Police have completed 21,169 investigations in past 12 months

The Maldives Police Services (MPS) has said that over 21,169 cases have been investigated since November 2013, with 3,256 cases submitted to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s Office.

Spokesperson to the Commissioner of Police Superintendent Ahmed Shifan said that the service was doing all it can to ensure the protection of the public and establishing peace in the country.

It was also revealed that 257 complaints has been received this year, with 187 now being investigated. Disciplinary action has followed against 115 officers,with a further 23 being terminated from service.

“We have been working ceaselessly in implementing and upholding law and order in the country by investigating and submitting evidence to the courts” said Shifan.

Despite President Abdulla Yameen talking tough on crime, violent crime has persisted this year with a number of notable incidents – including the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August – remaining unresolved.

Since the 28-year-old’s presumed abduction 116 days ago, members of his family have suggested the police were using statistics to mask a failure to make real progress in the search

Shifan today outlined the importance of the police’s strategic plan for 2014- 2018 which aims to make the police force more accountable, encourage public participation in police work, and increase the operational capabilities of the force.

He pointed out that there were 77 police stations in the atolls, with 10 having come into operation this year. He also noted that traffic police are now in operation in Addu City and Haa Dhaalu Kulhudhuhfushi.

The MPS has introduced a tourist police department aimed at “ensuring the protection of tourists while they are in the Maldives in order to increase tourist confidence in the country therefore boosting toursm”, police media reported today.

Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed earlier this week suggested that were not only aiming to solve and combat crimes, but also to develop a responsible youth through the ‘Blues for Youth’ camps introduced this year.

Celebrating twelve months in office last month, President Abdulla Yameen said that peace in Malé had been obtained, barring “isolated and significant dangerous crimes”.

The opposition has suggested, however, that insecurity is on the increase as numerous gang-related stabbings have resulted in three deaths so far this year. Additionally, reported politically-motivated abductions have continued, with well-known criminal elements implicated.

The lack of progress into the investigation Rilwan’s disappearance has prompted two separate cases to be filed at the Police Integrity Commission suggesting police negligence in the investigation.

Additionally, the MPS has also been accused of participation in serious crimes with three police officers being arrested in drug busts and allegations of Special Operations (SO) officers cutting down all of Malé City’s areca palm trees.

Waheed has denied the involvement of SO officers in the areca palm incident, while he has suggested that interference from the media and friends and family of Rilwan had contributed to the police’s failure to make significant progress.

Related to this story

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MDP condemns insecurity as PPM celebrates peace and order

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed concern over rising insecurity, claiming President Abdulla Yameen has failed to protect right to life and security on his administration’s first year anniversary.

In a statement issues yesterday (November 16), the MDP highlighted Yameen’s failure to find missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, to address the rising numbers of Maldivians traveling abroad for jihad in Syria, or to bring to justice perpetrators behind the stabbing of former MP Alhan Fahmy, the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali, or the torching of opposition aligned Raajje TV.

“On this administration’s one year anniversary, there is no peace in the Maldives and the government has failed to protect citizens,” the statement said.

The MDP said the Yameen administration has failed to investigate the abduction and beating of several individuals by gangs, a spate of knifings and killings, death threats against journalists and politicians, and the vandalism of MDP members’ residences and properties.

However, speaking at a rally to mark the third anniversary of ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Yameen said his administration has established peace and order in the country and accused the opposition of inciting terror and calling for anarchy in the Maldives.

“We have peace and order in Malé and all regions of Maldives. We have peace. However, this is not to say that isolated and significant dangerous crimes do not occur,” he said.

The PPM was established in 2010 “as an act of Jihad” to address terror, anarchy, torture and climate of fear during Nasheed’s tenure, he continued.

Referring to Nasheed’s order to arrest himself, Vice President Dr Ahmed Jameel Mohamed, and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, Yameen said the former president had attempted to silence all dissident voices in the country.

The PPM will tolerate dissent, he pledged.

Nasheed had arrested judges, refused to abide by the decisions of opposition MPs, undermined religious scholars and Islam, and his supporters had torched government buildings, Yameen continued.

“President Maumoon then believed we had to embark on jihad,” he said.

Yameen went on to defend Nasheed’s ouster in February 2012, claiming the move was not illegal, but necessary to uphold the constitution.

“PPM is a party that loves peace,” he said.

The MDP has recently described Yameen’s administration has having been taken hostage by gangs and rogue police officers, while international groups have expressed alarm at the rise in gang violence in recent months.


MDP condemns MNDF decision to cease providing security to MPs

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) decision to cease providing security to MPs despite continuing death threats.

“We note with concern that security provided by MNDF to members of the People’s Majlis from [October] 20 to 23 was stopped while death threats were made repeatedly to MDP MPs and without the security services investigating the threats and taking action and despite the present danger to the MPs,” read a press statement issued by the main opposition party last night (October 24).

