Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz violated the Police Act by posting a letter on Twitter urging police officers not to vote for former President Mohamed Nasheed, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has determined, recommending administrative action against the police chief.
The PIC said in a press statement today that an investigation was launched following media reports of Riyaz’s tweet on August 20. The case was already under investigation when the Elections Commission (EC) forwarded a complaint regarding the letter, the police oversight body said.
The PIC found that the police chief violated articles 7(a)(3) and 69(b) of the Police Act as Riyaz admitted to posting the letter on his official twitter account, which the commission determined to be declaring “support for the content of the letter” despite it first appearing on another twitter account.
Article 7(a)(3) of the Police Act stipulates that all police officers must act impartially and without bias in performing his or her duty while Article 69 of the Police Act states, “It shall be illegal for any police officer to commit any of the following acts even in his or her personal capacity, a) Committing any act or participating in any activity that obstructs the performance of an officer’s duty without bias or partiality b) Committing any act or participating in any activity that could create doubts among the public concerning the performance of an officer’s duty without bias or partiality.”
Based on its findings, the PIC advised the Home Minster to take “administrative action” against Riyaz under article 67(a) of the Police Act.
The types of administrative penalisation provided for in the law include counselling, requiring completion of special training, providing special counselling to improve capacity, transferring to another post, placement under close supervision, demotion and termination.
In a dissenting opinion noted in the commission’s statement, PIC member Ali Nadheem contended that in addition to recommending administrative action, the case against Riyaz should be forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office for criminal prosecution.
Following media reports of Riyaz’s tweet, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik told local journalists last month that he imagined the tweet had been posted in the commissioner’s personal capacity.
The letter posted by Riyaz called on police officers to “say no” to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate just as they had on February 7, which the anonymous author described as a “jihad.”
Former President Nasheed resigned on February 7, 2012 in the wake of a violent mutiny by police officers of the Specialist Operations (SO) command, who disobeyed orders and broke the chain of command, assaulted government supporters, ransacked the MDP Haruge, launched a protest at the Republic Square, clashed with the military and stormed the state broadcaster.
In the aftermath of the police mutiny and clashes at Republic Square, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz – a civilian at the time – was among three senior ex-servicemen under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who went inside military headquarters to relay the protesters’ demand for President Nasheed’s “unconditional” resignation, after which they accompanied Nasheed to the President’s Office where he announced his resignation at a live press conference. Riyaz and current Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim were seen taking Nasheed’s resignation letter to parliament.
However, Nasheed’s insistence that his resignation was “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” orchestrated by the then-opposition working with elements of the security forces loyal to Gayoom was later rejected by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), while also calling for action against unlawful acts committed by the security forces.
Commissioner Riyaz meanwhile posted an interview on the police website in July this year asserting that police would refuse to follow any orders deemed “unconstitutional.”
“Whichever individual becomes president tomorrow can no longer just change the constitution, the existing law. That individual, holding the presidency, can only bring such big changes with a parliamentary majority,” said Riyaz, challenging the MDP to confirm or deny the authenticity of a leaked document purporting to be the party’s policies for reforming the security services.
Following Riyaz’s tweet last month, the MDP released a statement expressing “grave concern over the overtly political actions taken by Abdulla Riyaz, appointed Commissioner of Police by Dr. Mohamed Waheed following the overthrow of the Maldives’ first democratically elected government in February 2012.”
“The MDP notes that this is unfortunately not the first instance where Mr. Riyaz, appointed in dubious circumstances, has used his position in a blatantly politically manner. The MDP would like to draw attention to Mr. Riyaz’s role in the February 7, 2012 forceful overthrow of government, subsequent police brutality, impunity and lack of accountability, politically motivated detentions, unconstitutional barring of Raajje TV from Police Service events, the refusals to accept summons by parliamentary select committees and the extensive interview he recently gave on a policy which was alleged to be the MDP’s,” the statement read.