Corruption, religious freedom, and judiciary biggest human rights problems in Maldives, say US report

The US State Department has described “charges of Supreme Court interference to subvert the presidential elections process,” as among the most significant human rights problems in the Maldives in its 2013 human rights report.

Also highlighted in the report were restrictions on religious freedom, and “corruption of officials in all branches of government”.

No instances of imprisonment on political grounds, unlawful deprivation of life, or disappearance were recorded, while progress was noted with regards to the passage of the anti-torture and right to information bills.

The report accused much of the judiciary of being unqualified and corrupt, and noted that its rulings during last year’s presidential elections had the effect of restricting the independence of the Elections Commission (EC).

The judiciary was described as “not independent and impartial and was subject to influence and corruption”.

It said that a number of judges were “known to base their rulings on cash rewards, and there were reports that lawyers occasionally built the cost of bribes into their fees” while the public generally distrusted the judiciary.

The report estimated that one in four judges have a criminal record, and that two carried convictions for sexual assault.

It was suggested that the outcomes of cases appear to be predetermined, such as the repeated intervention of Supreme Court in the presidential elections where the court directly accepted cases without allowing lower courts to hear them first.

The October annulment ruling and the 16-point guide to conducting elections was reported to have given both the court and political parties veto power over the EC, “curbing its independence and its ability to execute its mandate”.

The report also mentioned the alleged sex tapes of Judge Ali Hameed and his continued presence on the bench.

“Many judges, appointed for life, held only a certificate in sharia, not a law degree. Most magistrate judges could not interpret common law or sharia because they lacked adequate English or Arabic language skills,” read the report.

Police

The report noted that security officials employed practices that fell under what it regarded as ‘torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment’.

While proper arrest procedures were found to be in place, the report noted that police did not fully implement them, particularly in dealing with protests. It was also noted that courts sometimes freed detainees “on the condition that they not participate in protests or political gatherings for a specified number of days”.

In regard to the cancelled October 19 presidential election, it was reported that “Police abdication of their responsibility prevented the elections from occurring”.

It was found that six cases of police brutality were sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office in 2013, but that five of these officers remained with the police – with one of them being promoted – and two cases later dismissed for lack of evidence.

Referring to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), the report stated that two of three cases where police officers were alleged to have sexually harassed detainees in 2012 were also dropped for lack of evidence.

While the prisons were found to have ‘met most international standards’, it was also found that they were overcrowded.

Flogging, Rape, Domestic Violence and Sexual Harassment

The controversial case of a 15-year-old victim of sexual abuse being sentenced 100 lashes was recorded, detailing the fact that her alleged abuser received no sentence at all. The girl’s sentence was annulled by the High Court following a government appeal due to domestic and international pressure.

The penal code does not classify rape as a separate offense, the report stated, while the PG’s Office lost almost all cases of forced sexual assault due to insufficient weight was given to the testimony of the victim.

Spousal rape is not considered a crime under the law, and according to the report difficulties remain in implementing the domestic violence act due to religious beliefs.

While the Ministry of Health and Gender was said to have received just five cases of sexual harassment, the report stated that various forms of harassment were accepted as the norm in government offices. The protracted removal CSC President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan was noted in the report.

While the law stipulates sentences of up to 25 years in prison for those convicted sexual offenses against children, the report said that “if a person is legally married to a minor under sharia, however, none of the offenses specified in the legislation are considered crimes”.

In 2012, a total of 47 underage marriages were registered at the court, of which 35 involved girls and 12 involved boys.

Civil and political rights

Common to human rights reports on the Maldives, restrictions on freedom of speech and expression in order to protect Islam was noted. Media self-censorship in issues related to Islam – for fear of harassment- and in issues relating to the judiciary were detailed.

One piece of legislation criticised through out the report was the the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act, which was said to be restricting freedom of expression and the press along with freedom of peaceful assembly itself.

The report said this law “effectively prohibits strikes by workers in the resort sector, the country’s largest money earner”.

With regards to privacy, the report stated that standards required for court permission to monitor mails and phone conversations was very low.

Discrimination and attacks against Raajje TV, in particular the attack on Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed, were mentioned. As the case of the attack against Asward continued, no arrests were made regarding the attacks against journalist Ismail Hilath Rasheed in 2011 and 2012. Hilath’s blog continues to be blocked.