The party contended that providing security to MPs was not optional as Article 105 (b) stipulates that “the security services of the state shall ensure the protection and safety of all members of the People’s Majlis.”

The MDP accused senior officials of the security services of ordering the military to cease providing protection and criticised Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed for failing to ensure the safety of opposition MPs.

The decision was made to intimidate and obstruct opposition MPs from “freely fulfilling their legal responsibilities” as elected representatives, the statement added.

The parliament secretariat sent a text message to MPs on Thursday (October 23) stating that the MNDF would cease providing security as of midnight.

The MNDF informed parliament that the decision was made after assessing the current situation, the message read.

Meanwhile, death threats were sent via text message from an unlisted number to several MDP MPs and senior members yesterday.

“Tomorrow is the last day for all of you. Watch and see. [We] will kill you,” read the message.

An MDP rally is due to take place at the carnival area of Malé tonight.

On October 19, the MNDF urged MPs to stay in at night and offered to provide personal security upon request.

The move followed the escape of two dangerous convicts from Maafushi jail, who were both apprehended in Malé last week.

The MDP said at the time that the MNDF’s offer for protection indicated the “loss of domestic security and extreme levels of fear.”

“It also shows the extent to which senior officials of the government responsible for ensuring public safety and security have lost control of terrorist activities,” the party said in a press release.

series of attacks against the MDP’s premises and upon the homes of some of its members in late September followed months of death threats, described as too numerous to publicise by the party’s spokesman.

The Inter Parliamentary Union has previously said the government’s reaction to the death threats would be a test of its democratic credentials.

A delegation from the IPU visited the Maldives late last year, requesting an urgent assessment of the political situation following repeated allegations of threats and intimidation against Majlis members.

“The frequent intimidation, harassment and attack of MPs as they go about their work have been deeply worrying,” read an IPU press release after the delegation’s visit last November.

After meeting with the IPU earlier this month, union member and MDP MP Eva Abdulla raised concerns over the personal safety of MPs and journalists in the Maldives.

Eva – who has been in personal receipt of threats against both herself and her family members – also received a threat suggesting the MDP’s next gathering would be targeted by suicide bombers.

A subsequent rally held in Addu City was disrupted by youths with wooden planks and rocks before the party’s office in Hithadhoo was set on fire.


Politicians behind death threats to Gasim, claims JP

The Jumhooree Party (JP) has alleged that politicians are behind death threats sent to the party’s leader Gasim Ibrahim.

“We will take your life if you keep talking in the media,” and “We will wipe you and your family from Malé,” read the threats sent via text message to the business tycoon last week.

“The death threats are being issued to Honourable Gasim Ibrahim by those displeased or threatened by his efforts in the People’s Majlis, the media, and various other arenas for the benefit and wellbeing of the Maldivian people, in a planned attempt to intimidate him and push him back politically with politicians behind these threats,” the JP contended in a press statement yesterday (August 17).

The party expressed concern with the persistent threats and noted that Article 29 of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom to acquire and impart knowledge, information and learning.”

“And we note that these threatening messages are being sent at a time when the government and the ruling party have been directly targeting Honourable Gasim Ibrahim’s businesses, carrying out actions to hinder them and taking measures that are not being taken against other [businesses],” the press release stated.

Last week, the government terminated an agreement with Gasim’s Villa Air to manage and develop the Kaadehdhoo regional airport.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture meanwhile decided not to renew the lease of Laamu Baresdhoo, an uninhabited island leased to Gasim’s Villa company for agriculture.

Moreover, the fisheries ministry gave a 30-day notice to reclaim a plot of land in Gaaf Dhaal Hoadehdhoo leased to Gasim’s Horizons Fisheries.

President Abdulla Yameen has, however, denied “impeding” Gasim’s businesses, insisting that the decisions were made due to breach of contract.

In a letter to Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed informing the authorities of the threats, Gasim reportedly revealed that the owners of the numbers from which the messages were sent has denied sending any texts.

Gasim suggested that the text messages could have been sent through the internet using a phone number duplicating software.

The business tycoon appealed for police to investigate the threats with “utmost seriousness.”

Following similar threats sent in June, Gasim objected to lack of security provided to MPs despite the death threats he received, noting that he has arranged for private bodyguards.

Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Spokesperson Major Hussain Ali told Minivan News today that “discussions” were currently taking place between the MNDF and the parliament secretariat regarding security arrangements for MPs.

Asked if MPs would have bodyguards from MNDF, the spokesperson suggested seeking the information from the People’s Majlis secretariat.

A media official at the secretariat, however, was unaware either of the present security arrangements or whether MPs had MNDF bodyguards.


Earlier this month, death threats were sent via text message from an unlisted number to six opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs.

