Tag Archives: #mvcoup

20 Days and Counting #FindMoyameehaa

Ahmed Rilwan

 

It has been 20 days since Ahmed Rilwan (@moyameehaa), 28, was last seen by his family and friends. 20 days of unimaginable anxiety, 20 days of unmentionable fears, of endless questioning, searching, theorising and pleading to absolutely no avail. Many of us who are following the story of Rilwan didn’t know him personally. Some of us ‘follow’ him on twitter, occasionally read one of his articles, and quite often nod in agreement with his humorous reasoning.

Rilwan’s writing covered many of the most pressing issues challenging Maldivian – and global – society today: religious extremism, organised crime, and political corruption. His disappearance, following an alarming bout of death threats, has heightened the climate of fear felt by many Maldivians. The resulting response from the authorities has not been reassuring. It is also, given recent history, not surprising.

I have never had the greatest faith in Maldivian policing. See here, here and here. After a fleeting moment of optimism with regards to the MPS from 2008 – 2011, #mvcoup served to beat such hopes back into line. To be fair, they weren’t that great from 2008-2011 either, but there were at least attempts within the institution to address these issues, both structurally and ideologically.

Many of us have spent a lot of the last two and half years criticising the Police. Their politicisation, brutality, indifference, and incompetence have been raised over and over again in Majlis standing committees, in the media, on social media; it is a conversation held all over the Maldives.

Yet nothing changes. The Yameen Government refuses to hold any police officers accountable for their violations. They have replaced a narcissistic but regimented Police Commissioner in favour of a corrupt thug. They have appointed an ex Police Officer accused of torture as Home Minister, one who is hell bent on implementing the death penalty, even if the service he oversees can’t always be motivated to find those who are to receive the punishment.

Not one serious act of criminal violence has been resolved or brought to justice: Afrasheem’s gruesome murder, the assaults on Velezinee, Hilath, Asward and Alhan, the arson attack on Raajje TV, numerous incidents of gang related knife crime, and an increasing number of targeted death threats, remain unsolved.

Honestly, I know the fault is not MPS’ alone. It’s the entire system’s. The judges are fundamentally corrupt, the institutions that have to work together don’t like speaking to each other, and the people – Majlis – who have to make sure all these components are functioning, are too busy buying and selling votes among themselves to care.

Rilwan’s disappearance has put many of us in the position of having to begrudgingly trust that the Police are doing their job. What else can we do? What is frustrating is what little we hear about the investigation as the days rack up. I can understand that in a sensitive ongoing investigation, not all details can be divulged to the public, but what we have heard so far has been far from comforting. Firstly, the pace. Second, finding out that two eyewitnesses outside Rilwan’s apartment had reported seeing an individual abducted the night that Rilwan was last seen, but that the Police had not a) followed up this report, b) informed his family when they reported his disappearance a week later, is shocking. Even more shocking, the eyewitnesses claim that although the Police arrived at the scene almost immediately, bagged the knife that had been dropped and took numerous photographs, they DID NOT take the witnesses’ statements. They did this a week later after Rilwan had been reported as missing. Is that just genuine incompetence? Does that mean that they did not look for the vehicle described by the witnesses until a week later? At what point does incompetence transition to culpability?

It feels like MPS is not treating this case with the same sense of urgency as those of the more political nature – ie; raids on Usfasgandu, Ambara, and arrests of opposition activists. However, criticism of the Police/state response on Rilwan’s case is not driven by politics. It is driven by the urgency of wanting to find him, wanting to know if he is still alive. At a time when public confidence in Policing is dismal, MPS need to do better than this to prove their critics otherwise.

Which means, MPS have to live up to the financial and technological investment this country has put in them and they have to make Rilwan a priority, even if they don’t agree with his views. They have to sympathise with and not dismiss a mother’s heartbreak and they have to constantly reassure us that they are doing everything they can to #FindMoyameehaa. Again, this doesn’t mean publicly going into the nitty gritty of the investigation. It means ensuring that the search is a MPS wide objective. That every officer on patrol, behind a desk, in uniform knows what the intelligence requirement is, that any information relating to the case is passed on immediately to the team in charge and that processes such as forensics relating to the case is fast tracked.

I hope that the Majlis committee which questioned MPS officials tonight ensured that the investigation is progressing quickly and is based on solid leads. I also hope they reiterated the importance of taking threats seriously. As it comes up to three weeks since Rilwan was last seen, we can play armchair detective all day long, but it is hoped that the trained professionals step up their game, for this country cannot afford for Moyameehaa to exist as a hash tag in perpetuity.

