THE EMBASSY holds a media briefing

17 February 2016, New Delhi – His Excellency Ahmed Mohamed, Ambassador of Republic of Maldives to India held a press briefing on 17 February 2016 at the Maldives Embassy to provide an update on the recent political developments in the Maldives to the India Media.

Information on the media briefing held at the Maldives High Commission in New Delhi

The Ambassador, H.E. Ahmed Mohamed held a media briefing with journalists from the Indian media at the Maldives High Commission in New Delhi on 17 February 2016 at 12:00 hours.

The Ambassador, H.E. Ahmed Mohamed began the session by extending a very warm welcome to the journalists to the Maldives Embassy. The Ambassador thanked them for their presence on such a short notice.

At the outset the Ambassador stated that there seems to be a lot of misinformation that have crept into the public domain about the Maldives – especially on the political developments of the Maldives and that there remains a number of questions unanswered. H.E. Ahmed Mohamed stated that he feels that as the official representative of Maldives stationed in India it forms part of his duty to have frequent media interactions to share information on the various developments of the Maldives that makes or are making headlines.

The Ambassador then moved on to brief the media on the specific topics and responded to questions from the media.

Presented below is a summary of the points as was presented by the Ambassador.

Release of Former President Nasheed to travel to UK for medical treatment

There are some specific facts that you may be not aware of. Time and again it is being brought up that there is no democracy in the country and there are no human rights.

This has been reported and re-reported but what has been not been brought to the forefront is that, and perhaps many of you may not know is that, despite being a person serving a sentence Former President Nasheed is travelling on a Diplomatic Passport proactively issued to him by my government.

This shows that the Government has no animosity against Mr. Nasheed. It shows that the Government is treating him like a Former Head of State irrespective of the fact that he is an intern in Jail.

As provided under the Maldives Prisons and Parole Act a person who is in prison can only get a travel document to travel to a port of call. A diplomatic passport gives the person free access to travel throughout the world.

Maldivian Law also states that inmates can be allowed to travel overseas for medical treatment only in cases where medical treatment for the diagnosed condition is not available in the country.

Specialist doctors from the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male’ examined the medical reports of Former President Nasheed, and concluded that the treatment for the diagnosed condition is available in the Maldives.

However, Mr. Nasheed expressed his desire to be treated overseas despite what the relevant laws and regulations provide for.

Based on this and by the virtues of the powers vested on the President of Maldives, H.E. President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom as a gesture of goodwill granted passage for Former President Mohamed Nasheed to travel to the UK for medical treatment. President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom also allowed the issuance of a diplomatic passport to Mr. Nasheed, as he is a Former President of the Maldives, instead of the one port of call travel document that would have been issued otherwise.

However, despite this transparent and open dealing that President Yameen has granted to Mr. Nasheed to undertake medical treatment in the UK, Mr. Nasheed has misused this opportunity to deceitfully tarnish the reputation of the Maldives and its Government who has helped him in his treatment.

By damaging the reputation of the Maldives, the Government and its constitutional offices Former President Nasheed very conveniently forgets that he is excising this freedom of speech because he has been given a diplomatic passport to travel overseas. If human rights, as he says, is in danger in the Maldives he would not be sitting in the UK today.

Reconvening of Political Party Talks by the Government

His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom on 11 February 2016 announced to reconvene the Political Party Talks with the aim of accelerating progress, development, and national unity of the country.

Invitations to the Political Parties (PPM, MDA, JP, MDP and AP) were sent out on 15 February 2016. It is hoped that the talks will prove successful and that they will deliver on the promise of meaningful progress to the people of the Maldives.

President Yameen initiated dialogue between the political parties in the country in June 2015. Three rounds of discussion were held between the Government and the MDP and JP.

The discussions—the last of which was held in July 2015—focused mainly on the agenda and structure of the Talks. The Talks did not continue primarily because the MDP put a number of preconditions including the changing of Court verdicts, which no Government would be in a position to negotiate with a political party.

President Yameen requested the UN Secretary General on 23 June 2015 for assistance in holding the Talks. A high-level UN team is expected to visit the Maldives in the coming days for detailed discussions with the Government and other stakeholders in the Maldives. The Government hopes that the requested assistance from the UN would materialise soon.

