31 March 2017, Male’: Since President Yameen narrowly survived a no-confidence motion against the Parliament Speaker on Monday, he has initiated a new campaign of intimidation and harassment against opposition leaders.
President Yameen has stepped up his harassment of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM). On Thursday night, the Civil Court issued an enforcement order instructing the police to stop President Maumoon from using the PPM logo, flag or name. The Court also ordered police to disband President Maumoon’s office, thereby obstructing political activity led by President Maumoon’s faction of the PPM.
Furthermore, just hours after the parliamentary vote on Monday, the Yameen faction of the PPM expelled President Maumoon from the party. The PPM committee that expelled President Maumoon has no legal standing because it was suspended last year. President Maumoon’s ‘expulsion’ from the PPM was therefore conducted in direct contravention of the party’s Standing Orders. The PPM was founded and has been led by President Maumoon since 2011.
President Yameen has instigated new charges of terrorism against President Mohamed Nasheed, leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The new charges relate to Yameen’s brief isolation by the Maldives National Defence Force in 2010.
Hon. Qasim Ibrahim MP, Leader of the Jumhooree Party, (JP) was summoned to the Police Headquarters on Wednesday evening. Police questioned Hon. Qasim for over four hours, accusing him of “attempting to offer bribes”, “influencing the official conduct of a public official” and “intimidating, improperly influencing a voter.” Police specifically questioned Hon. Qasim over a public speech he gave in which he invited Members of Parliament to join the opposition movement and vote to remove the Speaker of Parliament.
Hon. Qasim has been banned from travelling outside the Maldives. The bank accounts of his business, Villa Shipping Company Private Ltd, were frozen days before the parliamentary vote.
Hon. Abdulla Riyaz MP, Deputy Leader of Jumhooree Party, was also summoned to the police on Monday. Hon. Riyaz was questioned on charges of “spreading false rumours” and “attempting to influence the police.” Hon. Riyaz was also questioned over a statement he made at a press conference calling on police officers to uphold the Constitution, and not to obey unlawful orders.
Hon. Faris Maumoon MP, meanwhile, who has been coordinating the opposition’s efforts from within the ruling party, was summoned five times to the Police prior to Monday’s vote. Hon. Faris was questioned over audit report from 2008, on a case that has hitherto not been linked to the lawmaker.
Colonel Mohamed Nazim, a former Minister of Defense and leading critic of President Yameen, was taken from house arrest back to jail yesterday, in an inexplicable and abrupt move. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recently ruled Nazim’s incarceration illegal under international law and called for his immediate release from detention.
The MDP’s Secretary General, Anas Abdul Sattar, has also been summoned to the police for Thursday evening. He has not been informed of the charges against him.
President Yameen has dramatically ramped up his crackdown since the opposition attempted to remove the Speaker of Parliament on Monday. Yameen and his faction only survived the no-confidence motion after the grave irregularities in procedure and the military forcibly removed opposition MPs from the chamber.
Monday’s no-confidence motion saw President Yameen’s majority in Parliament collapse. The President routinely enjoyed support from some 60 MPs earlier this year, but managed to muster just 48 votes in the highly irregular and legally contentious no-confidence motion carried out in the 85-member parliament.
This week’s crackdown appears to be an attempt by the President to effectively criminalise the political opposition and thwart any attempts by the parliament to hold the President and his regime accountable.
On 24 March, key opposition leaders, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President Nasheed, Hon. Qasim Ibrahim and Sheikh Imran signed an agreement to unite against Yameen’s increasing authoritarianism.
Commenting on Yameen’s latest crackdown on opposition leaders, Minority Leader Hon. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih MP said:
“Time and again, whenever the President feels threatened, he unleashes a campaign of intimidation against opposition leaders and critics. Now, Yameen’s tactics are becoming more flagrant and only signals the extreme levels of insecurity affecting President Yameen and his regime.” ”
Hon. Qasim Ibrahim MP, Jumhooree Party Leader said:
“The targeting of the opposition’s leadership appears to be a knee- jerk reaction to the opposition gaining ground. We will not cower, we will not be intimidated.”
Hon. Faris Maumoon MP, Progressive Party of Maldives said:
“Maldivians must see this renewed crackdown for what it is: a test for democracy. We must remain steadfast in supporting each other. We will remain steadfast until we set the country on the path to democracy.”
Hon. Anara Naeem MP, Adhaalath Party said:
“Adaalath Party will work for the betterment of the Maldivian people. We will work with our partners, to achieve the reforms Maldivian people want.”