Police regulations do not adequately protect constitutional rights, says MDN report

Current policing regulations do not adequately address and protect the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution, says the Maldivian Democratic Network (MDN).

After reviewing the relevant laws, MDN’s ‘Review of the legal framework of Maldives Police Service’ found “worrying signs of an erosion of the democratic policing framework enshrined in the Constitution”.

“The police are being vested with greater powers and discretion without the prerequisite checks,” read the report released yesterday. “Alarmingly, these dangerous trends are being written into law.”

Speaking at the launch ceremony yesterday, Deyvika Prasad from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) did note that, even though there are problems with the Maldives’ police regulations, it was good to have such procedures in place.

Prasad said that the Maldives was the first in the South Asian region to come up with a policing strategic action plan, and that the 2008 Maldives Police Act is the only national police legislation in the region which is not a colonial-era Police Act.

The review’s stated intention is to “identify legal gaps” within the current legal framework to ensure compatibility with both the Constitution and international standards.

It noted that as the police regulation came only three months after the ratification of the new constitution in 2008, “there was a lack of practice or practical experience among the law enforcement agencies relating to implementation of these procedural rights and the boundaries of such rights”.

Among the issues described in the report, the procedures in the police regulation regarding the powers to arrest and detain without a court warrant were called “highly problematic” and in contradiction to Articles 46 and 49 of the Constitution.

The NGO recommended that regulations be reviewed and rewritten in order to “ensure safeguards in the constitution are maintained”, and to review the provisions relating to arrests and detention in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions and relevant interpretations provided by the judiciary.

MDN Executive Director and former President of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Shahinda Ismail said the report had been compiled after consultations with various stakeholders including the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, Transparency Maldives, and the UNDP.

The Maldives Police Services and the Police Integrity Commission had been invited to participate in the consultations but the MPS did not respond to the invitations while the PIC declined to take part.

Police earlier this year labelled a report published by MDN into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan “politically motivated” and “irresponsible”.

The review was produced as part of the police reform project by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) conducted in South Asia. Former Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizzu’s law firm Muizzu and Co LLP acted as the local consultation for the review.

Related to this story

Australian Commissioner notes challenges facing police in emerging democracies

NGOs suggest government’s failure to engage is damaging civil society

MDN investigation implicates radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance


Maldives must empower Anti-Corruption Commission, says Transparency International

The Maldives must empower anti-corruption agencies to investigate and prosecute cases in order to fight corruption, says Transparency International.

“Maldives and Sri Lanka must ensure that their anti-corruption agencies are granted ‘suo motto’ powers to instigate both corruption investigations and prosecutions on their own initiative without prior government approval,” suggested the Fighting Corruption in South Asia (FCSA) report released today.

At present, the Maldives Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) can only initiate investigations, but not prosecutions. Instead, it has to forward cases to the Prosecutor General for any further action to be taken.

Analysing 70 institutions across 6 countries, the anti-corruption NGO concluded that a “serious lack of political will on the part of governments to make laws work” was hampering the regional fight against corruption.

The report also called on the government to enforce the Right to Information Law and ensure protection of whistleblowers.

Independence and Accountability

Although the report advocated greater independence for oversight bodies, it highlighted the need to balance independence with accountability.

Too much of either can lead to abuse of power, the report noted, arguing limited judicial accountability has resulted in the Maldives Supreme Court exerting excessive use of power over other branches of government.

One example that the FCSA uses to demonstrate their findings is the Maldives Supreme Court’s much-criticised decision to convict the president of the Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek for contempt of court earlier this year. The apex court acted as prosecutor, judge and jury during the trial.

The Maldivian Anti Corruption Commission itself has raised concerns over a Supreme Court rulings, in which the apex court ruled the body does not have the authority to prevent the state from entering into questionable contracts.

ACC President Hassan Luthfee has said a ruling on a legal battle involving Department of Immigration, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and Malaysian IT firm Nexbis in 2012 had rendered the organisation powerless.

“If this institution is simply an investigative body, then there is no purpose for our presence,” he said.

“Even the police investigate cases, don’t they? So it is more cost effective for this state to have only the police to investigate cases instead of the ACC,” Luthfee said.

Referring the court’s, Luthfee said the ACC had no power to prevent corruption, arguing that anti-corruption bodies in other countries had powers of investigation, prevention, and awareness raising.