 

 

 

 

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For the many Evans

I was 16 years old when Evan Naseem was murdered in Maafushi jail. Horror stories of Maldivian jails were not new to me, but Evan’s death provided something else – photos of a battered, bruised body to go with the hushed up recollections of police brutality that have always been spoken about within my family. Maafushi and Male’ erupted that day, and in direct comparison to the cold, calculated beating that Evan Naseem received, this outpouring of emotion was spontaneous, riotous. Maldives was in shock.

It took just 48 hours for Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s (then 25 year old) government to kill 5 of its citizens in cold blood. The thinly veiled attempts to justify the shootings as ‘javah, fazaya, havayah’, was deemed enough of an explanation for the population, until of course the establishment of a sham inquiry commission. Lets also not forget the shameless photo opportunity for Maumoon and his son by Evan’s corpse.

A few hundred civilians were arrested for the incidents in Male’ where at most, government buildings were damaged, where as a quick few arrests of NSS Officers were carried out for the murders of 5 inmates. The sorry excuse for an inquiry commission produced a report riddled with redactions for the purposes of national security. It called to hold only the puppets accountable, not the men who pulled their strings.

A trial was conducted; people were sentenced and pardoned in quick succession.  The propaganda machines of the Government went on overdrive, with wild stories of Evan Naseem the drug addict, or Evan Naseem, the juvenile delinquent. Like any of it was a justification for him being wrapped in tarpaulin to be beaten to death by members of the country’s national security services? Like any of it was even a semblance of justice.

The confidence with which Maumoon was able to whitewash the Maafushi jail affair was due to the level of control he exercised over the whole of the Maldives. The pervasiveness of Maumoon’s suppressive regime was evident in the fact that he went onto win another 5-year term following September 19/20 2003.  And yet significant cracks were beginning to appear in the authoritarian fabric that was Maumoon’s Maldives, more powerful than the few percentage points Maumoon had lost in 2003 compared to his previous Presidential elections. As terrible as Evan Naseem’s murder was, the international attention it received, the furore it created domestically gave hope to the minority who had been silently and vocally resisting the dictatorship for years. There was no going back, or so we thought.

Truth be told, I never believed it was the brutality of Maumoon’s regime which led to his ultimate downfall in the 2008 elections. Maybe this is being cynical, but not enough people in the Maldives cared, or maybe not enough people in the country directly/indirectly went through his torture.  In fact, a Human Rights Commission survey, supported by the UNDP in 2005, showed that social and economic rights were more often a priority than political and civil rights. Fair enough. Probably why the auditor general’s ‘time bombs’ of 2008 made more of an impact than testimonies of custodial abuse. With the dawning of ‘Aneh Dhivehi Raajje’ the very optimistic temptation was to think that Maumoon was going to be held accountable for all his misdeeds immediately. An election-induced euphoria does not allow you to keep in mind the state of the budget, the 45.32% that still supported the old regime, the politicised police, army, judiciary and civil service that will do everything in its power to prevent said justice from taking place. It definitely did not leave room for thoughts of ‘coup d’etats’.

Was it ever a realistic option for Maumoon, Adam Zahir and Co. to be held accountable for the countless numbers of people they victimised in their jails? No. Not with the state of our country’s institutions. Why not a truth and reconciliation commission then? I don’t honestly know. Was it realistic to believe that state orchestrated brutality would no longer be condoned? Yes. Naively, yes. Except almost 8 months on from 7/2 the Maldives finds itself right back where it was in 2003. Caseloads of human rights violations, Amnesty International reports of condemnation and denials by Gayooms, resulting in no one being held accountable for the injustices. Not the puppets, and certainly not their masters.

Stories of torture do not go away; do not leave a person easily. The thoughts that Evan’s screams, his pleas for mercy were deliberately overlooked by his abusers are not things that we can or even should forget.  Precisely why Dr. Waheed is a far crueller man that I ever thought possible, for his ability to brush aside the excessive torture that his family and friends were put through, and that, mostly as a result of his opposition to Maumoon. Ironically, those who have undergone torture themselves almost seem to find it easier to not address it than those who are related to them.  They are certainly not over it, their involuntary reactions to men in combat uniforms give them away. Maybe it is too painful, too humiliating and too frustrating to re-visit those days.  Maybe their experiences have given them far greater insight into the minds of the brutes in power then and now to realise that expecting justice in the Maldives is far too great an ask. Nevertheless, my mind remains filled with shadowy pictures of andhagondis, tinu golhis, and fen golhis, reiterated by the MRIs and X-rays of the spines of my loved ones who bear the eternal brunt of Maumoon’s brutality. And of course that battered, bruised body of Evan Naseem.

