Senior UK politicians to be quizzed over Scottish Police College’s training of Maldives officers

Senior UK government figures including Foreign Secretary William Hague are to be quizzed by politicians over the role of a Scottish police college in training Maldivian officers accused of perpetrating human rights abuses in the country.

Following an investigation carried out by UK-based newspaper The Guardian, politicians at Westminster and the Scottish Parliament of Holyrood are to press government ministers on the Scottish Police College’s role in training Maldivian officers.

The Guardian has reported that the MPS stands accused of using “torture and sexual assault against detainees and acting against democracy activists and journalists” after the controversial transfer of power that occurred on February 7 this year.

Police authorities in the Maldives have played down the abuse allegations raised by a number of NGOs such as Amnesty International, questioning possible bias in the data gathered in their reports. The MPS has also said that the allegations of abuse did not reflect the international scope of training provided to officers in the country.

The UK-based newspaper’s investigation reported that at least 77 senior Maldives police officers and commanders – including the Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz – had been trained by the Scottish Police College, located in Fife.

Amnesty International, former senior Maldives officials and opposition activists said they had deep concerns about the UK’s links with the MPS after officers were accused of breaching human rights, the Guardian reported.

The Scottish Police College, which is reportedly earning significant sums of money through working with MPS officers, has an ongoing contract to train Maldives police officers on a diploma course for junior ranks and middle and senior rank officers.

Speaking to the Guardian, the MPS said that it took its obligations seriously, and that reforms recommended by British advisers, as well as consultants from Canada and Australia, were being implemented by the MPS.

MPS spokesman Superintendent Abdul Mannan told the Guardian: “On one hand calling for MPS to be more efficient in dealing with officers’ misconduct and violation of human rights, and on the other calling to suspend all the assistance MPS receives to achieve this, contradicts their [critics] known intention and their actions.”

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Police Spokesman Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that there was no link between the training local police officers received in Scotland and the allegations of abuses carried out by some of its officers.

“Our training is in accordance to regulation supplied from other countries all over the world, including the UK, Canada and Australia,” said Haneef.

The UK Foreign Office has meanwhile defended the UK’s record in the Maldives, but spoke of concern over the surge in violence since the ousting of Nasheed in February.

“We have serious concerns about allegations of police brutality in Maldives, especially in February 2012,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman told the Guardian.

“We have privately and publicly urged the Maldivian government to fully investigate all allegations and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. We have also called on all parties to ensure institutional reforms are put in place to consolidate democracy and further protect human rights in Maldives.

Farah Faizal, the former Maldives high commissioner to the UK, told the Guardian that close links between British police and the MPS had to be urgently reviewed.

“What I can categorically say is that [the training] doesn’t appear to be working,” she told the paper. “If you see the brutality which is going on in Maldives and the impunity with what’s happening, if these people are being trained by the Scottish police, it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s unacceptable.”

In November a three-man delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) expressed concern over the failure to punish the police officers who used “excessive force” against MPs earlier this year.

Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan from IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians, speaking to members of the press, revealed: “The delegation is deeply concerned that the police officers who used excessive force against the members of parliament earlier this year have not yet been punished, and that Members of Parliament appear to remain subject to intimidation.

“The delegation points out that in several of the cases in the use of excessive police force, there is clear video evidence available which should have enabled the authorities to take effective and swift action. The delegation therefore calls on authorities to do everything possible to expedite their efforts to a successful conclusion,” Pangilinan said.

A Spokesperson from Scottish Police College at Fife told Minivan News that it would not be reviewing its training procedures, but would be taking guidance from the High Commission on whether its existing agreement with the MPS would continue.

“We are continuing conversations with the High Commission on the matter,” the spokesperson said.


Government employs Baroness Scotland to challenge legality of “unfair”, “biased” Commonwealth intervention

President Mohamed Waheed’s government spent £75,000 (MVR 1.81 million) on advice from former UK Attorney General and member of the House of Lords, Baroness Patricia Scotland, in a bid to challenge the Commonwealth’s “biased” stance on the Maldives.

The terms of reference document for the contract, obtained by Minivan News, is dated May 28, 2012 and is signed by both Scotland and the Maldives’ Deputy Attorney General, Aishath Bisham.  It also carries the official stamp of the Attorney General’s Office.

The Maldives was suspended from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm – and placed on its formal agenda after former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged that his resignation on February 7 had taken place under duress.  Nasheed contended he was forced out of office amid a mutiny by police and armed forces, orchestrated by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and funded by several local wealthy resort businessmen.

