Policemen do not have the right to political views as their job is to enforce the law, President Abdulla Yameen has said.
Speaking at a rally in the capital Malé, Yameen said policemen did not have the right to express their own opinions or their own assertions. He also reiterated that the opposition did not have any grounds to question the independence of the police service.
“The police force is not independent like the ACC (Anti-Corruption Commission). They are an enforcement agency. They have to enforce the law. There is no space for political ideology,” he said.
The president’s comments, aired on state broadcaster PSM and the privately run Channel 13, follow a backlash from the opposition after his spokesman said Yameen had personally directed police to arrest his nephew and opposition MP Faris Maumoon.
Faris is charged with attempting to overthrow his uncle’s government, in addition to an ongoing trial against him for bribing politicians and identity fraud.
“I know that some ministers or MPs ordered the police force during the MDP [opposition Maldivian Democratic Party] government. Look at who sat in the chair of commissioner [of police] back then? Things were not decided by Commissioner Faseeh. There was a lawmaker [from the ruling party directing the police]. That was the situation,” Yameen said.
“A group that has such a muddy past can’t talk about police independence,” he added.
Yameen denied claims that he had overreached his powers when he ordered the police to arrest Faris, two days after the criminal court released him from six months in custody.
“The police service has the independence to work within the laws. Policemen have to enforce the law. Policemen do not have the discretion to issue their own opinions and rulings by going in to political thinking. When a court issues an order, policemen have to implement it without questioning it. If we keep forgetting this, it is the obligation of the president to remind them to correct their ways,” he said.
Local media reported a rift between the Commissioner of Police Ahmed Areef and the president after Faris alleged that Areef had warned him about his pending arrest. Areef told Faris that Yameen had personally called him to demand that Faris be arrested, according to Faris.
Ibrahim Muaz, a spokesman for the President’s Office, tweeted that Yameen had ordered police to arrest his nephew more than an hour before it happened.
When asked whether the police regularly received orders from the president to execute arrest warrants, police spokesman Ahmed Shifan told the Maldives Independent to direct questions to the President’s Office.
The President’s Office has refused to comment on any involvement from Yameen in the arrest.