Transparency Maldives (TM), in its submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR), notes with concern the declining human rights situation in the Maldives and calls on the State to immediately initiate reforms to prevent further deterioration and commit to a path that is in line with the Maldives’ international obligations.

In its 2014 submission, TM noted a marked decline in civil and political rights protection, resulting in the constriction of democratic space afforded to civil society. There exist significant threats to freedom of association, expression and media during the review period as the State has become increasingly intolerant of dissent. Of note are the attacks to parliamentarians, journalists, and media outlets, resulting in the murder of a parliamentarian and the maiming of another, as well as the deadly attacks on journalists and the disappearance of one journalist, and arson and other attacks to media houses. The 2013 Presidential elections further underlined the delicate and unpredictable nature of the right to participate in public affairs and democratic government, where interference in electoral processes by State institutions led to multiple delays of scheduled elections and annulment of elections, which were widely reported as free and fair.

Additionally, TM also notes the Maldives’ Human Rights Commission are currently on trial via a Suo Motu case initiated by the Supreme Court, as a result of critical comments on the state of the country’s judiciary in its submission to the 2014 UPR.

To prevent further deterioration of the HR situation, TM calls on the State to: 1. Cease intimidation of civil society and State independent institutions; 2. Put in place mechanisms to protect freedom of association and ensure protection of journalists and media houses; 3. Address legal discrepancies and inconsistencies due to the Supreme Court annulment of Presidential Election 2013, which could in the future, hamper electoral processes; 4. Address the governance and human rights issues faced by migrant workers by ratifying ICRMW, including all ILO conventions; and 5. Implement recommendations put forth by the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

Since the initial recommendations from the 2010 UPR, the Maldives has taken positive steps to improve the human rights situation on the ground in some areas. It has made positive changes to key legislation such as the passing of the Anti-human Trafficking Act and Right to Information Act.

Despite commitments for reform following the 2010 UPR process, we observe that key institutional failures have stifled democratic consolidation and the Government has failed to fully implement many accepted recommendations. This has resulted in the Maldives lagging behind in adherence to international human rights standards.

TM hopes that its submission proves useful to the Maldives in implementing and reviewing recommendations, and also to UN member states, international and domestic organisations working to protect and promote human rights in the country. TM looks forward to constructively engaging with the Maldivian Government and civil society partners in the implementation of recommendations from the second cycle.

TM’s first engagement with the UPR was in 2010, with a joint civil society submission to the Maldives review. The UPR is a UN lead mechanism that takes place every four years to review the human rights situation of all UN member countries. This is the second cycle of review for Maldives and will take place on 6 May 2015 at the 22nd session of the UPR Working Group.

ENDS

Note: TM’s full UPR submission can be viewed here.
Summary of TM’s report can be viewed here.
Background information on the UPR can be viewed here.
Maldives’ national report to the UPR can be viewed here.

View/download this press release in English and Dhivehi

Transparency Maldives appreciates the acknowledgement of integrity as a fundamental premise to a healthy society and, is honoured to have received the 2015 National Integrity Award under the civil society category, from the Anti-Corruption Commission. Transparency Maldives also congratulates the Anti-Corruption Commission for their effort to mark and celebrate 21 April 2015 as the first national anti-corruption day.

While Transparency Maldives appreciates the efforts to acknowledge our core values and community services, we reiterate that upholding the integrity of independent institutions is an integral mandate of high ranking public posts in these independent institutions. As such, we call upon the Heads of independent institutions to refrain from accepting arbitrary gratuities from the Government.

We urge independent institutions to safeguard from undue influence and allegations of bribery and corruption in order to uphold the value of integrity and increase public confidence in independent institutions.

ENDS.

For media queries, please contact Legal Assistant, Ibrahim Riza (967 6060).

View/download in Dhivehi and English.


Transparency Maldives (TM) notes with concern the recent allotment of flats to public officials holding high-ranking state positions.

The flats from the recently built luxury Rehendhi Residency have been contracted, below market rate, to public officials holding high-ranking positions  including chairs of selected independent oversight bodies and judges.

