Former Thilafushi Corporation head given 3 years for corruption

Former Thilafushi Corporation Managing Director (MD) Ibrahim Riyaz was sentenced to jail for 3 years by the Criminal Court today after being found guilty of using his influence to gain unlawful advantages in the Thilafushi land reclamation project.

The Criminal Court sentence read that Riyaz had denied corruption charges, claiming that the decision to award the project to Heavy Load Maldives was made by the company board of directors.

Heavy Load is owned by the family of Maldives Democratic Party MP and Deputy Speaker of the Majlis ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

The troubled reclamation deal – awarded in 2010 as part of the Thilafalhu Industrial Zone project – faced repeated delays due to both technical and financial reasons.

The Criminal Court today countered Riyaz’s defense  saying that he was not able to prove that the decision was made by the board of directors, and accused the former MD of making the decision himself in order to gain personally.

The decision to award the contract to Heavy Load Maldives was made against the rules and regulations of the company as well, read the sentence.

The mega-construction company was paid a mobilisation fee of MVR 38.6 million (US$ 2.52 million) by the Thilafushi Corporation in the project with the whole project reported to be worth US$ 21 million.

Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) officials ordered the project halted in February 2011, citing the potential for corruption with the deal – though Moosa himself at the time alleged the decision to have been politically motivated.

The Thilafushi Corporation later sued the ACC for the decision to stop the work.

The state-owned corporation reportedly told a Majlis subcommittee last year that it had lost MVR650 million (US$42 million) as a result of the failure of Heavy Load to reclaim the required 152 hectares within the 6 month period agreed.

Criminal Court also charged two other executives of Thilafushi Corporation for participating in the corruption but were unable to prove their involvement.


US invites Maldives delegation aboard USS John C Stennis aircraft carrier

Senior government officials were invited aboard a United States aircraft carrier on Wednesday (March 27) as it passed by the Maldives.

The visit was followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Maldives and the US government on Thursday to install a free border control system in the country.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen, were flown to the USS John C Stennis aircraft carrier as part of an arrangement between the US embassy and Maldives Defence Ministry.

The visit was documented by the ministers, who posted photographs on social media site Twitter.


Require a system to take witness testimonies quicker: Police Commissioner

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has said authorities require a mechanism to take witness testimonies before they can be intimidated or influenced.

Local media reported that Riyaz expressed “concern” over the way all suspects in the murder case of Ali  Shifan had been acquitted.

The Police Commission claimed that many witnesses were too afraid to testify in high profile cases, adding that there needs to be mechanism to process witness statements quicker.

“Such things happen. This is something we must accept. In other countries there are various mechanisms in place to ensure witness protection.

“We already have such a law. There is a witness protection Act. We have been informed that a draft of such an Act is already at the Parliament. I hope it becomes a law soon,” Riyaz was quoted as saying in local media.

According to Riyaz witnesses change their statements in court because their influenced financially and through intimidation.

Last week, the Criminal Court ruled that all six suspects arrested in connection with the stabbing murder of Ali Shifan are innocent and ordered their release.

The judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict, reported local media, despite the DNA of the victim being found under the fingernail of one of the suspects.

The judge said that although the state had produced five witnesses to the court, their statements to police were contradictory.

The judge cited a Supreme Court ruling stating that when dealing with murder cases, a suspect could only be convicted if there was enough evidence to believe he was guilty beyond any doubt, and said the state was not able to convince the court that they were guilty.


Police officers find their names included on party registries against their knowledge

The Maldives Police Service have revealed that a number of its officers have had their names unknowingly included in certain political party membership registers.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef told local media on Thursday (March 14) that an unspecified number of police staff had been registered to political parties without their knowledge.

A tweet posted by Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz on Thursday said that Assistant Commissioner of Police Ali Rasheed’s name was also found to be listed on a parties registry without his knowledge.

