Domestic Violence Act “incomplete” without Family Protection Authority

Members will be next week appointed to the primary body tasked  with implementing the Domestic Violence (DV) Act, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik said on Wednesday.

According to Dr Waheed names have been nominated by the Gender Ministry to the Family Protection Authority (FPA) board.

“I have been informed that the Gender Ministry has prepared the proposal. So the members will be appointed without further delay,” Waheed said:”Next week”.

Under the landmark piece of legislation passed and ratified last April, a seven member board has to be appointed to the FPA.

The authority is mandated under the law to conduct programs setting out measures for taking all necessary steps to prevent domestic violence including rehabilitating perpetrators of such crimes, arrange flexible reporting mechanisms, facilitate the investigations and provide all necessary support and shelter to victims of abuse.

According to the Gender Advocacy Working Group (GAWG) created by UNFPA Maldives,  a letter was forwarded to the President’s Office with recommended people to be appointed for the FPA board.

“It is important to nominate people who have strong expertise on the issue from different sectors.” Michiyo Yamada, Gender Specialist at UN Women Maldives noted.

“We urge the government to establish the Family Protection Authority as soon as possible, since they are mandated to lead the implementation of the DV Act, such as creating public awareness, providing services to survivors, coordinating the work of relevant institutions including police and health.” she observed.

She also noted that GAWG will support and cooperate with all institutions to implement the legislation. The multi-sectoral group represents interested organisations and individuals, promoting gender equality and non-discrimination.

“Extensive ground work is needed to implement the act by training service providers and setting up the system to prevent and respond to domestic violence across the country,” Michiyo added.

Recommended names were not released by the group as it is being reviewed by the government.

A Gender Ministry official confirmed to Minivan News that GAWG’s nominations were taken under consideration while shortlisting the names for President’s office.

Stakeholder’s concerns

All stakeholders from government, civil society, judiciary and state institutions gathered at the Tuesday’s national consultation workshop on UN Secretary General’s Unite Campaign to end violence against women, and “agreed” on the urgency of forming a central authority to prevent domestic abuse and overcoming the existing challenges in providing protection and justice to those victims.

According to Human Rights Lawyer Mohamed Anil, who participated in the DV Act’s drafting process, the “legislation is incomplete without the authority”.

“It is already created from the date of ratification. On paper it exists now. But without the members authority is nonexistent, ” Anil observed.

He added that the when the legislation fully comes into operation it will bring “significant new changes”, one of which he pointed out is the additional power granted to the security forces to investigate abuse and violence within domestic spheres.

Should the police find reasonable evidence to believe  a person is a victim of domestic abuse, the DV legislation stipulates the police can enter the place of crime without a court order and arrest perpetrators and even request for a protective order on behalf of the victim.

Due to these “extra-powers” Anil said, police are required to compile an internal regulation outlining the guidelines in dealing with domestic abuse cases.

Should the authorities fail to report or address a case of domestic abuse, they can be held accountable under the law.

The law also mandates the police to remove the victim from the abusive environment to a shelter, if necessary on the institution’s own expenses.

In the most recent case of alleged infanticide on Feydhoo island, the council and islanders have been claiming in the local media that the authorities had failed to relocate the 15 year-old mother of the dead baby despite several complaints of sexual abuse within her home.

Stakeholders at the meeting highlighted that the Family and Children Center (FCC) shelters on the islands are under-equipped and too short staffed to accommodate and help victims, while budget constraint are further hampering the process.

“Look at the condition of FCC on islands. We once had to keep a sexually abused girl at the atoll state house because the shelter did not have any facilities and there was no other safe place to keep her,” Shaviyani atoll Council President Moosa Fathy noted at the workshop.

“Everyone talks about these issues on stages. It is merely a political fashion show.” he added, noting that there has been several cases where police and state institutions have denied support to the councils.

Therefore, at the end of the workshop, participants promised to make a coordinated effort to end violence against women and girls and promote gender equality.

“We need more commitment and concrete action.” a participant noted.


No truth to claims that Shaheem blocked from preaching, says Islamic Ministry

Spokesperson for the Islamic Ministry Sheikh Ahmadulla Jameel has refuted allegations by the Dhivehi Post website that State Islamic minister and President of the Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, had ordered ministry staff to prevent former State Islamic minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed from preaching, delivering the Friday sermon, and appearing on TV programmes.

The website reported that the order to restrict Sheikh Shaheem from preaching originated from the President’s Office, and that Sheikh Hussein Rasheed had then ordered all departments of the ministry to follow it.

The website then called for Sheikh Hussein Rasheed to resign from his post as the president of the Adhaalath Party.

However, Sheikh Ahmadulla denied saying this to the website.