The State can provide privileges to state officials based on need and limited to the duration of employment of individuals, and as specified in the Constitution and law. However, it is concerning that these flats are to be permanently contracted by the Executive to public officials holding time-bound positions of the state. The offering of arbitrary privileges to public officials holding high-ranking positions and the acceptance of such privileges, will undermine public trust in these institutions.

TM also notes that upholding integrity in the performance of high-ranking public posts is an integral and core mandate of such positions and should not be incentivized through handouts of property or other forms of personal enrichment. Gratuities given to state officials by the Government can be perceived as a move by the Executive to assert undue influence over other branches of the state and independent state institutions.

TM calls on the Executive to refrain from arbitrarily providing any form of gratuities and privileges to state officials and in the process unduly influencing other branches of the state and independent state institutions.

ENDS

For media queries, please contact Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre Coordinator, Ahid Rasheed (974 1443)

View/download the statement in Dhivehi and English.


Transparency Maldives (TM) notes with grave concern the sentencing of former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in prison on charges of terrorism, despite a number of irregularities in the legal process, under which the trial took place.

TM notes with concern that despite calls for fair legal process, President Nasheed was denied legal representation, denied right to appeal, his legal team denied adequate time to build a defence against the new charges of terrorism, President Nasheed’s defence witnesses were refused, and serious issues of conflict of interest were prevalent in the case. Conflict of interest issues we note include two of the three judges presiding over the trial having acted as witnesses for the prosecution and the Prosecutor General who levied the new terrorism charges against President Nasheed having acted as a prosecution witness for the previous charge against President Nasheed. These procedural irregularities raise serious questions about the fairness, transparency and independence of the judicial process followed and the provision of the accused’s inalienable right to a fair trial.

TM calls on state actors to accord President Nasheed with full legal rights in the appeal process including adequate time and access; and calls on the state to address increasing concerns regarding the fairness and independence of the justice system in the Maldives.

Furthermore, TM calls on all state actors to uphold democratic principles and international conventions the Maldives is party to; and calls on the public and law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint and calm in order to mitigate further deterioration of the security situation in the Maldives.

ENDS


PRESS STATEMENT

Male’ — February 25, 2015 — Transparency Maldives (TM) notes with concern the escalating political tensions in the Maldives, especially following the recent arrests of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim. TM appeals to all actors to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution at all times, and engage in dialogue to resolve political disputes.

TM calls on the state and government institutions to ensure that the ongoing cases against former President Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim are carried out under fair and transparent legal proceedings, free from politicisation and in accordance with the principles of justice. We particularly note with concern that President Nasheed was denied right to legal representation during the court hearing on 23 February 2015.
Furthermore, TM calls on all state actors to follow due process entitled to all Maldivian citizens and to uphold democratic principles at all times in resolving political disputes. TM fears that if the rising political tensions are not resolved peacefully and within the constitutional remit, the political situation of the country may deteriorate further.

ENDS

For media queries, please contact Legal Assistant, Ibrahim Riza on +960 967 6060 or ibrahim.riza@transparencymaldives.org.

View/download the press statement in English and Dhivehi


The Maldivian Constitution requires the President, Cabinet Ministers, Members of the Parliament, and Judges to submit their financial and business interests. The principle goal of asset declaration is to combat corruption—in particular, illicit enrichment—and promote transparency and accountability of the governance system.

However, whilst these constitutional provisions are intended to promote transparency and integrity of public officials, this intention does not translate into reduced corruption due to various systemic deficits, including the failure of asset disclosure. For example, the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer survey undertaken by Transparency Maldives shows that 86 per cent of respondents perceive the Parliament—followed closely by political parties and the judiciary—as the most corrupt institution in the Maldives. The survey also reports that 97 per cent of respondents believe corruption is a problem at the public sector. Similarly, the 2014 Democracy at the Crossroads survey undertaken by Transparency Maldives finds the Parliament as the institution that holds the least public confidence.