While one message threatened to kill MPs who “behave inappropriately,” the second stated that it would not be “a sin to kill those who challenge the word of Allah and call for religious freedom.”

“Afrasheem Ali was an example before your eyes,” it read, referring to the murdered moderate scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives MP.

Police confirmed at the time that the threats were being investigated but declined to reveal further details.

Parliament Secretary General Ahmed Mohamed told local media that MNDF were formally asked to provide security for MPs after a number of lawmakers made requests following the swearing-in of the 18th parliament.

MNDF had not responded as of August 3, he said. In July, Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim assured that security would be provided to MPs and that recommendations for security provisions in the parliamentary rules – currently under review – had been shared with the speaker.

Article 105(b) of the Constitution states, “The security services of the state shall ensure the protection and safety of all members of the People’s Majlis.”

Meanwhile, a number of journalists have also received death threats in recent weeks, warning them against reporting on gang violence in the wake of a spate of stabbings in the capital.

An IT expert with experience in the telecommunications field explained to Minivan News at the time that it would be difficult to identify the culprit if the text messages were sent through an online mass text message service.

“Unless it came from a local IP address it would be almost impossible to trace it back. If they used anonymous proxy servers to send the texts it could be traced back to the SMS gateway, but no further,” he said.


Evacuation of Israelis demonstrates radical’s threat to guesthouse tourism

On July 28, an Israeli surfer on Thulusdhoo Island vandalised a protest placard featuring a swastika alongside an Israeli flag.

Within hours, an estimated 30 protesters from Malé travelled to the island to call for the expulsion of all Israeli tourists. The new arrivals were temporarily detained while the police evacuated 30 Israelis along with 4 tourists of other nationalities.

The incident has left several guest houses on Thulusdhoo empty and caused the cancellation of bookings, while nearby resorts have called off excursions.

Thulusdhoo, only 40 minutes away from Malé, is home to one of the country’s top surf breaks and – although Israeli arrivals amount to a small fraction (3,253) of the 1 million-plus tourist arrivals in Maldives each year –  Thulusdhoo’s nine guest houses rely heavily on Israeli surf tourism.

“Business will be down for the next three months. If incidents like this occur in the future, guest house tourism will suffer a lot of damage,” said Mohamed Hashim, who runs Batuta Maldives Surf View on Thulusdhoo.

Anti Israeli sentiment has been growing in the Maldives since the onset of the Israeli offensive in Gaza. The Maldives has announced plans to boycott Israeli imports, thousands have marched in solidarity with Palestine, and over MVR5 million has been donated to a humanitarian fund for Gaza.

Maldives luxury resorts – with one hotel on one island – are shielded from the local citizenry and society but they have offered islanders little benefit from its multi-billion dollar profits. Local tourism, on the other hand – while it offers hope of greater wealth distribution – is particularly vulnerable to unrest within the community.

Vigilante action of the sort seen on Thulusdhoo could pose serious risks for this emerging sector.

Real danger?

Interviews with protesters reveal that they had demanded police escort guests off the island through the protesting crowd in order to show tourists “they cannot provoke us”.

One man claimed the Israeli tourists were soldiers and described their actions as condescending. He further claimed the tourists had told locals, “We are Israelis. You cannot do anything to us.”

Condemning the police’s detention of the protesters while guests were evacuated, he said the police had treated the locals “worse than the Jews.” Israeli tourists must face the protesting locals, he argued, claiming even US President Barack Obama had gone to places where shoes had been thrown at him.

“This is a slap to Maldivian Muslim faces. After harming Muslims in that country, they come here, to a Muslim country, stay in a Muslim community and slap us in the face.”

“They have given Maldivians a warning. Just as they are killing children there, tomorrow they will kill your children,” he continued.

Another man said, “They cannot come to the Maldives on that passport. This is a 100 percent Muslim nation. Jew, Christian dogs cannot come into this country.”

No confrontation

Thulusdhoo Island Council President Ahmed Anees has denied the claim of confrontations between protesters and guests, saying that the community had in fact resolved the issue before those journeying from Malé arrived.

Batuta manager Hashim said that, though he did not believe that any of the protesters would have physically harmed guests, guest house owners could not agree to demands for guests to be escorted through the irate crowd.

“Escorting guests off through a crowd opens up opportunity for danger, for example someone in the crowd throwing a stone. We didn’t allow them the opportunity,” he said.

Rumors on social media and irresponsible media coverage had caused the situation to escalate, he said.

“Just as insults to our Prophet Mohamed riles us up, the swastika riles them up. It represents the Holocaust in which millions of Jews died. The guest shouldn’t have vandalised the placard. I do not support their actions. The boards were taken down. The issue was resolved,” he continued.