CMAG swiftly challenged the impartiality of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) established by incoming President Mohamed Waheed to examine the circumstances of his own succession, and called on Waheed to hold early elections to restore the country’s democratic legitimacy.

After a number of countries – including the UK and EU – backed the Commonwealth’s stance, the government was pressured into reforming the CNI to include a member of Nasheed’s choosing and a retired judge from Singapore, GP Selvam. The reformed Commission is due to publish its findings in late August.

“The Maldives government is of the view that the Maldives has been placed on the [CMAG] agenda unfairly, and there is a general feeling that the Commonwealth and the CMAG view points are biased in favour of President Nasheed’s allegation of a coup,” the Attorney General’s office, stated in the terms of reference.

“The specific output expected from the assignment is a detailed legal opinion on whether the Maldives was unfairly placed on the CMAG agenda and whether this continuation of being on the agenda is unfair,” the document states. “In particular, the consultant will assess whether the CMAG had acted in contravention of its own mandate and powers and had demonstrated bias in their actions.”

The brief also calls for Baroness Scotland to “review the work of the Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Don McKinnon and the staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat”.

The contract called for Scotland to spend four days in the Maldives to “review all necessary documentation as well as video footage of events that led to the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed”, as well as meet “all important stakeholders” including the government coalition, “key figures in the opposition MDP”, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid and his deputy Ahmed Nazim, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), Elections Commission, CNI, as well as UN Resident Coordinator Andrew Cox.

Both the UN Resident Coordinator and the MDP said they had not had any meeting with Scotland.

“I think I was away on leave at the time, but I am not sure if my office got an approach for a meeting or not,” said Cox.

Elections Commission President Faud Thaufeeq had not responded at time of press.

“We were not even aware of this woman; she never approached us,” said MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“Now we hear she was in the Maldives, probably staying in a fancy resort with somebody interesting likely footing the bill. I hope the House of Lords looks into this,” he added.

“It is very disturbing that a member of the House of Lords from an 800 year-old democracy would come to a little banana republic to stir up trouble in league with the plotters of a coup d’état.”

Speaking to local television station VTV, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza denied the allegations.

“It is not true that the government spent 75,000 pounds on a former British attorney general. It is part of the lies that the Maldivian Democratic Party is spreading,” Riza was reported as stating in Haama Daily.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad meanwhile told Minivan News “I think that case was handled by [President Waheed’s Special Advisor] Dr Hassan Saeed.”

“[Baroness Scotland] did consult with us during the time CMAG was pressuring us, and we sought legal advice as to how to proceed,” Masood added.

Dr Saeed and Attorney General Azima Shukoor had not responded at time of press.

Minivan News is also awaiting a response from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Finance regulation violation

The leaked document also includes a letter in Dhivehi sent from the Attorney General’s office to Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad requesting authorisation for Baroness Scotland’s “unprecedented work/expense” following her visit to the Maldives.

“There was no contract made. With this letter we ask if attached terms of reference are sufficient as a contract,” the AG’s office writes.

“This is in violation of the Public Finance Regulations of 11 February 2009, especially sections 8.21, 8.22 and 8.34 where consultancy work needs to assigned on the basis of a contract with specific terms agreed on matter listed in section 8.22 of the regulations,” observed former Maldives Foreign Minister, Dr Ahmed Shaheed.

Regulation 8.22 states that any award of work to be done for the government must be assigned after signing a mutually agreed contract, while regulation 8.21, concerning ’emergency work’, states that such shall only be assigned “after signing a mutually agreed contract stipulating the price and quality of work to be done”.

Furthermore, said Dr Shaheed, “a simple reading of the [Commonwealth’s] Millbrook Action Programme (1995) and the augmentation of that at Perth in 2011 will make it clear that CMAG can list countries on its agenda when the Ministers feel there are violations of the constitution. So it is a fairly straightforward, and clearly not worth 75,000 pounds.”

The bill for Baroness Scotland’s legal services comes at a time the Maldives is grappling with a crippling budget deficit of 27 percent, a foreign currency shortageplummeting investor confidencespiraling expenditure, and a drop off in foreign aid.

Story breaks in UK press

Baroness Scotland came under fire in the UK press after the story emerged in the Daily Mail. The Mail established that the peer and former Attorney General had not listed the payment from the Maldives on the House of Lords’ register of members’ interests.