This paper, structured into four parts, identifies asset declaration as a key anchor to sustain democratic reform. The first part of this paper outlines what asset declaration is and why it is important. The second part presents the asset declaration system as it is currently practiced in the Maldives; whilst the third part identifies problems in this system. The fourth part provides key recommendations to increase transparency, accountability, and integrity of the governance system.

View/download the full position paper in Dhivehi and English.


Transparency Maldives (TM) notes with grave concern the increasing trend of undermining democratic practices and institutions by the State including the recent move to reduce the number of judges in the Supreme Court; the sudden removal of the Auditor General by the parliament; and the resolution  of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) calling to handover the presidency to Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Hon. Gasim Ibrahim.

Amendment to the Judicature Act and reducing the number of judges

TM fears that the recent amendment to the Judicature Act to reduce the number of judges from 7 to 5 followed by the recommendation by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to remove two sitting Justices will further undermine the independence of the judiciary.

The impartiality and independence of the Supreme Court (SC) is not solely decided by the number of Supreme Court Justices but rather by the upholding of judicial integrity and principles. Any move to reform the judiciary must be sincere and look at the entire judicial system, especially the judicial watchdog body, JSC, so that meaningful and real reform may take place.

The decision by the JSC to remove Chief Justice Abdulla Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan without publicising the criteria against which they were evaluated raises questions about the transparency and fairness of the process. The criteria used must be objective, based on merit, transparent and well-publicised so that any public concerns about the process may be addressed. TM also notes that the amendments to the Judicature Act allows JSC to override due procedure denying the right of Supreme Court Justices to defend themselves before their dismissal. TM calls on state authorities to refrain from any action that will further undermine the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

Amendment to the Audit Act and removal of the Auditor General

TM notes that the recent amendment to the Audit Act which abruptly ended the tenure of the sitting Auditor General, before the Constitutionally mandated seven-year term serves to undermine the independence of the Auditor General’s Office. Furthermore, the amendment circumvents Article 218 of the Constitution, which prescribes that the only grounds for removal of the Auditor General before the end of his term are misconduct, incapacity or incompetence. It must be noted that the passing of the amendment and the consequent removal of the Auditor General coincided with the release of an incriminating audit report against a Government Minister. TM calls on state authorities to ensure that heads of independent state institutions are given the autonomy to do their mandated work free from insecurity.

Decree by MDP on transferring power to JP leader

TM condemns the resolution passed by the opposition, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), calling to handover the presidency to the leader of Jumhooree Party, Hon. Ibrahim Gasim, in the midst of the water crisis, as it attempts to destabilize the elected government and infers overriding the electoral processes stipulated in the Constitution. TM reminds that any change in government should only be brought by a vote of the people and calls on state parties to not undermine the electoral processes of the country.

TM calls on all organs of the state, including political parties, to uphold, respect and operate within the boundaries of the Constitution, and democratic norms and principles.

ENDS

For media queries, please contact Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed (790 8967).

View/download the statement in English and Dhivehi.


Transparency Maldives thanks friendly nations, the Government of the Maldives, local businesses, civil society organisations, and the public for their continued efforts to provide water aid to residents of Malé, in response to  the water crisis following the incident of fire at Malé Water Sewerage Company (MWSC) on 4 December.

In order to avoid further escalation of the social, economic and political repercussions stemming from the water crisis, Transparency Maldives calls on the Government and MWSC to be more transparent in their efforts to provide aid and to overcome the crisis.

The following issues must be addressed by the Government and MWSC (a joint venture company that has 80 per cent government shares and whose board is appointed by the government) in order to be transparent and accountable to the public:

  • The Government must publicly provide a breakdown of the estimated US$20 million (more than MVR300 million) needed to overcome the crisis, and how the government intends to spend it. Furthermore, the decision to seek donations from the public raises questions given that MWSC is a private, profit-making corporation with 80 per cent government shares.

 

  • Transparency Maldives calls on the Government and MWSC to conduct an independent, transparent, and technical investigation into the 4 December fire incident; make the findings public; and establish effective and preventative mechanisms to ensure such incidents do not occur again. The investigation must scrutinise MWSC’s risk mitigation policy and asset management plan.

