Nasheed submits details of police alleged to have destroyed Malé city’s areca palms

Former President Mohamed Nasheed today revealed details of the culprits he believes to have been behind the felling of the areca palm trees planted by Malé City Council (MCC) last weekend.

Speaking to the media outside of MCC office, Nasheed said he had shared the names of some of the police officers involved with the council, after it had requested the public to submit any relevant information.

Around 25 areca palm trees planted on both sides of Majeedhee Magu – the city’s main thoroughfare road – were chopped in the early hours of October 24 by a group of masked men wielding machetes.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer revealed in a tweet today that he has received Nasheed’s report.

“This govt will NOT ask Police/MNDF to carryout anything unlawful,” wrote Naseer.

Nasheed alleged that two men were arrested by Maafannu police at around 3am following the incident and that a senior official from the Special Operations (SO) unit arrived and demanded the arrested men to be put into an SO vehicle which arrived simultaneously.

Two officers from Maafannu Police followed the SO vehicle after the arrested men were handed over to the SO unit only to find that the vehicle entered Iskandhar Koshi police headquarters, explained the former president

He also accused one high-ranking police officer of revising a statement given by a Maafannu police officer at the scene that night, cutting down the two-page statement to half a page and instructing other officers at the station not to speak about the incident.

Meanwhile, a police media official told Minivan News that a professional standards investigation is being carried out after the increasing prevalence of reports of police involvement in the incident. The home minister has also instructed all police executives to assist the Police Integrity Commission it any investigation.

While speaking at a separate conference with all MDP Malé MPs, Galolhu Uthuru MP Eva Abdulla condemned the government for its lack of response over the recent events happening in the capital.

“With the lack of response from the government after the palm trees incident and the fear spreading the society at the moment, it is clear to us that the government wants the society to remain in in this fear,” said Eva.

MDP Spokesperson and Maafannu Uthuru MP Imthiyas Fahmy accused the government of “state sponsored terrorism” by its refusal to take adequate action for the crimes happening in Malé.

In a statement released on October 25, Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab condemned the chopping down of the palm trees by saying that the “unlawful act was an injury caused to all citizens of the Maldives and especially the beloved people of Malé”.

Meanwhile, Former Police Commissioner and Jumhoree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz told local media that police should have stopped the group of people in the act and said that the police have the technology and competence to arrest the people involved – referring to an extensive network of cameras in the capital.


Police Commissioner urges customs to stop import of illegal animals

Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed has told customs that police are spending as much time confiscating illegal animals as they are seizing drugs.

Waheed yesterday (16 March) met with Commissioner General of Customs Ahmed Mohamed and a delegation of senior customs official to discuss the increase in illegal animals being discovered during recent drug operations.

Commissioner Waheed told customs officials that in the past two weeks police have discovered illegal animals during special operations conducted to raid drug networks.

An illegal snake was also found on the streets on Male last week.

A police statement reported that Waheed told officials that citizens were now in constant fear, noting that the police do not have any role in the airports and other ports.

He also said that police now needed to conduct as many operations to confiscate illegal and dangerous animals as to curb drug related crimes.

Waheed requested that customs increase monitoring for illegal animals and also to increase people’s awareness on the issue.

He recommended customs issue an announcement calling for the surrender all such animals that anyone has to the customs department.

Customs officials – who have already promised to tighten regulations – told police that customs needed to increase screening and that those types of animals were smuggled in to the country after careful planning.

Customs officials also told police that the department currently has established procedures where bags and luggage of cargo boats crew members can be searched.

Officials noted, however, that not being able to give adequate punishment to people involved in this type of crime was an obstacle in curbing them.

Earlier this month police discovered a royal python – a nonvenomous snake commonly kept as a pet – following a drugs raid in Himmafushi, Kaafu atoll, on March 4.

In a separate raid on March 7 police also confiscated a Kingsnake and a Mexican red-kneed tarantula from a house in Malé.

A slow loris was also discovered by police in a drugs raid in Malé in Januray 21.  The species’ decline in numbers has been closely attributed to their unsustainable trade as exotic pets.