The government was found to have failed to enforce applicable laws with regards to workers rights, and the report criticised established mechanisms such as the employment tribunal as “cumbersome and complicated” which violators of employment law often ignore.

“According to the Labor Relations Authority (LRA), there were four strikes. In two cases the employer refused to work with the LRA as mediator and strike participants were fired. In two others, the LRA participated by phone but strike leaders and others who persisted with the strike were terminated,” the report said.

It stated that some undocumented migrant workers were subject to forced labor in the construction and tourism sectors, while domestic workers – especially migrant female domestic workers – were sometimes trapped in forced servitude.

Without any laws on refugee or asylum status, a family of four Palestinian refugees from Syria were housed in Hulhulé island without being rehoused upon UNHCR’s request until asylum was granted for them by Sweden.

Read the full report here.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Protests disrupting services on Maafaru: Home Ministry

The Ministry of Home Affairs “expressed concern” about the prevention of islanders’ basic needs being met on the island of Maafaru in Noonu Atoll, with ongoing protests having resulted in the island council office, health center, and school closings, local media reported.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs Thursday (January 17) stated the provision of these services is obligated under the constitution and subsequent laws, as well as that the obstruction of these [fundamental human] rights is equivalent to denying citizens of their rights.

Therefore, necessary legal actions will be taken to restore the provision of these services without discrimination to all citizens, according to Sun Online.

The ministry added that planned government projects to provide basic services are based on income received by the state.

The government also said they “will always welcome peaceful assembly” since this right is guaranteed in the Maldivian constitution, according to local media.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Hulhumale door-knocking reveals lack of awareness of constitution

Preliminary findings from the ‘Did you Know’ door-knocking campaign have revealed that half the 500 homes in Hulhumale visited by the volunteers were unaware that the Maldives had a new constitution, let alone what it contained.

The UNDP-run campaign, which launched on November 26, is an attempt to address a lack of public awareness into how the judicial system works – a critical problem for the development and promotion of human rights in the Maldives, according to the UN body.

One component is the ‘Did you Know?’ campaign, involving a team of 27 volunteers door-knocking around Male’, Hulhumale’ and Villingili explaining rights and distributing brochures.

“I found it was women who were the most disinterested, and I think more so among the older generation,” UNDP National Project Manager Naaz Aminath told Minivan News, after knocking on the doors of 500 houses in Hulhumale.

“But they would sit there and listen, particularly to subjects such as employment rights, and the right to a pension. One mother said she’d never heard of the constitution, but we asked her if she worked and talked about her employment rights, which she said was really useful.”

Only about 20 of the 500 homes approached in Hulhumale’ were unwilling to invite the volunteers in, Naaz noted.

“In those instances we left a pamphlet. But mainly people were very welcoming, even though they were busy doing things like cooking and minding children. We were often invited in for a drink.”

Many men showed awareness of their rights, but felt that getting involved in understanding the constitution meant getting into politics “and said they did not want to get involved. But they generally did listen,” Naaz said.

Glimpses into the private lives of so many homes was confronting for some of the volunteers – “We came across other issues – in one house a victim of domestic violence broke down in tears when we walked in. We can’t fix everything [with this project], but we can provide directions on how to contact authorities.”

The consensus after the Hulhumale’ campaign was that while households had an awareness of the new constitution gleamed through television, “there’s a difference between being aware of it and knowing what’s in it.”

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Public losing confidence in democracy because of parliament’s delays, says HRCM

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has said the delay caused by the deadlock in parliament is obstructing citizens obtaining the human rights promised them under the constitution.

HRCM said laws and rules are necessary elements for people to obtain their basic human rights, and other services the state should deliver the citizens.

“As it is the constitutional duty of the parliament to legislate, [this delay] causes the citizens to lack their rights and also causes a loss of confidence in democracy, and obstructs the establishment of the rule of law in the country,’’ HRCM said. “When the necessary laws are not passed, it becomes an obstacle for the state to fulfill tis the constitutional duty as stated under article 18, to protect and promote human rights.’’

HRCM noted that the Witnesses bill, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Bill , Law on Taxation and National University Law were yet to be passed, as parliament entered its third week of inaction following clashes over the cabinet endorsement issue. Today’s parliament sitting was also canceled after the MPs clashed over the cabinet endorsement issue. The 10 day public holiday begins on Thursday.

HRCM called on parliamentarians and political parties to work in the best interest of the nation and its citizens.

