Maldives bans Raajje TV documentary on ‘president’s sorcerer’

Maldives bans Raajje TV documentary on ‘president’s sorcerer’
February 11 15:20 2016

The Maldives’ broadcasting regulator has ordered the opposition-aligned Raajje TV not to air a documentary about a Sri Lankan man who allegedly performed sorcery or black magic to help President Abdulla Yameen win the 2013 election.

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission said in a brief statement yesterday that it has asked the private station not to show the documentary or any related content while the oversight body investigates a complaint.

The commission believes that airing the documentary “would cause serious adverse impact on society.”

Raajje TV had stirred a social media storm when it aired the explosive documentary last Friday night.

The exposé featured an exclusive interview with Asela Wikramasinghe – a Sri Lankan “priest” who owns a temple for the worship of the Hindu god Durga – as well as secretly recorded conversations he had with Yameen during the 2013 campaign.

In one of the audio clips, Yameen and Asela discuss ways to eliminate former President Mohamed Nasheed from the presidential race.

According to Asela, the conversation took place in his room at the Nasandhuraa Palace Hotel, which was used as Yameen’s campaign headquarters.

Asela tells Yameen that “there are somethings, if I do it, he will be finished.”

“In what sense?” Yameen asks.

“I cannot guarantee. Sometimes life also,” Asela replies.

Yameen balks at the idea and says, “But Asela, human life is so precious. So precious.”

But Asela repeatedly urges Yameen to “somehow finalise it.”

“Try to do anything, anything other than that. He could go temporarily crazy or something like that,” Yameen says.

Nasheed had emerged the frontrunner in the first round of the election with 47 percent of the vote to Yameen’s 30 percent.

In addition to performing black magic rituals, Asela also claimed to have convinced Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim to endorse Yameen in the second round run-off against Nasheed.

Gasim, who placed third in the first round, had first declared that he would remain neutral before backing Yameen at the eleventh hour. The business tycoon’s support was pivotal in securing Yameen’s narrow victory in an election marred by the Supreme Court’s interference.

In an interview with his Villa TV earlier this week, Gasim denied meeting Asela or employing a “sorcerer” of his own during the election.

Moments after the interview aired, a photo of Gasim meeting Asela at the former’s Villa head office surfaced on social media Asela

Gasim later said the Sri Lankan met him to discuss the possibility of securing a loan.

Asela also claimed that Yameen told him a few months after assuming office that Gasim was proving to be “a big headache.” Yameen also wanted to sideline his half-brother former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, he said.

Asela appears to have fallen out with Yameen in December over delays in making promised payments.

The Raajje TV documentary featured several photos with Yameen and Asela as well as text messages allegedly exchanged between the pair.

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Asked about Asela’s claims, the president’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Muaz Ali, told The Maldives Independent earlier this week that he did not wish to comment “on any programme shown by Raajje TV.”

Asela said he was employed at the Maldives High Commission in Sri Lanka as an assistant trade executive.

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Gayoom, leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, was meanwhile asked about Asela at a press conference on Sunday.

The PPM won the election through hard work, he said.

“I didn’t see this person you are referring to [during the campaign]. He had no involvement. Those are all lies. You shouldn’t believe such talk. Sorcery doesn’t really exist. Nothing will happen from it,” he said.

Gayoom said he had heard that Asela was working at the High Commission, “but as a Sri Lankan citizen” and not as a Maldivian as stated in his work ID.

But the foreign ministry’s media coordinator told The Maldives Independent that “a person named Asela has never worked in any of our high commissions.”

Meanwhile, appearing on the state broadcaster Television Maldives Saturday night, MP Ahmed Nihan called on media regulatory bodies to investigate Raajje TV over broadcasting un-Islamic practices in its documentary.

The majority leader of parliament accused the station of launching a “campaign to defame President Yameen” and dismissed the allegations of sorcery as nonsensical.

The opposition had previously linked changes to traffic flow in central Malé, the uprooting of old trees at the Republic Square and the removal of monuments to Yameen’s alleged fear of sorcery.

Belief in sorcery and black magic, locally known as sihuru or fanditha, is common in the Maldives. Several people have been arrested in recent weeks on suspicion of practicing sorcery.