“If an institution responsible for fighting corruption does not have these powers then it is useless,” he said.

Right to Information

Another key finding highlighted in the FCSA report was what it regarded as the weak implementation of the Freedom of Information act, ratified earlier this year.

“In Maldives, although the new law has only just been passed, there are concerns about the level of citizens’ awareness of their rights, an issue which will need to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” the report states.

Under the act, an appointed commissioner has the power enforce a fine on information officers who deliberately refuse access to information. The President’s Office has today called for applications for the post which must be filled by mid July according to the new law.

The FCSA report categorises both the Maldives’ capacity to implement the law, and citizens’ awareness of the law as “weak”.

Additionally, the report highlighted the safety and protection of whistleblowers as a being major barrier to anti-corruption activities in the Maldives.

Noting the Right to Information Act provides protection to whistleblowers, the FCSA report called for more comprehensive whistleblower legislation with a broader scope covering both the public and private sectors.

Aiman Rasheed, Advocacy and Communications Manager at local Transparency branch Transparency Maldives said one the key findings of the report was the reversal of judicial reform after the February 2012 transfer of power.

“We had a new government set up. It was a positive environment. That has been reversed,” Aiman said.

He noted a “huge gap” between current systems and practices as politicians enjoyed an atmosphere of impunity following the controversial removal of President Mohamed Nasheed.

He went on to note that public engagement in holding officials accountable have been hindered by the lack of public debate in the local media.

“We have published a lot of reports on the public opinions of corruption, but we don’t see these being discussed in the media,” Aiman said.


Maldives elections veered into the realm of farce: New York Times

At a certain point this fall, the presidential elections in the Maldives stopped looking like the hiccups of a young democracy and veered into the realm of farce, writes Ellen Barry for the New York Times.

Mohamed Nasheed was the leader after a first-round election back in September, but the country’s Supreme Court begged to differ. The court, which was allied with one of his rivals, voided the September election before it could reach a second round, citing irregularities in voter rolls.

The court scuttled another vote planned for October, ordering the police to surround the election commission. In November, after Mr. Nasheed had trounced his rivals again, the court derailed a second-round vote with another last-minute delay.

Something about it felt familiar. I had just arrived in South Asia after five years in the former Soviet Union, where I saw one leader after another dispensing with truly competitive politics.

Elections kept happening, but there was only a glaze of competition; for the most part, the opposition candidates were docile, handpicked characters, because no one else was allowed to run. On the rare occasions when actual rivals were able to take part, as in recent elections in Ukraine and Georgia, the candidates who lost found themselves in court or in prison. The experiment in democracy, born in the euphoria of the 1990s, seemed to be ending.

In South Asia, that experiment is much closer to its beginning.

Read more


Maldives Decides 2013

Click to visit Maldives Decides 2013

Minivan News has launched ‘Maldives Decides 2013’, a hub of content concerning the four candidates competing in the 2013 presidential election.

Each candidate’s entry includes an overview of their recent political history with extensive links to relevant articles published by Minivan News, an overview of their policy positions, and a brief analysis of their support base.

The hub also includes an unofficial poll, links to Minivan News’ ongoing election coverage, and resources provided by the Maldives Elections Commission.

Additionally, all candidates have been sent and invited to respond to the following 10 questions, which will be published unedited as received:

  1. What about your personal experience makes you suitable to become President?
  2. What are the top three challenges facing the Maldives, and how do you intend to address these?
  3. Given the present state of the economy, how are you going to get the money to fulfill your pledges?
  4. Is there a need for judicial reform, and how do you intend to address the state of the judiciary should you be elected?
  5. How do you expect the events of 7 February 2012 to affect voter sentiment at the ballot box?
  6. Is Islamic fundamentalism a growing concern in the Maldives, and how should the government respond?
  7. What role should the international community play in the Maldives?
  8. Why should a woman vote for your party in the election?
  9. Why should a young person vote for your party in the election?
  10. What will the Maldives be like in 10 years time, should you be elected in September?

Minivan News hopes ‘Maldives Decides 2013’ is of value to its readers, and looks forward to a free, fair and inclusive election on September 7.

Visit Maldives Decides 2013

Feel free to discuss this project below, or send enquiries directly to [email protected]


Comment: Arab spring, authoritarian winter

The democratic aspirations of many countries around the world rising against authoritarian regimes early last year was, at the time, an uprising many thought would bring progressive change to the political systems in those countries.