Civil Court declares former police intelligence director’s arrest unlawful

The Civil Court has declared the Maldives Police Services’ arrest of former Director of Police Intelligence Sabra Noordeen on 16 March 2013 unlawful, unwarranted, and an ‘abuse of power’.

The court has also ordered the police to erase the record of the arrest and to issue a written apology.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Sabra said she had filed the case “because I wanted to set a legal precedent which would make the Police think about the wider rights and responsibilities they have to uphold before they exercise their powers.”

The police arrested Sabra upon her arrival at Malé International Airport on 16 March 2013 on the charge of “inciting violence” against a police officer on 5 March 2013 during the arrest of President Mohamed Nasheed. The police also confiscated her passport.

She was then handcuffed in order to be transferred to Dhoonidhoo prison. However, the police took her to Malé instead, and released her after issuing a summons to appear at the police station at a later date for questioning.

Sabra first appealed the Criminal Court warrant at the High Court and asked for compensation for damages. In August 2013, the High Court ruled the warrant valid, but said that Sabra should seek compensation at the Civil Court.

In yesterday’s verdict, the Civil Court noted the Criminal Court had not ordered the police to arrest Sabra, but had provided a warrant authorising her arrest upon the police’s request.

The court said she could only be arrested under such a warrant if there was “a necessity for her arrest”,  and if such a necessity ceases to exist, she should not be arrested “even if the warrant has not expired”.

The Civil Court noted that the High Court judges had deemed Sabra’s quick release on the day of her arrest to have been an indication of the lack of necessity for her arrest.

The Civil Court has also warned that the police’s abuse of power defeats the purpose for which the institution was founded, and would create doubt and fear about the the institution.

The verdict declared that Sabra’s arrest violated her right to protect her reputation and good name as guaranteed by Article 33 of the constitution, and the right to fair administrative action guaranteed by Article 43. The court also found that the police had acted against their primary objectives underlined in Article 244.

Following her arrest in March 2013, Sabra called for police reform in order for the institution to regain public confidence – including the dissolution of Special Operations unit and holding police officers accountable for misconduct and brutality.

“I quit the Maldives Police Service on 8 February 2012 with a profound sense of sadness for the institution and the colleagues I left behind. I do not believe that everyone in the MPS was involved in the mutiny or the coup and I do not believe in blaming everyone in a police uniform,” she wrote in an article detailing the events of her arrest.

Previously, the Criminal Court had declared the police’s arrest of incumbent Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and the arrest of Ghassaan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as unlawful.

In 2010, the Civil Court also declared the Maldives National Defense Force’s “protective custody” of current President Abdulla Yameen as unconstitutional, while the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of both Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim (both members of parliament at the time).

Accusations of brutality and misconduct by MPS officers are common and have been confirmed by various independent state institutions. Among them are the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) that looked in to the controversial power transfer of February 2012 and two constitutionally prescribed independent institutions – the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the Police Integrity Commission.


Police launches special program to make Hulhumale’ peaceful and crime free

Police have launched a joint special program with the Hulhumale’ Development Corporation (HDC) to make Hulhumale’ a peaceful place for visitors and residents of Hulhumale’.

The program which was launched today will continue until 14 January.

According to the police, there will be special programs conducted to ensure that the streets of Hulhumale’ are peaceful for pedestrians and vehicles.

The police is to increase patrolling around the areas of ferry terminal and different areas of Hulhumale’ and also said they will try to stop crimes before they occur.

Police will try not to give opportunity to park motorbikes in violation to the regulations.

Furthermore, the police said that they will work together with the Hulhumale’ Development Corporation to install street lights on streets that are dark.

On December 10, the police established a 100 day road-map and started implementing it in order to strengthen the work of police and to gain the trust of the people.

The road-map was based on four main strategies which seek to increase and enhance operational activities, conduct activities to curb crime, enhance and hasten investigations, and improve the police institution.