Article 69 (c) of the Police Act prohibits policemen from registering to political parties, being directly involved in political activities, and financially contributing to a such parties, local media reported.


IFJ warns that Privileges Act will undermine journalist source protection

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has warned that the Parliamentary Privileges Act pressed into law today (March 12) will undermine the ability of Maldivian journalists to protect their sources.

Journalists in many developed countries, including the UK and Australia, are routinely sentenced to contempt of court extending to imprisonment for declining to reveal sources when asked.

The Maldives is one of the few countries to have so-called ‘shield laws’ protecting journalists from this, with the constitution containing specific provisions concerning freedom of expression in a bid to inspire confidence in potential whistleblowers.

Article 28 of the constitution states – “Everyone has the right to freedom of the press, and other means of communication, including the right to espouse, disseminate and publish news, information, views and ideas. No person shall be compelled to disclose the source of any information that is espoused, disseminated or published by that person.”

However Section 17(a) of the new Parliamentary Privileges Act states: “[Parliament or a Parliamentary Committee has the power to] summon anyone to parliament or one of its committees to give witness or to hand over any information which the parliament wish to seek.”

The Act was passed after a presidential veto was overridden by parliament, in a vote that obtained rare cross-party support. The Act follows the refusal of senior government and police officials to attend committee hearings when summoned, including Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, and would theoretically criminalise such refusal in future.

The IFJ endorse the the Maldivian Journalist Association (MJA)’s opinion that the new power “is too broad in its provisions and could undermine the constitutional protection that journalists currently enjoy.”

“The IFJ believes that [Article 28 of the Constitution] is a salutary provision of law which makes the Maldives one of the few countries to provide constitutional protection to sources of journalists’ information,” the IFJ said in a statement.

“The IFJ joins the MJA in asking for a reconsideration of provisions in the Parliamentary Privileges Act which may undermine this valuable protection afforded to journalists and all citizens,” it added.


Parliament’s National Security Committee to summon police commissoner, defence minister

Parliament’s National Security Committee has decided to summon Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim in order to clarify details of their actions during the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

The committee has decided to summon Nazim and Riyaz on January 15, 2013.

According to local media, both men are to be questioned over in what capacity they had decided to enter the President’s Office and the headquarters of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) on February 7.

The events of February 7, which led to a dramatic change in government, have been labelled as a “coup d’etat” by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – despite a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) concluding the transfer was constitutional.

The committee is also expected to query why Riyaz and Nazim had assigned themselves the responsibility to push former President Mohamed Nasheed to write his resignation letter that was then sent to Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid.

The committee is chaired by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, who was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Moosa told local media that the decision of the committee to summon the heads of the country’s police and military was part of wider work to research the CNI’s report on the controversial transfer of power.

Moosa has alleged that Nazim and Riyaz entered the President’s Office and MNDF HQ without having any authority and against correct protocol.  Their actions, he claimed, therefore required an investigation.

On February 7, the military and police forces joined then opposition-aligned protesters, defying the orders of former President Nasheed and calling for his resignation.

Nasheed later gave a speech claiming that should he remain as head of state any for longer, it could harm the citizens of the nation.  He therefore announced his resignation on the grounds it was the only option he had to avoid bloodshed at the time.

Both Riyaz and Nazim were witnessed at the time following Nasheed to the President’s Office, where he was forced to write a resignation letter to be sent to the Speaker of Parliament.

Earlier this week, former Human Rights Minister Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed alleged certain figures behind protests leading to the controversial transfer of power on February 7 had also planned to assassinate former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The allegations from Saeed, who was recently dismissed as the current government’s Human Rights Minister, were raised in a personal memoir entitled “Silent inquiry: A Personal Memoir on the issue of the Transfer of Powers on the 7th of February 2012”.

Saeed also used the memoirs to accuse president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s government of attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report.  The government has dismissed the accusations as baseless.


No decision on Nasheed prosecution until police review charges: PG Muiz

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz has said there will be no decision on prosecuting former President Mohamed Nasheed until police review “aspects” of criminal charges forwarded against the one-time head of state.