It came to fruition through the voice of youth; educated young individuals affronted by meager job opportunities and other socio-economic inequalities perpetrated by the oligarchic superstructures entrenched in these countries.

This was the true spirit of what came to be known as the Arab Spring. The scattered archipelago of the Maldives, in South Asia with its coastlines in the Arabian Sea had the first ever peaceful transition into democracy by a Muslim-majority country in August 2008, a precursor to the events in the Middle East last year. However, a year later the stories from Egypt, Syria, Libya and Tunisia do not resonate with the ambitions of the resistance movements seen throughout the Middle East last spring.

In Egypt, former autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak first came to power three years after Maumoon Abdul Gayoom did in the Maldives.

Mubarak was deposed in a popular uprising backed by the military – a conclusion unfathomable to many, even in the most well-informed US diplomatic circles. Although defiant developments, these ‘Black Swan’ moments of history (as coined by Lebanese-American scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb) have proven to be more beneficial towards Islamists and the elite, rather than the young liberal movement with political and economic grievances who initiated, organised and executed the revolts.

When Cairo was bustling with news of elections in June this year, military and powerful businessmen still held on to power and the latter continued to monopolise the economy. In the weeks leading up to the elections, confrontations between civilians and the military regime in power turned violent. An onslaught of police brutality and violation of fundamental rights directed systematically towards pro-democracy protesters took place in all of the Arab Spring countries. Rampant instances of human rights abuse in the Maldives following the dubious transfer of power in February have been repeatedly condemned by Amnesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), Reporters Without Borders and many other international organizations. A group of Maldivian women who were arrested earlier this year alleged that police sexually harassed them whilst they were under police custody. International bodies have called for investigation into all these accesses by the police but to no avail.

If there is a pattern to be realised, it is that the ruling elite and their grip on the leading elements of the military – formed through years of power -seem to plunder the determination of the people in these countries to have a genuine democracy.

Similarly to the Egypt, in the Maldives the power vacuum left over after the removal of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was filled by Islamists and Gayoom loyalists.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s engagement with Egyptians has been a long and significant since its establishment in 1928. The Adhaalath Party, an Islamist party in the Maldives, has little akin to the Muslim Brotherhood in that regard. The party joined the December 23rd coalition made up of the then opposition parties. The coalition was made up of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP); the former dictator’s neophyte attempt at multi-party politics which he later defected.

He then created the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), while his family friend, businessman-come-politician Gasim Ibrahim, created the Jumhoree Party (JP), while the Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP) was created by Dr Hassan Saeed and Mohamed Jameel Ahmed who held cabinet portfolios under both Gayoom and Nasheed’s administration. It was this coalition of dictator loyalists who created a religiose Maldivian ‘rally round the flag’ effect that aided the military and police backed coup.

In the case of the Middle East, the transition seemed sudden and spontaneous. The Maldives deposed the three-decade dictator through the first ever multi-party democratic elections in the country in October 2008 as prescribed in a new Constitution which came to effect in August that same year. Mohamed Nasheed came into power with a citizen-centric manifesto with development and social welfare pledges.

It could be seen as the inexorable result of slow, erratic outbursts of civil unrest that began with the death of Evan Naseem under police custody in 2003. His death caused the highly restricted yet obsequious Malé and nearby islands to be worked into a fervor unheard of under Gayoom’s autocratic rule, apart from sporadic uproars in the 1980s.

Again in 2004 Nasheed’s arrest sparked another nationwide resistance. Gayoom was forced to embark on a reform agenda due to local and international pressure, which intensified due to economic upheaval following the 2004 tsunami. Mubarak’s stronghold on the judiciary weakened and pressure for judicial reform came a year before Gayoom came under pressure to initiate judicial and constitutional reform in 2004.

Eventually in four years a democratic Constitution with separation of powers, independent institutions and a bill of rights was enacted.

The reversal of the hard-earned democratic transition however came quite precipitously when police and military mutinied. The result was a dubious power transfer believed by majority of Maldivians to be a ‘televised coup d’état’ against democratically elected government. In Egypt, Mubarak’s loyal military did the opposite by siding with majority of Egyptians last year.

In Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and the Maldives the similarity is the patrimonial style of governance, however historically and culturally these countries differ greatly. Former French colony Tunisia is culturally and aesthetically more westernised than its counterparts. Libya and Syria have more potential for continued sectarian conflict. Nonetheless, the political discourses of Egypt and the Maldives are more similar compared to the dynamics of the other Arab Spring countries.

The propensity for Islamism however differs at present. The Adhaalath Party does not have any seats in the People’s Majlis, whereas Muslim Brotherhood, Al Nour and Salafists have secured a majority of Egypt’s parliament. It is difficult to tell if Islamists will benefit to a similar extent in the Maldives during next year’s parliamentary elections, but given the social and cultural rise in fundamentalism it is probable in the near future.

The military’s role in transitions and socio-economic disparities further exacerbated through patrimonial form of government are also shared themes between the two countries. Gayoom and his predecessors ruled the Maldives in a highly centralised form of government which translated into systemic inequalities between the capital Malé and the outer islands. These were the disparities the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s manifesto sought to alleviate, however many development projects and the free health care system initiated by the MDP have now been discontinued.

The first democratically elected President Nasheed of the Maldives has been on trial since August this year with civil and criminal allegations against him. His party and supporters maintain that the charges are politically motivated to stop him from contesting in next year’s elections.

Meanwhile citizens who protested the legitimacy of Mohamed Waheed’s post-‘coup’ government in February are also being prosecuted nationwide. In all countries authoritarianism is prevalent following the hopeful spring last year. The crackdown on dissent this year has been exceptionally brutal in the Middle East. It is clear that post-colonial nations have been unable to reform their police and military to serve their citizens.

In Egypt the military might have done what was popular amongst its citizens but in no way does it discount their self-interest. Security forces continue to make political decisions as they were trained to do during the colonial era. The Arab Spring that started at the end of 2010 and bloomed to full glory in 2011 may have brought with it much hope, but since the ousting of their respective symbolic autocrats, neither the system of government nor the politicised police and military have democratised. This failure is making possible the resurgence of authoritarianism and an increasingly Islamist future for the region just as it has done in the Maldives.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Maldives to compete in Nehru Cup football tournament next month

The Maldives is anticipated to be the only South Asian representative in an international football tournament to held next month in India, local media has reported.

The Football Association of Maldives (FAM) is reported to have accepted an invite to compete in the Nehru Cup football tournament that will be held in New Delhi from August 23 to September 2, according to newspaper Haveeru.

To accommodate participation in the tournament by local players, the FAM has said it will look to reschedule matches in the country’s domestic Dhiraagu Dhivehi league to allow Hungarian coach Istvan Urbanyi and the Maldives national team time to prepare.

Haveeru has reported that the tournament, which has last held back in 2009 and won by India, will see the Maldives compete against a number of international teams including Syria, Jordan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Thailand, Costa, Zambia and Malaysia.


International Organisation for Migration admits Maldives in bid to improve worker welfare

The Maldives was yesterday admitted to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in a significant step towards improving the welfare and lifestyle of migrant workers.

The Maldives joined the IOM with thirteen other states during the 2011 IOM Council in Geneva this week, raising total membership to 146 nations from all global regions.

This year’s session also marks IOM’s 60th anniversary. The organisation currently runs 2,900 projects in over 400 field locations. It’s 2010 expenditure exceeded US$1.4 billion.

IOM was established in 1951 as an inter-governmental organisation which supports orderly management, international cooperation, practical solutions and humanitarian assistance among countries addressing migrant issues, particularly those dealing with refugees and internally displaced people.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a press release that “IOM experts have already begun work with the Maldives Government to help with the better management of migration in the country – especially in the context of the large numbers of migrant workers in the Maldives.”

Minivan News recently reported a steep rise in human trafficking, which was earlier calculated to be the second largest contributor of foreign currency to the Maldives at US$123 million.

In 2010, the United States’ State Department listed the Maldives second on its Tier 2 Watchlist for Human Trafficking, following a report that Bangladeshi workers were being exploited in high numbers by fake companies promising work permits.

This year 308 cases have been reported to police involving expatriates leaving their sponsors, and more than 4000 passports belonging to illegal migrants have been found.

Thirty-five police officers were subsequently trained trained to combat human trafficking, and took part in the workshop ‘Integrated Approach to Combating Trafficking in Persons’, organised by the IOM.

Maldives Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Iruthisham Adam, said IOM membership was an honor for the Maldives.