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V for Vendetta/Verikan/Varihama

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am consumed by the coup. Immediately after February 7th, it was shock and denial, end of February and March to mid April it was anger. Mid April to mid June – begrudging apathy tinged with bouts of melancholy, interspersed with fits of anger. Although to be fair, the coup coalition has provided a lot of incredulous laughs in June, with their condoms, cursed cockerel and black magic women. Acceptance is supposed to hit at some point in this despicable cycle, is it not?

Except, it isn’t. The constant hate filled vitriolic exchanges over twitter, Facebook, on the road, and on TV, is draining, but strangely addictive. Worse is the frustration when you try to counter a coup conspirator/condoner with logic. Those are the times when you realise that there really is nothing either more appropriate or satisfying as responding with ‘Baaghee’ or ‘Kaarrr Kaarrr’. There have of course been moments, dire and demanding, which have highlighted that there are bigger issues than this coup claustrophobia that some of us have managed to wrap ourselves in. Cancer is one, knife crime the other. Essentially, primordial issues of life and death.

Many, angry over the continued political circus that is the Maldives, have pleaded for the country’s politicians to get over themselves and to sit down and start focussing on the issues that matter – reducing violence and fixing the economy. I understand the sentiment. The parents of children knifed to death in a park or on the street don’t want to deal with bickering politicians bargaining over inquiries surrounding transfers of power, crowd size or rallying grounds. They want their children back, they want security, and barring all, they want justice. However, no matter how petty the politics may seem, the issues aren’t disconnected. We live in a time where there are institutions whose sole purpose is to guarantee accountability, yet these same institutions are openly acknowledged as having no legitimacy. Judicial Service Commission, I’m talking about you. The problem lies that in a democracy, it is the people that are supposed to be holding these institutions to account, and yet those who’ve voiced these demands are few and far between.

Holding people accountable for their actions or inactions has never been a strong point for the Maldives. Corruption is rampant across all sectors, MPs continue to faff about in Majlis without tackling bills such as the Penal Code which has been delayed for over 5 years, leaders continue to appoint individuals who have proven to be incompetent, the Civil Service Commission formulates dress codes rather than monitoring the achievement of national objectives, independent institutions aren’t ballsy enough to condemn violations even when confronted with video evidence, MPS and MNDF don’t cooperate unless they are instigating or defending a coup, civil society continue to hide behind their defence of ‘infant institution’ and a large number of people are satisfied as long their own personal and financial security is guaranteed, even if that is the equivalent of a small cash injection prior to an election. Lets not even get into the judiciary, which is truly the bane of all things unaccountable. Ablo Gazee. Enough said.

There are three distinct attitudes that are central to the policy of holding individuals accountable in the Maldives. They are – vendettas, verikan, and varihama.

Vendetta – gangs and some national politicians operate in a similar manner. They feel a challenge towards their territory, power and ego and they respond immediately to eradicate the opposition. Whether this means, stabbing someone to death or opposing a policy/bill because it conflicts with their personal business interests, there is no ‘hihthirikurun’ here. Of course the nexus between politicians, businessmen and gangs are no surprise. 7/2 was clearly the biggest political and personal vendetta to date. Engineered by senior Police/Military officers who served under MAG, legitimised by a sulky VP sick of waiting in the shadows and fronted by those whose egos were most dented with Nasheed and the MDP in power. Vengeance, thy name is #mvcoup. And really, if those who overthrow a democratically elected government, brutalise unarmed civilians and continue to corrupt the judiciary carry on with impunity, who’s to stop an intoxicated, knife-wielding teenager with a chip on his shoulder, from doing the same?

