Feature & Comment
Maldives: state of insanity – part II
When a president with an army at his command and an armoury at his disposal has a bad trip or an episode of intense paranoia, the consequences can be markedly different from when an ordinary person has such experiences, writes Azra Naseem in the second part of the Finifenmaa blast chronicles.
One thing certain about this Yageen government is that everything is uncertain. You can rely on nothing. What is promised rarely appears, and what appears rarely lasts. The State of Emergency turned to be as transient as a senior cabinet minister in Yameen’s government. It was boldly arrived at, emphatically announced for 30 days, but was timidly gone in four. What has to be written now instead of a developing story is history.
Last ‘chapter’ ended with Yameen’s 45 minute tirade absolving himself of all blame and placing it all squarely on the rounded shoulders of his ‘fondest VP’. Shortly after, things began to spin out of control. It was as if the president was on a bad acid trip he could not escape. Everyone was out to get him. Snipers, bombers, witches, soothsayers, sharp shooters…they were all coming at him. When a president with an army at his command and an armoury at his disposal has a bad trip or an episode of intense paranoia, the consequences can be markedly different from when an ordinary person has such experiences. Everyone is forced to live the President’s nightmare. So here’s what happened next.
Forensic Hocus Pocus
The Investigation into the Finifenmaa Blast was going full-steam ahead under the esteemed leadership of Home Minister Umar Naseer and his stellar detection techniques acquired in 1992 and never updated since. On 31 October, however, it hit a roadblock when the Wall Street Journal, or Wall Street as Umar would have it, published a storysaying the FBI had found no conclusive evidence to prove the explosion was caused by a bomb. Umar quickly convened a press conference the morning after, telling local reporters neither the FBI, nor any forensic teams by their nature, ever publish any conclusive findings. What Maldives had sought from the scientists they invited to examine the boat blast was their opinion. Looking for forensic evidence, the eminent Top Detective of the Maldive Islands explained, is like “looking for the new moon ahead of Eid. The moon maybe sighted on [the island of] Washafaru, but not on Kelaa. That does not mean the moon does not exist.”
Several trainings I recieved overseas as a Police Investigating Officer is helping me today to solve this case. pic.twitter.com/UEBRNapJNN
— Umar Naseer (@UmarNaseerPPM) October 17, 2015
The FBI did not find evidence of a bomb, but Saudis found traces of the RDX chemical from samples they took from the boat. Saudis took six samples, Americans took 10. Amazingly, it was Saudis with their six samples who actually found the RDX traces. Who would you believe, said implicit subtitles: ‘your Muslim Saudi brothers, or the FBI?’ Besides, the Americans had been unable to do with ten samples what the Saudi were able were to do with six. Not long after, PPM Twitter accounts were busy accusing the FBI—not the CIA or White House or anyone else—of manufacturing evidence of WMD in Iraq. Around the same time, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, who often mixes the domestic and the foreign, instructed obedient PPM citizens to believe the version provided by the Maldives Police Service (MPS), as any patriotic Maldivian would do.
Thing is, forensic evidence, modern detective work, science—these are not concepts the Yameen government has been too keen to embrace. The Supernatural has always figured prominently in Maldivian life, and Political Psychics have been walking Maldivian corridors of power with the Gayooms since 1978. It is said Yameen has at least one Presidential Psychic himself. All the uprooting of trees, moving of prominent national monuments, and digging the ground from under landmark buildings that happened in the mid-2015 were all to find a curse against Yameen said to have been buried somewhere by a political enemy.
Yameen said in his post-blast address to the nation on 25 October 2015 that he had stopped receiving intelligence reports from Maldives Police Service in July 2015. This does not have seem to have raised any alarms with him for three months. A likely explanation is that for him, the real intelligence is in reports from the psychics. Police intelligence reports were no good for another reason—the police were hugely corrupt, and had been taking bribes from the MMPRC under Adeeb’s control. The Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed was growing visibly fat from eating too many chicken curries on his campaign trips around the islands and from the extra cash the President implied Adeeb was giving him. To show just how little tolerance Yameen has for corruption in his government he removed Hussein Waheed from the police service. And made him a State Minister.
Peekaboo with guns and bombs
Wherever the ‘intelligence’ was coming from, it was making the Maldives government and security forces do very unintelligent things. After several nights of raiding houses and islands, the MPS and MNDF invited journalists on board a vessel near Male’ to show them a weapons haul which had been discovered buried 42 metre underwater just outside the reefs surrounding the island of Hibalhidhoo. The weapons were indeed many – “an entire AK series”. Curiously, many were wrapped in brown paper bags which were to be ‘opened in the presence of the media’. As everyone knows, this is a very transparent government, and it keeps its citizens fully briefed.
Nature interrupted, however. Rain fell, the paper bags—which were said to contain guns—were soaking. For some reason, a shelter could not be arranged for the vessel, so off went the security forces to another location, carrying the guns with them under police escort and a loud siren. Oh, it was a spectacle! Later pictures showed the guns, and the ammunition, to be badly rusted, suggesting they had been underwater long before the blast occurred just a month before. It was revealed the weapons came from the MNDF armoury. Still, the hunt was on for someone to blame other than the security forces, the people in charge of the armoury, or the Commander in Chief under whose watch all these alleged security lapses were happening.
