Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla defended the police in the face of criticism from lawmakers over the failure to combat radicalisation and violent extremism.
All state institutions could do better but it cannot be said that police have “failed,” the home minister contended.
Contrary to repeated assertions by Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and other ruling party lawmakers about a “deep state” or “dark state” of radicals in strategic positions, Imran said he did not believe that extremists or terrorist sympathisers within the security forces were to blame for the perceived lack of action.
“There aren’t any people within the police with extremist ideology that we have noted. And we remind the leaders of the [security] services to constantly look to see whether there are such people, and if they are there, we have said very clearly even yesterday that it won’t be tolerated,” he told lawmakers.
The home minister appeared at Tuesday’s sitting of parliament in response to a query about a police academy under construction in Addu City. Despite parliamentary rules requiring followup questions on the same topic, Imran answered questions about a 13-year-old child illegally married to a member of an extremist group, the spray-painting of terrorist group Islamic State’s logo on Maaugoodhoo island and a presidential commission’s findings about the murders of a journalist and lawmaker by a local extremist group.
On Monday, 38 MPs expressed concern during a floor debate on a motion without notice submitted over the recent revelations, most of which emerged over the past weekend.
The allegations about the 13-year-old girl married out of court came to light after a 26-year-old man was stabbed on a fishing boat and escaped by jumping overboard and swimming to a nearby island in the early hours of Friday.
The man suspected of stabbing Ismail Hammad is in custody, the home minister told parliament. But others on the fishing boat were released after they claimed to have been asleep during the assault, Imran said, prompting skepticism from lawmakers.
According to media reports, Hammad was stabbed for refusing to cooperate with an unknown plot by the extremist group.
In the case of the IS logo spray-painted on Maaugoodhoo by another group of people who arrived on a fishing boat, Imran said police have identified the boat and a search was ongoing as the suspects were out at sea. Other suspects connected to IS have previously been arrested, he noted.
Asked about counter-terrorism efforts since parliament amended the anti-terror law to grant more powers to police, Imran said progress has been made and several people have been taken into custody.
On Monday night, police chief Mohamed Hameed revealed that arrests have been made in connection with the vandalism of a coffeeshop after a former employee faced online harassment for wearing a suit. According to statistics shared by the police commissioner, 188 cases related to religious extremism were reported since January 2014, only 14 of which were sent for prosecution.
Last night we arrested two men in connection to vandalising Meraki Coffee Roasters. Here are some stats on issues we link to ‘extremism in the name of religion’. There is, of course, room to increase competence and improve both institutional & national efforts in tackling these. pic.twitter.com/fWFxIGSG0D
— Mohamed Hameed (@M_Hameedh) November 26, 2019