Police search six houses as part of special operation conducted in Addu

Police have searched six houses on Hithadhoo in Addu City as part of a special operation conducted by the police Special Operations (SO) team based in Addu for elections security.

A police spokesperson would not confirm whether anybody was arrested during the raids.

However, Police South Division Commander, Chief Inspector Ahmed Shifan, told local news outlet Sun Online that police had confiscated hard disks and related items from some of the houses.

Shifan also told the paper that the houses were searched in bid to clarify certain information required for a case police were investigating, and that all the houses were searched after obtaining a court warrant.

He declined to provide further information.

Police had previously searched the premises of a house owned by a senior activist of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on the island of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, who was arrested on allegations that he had printed ballot papers. Police also confiscated the internal hard disk of his computer.

An island council source on Kulhudhufushi at the time told Minivan News that the party was alleged to have printed oversize, laminated versions of the ballot paper to demonstrate to people how to vote.

The MDP issued a statement saying the party had sent a letter to Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz asking him to return the hard disk back to the MDP, as it contained important material related to the MDP presidential election campaign.

On June 24, police decided to station Special Operations (SO) officers in Addu to work with the Thinadhoo police station and establish “peace and security” for the election.

On February 7, 2012, SO officers among others instigated a violent mutiny, assaulted government supporters, ransacked the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Haruge (meeting hall), staged a protest at the Republic Square demanding the resignation of then-President Mohamed Nasheed, clashed with soldiers and stormed the national broadcaster in the hours immediately preceding Nasheed’s controversial resignation.

Moreover, on February 8, 2012 SO officers brutally beat supporters of the deposed MDP during a heavy-handed crackdown of a protest march led by Nasheed, who had announced that his resignation the previous day was made “under duress.”

Mayor of Addu City Abdulla ‘Soabe’ Sodiq did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


No police within 100 feet of ballot boxes, confirms elections commissioner

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii and Ahmed Naish

With two months remaining before the Maldives’ second multi-party presidential elections, former President Mohamed Nasheed, the current Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate, has alleged that police are plotting to ruin the polls under instruction from Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz.

Nasheed, who won the Maldives’ first democratic election in 2008, made the allegations during an MDP rally held in the Galolhu ward of Male’ on Sunday night (June 29).

Attempts to influence the polls by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) were one among “a few concerns”, said Nasheed.

During a press conference held today (July 1), Nasheed emphasised his concerns about police influencing September’s presidential election results.

“We are revealing these possible issues only with the hope that the elections commission would take adequate measures to resolve them. The [Elections] Commissioner should only allow police and military officers [in polling places] after discussing with the candidates’ agents and receiving their consent,” Nasheed stated.

“Police should not be able to enter the polling station without an informed decision made unanimously with the elections commission members and agents of the candidates present at the polling station,” he continued.

“MDP members will not allow police or military to go inside polling stations unlawfully,” he added.

Speaking at the rally entitled “People of Galolhu with President Nasheed” on Sunday, the former president stressed that he was strongly convinced that no one could tamper with the election results, and said to ensure elections are free and fair MDP will have more than 1,900 of its own observers at the polling stations.

“According to information I am getting, Abdulla Riyaz is instructing police officers to barge into polling stations upon his signal, after two individuals enter and create a scene. The remedy to this is that we will ensure no police officer can enter the polling station unless approved by the elections commission,” Nasheed declared.

“This is how it is practiced in other places around the world. Police cannot just enter polling stations. Only the voter and elections officials are allowed. That is why, even a Special Operations (SO) police officer cannot go into a voting station on a whim,” said Nasheed.

The second method by which the police will attempt to ruin the elections is intervening during the vote counting process, after claiming that difficulties are being experienced, such as the election being “rigged”, Nasheed alleged.

The former President  reiterated he was confident he would win the election from the first round, predicting that his party would secure 56-57 percent of the popular vote.

“Based on the figures received during the party’s door to door campaign, we are currently able to secure 56 to 57 percent of the voters. From Galolhu, figures indicate MDP getting 73 percent of the vote. We are getting full support from other wards of Male’ as well,” he said.

