Opposition supporters have hit back at a letter from the Maldives Police Services asking for respect by publishing photos of police brutality and demanding justice for continued impunity.
On November 4, the police warned main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party to refrain from engaging in social media activities that may damage the reputation and undermine the credibility of the force.
Supporters and members of MDP are bringing the police force to disrepute by focusing on illegal or unethical actions of “few individual policemen,” said the letter signed by Chief Inspector of Police Fathuhulla Waheed, head of Male City Police.
“Supporters of your party are working to bring shame to the entire institution and undermine the trust the Maldivian people have for the police by spreading false news on social media, regarding actions by few individuals in the police, during a time when swift actions is being undertaken to rectify the issues that undermine the credibility of the institution.”
Fathuhulla asked the MDP to halt all activities that undermine the trust and credibility of the police force.
The letter sparked an outcry on social media, with MDP supporters asking “Dear police, why do you hate us so much?”
— Aneh Velidhoo MDP ® (@AnehVelidhoo) November 9, 2015
I’m trying to respect and trust? allow me please? pic.twitter.com/wamsAMeEbx
— mezzomohamed (@mezzomohamed) November 9, 2015
— FreePresidentNasheed (@DrJaymes) November 9, 2015
— liusha (@liushath) November 9, 2015
— messi (@shafeeg10) November 9, 2015
The MDP responded saying that the police’s letter was “an uncivilized attempt to intimidate and threaten this party.”
The police cannot expect MDP to bear responsibility for views and opinions expressed by party supporters on social media, the party’s deputy secretary general Anas Abdul Sattar said.
MDP’s letter went on to note President Abdulla Yameen himself had acknowledged corruption within the police, by publicly announcing that impeached Vice President Ahmed Adeeb had exerted undue influence on the police force using money and favors.
Yameen had also said Adeeb had used his influence to obstruct an inquiry into the September 28 explosion on the presidential speedboat.
The MDP noted top officers, including the police chief, had been sacked for allowing “undue” influences to seep in through bribery. They had subsequently been appointed as ministers the government, which only encourages further undue influence on the police force, the letter said.
“Since the police institution is one that runs on public funds, MDP as a responsible political party will criticize actions by police that undermine public confidence in the institution,” MDP’s response to the police read, noting that all democratic societies exercise the freedom of expression by criticizing actions of state institutions.
Yameen said that the removal of the police chief and his deputies was prompted by “the extent of the vice president’s influence.”
Following the dismissal of police chief Hussain Waheed, Yameen had appointed Assistant Commissioner Ahmed Areef as the acting police chief. Last week, Areef shuffled senior officers in charge of various police departments in a shakeup of the top leadership posts.
In September, the criminal court acquitted a police officer charged with assaulting a protester during a crackdown on a protest march in February 2012, despite video evidence of the incident.
Dozens of MDP supporters were injured during a heavy-handed police crackdown on the protest march on February 8, which the human rights watchdog described as “brutal” and “without warning.” No police officer has been convicted to date.
The police force was also accused in 54 out of 56 cases of torture submitted to the human rights watchdog between July 2014 and June 2015, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives said in August.