Missing weapons from state armoury ‘a national security failure’

Missing weapons from state armoury ‘a national security failure’
November 01 17:56 2015

President Abdulla Yameen as the commander-in-chief must bear full responsibility for weapons that went missing from the state armoury, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.

The military has acknowledged that a rifle and a submachine gun found in a weapons cache discovered on Friday in the lagoon of an uninhabited island in Baa atoll were from its armoury.

Expressing concern with the unprecedented weapons haul, the MDP called the breach of the state armoury a “national security failure.”

“As the armoury of the military is under the direct control of the president, President Abdulla Yameen must bear full responsibility for the dangers faced due to the failure to maintain the security of the armoury.” the party said in a statement today.

The weapons cache was submerged 42 meters underwater near Hibalhidhoo, an island leased for resort development in central Baa Atoll. The police said the island was raided based on information obtained from suspects arrested in the wake of the blast on the president’s speedboat. 

The government says the explosion on the speedboat on September 28 was an alleged attempt to assassinate the president. Yameen escaped unhurt, but his wife remains hospitalised with spine injuries.

The weapons cache included hand grenades, bullets, and improvised explosive devices.

Speaking at a press conference at the MDP office this afternoon, Ameen Faisal, a former defence minister, said weapons being “removed” or “stolen” from the armoury demonstrates the current administration’s failure to ensure the safety and security of the Maldivian people.

“This clearly shows that President Abdulla Yameen does not have any control over the military or the police,” said Ameen, also a former national security advisor to ex-President Mohamed Nasheed.

Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab meanwhile criticised what he called the security service’s attempts to downplay the seriousness of the situation.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Nawaz had said last night that the find was the largest illegal arms cache ever discovered in the Maldives, but insisted that it was “not a cause for public concern.”

“When the security forces must bear the responsibility for the presidential launch blast and the subsequent events, we do not believe that they themselves can investigate the matter,” Shihab said.

Shihab called on the government to form an independent and impartial commission with the help of the international community.

A six-member ‘National Inquiry Commission’ (NIC) comprised of high-ranking police and military officers was formed to oversee the investigation of the alleged bomb plot. President Yameen and Home Minister Umar Naseer are the co-chairs of the commission.

At last night’s press briefing, Captain Ali Ihusaan, a member of the NIC, said military rules had allowed the officer in charge of the armoury to release weapons outside of the established procedures, adding that the military has now put in place new rules to strengthen oversight of the armoury.

“We guarantee that this sort of incident of the weapons armoury will not happen again in the future,” he said.

Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa,’ the senior officer in charge of the armoury, the Explosive Ordinances Disposal (EOD) unit, and the special protection unit in charge of the president’s security, is being held under administrative detention at the military barracks.

A week after the blast on the “Finifenma” speedboat, three soldiers from the military’s EOD unit were also arrested on suspicion of tampering with evidence. Two of the three soldiers had inspected the boat after the blast.

On October 24, Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was arrested on suspicion of links to the explosion. The police and military have since been raiding homes and islands leased for resort development with links to the vice president.

Meanwhile, the “joint parliamentary group” of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and coalition partners Maldives Development Alliance and Jumhooree Party (JP) issued a statement today expressing grave concern with the discovery of the weapons cache.

The three parties together control 60 seats in the 85-member People’s Majlis.

Flanked by JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, MP Ahmed Nihan, majority leader of parliament, read out the statement at a press conference held at Muleeage.

The JP had left the ruling coalition earlier this year and launched an anti-government campaign in alliance with the MDP, during which the government froze the bank accounts of Gasim’s Villa company and the business tycoon spent months overseas.

Gasim declared his full support for the president in the wake of the alleged bomb plot.

The joint statement meanwhile assured the MPs’ “full cooperation and assistance” to the president, the security services, and state institutions “at this critical juncture.”

It also expressed confidence that the perpetrators of the alleged assassination attempt will swiftly be brought to justice.

Noting that the police have said the Hibalhidhoo weapons and the blast on the speedboat are linked, the statement added that the people behind the weapons cache should face trial as soon as possible.

“As we believe that this is a terrorist attack against the whole country, we call on behalf of all the beloved citizens who elected us to give the harshest punishments in the law to those who committed this act,” the statement read.