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Maldives crackdown on opposition - President Nasheed arrests first victim, wife of opposition MP

Maldives President Nasheed cracked down on opposition last night, his first victim the young wife of Ahmed Nazim, opposition MP and Deputy Leader of opposition party People’s Alliance. In a series of raids ordered by President Nasheed, police ransacked MP Ahmed Nazim’s corporate offices and his home, confiscating laptops, hard drives and documentation. Commissioner of Police Faseeh, a Nasheed appointee, led the 40 member police team that carried out the raids.

Twenty four hours after she was detained, Nazim’s young wife remains in handcuffs in police custody, the charges against her still unknown. Speaking to press today, a member of her immediate family said that police charged into the private home last night terrifying MP Nazim’s two young children with their attack, and manhandled away their mother in front the children’s frightened eyes. The two young children are greatly traumatized and still cannot be consoled, the family member said.

Ahmed Nazim was outside the country on a business trip, but is scheduled to return to Male’ tonight for the swearing in of the new parliament this Thursday. Nazim, MP for Meemu Atoll in the outgoing parliament, was elected with a large majority for the Meemu Dhiggaru constituency on May 9th, solidly defeating President Nasheed’s candidate.

Police today told media that the raids were carried out to confiscate evidence required for their investigation into corruption allegations leveled against MP Nazim by Auditor General Maakun Naeem. Maakun Naeem, a close confidante of President Nasheed’s and a leading member of the Maakun family dominant in Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, had alleged that one of MP Nazim’s companies, Namira Engineering, had won a government tender by engaging in corrupt practices. Police said that they had acted within the bounds of a court issued arrest warrant, the said warrant giving them power of confiscation of laptops, hard drives and print and electronic media suspected to contain evidence of the alleged crime. The justification for the warrant given by police was the testimony of two of Nazim’s ex-employees. However, police did not reveal the justification given in the warrant for the arrest of Nazim’s wife.

While the powers of arrest lie with the Maldives Police Service, it is a civil force answerable to the Home Minister and not to President Nasheed. The Home Minister is answerable to parliament for his actions. However, Nasheed has kept the Home Minister’s portfolio empty for five of his six months in office, nominally appointing his pimp Defence Minister Amin Faisal as Acting Home Minister. By combining the army and police under one Minister, Nasheed has violated a fundamental principle of democracy. The Police are led by Nasheed appointee Commissioner Faseeh, who leapfrogged to his post over more experienced and more senior police officers. Police attacks on the public and police arrests under President Nasheed have been directly ordered by Nasheed, although this is against the constitution and the laws of the country.

As pointed out by the former Minister for Legal Reform Mohamed Nasheed in a scathing rejoinder to President Nasheed’s recent public vow that he would arrest “certain” people in the upcoming days, “The President has absolutely no legal power of arrest, not even for one second”.

President Nasheed made this vow at a rally by his party Maldivian Democratic Party held in Male’ on Thursday May 22, 2009. He swore to his ecstatic followers that he would arrest “certain” people even if for a very short time.

Writing in his blog, the former Legal Reform Minister said that there was no law or even part of a law which gave the President the power of arrest. He stressed that the constitution very clearly stated the conditions in which persons could be detained and arrested and that nowhere did the constitution state that arrests could be carried out upon the order of the President.

Speaking in very ruthless language, President Nasheed had reiterated that as President of the Maldives, he had the absolute power to persecute and arrest people, that he would make use of these powers, and that no one would be able to stop from using these powers. Responding to President Nasheed’s statement, the former Minister pointed out that the President could only issue an order for the arrest of a person only under one situation. He noted that that particular situation would be after the President declares a State of Emergency and suspends all civil laws, takes all military powers of the state into his own hands, and issues such an order as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces.

President Nasheed’s crackdown on opposition leaders and opposition MPs is being executed in a timely manner, on a flawlessly set stage where President Nasheed holds the reins of the Home Ministry, and hence the police, and those of the Attorney General in his hands. It is a stage where the democratic check on the president, the parliament, is in suspension, as the outgoing parliament has finished its term of office and the new parliament waits to take oath of office.

President Nasheed’s attack on MP Nazim just days before the swearing in of the new parliament is clearly designed to influence the first vote in the new parliament, the vote for the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of parliament. Nazim is slated for the post of Deputy Speaker, the nominee of the opposition coalition holding the largest voting block in the new parliament, former President Gayoom’s Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) and Nazim’s People’s Alliance (PA). Reliable sources report that President Nasheed has promised the post of Speaker to his childhood friend and cousin by marriage Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, MDP MP for Hinnavaru Constituency, and the Deputy Speaker’s post to Ahmed Hamza, another one of Nasheed’s close confidantes and MDP MP for Faafu constituency.

Nasheed may be able to swing this vote in his favour if he can eliminate some opposition coalition MPs while securing the votes of most of the 13 independent MPs. Almost all independent MPs initially refused to join Nasheed. However, prior to his attack on Nazim, President Nasheed reportedly threatened two independent with trumped up fraud cases. In addition, his pet hounds in the Elections Commission have formally requested the Prosecutor General to press charges against newly elected MP for Alifu Alifu Thoddoo constituency Ali Waheed on the charge of campaigning on voting day. This three pronged attack on newly elected MPs may intimidate MPs enough to give Nasheed the winning edge on Thursday’s parliamentary vote.

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