MDP questions legitimacy of leaked security force reform proposals

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has questioned the legitimacy of a paper leaked on social media allegedly detailing plans to transfer and reform police and military powers should it win the upcoming presidential election.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party was not aware of having produced any document outlining police reforms as mentioned in local media, despite pledging a ”transitional arrangement” to reform security services in line with recommendations in the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report.

Sun Online reported today that a policy paper, alleged to have been assembled by the MDP in collaboration with former defence chiefs, had been leaked on social media detailing efforts to “neutralise the powers” of the police and military .

Among the proposals said to be included in the paper are the transfer police to the authority of city councils, similar to the US model, while salaries and allowances of officers would be provided through the Local Government Authority (LGA).

The draft is also said to favour creating a national intelligence agency run from the President’s Office, replacing the current police intelligence department, while police forensic activities would be undertaken at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’, according to Sun.

Additionally, the draft reportedly calls for limits to powers granted under the Police Act by limiting the number of branches within the MPS and “dramatically” reducing officer numbers to a force capable of controlling traffic and protests. Local media reported that the report had been compiled to address fears the entire police institution was “anti-MDP”.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said he had seen media coverage of the report, but was not aware of efforts within the party to draw up such a document, suggesting its content had been “fabricated”.

He claimed the MDP was presently focused on campaigning for the presidential election scheduled for September 7, while also overseeing what the party called voter protection measures through the use of observers and registration programmes.

While dismissing knowledge of the leaked reform paper, Ghafoor said the party had considered the need for a “transitional agreement” for reforms of the country’s security forces based on recommendations raised in last year’s CoNI report.

“Coup” allegations

The MDP has continued to accuse the country’s security forces of helping orchestrate a “coup e’etat” on February 7, 2012, leading to former President Mohamed Nasheed controversially resigning from office and being later replaced by his then Vice President Dr Moahmed Waheed.

The resignation came after sections of the police and military mutinied against the president on February 7 – a development rejected by the CoNI report, which concluded that the administration of President Waheed had come to power legitimately and not through an alleged coup.

With the CoNI process concluded, Ghafoor accused the Commonwealth and the wider international community of failing to ensure reforms to strengthen democratic institutions called for in the report’s findings were met.

He alleged that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) had failed to fully be transferred from a militarised to civil institution dating back to the administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s before the country’s first multi-party democratic election in 2008.

“Gayoom had moved to separate the military and police into different bodies. In the end, he failed to do this adequately,” Ghafoor said.

Despite pledging to reform the police and military, the MDP said it was not planning a “witch-hunt”.

According to Ghafoor, the MDP was instead focused on trying to secure a “huge election majority” in order to carry out reforms with the mandate of the public.

“This will help solve everything,” he said.

Minivan News was at time of press awaiting a response from Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Director General Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef over the allegations and reforms within the police since last February’s power transfer.

Internal investigations

In June this year, the PIC announced it had concluded investigations into allegations of police brutality against demonstrators of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on February 8, 2012, submitting six cases for prosecution – recommending administrative action by the home ministry against those officers.

However, the police disciplinary board later decided not to take any administrative action against five officers facing criminal prosecution.

According to a status update from the PIC on June 6, the commission had investigated 29 cases of police brutality before forwarding six cases for prosecution.

PIC Vice Chair Haala Hameed told parliament’s Government Oversight Committee on June 4 that the commission had urged then-Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed to suspend the accused officers immediately.

However, Hameed said that the request was not adhered to and at least one of the accused officers was promoted.

Hameed said the commission had failed to identify the police officers in five of the remaining cases while 11 other cases lacked supporting evidence.

Former PIC Chair Shahinda Ismail – who resigned citing failure to hold police accountable for human rights violations – explained to Minivan News in September 2012 that article 44 of the Police Act allows the home minister to ignore PIC recommendations if the commission is informed in writing.