Maldives police: made in Scotland?

I stopped updating my first post about the Maldives two months after I first posted it. I kept fearing I would hear, next, that the President who stepped down rather than make use of the Maldives Police Service (MPS) violently against civilians, had himself been killed.

Mohamed Nasheed, who was his country’s first democratically elected leader, has become a tireless advocate for both environmental action and free elections — two political efforts he ties together.

On 10th December, The Hindu published an interview by telephone with ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, then speaking from Kulhudhuffushi, part of Thiladhunmathi Atoll, in the northern part of Maldives – that is, as The Hindu observes “not far from Indian territorial waters”.

Nasheed said:

“Nothing short of early elections is acceptable to the MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] … We are very confident that if there is a free and fair election and if I can contest, we will win it handsomely,”

In a telephonic interview, Mr. Nasheed said he was running for presidency again. “The MDP has decided that I should run and the primary has given me an overwhelming support. But there have been so many politically motivated attempts to bar me from contesting because the opposition is fair clear that they will not be able to win against me. We have a lot of support in the country. The violent repression against people has made people look towards us. And I think that the three-and-a-half years of our government we have been able to bring about a lot of transformation of the country and we feel that people like it,” he said. Getting the financial system back on track, reducing reliance on indirect taxes and levy of direct taxes, and putting in place an enormous social protection programme were among his main achievements as President.

Mohamed Nasheed is going up against global business interests in his political campaigning, as an outspoken global voice warning that governments must act to end climate change:

Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, has some words of climate change warning for the United States: “You can’t pick and choose on science.”

Nasheed should know. Dramatic rises in sea level due to global warming are expected to overrun his and other low-lying island nations over the next century. Scientists predict that the Maldives in the Indian Ocean might be completely underwater by 2100 or at least uninhabitable due to the loss of fresh water and agricultural options.
What would you do if the very existence of your country was threatened by climate change? Nasheed, who was his country’s first democratically elected leader, has become a tireless advocate for both environmental action and free elections — two political efforts he ties together.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek: It's Global Warming, Stupid He also wants to push the United States to become a leader in the urgent business of addressing climate change.

Since then, the east coast of the US experienced Hurricane Sandy, which Bloomberg BusinessWeek headlined on their front page as “It’s Global Warming, Stupid”. What happens when the very existence of the United States as we know it is threatened by climate change?

When the former President was arrested in early October

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that during the arrest police vandalised the house where Nasheed was staying, and then attacked supporters peacefully protesting outside including former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem who was kicked and pepper sprayed in the face.

“We are deeply concerned about the reports of some police using violence around Mohamad Nasheed’s arrest, despite neither him nor his supporters offering any resistance,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Maldives.

Nor is this a lone instance of police brutality towards civilians: Amnesty International’s report published on 5th September 2012, Maldives: The other side of paradise: A human rights crisis in the Maldives shows how the police and the military have frequently attacked peaceful demonstrators in order to repress political dissent.

In July, Amnesty International described the situation there as

a “human rights crisis” following “a campaign of violent repression [which] has gripped the country since President Mohamed Nasheed’s ousting in February 2012.” Its report, The Other Side of Paradise, concluded “there are already signs that the country is slipping back into the old pattern of repression and injustice.”

Opposition groups are alarmed that former police officers acting privately and the Scottish Police College (SPC), backed by the Foreign Office, have continued training MPS officers and advising the force during a period of intense political conflict and mounting allegations of human rights abuses.

Faizal said she had been pressing the Foreign Office to take much tougher action on human rights in the islands. “I would hope they would definitely review what they’ve been doing because somebody has been paying for this: they should dramatically review what they’ve been doing and they need to tell these people in the MPS if they want to continue their relationship, they must be seen to be policing rather than act like thugs, just going around and beating people.

“They have to be a credit to the Scottish Police College if they do well, but right now, how the MPS is behaving is absolutely shocking.”

Scottish Police College, TULLIALLAN CASTLE, KINCARDINE, FIFE At least some of those police had been trained at the Scottish Police College in Fife. The Scottish Police College describes their vision “To be the leading centre of excellence at the heart of a learning organisation” and says their values are: “Integrity, Respect, Discipline, Accountability, Teamwork, Professionalism”.

How many of the MPS police officers, trained by the Scottish Police College, were part of the brutality that followed ex-President Nasheed’s overthrow?

Severin Carrell reports that the Guardian’s investigation has found

Scottish police forces and the SPC have been closely involved in training Maldivian police, including its current commissioner, Abdulla Riyaz, for more than 15 years – when the Maldives were dominated by the unelected, autocratic President Abdul Mamoun Gayoom.

Since then, more than 67 MPS officers have been trained at the college at Tulliallan in Fife, their fees helping the SPC earn millions of pounds of extra income from external contracts. In 2009-10, the college received £141,635 from training MPS officers. The SPC said those fees did not make a profit, but was breakeven income.