Muiz told Minivan News today that after reviewing charges sent to his office on April 15, he had requested police “look into aspects” of the case they forwarded over certain concerns that had been “noted” at the time.  Muiz was unable to specify the nature of the concerns sent to police regarding the charges facing Nasheed.

The former president potentially faces prosecution over charges relating to both the alleged discovery by police of alcohol at his former residence following his “resignation” from office and the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his administration.

Muiz himself added that despite expecting the PG’s Office to make a decision on whether to prosecute Nasheed by the end of last month, he was now waiting on the outcome of a police review.  He added that the findings of an investigation by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) would also be required before making a decision on prosecution.

HRCM investigation

The HRCM, which in March summoned Nasheed for questioning over his role in detaining Judge Abdulla, said it was presently finalising its own investigation into the incident.

HRCM spokesperson Jeehan Mahmoud told Minivan News today that its investigation into the judge’s detention had now been closed, though the findings were yet to be overlooked at a sitting of five senior commissioners representing the body.

“Once we have finalised the report, we will then look to send it to relevant authorities,” Jeehan said.

HRCM said in March that, along with its investigation into the detention of Judge Abdulla, Nasheed would also be directly involved and questioned in two additional cases.  These cases were said to relate to alleged human rights abuses carried against Nasheed himself before and during February’s controversial transfer of power that saw him resign –  a decision he later claimed was taken under “duress”.

Speaking last month after police forwarded the charges against Nasheed to the PG’s Office, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy claimed that the move was “pure injustice”, representing the “broken” state of the national criminal justice system.

Fahmy contended it was ironic that Nasheed, who had worked to foster a reputation for championing human rights in the country, could now potentially face prosecution by a judiciary that he himself alleged to be guilty of several of counts of corruption.

“This is injustice. Justice is not ensured simply by a judge’s verdict on an issue, it has to be publicly accepted that it is justice,” he argued.

Commonwealth role

Earlier this week, Attorney General (AG) Azima Shakoor denied the government had come under pressure from the Commonwealth to drop all criminal charges against Nasheed.

The AG added that the government were making no further comments until discussions being held with Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon were concluded.

Muiz said that he had not received any communications from the Commonwealth regarding the charges against Nasheed.


Police promote one thousand officers, recruiting further 200

In a ceremony to celebrate the 79th year of the police service, Police Commissioner Abdullah Riyaz and Minister of Home Affairs Dr Abdullah Jameel announced the promotion of around 1000 police officers – approximately a third of the force.

The appointment of four new Assistant Commissioners was also announced, more than doubling the previous number holding this rank – the third highest position in the service.

Additionally, the police have revealed plans to recruit 200 new officers to the force this year.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that these promotions were in line with normal police regulations, and were awarded “based on performance, merit, and number of years served.”

The weekend’s celebrations continued as President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan announced plans to allocate 74,000 square feet of land to develop homes for police personnel.

Dr Waheed also expressed his gratitude for the police’s actions on February 7. “I state that the police worked on February 7 to uphold the constitution of Maldives,” he said.

The anniversary of the police service comes after months of intense scrutiny in which it the service been accused of brutality, human rights abuses and complicity in the downfall of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

On Saturday, Commissioner Riyaz stated that he did not intend to pursue an internal investigation into the alleged events of February 7 and 8, citing the lack of credibility that such an investigation was likely to have.

The unrest on February 8 saw a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest swiftly suppressed by the security forces while the footage of police aggression was beamed around the world.

Instead, Riyaz declared his decision to focus on repairing the organisational damage done to the institution.

“I can’t just come in here and investigate the alleged police brutality as the first order of business. It is essential to establish who was occupying which post first by assessing the organizational structure. The whole institution had been politically influenced,” the Commissioner told Haveeru.

