Maldives: The Dark Side
of Life released today to coincide with the press conference
being organised by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at 10 am highlights continued repression and
urges President Gayoom to end repression on the political
opponents, withdraw his much-vaunted proposal for constitutional
reforms unveiled on 7 March 2005 and allow the Peoples Special
Majlis to fulfill its mandate of drafting a new constitution.
It also urges the Government of India not to give legitimacy
to the repressive policies of President Gayoom.
Though on 31 December 2004
President Gayoom declared the withdrawal of charges of high
treason and public disorder offences against persons including
former Secretary General of SAARC for participating in the
demonstrations on 12-13 August 2004, none of the detainees
has received individual notices so far. The charges have been
actually 'suspended' with the option to re-activate them at
a later date if they oppose the government.
On 22 January 2005, during
the elections for the Majlis, Ahmed Falah, a photographer
of the Maldivian Democratic Party, was arrested for videoing
the electoral irregularities. While in detention, the State
also brought up previous charges of a case of detainee’s alleged
involvement in assaulting a prison inmate in November 1998.
Falah has been held under house arrest since 21 March 2005.
Even after declaration of
socalled general amnesty on 31st December 2004
and holding of the elections for the parliament, the Majlis,
in January 2005, repression on the political opponents continues.
On 10 December 2004, Ihsan Ahmed Naseer, a minor was arrested
under the Prevention of Terrorism in the Maldives Act (Law
no.10/90) for allegedly making threatening phone calls to
the government officials. He was held until the Court released
him on 29 December 2004, only to be re-arrested on 24 January
2005. He was released after one month in detention on 24 February
2005 and is required to report to the police. On the night
of 23 January 2005, Mohamed Fauzi was detained by the Maldives
police service and is still being held
in detention and interrogated about pro-democracy movement.
Human rights situation remains deplorable with arbitrary
arrest, detention and torture. Muaviath Mahmood who was arrested on 4 March 2005
for alleged charges of drug offences and taken to Dhoonidhoo for
investigation died on 9 March 2005.
His neck and eyes were swollen and there was indication that
blood had oozed out of his nose.
His back had imprints of “square grids” very similar
to those underneath heavy boots.
Those who provide assistance
to the victims of atrocities are being harassed. At about
9.30 pm on 19 March 2005, Ahmed Nazim Sattar, chief organizer
of the “Reporting Network for the Relatives of the Persons
in Judicial Care” was summoned to the Police Station for allegedly
advising Mrs Sakeena, whose son Ahmed Zuhoor was arrested
on 5 March 2005 and ill-treated in custody, to approach Human
Rights Commission of the Maldives. The Reporting Network for
the Relatives of the Persons in Judicial Care has been denied
registration. Like all things in the Maldives, the biggest
NGO, the Society for Health Education, is headed by First
Lady, Nasreena Abdul Gayoom.
The State does not respect
freedom of expression. The state owns the TV and Radio stations
whilst all three major papers - Aafathis, Haveeru and Miadhu - are owned by cabinet ministers and the brother-in-law of the
The proposals of President
Gayoom on fundamental rights further restricts the freedom
of expression under the guise of undefined
“vandalism, and other similar militant acts.”
The President also proposes
to create the posts of Vice Presidents and Prime Minister
but provides no procedure as to how the Vice President or
the Prime Minister would be appointed or elected. Yet, he
strengthens his power to “appoint
and dismiss” everybody - Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Commissioner
of Elections and Auditor-General, Attorney-General, Envoys
of the State sent abroad with special privileges, and Atoll
Chiefs” and to appoint and dissolve the Council of Ministers
at his own whims.
proposals remain silent on the present constitution of which
60% is concerned with the powers
and immunities of the President, while 40% deals with the
responsibilities of the state and the rights of the Maldivian
people. The problems with the present constitution pertain
to sweeping powers granted to the President Gayoom, enabling
him to control both the parliament and the judiciary. It
also makes the President as the Commander in Chief
of the armed forces, and the Governor of the Maldivian Monetary
Authority and Chief of the judiciary with the power to appoint
and remove judges and to overturn any of the High Court’s
rulings and to grant pardons and amnesties and the power to
hire and fire everybody.
The only significant concession made by President
Gayoom is to “divest the presidency of its role as the head
of the judiciary”.
Yet, President Gayoom will
be able to pass the proposals easily and proclaim himself
as a democrat. The Peoples Special Majlis mandated to draft
the constitution of Maldives consists of over 100 members
depending on the size of the Cabinet who are also members
of the Peoples Special Majlis. Out of these members, 16 are
appointed by the President himself, while a further 10 unelected
Members (Cabinet Ministers) sit as MP’s. As political parties
are not allowed to contest the elections, President Gayoom
has full control over the entire process of drafting a new
constitution by the Peoples’ Peoples Majlis.
The election for the Majlis held in January 2005 was
not free and fair. There were reports of ‘irregularities’,
such as government intimidation of voters in remote areas
of the islands, buying votes, and threats to withhold reconstruction
aid for tsunami affected areas. A large number of the political
opponents were imprisoned preventing them from being registered
as candidates and many were intimidated to withdraw their
candidacy. Some of the candidates who
stood for the elections including Shuaib Ali for the Haa Dhaal atoll
were detained prior to campaigning in Dhoonidhoo Detention
Centre, meted out inhuman and degrading treatment and were
not allowed to campaign. The
stage for Gayoom’s triumph was set.
President Maumoon Abdul
Gayoom must be urged to withdraw his proposals and allow the
Special Peoples Majlis to fulfill its mandate to draft a new
constitution and incorporate the provisions of international
human rights standards; allow the registration of political
parties, in particular, Maldivian Democratic Party, to provide
for multi-party democracy; issue the notice pertaining to
the withdrawal of charges of high treason to the individuals
concerned, allow registration
of NGOs, in particular consider the registration of the “Reporting
Network for the Relatives of the Persons in Judicial Care”
and release all the political detainees
including Ahmed Falah, Mohamed Fauzi, Fathimath Nisreen,
Mohamed Zaki and Ahmed Ibrahim Didi and others held under
International Community must
continue to monitor the situation in Maldives for restoration
of multi-party democracy and encourage the Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical
cooperation assistance for the drafting of the new constitution.