“Murder has to be punished with murder”: Yameen calls for death penalty to be put into practice

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen has called for the death penalty to be put into practice in the Maldives, a day after vowing to reform the judiciary.

The MP, half brother of former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, made the comments while speaking on the program Voice of Maldives on Monday night (July 22).

Yameen explained that although he was not previously an advocate of the death penalty, he now believed it must be implemented to save Maldivian society from murders that have become too commonplace, according to local media reports.

Yameen noted that as a result of the “recent spate of killings” in the Maldives he has had a “change of heart” and now believes “murder has to be punished with murder.”

“It is something that has to be done. We cannot move forward without making our streets safe,” Yameen said.

Yameen explained that a death penalty sentence should only be implemented if upheld by the Supreme Court.

“I now believe, if it can be proven in trial so that the country accepts, if it is proven to a degree accepted by judicial principles, if all the steps are followed, and if the Maldivian people believe, I believe that the death penalty is necessary to save society,” he said.

He also noted that because detailed legislation is necessary to implement the death penalty, the current government recently proposed a death penalty bill in parliament.

Regarding whether he would implement Islamic Sharia law, Yameen’s response to a caller was that “justice is currently delivered in the Maldives through Islamic principles” and that he would act “in accordance with what is laid out by the constitution.”

He pledged that under a PPM government he would “do whatever has to be done” to make the Maldives a peaceful place.

Yameen also denied financing or having links with gangs, claiming these allegations “do not have any basis” and politicians perpetuating such rumors “lack sincerity”.

Such rumors that Yameen has gang ties have “been around a long time”, according to CNM.

During the PPM presidential primary, former candidate and PPM Vice President Umar Naseer publicly accused Yameen of involvement with gangs and the illegal drug trade. However, Yameen denied the “defamatory accusations” calling them “baseless and untrue”.

Yameen further noted during the Voice of Maldives program that a “major part” of the government budget would be spent on youth, including a special rehabilitation program for drug addicts, with more than 900 placements available, if he is elected president.

Last month, Yameen also announced that PPM intended to transform Hulhumale’ into a “Youth City” where enough apartments to accommodate young people would be constructed.

Judicial reform pledge

Meanwhile, a day prior to Yameen’s comments in favor of implementing the death penalty to quell violent crime in the Maldives, the PPM presidential candidate pledged to reform the judiciary, even if it required amending the constitution.

To gain investors’ confidence and bring foreign investments to the Maldives, reforming the judiciary to ensure swift justice and confidence in the institution is necessary, Yameen explained.

“We see the many challenges ahead from every direction. So we are not only competing with other candidates. We are competing against the flailing economy and fading culture and values,” he said.

Yameen told local media that Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain had also noted the judiciary has “problems”.

Faiz has meanwhile urged the public and media to refrain from making statements that would give a negative image of the judiciary, and called for constitutional amendments.

His comment’s follow the Maldives Bar Association (MBA) calling for the suspension of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed pending an investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct. Hameed is under investigation by both the police and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over the circulation of at least three sex videos apparently depicting him fornicating with unidentified foreign women.

Earlier this year, Faiz said that the current seven-member bench of the Supreme Court cannot be abolished and will continue to remain as the highest court of the country as long as the Maldives remains a democracy. In July 2012, the Chief Justice also said the death penalty can be executed within the existing justice system of the Maldives.

Death penalty controversy

While the Maldives still issues death sentences, these have traditionally been commuted to life sentences by presidential decree since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954, for the crime of practicing black magic.

Death penalty legislation was presented to parliament in June by government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed to implement the death penalty by hanging if the Supreme Court upheld a death sentence passed by a lower court. The legislation was put to a vote to decide whether or not to proceed with the bill at committee stage and was ultimately rejected 26-18 with no abstentions.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP said at the time that the party’s parliamentary group had opted to throw out the bill on the grounds that it would be “irresponsible” to approve such measures with ongoing concerns held by itself and international experts over the functioning of the country’s judiciary.

The party additionally criticised the proposed bill as being irrelevant, arguing that the country’s draft penal code – a recent issue of contention between MPs and certain political parties – already included provisions for the death sentence as outlined under Islamic Sharia.

Recent calls for presidential clemency to be blocked led Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor to draft a bill favouring the implementation of the penalty via lethal injection. It was met with opposition by several religious groups such as the NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, which called for the draft to be amended in favour of beheadings or firing squads.

