President Abdulla Yameen lied about there being a 35 percent drop in violent crime during his first term in office, a Maldives Independent fact-checking exercise has found.
Yameen made the claim at a campaign rally in Hulhumalé last Tuesday night, telling supporters that violent crime had spiked under his predecessors.
He also said violent crime overtook property crime during Mohamed Nasheed’s time in office. This assertion is also untrue.
For the fact-check the Maldives Independent defined property crime as: theft, embezzlement, traffic violations, bouncing cheques, counterfeit and forgery, adding robbery to the list as Yameen expressly named it as a property crime.
Domestic violence, sexual offences, vandalism and assault were used to categorise violent crimes. Drug abuse was added to the list as the president singled it out as a violent crime.
According to easily available police crime statistics, in any given year, violent crime has never overtaken property crime in the country.
In 2009 reports of property crime were 43 percent higher than those for violent crime. In 2010, 2011 and 2012 the difference between violent crime and property crime figures was more than 50 percent, going back down to 43 percent in 2013.
Throughout 2009 to 2018, the period investigated by the Maldives Independent, property crime remained the highest number of crimes reported to police.
There were 27,402 violent crimes reported to police from 2009 to 2013.
From November 2013 to September 2018, the number went down to 22,107, representing a drop of 15 percent in violent crime. But not the 35 percent drop claimed by the president.
– ‘Killed without fear’ –
“Before 2009, when president Maumoon’s rule was coming to an end, the highest number of crimes were to do with offences against property,” Yameen can be seen telling people in Hulhumalé.
“Vandalism, theft, robbery, scamming and other offences against property. This is how crime was in the Maldives then, when Maumoon’s presidency came to an end. Big criminal offences did not get the first place in this. Crimes committed by young people addicted to drugs did not get the higher spots,” he said.
Yameen said that the “crime profile” of the country changed when Nasheed was president.
“Maldivian people love security. Maldivians would not want the criminal environment of Maldives to become dangerous. 2009, 2010, 2011, these three years changed the crime profile of the whole Maldives.
“The whole Maldivian psyche was changed in three years. […] Imagine the way the criminal environment changed. By 2011, 2012, the highest number of crimes had become big crimes,” he said “[…] People were being killed without any fear. Without fear, people were stabbing people. People were doing anything without fear.”
Yameen said that, in his five year term as president, violent crime had gone down 35 percent.
“This is statistics. This is academic research. They don’t lie. Now, they can say people were killed even in 2013. That is true. People were killed. But that was the fallout from the merciless crimes I am talking about. The fallout ended by 2013. These things, with the blessings of Allah, changed in 2013. Now, going through 2013, 2016, I can happily tell you that, the number of big crimes have gone down 35 [percent] out of a hundred,” Yameen said.
“With the blessings of Allah, within this five years, we have repealed the criminal environment to what it was before. The biggest crimes, killing people, slaying people, attacking people with big knives, has gone down 35 [percent] out of a hundred,” he added.
A spokesman from the President’s Office, Ibrahim Muaz, told the Maldives Independent that Yameen had taken the crime statistics from academic research published in the Maldives.
Muaz said he would contact the Maldives Independent with the name of the book. He had not done so at the time of going to press.
– ‘Zero police work’ –
Police statistics do not specify murder rates. According to figures published by mvmurders, and verified by the Maldives Independent, 22 murders were reported from 2009 to 2013.
But that number rises to 28 during Yameen’s five-year term, representing a 27 percent increase in the number of murders.
Of the top five years for the number of people murdered in the Maldives, four are in Yameen’s first term as president.
The Maldives had the highest number of murders in 2012, during Dr Mohamed Waheed’s presidency, when 10 people were killed. There were nine murders in 2015, six murders each in 2016 and 2017 and five murders in 2014.
Aishath Rasheed, the brother of Yameen Rasheed who was murdered in 2017, said it was irresponsible of the president to claim a drop in crime rates.
“I would like to know on what basis the president has claimed that crime has gone down,” he said.
“There has been zero work done by the Maldives police to prevent major crimes. This is very evident from the fact that, despite repeated complaints and warnings, the police failed to protect or even call back my brother who was brutally murdered last year.
“Police have not been able to successfully solve a single murder case to date. Most of the cases are pending or filed (away) due to lack of evidence.”
Photo of the president addressing a crowd in Hulhumalé