Protesters have gone on to hold a series of nightly demonstrations in Malé, calling for a ban on tourists from Israel. The Israeli and American flags were burned in front on Relax Inn and Mookai Hotel in Malé on Thursday.

Hashim said he did not see how banning Israeli tourists could have an economic impact on Israel.

“A ban on imports from Israel can cause an economic impact, but banning Israeli tourism is not that important. It affects our economy, not theirs,” he said.

Evacuation “heartbreaking”

Israeli citizen and tour operator Tom Niv – present on Thulusdhoo during the incident – described the evacuation as “heartbreaking.”

“I am fully against ugly behavior. When ugly behavior occurs, whether it’s from Israelis or locals, the police should get involved. As a travel agent, I am not accepting any kind of unwelcome behavior. We are guests in this country and we should respect rules.”

Thulusdhoo is “no longer safe for us,” Niv continued. “That a few extremists can impact a whole nation is crazy.”

Both Niv and Hashim maintained that Thulusdhoo was tourist friendly up until the evacuation.

“The guests mixed with the locals, frequented local businesses such as souvenir shops and went fishing on local boats,” Hashim said.

“There was a really good vibe, even clients posted on social media, look these are Muslims, we are Jews, see how good friends we are and see how much fun we have together,” Niv said.

“Almost everyone who came to Thulusdhoo got really connected with the locals. They weren’t like in resorts, like servants. It was not about money or tips. They really became good friends.”

Anees said residents continue to welcome tourists of any nationality, though he admitted he was now apprehensive of having Israeli tourists on Thulusdhoo.


Hashim fears businesses might now be wary of investing in Thulusdhoo in the future.

“Any act that may harm tourism worries us. Tourism is a very vulnerable industry. Burning flags in front of hotels in Malé and calling for tourism bans will scare off tourists,” he added.

Deputy Minister of Tourism Hussein Lirar said the safety of tourists is the government’s first priority, and that it is holding discussions on preventing similar incidents in the future.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Home Affairs are in the process of establishing Tourist Police to deal specifically with tourist affairs.

“This is quite important as the number of tourists coming to Malé is also increasing,” he said.

For Niv, the evacuation will have far-reaching consequences for guest house tourism in the Maldives.

“Israelis are not the only one who went away, Australians, French – not too many – but they will tell their friends that local islands are not safe anymore.”

“Now it is against Israel. But tomorrow it could be against Europeans or against Americans. It shows what can happen in certain conditions. This will definitely damage tourism in local islands and tourism in general,” said Niv.

Demands for a ban on tourists from any country should be directed at the government, while disagreements with any state’s actions ought not to translate into direct threats against tourists.

The incidents on Thulusdhoo reveal the risks radicals could have on guest house tourism. Local disputes over the actions of an Israeli – or a tourist of any nationality – should be taken up with police and local government.

Failure to do so could cause irreparable harm to the guest house sector.


18th Majlis prepares to review procedures and form standing committees

Parliament began regular sittings today, with reviewing the rules of procedure and constituting standing committees the first orders of business.

“This will be a Majlis that produces results. We will debate and discuss. But it will be done to produce results,” said newly elected Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.

A proposal by Maseeh to form a five-member select committee to draft standing orders, and to follow the rules used by the outgoing parliament in the interim, was approved with unanimous consent of 72 MPs.

Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Amir from the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), Anara Naeem from the Adhaalath Party (AP), Hussain Mohamed from the Jumhooree Party (JP), and Mariya Ahmed Didi from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were chosen for the select committee.

Article 88(a) of the constitution states that parliament shall “determine and control its administrative arrangements, hiring and firing of employees, determination of salaries of employees, and manage all matters concerning the sittings of the People’s Majlis. The People’s Majlis shall make regulations concerning these matters.”

The article also requires parliament to “make regulations and principles concerning its business, with due regard to representative and participatory democracy, accountability, transparency and public involvement. Such regulations may include rules of decorum and attendance requirements, and, subject to the consent of two-thirds of the members, may provide for non-payment of salary and allowances.”

A second five-member select committee – consisting of Riyaz Rasheed from the PPM, Gasim Ibrahim from the JP, Ali Mauroof from the MDA, Anara Naeem from the AP and Ali Azim from the MDP – was meanwhile formed to constitute the 13 standing committees of parliament.

Parliamentary rules dictate proportional representation for political parties in the standing committees based on the number of MPs in each party. The rules stipulate that the committees must be constituted within two weeks of the session beginning.

The 13 standing committees includes four committees dealing with affairs of parliament in addition to nine oversight committees.

Both select committees formed at today’s sitting held their first meetings today, electing chairs and deputy chairs.

Mohamed Nasheed and Anara Naeem were elected chair and deputy chair, respectively, of the committee selected to review the regulations. Riyaz Rasheed was elected chair of the select committee formed to constitute standing committees while Anara Naeem was elected deputy chair.

