRP are billing themselves as a moderate party, they will not establish the national ‘bastion of tolerance’ they claim to be purporting, Nasheed said.

The former President believes the coalition is a “hodgepodge” mix of ideologies, not politics and these “strange bedfellows” cannot achieve anything.

DRP disintegration

Nasheed stated that the alliance between GIP and DRP is only agreement between the two individual and not reflective of grassroots DRP supporters. He believes that DRP leader Thasmeen Ali and Waheed had no other choice and formed the coalition out of sheer necessity.

He also stated that the recent coalition has not produced a “third ideology” and that only two ideologies exist in the Maldives.

During door to door campaigning, the MDP has noticed that DRP grassroots support is disintegrating. They are either merging with PPM or joining MDP, according to MDP Press Director Mohamed Zuhair.

Additionally, Zuhair discussed the distinction President Nasheed made between other parties and MDP. He highlighted that MDP policies are formulated by consulting every household to asses the Maldivian people’s needs. This is followed by holding consultative seminars, with the feedback passed to the party’s ‘organs’ for discussion, then to policy committees, with the process culminating in an announcement.

“None of the other parties have this method,” said Zuhair.

“So far three policies have been announced, and the fourth – agrobusiness – will be announced tomorrow,” he continued.

“MDP is focusing on policy issues, having to ‘go out on the road’ and stage protests to ensure free and fair elections will change the entire dynamics of the campaign. We are hoping it doesn’t come to that,” said Zuhair.


Islamic Ministry requests MNDF, police officers be authorised to grow beards

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has requested amendments to the uniform code of the security services to authorise army and police officers to grow facial hair.

A media official from the ministry confirmed that a letter was sent to the President’s Office this week officially requesting the policy change “to give permission to police and army officers to grow beards as in other Islamic countries, since our constitution is based on Islamic principles.”

Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told local media this week that a number of army and police officers had appealed with the ministry for the change.

Shaheem argued that in spite of disagreement among scholars regarding the issue, the Maldivian constitution provides the freedom to adhere to Islamic codes.

He noted that other Islamic nations such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Pakistan permitted beards in the military while Sikhs in the Indian army were allowed to wear beards.

Shaheem explained to local daily Haveeru this week that the Islamic Ministry was not advocating in favour of making beards mandatory for the uniformed bodies, but rather to allow those who requested permission to wear beards.

“While our constitution offers that right, why has it been forbidden by some in an Islamic country?” he asked, adding that he had complete confidence that President Mohamed Waheed “would not turn his back on the request.”

“Mocking the Sunnah

Dr Ibrahim Zakariyya Moosa and MP Afrashim AliShaheem’s religious conservative Adhaalath Party, part of the ruling coalition, put out a statement yesterday “condemning in the harshest terms” remarks made by two unnamed scholars in a lecture to police officers last week that the party contends “mocked” the Sunnah (way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammed).

The press release did not identify the speakers by name. However, a police media official confirmed that the session was conducted by Dr Ibrahim Zakariyya Moosa and MP Afrashim Ali, a moderate scholar and council member of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

According to police media, the pair spoke in detail about sources of disputes among religious scholars, including on the issue of beards.

“In his speech, Dr Afrashim Ali mainly explained the importance of knowing how the Prophet’s Sunnah is ranked,” reads the police news item.

MP Afrashim argued that issues on which scholars have not been able to reach a consensus could not be declared either compulsory or heretical as “there cannot be a definite conclusion regarding such problems.”

According to Adhaalath Party, one of the scholars told police officers that there was no benefit to society from an individual wearing a beard “even if, for example, it was established from the Prophet’s Sunnah.”

The remarks implied that growing a beard was not mandatory in the Sunnah and cast doubt on its purpose, the Adhaalath party statement argued.

“As some officers of the Maldives police institution wanted to wear beards, he attempted in his talk to convince them that there was no need to do something that was of no benefit to society,” the statement reads.

Adhaalath Party noted that there was consensus among Islamic scholars that wearing beards was part of the Sunnah. Scholars however disagreed as to whether the practice was obligatory upon all Muslim males.

“This is as clear as the midday sun,” the statement claimed, citing authentic hadith purporting to show that the Prophet “ordered all Muslims to trim their moustaches and grow out their beards.”

In its statement, the Adhaalath Party’s scholars council also urged all government departments and state institutions to “amend all regulations in conflict with Islamic principles.”

Article 10 of the constitution states that the religion of the state is Islam while “no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

Religious NGO Jammiyathul Salaf meanwhile released a statement yesterday signed by the group’s President Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohamed Ibrahim, Sheikh Hassan Moosa Fikry and Sheikh Ahmed Sameer bin Ibrahim insisting that beards were compulsory in Islam.

The Salaf statement further claimed that regulations prohibiting beards in the military were unconstitutional as it was contrary to a well-established tenet of Islam.