The first bomb, or ‘suspected device’ as Umar described it, caused quite a stir. Especially the response to its alleged presence. It was said to have been found in a vehicle parked near, Mulee Aage the official residence which the president refused to move into. The manner of Maldives security forces response to the presence of the ‘suspected device’ was extraordinary. Men in riot gear picked up the live bomb, put it into a vehicle, and travelled right through the most congested city in the world to a more suitable location where the bomb was to be defused while the media looked on. After midnight it was taken elsewhere and not heard of again until on 8 November when an ‘unnamed source’ strategically ‘leaked’ a story to the media that the MNDF had carried out a ‘controlled explosion of the bomb’ near the MNDF training island. No pictures, videos or any evidence at all exists of this alleged activity. Bling faith is a required to believe the government. Fortunately for Yameen, it is one thing PPM supporters have an endless supply of.
Addressing the people of an island shortly after the bomb was discovered, Home Minister Umar had described the ‘suspected device’ as a bomb made from sticks of dynamite capable of going up in a ball of flames, 60ft in diameter. It would have been powerful enough to destroy great mountain ranges, said Umar. Yet its ‘controlled explosion’ barely caused a ripple in the water. Or had it been defused first, as the spectacle from the night before implied? Was it defused then exploded? Who knows? Certainly not the public.
Once MDP agreed to postpone the nationwide demonstrations it had planned for 6 November to highlight the unlawful continued detention of former President Mohamed Nasheed, the bombs discreetly bowed out of centre stage. Also, their presence, and the declaration of emergency which is said to have been necessitated by their presence was having a rather nasty impact on tourist arrivals. Sadly for the Foreign Minister, her many assurances that the threat from the bombs applied only to locals—sincere and clearly put as they were—did not quite convince tourists the bombs were smart enough to discriminate between foreigners and Maldivians.
Gone in three months
Adeeb, the man whose gravity-defying meteoric rise everyone was left to watch in awe, disappeared from view as suddenly as he appeared. The last any member of the public saw of him was when he left for that investment forum in China to which no one came. He was bundled into a boat straight from the airport and taken to Dhoonidhoo where he is beginning to tread a similar No Man’s Land as the hundreds of ‘Enemy Combatants’ who spent years in legal limbo in the United States’ Guantanamo Bay. There are no confirmed reports yet of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques used on The Bro, as Adeeb’s admirers call him with their cash-bought affection. Not even proof that almost all Bro’s supporters (bar two or three) had abandoned him faster than they could say hundred dollars was sufficient for the government to allow Adeeb to be seen publicly. No person has been this carefully hidden and closely guarded in Maldives since Dhon Hiyala, a mythological woman of such perfection her father kept her in an underground palace to protect her from the many who would fall under her spell at first sight.
Majlis members, many of whom made it known they were under Adeeb’s spell–the magic wand being his wallet–were protected from his charms by executive order which deprived him of his constitutional right to respond to the charges against him before impeachment. The Majlis Speaker, a mouthpiece for Yameen’s instructions, said Adeeb had ‘failed to appear’ for the rushed, and for that reason among others, unconstitutional hearing. Never mind that Adeeb is locked up in a small cell on an island separated by the Indian Ocean from where the Majlis was sitting. The only salient point for the PPM ‘Members of Parliament’ was that he was not there. On that basis the 61 of them put their hands up — many of them for the price of thousands of dollars —and removed Adeeb from the position of VP. C’est la vie, fuck due process.
All matters Adeeb are being treated as extra-legal. Not that anything legal is legal in the Maldives where an independent judiciary does not exist. Until now, all Adeeb’s court appearances have been via video conference, and now a special court room of the Criminal Court is being constructed in the prison—you heard that right—to conduct the ‘trial’ against him. What he is accused of is not quite clear. It began with high treason, a crime which does not exist; and has since moved on terrorism, and embezzlement. It may become sorcery tomorrow.
Adeeb also has no legal representation, at least not one recognised by the judiciary of the Maldives. Shameem, an expert in the newly introduced Penal Code (and a background not just in Common Law but that all important Shari’a) was counted among the cream of legal crop–until he accepted the job as Adeeb’s lawyer. Ahead of Adeeb’s impeachment, he was summoned to the Supreme Court ‘in relation to an ongoing investigation.’ That afternoon, Shameem, who was not in Male’ and could not respond to the summons, was disbarred. Just like that. Now Adeeb has no recognised lawyer but that is, no doubt the oh-so-clever Maldivian authorities would say, no fault of theirs.
Reports are now surfacing that Justice Ali Hameed—yes that Ali Hameed of the sex video and the most famous Y-fronts since Homer Simpson—is now in the cross-hairs of Yameen’s ever-cocked gun. Ali Hameed goes where the money is. And it is said Hameed has been purchased for Adeeb. Whatever the lower courts find him guilty of, Ali Hameed will work to overrule through the Supreme Court. Police have, it seems, re-opened their closed investigation into whether or not the very fat man seen in a secretly filmed video having sex with three prostitutes over a prolonged period of time in a hotel in Colombo is just any other fat man or Justice Ali Hameed of the Maldives Supreme Court. The answer will depend on how much money Adeeb has given Hameed (and the police?).
To be continued, in part III.
This article was originally published on Dhivehisitee.com. It has been republished with permission.
Dr Azra Naseem is a former journalist who now works as a Research fellow in Dublin City University.
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