“Her entry says she has set up a firm to provide ‘private consultancy services’ but says it is ‘not trading at present’,” the Daily Mail reported.

In a statement, Baroness Scotland confirmed she had been “instructed by the Attorney General of the Maldives to give legal advice”, and slammed the leak of the terms of reference and “all communications passing between myself and the Attorney General, whether written or oral, pertaining to the nature and extent of that advice, as confidential and legally privileged.”

She additionally claimed to have been approached by both the government and the opposition (MDP), and said she had accepted an invitation to chair a roundtable “at which all parties are to be invited.”

“I am a senior barrister with specific expertise in the area of constitutional law, criminal and civil law reform, and am skilled in mediation,” she explained.

Baroness Scotland was previously scrutinised by the UK press in 2009 after she was found to have been employing an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper in her London home.

As the story emerged, MPs from the UK’s Conservative Party – which has long backed Nasheed and the MDP – seized the opportunity to attack the former UK Labour Party Cabinet Minister.

Conservative MP Karen Lumley told the Daily Mail that is was “disgusting that a former British attorney-general should take a well-paid job advising the new regime, which has no democratic mandate. President Nasheed was overthrown in a coup and the Maldives is now very unstable. Many of my friends there have been arrested by the new regime.”

Conservative MP John Glen told the paper that Baroness Scotland should “hang her head in shame”.

“What happened in the Maldives was a military coup,” he said, adding that it was “outrageous” that the former AG should be “advising a regime responsible for ousting a democratically-elected president.”

Former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Farahanaz Faizal, described the government’s employment of Baroness Scotland as “absolutely shocking. If the government wanted legal advice to support the AG’s Office, the proper way is to request the UK government bilaterally.”

“To think that someone of her calibre would undertake an assignment to check if Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Jamaica, and others of CMAG had acted against their mandate is disgraceful,” Dr Faizal said.

Scottish scientists optimistic that Maldives can achieve carbon-neutral status

The Maldives could use marine energy to reach its goal of becoming the first carbon neutral nation by 2020, the Scottish Government has announced.

A report produced by the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Practice (CUSP) at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, and supported by the Scottish government, explored the use of marine energy to combat trends in global warming.

Scotland’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, said CUSP looks forward to further cooperative efforts with the Maldives.

“This report furthers the understanding of the challenges and opportunities for marine energy in the Maldives, and its findings will be incorporated into the developing Maldives Renewable Energy Investment Framework.”

The CUSP report analysed the technological and socio-economic possibilities for using marine energy in the Maldives, and considered the natural resources and geographic conditions.


Scotland to support Maldivian green power

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond will sign a joint statement of cooperation with President Mohamed Nasheed at Copenhagen, pledging Scottish knowledge and support for the development of green power in the Maldives.

Speaking at a press conference in Edinburgh, Salmond said Scotland would work together with the Maldives “to transfer knowledge about the capacity building needed to respond to the huge challenges posed by the climate change around us. We are delighted to help the Maldives in their endeavour to become the world’s first carbon neutral country.

“What is clear is that the industrialised nations must agree to targets that are both meaningful and binding. Anything short of that risks failing not just their own citizens, but those of the many developing nations most exposed to the destructive impact of climate change,” he added.

Glasgow-based Maldives Envoy for Science and Technology, Ahmed Moosa, said as a Scottish-trained engineer himself, he believed Scotland could play “a big part” in the development of renewable energy the Maldives, beginning with joint discussions in Copenhagen. “I think this is the start of something very special,” he added.

More than 30 per cent of Scotland’s energy will be provided by renewable energy sources by 2011, Salmond claimed, with the figure rising to half by 2020 – a key element of the country’s ambitious emission reduction target of 42 per cent by the same year.

Much of that will be produced by onshore wind farms. Scotland already has Europe’s largest onshore wind farm at Whitelee in Eaglesham Moor, which will soon be expanded to 593 megawatts allowing it power over a quarter of a million homes.

“Mr Moosa informed me that a wind farm of the same capacity could supply power to every house in the Maldives’ 1200 islands,” Salmond said, “although I think the transport lines might be a wee bit complex.”

The Maldives recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Swedish company Madsen Consulting, which will carry out a feasability study for establishing a wind farm in the Northern Province. The single 75w turbine will be installed in Lhaviyani atoll Hinnavaru early next year.