Leading us to – Verikan. Accountability sort of gets lost in the corridors of power doesn’t it? Not always as a result of a corrupt mind set, but sometimes due to a naïve sense of loyalty or ignorance to what may seem minor issues over the more important ones like campaign pledges. Isn’t that why people who have proven time and time again to be incompetent, ineffective and actually disloyal keep being appointed to key positions in government? Lubna Zahir Hussain, and Nexbis Ilyas to name a few. Or what about those like Dr. Waheed and his family, who now very conveniently forget their involvement in the MDP government, when they pass on accountability of all alleged wrong doing in the last three years solely onto Nasheed? Gangs, play the same game. It doesn’t matter what they do, and who they hurt, as long as they stay on top and protect their turf. Loyalty to a person and money over loyalty to society and principles. The only thing accountable to them and their benevolent political and financial masters are monetary accounts. But who are we kidding? We are a deeply feudal system who jumped into democracy in 2008 and are still learning how to tread water. Well some of us anyway. Waheed, definitely, a fish (crow?) out of water.

In between those who are obsessed with vendettas and verikan, are the ‘varihamas’. The ones who quite simply couldn’t care less about who’s in power, who Ablo Gazee is, whether the Police are actually entitled to use their batons this way and not that way, and who find it easier to be horrified at a chair being broken rather than a person, who walk past a person in need of assistance or laugh along with the teenage bullies intimidating the Bangladeshi labourer on a bicycle. You know, the ones who go fabric shopping while there’s tear gas being flung all over the street, and who couldn’t care less whether it was a coup or a cuckold, as long as it doesn’t interfere with Kasauti. How does accountability fare in a society where significant portions are politically apathetic or socially selfish to the point of being cruel? It doesn’t exist.

It doesn’t exist because there is not enough social will for it to exist, and the political and legislative systems that have been mandated to guarantee it find it more conducive to live in a culture of impunity. But maybe Maldivians have to hit rock bottom before we realise the necessity of a criminal justice system that talks to each other, politicians who debate policy rather than demonstrating the worse of their personalities, and parents, teachers and colleagues who tell you off, and help, rather than enabling your bad behaviour. To the families of those who have suffered as a result of knife crime, gang violence and even police brutality, here’s hoping this is rock bottom.

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MDP – Bigger than Jungle

The Maldivian Democratic Party is many things to many people. To Maumoon, Anni maybe the bane of his existence, but the MDP is the more institutional thorn in his side. To the gaabil, ilmee, thaulimee types – the Hassan Saeeds – MDP and its members are a bunch of raucous, uneducated barbarians.  Funny that, especially when they have Riyaz Rasheed, Sandhaanu Ahamaidhi and Injustice Jameel. To the truly colourless, if that is now possible, the MDP still seem to be the only Party that they place their eternally high expectations in, and direct most of their criticism towards. To me, as naive as it may seem, the MDP has always represented the foundation of democracy and the potential for positive change, using the indomitable spirit of its members in the face of adversity.

My MDP is bigger than Anni, bigger than Didi, and it is most certainly bigger than Alhan. No doubt the Party has big personalities, some who are quite honestly as obnoxious as they are entertaining, but the MDP’s strength is still the combination of all of its 48, 353 personalities, not just the ones on stage, behind a microphone, on the street and in the limelight. It would do well for those on the centre stage to understand that. Admittedly the Party has gone through its ups and downs, not securing a Parliamentary majority, disreputable MPs, weak Party leadership –administratively and otherwise, but it has always come together when the going gets tough. As it did on 8th February.

As painful as it is to see the bitchy bickering between MDP members on social networks, during a time where those of the Waheed regime are preying like vultures for any signs of decay, I’m glad its happening. It demonstrates that dissent is possible within the Party and that it is not being suppressed, but rather that if there is dispute over Party policy/action; it should take place within internal Party structures – the Gaumee Majlis/primaries.

It is only right when Dr. Didi and Alhan seemed to want to take action irrespective of Party line and the Gaumee Majlis, that people question their motives and their loyalty to the Party. Obviously, rumours of Alhan’s STO debt, issuing statements in violation of Party lines, and rendezvous with coup leaders don’t help. With regards to the shadow cabinet, apparently proposed by Alhan and Dr. Didi, questions of their loyalty arose, simply because of the fact that the MDP’s Gaumee Majis had already passed a resolution to not recognise the Waheed regime as legitimate. I believe this was on 8th February. The MDP Parliamentary Group had put forward a statement that they questioned the legitimacy of Waheed’s Presidency, and refused to respond to Waheed’s address, as they were not the Party in opposition, but the Party of the Government that had been voted in for a 5 year term. For Alhan and Dr. Didi to then propose a shadow cabinet is surely an admission of recognition towards Waheed’s regime and an acceptance that MDP is ready to play an opposition role? Preposterous. File a motion at the Gaumee Majlis, then get back to us.  Another Presidential candidate other than Anni? Fair enough, contest in the party primary, and prove there is a better candidate. The opportunity to contest, the opportunity to prove oneself is what I’ve always believed to be the beauty of MDP.