The current situation demonstrates the interminable relationship between good governance and citizens’ right to essential human needs. Therefore, Transparency Maldives believes that it is the responsibility of the government to hold accountable and to ensure that MWSC and other companies that provide essential services, such as the State Electric Company Limited (STELCO) and FENAKA Corporation  Limited, have mechanisms in place to review their working procedures so that similar incidents can be avoided in the future. These accountability measures must incorporate company boards and relevant state regulatory bodies.

ENDS

For all media queries, please contact Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed (7908967).

View/download this press statement in Dhivehi and English


The National Integrity System of the Maldives is based on three compound structures of key institutions: the core government agencies of Legislature, the Executive and theJudiciary the public sector agencies, the Civil Service and Law Enforcement Agencies the Elections Commission and Anti Corruption Commission, Auditor General’s Office the Media and the Civil Society Organisations, Political parties and private sectorBusiness.

The methodology and guiding questions applied for the research are developed by Transparency International and are based on the concept of a strong National Integrity System (NIS) to ensure a sustained and strong control over corruption in all areas of the society. Visit http://goo.gl/eALDRV to learn about the NIS concept.

The conceptual framework of the National Integrity System (NIS) stresses the role and interplay of a broader institutional framework of the State, including ‘anti-corruption agents in government, civil society, the business community and other relevant sectors, in ‘building [the] momentum, political will and civic pressure for relevant reform initiatives’ required to reduce and eliminate corruption in public service. Therefore, in assessing the National Integrity System (NIS) of the Maldives, it is important for the assessment to investigate that process, and the outcome of interplay between institutions. This study draws up conclusions and recommendations with due consideration to that interplay. Recommendations provided in this study should be read reflecting on the factors that affect this interplay and its outcomes.

Political bias created through intermingled political thinking and practices embedded in key political institutions, including the Legislature and the Executive, reduces the capacity of other institutions to function independently. Moreover, political bias embedded in the institutional framework further reduces the level of accountability, transparency and integrity functions of almost all the institutions.

The legal framework, starting with the Constitution that provides and guarantees basic rights of people in the Maldivian society, establishes a notable legislative framework for the good governance of socio-economic activities. However, the broader legal framework lacks adequate organisational structures and capabilities, and this weakens the adaptive efficiency of that legal framework to practically execute institutional tasks in the most effective manner. Further, this institutional weakness lies with weak historical institutions or traditionally transmitted historical undemocratic constitutional rules that are embedded in the current political system. The Maldives only created a democratic political system after the enactment of its first-ever democratic Constitution in 2008. Prior to that, the Maldives followed a Constitution that was built on pre-1965 monarchical practices, and encompassed a Constitutional Government with weak political institutions, vesting excessive powers in the rulers or policy-makers. Although the Constitution of 2008 created a democratic Constitutional Government, the traditionally transmitted undemocratic political practices are also embedded in the new politico-institutional framework, thus weakening the overall institutional framework, and leaving room for mis-governance and political malpractices. Hence, the political and legal institutions in place to govern the society are also weakened, reducing their capacity to create and uphold national integrity.

View/download our press statement on NIS in Dhivehi.
View/download the National Integrity System Assessment, Maldives 2014

Download
National Integrity System Assessment, Maldives 2014


Transparency Maldives’ (TM) survey, Democracy at the Crossroads, points to a crisis of public confidence in key democratic institutions. Citizens are cynical. Politicians, they think, lie to get elected and they don’t believe that the government cares about ordinary people.
The nationwide survey aims to encourage informed debate of democratic norms and about the performance of democratic institutions.
“This [the survey] shows that citizens are less likely to meaningfully participate in public matters and in holding public officials accountable. If so, it will ultimately lead to impunity and corruption,” Mariyam Shiuna, Executive Director of TM said.

Crisis of confidence

Citizens lack confidence in their key representative institutions. 62% of survey respondents say they have no confidence at all in the parliament. And 58% have no confidence in political parties. 50% and 46% citizens lack confidence in local governments and courts respectively. These results are similar to TM’s Global Corruption Barometer surveys from 2012 and 2013.
77% of Maldivians identify “politics,” which includes conflict, corruption and the party system, as the most important problem facing the country. Half of the public is dissatisfied with the way democracy operates in the Maldives.
Maldivians give political leaders a low rating. None rate better than average.

