MP Riyaz refuses to apologise for ‘discriminatory’ tweets

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed has said his tweets about prohibiting “islanders” from traveling to protest in Malé were misinterpreted.

Raajje therey meehun [islanders] will no longer have the opportunity to come to Malé, protest on the streets of Malé, assault and harm police,” the MP for Thaa Vilifushi had tweeted on Thursday.

The security forces will no longer allow “islanders” to protest in the capital anymore, he tweeted the following day.

Riyaz’s tweets sparked an outcry on social media. An online petition was also launched calling on the MP to “publicly apologise for his discriminatory and bigoted views against people who are not from Malé.”

The PPM parliamentary group’s deputy leader told Haveeru today that he will not apologise as he did not consider the phrase “raajje therey meehun” to be derogatory.

Riyaz said he meant the opposition alliance will not be allowed to deceive people from the atolls and bring them to Malé for violent protests.

Responding to outrage over Riyaz’s remarks on Twitter, PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said the MP has been told to change the phrases used in his tweet.

“I hope he will apologise soon!” the majority leader tweeted yesterday.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali meanwhile tweeted today: “Under this government, from HA Thuraakunu to Addu City will be first class Maldivians. There will be no discrimination.”



Majlis’ Ibthihaal investigation postponed until end of recess

The Majlis committee investigating the death of 3-year-old Mohamed Ibthihaal will wait until the house reconvenes in March before holding further meetings.

Chair of the Majlis government oversight committee Riyaz Rasheed told Haveeru that there was “no point” and that “nothing further that can be achieved”, accusing fellow committee member Rozaina Adam of releasing confidential documents.

“I specifically asked the members of the committee at its last meeting to not make any of these documents public,” said the Progressive Party of Maldives MP.

Since the committee’s first meeting was held on February 5 was adjourned to give members more time to study the case’s documents, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP Rozaina has accused Rasheed of slowing the committee’s work.

She has also told the media that the documents received from the police contained no details of the toddler’s case prior to his death, despite authorities acknowledging that they were previously aware of his abuse.

Last Thursday, she went on to say that the gender ministry’s report contained  questionable statements, alleging that both the ministry and police had acted in breach of the law.

Ibthihaal was found dead in his home with numerous wounds and bruises on the island of Vaavu Atoll Rakeedhoo on January 28. His mother is mother is charged with murder and is in police custody awaiting further investigation.

Riyaz reiterated that. while parliament’s involvement has been temporarily brought to a halt, the government is looking into the matter and taking necessary action to prevent further incidents of the kind.

Source: Haveeru


Majlis standing committees’ composition approved as parties reach compromise

A five-member select committee tasked with constituting parliament’s standing committees has finalised the composition of the 13 committees after political parties reached a compromise today.

Following weeks of disagreement, a proposal by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Shareef – seconded by MP Ahmed Amir from the government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – was passed with three votes in favour at the 12th meeting of the select committee.

In addition to Shareef and Amir, the select committee included MP Riyaz Rasheed as the chair from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), MP Gasim Ibrahim from the Jumhooree Party (JP), and MP Anara Naeem from the Adhaalath Party (AP).

JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim did not participate in the vote after objecting to a change in the number of seats in some committees.

The committee decided to increase the number of seats in the public accounts oversight committee to 13 and reduce the number of seats in the petition committee and ethics committee to 10.

A proposal by MDA MP Amir to constitute the ‘241’ security services committee with 14 seats was also approved with six seats for the PPM, three seats for the MDP, two seats for the JP, one seat each for the MDA and AP, and one seat for Independent MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed.

Article 241 of the constitution states, “A committee of the People’s Majlis shall be established to exercise continuing oversight of the operations of the security services. The committee shall include representation from all the different political parties within the People’s Majlis.”

Aside from the 241 committee, Muaz – the sole remaining independent – was assigned to the ethics committee.

Reflecting the ruling coalition’s majority with its 46 MPs in the 85-member parliament, the PPM-MDA secured a voting majority on all standing committees with the exception of the privileges committee.

Parliamentary rules dictate proportional representation on the standing committees based on the number of MPs in each party.

Concluding the select committee meeting today, Chair Riyaz Rasheed said the committee’s report will be submitted to the Majlis floor, where it would be put to a vote.

The PPM MP for Thaa Vilifushi expressed gratitude to political parties for agreeing to compromise.

The protracted dispute over the allocation of seats on standing committees has left parliament deadlocked since the first regular sitting on June 2.

