Maldives’ first democratically elected President, Mohamed Nasheed on Monday rejected the call of the new Maldives Police Commissioner for the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to become an institution “that people fear”, and instead insisted that the MPS’ overriding goal should continue to be “to protect and to serve”.
In his first press conference since Dr. Waheed appointed him police commissioner on 9 February, the new commissioner of police, Mr. Abdulla Riyaz vowed to “make the police an institution that people fear”. Riyaz, one of the leaders of the coup which ousted President Nasheed, has long faced accusations of involvement in torture and the other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment during his time as a senior manager of Maldivian prisons under the former regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Since taking over as police commissioner under Dr. Waheed, Riyaz has overseen a series of brutal police crackdowns against peaceful protesters. This has already resulted in over one hundred arrests and detentions. The latest incident came on Saturday, when the police, without provocation, used water cannon and pepper spray to attack a group of peaceful protesters who had bound their own hands with plastic cable ties in solidarity with fellow protesters who had been earlier detained.
Speaking to pro-democracy supports in Male, who have been gathering nightly since the coup took place on February 7th, President,Nasheed said that because of the comments of the new police leadership and the violent actions of the police themselves, the MPS is rapidly losing the support of the Maldivian people. He also argued that the left unchecked, such police brutality would pave the way for Maldives’ return to authoritarianism.
President Nasheed thus urged the international community to continue to press Dr. Waheed’s Government to ensure that the police respect human rights.
He noted that, so-far, the Waheed regime has blatantly ignored the calls of India, the EU and the Commonwealth for police restraint, for a credible investigation into the events of 7th February and of violations since then, and for early elections.
“The international community spoke with one voice to ask for the police to respect human rights and to be restrained. The Waheed Government has responded by calling on the police to become an institution “to be feared”. I hope the international community has taken note of this and shares our concern”, said the former President today.
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor
Spokesperson, International Affairs