Australia concerned over civil unrest following Nasheed’s arrest, trial

Australia has expressed concern over rising political tension in the Maldives following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest and subsequent trial on terrorism charges.

In a statement on Tuesday, Australia said High Commissioner Robyn Mudie had registered Australia’s interest with the Maldivian government and would “continue to monitor the developments closely.”

The Maldives Police Services arrested Nasheed on February 22, claiming he may abscond from a terrorism trial over the abduction of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. If convicted, the opposition leader faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

Over 10,000 opposition supporters took to the streets on Friday calling for Nasheed and former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim’s release. Nazim is currently in police custody amidst a trial on importing and possessing illegal weapons.

Protesters also called for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation. Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) supporters have continued daily protests since February 10.

In its statement, Australia encouraged “all parties to exercise restraint, act in accordance with the rule of law, and resolve differences peacefully.”

“As members of the Commonwealth, Australia and Maldives share important democratic values, including free speech and the right of opposition groups to participate fully in the democratic process,” read the statement.

“As a fellow Indian Ocean country and Commonwealth member Australia has a keen interest in supporting peace, rule of law and democracy in the Maldives.”

Australia has warned its citizens in the Maldives to exercise a “high degree of caution” when visiting capital Malé.

The statement follows a meeting between a government delegation and Mudie in Colombo. The delegation included ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) Parliamentary Group leader Ahmed Nihan, PPM Spokesperson and MP Ali Arif, Minister of Law and Gender Mohamed Anil and Minister of Presidential Affairs Mohamed ‘Mundhu’ Shareef.

According to Nihan, the delegation also briefed Russain Ambassador Alexander A. Karchava, British High Commissioner John Rankin, and Qatari Ambassador Rashid Shafie Saeed Al-Fahida Almerri.

The government maintains it has no influence over Nasheed and Nazim’s trials, arguing the charges were pressed by an independent Prosecutor General and tried through independent courts. The trials are important to uphold the rule of law, ruling party officials have said.

Meanwhile, responding to a question in the UK parliament on Monday, British State Minister of State, Foreign and Common Office Hugo Swire said he was concerned over the “continued detention of former President Nasheed.”

Swire said that it was important for “international confidence in the Maldives that Mr Nasheed, like all other citizens, is seen to be enjoying due legal process and respect for his fundamental rights.”

Canada, Commonwealth, EU and the UN have previously expressed concern over Nasheed’s arrest and trial after he was denied legal counsel at the first hearing. He appeared in court with his arm in a makeshift sling after police manhandled and dragged him into the court building when he attempted to speak with journalists.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon last week hit back at international expressions of concern, insisting the state was following due process in Nasheed’s arrest and prosecution.

“Those who prefer to issue public statements about an on-going legal case, or on a domestic political situation, are advised to do a basic fact check, before bandwagoning on to accusations made by a political party,” Dunya said in a statement.

“To criticize us in public statements with lies or biased with having only heard the oppositions point of view is not acceptable. The government will not accept these statemetns and will not pay attention to them.”

Speaking to the press on February 24, Dunya questioned the value of the Maldives remaining a member state of the Commonwealth, claiming the organisation had “wronged” the Maldives before by placing the country on a watch-list in the wake of the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

However, UK High Commissioner to the Maldives John Rankin last week said that he does not believe asking the Maldives to abide by commitments under UN conventions amounted to “undue interference.”

In an interview with private broadcaster Raajje  Tv, Rankin said decisions on domestic  matters were up to the Maldives as a sovereign nation.

“But it is legitimate for one country to [remind] another country to abide by the undertakings which together we have signed up to,” he explained.

Photo of meeting between Australian High Commissioner and government delegation by MP Ahmed Nihan

Related to this story:

Nasheed denied right to appoint lawyer and appeal “arbitrary” arrest warrant, contend lawyers

Judges Didi and Yoosuf refuse to step down from Nasheed’s terrorism trial

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution


India calls for free, fair, inclusive and credible election, and a smooth transition of power

The government of India in a statement released on Thursday called on all Maldivian stakeholders to work towards holding a “free, fair, inclusive and credible election in a peaceful environment followed by a smooth transition on November 11”.

“As a close friend and neighbour, India has consistently supported the strengthening of democratic processes and institutions in Maldives. We believe that it is important that the stalled electoral process is put back on track,” the statement read.

“India strongly urges that the fresh elections dates stipulated in the verdict are adhered to so that a new President is elected in accordance with the wishes and democratic aspirations of the people of Maldives,” the statement added.

The statement comes at a time when the Elections Commission (EC) is preparing to hold the presidential election on October 19, after the previous election held on September 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court citing discrepancies in the poll.

Supreme Court judgement and its complications

The Supreme Court in its controversial judgement issued last week based its findings on a secret police report compiled by the court itself, with the assistance of police from the Forensic Directorate Department.

The court ruled the election had lacked legitimacy, as there were 5,623 irregularities in the voter registry. The secret report was not shown to the Elections Commission’s legal team.

The judgement also laid down a “guideline” consisting of 16 points which the court claimed were necessary to be followed by the Elections Commission to ensure a free and fair, credible elections. These included a provision stating that re-registration form should only be accepted if it had the name, address, identity card number and fingerprint of the person requesting re-registration, the person submitting the form as well as [the same information of] two witnesses.

However, in a later order by the Supreme Court last Friday, the Elections Commission was ordered to restart the process of compiling the voter registry for those individuals who wished to vote in a location other than their place of domicile, disregarding previous re-registration.

This led the Elections Commission and political parties to begin a last minute re-registration drive to ensure all voters who wished to vote in a different island than their island of permanent residence were able to do so. Unless re-registered, these voters will now not get the opportunity to cast their ballot.