Two consecutive sittings had been called off amid disorder in the chamber after MDP MPs insisted that preliminary debate on bills could not begin in the absence of standing committees to review legislation.

Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed adjourned yesterday’s sitting to hold discussions with political party leaders.

At last week’s sitting, pro-government MPs had accused the opposition of obstructing the Majlis to thwart the government’s legislative agenda, while MDP MPs accused the ruling coalition of attempting to create “a one-party state” without parliamentary oversight.

Today’s sitting was meanwhile adjourned to allow the select committee to conclude its work. Speaker Maseeh has since announced that the next sitting will take place at 10:30am on Monday (June 30).

The first piece of legislation up for debate is the bill on establishing special economic zones, the centrepiece of the government’s legislative agenda.

Majlis composition:-

PPM – 41 MPs (48.2%)

MDP –  24 MPs (28.2%)

JP – 13 MPs (15.3%)

MDA – 5 MPs (5.9%)

AP – 1 MP (1.2%)

Independents – 1 MP (1.2%)

Standing committees:-

Public Accounts Committee – six seats for PPM, four seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Government Oversight Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Independent Institutions Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

‘241’ Security Services Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP,  one seat for MDA, one seat for AP, and one seat for the Independent MP.

National Security Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Social Affairs Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for AP.

Economic Affairs Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

National Development Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, one seat for MDA, and one seat for AP.

Rules Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Ethics Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, and one seat for the Independent MP.

Privileges Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, and two seats for JP

Petition Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, and one seat for JP

General Affairs Committeefive seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.


PPM and MDP elect parliamentary group leaders

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have elected leaders of their parliamentary groups.

Ruling PPM elected MP for Villimalé constituency Ahmed Nihan in an election held on Monday. MP for Vilifushi Riyaz Rasheed was elected as a deputy. Nihan is now the majority leader as PPM holds a majority in the parliament with 38 MPs.

MP for Hinnavaru constituency Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Solih was elected uncontested to head the opposition MDP’s parliamentary group in an election on Sunday. He is now the Majlis’ minority leader.

MP for Meedhoo constituency Rozaina Adam was elected deputy PG leader of the 25 member MDP group.

The 14 MP Jumhooree Party (JP) also elected their MP Gasim Ibrahim as parliamentary group last week.

The 18th People’s Majlis convened on May 28.


DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed joins PPM

Dhivehi Qaumee Party’s (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed has joined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), local media has reported.

Riyaz said he signed to the party in the presence of both President Abdulla Yameen and Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

According to Riyaz he joined PPM because he had worked hard to bring the current government to power and that he could best serve the government by joining the party.

Riyaz denied his changing party having any connection to Elections Commission’s decision to dissolve the DQP.


JP and PPM coalitions unite in condemnation of the Elections Commission

“The Supreme Court’s verdict very clearly says the elections commission planned and systematically attempted to commit electoral fraud,” said Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed last night.

Rasheed spoke during a joint press conference held by the three government-aligned parties still contesting in the presidential election.

Representatives of the Jumhooree Party (JP), the Adhaalath Party (AP), the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), and the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) also took turns to denounce the Elections Commission (EC).

“If the lawful punishment for these people is a jail sentence, then we will not hesitate to do that. There is no other way but resignation for them,” said JP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed.

“I call on the police, the attorney general and the prosecutor general to investigate [EC Chair] Fuwad Thowfeek and his allies and file the case at court through the prosecutor general,” he continued.

The press conference came shortly before the EC revealed the schedule to be adopted for what will be the third attempt at completing the presidential election.

September’s poll – won by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed- was later annulled by the Supreme Court which ruled that the preparations of the EC had “broadly facilitated fraud, undue influence and corruption”.

The second attempt to hold the election on October 19 failed after police withdrew their logistical support, informing EC staff that they would be prevented from moving any election-related documents out of the commission’s premises.

The decision to delay the election brought consternation from the international community as well as renewed messages of support for the EC, which has received praise from over 1000 local and international observers for its conduct in the first round.

After consulting with the government and political parties, the EC yesterday announced the decision to hold the first round on November 9, and the run-off – if needed – on November 16.

“We, the two coalitions, remain steadfast”

The police’s decision to obstruct polls – decried by both the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives – came after the PPM/MDA and JP/AP/DQP candidates had refused to sign the voter registry as mandated in the court’s ruling.

The allied parties yesterday called for the EC to abide by the Supreme Court’s guidelines when holding the re-vote.

“There is only one choice. If some of the points in the guidelines are difficult for them, then there is no other way but to seek to change those points,” Ilham said.