The Elections Commission outlined some of the key regulations related to concerns regarding police interference with elections.

“Police cannot stand within a 100 foot radius of the ballot box,” Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq confirmed to Minivan News today.

“Police can enter the area only if the Head of Polling Station requests their assistance to control any criminal activity that goes beyond his control,” he continued.

“The role of the police will be to assist the Elections Commission in keeping peace and public safety,” he added.

SO begin MDP arrests on Thinadhoo

Meanwhile, SO police officers have arrested MDP supporters on Thinadhoo Island in Gaafu Dhaal Atoll for allegedly “creating unrest” during President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s visit to the island earlier in June, according to social media reports and photographs.

“They started arresting MDP supporters today, at least three people so far,” a source from Thinadhoo told Minivan News today on condition of anonymity.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) decided to station officers of the Special Operations (SO) command on Thinadhoo last week. According to local media, the SO officers will work with the Thinadhoo police station to establish “peace and security”.

The Maldives Police Service had not responded to Minivan News enquiries at time of press.

Police reserve force

President Waheed inaugurated the police special constabulary reserve force at a ceremony today.

The MPS announced plans for recruitment of officers for the special constabulary in May this year, with the new officers to be paid 85 percent of the salary of a regular police officer of the same rank.

At the function, 43 recruits from the first batch were presented documents of employment by President Waheed, after which they were sworn-in as police officers at an oath-taking ceremony.

The oath was administered by Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. According to police media, the judge advised the news officers on the importance of respecting oaths.

On June 23, police made an announcement seeking 75 “civil assistants” as non-uniformed personnel for administrative work.

Correction: The previous version of this article said Maldives Police Service officers cannot stand within a 100 metre radius ballot boxes, however it should have read 100 foot radius. Minivan News regrets the error.


Tension surges in Male’ as police arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed

Photo courtesy Jaawid Naseem, Jade Photography

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has been arrested by police ahead of his trial hearing at Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, scheduled for 4:00pm tomorrow (March 6).

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that Nasheed had been arrested and taken into police custody at 1:30pm today (March 5).

“We have received the order. Police have taken Nasheed into custody in order to produce him at Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court 16 hours from now,” Haneef told Minivan News.

Photos of the arrest showed several dozen police wearing balaclavas and black riot gear, several armed with rubber bullet guns, entering Nasheed’s family home in Male’ and emerging with the former president.

Shortly after the arrest, Minivan News observed President Mohamed Waheed’s brother Ali Waheed forced off his motorcycle by several dozen angry demonstrators on the main road Majeedee Magu, at the turnoff to Nasheed’s house. A second, larger group pulled Ali Waheed to safety, abandoning his motorcycle. The first group then attacked a parked military vehicle, smashing a window.

A group of people including Nasheed’s representative on the Commission of National Inquiry, Ahmed ‘Gaha’ Saeed, blocked the road, trying to calm the more violent protesters. One man had laid down in the middle of the street as part of a silent protest.
“People have waited a year since the coup and are very angry and unlikely to act reasonably. They could bring Male’ to a standstill,” Saeed said.
Former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, arriving at the scene, said “There is no plan. People are agitated, they are angry. There is no plan, there is just outrage.”

Nasheed’s latest trial hearing follows his exit from the Indian High Commission last month, after the Maldivian and Indian government came to an alleged “understanding” that he would be able to conduct a peaceful campaign and participate in an inclusive election.

The former president told Indian media on Sunday (March 3) that while he had ended his 11-day stay in the Indian High Commission, he was still not entirely free and feared an arrest warrant would be issued against him any day soon.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor confirmed to Minivan News that there were Special Operation (SO) officers outside Nasheed’s residence earlier today prior to his arrest.

“He has been taken away to Dhoonidhoo [prison], we are still in a state of shock,” Hamid said.

The former President sought refuge inside the High Commission building on February 13 after Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court ordered police to produce Nasheed at his trial hearing scheduled for later that day.

