In a curious turn for Maldives politics, former President Mohamed Nasheed has been debarred from heading the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party amidst reports that the ruling alliance is taking recourse to “non-state” actors to silence the opposition.
The government of President Abdulla Yameen has amended the Prison and Paroles law to strip Nasheed of the MDP presidency. Under the amendment, politicians jailed cannot hold high-level or leadership posts in political parties.
Nasheed is serving a 13-year jail term following his conviction on trumped up terrorism charges related to the detention of a judge during his tenure. His party has rejected the charge and asserted that the trial was a politically-motivated attempt by the government to bar Nasheed from challenging president Yameen in the 2018 presidential election.
Talk Of Emergency?
Political circles are agog with the talk the government may impose an emergency on the grounds of “threat to national security” to ward off troubles, but observers say President Abdulla Yameen may hold back his “fire” for two reasons.
One, if an emergency is declared, it will attract avoidable criticism internationally. Two, the Geneva-based UN Commission for human rights is set to undertake a review of the human rights record of his government this month.
This May Day witnessed thousands of people taking to the streets in the largest anti-government protest in a decade. Police cracked down on the protesters; and several people were injured. Opposition Adhaalath President Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed, Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim, and vocal social media critics like Yameen Rasheed, Waddey and Hamid Shafeeu were among the hundreds arrested according to reports.
“The fear and intimidation we thought were a thing of the past are now back,” blogger Sighpad Mohamed wrote in The Minivan News, which also reported that the Government of Yameen is labelling the opposition campaign for the release of Nasheed as the one that promotes Islamic radicalism.
Photos Of Non-State Actors
On Friday, May 8 night, conservative Adhaalath Party’s Sheikh Ilyas Hussein held a sermon attended by thousands. He warned of a calamity “if brutality becomes common,” and appealed to the security forces “to be compassionate towards citizens.”
“If there’s one group of people I respect in Maldivian society, it is the police officers and soldiers, because I believe they are carrying out a religious and national duty. I know the burdens they have to bear. But do not harm anyone without a just cause. No matter how high up the order comes from, do not harm anyone without just cause. Allah is watching. On the days He switches on his CC cameras, there will be nothing you can do,” he was quoted as saying in his sermon.
Meanwhile, some photos have appeared in Male that has raised the hackles of the ruling establishment, Asian Tribune reported. One of the photos shows President Yameen at a reception hosted by the First Lady. Another photo shows Yameen addressing a rally.
The Opposition MDP is quick to cash in on these photos as the President was seen in “the company of gangsters” in the first and “addressing the gangsters” in the second.
Some of the gangsters wanted by police are also seen with President Yameen in the pictures, giving thus a fresh lease to the charge that the regime is using criminal gangs as “non-state” actors to silence the opposition campaign for freedom of jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Tourism Minister In A Spot
Opposition law maker Ahmed Mahloof was the first to level such a charge two months ago. He had accused Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb of using gangs to commit politically motivated “state-sponsored” crimes.
Adeeb, who is also the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) deputy leader, is involved in a number of “atrocities,” including the arson attack on Raajje TV in October 2013 and the stabbing of former MP Alhan Fahmy in February 2014, he said, adding “In reality, the current government is a big gang.”
He went on to remark: “There aren’t that many people in this gang. There about six people in this gang. President Yameen is the boss. Some people might find this hard to hear, but I’m saying this with daring because President Yameen would not keep Adeeb close knowing the serious atrocities in this country are carried out by him.”
Already the nexus between Maldives Tourism Minister, Ahmed Adeeb, who is a known close aide of President Abdulla Yameen, and Sri Lankan drug traffickers has become the “talk of the town.”
Adeeb is also allegedly encouraging Islamic radicals in the island nation as a part of State policy which gives a free run to ‘radical’ preachers.
American security specialists have cautioned the Yameen regime that “opening the doors” for Islamic fundamentalist youth could pose a threat not only to the Maldivian atolls, but to Sri Lanka and the Indian sub-continent also “in the short to near term.”
Local reports claim that Minister Adeeb has linkages with “Heroin King” Weli Suda through “common friend” Sri Lankan lawmaker, Duminda Silva.
While Silva is in the firing line for his linkages with the “Heroin King,” Suda was recently deported to Colombo from Pakistan as a part of the Sharif government’s drive against narcotics smuggling and drug traffickers.
While Adeeb has chosen to generally ignore the criticism, the government of President Yameen has been observing a studied silence on Adeeb’s riches and his close nexus with the underworld, even as sections of law enforcement officials have voiced concern over the growing clout of drug business and religious fundamentalists.
Mahloof’s charges against Adeeb are indeed long. “A number of senior police officers are beholden to Adeeb and followed his orders,” he says, claiming that any police officer who tries to investigate Adeeb would be fired.
To the discomfiture of the Yameen government, Tourism Minister Adeeb is embroiled in a US $6-million scam that has rocked the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company.
The scam came to light in a special audit undertaken after former deputy speaker Ahmed Nazim presented to the President evidence of corruption indulged in by Minister Adeeb. The Auditor General who had conducted the audit has since been sidelined to deflect attention from Adeeb’s “near rags to riches” journey. Nazim has also fallen out of favour with President Yameen.
The Maldivian Democratic Party, (MDP), which is fighting with its back to the wall, finds in the Adeeb saga a powerful weapon to beat President Yameen.
“He (Adeeb) is the ATM for the ruling alliance,” an MDP leader said speaking on the condition of anonymity as he feared reprisals from the government.