UN censures ‘erosion of democratic norms’ as arrest of lawmakers continue

UN censures ‘erosion of democratic norms’ as arrest of lawmakers continue
July 29 15:25 2017

The United Nations has expressed concern over “the gradual erosion of basic democratic norms and principles” in the Maldives as a crackdown on the opposition continues after last week’s lockdown of parliament.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the government “to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed rights of speech and assembly” and “to refrain from all acts that result in the harassment and intimidation of Members of Parliament, political parties, civil society and the media.”

In a statement released by his spokesman Thursday, the secretary-general also encouraged “effective dialogue and consultations on political issues.”

Three MPs have been arrested and three summoned for questioning since the unprecedented expulsion of lawmakers from the parliament building by the police and military last Monday.

MPs Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, Mohamed Ameeth and Saud Hussain were accused of breaking through police lines and entering the parliament building after the Majlis had declared that they were no longer members of parliament.

Six former ruling party lawmakers were deemed to have lost their seats after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified once the electoral body notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.

MP Waheed was arrested Monday night and remanded to 15 days in police custody a day later.

Saud was also arrested on the same charges last Tuesday but he was released shortly afterwards due to an error on the arrest warrant. The warrant named MP Mohamed Ameeth in the section detailing the reason for the arrest.

Ameeth was arrested Thursday night and Saud turned himself in Friday morning after the police announced that the Villigili MP was wanted in connection with an ongoing investigation.

The criminal court ordered a 15-day remand detention for both lawmakers. All three arrest warrants cited “a letter from the parliament” as evidence.

The police have also thwarted attempts by the opposition to hold rallies or stage protests in Malé, cracking down on gatherings with pepper spray and detaining several people over the past five days.

On Tuesday night, the police raided the Jumhooree Party headquarters and shut down the opposition’s main meeting hall. According to the search and seizure warrant, the suspected offences include rioting, influencing official conduct, obstructing administration of law, and the forceful overthrow of the government.

Police officers left Kunooz on Friday night.

Minority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, MP Mohamed Falah and JP MP Abdulla Riyaz were meanwhile summoned for questioning for entering the parliament building. The opposition lawmakers were accused of criminal trespassing, obstructing or restricting police officers, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of the administration of law or other government functions.

If convicted, the lawmakers face a maximum sentence of four years and three months.

Speaking to reporters outside the police headquarters Friday night, Solih stressed that opposition lawmakers acted within legal bounds.

“In any case, the law does not allow anyone to obstruct members of parliament from going to the People’s Majlis,” said the parliamentary group leader of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.

He accused the government of scheming to detain or disqualify lawmakers in order to regain the pro-government majority.

President Abdulla Yameen’s previously unassailable majority in the 85-member house collapsed dramatically earlier this month when ten MPs left the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives after backing the impeachment of the speaker.

On July 3, the four-party opposition coalition submitted a no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed for the third time with 45 signatures. However, the motion was controversially thrown out with the deputy speaker contending that it was rendered invalid by the disqualification of four lawmakers.

The Supreme Court has since decided to hear appeals from the four disqualified lawmakers, three of whom were expelled from the PPM long before the Attorney General sought the anti-defection ruling.

MPs Waheed, Ameeth and Saud were expelled from the PPM in late March and early April after taking former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s side in an acrimonious leadership dispute with his half-brother Yameen.

The PPM was split into rival factions after the elder Gayoom was stripped of his powers as the party’s elected leader in October last year. The 79-year-old went on to sign a pact with opposition leaders and sought to seize the parliament’s majority with defections from the divided ruling party.

Gayoom’s son, MP Faris Maumoon, who was leading the group of ex-PPM lawmakers, was meanwhile arrested on July 18 on charges of attempting to bribe lawmakers.

A day later, the criminal court ordered his detention for the duration of a new trial on bribery charges. However, the police have yet to conclude its bribery investigation or ask the Prosecutor General’s office to press fresh charges against Faris.

The MP for Dhiggaru is also on trial over an identity fraud charge over the use of the PPM’s flag and logo at a joint opposition press conference.

MDP MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, a retired brigadier general, is meanwhile standing trial on fresh terrorism charges whilst Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s trial on bribery charges resumed last Tuesday.

“My resolve won’t be shaken. I will not back down.”

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  1. Private Tourist
    July 29, 22:07 #1 Private Tourist

    President Yameen stands at the threshold.

    The whole world now openly considers the Maldives a despotic dictatorship.

    Members of his own party are now jumping ship and no phony legislation or arrests will stem the flood. There is a smell of blood in the air and his once close supporters are now getting jumpy. This sense of unease will eventually spread to the police and army. The threat of legal or mob-fueled repercussions against members of those forces in a future time will soon unnerve them. People will always remember the face of the policeman who beat, kicked or pepper sprayed them.

    However, more dangerous is Yameen’s gambit with respect to the proposed forthcoming executions. This could be his final mistake. Going ahead is virtually threatening the whole population of the Maldives with death if they oppose his rule. We know ANYONE can be arrested on any trumped up charge. Any minor charge as we know can be expanded and blown out of proportion. Which means, the death penalty could in theory be brought to bear on charges of Treason. There is no limit for a desperate Dictator.

    However, the Tourist Trade is taking notice and one of the biggest players, Richard Branson has threatened to boycott and lobby other travel firms to do the same.

    Yameen’s days are numbered, that is certain. What is not certain is, will he take the Maldives down with him?

    My sad guess is, yes he will. The power vacuum will allow extremism in and that is the end of the Maldives as a holiday destination, and the end of any chance of future security and prosperity and happiness for any Maldivians.

    Reply to this comment
  2. ނަަަާސިރު
    July 30, 14:29 #2 ނަަަާސިރު

    Your comments will give u a bit of comfort to u as your shoes are encompassed u badly.remember the creater,remember the laws of nature.most of the time what we wish does not come online.coz the order lies with the supreme power.we are only acting on orders of ourself,our egoes.let u c if u r right,Allah knows Cox Allah is most knowing and wise

    Reply to this comment

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