After adopting committee rules, Chair Riyaz Rasheed requested that political parties notify the committee of the number of its MPs as well as any changes to party affiliation.

The ruling PPM is the majority party in the 18th People’s Majlis with 38 MPs while the opposition MDP is the minority party with 25 MPs.

The PPM-MDA coalition has 43 MPs while former coalition partner JP has 15 MPs. The religious conservative AP has one MP while Madaveli MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed remains the sole independent.

Speaker Maseeh meanwhile commenced his first sitting in the speaker’s chair with an appeal for all MPs to provide assistance and cooperate for fulfilling parliament’s constitutional responsibilities.

The veteran PPM MP said he was mindful of the challenges parliament would face as well as the considerable amount of work to be done, adding that the current parliament had the “capacity” to fulfil its duties.


Indian Chief of Army Staff to visit Maldives

India’s Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh will arrive in Maldives tomorrow on a two-day official visit. During the visit he will hold official bilateral talks with Maldives’ Chief of Defence force Major General Ahmed Shiyam.

He is also expected to pay courtesy visits to President Abdulla Yameen and Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim.

General Singh’s  predecessor Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor also visited the Maldives in February 2010.


Defence Ministry alerted to possible threat to former President Nasheed’s life

The Ministry of Defence and National Security has been alerted by the Office of President Mohamed Nasheed to possible dangers to the life of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate.

“According to sources, two Al-Qaeda agents have been employed for an attack on President Nasheed and are currently in Male’. The Office has requested the Ministry of Defense and National Security’s Intelligence to launch an investigation into the matter and to share findings with this office,” read a press statement from the former president’s office.

Following the request for an investigation, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) issued a press release yesterday (October 25) stating that it was making inquiries and working with the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to investigate the matter.

“And President Mohamed Nasheed’s security has been strengthened better than before,” the MNDF said.

The press release added that providing security for high-level officials of the state was the responsibility of the MNDF and was therefore treated as “a high priority.”

Article 128 of the constitution entitles former presidents to “the highest honour, dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges entitled to a person who has served in the highest office of the land.”

Head of Security for the former president, Ameen Faisal, told Minivan News that they had been made aware of the threat on Thursday (October 24).

“We have been hearing of this threat many times…Last night we heard about it and thought we can’t make it a joke, we have to take it seriously now,” the former defence minister and national security advisor said.

Former Head of Police Intelligence Chief Superintendent ‘MC’ Mohamed Hameed told the parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee in January this year that the police had received information about two separate assassination plots against former President Nasheed.

Speaking in the same committee in January, former military intelligence head Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam claimed to have received information about an assassination attempt planned to have been carried out during an MNDF live-fire event.

Former Minister of Human Rights under the current administration, Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed, last year also alleged assassination plans against Nasheed by local politicians.

Nasheed reacted to Dhiyana’s claims by acknowledging them as credible, commenting that he had received information from government intelligence sources of plots to assassinate him.

“I did get information from the Ministry of Defence that the intelligence got reports of planned assassination attempts. I had knowledge of this before,” said Nasheed.


Comment: Speaking of sovereignty – US interest in the Maldives

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

It is misguided to focus the current Maldivian sovereignty debate on possible military intervention by a foreign power. The Maldives is a long way away from the kind of humanitarian disaster that today qualifies for foreign military intervention and such talk serves no other purpose than provide politically inflammatory rhetoric to be used in the current political crisis. If we are to discuss threats to sovereignty, it would be more fruitful to talk about the role that non-military foreign relations play in shaping Maldivian domestic affairs.

For the better part of the twentieth century, Maldives held little interest for global, and even regional, powers. This status-quo of Maldives as inconsequential in international affairs changed shortly after the beginning of this century, not from its own doing, but due to two major changes in global politics: the dramatic change of world order in which several developing states—among them India and China—have risen to challenge the United States’ post-Cold War only-superpower status; and the United States-led global War on Terror.

Both matters made the Maldives, for the first time in its history, a country of interest to the United States, signalling an end to the days in which it could remain sheltered from the threat of becoming a pawn in global power games.

The rise of China: United States, India and the Maldives

China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy in 2016, according to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). India, too, is no longer just the strongest regional power, but is rapidly becoming a global force to be reckoned with.

US relations with India has been dictated by its own interests almost from the time of India’s independence. Throughout the Cold War, when India doggedly stuck to its non-aligned stance, US foreign policy vacillated wildly between favouring India and favouring Pakistan as best suited its fight with Soviet Russia. Once George W Bush’s declared the War on Terror and invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan once again became a premier ally, while India was made to take a backseat until US relations with Pakistan soured once again, and George W Bush signed a nuclear treaty with India in 2005. Today, as India’s foreign policy has gone from one of determined non-alignment to the formation of a strategic alliance with the US, America has begun to view India as ‘a swing state’ in Asia’s balance of power.