Cynicism, democratic values and social order

86% of Maldivians say that the government does not care about ordinary people and 92% of Maldivians believe that politicians are “ready to lie to get elected”, showing extraordinarily high levels of cynicism in comparison to similar transitional democracies.
Citizens are critical of the social order: 84% think that power is concentrated in the hands of too few people.  The good news is that 90% of the public believe dialogue is the way to solve the country’s problems. The bad news is that 1 in 3 think that violence is sometimes a necessary response to social injustice.
Maldivians are not enthusiastic about gender equality. A majority think men make better leaders than women. Remarkably, more women than men support the idea that men make better leaders than women.

Is there hope?

“Democratic institutions must take extraordinary measures to regain the trust of the public and the public must step up to hold public officials to account,” said Aiman Rasheed, Advocacy and Communications Manager. “Levels of confidence in institutions is a key indicator of the levels of corruption in a system,” he added.
This is the first systematic survey on democracy conducted in the Maldives and provides important benchmark data. The random sample of approximately 1,000 citizens provides a margin of error of +/- 3.0% and the findings are generalisable to the entire country. The questions asked come from surveys that have been repeatedly used and tested around the world.
ENDS
For all media queries, please contact Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed (00 960 7908967).

Click to view/download the report ‘Democracy at the Crossroads’ 

Click to view/download this statement in Dhivehi
Click to view/download this statement in English


PRELIMINARY STATEMENT
MALE — (23 March 2014) — Transparency Maldives (TM) appreciates and thanks all observers and volunteers in our observer network, based in 20 atolls and Colombo and Kuala Lumpur. The observers were key to the success of the observation. TM hopes that an independent observation effort at this scale has instilled greater levels of trust  in our electoral processes. The results we report are based on random sampling and are generalisable to the entire country.

1. Polling day
The election day processes were transparent and generally well-administered. We are happy to report that the election has been peaceful with just one reported incident of violence inside a polling station. TM congratulates Maldivian citizens for their spirited engagement in the democratic process.

The following are the key findings which we would like to highlight from our observation. 83.52% of polling stations closed within the first hour of the normal closing time of 4:00 p.m.

Voter registry was overall very clean, with a very few cases where people were not able to vote because their names were not on the voter registry or their details did not match. Assisted voters were spread across 84.1% of the polling stations.

Voting was temporarily halted in 2.4% of polling stations. 75% of these cases were interventions at the direction of the Presiding Officer while 25% were interventions by an unruly voter.

We note that the police entered 12.35% of polling stations. However, in 100% of such cases, interventions occurred at the invitation of the Presiding Officer as the rules allow.

Candidates were well-represented during the counting, making the process transparent and adding to its credibility. Maldivian Democratic Party was represented at 89.4% of polling stations during the vote count. Coalition parties were represented at 88.8% of polling stations during the vote count. Only 5.9% of polling stations did not have a party/candidate observer present at the opening of the polls.

Unresolved disputes were reported at only 5.3% ballot boxes at the time of announcing results.

However, TM calls on all actors to take immediate measures to address wider issues, including vote buying, lack of transparency in political finance, abuse of state resources, barriers for women’s equal participation in the electoral processes, and bring long overdue reforms to the electoral legal framework.

2. Vote buying
In a survey conducted by TM in the run up to 2013 presidential elections, 15% of respondents reported that money or other incentives were offered in exchange for their vote. Admissions about illegal activities such as this are usually underreported in surveys. TM’s long-term observation indicates that vote buying may be even more widespread in the parliamentary elections than other elections.

Inability of state institutions to prosecute vote buying due to gaps in the electoral legal framework, lack of coordination, and buck-passing between the relevant institutions have allowed rampant vote buying to go unchecked.

TM recommends to all relevant institutions to monitor, investigate and prosecute vote buying through implementation of the existing legal provisions and recommends to the Parliament to bring urgent reforms to the laws to better address the issue.