The opposition and the ruling party have blamed each other for the cancellation of the parliament sittings, and each session is derailed on points of order.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

HRCM lacks a religious scholar: Adhaalath party

The Adhaalath Party has called on parliament and President Mohamed Nasheed to include a religious scholar in the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives [HRCM], as stipulated in the constitution.

“HRCM is an institute established according to the constitution of the Maldives. The constitution very clearly states how to appoint members for the commission,’’ said a statement issued by the party. “According to the constitution, the Human Rights Commission should consist of people with different skills, [one of which] is that there should be a person educated in the field of Islam.”

The lack of such a person was a “constitutional absence”, the statement said. “Therefore, members are currently being appointed for the commission, we appeal to the president and parliament to focus attention on including persons from different areas in the commission.’’

The party also said it hoped parliament and president would endeavor to keep independent commissions, such as HRCM, free from people of partisan political background.

Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair, said that the president would give due consideration to the Adhaalath Party’s request.

”I think it is a requirement mentioned in the constitution,” said Zuhair, “and of course the president gives high priority to requirements mentioned in the constitution.”

The parliament last week appointed three members for the HRCM, out of eight names proposed by the president.

The three members appointed for HRCM were Maryam Azra Ahmed of Maafannu Hukuradhige, Jeehaan Mahmood of Dheyliyage in Hinnavaru of Lhaviyani Atoll and Ahmed Thalal of Henveiru Adduge. Former President of HRCM Ahmed Saleem was not approved by the parliament.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Comment: Resort life – it’s all about pretence… lots of it.

In resort life everyone tries to be what he or she is not, according to circumstances. Sometimes this behaviour is required as part of the profession and sometimes it happens out of inclination. For example:

Managers

They come in all shapes and sizes. Some come with a perpetual frown on their faces whilst others hide their true expressions behind an engaging smile. But they all share in the pretence.

The guests

Most guests are also notorious at deception. It is an ingrained cultural habit to smile and make light of everything, however annoying.

However there are those who are exactly the opposite – the realists and the con-guests who will complain at the smallest inconvenience to get a free bottle of champagne or a discount on their stay.

Human resources

HR used to play God until the arrival of the dreaded labour laws. Now that the mantle of power to terminate staff indiscriminately on HR’s whims and wishes can at last be challenged in the labour tribunal, things are thankfully a little bit more even handed.

Reservations

Together with ’sales and marketing’, reservations would have everyone else believe that if not for them the resort is a few days from closing down and going out of business.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that most tourists just choose to come to our resorts after hearing about our beaches and small islands from the internet, mostly through tour operators.

Tour operators do not necessarily depend on reservations but sometimes they have an agreement with the resort for the allocation of rooms, which is ‘handled’ by these pompous people. In technical terms they are just clerks and data entry staff making a big fuss over their work.

Of course there are some sweet, down-to-earth reservations people who do not aggrandize their work but in resort life such humbleness is the exception rather than the norm.

Maintenance

The maintenance people generally include the engineers and the unseen crowd. They are happiest when something really major breaks down like an engine or a water plant, because that’s the only time they can shine and their work will be valued or respected by their superiors.

They are prone to making the smallest issue as big as possible just to get the attention of the managers, because that’s the only way up the corporate ladder from their level.

Waiters and room boys and girls

Generally honest and hard-working, these gentle people have a tendency to make a purely service task into a
technical one, which at a certain extent can be comical.

Launch section guys

Perhaps the most realistic in appearance and attitude are found in the ‘launch section’ team. They have a reason for that too – extended periods of time spent in monotonous journeys between islands and airports wear them down which makes them difficult to either please or irritate.

The IT guys

The IT guys are all smiles and kindness until a computer terminal is said to be terminally ill and the IT guy is called in. From that moment the IT guy is bossy, unfriendly, talks in jargon and generally looks down on the rest of humanity.

However a by-product of Moore’s Law is that advances in technology will soon make them redundant, as networks, computers and devices become more and more user friendly and intelligent. They had their day in the era of Windows 3.2 and dot matrix printers, when being an IT guy was not for the faint of
heart.

Nowadays the IT guy is pretty much only still alive thanks to Microsoft Windows and the uncommonness of common sense.

Chefs and the kitchen crowd

There is an unending war between the restaurant guys and the kitchen folk because all the hard work is done
in the kitchen but all the tips are received at the restaurant.