Control of the Indian Ocean, which connects West Asia, Africa and East Asia with Europe and the Americas is important to not just India and the US but also for China as it  rises to global preeminence. Maldives is strategically located 450 miles off the south-western tip of India, making it of significant strategic interest to all those fighting to maintain a dominant presence in the region.

Recent analyses predict that China will become the world’s largest importer of oil by 2017, and 80 percent of this oil is transported through the Indian Ocean (Kumar 2012). Given the long-existing US dominance in the Indian Ocean, China—not surprisingly—is keen to ensure that its vital energy routes remain open and have strengthened its military presence in the region. This is where China’s interest in the Maldives lies.

Countering China is thus one of the main reasons for United States increased interest in the Maldives and its expressed desire for a military presence in the country, even if it is not the boots on the ground as outlined in the draft SOFA as discussed here. The United States may have denied the draft SOFA and a possible military base, but it did not deny that negotiations for some sort of an arrangement — whether a lily pad or whatever other name it is called — is underway.

The geo-strategic alliance between the US and India helps both countries counter China’s expanding ambitions. The US has long been the dominant player in the Indian Ocean and will fight to maintain this at whatever cost. It will be US’ strongest card to play in stalling the unbridled rise of China if and when it needs to do so. Thus the increased maritime activity in the Indian Ocean region in general and, more specifically, the so-called Asia Pivotin US foreign policy.

With US as a strategic ally, China is less likely to confront India over the many disputes that exist between the two countries such as those over the borders of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh and the continuing Chinese financial and military assistance to arch enemy Pakistan.The importance of India’s new alliance with the US is apparent from the fact that since 2005 India, which from 1995-2005 opposed the US in the UN in 80 percent of all its votes, has voted with them on sanctions against Iran, opposition to a Small Arms and Light Weapons Treaty and on the Kyoto Protocol (Chenoy & Chenoy :2007).

It should come as no surprise then that India and the US supported each other in the rapid recognition of Waheed’s presidency of the Maldives as legitimate.

The War on Terror: United States and the Maldives

When the US launched its global War on Terror, it force-created another bi-polar world: those with the United States and those against it. The Maldives, led by President Gayoom, was firmly ‘with the US,’ despite the War’s decidedly anti-Islamic overtones. This status of the Maldives—as an Islamic state willing to co-operate with the US in the War on Terror is how the Maldives first appeared in the American consciousness. Unfortunately for the Maldives, this is still her primary (and often only) identity as far as the United States is concerned. Unlike India, and even Britain, the US has no experience or knowledge of Maldivian culture and its long relationship with Islam that is so vastly different from the radical Islam that dominates its society identity today. Nor did it, until very recently, have any tourism or travel related interests in the Maldives, unlike other Western states.

If the United States was honestly interested in tackling the rapid radicalisation of the Maldivian society instead of its own counter-terrorism efforts in the region, it would have taken steps to understand the root causes and nature of extremism in the Maldives. Very little is known about how and why Maldivians have succumbed so easily to radical Islamist ideology. Neither is it known whether the people who outwardly show signs of radicalisation—change of religious practices, clothing, general behaviour— in fact have anything to do with the adoption of an ideology. Serious intent of curbing radicalistion would involve attempts to understand it, followed by a counter-radicalisation strategy custom-designed to solve the problems so identified.

The United States has a vast budget and plan for counter-radicalisation efforts that go beyond its borders, but it has not initiated or supported any research in the radicalised Maldivian community. Instead, it sends dubious US ‘terrorism experts’ to teach Maldivians about tackling radicalisation, according to what the Americans know and has defined radicalisation to be. Rather than tap into the vast potential for building a knowledge base on how an entire population can embrace radical Islamist ideologies after remaining far removed from them for centuries, the US tells Maldivians what their society is about, and implement actions governed not by what is at stake for Maldivians, but by a generic idea of what the US perceives should be done in a ‘rapidly radicalising Islamist society’.

This lack of knowledge and cultural disinterest has meant US foreign policy towards the Maldives is entirely governed by its own realist interests, which has had a largely negative impact on Maldivian attempts to consolidate democracy. These detrimental effects have been created by, and are manifest in, several characteristics of US engagement with the Maldives.

American view of the Maldives as a backward Islamic state which is a breeding ground for Islamist radicals and Jihadhis was made obvious, for instance, by its push to have the PISCES border control system installed in the Maldives. The PISCES, as explained here, is not a border control system but a system designed and installed in various countries designated by the United States as ‘terrorist hotbeds’.

That the Maldives would willingly participate in the invasion of privacy of its own people and millions of visitors without consultation or debate is bad enough; what is even worse is that the system has been installed ‘for free’, at the cost of Maldives’ authority and ability to control its own borders.