3. Lack of Political and Campaign Finance Transparency
Deep flaws in the standards, practices and poor oversight have led to the lack of transparency in political and campaign financing in elections, including the parliamentary elections. When political parties and individual candidates do not fully disclose where they get their money from, it is not clear who funds them, what their potential conflict of interests are, and, thereby allows vested interests to override public interest when elected as MPs.  Similarly, Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer surveys for the Maldives continue to indicate a crisis of public trust in the Parliament. Increasing campaign financing transparency in parliamentary elections is crucial to hold parliamentarians to account, in order to prevent the hijack of the institution by vested interests and regain public trust in the Parliament .

TM recommends addressing the gaps in the electoral legal framework and implementation of existing provisions to facilitate public scrutiny, ensure periodic reporting and an effective oversight mechanism for political finance.

4. Women Political Participation
Only 23 women out of 302 candidates contested the Parliamentary Elections, out of which only five were elected according to the provisional results. The Maldives is currently ranked 129th place in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s index of parliaments in terms of gender balance. Relevant authorities should identify and address the barriers for women’s equal political participation.

5. Other Issues
Additional issues that need to be addressed are:

  1. Abuse of state resources and authority by successive regimes, allowing those in power to campaign at the expense of the public purse;
  2. Constituency delineation legal framework and processes that result in assignation of voters to constituencies not based on their domiciled residencies, robbing voters of effective representation;
  3. Instances where secrecy of the ballot  may be compromised when a few people are registered to outside their constituencies (for example, 2,947 cases of single voters; 1,070 cases of two voters; and, 502 cases of three voters);
  4. Lack of effective  long-term voter and civic education on issues such as vote buying, political finance transparency and equality of women in political participation; and,
  5. Uncertainties arising from the role of the judiciary in elections and, in particular, the 16-point guideline issued by the Supreme Court. TM reiterates that the guideline does  not improve upon the technical aspects of the election and recommends that any concerns the guideline intends to tackle be addressed through legislative reforms and within constitutional boundaries.

Transparency Maldives congratulates all winning candidates and urges all relevant actors to reform the electoral systems to increase confidence in and improve electoral systems in the Maldives. A final report on the findings with recommendations will be published within a month of conclusion of elections.

ENDS

For media queries, please contact Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed on 00 960 790 8967.

Click to view/download this statement in English
Click to view/download this statement in Dhivehi


PRESS RELEASE 

Male – (22 March 2014) –Transparency Maldives thanks our observers deployed across the country for their dedication in observing the election processes. Transparency Maldives’ observer network has a wide national coverage spanning resorts, prisons, and abroad in Kuala Lumpur and Colombo.

The results we report are based on random sampling and are generalisable to the entire country. These results are based on the observation at the time of opening of polls.

The opening of the polls was smooth, and the administrative preparation went well. 79% of all polling stations opened by 8.10am, 20% of polling stations opened within the first hour of the required opening time, and 1% of polling stations opened between 9am and 10am.

Nearly all polling station officials were in place at all polling stations.

The materials required for voting were present and the ballot papers were counted at 100% of the polling stations. 100% of ballot boxes were verified as empty at the opening of the polls.

Candidates were well represented at polling stations. Only 10% of the polling stations did not have a party/candidate observer present at the opening of the polls. Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) observers were present at 78% of polling stations while 81% of polling stations had observers from the coalition parties, at the opening of the polls.

Transparency Maldives also notes that police presence was visible at 93% of the observed polling stations at the time of opening.

Observers concluded that the polling stations were set up to ensure a secret vote in 98% of polling stations. Transparency Maldives observers will be closely monitoring the 2% of the polling station where the secrecy of the ballot may be compromised due to the layout of the polling station.

We encourage all parties to maintain the climate of peace. Our observers are working hard at polling stations and will be present at the polling stations until the polls are closed and the results are announced.

ENDS

For all media queries, please contact Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed (00 960 7908967)

Click to view/download this statement in English
Click to view/download this statement in Dhivehi