Nasheed has maintained that the charges against him – of detaining the Chief Criminal Court judge during his final days in office – are a politically-motivated effort to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.

Nasheed spent 11 days inside the commission building before making an unannounced exit on February 23.

Following his exit from the High Commission, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court issued a travel ban to Nasheed, preventing him from leaving the country.


2:30pm: Shortly after Nasheed’s arrest, Minivan News observed President Mohamed Waheed’s brother Ali Waheed being pulled off his motorcycle by several dozen angry demonstrators on the main road Majeedee Magu. A second, larger group pulled Ali Waheed to safety, abandoning his motorcycle. The first group then attacked a military vehicle, smashing a window as it tried to move past the group.

3:00pm: More people are arriving outside the City Council Building near the demonstration, nearing a hundred people or so in size. Shops in the vicinity are closed, and one man is lying down in the middle of the road, stepped over by the occasional pedestrian. People on motorcycles are stopping to look, and turning around to find another route.

3:10pm: A separate group of two dozen men are turning away traffic at the next intersection, in an apparent attempt to shut down Male’s main road. No sign of police presence yet. A man passes through the blockade with a young girl on a motorcycle, to shouts of “baghee” (traitor).

3:12pm: Nasheed’s brother Dr Nashid tweets: – “given all clear to go to Dhoonidhoo [detention centre]. Waiting for Laila [Nasheed’s wife]”. In a second tweet, he adds that Nasheed’s bodyguards “were changed this morning.”

3:28pm: President Waheed tweeted: “Assaulting my brother Ali Waheed will not help Nasheed escape justice.”

3:30pm: A pickup truck is circling Male’ calling on people to come out on the streets. Light rain earlier has since cleared up.

3:37pm: Photos circulating on social media appear to show one of Nasheed’s bodyguard being restrained by police as the former President was escorted outside his family home.

3:39pm: Approximate 30 police have arrived at the scene. Demonstators threw plastic bottles at officers, who subsequently departed after detaining former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam. The crowd numbers around 200 people.

3:42pm: SunOnline reports that protesters on Majeedhee Magu have pushed off a uniformed police officer from his motorcycle as he was driving through the protesters. The policeman abandoned his motorcycle and left on foot when the crowd moved to attack him, Sun reports.

3:44pm: Abbas Faiz, South Asia Specialist for Amnesty International tweets: Amnesty investigating concerns that former prez Nasheed arrest politically motivated and his safety uncertain.

3:46pm: A masked man climbed up the posts on which CCTV cameras are mounted on the junction of Majeedhee Magu and Alikilegefaanu Magu and spray-painted the camera, reports Sun Online.

4:01pm: A video of Nasheed outside his house has emerged on DhiTV, titled ‘Anni’s Quarrel’. In the video, a Special Operations police officer states: “We will accompany you there.” Nasheed: “Well, let’s go then. I won’t go in that way. I am doing what is good for you… I will know better than you. Let’s go already.” [Former Foreign Minister] Naseem: “He is going, isn’t he? What is wrong with you baaghees (traitors)?” “Nasheed: Sigh. What more can I say? Even I would know these laws and responsibilities. For God’s sake, let’s just go. Let’s go quickly. Let’s just go quickly.”

4:03pm: The Maldivian Democratic Party has issued a statement condemning the arrest:

President Nasheed was arrested while walking down the street in Male’ at approximately 13:45 local time today. He was apprehended by numerous armed and masked police officers, who did not identify themselves, nor produce an arrest warrant or court summons. Nasheed’s lawyers were not informed of the arrest, or of any court summons.

President Nasheed was taken to Dhoonidhoo Island detention centre – the facility in which he was tortured during the former regime of Maumoon Gayoom.

Commenting on the arrest, the MDP’s international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said: “Once again Dr Waheed has proven that he can’t be trusted to hold a free and fair election – despite his assurances to the international community.

“Nasheed was supposed to be on an election campaign trip but instead he is languishing in jail.

“This arrest comes just days after the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, said the judges overseeing President Nasheed’s case had been appointed “arbitrarily”.

