Home Ministry launches investigation of Transparency, TEAM

State Minister for Home Affairs and the Registrar of NGOs Abdulla Mohamed has declared that the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) and Transparency Maldives (TM) are under investigation for “unlawful acts” and warned NGOs that organisations acting outside of law would be dissolved.

Speaking to local TV station Villa TV (VTV), Abdulla said the Home Ministry is looking into complaints that TEAM had committed “irresponsible and unlawful acts.”

Transparency Maldives is also under investigation for challenging the Supreme Court, he said.

“We will not allow any organisation to challenge the law. NGOs acting outside the law will be dissolved,” Abdulla said.

Abdulla’s warning comes after both TEAM and TM spoke out against a Supreme Court injunction on September 23 ordering the Elections Commission (EC) to delay the second round of presidential elections.

The order came during an ongoing case filed by Jumhooree Party (JP) to annul the vote.

The apex court issued a second injunction on September 26 ordering security forces to ensure compliance with its first injunction. The police then surrounded the EC, shortly before the commission declared conditions unsuitable for the second round to proceed.

TEAM – an industry body representing some 5000 workers across the country’s luxury resorts – criticised the first order, saying it “destroys the principles of democracy we have embraced and voids articles of the constitution.” The union threatened prolonged strikes should polls be delayed.

TM issued a statement on September 26 expressing concern over the Supreme Court’s integrity due to the state’s inaction over Justice Ali Hameed’s leaked sex tapes in which he appears to be fornicating with three foreign women in a Colombo hotel room.

In a second statement on September 28, the NGO called on the Supreme Court to “uphold the spirit of the Constitution and respect people’s electoral choice.”

Transparency Maldives had conducted the most extensive elections observation with 400 observers across 20 atolls. It subsequently questioned the delay of polls after not having received “any reports that suggest systematic fraud in its nationwide observation and no credible evidence that supports such allegations has been made public.”

Secretary General of TEAM, Mauroof Zaki said the Home Ministry had called the organisation’s President Ahmed Shiham inquiring about TEAM issuing a “political” statement.

“Even if the Home Ministry takes us off the register, we will not cease to exist. The Constitution allows freedom of association. The international community and our members accept us. Even if we are dissolved, we will continue our activities with more strength,” Zaki said.

Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed said the organisation is trying to verify the registrar’s comments.

“Transparency Maldives represents Transparency International in the Maldives and operates within the ambit of the law,” he said.

The Maldives Democracy Network and the NGO Federation have also expressed concern over the election delay. They have urged the Supreme Court to deliver a speedy verdict and to allow elections to proceed as per the constitution.

Maldives Port Workers also stopped work for an hour on Sunday in protest against the election delay.

Abdulla Mohamed was the Vice President of the Civil Alliance Coalition of NGOs (Madhanee Iththihad) which was at the forefront of protests in the lead up to the ousting of former President Mohamed Nasheed.