The Elections Commission has meanwhile said that it expects at least a minimum 60,000 people to have registered within the short time period. The commission has also said that it has been working round the clock to ensure the elections happen as according to the schedule given by the Supreme Court.

The ruling to annul the first round also contradicted the positive assessments of more than a thousand local and international election observers.

No legal void even if no presidential elect is determined by November 11: Supreme Court

Meanwhile India’s latest statement notes that it is important to follow the deadlines set forth in the constitution and the law.

“We deplore the recent incidents of political violence and appeal to all sides to maintain peace and calm and to refrain from extra-constitutional measures,” read the statement.

“We encourage all concerned in Maldives to work for free, fair, inclusive and credible elections in a peaceful environment followed by a smooth transition on 11 November 2013, as stipulated by the Constitution of Maldives.

In this regard, we welcome the statement issued by the Maldives’ President condemning efforts to stop former President Mohamed Nasheed from running for office of President of Maldives,” the statement added.

However, the Supreme Court’s judgement now means that even if a new president was unable to be sworn in on conclusion of the presidential term on November 11, the “principle of continuity of legitimate government would override any repercussions faced by failure to adhere to constitutional deadlines.”

India in its statement also assured that its commitment to work with the Government of Maldives and its state institutions for success of elections.

The Indian statement also coincided with a similar statement by the United Kingdom.

The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague stated that “It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections are free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited.”

“It is important now that the democratic process proceeds in accordance with the Constitution,” Hague stated, calling on presidential candidates to respect the democratic process “and create conditions for free, fair elections.”

Meanwhile an early day motion was tabled in the UK Parliament calling upon the House of Commons to support the UN secretary general’s call for a “credible and peaceful second round of voting” in the Maldives.

The motion, sponsored by MP Grahame Morris, also called upon members of the House of Commons to declare that it “condemns those who are seeking to prevent President Mohamed Nasheed from participating in any future elections in the Maldives; further condemns the perpetrators of the arson attack that destroyed the opposition-supporting Raaje TV station in Male’; and demands that the authorities take all necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.”


Low voter registration by Maldivians abroad could mean no voting in London, New Delhi and Singapore

Not sure where you are registered to vote? Check here online

The Elections Commission has warned it may not be able to place ballot boxes in London, Singapore and New Delhi for the upcoming presidential elections September 7, as current figures from the commission suggest that the number of registered voters is trailing below the required minimum 100 registered voters.

Speaking to Minivan News on Thursday, Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz said that with the deadline for voter registration expiring on August 7, the current rate of registration could mean Maldivians residing in London, New Delhi and Singapore may not be able to cast their vote in the elections.

“However, we can only say that for sure after the deadline expires,” he said.

Fayaz said other regions outside the country where large number of Maldivians currently reside are doing well in terms of registration. So far, the commission confirmed that it will be able to place ballot boxes in Trivandrum, Colombo and Malaysia.

According to Fayaz, 652 Maldivians have registered to vote in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 225 have registered to vote in Trivandrum, India and 302 people have registered to vote in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He also said the commission is currently working to get the figures from Singapore, London and Delhi.

Despite fears expatriate Maldivians would be unable to vote, the Chair of Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek – who is currently on the island of Fuahmulah conducting voter education programs – appeared confident that the commission could still place ballot boxes in the affected regions as past experience suggested Maldivians tend to register “at the last minute”.

“Even during the last elections, people registered to vote in the last week of registration. This is the last week. So I believe people will register and we will be able to place ballot boxes in all regions,” Thowfeek said.

Fuwad said the Elections Commission had been collaborating with respective Maldivian High Commissions in the regions to register voters for the upcoming elections.

“We have placed a focal point for the Elections Commission in all the High Commissions including Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India and UK. This has been done on the recommendations of the High Commissions as well,” he explained.

Thowfeek said that High Commissions will help register votes during normal working hours of the respective countries, according to a  procedure is similar to that carried out in the Maldives.

“The process is similar to [registration in] Male. A person who is, say for example, living in Ahmedabad in India can register to vote at Trivandrum through a friend. All he would need to do is to send a copy of his national ID card via fax or email. Likewise, a person living abroad can even register to vote in Male, by doing the same process. It is very similar to the procedure going on in Male,” he explained.

As in the Maldives, Thowfeek also said that political parties can assist in the registration of voters abroad.

“They will have to submit the registration forms to our focal points in the respective High Commissions. Registration can then be done from the High Commissions,” he said.

The Elections Commission has meanwhile established an online mechanism through its website for people to check the ballot box where they are registered to vote.

By entering a national ID card number, the website will display the name of the voter, the permanent address of the voter and the ballot box and the location where the voter is eligible to vote.

For Maldivians residing abroad, details can also be checked at focal points established in the High Commissions, Thowfeek added.

The Elections Commission have previously announced that the Presidential Elections are scheduled to take place on September 7. If no candidate attains the required 50 percent plus one vote to secure a first round election victory a run-off election is to take place 20 days after the first election.

The commission has announced that four candidates will be competing in the elections.

The candidates are leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim (running mate Dr Hassan Saeed), Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed (running mate Dr Musthafa Luthfy), incumbent President and independent candidate Dr Mohamed Waheed (running mate DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali) and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen (running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel.

Check the voter registry and registered place of voting

Download registration form (Dhivehi)

In the Maldives? Check your details via SMS

To check where/if you are registered to vote, SMS 1414 ‘VIS(space)(National ID#)’

To check political party registration, SMS 1414 ‘PPR(space)(National ID#)’

Elections Commission hotline: 1414