Minivan News understands that the bill submitted by the AG remains open for comments on potential amendments.

More recently, the state called for a High Court verdict on whether the practice of presidential clemency can be annulled.

Eariler this year, the UN country team in the Maldives issued a statement calling for the abolition of both corporal punishment and the death penalty in the Maldives.

Additionally, the state’s stance to review implementation of death sentences has led to strong criticism from certain human rights-focused NGOs this year.

Speaking to Minivan News immediately following a visit to the Maldives in April 2013, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director Polly Truscott raised concerns about the recent drafting of new bills outlining implementation for executions.

She argued that even in practice, such bills would be deemed as a human rights violation, with the NGO maintaining that there remained no research to support the assertion that executing criminals served as an effective deterrent for serious crimes.

She noted this was a particular concern considering the recent findings of various international experts such as UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, regarding the politicised nature of the country’s judicial system.

“To leave Sharia law to the discretion of individual judges is something we believe would be a bad idea,” she said at the time.

In May this year, Amnesty International condemned the sentencing of two 18 year-olds to death for a murder committed while they were minors, and called on Maldivian government authorities to commute the sentence.

Meanwhile, a survey of the leading criminologists in the United States conducted in 2009 found that 88 percent of the country’s top criminologists “did not believe” that the death penalty is a “proven deterrent to homicide”.

The study, Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, also found that 87 percent of the expert criminologists believe that abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates.


President praises Voice of Maldives as broadcaster turns 50

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has praised state radio broadcaster Voice of Maldives (VOM) on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, expressing hope the station would work to promote “good social and Islamic values” among young people with its programmes.

Discussing the impact of fifty years of state radio, President Waheed praised the present and former staff of VOM for laying down what he called a “strong foundation” for broadcasting in the nation, according to the Presidents Office.


Vice President celebrates 50 years of broadcasting, CPJ condemns “backslides” on press freedom

The Maldives this week launched official celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of broadcasting within the nation, as one international press freedom association raised concerns over national commitments to independent media.

Vice President Waheed Deen on Monday (July 9) launched what is expected to be a series of “golden jubilee” celebratory events to commemorate the beginning of national broadcasting on December 29, 1962, according to the President’s Office website.

Speaking at a ceremony to unveil a new logo and song that will be used to publicise a half century of state radio broadcasts under the Voice of Maldives (VOM) service, the vice president played up the importance of providing factual information to the public and giving “both sides of a story”.

Deen – owner of the Bandos Island Resort and Spa – also used his speech to play up that the Maldives must keep in mind that it remained as Islamic nation when addressing issues of development and advancement, the President’s Office added.

The Vice President’s comments were made as international non-profit organisation, the committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), alleged concerns that press freedom was “deteriorating” under the present government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“Reports of police brutality against journalists amid political chaos, and a vicious attack for writing about religious tolerance, are disturbing signs that the Maldives is backsliding on press freedom,” CPJ Senior Researcher Madeline Earp wrote on the organisation’s blog.

“[The president] must ensure that journalists are free to report if he wishes to distance himself from [Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s legacy and stabilise the nation for elections.”

Just yesterday, the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) condemned the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for “obstructing” reporters and appealed for media representatives to refrain from taking part in protests.


High Court issues injunction against sale of MNBC assets

The High Court issued an injunction on Sunday forbidding the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) from selling, transferring or destroying any state media assets.

According to the injunction, MNBC cannot take any action that violates the Civil Court’s ruling in May that the station was to transfer all state media assets to the parliament-created Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). MNBC appealed against the Civil Court ruling in the High Court. That decision is still pending.

This week’s court’s decision came following a case filed by MBC to halt alleged misuse of state media assets by the MNBC board, and prevent the company from laying off workers before the final verdict on the transfer of assets.

MNBC Chairman Madulu Mohamed Waheed told local media outlet Sun that MNBC’s had decided to close seven media centres based in different atolls, and sent notice of dismissal to staff employed at those stations. Affected employees would receive three months’ salary as a redundancy package, he said, but did not state the reason for the decision.

MNBC and MBC have been engaged in a long-running tug-of-war for control of the assets of the state broadcaster, formerly Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VoM).

The government contends that the MBC board is stacked with opposition supporters and that its attempt to gain control of MNBC is effectively a media coup, while MNBC has been criticised for favouring the ruling party.

