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Voter Intimidation in Maldives - Arsonists attack Ghassan Maumoon’s High Court witness

Arsonists set fire last night to the Thimarafushi residence of Usha Rasheed, a witness in Ghassan Maumoon’s High Court appeal to annul the May 9th vote in Thimarafushi and for a fresh vote. Usha Rasheed yesterday testified in the Maldives High Court that the May 9th parliamentary elections vote in Thimarafushi took place in a climate of terror and intimidation by Maldivian Democratic Party Candidate Musthafa. Her testimony was supported in court by several other witnesses, including independent media reporters and election watchdogs such as the Maldives Human Rights Commission and Transparency Maldives.

Immediately after her testimony in court, Usha received several threatening phone calls from known MDP thugs working under MDP candidate Thimarafushi Musthafa. The fire set by MDP razed her house to the ground, injuring several people. MDP candidate Musthafa is the well known gang lord and loan shark who ran the infamous Mercury Light Café, the base of MDP thugs in Male’.

In a statement issued early this morning, Ghassan Maumoon’s campaign office condemned the arson act in strong words and called on the perpetrators to bring an immediate end to all such acts. It also called upon the Maldives Police Service to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. It called upon the police to protect the citizens of Thimarafushi from further harm. Prior to this, MDP set fire to a fishing vessel owned by a Ghassan supporter.

Ghassan Maumoon, the DRP candidate who contested the Thaa Thimarafushi constituency, was successful last week in obtaining a stay order from the High Court to halt announcement of final results of his constituency pending a High Court decision on his appeal for cancellation of the Thimarafushi vote and for a fresh vote. His lawyers have filed in court photographic evidence, official records of the Elections Commission and testimony by witnesses of illegal actions by MDP candidate Musthafa, his followers and various Elections Commission officials on voting day. Elections results sheets and police reports were shown to have been tampered and edited. Little valid evidence has been shown by the Elections Commission in rebuttal of Ghassan’s lawyers’ arguments.

In the ongoing saga of the Thimarafushi vote rigging, Elections Commissioners continue to give conflicting statements to the media about events that day. The Commission has also tried to cover up the major issue of a missing 115 ballot papers by claiming that these missing ballots were empty ballots. The whole question of why and how 115 ballot papers went “missing” from one vote box has not been answered by the Commission. This issue alone throws the legality of the Thimarafushi vote into question, something that the Commission led by hardcore MDP lawyer Hussain Siraj is trying hard to hide from the public. While any vote has to be cancelled if shown to have been rigged and taken under intimidation and fear, Commissioner Siraj has steadfastly reiterated that, in his view, the final result would not be affected even if ballot papers were mysteriously missing and voters voted in a climate of fear.

According to testimony filed in court by Ghassan’s witnesses and lawyers, throughout the voting day Thimarafushi residents were threatened with physical harm and death by MDP thugs led by the MDP candidate Musthafa. Residents’ identity cards were forcibly taken by Musthafa and kept with him till they vowed to vote for him. Bribes were offered by Musthafa to several voters on voting day.

Election watchdog, Transparency Maldives, has told media that its election monitors on Thimarafushi on voting day verify that Thimarafushi voting was not free and fair, and that it took place under threat and fear. Transparency Maldives also stated that voter confidence in the Elections Commission has been lost due to its mismanagement of the parliamentary elections. It cited several examples of this.

The reprisals against Ghassan supporters on Thimarafushi are an example of the ruthlessness of President Nasheed and his MDP Government against dissenters to their brutal reign. During his state funded campaign for his party’s candidates, President Nasheed publicly threatened Maldivian citizens with reprisals if they did not vote for his party. “If a member of another party pesters me, my ruthlessness will be clearly seen. I can also do many things with my left hand and right hand. Never think, and none of you can even imagine, the things I would do or would not do”, he threatened in Alifushi in the run up to the recent parliamentary elections.

An example of this reprisal was the MDP arson attack on DRP financier and activist businessman Ibrahim Suja’s bonded warehouse on Thilafushi Industrial Island. It was razed to the ground on 16th May by MDP thugs, resulting in over MRF 30 million losses. MDP has threatened on public TV Opposition leader Gayoom with death by lynching. At the national level, Nasheed’s intimidation of independent MPs, opposition leaders, young dissidents, and civil servants has escalated. Two independent MPs have been threatened with trumped up fraud cases, while young dissidents and their families are harassed by MDP thugs. Protected by the regime, MDP activists commit acts of arson and vandalism against non-MDP residents.

While President Nasheed continues to use state resources including the Police Service to support MDP candidate Musthafa’s intimidation campaign, the party of former president Gayoom Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party, remains deafeningly silent on the violations of their candidate Ghassan Maumoon’s electoral rights and the continued atrocities committed by MDP against DRP members supporting Ghassan. To date, DRP has not made any media statement in support of its embattled candidate or its Thimarafushi members, nor has it taken any action to support Ghassan’s fight for his electoral rights in the High Court. This silence and inaction lends weight to the rumor that DRP Deputy Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and his cronies in DRP Council oppose Gayoom’s children’s involvement in politics. If true, this is surprising as Thasmeen, his wife, two brothers and his brother’s wife all contested the recent parliamentary elections, all as DRP candidates.

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