“Dr Waheed, in collusion with his friends in the judiciary, is pulling out all the stops to prevent President Nasheed competing in the elections.”

The UN Special Rapporteur also said that the Judicial Services Commission, which established the court trying President Nasheed, was “politicised” and subject to “external influence”.

4:07pm: The Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has issued a statement condemning an attack on Sun journalist and a VTV cameraman:

Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) strongly condemns the violent attacks carried out against a journalist and a cameraman while covering the arrest of former President Nasheed today.

The journalist from was attacked and tore his shirt and snatched his mobile phone while VTV cameraman was attacked and snatched his video tape in his camera. Both the incidents was happened near former president Nasheeds residence. We strongly call on all parties to allow media to do its duty without any harrasements. And also call on all responsible authorities to investigate the above incidents and call on media regulatory authorities to not to allow ‘hate speech’ on media.

4:11pm: President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told Minvan News: “I have already told Indian and local media that the Maldives government has made no deal with the Indian government over Nasheed’s exit from the Indian High Commission. It was never said there would be a delay in Nasheed’s trial hearing, or his court case or any other matter involving him.”

“[The government] cannot make any delay or decision based on legal matters because it is not our business, it is the judiciary’s decision,” Masood said.

Asked if Nasheed’s arrest would harm relations between Maldives and India, Masood said: “If we had made a deal and broken it, then that would be an issue. But we have not made any deal, and there has been no deal between India and the Maldives regarding Nasheed’s case. There was no understanding between the respective governments. If Nasheed thought there was an understanding, it must have been something he understood. There is no dealing between us and the judiciary on Nasheed’s judgement, It is totally up to the judiciary, we will have have no interference with the court. I did not know that the court would order police to summon Nasheed today.”

4:21pm: Scuffles are breaking out between protesters and passerbys they deem to be “baghees” (traitors). One woman clung to a man screaming as the crowd surrounded them. “There is hatred here,” said one protester. “He was asking for it. He could see there was a [blockade] but came through anyway.”

The attitude of the crowd is divided between the angry and those appealing for calm. Around 20 riot police have arrived with shields.

4:30pm: Police reinforcements have arrived at an nearby intersection, heckled by the crowd of 200 demonstrators blocking the road.

4:31pm: A middle-aged women was arrested after heckling and singing songs, and was dancing in the back of the police truck. A further five or so individuals have been arrested.

4:36pm: Police have brought the area under control and are now directing traffic.

5:30pm: The US Embassy in Colombo has issued a statement:

The United States is increasingly concerned about ongoing events in Malé. We understand that both the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission are monitoring the situation, and that the Human Rights Commission has requested access to Former President Nasheed.  We urge all sides to remain calm, reject the use of violence, and avoid rhetoric that could increase tensions. Former President Nasheed must be accorded due process under the law regarding his pending court cases.

We urge that the Presidential elections scheduled for September 7, 2013 be free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive. The integrity of and public confidence in the Maldivian electoral process must be maintained. Accordingly, we note that all parties participating in these elections should be able to put forward the candidate of their choice. We also call upon the Government of the Maldives to implement all the recommendations of the Commission of National Inquiry (CONI) report, including the recommendations related to judicial and governmental reforms.  We continue to urge all parties to chart a way forward that strengthens Maldivian democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

5:30pm: Sun Online reports that protesters have rolled over a Redwave van (owned by shop owner Eydhafushi MP Ahmed Saleem) near Male’ City Council. The van was broken into, milk packets were taken and subsequently distributed to protesters.

5:51pm: British entrepeneur Richard Branson has tweeted on the Nasheed arrest: “Maldives former president Nasheed arrested, in court tomorrow. Hope he is treated with respect & fairness”.

6:31pm: Local media has reported that police have once again left Majeedee Magu.

7:10pm: Some 150 demonstrators remain on Majeedee Magu, situated around 20 metres from the Male’ City Council building. No police presence is witnessed by Minivan News at the current time, although traffic is still being diverted as a result of the makeshift blockade.