“We all know that the positions within the police institutions had not been assigned in accordance with police regulations and had functioned in violation of the police system. Hence, I am compelled to drag the institution back into its proper system,” said Riyaz.

He also stated that he had discussed any potential investigation with the President and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) shortly after taking up his post, requesting that the HRCM take up the responsibility.

Amnesty International had last week criticised this method of investigation after having spoken to HRCM regarding the investigation of alleged sexual abuse of female detainees.

“HRCM has told Amnesty International that they have serious limitations in terms of trained investigative staff and dealing with human rights issues in a highly politicised environment is an overwhelming challenge for them,” said Amnesty’s representative in Male’, Abbas Faiz.

“By referring cases of police abuse of power to the HRCM, when it is clear that such investigations are beyond its capacity, the government is in effect forfeiting its own responsibility to enforce respect for human rights within the police force,” said Faiz.

President Waheed’s speech at the anniversary’s official function event focussed on the difficult environment the police had found themselves since the upheavals of February.

Waheed called on public to show respect for and cooperation with the police while urging all officers to respect human rights and human dignity in the course of their duties.

The strong public discontent with the police’s role in, and its reaction to, the events of February 7 and 8 has led to simmering tensions which have erupted in sporadic violence.

The President also expressed his sadness at the physical and emotional distress suffered by the police in recent weeks.

The opening of the people’s Majlis on March 19 was accompanied by clashes which saw the police suffer multiple casualties. This was followed by a series of attacks which saw four police officers hospitalised in five days.

Popular discontent also saw the staging of a large rally on March 15 in support of the International Day Against Police Brutality.

Both Commissioner Riyaz and President Waheed have been reported expressing concerns that people in the media were attempting to defame the image of the police force, expressing concern that this was damaging the country.

“I am aware of their contempt towards the institution. I will try to resolve the matter. The biggest challenge would be to win back their trust and confidence,” Riyaz told Haveeru.


Comment: How do you solve a problem like the Maldives Police Service?

Today marks 79 years of Policing in the Maldives. Pity, that it has become so controversial an issue to appreciate.

A mistrust of the Maldivian police and security services has been ingrained in me for most of my life. I grew up with stories of arbitrary arrests, brutality in jails, and the concept that the police were not there to protect and serve my interests, but those of their immediate superiors. In fact, one of the fundamental things that I had to accept in 2008, after the country’s first multi-party Presidential election, was the idea that the Police were no longer ‘enemies’, or even the ‘golha-force’, but very much part of the apparatus of state that any government had to take into consideration. It wasn’t an easy task.

Controlling my body not to shudder at the sight of a blue camouflaged uniform and black ankle boots, and understanding that not every arrest the police made was arbitrary. Most of all learning to trust the police took time, commitment and a lot of stubbornness. Maybe that sense of apprehension and mistrust went both ways.

No doubt, the prospect of a MDP government would have filled most senior police officers with a high sense of foreboding. After all, these were the very people that they had seen on the other side of an investigation table, inside a jail cell and on the street loudly confronting them at every given opportunity. Let’s not take lightly the extent to which the police were a political tool of Maumoon’s authoritarian regime, and as a result, that they were very much a product of the democratic reform process in the Maldives at that time.

The Maldives Police Service was created in September 2004. Mostly out of the need to placate the international community, and to perform a PR exercise after the human rights debacle that was 12/13 August 2004.

Instead of policing duties being conducted by the National Security Service or the Army, we got the Maldives Police Service and the Maldives National Defence Force. Basically – blue and green uniforms. Two hastily divided institutions plunged into a fast-changing political environment to which they were inextricably tied. Millions were poured into the MPS – equipment, training, strategic action plans, philosophies of policing and of course, new blue uniforms. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the training went into how to use new equipment rather than how to Police within new democratic laws. Of course, Adam Zahir being at the helm was never going to help. Neither did the Hussain Solah incident, especially after Evan Naseem.

