Police Commissioner violated Police Act with political tweet, determines PIC

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.

“Overtly political”

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 commandassaulted government supporters, ransacked the MDP Harugelaunched 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.


Police Integrity Commission to investigate Commissioner Riyaz’s tweet

The Police Integrity Commisson (PIC) has confirmed that it is investigating a tweet posted by Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz.

Riyaz yesterday posted a letter he claimed to have been sent, urging the police to “say no” to former President Mohamed Nasheed on September 7, just as they had on February 7 – an event the author described as a “jihad”.

The letter, addressed to the entire police force, praised it for its “patience” in the face of Nasheed’s “cunning” and “malicious” actions during his presidency.

Whilst not responding to inquiries from Minivan News today, Riyaz is reported to have told local media that he had no specific intentions in mind when re-posting the letter.

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek today told Minivan News that his office had received a complaint regarding the letter, and had opted to forward the issue to the PIC.

When asked about his recommendations regarding the social media activities of public officials in the run-up to the presidential election, Thowfeek urged restraint on the part of members of all independent commissions – including the Elections Commission – the police, and the MNDF

“It is advised to be as neutral as possible – even on Facebook – so there will be nothing to complain about,” he added.

EC Legal Director Haneefa Khalid currently facing an internal investigation after the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) accused her of posting  “politicised” tweets.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed told local journalists yesterday that he imagined the tweet had been posted in the commissioner’s personal capacity. When pressed on the appropriateness of such a post, Waheed said that he could not comment further without more information.

Whilst President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad told Minivan News today that he was not personally aware of the Riyaz tweet, he said the government would “express concern” over any such post which threatened free and fair elections.

“We caution everyone in the country to follow election guidelines and not to play into the hands of anyone looking to undermine free and fair voting. Everyone must exercise judgement,” he added.

Commissioner Riyaz last month posted an interview on the police service website maintaining that the organisation 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.

February’s controversial transfer of power came after units of the police refused to obey former President’s Nasheed’s orders, with Nasheed resigning from office soon after.

Days earlier, Nasheed had ordered the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed after the latter had blocked investigations into his own misconduct.

Nasheed’s decision was later described as in breach of the constitution by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM).

Riyaz was appointed commissioner immediately after Nasheed’s resignation, which Nasheed and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) would later claim was a police coup.

The allegations were later rejected by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) that ruled that there had been “no coup, no duress and no mutiny”, while also calling for action taken against unlawful acts committed by the country’s security forces following the transfer.


Comment: The spy who came in from the coup

Law and order appears to have gone a bit schizophrenic in  the Maldives in the last few days. First the Maldives Police Service (MPS) arrested its intelligence head, Chief Superintendent (MC) Mohamed Hameed, on charges of ‘endangering internal security’ by disclosing classified information.

Hameed is alleged to have co-operated with the co-authors of ‘The Police and Military Coup’, an MDP-affiliated investigation into the events of 7 February 2012. The report was released in response to the current government’s ‘findings’ into the events, published so prematurely as to be available for public feedback even before investigations began.

The MPS says drafts of the Coup Report, along with commentary, were found in MC Hameed’s gmail account. Nobody has yet answered the question of why the MPS was snooping around in the man’s private email account in the first place. Is it normal for the MPS to spy on their officers?

Then the Criminal Court granted the MPS a five-day extension to Hameed’s detention. He was promptly taken to Dhoonidhoo, the Maldives’ most famous prison island.  Hameed’s lawyers lodged an appeal at the High Court on the same day but he was not granted a hearing until the fifth and last day of his detention. Three Justices agreed unanimously that he should be detained for five days, just hours before the five-day detention period expired.

Now, is it just me, or is it a bit difficult to get your head around the question of why the High Court would deign to deliver that judgement at that particular time?  Three more hours, and the detention order would no longer be valid anyway. So what was the eleventh hour High Court ruling for?

The High Court’s behaviour becomes all the more inexplicable in light of the fact that shortly afterwards the Criminal Court released Hameed. It saw no grounds to detain him further. All told, the judiciary does not seem to know quite what to do, with itself or with a problem like Hameed.