8:52pm: At a press conference held this evening, the Maldives Police Service have said that a total of 47 people were arrested so far during demonstrations today on Majeedee Magu.  Of those arrested 31 were male, 16 females were also detained.  Among those arrested was MDP MP Ahmed Easa, who authorities said was later released.


Comment: Origins of the Special Operations police

This article was first published on Dhivehisitee. Republished with permission.

An especially trained squad known as Special Operations were at the forefront of the police mutiny that ended in the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on 7 February. Together with riot police squads, they have since led violent attacks on protesters and re-introduced into Maldivian society the culture of impunity and violence of the pre-democracy era. Although their abuse of power and violations of human rights have been documented by local and international institutions, there have been no prosecutions or disciplinary actions against them.

Late last year, Nasheed’s Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh gave evidence to the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) on the events of and surrounding 7 February 2012. Although it was a national inquiry held for the benefit of the public, none of the statements and evidence submitted to CoNI have been made public. A transcript of Faseeh’s evidence, however, was leaked online recently.

He provided members of CoNI with a detailed description of how the SO was created in 2004, as a means of crushing the Maldivian people’s uprising against dictatorship and their agitation for democracy. This is an English language translation of the evidence, reconstructed in narrative style. The only changes made are to style, facts remain as shared by Faseeh:

“Police Commissioner Adam Zahir summoned me to his office. It was about two weeks before the 12/13 August 2004.

On 1 September we will be placed under the Ministry of Home Affairs,” he said.

“If we do not get a good force ready by then, we could be severely weakened. We must do everything that can be done to cope. So we must have a plan. Faseeh, why don’t we find someone who can build muscle?” Adam Zahir asked me.

“There is only one person in Male’ with a gym for building muscle. His name is Kesto Haleem, he is the owner of Muscle Load,” I replied.

Adam Zahir asked for more details.

“His name is Kesto Haleem. He may have been a student of yours. He was in Majeediyya School, four batches before us,” I told him.

“We must know him to see. Must have been in a class of mine. Get him over quickly,” he said.

I called Haleem and the three of us met in Adam Zahir’s office the very next day. From what I remember, it was around late afternoon.

“I want to put some muscle on about 30 boys.”

“That’s no problem”, Haleem said immediately. “They can be trained in my gym. For free. All you have to do is get the meds.” Zahir agreed.

The day after, Haleem told me he wanted to take ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures of the boys. They were called to the Police Theatre Hall, looked at, and measured. Work began on preparing the team.

Only a few days later, I think it was 12,13 August, vast crowds gathered at Republic Square.The boys stood with me outside the police gates, to protect us and to protect the headquarters. They had not yet had any training; they were green. But, these boys — about 30 or 35 from what I recall — made a line in front of the Hussein Adam building, blocking its entrance. I stood behind the line, around the middle. There was a stabbing. I was cut only a little. Two of the boys were stabbed, the one in front of me, and one a bit further away.

About two months later, the boys were all muscled up. They were ready. Within six months, they were what you would call “pumped.”

“This isn’t enough. We must also teach them something about special operations,” Adam Zahir said. “Why don’t we talk to Thailand?”

Thailand is a friendly country. Our police relations are very good. Discussions with a Thai General secured us 16 placements at their Police Commanding School. I even went to the opening ceremony. From what I recall, I went with F.A [Mohamed Fayaz, current State Minister for Home Affairs]. It is a tough school, and the boys trained rigorously for about two months. They returned from the Commander School and became what is commonly referred to as the Star Force. STAR Team is their real name—Special Tactics and Rescue, that’s what STAR stands for.

That’s how they came into being.

In truth, STAR Team is the name of Singapore’s elite force.We followed the Singaporean model because it is most suitable to a place like this. It is an island nation, they are at the forefront of law enforcement. I, too, graduated from Singapore. That’s where we took the STAR Team from and, actually, we worked within the democratic process.

