Gasim Ordered Commissioner To Send Police Force to Reethi Rah

Wednesday, 3 December 2008 08:25

Minivan

Home minister Gasim Ibrahim on Tuesday admitted he ordered Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh several times to send police to One and Only Reethi Rah resort in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Up to 50 police in full riot gear were deployed to the five-star hotel on Sunday and allegedly used electric batons and irritant spray on employees engaged in a strike over labour rights.

Gasim, who said he had not consulted the president as he was away from Male', said it was his "duty" to send police. "Because of their presence, there was a danger for guests, employees and buildings," he said.

But he did not apologise for the alleged violence, instead thanking the police for their duty. And there only be an investigation “depending on the damage caused”, he said.

State minister Ahmed Muthaba said any action would make it “difficult to continue as a coalition". Gasim is a part of the Republican Party rather than Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party.

Order

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Gasim said the Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh had at first been unwilling to involve police but agreed after “two or three” attempts.

“I asked Faseeh two three times to send the police and he said he will consult with the executive board,” he said. “I was obliged as Home Minister to do this”.

“This was not to stop the strike and bar a constitutional right. But to remove the 10 fired staff because there were guests, property and other employees in danger,” he said.

“If police had not been sent,” he said, “and buildings had fire and people had been knifed, who would the public hold accountable?”

He acknowledged people had been hurt, adding: "I thank the police for sincerely attending to their duty".

Gasim added although he was responsible for giving the order for police involvement, he did not specify the number or the manner in which they should go to the resort.

It is unknown who gave instructions for police to go to the island in riot gear.

Asked about a human rights commission statement condemning the use of weapons and the violations of human rights, Gasim dismissed their report saying, "I believe he based his statement on hearsay".

Regarding a possible enquiry, Gasim told press the police commissioner would carry out an investigation “depending on the damage caused”.

Clash

Public Relations Manager at One and Only Reethi Rah Zhannie Long on Sunday said the company had sent for police because there was “violence”.

Asked what the alleged violence was, Zhannie said: “Before police came, basically they were running around”.

“There was a moment when they were running around the resort,” she continued.

Protestors say they only time they breached the guest area was when they ran into the main restaurant on Sunday morning away from police.

President of Tourism Employees Association Maldives (TEAM) Ahmed Easa says he was beaten by police while being arrested.

One officer allegedly told him: “I know who you are. You go on about your rights. I’ll give you your rights…I’m going to destroy you”.

Aishath Zanir, the resort’s sales and marketing coordinator, told Minivan News she was hit on the head by officers behind her. Several others allege receiving injuries.

Police later released them and left the island.

Coalition

On Monday, state minister for home affairs Ahmed Muthjaba (Mujay) went on the record saying Gasim had requested police a number of times, after Mujay was summoned to disclose information at a MDP meeting, according to reliable sources.

Mujay on Tuesday said he had spoken to the MDP about the issue on Monday but would not confirm what he said, saying only that it had now been “resolved”.

“If the minister sent the police with the intention of violence it's a problem but he says he didn't have this intention,” he said.

“It's a sensitive issue. If we try to hold people accountable, especially coalition people like Gasim then it will be very difficult to continue as a coalition,” he added.

And Mohamed Zuhair, press secretary at the president’s office, said the Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh, who has just taken over as head of the police following the removal of Adam Zahir, had been reluctant to send police.

“I think the police commissioner is aware of the democratic changes that are happening in the country,” he said.

“He has been briefed about being very careful about human rights and about the need for police to be patient with freedom of assembly,” he added.

Apology

President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile apologised for the incident, but said he has “full confidence” in all his ministers.

“We are extremely sorry that this has happened. We have to ensure that excessive force is never used in any of these instances,” he told Minivan News on Tuesday.

Asked about an investigation, he said his human rights ambassador was investigating the situation and would advise him on what course of action to take.

He added that as the government was going through a transition period, all situations would have to be dealt with in a “sensible” manner.

Asked whether the president's office would make a statement about the allegations, he said he was “not willing to do anything at the expense of democratic force".

"There is a wider picture...I can come out and rock the boat and lose everything,” he said.

Gasim ran for presidency in the first round of elections but later endorsed Nasheed in return for cabinet positions.

His Republican Party was created earlier this year after he quit as Minister for Finance under ex-President Gayoom.

Regarded as one of the wealthiest men in Maldives, Gasim is owner of the Villa Group of companies, which includes a number of resorts.

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