What is to be done with Hameed? Was he ‘spying for the enemy camp’ as some are alleging? Or is he a heroic whistle-blower? Is he to be jailed for life, or celebrated as a voice that stood up for democracy?

National security violation or whistle-blowing?

The MPS is alleging that by talking to the authors of the Coup Report, Hameed had facilitated an ‘intelligence leak’. Here’s a Tweet by pro-government blogger endorsed by  Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz.

Was it an intelligence leak?

The Coup Report does not name any names that are not in the public domain already as having been involved in the events of 7 February; nor does it reveal information a third party had not been privy to previously. What the report seems to have done, for the most part, is gather together scattered evidence already available on various platforms on the Internet and other media into a coherent single narrative.

It appears the authors shared their drafts with Hameed, and he acted as some sort of a proof-reader or a fact-checker. Double-checking what was in the report against what he saw and knew as the Intelligence Chief on 7 February. The MPS says it saw evidence of this in Hameed’s gmail account.

In the absence of an Official Secrets Act or whistle-blower legislation (any lawyer wanting to stop practising the art of silence is welcome to contradict or complement this), what is the most likely legal instrument that would be used for prosecuting Hameed?

The Police Act is a likely resource. It is what the MPS says Hameed violated. The Police Code of Conduct says:

4. Confidentiality

Information obtained during police duty should be confidential and not shared with a third party. Information about police operations and information contained within official police records should not be made public unless their exposure is lawfully ordered.

So, technically, Hameed was acting against the Police Code of Conduct when he liaised with the authors of the coup report.

But, what if he was co-operating in revealing a crime? In such a scenario, Hameed cannot be regarded as guilty of misconduct or any other offence, but becomes a whistle-blower. In the absence of a Maldivian legal definition, let’s go by the dictionary definition:

whis·tle·blow·er or whis·tle-blow·er or whistle blower (hwsl-blr, ws-)


One who reveals wrongdoing within an organisation to the public or to those in positions of authority: ”The Pentagon’s most famous whistleblower is . . . hoping to get another chance to search for government waste” (Washington Post).

whistle-blowing n.

What the Coup Report alleges, and is the opinion shared by tens of thousands of Maldivians, is that the elected government of the Maldives was illegally overthrown on 7 February with the help of police mutiny. If so, providing information on how the police mutiny occurred is not a crime.

Besides, information relating to those events should not be an official secret or classified information. What could there be of more grave public interest than knowing how a government most voted for ended so suddenly and in such questionable circumstances?

Would Hameed not have given the same information to the Commission of National Inquiry if it had bothered to ask him? Would he be not sharing the same information with CoNI now that it’s work has begun at long last? Or is this a way of making sure Hameed is not able to freely speak to CoNI?

If the State were to go after Hameed, there is also Section 29 of the Penal Code:

Whoever attempts to commit or participates in or facilitates the commission of an act against the State shall be punished with imprisonment for life or exile for life or imprisonment or exile for a period between 10 years and 15 years.

An ‘act against the State’ is a term so broad that the act does not necessarily have to amount to an offence to be deemed punishable. The State, meanwhile, is defined as:

the Cabinet existing in accordance with the Constitution, People’s Majlis and collectively all agencies that are entrusted with the administration of those entities. This definition shall also include all property belonging to the State.

So, anyone who does anything about anything to do with the State, which the state deems to be ‘against’ it, can be jailed for life, or banished for life?

Then again, the above definition defines the State as ‘the Cabinet existing in accordance with the Constitution.’ Which means that, if this government is found to be illegitimate, the Cabinet cannot be seen as existing in accordance with the Constitution, and therefore, Hameed could not have committed an ‘act against the State’.

Which brings it all back to the Mother Question upon which all other questions depend: is Waheed’s government legitimate?

Should that question not be answered first before pursuing people who talk about it for espionage and/or defamation? Shouldn’t any information made public for the purposes of answering that question be deemed valuable rather than criminal? Shouldn’t holders of such information be regarded as vital witnesses to be protected rather than traitors to be prosecuted?

Every question that depends on ‘if this government were legitimate’ should take a back-seat to that of how the first democratically elected government ended on 7 February. Especially the question of who is the hero and who the villain.

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]