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The Cost of Free Speech in Maldives

 The Cost of Free Speech in Maldives

In the last five years, the murder of a politician, the disappearance of an outspoken journalist, and a vicious attack on a blogger have remained unsolved.
I can’t recall the exact moment when I started reading Yameen Rasheed’s blog. But I do remember his blog The Rilwan Story which hooked me to them and then certainly to the point of views of Rashid. His description of Rilwan and their first meeting with each other touched my soul and made me see the noble man inside him. Today, Yameen Rasheed is not among us and we people are deeply saddened of this fact. But his death has stood like a question for all of us and now its our duty to make it a lesson for the Government.
Democracy has successfully divided not only powers but everyone’s duties too. What happens when the protectors of public only guard those in power? The common man suffers.

The case of Yameen Rasheed’s Death

Yameen Rasheed, 29, of Addu atoll Feydhoo island was found with 14 stab wounds on the staircase of his house in capital Male. According to some close associates of Yameen, who worked for Maldives Stock Exchange, he worked until very late Saturday night before walking home. Police states that his death was homicide by sharp force and that their Serious and Organized Crimes department is currently investigating the murder.
Rasheed was also behind the wildly popular English blog, “The Daily Panic”, in which he took a satirical take on the politics and issues of the Maldives. His father Hussain Rasheed, told Raajje TV that the CCTV cameras in the building where Yameen lived had been turned aside such that the crime was not caught on footage. Hence, his family suspects that this murder was planned.

What could be the reasons

Yameen was a renowned social media activist and blogger. He was also closely attached to Rilwan and was a significant organizer of all the rallies or protests happening in Maldives to find Rilwan. Many a times Rasheed received death threats by people who didn’t used to agree with his point of views but another noticeable reasons for those threats was also his investigative nature to solve the case of Rilwan’s abduction. People used to threaten him that if he won’t stop finding out the truth about the abduction then he will meet the same fate as Rilwan.
In 2015, Yameen tweeted that he did file complaints to the Maldivian police about such threats but no action was taken from the side of police. He had continuously filed applications for security but nothing was done in that matter. Before the night of his murder , Rasheed used to stay late at work from past 2-3 weeks to prepare an application that he was going to release. As he was working on the case of Rilwan, it is possible that he also pursued the case of Dr. Afrasheem’s murder which was eventually being taken care of by Rilwan.
Why Dr. Afrasheem needs to be mentioned here is because there are huge similarities in the way both Yameen and Dr. Afrasheem was murdered. Both of them were murdered late at night and their dead bodies were found near the staircase of their house. Vital information regarding both the murders are missing, the motive behind Dr. Afrasheem’s murder is still unclear and the masterminds still roam free. Similarly in Yameen’s case, the motive is being told as extremism when here in Maldives most people are liberal, who believe in standing up to the Government. In both the cases the style of murder and object of crime is same. The murder looks to be carried out by a professional assassin who’s only motive was to ensure the death of the victim.
The last but not the least similarity between these two murders is the attitude of police, its been more than 96 hrs since Rasheed’s murder but no arrests or inquiry has been made. The person who informed the police about Yameen’s murder is still unknown to people. No finger prints have been taken from the CCTV to know that who tilted them in the other direction so that no footage could be recorded.
Another astonishing fact is that Maldivian Police had visited the area where Rasheed resides and still they were not able to or their ‘intel’ was not able to know that a murder was going to take place in the locality. Yameen’s phone is still missing and no investigation to find it has been done either. Such ignorance by Maldivian Police was also seen during the investigation of Dr. Afrasheem’s murder and Rilwan’s abduction.
In the case of Rilwan’s abduction, who got abducted in 2014, the Maldivian Police has been continuously accused of weakening the investigation and also of helping Rilwan’s abductors flea Maldives. Even the Government has ever since remained ignorant in his case and when a petition signed by 5000 Maldivians regarding Rilwan’s case was presented in Majlis, then it was rejected in Majlis. Even in Dr. Afrasheem’s murder case, the inspection was flawed and the judiciary took decisions without enough evidence. It seems like the Government doesn’t want to punish the real culprit.
All of these incidents have remained unsolved and with this recent murder one is forced to look back at Government’s behavior in the past. There has been times when Maldivian Government had wishfully banned our rights to Free Speech, with the introduction of bills like defamation bill which restricts our media to convey the real picture, Foreign Acquisition Land Bill due which one of our atolls are in the middle of being sold to Saudi Arabia or maybe already sold, removing food subsidies and even arresting social media activists like Lucas Jalyl , Thaiyyb and sentencing MP Ahmed Mahloof for just tweeting their opinions shows that the Government is not interested in serving Justice to Maldives.
Other than this even the judiciary seems to be working for the benefit of President Yameen, All the decisions taken by them have been in the favor of PPM and against the opposition leaders. The laws are being easily amended to protect the rule of dictator. This demands all of us the common man to be more aware and vigilant about all the steps being taken by Government.

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Questions to our Protectors

Yameen Rasheed’s murder has incited harsh criticism against Police with several people accusing them of “neglecting” the numerous death threats Yameen had received and the cases he had filed at the police requesting protection. But these are not the only questions which should be asked from the police.

  • Why did police didn’t take an action against people who were threatening Yameen Rasheed? Maldives is not a country with billions of population, it should be easy to find the culprit.
  • Why wasn’t Yameen Rasheed given protection even after the several complaints and cases filed by him regarding him receiving threats?
  • Maldives police can be seen in rapid action when they have to jeopardize a protest or rally by opposition leaders or have to arrest them. They even get intel for the same but not the evidence. Then why was the police incapable of knowing about Yameen’s murder despite of their visit in his area?
  • Why aren’t important steps to start the inspection or available traces of the killer like finger prints on CCTV footage taken yet?
  •  At last but not the least question is from the Government: When will you start doing your work???

We Maldivians

While writing this blog post, I was feeling angry but it was not all directed on the Government or the police it was also on myself for feeling helpless. After this shocking news of Yameen’s murder people are tweeting on social media that they are afraid to express their point of view or to step out of the house. Yesterday during an event to demand an independent investigation of Yameen’s murder, Maldivians protested by flying balloons in the sky. But is it enough? What are our options to stand with Justice and ensure to bring it back.
Yesterday, an image of Yameen Rasheed’s father was being posted on Twitter. In that image his eyes had no tears, but his pain was clearly visible, his young son was no more, he must have had dreams for him and now all those things were pointless. Everytime I looked at his picture , another picture of Rilwan’s mother used to stare at me too, both these pictures asked questions from me that what was their son’s fault, why aren’t they standing with them and what am I going to do about it?
Yameen Rasheed was a brave man who always stood in front during protests and didn’t care about the death threats too. He stood with us when our leaders were arrested, he stood with us when free speech was being banned. He never took a step back and fearlessly fought to get Justice for Rilwan. And today I promise him that I won’t step back too. I won’t step back from this fight to get the real culprit behind the bar.
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Source URL: Maldives Uprising

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