Attempts to implement the PISCES in the Maldives met with intense opposition from almost all senior local immigration officials. Their objections do not stem from corruption and bias towards Nexbiz [the Malaysian company originally contracted with designing and implementing a sophisticated border control system for the Maldives] as was widely portrayed in the media, but from what the PISCES does not do.

The system is so basic that Immigration officials who attended the training programme had a module on ‘how to use a keyboard.’ Anyone familiar with Maldivian culture would know the Maldives is also one of the most Internet and technology savvy countries in the region. Computer literacy among the youth must be close to a 100 percent, not to mention the complete saturation of the Maldivian market with smart phones and all other modern technological gadgets. For Maldivian immigration officials, used to operating the most advanced immigration control system in the region for years, the ‘Computers for Dummies’ class was an affront.

If only things stopped at imperial condescension.

The PISCES is unable to do even the most basic of border control work—it cannot, for instance, keep track of the number of tourists coming to the Maldives. There is no Drop-Down Menu to automatically select which resort a tourist is staying in. There is no way to automatically feed and calculate the number of days a tourist will be staying in the country by inputting dates. Now it is essential for immigration officials to keep pen and paper as well as a calculator beside them when manning the Immigration counters at various ports across the country. In addition, immigration officers need to have two other systems running simultaneously to the PISCES if they are to check visas and monitor the arrival and departure of expatriates for PISCES can do neither. Not only is this causing great frustration among officials highly trained in maintaining a sophisticated border control system, it is also leading to negligence of some of their most important responsibilities.

The most important thing for us is to compare the person standing at the counter and the passport that s/he presents to the official. Is it the right person? We can’t do that now because we are so busy punching the buttons on our calculators or manually typing in the person’s address in the Maldives. Of course, mistakes are being made (A senior immigration official, September 2013).

To circumvent  immigration officials’ resistance to PISCES, the Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim—with whom the United States has been negotiating to have the PISCES installed in the Maldives—handed over their work to staff at the National Centre for Information Technology (NCIT). When Immigration officials resisted this handover, their senior IT personnel were summoned to the Defence Ministry, sat down with large numbers of uniformed military personal in a highly intimidating atmosphere, and told to agree to the new arrangement, or else.

One of the main problems that modern Maldives has to confront, flagged by the United States itself, is the issue of human trafficking. Tens of thousands of Bangladeshi labourers are in the Maldives illegally. They are heavily exploited by ‘employers’  who make them work for little or no money, and regularly treat them inhumanely. The PISCES does not have the capacity to trace the movement of any foreigner in the Maldives—be they expatriate workers or tourists. The Nexbis system included the introduction of an ID card with a 3-D Bar Code that, even a photocopy kept by an expatriate, would allow immigration officials to trace their whereabouts, greatly reducing the opportunities for them remaining in the Maldives illegally and/or their exploitation by those running the slave labour trade in the country.

With PISCES, nobody knows where anyone is—it just counts the number of Mohameds and Ahmeds and other passengers with Muslim names [terrorists by default] who enter and leave from the geo-strategically important Maldives so that US’ Terrorist Database is kept up to date. There is huge corruption involved in the ousting of Nexbis and the Maldives’ agreement to accept the PISCES as our ‘border control system’, but that is for another day’s discussion. The relevant point here is that the US—which, by the way, does not consider PISCES to be a good enough system for monitoring its own borders—is quite happy for the Maldives to totally lose control over its own borders and become wholly inept at handling the human trafficking crisis that it confronts. What matters to the US is having an additional weapon in its ‘crusade’ against radical Islamists.

What governs US foreign policy in the Maldives?

Discussed above are two examples of how US has ridden roughshod over Maldivian domestic affairs and interests since it noticed the Maldives as important to its power play in the region. Common to both matters is the imperialist neo-colonial attitude with which the US conducts its business with the Maldives. These interests, and this attitude, very much contributed to the role that the United States has played in bringing the Maldivian democracy to its current crisis.

The US was the second, after India, to rapidly recognise the incidents of 7 February 2012 as a ‘legitimate transfer of power.’ Just as the United States designated the Maldives as a backward Islamic terrorist state without knowledge of the characteristics and nature of its radicalisation issues, it began meddling in the Maldivian democracy without a clue about Maldivian culture and traditions. Instead of attempting to find out, it brought into play its own preconceived notions of what a democracy, and what a leader of a democracy, should be.