MNBC’s proponents claim that given the opposition’s influence over private broadcast media the consolidation of media ownership in the hands of a few opposition-leaning MPs, the government has no alternative.

Even the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) waded into the debate at the behest of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), in support of MBC and an independent state broadcaster.


President Nasheed discusses the importance of land use

President Mohamed Nasheed has discussed the importance of land use planing for a sustainable economy in his weekly address on the Voice of Maldives last Friday.

President Nasheed said planning land use needed to insure everyone’s interests and needs, and noted that land was one of the most important assets in the Maldives.

He said when planning how to use land, it is necessary to facilitate housing for all citizens, as well as providing equal economic opportunities for everyone and minimising negative impacts on the environment and people.

President Nasheed said the government will create a register of all sandbanks and small islands “in the near future.”

He said unused or abandoned land in the islands posed difficulties, and noted that some people were reclaiming “vast swaths of land” and exploiting them for economic benefits, but the state or public were not getting “due profits.”

President Nasheed said the Cabinet is working on a framework on land use laws, keeping in mind relevant laws, regulations and other historical documents.


Investment in private sector to be worth US$1 billion over three years-President Nasheed

President Mohamed Nasheed has said in his weekly radio address on the Voice of Maldives last Friday that private sector investments in the Maldives will be worth an estimated US$1 billion over the next three years.

President Nasheed said this would be in addition to official development assistance, and discussed details of the investment areas and upcoming projects.

Some of the projects are the upgrade of Malé International Airport and Hanimandhoo airport, expanding Gan airport’s runway, establishing a waste management facility in Thilafushi, Apollo Hospitals taking over Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), the proposed national ferry system, and a project to build 10,000 housing units.

President Nasheed also spoke of the recent Donor’s Conference, saying it “was very successful.” He added that it showed the trust the international community has in the current government.

The president said the US$ 313 million in pledges that was announced at the Donor Conference will go toward developmental assistance and budget support.

President Nasheed added that the sports sector will be restructured, and there will be a national sports institute to oversee development of sports infrastructure.


President urges Majlis to think sensibly when voting on Armed Forces Act

In his weekly national address on the Voice of Maldives, President Mohamed Nasheed has urged the People’s Majlis to take national security into consideration when voting on the bill to amend the Armed Forces Act.

President Nasheed said according to the Constitution, “I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces” and he could not “allow any disruptions and divisions among the Armed Forces.”

The president said requiring Majlis’ approval in appointing high-ranking military officials was “undue interference” and it could be a barrier against national security, progress and peace.

President Nasheed added that he would “not allow any party to interfere” with national security or his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

He hoped members of the Majlis would think sensibly before voting on the bill.


President speaks of improving electricity and healthcare

In his weekly radio address on the Voice of Maldives on Friday morning, President Mohamed Nasheed spoke of providing affordable and reliable electricity, and quality healthcare, in the islands.

He said it was important that all islands receive electricity from their respective provincial utilities company. President Nasheed said that in his recent visits to the atolls he found the utilities companies provided electricity more efficiently than in the previous system, where electricity was managed by communities.

He added, however, that some islands are opposing the policy to transfer the management of island powerhouses to utilities companies.

Speaking on healthcare, President Nasheed said it was an important priority of the government. He said the government is continuously working to improve the standard of healthcare facilities in the islands.

He added that once the nationwide transport system is complete, it will complement the healthcare policy, as it will provide people better access to their nearest health facility, if the service they require is not available on their island.


President speaks of Shari’ah law in the Maldives

President Mohamed Nasheed marked the occasion of the Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday and spoke of the history of Shari’ah law in the Maldives during his weekly radio address on the Voice of Maldives.

President Nasheed said Shari’ah law has a unique position in the Maldives, as it’s among the few countries that have practised Islamic law uninterrupted for a long period of time.

“Since the conversion to Islam about 900 years ago, the Maldives has continuously practised Shari’ah,” said President Nasheed.

He said other Muslim countries have practised limited Shari’ah, like Egypt, who adopted the Napoleonic Code after Napoleon’s invasion, and Malaysia, adopting English common law.

The president also mentioned the importance of Islamic scholars who served as chief justices in the Maldives. Historically, they have been the highest authority of Islam, and ensured the continuity of the practise of Shari’ah.