There were many challenges. We did not really know much at the time. Also, around the same time, it became essential to train riot squads. There were only two individuals with riot control training. From what I recall, one of them was called Superintendent Asheeth. Initially it was with Asheeth’s assistance that we laid the foundations, introduced recruits to what riots are, taught them methods of confrontation, took them through the drills, explained the system to them. That is how they were trained.

MDP was very active on the streets. They were protesting day or night, whatever the area of Male’. Even if a banner was lifted, the cloth must be confiscated—that was the policy. No banners could be hung, those were the orders from the top. When I was head of that department, this is how orders came down: “Remove the banner! Remove the pot! Remove the fish!” For instance, if we cooked bon’baiy, an order might come to have the bon’dibaiy pot removed. Next thing, the pot would be in Dhoonidhoo. Really. That’s how things were.

So, these are the boys.

My second point relates to how they were recruited. When we separated from the military, our population was about 400. When that includes personnel based elsewhere in the country, Male’ is left with only about twenty. We had no choice but to recruit a large number of police. There was no time for a proper recruiting process. People were given crash courses, some training, and sent out on to the streets.

We did not have the opportunity to recruit the kind of people we wanted. Although educational requirements demanded at least two passes in the London O’Level exams, we had to ignore that. Civil unrest was on the rise, time was of the essence, and we had no choice.

I would like to raise two points in relation to this. The boys that we recruited for the riot squads and the Special Team—or STAR Team—were not the type of people we wanted to recruit. We became more certain of this when Dhivehi Observer, a website, started carrying regular video clips of police, intensely criticising their actions. It was bad for our reputation, and became a matter of great concern to us.

“Watch their actions to check what they are really like,” Adam Zahir told me.

I went to a scene personally, and with increasing concern, relayed the allegations to the Direct Commander.

“We really have to look into this. This is ruining our reputation. If they confiscate a camera, they shatter it. If they get hold of a person, they spray him. Or, after bringing the person under unnecessary control, they hit him.”

There were several such incidences. There was no integrity then. No Police Integrity Commission.

Under Adam Zahir’s orders, I therefore sent an undercover team to observe them secretly. Their language was filthy, their vocabulary was obscene. They use the Lhaviyani word all the time. If they got hold of someone, they hit them.

Adam Zahir changed their command. That was one, one and a half, or two years before the term ended in 2008. That is why I wanted to talk about this. They are connected to the events of 7 February; that is why I have gone into such detail.

We did not get the kind of people we wanted, the kind of people we would have been proud of.

Back then, they thought they were in charge of the police, that they were the only people running the police. In fact, this attitude of theirs and the ego that accompanied it, created major motivational problems throughout the police. They were all puffed up, that was their attitude.

This was also of great concern to me. Adam Zahir did suggest having them replaced, but at a time like that, it was very difficult to do so. Before it could be done, government changed. In fact, under the new regime, I tried very hard to shuffle them, rehabilitate them, change their language.

When I became Commissioner on 17 November 2008, one of my greatest concerns was the murder rate in Male’. I think from 2007 to this day, there have been 41 murders in Male’. Cold blooded murders in a tiny society. A very very serious issue. I tried using them to tackle the problem.

But these people, these members of the STAR Team or Special Operation, regard routine police work as outside of their duties. If assigned to any other task, they jeopardise it, create chaos. They’ll hit someone, spray someone in the mouth, cut someone’s hair—something, they will do something disruptive. Nor do they want to do anything physically demanding. They do not want to arrest anyone by doing the dirty work, every day routine work, by asking questions. That’s not something they like to do.

I think, from what I have shared, you will know by now who these people are, how they came into being.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

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Journalists request participation in military operations

Senior officials at the Maldives National Defence Force have assured journalists that they would take steps to improve communication and transparency between the two groups.

Defence Minister Thalhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaan allegedly told journalists who attended a briefing at the armed forced headquarters today that the ministry would hold a training session to help journalists better report news involving military services, reports local media Haveeru.

Journalists were concerned over the lack of transparency at MNDF, and requested permission to participate in military operations, Haveeru reports.

The ministry said it would make arrangements following this request.