Nasheed stripped of ex-president’s privileges

Nasheed stripped of ex-president’s privileges
April 19 19:18 2016

President Abdulla Yameen ratified today a bill that strips former President Mohamed Nasheed of state benefits, security, and privileges.

The amendments brought to the 2009 Privileges and Protection for Former Presidents Act by the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives-dominated parliament on April 6 states that benefits will be revoked for an ex-president convicted and sentenced to jail for a criminal offence committed during his presidency.

Nasheed was controversially found guilty of terrorism in March 2015 over the military’s detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The rushed 19-day trial drew widespread criticism over apparent lack of due process.

With the publication of the amendments in the government gazette today, the opposition leader is no longer entitled to security and protection from military bodyguards as well as medical insurance, a monthly pension, and funds to manage the former president’s office.

The move comes a day after the government backtracked on a decision to extend Nasheed’s medical leave in the UK. A 30-day extension granted a day earlier was revoked after Nasheed’s lawyers denied Yameen’s claim that the opposition leader was due to undergo surgery on April 19.

Faced with the threat of targeted sanctions, the government had authorised a 30-day medical leave for Nasheed in January in a deal brokered by Sri Lanka, India, the UK and US.

The ratification of the amendment bill also comes ahead of a review by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group of the Maldives’ progress in resolving a year-long political crisis sparked the imprisonment of Nasheed and other high-profile politicians.

Following a meeting in February, the CMAG – which monitors member states’ observance of democracy and human rights – called for inclusive dialogue and action to release detained political leaders.

Yameen has since sought the help of India, Malaysia and Pakistan to avoid “punitive action” by the Commonwealth over the widely condemned imprisonment of opposition leaders.

The government’s moves to strip Nasheed of presidential privileges and refuse to extend his medical leave in the UK suggests Yameen is confident of avoiding action by the CMAG.

Meanwhile, following the passage of the amendments earlier this month, Nasheed said in a tweet: “I have always believed that respect and privilege come from the people. It is not something that can be created or abolished by a law.”

Speaking during the preliminary debate on the bill, MP Eva Abdulla of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party contended that the move demonstrates Yameen’s jealousy of Nasheed’s popularity as the leader of the largest political party in the Maldives.

The pro-government majority had passed last year a similar law that stripped Nasheed of the MDP presidency on account of his terrorism conviction.

PPM MPs, however, said during the debate that Nasheed does not qualify for state benefits because of his alleged efforts to defame the Maldives and harm the domestic economy. Nasheed has called for targeted international sanctions on officials responsible for human rights abuses.

Government officials had previously questioned Nasheed’s eligibility for state benefits claiming he had not completed a full five-year term in office. The former president resigned three years into his presidency in the wake of a violent police mutiny.

Yameen’s administration has so far remained defiant in the face of mounting diplomatic pressure to release Nasheed after a UN rights panel ruled in September that his jailing was illegal and politically motivated.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a specialised agency comprised of five independent experts, has also rejected the government’s appeal “without comment,” according to Nasheed’s lawyers.

Earlier this month, the US senate unanimously adopted a bipartisan resolution calling on the Maldivian government to redress the “injustice” of Nasheed’s imprisonment.