Nonetheless, the MPS emerged as an institution with heavy amounts of funding, a select group of highly educated officers, very young, not always disciplined recruits and a top brass that was intent on maintaining the status quo. Many in the top brass had spent years in the NSS, looked up to individuals like Adam Zahir as father figures and in some cases, had managed to log quite a few ‘favours’ through the Maumoon regime and therefore were heavily indebted. Add to this the ‘Star Force’, the frontline of an authoritarian defence whose very existence and modus operandi depended on the long leash of their superiors and government.

During the establishment of the MPS, human rights discourse, although in the Maldivian mainstream and a significant facet of the MPS PR machine, had not and it now seems has not filtered through to the officer on the street. The MDP government due to their personal histories of being victims of human rights violations and their voicing out against police brutality faced greater pressure to ensure that these incidents did not take place under their watch.

Political prisoners were no longer an issue, but it would be unfair to say that maltreatment of detainees in jails completely disappeared. We could say it lessened significantly and that it was no longer systematic. There was definitely more oversight, with the Human Rights Commission and the Police Integrity Commission, but it was still a work in progress. A work in progress, which was focusing on issues such as the reduction of drugs, terrorism, gang violence and theft rather than simply on political protests.

Yes, the whole institution still unnecessarily stuttered at the sight of a protest, but there was more to the ‘Protect and Serve’ during the last three years than ever before. I suppose however, that ‘works in progress’ – especially in an infant democracy – are vulnerable, and leadership was not always forthcoming.

The extent of its vulnerability and the ability to which outside forces with vested interests managed to manipulate the disenchanted and politicised officers on the inside was evident on 7 February 2012. As a result, I find myself asking, ‘now what?’

Now that the police have played such an inexplicably outrageous role in engineering a coup and bringing down the country’s first democratically elected government – who are they protecting and serving now?

It cannot be the Maldivian people. No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall, however much you hate Anni and the MDP, I cannot imagine that many people genuinely condone the actions of the police on 6-8 Feb. Unless you’re vicious Visam (MP) of course!

I for one condemn it with every fibre of my being. I don’t believe that all police officers participated or even supported the actions of the mutinying officers on the 6th night. Many went along out of an ill-begotten sense of camaraderie to their fellow officers who they believed would have been arrested by the MNDF. As they should have been – nothing justifies a coup. Especially the very politicised actions that preceded it.

I understand that many officers who don’t accept this new situation can’t just up and leave, be it because of a need to provide for their families or a sense of duty to an institution that they have helped develop, but it is difficult to remember this when faced with footage of the carnage that was February 8 and the stories that have followed since.

The re-emergence of individuals like [Police Commissioner] Abdulla Riyaz is frightening. He may have undergone a course in customer needs and conducting business through social media, but the nature of the man remains the same: brutal. Unapologetically so.

As such, the use of force although granted to policemen by law, seems again far too easy a whim for officers to use rather than a measure to be taken in the gravest of circumstances. The fact that they have to be accountable to their actions, that they must provide a greater example, is non-existent. That Abdulla Riyaz is surrounded by deputies who seem to either share his beliefs or are willing to silently submit to it is scary, that his superiors are opportunistic nitwits like Jameel and FA is even more chill inducing, and most of all that the Police Integrity Commission is powerless, is incredibly frightening.

So, how do I feel about the police now? Scared. Infuriated. Frustrated. And heartbreakingly disappointed. On the 79th anniversary of Policing in the Maldives, I do not wish Police Officers hearty congratulations. Instead, I wish for them a sense of responsibility and understanding of their role in the disruption of a democratic state. I continue to wish that action will be taken against officers who so blatantly violated the police act and abused unarmed citizens. I call for somebody to be held accountable for the actions of Police officers on February 8, I call for a re-evaluation of the need of the ‘Special Operations’ Unit, and I call for the resignations of Abdulla Riyaz, Hussain Waheed, Abdulla Phairoosh, FA and Jameel. And I call for an early election.

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]