However as most resorts are mindful of this war, generally their salary is higher than the rest which is some solace to the animosity. The kitchen guys generally do not subscribe to false smiles and half-hearted greetings, because their life is hectic and hard.

Gardeners, labourers and the like

At the bottom of the ladder, these people are resigned to their fate or position and automatically have the rubbery smile and artificial greetings for all guests and superiors.

No such smiles for their peers and others, however – ambition is not lacking in this department, as gardeners are frequently fond of watering the plants around the GMs office hoping that he or she will take notice of the effort…

There is much hypocrisy to go around in resort life, but its worth it for the the fun. If all resort folk, including the guests, were to be expressionless die-hard realists, life in a resort would be tough indeed.

Republished with permission from MaldivesResortWorkers, a site for resort staff to anonymously discuss the industry, their employers, and the realities of resort work.

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

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Comment & Analysis: Me sheikh, you woman

What would you think if US President Barack Obama were to appoint Benjamin Netanyahu as his special advisor to the Israel-Palestine conflict right after his speech offering an unclenched hand in friendship to the Muslim world? It would be a move that makes as much sense as President Nasheed’s recent appointment of Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed as the minister of state for home affairs.

The ministry is in charge of the police and defence forces – the maintenance of law and order in the Maldivian society. Its portfolio includes the treatment of prisoners. Was it not recently that Sheikh Rasheed voiced his wishes for re-introduction of capital punishment and amputation into the Maldivian penal code? And did President Nasheed not fundamentally disagree with Sheikh Rasheed’s position?

What confounds logic even more is that President Nasheed is putting Sheikh Rasheed in a leadership role in a ministry which says that shaping the social fabric of the nation is part of its mission and remit. An examination of the social fabric that Sheikh Rasheed would like the Maldives to be clothed in shows it to be of a cut and design that is hardly tailor-made for a democracy, to put it mildly.

Adhaalathian Utopia

For Sheikh Rasheed’s Adhaalath Party wants a Maldivian society in which there would be not just capital punishment, amputation and flogging. It would also be a patriarchal society that would function according to something called the ‘natural order’ of things. The natural order, Fate, Karma, God’s Preordained Blueprint for Life, or whatever one might like to think of it as, is one in which men and women are quite irrevocably different from each other.

The main proof lies in the biological make-up. Male and female reproductive organs are different. For those who cite biology as the reason for man’s superiority, the reproductive organs also testify to man’s mental superiority over women. One might ask whether, by the same logic, it follows that the intellectual superiority accorded on the basis of biological differences mean that it is these reproductive organs that are put to use when such men need their mental faculties to function – but one should not be so supercilious in one’s attitude towards such learned, scholarly dignitaries, so let us move on.

Even a perfunctory empirical examination of the societal idyll that Adhaalath Party has outlined for the Maldives, in their various publications online, renders one aghast that the leader of this party has now been appointed to a position that would allow for such thinking to be actualised. There is plenty of material to choose from, but the focus of this article is on the place women are to have in this ‘Adhaalathian Utopia’.

Women are equal to men, says Adhaalath. When it comes to domestic violence, that is. Take for example Lorena Bobbitt who in 1993 cut off her cheating husband’s ‘male organ’, as Adhaalath so very delicately put it. Rather than being a one off incident (excuse the pun), for the Adhaalath party it is representative of womankind as a whole, and shows just how wrong it is for women to claim such an ‘entitlement’ to victimhood in domestic abuse.

Now weigh this against the World Development Report of the same year which stated that ‘violence causes more death and disability worldwide amongst women aged 15-44 than war, cancer, malaria or traffic accidents’. Or measure it against the fact that 70 per cent of women experience violence from men in their lifetime or the fact that ‘at least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her’.

No matter, the enraged Mrs Bobbitt’s impromptu surgery on the very part of the philandering Mr Bobbitt’s anatomy that stood as testament to his superiority proved beyond any reasonable doubt that these ‘notions’ of ‘victimhood’ that women entertain are just silly female ideas that have no place in ‘the natural order of things’.

“Somewhere around Bombay”

Similarly, women cannot honestly claim to have no equality when it comes to rape either. For Adhaalath – without reference to any source material – provides ample ‘proof’ that this is simply not the case. One Adhaalath commentator, for example, tells his readers of having spotted a headline in capital letters [if it is in capital letters, then surely it must be true] in some newspaper somewhere in a remote part of India that a group of women used to phone a hapless doctor to come make house calls only to be gang-raped by a group of female ‘patients’ when he arrived at the door.