Adhaalath President Sheikh Imran Abdulla called for the EC to resign if it could not act according to the court’s guidelines.

“We, the two coalitions, remain steadfast. God willing, there will be no election in the Maldives at this time unless it is an election that follows the SC guidelines.”

During its own press conference last night, the EC announced it would continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but would seek to change them in the future.

“I hope the government considers these restrictions in the future and finds a solution. Otherwise, holding elections will become impossible and that affects the most fundamental [right] in a democracy,” said EC Chair Thowfeek.

Both MDA Deputy Leader Ahmed Amir and PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof expressed doubt that a free and fair election can be held as long as the EC members stay in place.

“Maldivian citizens know there is nothing we will not do for this nation. That we are not divided. This press conference shows we are together. God willing, we will remain like this,” Riyaz said yesterday.

Yesterday’s show of unity comes after relations between the parties and their candidates had appeared at a low ebb.

Following the October 8 decision to re-hold the first round of polling, initial suggestions that the parties might back a single candidate failed to result in consensus.

The PPM subsequently accused Gasim of being overly-influenced by MDP sympathisers within his party, whilst Gasim himself suggested that Yameen’s record during the autocratic rule of his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom meant that he would never win the popular support of the people.


Parliament rejects bill proposing enforcement of death penalty by hanging

Additional reporting by Neil Merrett

Parliament on Monday rejected 26-18 with no abstentions a bill proposed by government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed to implement the death penalty by hanging.

The death penalty legislation was put to a vote to decide whether or not to proceed with the bill at committee stage.

Presenting the bill at a sitting earlier this month, the MP for Vilufushi said the legislation proposed implementing the death penalty by hanging if the Supreme Court upheld a death sentence passed by a lower court.

He contended that the death penalty would act as an effective deterrent to the increasing rate of premeditated murders in the Maldives.

MP Riyaz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed reportedly said he “will not vote to kill someone” at a time when the judiciary did not inspire public confidence.

“In reality, there are a lot of things I want to consider before I cast a vote that will allow a Maldivian citizen to be executed. Islam has determined penalties for certain reasons, to protect certain things. To protect property, life, religion, lineage and dignity. I don’t want a person to die because of a vote that I cast in favour of a law that does not protect these things,” the former MDP MP was quoted as saying by Sun Online.

The MDP meanwhile said today that there had been a “strong understanding”  among the party’s MPs participating in the vote to dismiss the bill.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party’s parliamentary group had opted to throw out the bill on the grounds that it would be “irresponsible” to approve such measures with ongoing concerns held by itself and independent experts over the functioning of the country’s judiciary.

Ghafoor additionally criticised the proposed bill as being irrelevant, arguing that the country’s draft penal code – a recent issue of contention between MPs and certain political parties – already included provisions for the death sentence as outlined under Islamic Sharia.

He said that with the implementation of the death penalty in the Maldives being a sensitive issue, some party MPs and politicians had preferred not to attend yesterday’s vote. Ghafoor said the vote highlighted the difficulties in the country of voting over issues requiring religious understanding.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said no whip line has been established for yesterday’s vote, which was attended by only a limited number of its parliamentary group.

“Most of the PPM’s MPs were not in Male’, but at campaign locations [at the time],” the spokesperson claimed.

Implementation debate

The last person to be judicially executed in the Maldives was Hakim Didi, who was executed by firing squad in 1953 after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder using black magic.

Statistics show that from January 2001 to December 2010, a total of 14 people were sentenced to death by Maldivian courts.

However, in all cases, the acting president commuted these verdicts to life sentences.

In October 2012, the government announced its intention to introduce a bill to the People’s Majlis in order to guide and govern the implementation of the death penalty in the country.

As well as the bill proposed by MP Riyaz, in December 2012, former Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor drafted a bill outlining how the death sentence should be executed in the Maldives, with lethal injection being identified as the state’s preferred method of capital punishment

The Attorney General’s Office at the time said that it had looked to procedures followed by Egypt, Malaysia and the US in carrying out the death sentence, while also obtaining the opinions of religious scholars and lawyers when drafting the bill.

Minivan News understands that the bill submitted by the former AG remains open for comments on potential amendments.

The state’s stance to review implementation of death sentences has led to strong criticism from certain human rights-focused NGOs this year.

Speaking to Minivan News immediately following a visit to the Maldives in April 2013, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director Polly Truscott raised concerns about the recent drafting of new bills outlining implementation for executions.

She argued that even in practice, such bills would be deemed as a human rights violation, with the NGO maintaining that there remained no research to support the assertion that executing criminals served as an effective deterrent for serious crimes.