“The Maldives is in the particular situation of being a Small Island Developing State, until very recently a member of the UN’s Least Developed Country category, which nevertheless is a major destination country for economic migrants.”

Economic migrants primarily from South Asia account for approximately one quarter of the country’s population, she noted.

“The Maldives greatly values the contribution they have made and continue to make to our economy and society,” said Adam. “However, the situation also raises a range of challenges, especially relating to our human, technical and financial capacity to manage such population movements.”

Adam said IOM membership would provide valuable support and expertise to the Maldives as it strives to manage internal and external migration “in a way which fully benefits the migrants themselves and the wider Maldivian society.”

Welcoming the Maldives’ membership, IOM Director General Ambassador William Lacy Swing praised the government for raising awareness of the effects of climate change on Small Island Developing States.

Other new members are Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Holy See, Antigua and Barbuda, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Guyana, Micronesia, Mozambique, Nauru, the Seychelles and Vanuatu.


Gayoom “confident in SAARC success”

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said he is pleased the SAARC Summit is being held for the third time in the Maldives, and noted that the events have improved relationships between member countries.

Haveeru reported that Gayoom was a founder of the eight-member regional organisation.

SAARC members have reached important agreements including the Social Charter, the Dhaka Declaration on Climate Change, and the SAARC Convention on Combating the Crime of Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution and SAFTA.

Gayoom observed that poverty alleviation, socio-economic development and climate change are pressing challenges for the region, along with maintaining standards of democracy and human rights, reported Haveeru.

“I am confident that the 17th SAARC Summit will be a great success, and that our Heads of State or Government will address these issues with vigour, courage and foresight in order that our peoples can achieve further progress, peace and prosperity,” the former President said.


Comment: India speaks for small countries and establishes its credential in the CHOGM

In the recently conducted Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in
Perth from October 28-30, it was established that in the 21st century, the head of
the Commonwealth is shifting from London to New Delhi with the rise of India as
a Great Power.

Looking at the events leading up to the CHOGM and the outcome proves that
India has elbowed other countries in the CHOGM, which includes its former colonial
master Britain and aspiring Great Power in the Asia Pacific, Australia.

The western countries in the CHOGM, namely Britain, Australia and New
Zealand, wanted to pin the countries which were ruled by colonial masters before
by bringing about an institution which monitor the human rights in those
countries. This move was scuttled by India saying quite bluntly that CHOGM
should focus more on developmental challenges rather than bringing up the
issue of human rights for which there’s a better multi-lateral institution called the
United Nations.

India also went on to highlight the hypocrisy of the western nations and the
double-standards that they follow in pursuing lofty utopian concepts called human
rights. While the western world is keen to have the status-quo monarchies in
power in the Middle-East to serve their oil-benefits, they’re ready to wield a big
stick against countries like Fiji, Maldives and Sri Lanka which are in the fringes of
their geo-strategic objectives.

If the CHOGM is anything to go by, it’s clear that India has graduated itself from a regional power in South Asia to a Great Power in Asia Pacific that
can speak for the smaller nations in Africa, Latin America and Africa. India’s
pursuance of tactful diplomacy is done with an objective; it understands that
it needs the support of these countries for its candidature in the United Nations
Security Council.

Second, India would also not be conducting its diplomacy based on utopian
concepts like Human Rights while its near competitor is having a free-run for the resources in the Global South’s developing countries. It’s just a matter of time
before India will join the race with China to carve out “Spheres of Influence” in these regions, defining its neo-colonial pursuits. The last image that India will try to project is a torch-bearer of old power players from the West.

On the other hand, it’s good that India has finally understood its diplomatic strength. As the country which houses the most English speakers in the world, it has lived up to the expectation of filling the void left by Great Britain in the realm of Great Powers through the Commonwealth Nations. This point has been stated in the book “Reconnecting Britain and India,” published in 2010.

It’s here that a bit of appreciation for India’s founding fathers is needed.

Despite coming out of the colonial rule from the British and having staunch
opposition from the Indian population against joining the Commonwealth nations,
it was felt that a day will come when India as a Great Power could use its past for
the future. CHOGM has been the starting point of that ambition.

On that note, it will interesting to see on how India conducts its affairs in the
much-expected South Asian Affairs of Regional Co-operation (SAARC) summit scheduled in Maldives from 10th to 11th of this month.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]