Forged “Arrest Warrant” issued by a Magistrate of an Island Court

On 6th February night, the Maldives Police discovered an “arrest warrant” issued against President Yameen.

The Maldives police, in its investigation, found that the Magistrate of Maamigili Island Mr Ahmed Nihan issued a forged “warrant”, and former Prosecutor General of Maldives Mr Muhuthaz Muhsin planned and conspired in forging this document.

The two individuals were taken into police custody, under a court warrant, and have been detained by an order of the High Court of the Maldives.

The Police has evidence that the former PG Muhuthaz travelled to Maamigili in the middle of the night (6th February night), and together with Mr. Nihan opened the Maamigili island court and prepared the “arrest warrant” on the letterhead of another island court, Kaafu Atoll Maafushi magistrate court.

In the Maldives, every island has an island magistrate court, and each magistrate court is headed by a magistrate. In the forged “arrest warrant”, the Maldives Police was listed as the agency requesting for the warrant, although no such requests were ever made by the Police.

According to the Police, shortly after the copies of the forged “arrest warrant” surfaced near the President’s Official Residence in Male’, Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who is in the United Kingdom to receive medical treatment, called a senior officer of the Maldives National Defence Force that an “arrest warrant” is issued against the President, and therefore the President should be arrested. Police is investigating the matter.

Appeal on Former President Nasheed’s Case

The Maldives Supreme Court, on 3 February 2016, has started hearing on the appeal filed by the Prosecutor General, on the Criminal Court’s verdict to sentence former President Mr. Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in prison.

At the hearing, lawyers of former President Nasheed requested for additional time to prepare the case to which the full Bench of Supreme Court agreed to grant more time.

The Prosecutor General had filed the appeal with the Supreme Court on 17 September 2015, after the High Court rejected the first appeal stating that the grounds it was filed were not meritorious. The Supreme Court, after a preliminary hearing, decided on 25 November 2015 to accept the PG’s appeal.

Sentencing of Sheikh Imran Abdulla for 12 years in Prison

On 16 February 2016, the Criminal Court has sentenced Sheikh Imran for 12 years in Prison. This sends a clear message that hate speech, and incitement to commit violence will not be tolerated in the Maldives.

The Criminal Court sentenced Sheikh Imran Abdulla to 12 years in prison for inciting violence at a demonstration organized by his Party on 1 May 2015. In his speech to the crowd at the demonstration, Sheikh Imran incited those present to commit acts of violence. His speech was seized and acted upon by numerous individuals who went on to vandalize public property, and thereafter individuals attacked law enforcement officials.

That the leaders of the protest; namely Sheikh Imran from the Adhaalath Party, incited violence amongst protesters with the aim of toppling the Government and called for clashes with the Police, if necessary.

The pickup lorry used for the sound system of the protest speeded through the Police barricade injuring some Police officers. On inquiry it was found that the driver was paid for by the protest leaders and vehicle was carrying a large amount of petrol on its back. Some protesters have attacked Government offices including the Maldives Customs Service.

Such actions will not be tolerated in the Maldives, or in any other country, and any individual shown to have committed such offences will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of their position.

The protest was declared violent by key independent institutions including the Maldives Police Service (MPS), Police Integrity Commission (PIC), Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Elections Commission (EC).

Until few days before the demonstration, Sheikh Imran’s party was in coalition with the ruling party, and the Party’s senior figures were at high ranking positions in the Government.

It is essential in any democracy, and particularly in a developing democracy such as the Maldives that fundamental rights and freedoms are encouraged and upheld. However, such freedoms do not grant any individual the right to act in any manner that they see fit, especially when those actions are at the detriment of others.

Fundamental rights and freedoms such as the right to protest and the right to freedom of expression are essential, and encouraged within the Maldives. However, such rights must only be exercised within the confines of the law.

Sheikh Abdulla by his conviction and sentence has acted outside of the law, and this cannot be tolerated else chaos will reign.

The world faces an existential threat from extremist ideologies and the Government of the Maldives is committed to ensuring that such ideologies are not allowed to prosper within these islands.

Extremism does not necessarily take the form of religious extremism; a call by an individual to commit violence in the name of a political ideology is as dangerous, and must be dealt with in the same way.