Mohamed Nasheed, according to a view widely propagated by US Embassy officials, and almost as widely accepted among the diplomatic community, is that he is ‘not a statesman’. Waheed, on the other hand, educated in Stanford, San Francisco, and by all likelihoods the holder of a US green card and the father of children who are US citizens, is the embodiment of what counts as a statesman for the US. It does not matter that it is precisely the non-statesman like behaviour of Nasheed that has appealed to a majority of the Maldivian population. It is Nasheed’s willingness to get out of a suit more than his eagerness to get into one, his ordinary language, his fluency with Dhivehi vernacular and history, and his ease with people of every age that inspires people of all ages to unite behind him for democratic reform in the Maldives. For thirty years Maldivians had a leader who fit the international community’s idea of a statesman—he did nothing to empower the people. Why should they want another ‘statesman’?

But, US embassy officials—who swan into the country on a brief visit from their ‘Virtual Presence Post’ in Colombo, usually stay in the swanky five-star Traders Hotel where a room costs over US$300 a night [the monthly salary of an average Maldivian worker] for one or two working days, then speed off to a resort island for the weekend to sip cocktails and unwind before returning to their lives in Colombo—are adamant that what the Maldivian democracy really deserves is a ‘statesman’. They have no idea what a majority of Maldivians think of Nasheed. None of them stay long enough to watch the rallies, the street demonstrations, the Door to Door campaigns, and the hard graft of the grassroots based community efforts that have enabled Nasheed to wake a majority of Maldivians to dream of democracy.

So US ‘virtual’ staff in the Maldives quickly moved to have Dr Waheed [now widely known as Doctor Five Percent after gaining only that much of the vote in the elections held on 7 September] installed as the legitimate president. Ironically, US attitude towards Nasheed—enthusiastically endorsed by the current Obama government—is one that most closely resembles the Republican Tea Party attitude towards Obama with the mad Birthers and whatnot. It is totally ridiculous and out of touch with how a majority of domestic and international populations think of the leader in question.

Just as influential in shaping US policy towards the Maldives as its Orientalist condescension are the realist national security interests of the US discussed above. The US did not just stop at saddling the Maldives with an incompetent statesman, it capitalised hugely on Waheed’s presence to push its interests in the Maldives as rapidly as possible. Negotiations regarding the PISCES were initiated by Waheed who became the chief procuring agent of the PISCES system, having opened discussions about Maldivian border control problems with the US during a visit to New York in 2009.

Once Waheed ‘rose to the presidency’, he appointed the dishonourably discharged former army general [Baaghee] Nazim as the primary go-between the US and the Maldivian government. Despite Nazim’s very public role in the forcible removal of Nasheed from presidency, he was quickly adopted as a darling of the US diplomatic community.[Dubious generals, it seems, are quick to win favour with Washington.]  Nazim is the main mover and shaker not just in having the PISCES implemented but also in securing a SOFA with the Maldives for the United States. Until the current political crisis, Nazim’s main preoccupation since early this year was to put pressure on all immigration staff to have the entire PISCES system up and running everywhere in the Maldives by a specific date—October 20th—for unspecified reasons.

It is not just the PISCES or the SOFA that have been pushed on the Maldives since the US, with its strategic ally India, helped Waheed the statesman and Nazim the General into top positions in government. US state department officials have since been given access to certain areas of the Maldives to conduct an ‘economic and social survey’, a US company—Blackstone—has bought out the entire seaplane industry of the Maldives, and it is also to a US company that the MNDF training island of Thanburudhoo, complete with a popular national surfing spot, has been sold. It is makes one neither an alarmist nor a conspiracy theorist to suspect there is a lot more we do not know about.

Since authoritarians began conspiring to disenfrachise Maldivians by cancelling the second ever democratic presidential election in the Maldives, most of the international community seems to have moved away from, if not officially revised, their assessment of the 7 February 2012 events as ‘a legitimate transfer of power’. Where a majority of the international community reacted with concern over the indefinitely postponed election, the United States’ first response was this statement.

We note the Maldivian Supreme Court’s ruling to delay the second round of presidential elections, scheduled for September 28, as Justices continue to hear arguments. While this judicial process moves forward, we encourage all political parties to work together peacefully and ensure that the democratic process can continue in a way that respects the rule of law and that represents the will of the people.

To describe the current farce in the Maldivian Supreme Court as ‘the judicial process’ and the ridiculous claims of opposition parties challenging the election results as ‘the democratic process’ is to know nothing—and/or to care nothing—about the current state of the Maldives and its fight for democracy. Despite a flurry of statements expressing concern over the Supreme Court behaviour from various other members of the international community, the second US statement was not much better than the first.

It is states like the US, and their realist national security interests that threaten Maldivian sovereignty today more than direct foreign military intervention. It is such interference that in the long run takes away from the power of the Maldivian people to have an independent country led by a leader of their choice in a government of their own. We are better off preparing for resisting such invasions of our identity and ‘sovereignty’ by foreign powers than inviting or contemplating the repercussions of armed military intervention. When ‘soft power’ is packed with so many dangerous explosives, who needs guns or boots on the ground?

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

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