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The police will not be used for political gain
Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Shihab’s statement to the Maldives Parliament
30 June 2009
Translated by Maldives Culture

  Mohamed Shihab Maldives Home Affairs Minister
Mohamed Shihab

Thank you, Honourable Speaker for this opportunity.

Honourable Speaker and Honourable Members, I present to you a statement outlining government policy regarding the protection of the safety of the people and maintaining public peace and order in the country.

Our policy is to act in way that allows the agencies responsible for peace and order to function professionally in line with the principles of good governance.

The Maldives Police Services members of today are not the type of policemen we have seen in the past. They will not be ordered to violate the rights of the people, nor will they be left with no choice other than obeying those orders without question, as was the practice under the previous government. The police will not be used for the purposes of political gain.

The previous government ruled with the use of the fist against peaceful citizens of the country, and used the police force improperly. Under the leadership of the present government the police now work with the people; the police are considerate of the needs and feelings of the people when they enforce the law, and they act within the law when serving the people.

Instead of establishing public peace and order by use of the baton, today’s police use intelligence, friendliness and discussion to resolve conflicts. They give priority to maintaining peace. Today’s police will use force only in circumstances where not using of force will endanger life, or allow the damage or destruction of private or government property, and to the extent of preventing danger or harm.

Honourable Speaker, when police are acting in regions where incidents occur, the peace and safety of the people, who are intentionally or unintentionally involved in the incident, will be affected. It is a gross mistake to think that the police will be required to act, or will act, the way they did in the past. Such thoughts have no place for a democratic environment.

Honourable Speaker, the police of today will not disperse harmless people, who gather and exercise their right to give voice to their concerns, by spraying gas into the eyes of the people while police wearing gas masks, simply because those who need to hear the voices of the people do not want to hear it, or cannot tolerate the people's voice.

As you are aware, that in the last seven months, there were incidents that may have caused harm to people and property, and threatened public peace and order. During those incidents, the Maldives Police Service has acted to resolve them with exemplary foresight and intelligence. There is no doubt that if the police act thoughtfully and professionally, conflicts can be resolved peacefully without any confrontation between the people and the police. By acting this way over the last seven months, the police have achieved a peaceful outcome on several occasions.

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Members, the police acted in line with these principles during the incident of 26 June 2009 in Thimarafushi, where a large number of the people living on that island blockaded the harbour entrance to prevent people, who they suspected were arriving at the island with the intention to act violently, and disturb the peace and order.

The police immediately acted to resolve this incident concerning the well-being of a large number of people on Thimarafushi island, and continued to work around the clock to resolve the issue peacefully. As a result of the harbour entrance being blocked, the police tried to take the women and children aboard the launch in a dhoani to the island under police escort. Regretfully the people aboard the launch gave a blanket rejection to the police escort.

As you know, if police do not have the cooperation of the people involved in a conflict, the police will not be able to resolve the dispute in the best possible way. If priority is given to a political outcome, ahead of the health and safety of women and children, then women and children are being used as political targets. This is unacceptable to us under any circumstances.

About two weeks ago, we sent additional police officers to Thimarafushi who accompanied officials from the election commission and human rights commission. While the situation in the island was considered to be normal, when the incident of 26 June 2009 occurred, the police acted to resolve the issue peacefully without the use of force, because there were women and children involved in this dispute. [Women and children were among the new arrivals who were being prevented from landing by a large number of the people of the island.]

After considering the situation that might develop if the new arrivals were allowed to land by force, and through extensive discussion with the people involved in the blockade, the police were able to resolve the issue peacefully during the afternoon of 27 June 2009. Vessels anchored at the harbour entrance were removed without use of force.

Among the visitors, people who are suspected of intending to disturb public peace and order of the island are now being being checked, and the police have stepped up their activities to maintain order in the island. It is a right of every Maldivian to be free to travel around the country, and the government condems those who try to prevent the exercise of this right.

I would like to inform the Honourable members of the Majlis that those who were involved in this are now being investigated, and the police are also investigating the root cause of this problem. I also assure members that the alleged suspects responsible for this will be investigated and they will be treated according to the law. Honourable Speaker, I also would like to say that when the incident occurred, members of this Majlis were present, and this is something I am particularly troubled by, as I have been a member of this Majlis for many years. I express my sadness.

Thank you, Mr Honourable Speaker.

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