The Government of the Maldives is steadfast in its campaign against such actions, whilst at the same time allowing citizens to protest, and to criticize where they wish, as it is steadfast in its commitment to justice.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation related corruption issues

An audit carried out by the Auditor General’s Office has shown that funds embezzled from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) amounts to over USD79 million (MVR1.2 billion).

The Government announced that is committed to take action over the embezzlement of funds through the state tourism promotion company and full cooperation from the Government will be provided to carry out any criminal investigation over this.

The voice of dissent is NOT stifled

Almost all mentioned here were integral member of President’s administration.

I do not agree that it was the voice of dissent that is being stifled with their arrest. Because if you see the track record ever since they were holding these portfolios there was no dissent against them.

Their arrests came because of certain inquiries and investigations that were conducted which clearly indicated that these persons have abused the powers vested on them to undertake activities that are punishable under Maldivian Law. Therefore it is the process of Law that has led to their arrests and convictions.

If there was a voice of dissent that is being stifled, then the Maldives would be without a political opposition in the Parliament. But today we have in the Maldives a very strong and vocal opposition in the Parliament. The Constitution itself ensures certain checks and balances against the misuse of authority.

Former Vice President Jameel avoided the opportunity given to him to respond to the Parliament on the case brought against him for impeachment. He left the country and it was only after the impeachment motion was passed by the Parliament he had anything to say to respond to the accusations made against him.

Two days before Vice President left to China he appeared on public TV and re-iterated his loyalty to the President and reaffirmed his trust on President and system of governance in the country.

Similarly former Defence Minister also appeared on public TV couple of days before he was removed from the Cabinet and stated that he stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the President and how much he admires the works of the President.

The accusations and rhetoric emerged, again, only when the due process of law was followed in all these cases.

Ministers in Maldivians are not politicians in its sense of the word. We have a Presidential system and unlike Parliamentary systems Ministers are not elected members of the parliament. Here we are talking of technocrats turned politicians as soon as they are convicted of any wrong doing.

Recent CMAG Visit to Maldives

CMAG held discussions with Government and Political Parties. Their main agenda was to find a way forward for democracy consolidation in Maldives – how can they assist Maldives in this process.

So far what CW and other such organizations have done is to raise concern through issuance of statements. Making statements by sitting outside the Maldives and not knowing the dynamics of politics in the Maldives does not help anyone.

If Maldives is to be penalized for upholding the rule of law, then the debate on the Maldives is taking a different path which we fail to understand.

Need to work with government in capacity building. The fact of the matter is that from 2009 no substantial assistance has been received from International Organizations to strengthen the democratization process.

Maldives-India Relations

The relationship between the Maldives and India remains very strong. The Maldives-India relations have improved drastically as compared to what we have seen in early 2013 or early 2014. The relationship is on an upward trajectory as manifested by the bilateral visits of ministers and top officials.

India understands what is going on in the Maldives and India understands that solutions have to be home grown instead of being prescriptive. India has been a very valuable partner and the relationship between the two nation continues with due respect to each other’s concerns. As such, involvement of India in the International Community’s efforts to review the situation in the Maldives will surely be beneficial to the Government and people of Maldives.

As we speak, Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya along with its support ships INS Mysore and INS Deepak are on a four-day visit in the Maldives and this is also a very healthy sign of the relationship we have.

The signals we get from India have higher luminosity than what we used to see in the past and at any time the Honorable Prime Minister of India wishes to visit Maldives, even at a short notice, the Maldives will be ready to welcome the PM.

Maldives being labeled as the biggest per capita contributor to radicalization

If we take per capita terms for anything in the Maldives it will be higher because the population is small.  However, we admit to the fact that there have been Maldivians and there are Maldivians involved in Iraq and Syria. We are not immune to the dangers of radicalization along with many other countries around the globe.

However, labeling the Maldives as the biggest per capita contributor to radicalization is an exaggeration and statistical manipulation.

We are doing whatever we can to address this issue. We continue to remain engaged with many other intelligence agencies across the globe. We have a good arrangement with our neighbors especially with India and other regional, Middle Eastern countries and Western countries in sharing intelligence in our efforts to tackle radicalization.