Then of course there are people like Kalhey, who left claiming that there were too many undue influences within the Party. Was it the rumours of Fala possibly contesting Kalhey’s seat in the next Majlis election? Was it really pressure from certain members of the Party for him to stand down as a candidate for an elected PG position? So what if it was? He should have had the strength to stick it out and to fight his corner, if he really did have something he was fighting for other than his financial security. Thousands of MDP members consistently come out on the streets standing up against Police brutality and the Waheed regime. They are at times angry, frustrated and hopeless, but they often gain strength in their unity, in the hope of the possible. Could Kalhey not connect with that sentiment, or did he never really want to?

Here is where I stand. The MDP is too important to watch it disintegrate over loud personalities, who know how to work a crowd. Those who cannot get over themselves, who cannot admit they made mistakes, who cannot accept dissenting views, who are rolling in debt and need the financial security offered by Gasim and others, who cannot work within Party structures to resolve disputes, who cannot appreciate the power of a vote in their favour and who purposefully discredit the Party for the benefit of those it stands against need to think twice. We are better than PPM/DRP/JP not because of our leadership, but because our members.

Again, being incredibly naïve, it no longer matters to me if we don’t have a majority in Parliament, or don’t win an election. I would rather the hypocritical ‘come and go’s go for good, rather than vacillating between positions which benefit only themselves and not the wider MDP.  I hope then that we can accept our own failures, learn from them and prove again that MDP is not just strong in numbers, but sets the bar high in democratic principles too. I remain with my MDP.

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Keeping up Appearances over Keeping up Democracy?

As expected, Thursday’s events at the Majlis divided opinion. On one side you have the colourless and the coup leaders stating that MDP MPs behaved like monkeys. On the other, you have thousands of protestors celebrating them as heroes. On which side do I stand? With the thousands that peacefully protested on the streets of course.

It didn’t happen without warning. MDP’s Parliamentary Group announced on Wednesday, 29th February that they would not permit an illegitimate leader to address the Parliament, and they didn’t. Did people really expect a simple, polite walkout? Surely as ‘unique’ a coup as this one, deserves as unique a response? So, they shouted, they danced, they held up ‘baaqee’ signs, they physically blocked entrances, they sat on tables and they got beaten up by MNDF’s SPG officers, and in one instance by Mahloof. Worse than engineering and legitimising a coup d’etat? Worse than the brutal beating of protestors on the 7th, 8th of February? Worse than the lack of condemnation over police brutality from Dr. Waheed, the so called life long supporter of democracy and human rights? Absolutely not.

What is it that riles up the colourless and coup leaders so much about the mobilisation of people on the street? Why is that an armed mutiny of a few hundred MPS and MNDF officers can be so easily condoned but a dancing MP is so easily condemned? The colourless bang on about peaceful dialogue, due process and alignment with the constitution. Do they not realise that the right to assembly is guaranteed by the constitution? That, that very constitution came about as a result of the combination of mobilisation of people AND dialogue?

The real crux of the matter may not be that they are squeamish over the behaviour of MPs, but the fact they find it more convenient to criticise real people who care enough to come out on the street, who face riot police and coup leaders and who tell the so ‘called government’ what they think, rather than hiding behind the jargon of etiquette. Or they really don’t realise, unlike many others the severity of the current crisis. Maybe they don’t feel scared, as I do, when they see a MPS/MNDF uniform, they are able to overlook police brutality and they are able to justify a coup as Anni’s just rewards for his dealings with Abdulla Gaazee. Quite simply, they don’t miss the freedoms that 3 years of democratic rule allowed us, because they took it for granted.

There is a reason for protests. It is to show the Abbas Adhil Rizaas and the KDs, and the Jangiya Nazim’s and the international community that it is not just Anni, not just Ibu at the all party talks and not just MDP MPs, calling for an election, but thousands of people. Call the MDP MPs shameless, call the protestors disruptive, call it what you want, but also have the nerve to call a coup a coup.  Condemn violent protestors, but also have the courage to condemn police violence. 7th February’s mutiny was shameless. 8th and 9th February’s brutality was despicable. Worse, is over 24 days of military government legitimised by a puppet dictator and his ‘educated’ supporters.

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