Truscott said that with the draft Penal Code also including provisions that would leave applying the death sentence to the discretion of an individual judge, the whole purpose of codifying laws would be undermined should the bill be passed.

She noted this was a particular concern considering the recent findings of various international experts such as  UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, regarding the politicised nature of the country’s judicial system.

“To leave Sharia law to the discretion of individual judges is something we believe would be a bad idea,” she said at the time.


DQP MP Riyaz submits bill proposing hanging as preferred method of execution

Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed has submitted a bill to parliament proposing executions be carried out by hanging people sentenced to death in court.

Riyaz told newspaper ‘Haveeru’ that he submitted the bill because the government’s version of the bill, drafted in December 2012, had yet to be submitted to parliament.

According to Riyaz’s bill, the trials of people accused of offences punishable by death under the penal code are to be conducted with a defence lawyer, even should the defendant refused.

The bill requires the lower courts to forward a case report to the High Court 14 days from the date the trial reaches a conclusion. The High Court is required to conduct a trial to determine whether the lower court’s ruling is lawful.

Should this decision be upheld, the matter must then be referred to the Supreme Court, which issue the final ruling on the case.

According to the bill, the defendant is given the opportunity to meet his family and say his last words before he is hanged.

The bill obliges the state to delay implementing death sentences if the person is a minor, pregnant woman, mentally ill or suffering from a disease.

In December last year, Attorney General Azima Shukoor drafted a bill outlining how the death sentence should be practiced in the Maldives, with lethal injection being identified as the state’s preferred method of capital punishment.

The government’s draft, which has yet to be submitted to parliament was criticised by religious groups in the Maldives, who argued that the state’s method of execution should be beheading or firing squad.


“The word coalition is not meaningful in the Maldives”: DRP Deputy Leader

Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Dr Abdulla Mausoom, has dismissed reports in local media that the party’s alliance with the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) is being reconsidered.

“I think the media report is the opinion of one person,” said Mausoom.

Mausoom was responding to quotes from the Secretary General of the DQP, Abdulla Ameen, suggesting that a failure to strengthen the party’s ties since its initial agreement in February 2011 had made the coalition redundant.

“The coalition was formed to make the then government more accountable to its people. The other reason was to create an environment for the opposition parties to work together,” Ameen told Haveeru.

But former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government fell in a way that we had not even expected. Now we have to function in a different manner altogether. So the circumstance under which the coalition was formed has changed drastically,” he added.

Ameen went on to say that the issue was one which would have to be discussed by the parties’ respective councils – he was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Mausoom, however, was keen to point out that the nature of the agreement with the DQP was more akin to an election strategy than a traditional coalition.

“The word coalition is not very meaningful in the Maldives,” he said. “Nasheed used a coalition to get into power and that fell apart.”

“We has an understanding – rather than a coalition per se – that Qaumee party would support DRP’s presidential candidate in 2013,” he explained.

Mausoom went on to suggest that legislation would be needed to enforce coalition arrangements before they could become a serious feature of Maldivian politics.

This view reiterates a point previously expressed by the DRP, who view the current alliance of political parties in support of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan as a national-unity government rather than a coalition.

A no-confidence motion, seemingly backed by politicians from within the pro-government group, against President Waheed is currently awaiting inclusion on the Majlis agenda.

Ameen went on to argue that the two parties differ significantly on major issues, in particular the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) by the Indian company GMR.

Both parties appear to oppose the deal, though DRP leaders have been more vocal about the need to take the issue through the courts and to protect investor confidence in the country.

The DQP, however, released inflammatory literature likening the airport’s development to colonisation. The party’s leader, Dr Hassan Saeed, has this week released a book arguing for the unilateral invalidation of the agreement.

Hassan, also Special Advisor to President Waheed, compared cancelling the deal to “taking bitter medicine to cure a disease” or “amputating an organ to stop the spread of cancer.”

The DRP has stated its intention to provide voters with an alternative to the divisive and personality based politics offered by the other parties.

Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed – the DQP’s sole MP -in June threatened to walk away from the party should it continue to its ties with the DRP, after the abstention of a DRP MP allowed the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to pass a motion to debate police brutality in the Majlis.

The firebrand MP was reported by one local media outlet to have resigned from the party last week before telling another that the supposed resignation letter was simply one outlining current issues of concern he had about the party.

The DRP currently holds 13 seats in the Majlis and has 26,798 registered members, making it the second largest party in the country. The DQP has one seat and 2,199 members.