The course, a diploma in police management in which human rights was “covered”, was taken by 67 Maldives officers. A separate group of MPS officers were also given human rights training in 2011, the college said. At least 10 middle- and senior-ranking Maldives officers are believed to have attended previously.

It’s further reported that:

Senior sources in the Maldives, who have asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, allege that some MPS officers trained at Tulliallan have been implicated in the violence, with a number of incidents filmed.

In a bad police force how well can a good police officer hold out against the prevailing trend? When the Scottish Police College teaches them “Integrity, Respect, Discipline, Accountability, Teamwork, Professionalism” and the police force for which they work finds these virtues are demonstrated by attacking peaceful participants at a political rally – who were “beaten on the head with batons, kicked and sprayed with pepper spray” – and arresting them: as recorded in March this year

Credible sources have told Amnesty that the police and military arrested more than a dozen people during their raid on the MDP rally today. They arrested some more people in the hospital after they had gone to receive medical treatment for their injuries. The detainees were taken to police detention centres in Malé, and were later transferred to Dhoonidhoo, an island close to Malé which is the main detention centre.

What values win out? How have these values been taught by the Scottish Police College to the MPS officers who attended there for training, during the years of President Gayoom as well as President Nasheed, and now since his overthrow, under President Mohammed Waheed Hassan?

If the Scottish Police College had better taught the MPS the function of policing in a democratic state, would the coup that overthrew President Nasheed have been successful? Would the present government of the Maldives have been able to use the MPS to quell political opposition?

In the Guardian yesterday:

There is no suggestion that British police or retired officers have been involved in training the MPS in riot control or interrogation techniques, or are advising the MPS on public order policing.

However, Farah Faizal, the former Maldives high commissioner to the UK, who resigned immediately after Nasheed stood down in February, said the close links between British police and the MPS had to be urgently reviewed.

“What I can categorically say is that [the training] doesn’t appear to be working,” she said. “If you see the brutality which is going on in Maldives and the impunity with what’s happening, if these people are being trained by the Scottish police, it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s unacceptable.”

Update, 19th December

In response to the allegations:

The Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA), which oversees the Scottish Police College, said its relationship with the Maldives police force had been one of distance learning and that the non-profit organisation had no role in the day-to-day running of the force.

SPSA interim chief executive John Geates said: “The Scottish Police College has a history of delivering high-quality training in all aspects of policing to law enforcement agencies around the world, dating back to 2003.”

As reported by the Guardian on Monday, however:

Links between Scottish and Maldives police began in 1997 when Riyaz and three other officers – then part of the Maldives’ military national security force, which ran all internal policing before a civilian police service was set up in 2003, had a five-month visit to Scotland the Highlands and islands.

Seconded to the Northern constabulary, Riyaz spent a month in the Western Isles and four months in Inverness, before taking a postgraduate diploma in alcohol and drugs studies at Paisley University in 1999. That tour of the Highlands was seven years before Gayoom, reacting slowly to pressure from its allies, including the UK government, split up his national security force into a military arm and a civilian police service in 2004. In January 2007, as Gayoom came under growing pressure for democratic reforms, including relinquishing his control over the judiciary, the police and state prosecution service, the SPC signed its open-ended training deal with the MPS.

From Minivan News, yesterday:

The Scottish Police College, which is reportedly earning significant sums of money through working with MPS officers, has an ongoing contract to train Maldives police officers on a diploma course for junior ranks and middle and senior rank officers.

Speaking to the Guardian, the MPS said that it took its obligations seriously, and that reforms recommended by British advisers, as well as consultants from Canada and Australia, were being implemented by the MPS.

MPS spokesman Superintendent Abdul Mannan told the Guardian: “On one hand calling for MPS to be more efficient in dealing with officers’ misconduct and violation of human rights, and on the other calling to suspend all the assistance MPS receives to achieve this, contradicts their [critics] known intention and their actions.”

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Police Spokesman Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that there was no link between the training local police officers received in Scotland and the allegations of abuses carried out by some of its officers.

Stop Police Brutality - Maldives protest
From the Committee to Protect Journalists – July 2012


Filed under Human Rights, Justice, Police, Politics, Sustainable Politics

2 responses to “Maldives police: made in Scotland?

  1. There is so much more than the eye can see. What these police officers being trained in Scotland show to their trainers and what really happens on the ground are two different thing. We are not talking about one or two bad cops. We are talking about systematic and systemic beating up of political opponents, infront of TV cameras in broad day light. If Scottish Police cannot see that, then there is something really dodgy that is going on between the trainers and the Maldives Police. Perhaps someone should look at the links with ex-Scottish police college trainers and current Maldives Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz’s private security firm.

    • Perhaps someone should look at the links with ex-Scottish police college trainers and current Maldives Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz’s private security firm.

      Very good point. Certainly the financial relationship between the Scottish Police College and the Maldives Police deserves closer examination.

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