”I have asked all staff at the ministry as to whether any such event took place within the ministry, but nobody knows of it,” he said, adding that Dhivehi Post website had never contacted him.

Sheikh Hussein Rasheed also denied the allegations.

”First of all, the President’s Office will not send me any message directly, they will always pass messages to me through the minister,” said Sheikh Hussein. ”It is not the current government’s culture to order ministries to do things like this.”

Sheikh Rasheed said the allegations were false and that the government “would not use unregistered news websites to circulate information.”


Civil Court issues injunction on land sales

The Civil Court of Maldives issued an injunction yesterday to temporarily cease the auctioning of plots in the Male’ southwest harbour, pending a ruling on the case filed by the opposition joint coalition challenging the legitimacy of the process.

‘’If the opportunity is given to continue the transactions, the court believes its potential consequences may be irreversible,’’ reads a statement from the court.

The four opposition parties in parliament, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), People’s Alliance (PA), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), contested the policy in court on the grounds that the cabinet made the decision in violation of the Land Act 2002, article three of which states that the president should declare policy.

As the cabinet has not been approved by parliament, the coalition argues it did not have the authority to hand over the task to Male’ municipality.

Moreover, the coalition claims that the transactions violate article 250[a] and article six of the constitution.

On July 20, the President’s Office announced the cabinet’s decision to sell off 11 plots of 50,000 square feet of land as part of the policy to develop the southwest harbour area.

”Proceeds from the sale of this land will be used to finance the development of entire harbour area, and build multi-purpose buildings to lease,” the President’s Office revealed at the time.

Over Rf100 million has been raised so far from the sale of four plots in the first phase of the auction.


Police continue investigation of opposition leaders; criminal court denies arrest warrant

Youth Minister Hassan Latheef has said that police have commenced another investigation into the activities of People’s Alliance (PA) party leader Abdulla Yameen and Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim ‘Buruma’ Ibrahim.

Latheef said police had requested the criminal court issue a warrant for the arrest warrant of the pair, but this was denied.

”The criminal court declined to issue the warrant saying there were no grounds to issue an arrest warrant for the second time,’’ said Latheef. ”But this is a whole different case.’’

Latheef said that when police requested the criminal court issue the arrest warrant, the court referred to the recent case and issued a statement signed by the chief judge of the criminal court denying the police request.

”The case concerns the influence of independent commissions,’’ Latheef said. ”We do not accept the criminal court’s denial of the police request.’’

He said that attempts by police to investigate allegation of corruption and bribery were not intended to threaten and intimidate political figures.

”We are currently monitoring to see if there are any judges involved in corruption and bribery,’’ Latheef said, adding that ”we are not saying that judges have been involved in such activity.’’

He declined to reveal the names of the judges being observed and the courts they belonged to, claiming it would obstruct the observation.

”If there are fair and independent judges in courts, we will succeed in this case,’’ Latheef claimed.

Under Secretary for the President’s Office, Ibrahim Rasheed, promised the government would listen to the voice of people.

”We will investigate any act of aggression,’’ he said. ”The government will not cease its effort to eliminate corruption and bribery.”


Police testify against president’s office staff member over drugs charge

Two policewomen have testified in court against the deputy under secretary of the President’s Office, Aishath Eeman, after she was arrested on drugs related charge.

The police testified that Eeman refused to give them a urine sample when she was brought into the police station on suspected drug possession in December 2009.

Constable Mahdhoodhaa Saleem told the court that Eeman was requested to give a urine sample three different times, but she had refused.

Constable Thalia Ali also said she asked Eeman for a urine sample, and explained that the procedure was that the person would only give the sample if they wanted to.

When judge Abdulla Mohamed heard this, he said that giving the sample was a person’s own choice and that an accusation could’t be made just because someone refused to do something out of choice.

However the state prosecutor said that the judge had misunderstood, and that Constable Thaila had used the right of the police to request a urine sample.

Eeman’s defense team meanwhile said that Eeman could refuse giving a urine sample as part of her right to remain silent.

The policewomen’s testimony conflicted in the time Eeman was reportedly brought in. Constable Mahdhoodhaa said Eaman was brought to the station around 6:00pm in the evening, while Constable Thaila said Eeman was brought to the station between 9:00pm and 12:00pm.

Speaking on behalf of the president’s office, Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said Eeman was “technically on leave at the moment. We are providing legal assistance for her through the president’s office.”

Zuhair said the case was being conducted by the judicial system, “so even if the person is from the president’s office they must be investigated.”

The Deputy Prosecutor General Shameem said that despite the high profile of the defendant prosecutor general’s office was not giving the case any special attention and was treating it “like any other normal case.”

The trial is continuing.