Adhaalath can also inform readers that ‘somewhere in or around Bombay’, sometime in 1989, another group of women gang-raped a boy who died in their violent sexually-depraved hands. These are not isolated cases – although they do appear to be concentrated ‘somewhere around Bombay’ – for there was another case where a farmer was raped by a group of horny women whose violent sexual machinations robbed the poor farmer of his life.

‘These incidents should be viewed as discriminatory, bigoted ideas about women being victims of sexual violence at the hands of men. Men are suffering on a similar scale at the not-so-delicate hands of women. ‘It is an injustice in itself to think that women alone are victims of violence in this world’. No one is claiming this to be the case, but then again why listen to these ridiculous ‘Western notions’ in their entirety?

Anyway, the only reason that studies and figures from world organizations investigating such matters are mainly concerned with women’s victimhood is probably because they have failed to include this particular area ‘somewhere around Bombay’ in their data collection and analyses. Ah, the laxness of research these days.

Now that it has been established it would be wrong for anyone to think that Adhaalath Party is of the opinion that men and women are entirely unequal, let us return to the ‘natural order’ according to which the ‘Adhaalathian Utopia’ would function. It is a picture best painted in the words of Adhaalath itself – no one else could render it quite so evocatively as their writers, nor be as eloquent in the depiction of their vision for a new Maldivian society.

The following is an extract of a publication by on the role of women in society. The Adhaalath material is an abridged translation from an article that appeared on the Adhaalath website in July 2008.

“The ‘natural order’ is one in which men and women simply cannot be equal. This is as natural and irrefutable a fact as the earth revolving around the sun. Human lifestyle is based around the very same natural order, the same organizing principles as those found in nature.”

(…)

“All human life is run according to this ‘natural order’. The problem that we are confronted with today is that there are an increasing number of people trying to upset the system. The main problem is the increasingly loud voices of ‘certain people working for women’s independence who insist in calling for gender equality’. ‘These people’ are claiming that men and women are equal! ‘This is absolutely and completely against the natural order’ of the world. This policy has devalued the family by destroying the family structure that forms the very foundation of society.”

(…)

“It makes absolutely no sense that the family should be exempt from the rules of management that apply to any other business – a manager is appointed to run the show and the minions follow him. To appoint the husband as the director/manager of the family is not to say that the wife is inferior, nor is it to say that the husband is superior. The husband should be in charge of planning, strategizing and running the business of family – this is the natural order of things, and what God intended. Just like He intended the earth to revolve around the sun, and that night should follow day.”

“Should we listen to ‘those people’ agitating for equality between men and women, catastrophe and destruction will follow. For appointing the husband the head of a family is as natural as appointing a boss over employees, a prime minister over ministers – this is only a matter of practical and administrative concern, not a suggestion of superiority of one person or group over another.”

“In terms of status, men and women are equal; both sexes deserve equal respect. Sometimes women are even more equal than men. It’s just that they need guidance and supervision of men without which they would be helplessly bumbling about, trying to make sense of a world without order.”
(…)

“This is the main problem of modern times. According to notions of equality fostered by modernity, men and women rushed into employment together. This has led to increasing unemployment because it deprived men of their [God-given] rightful place in the labour force. Once women forgot their place at home the so-called problem of unemployment arose. There is no tangible development or benefit to be seen from women having joined the workforce.”

(…)

“Now that they have joined the workforce, nothing is being done at home. As a direct consequence, the whole society is rife with problems. This is the real reason behind such mayhem: women forgot their place in the natural order.”

What (or should I say, with what) possibly could President Nasheed have been thinking? Can anyone see the logic behind his appointment of the learned Sheikh Rasheed as state minister for home affairs in light of such ‘enlightened’ policy his party espouses? No doubt that Sheikh Rasheed is popular and that he is ‘the great Islamic scholar’ that his 194-strong Facebook fan-base tells us he is. But, what place does the kind of thinking espoused by his Adhaalath Party have in a democracy? By giving him such a portfolio, President Nasheed is upholding policies and ideas that should be anathema to a democracy. Shame. And here we were almost convinced by those learned men that timidity is an entirely female characteristic.

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 policy. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)