Murder most revealing: L.Corporal Haleem’s death & the burial of truth

by Azra Naseem

Last Sunday night Lance Corporal Adam Haleem was stabbed to death on the island of Kaashidhoo. He was en route to duty and in full uniform. He died from multiple stab wounds just after midnight. He was 26 years old, and the father of a son not yet a year old.

Before the young policeman’s body was cold, his death had become a political opportunity for many. Politicisation of life and death is not a new phenomenon in the Maldives. It was  on the rise before the change of government on 7 February. But the extent to which the current ‘Unity Government’ of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik is going, to squeeze every drop of political juice from the death of Lance Corporal Hameed, is a revolting spectacle to behold.

It was Dr Waheed himself who set the ball rolling.

What was this about hate-mongering? What did he mean? Was the policeman’s murder linked to the current political unrest? That was certainly the inference, as he reiterated shortly after:

 

One of the first political figures to put into words what Waheed insinuated was MP for Kaashidhoo area Abdulla Jabir. He told the Sun within an hour of the news breaking:

[I] condemn this murder in strictest words. It is sad that such incidents are increasing. The reason for this is the continued actions by MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] to spread lies about the police and create anger against them among the people.

Sun also reported that ‘Private MP’ Ahmed Mahloof (PPM), less than two hours after the news broke, said:

What we have seen tonight is the democracy that MDP talks about. The democracy we have seen is the one which calls to attack the police. I condemn this. Nasheed and MDP must take responsibility for this.

Several others were jostling for space on the bandwagon. Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said this:

Here are some significant others.

Human Rights Commissioner Mariyam Azra, too, appeared convinced that what the Unity Government and its supporters were saying was indeed true. Within the hour she had this to say:

Very sad that a policeman has been killed like this. Nobody should speak in ways that incite hatred against another.

Politics of death

The death of a policeman—especially when hostilities between anti-government protesters and the security forces are at an all time high—is a potent event, laden with political consequences. For the Unity Government it became the ‘evidence’ with which to prove a ‘truth’ they have been peddling from the beginning: MDP is a violent political group determined to regain power at any cost.

This strategy for criminalising dissent and constructing all supporters of MDP as ‘terrorists’ who are also the cause of all the social unrest of today, has been at the forefront of this government’s efforts to legitimise itself since day one.

The government was helped in its campaign to exploit the young policeman’s death by the police themselves. Lance Corporal Haleem died at around quarter past midnight on Sunday night. Between then and mid-afternoon Monday—despite being in possession of all facts surrounding the murder—the police did not make public any details surrounding it. The only thing said was ‘a policeman has been murdered,’ and where.

This left a long Speculation Window in which the Unity Government could air as fact its message that Lance Corporal Haleem had been murdered by an MDP thug, driven to it by calls for violence against the police by MDP leaders.

During the midnight hours, knowing that most people stay up late during Ramadan, key figures in the Unity Government saturated the media with the message. Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim appeared on his Villa TV with Kaashidhoo MP Jabir and JP’s President Dr Didi to discuss ‘the problem of MDP’s continuous incitment of violence against the police.’

They intertwined news of the policeman’s death with the narrative of ‘MDP violence against the police’ so often and with such conviction that by the time the police finally revealed more facts, most people—except the accused—were convinced MDP was behind the policeman’s murder. Here’s a tweet that encapsulates the sentiments of government supporters the following day.

Dissemination of the message did not stop at the country’s borders. In fact, when spread to the international community, the Unity Government didn’t bother with the insinuations. It just came straight out and pointed the figure at MDP. Before Monday morning, the President’s Office Spokesperson, Masood Imad, had told the AFP in Colombo:

The MDP instigated the attack on policemen at Kaashidoo and one was stabbed to death.

Here’s how a Sri Lankan newspaper ran the story the next morning:

How Haleem’s murder was reported in Sri Lankan newspaper

 

Whither the truth?

The truth of the matter, when details began to come out on Monday, was very different. Lance Corporal Haleem was killed by a criminal he had investigated for about a year, and was about to arrest. The murder was straightforward, and Mohamed Samah, the 22-year-old culprit from the same island, was arrested at the scene. There was an eye-witness and several people, including the police, were on the scene within seconds.

The subsequent scramble to pinpoint the political party to which the accused belonged was ugly. And it was a malaise that affected not just the Unity Government but the general population in its majority. It was as if the violent death of a young man would only begin to matter once the murderer’s political affiliation was established. His connections with various key figures in different political parties were discussed; his identity card number was keyed into the Elections Commissions website; his membership of one party thus established without doubt—only for that party to come out and say: “There are many MDP members who signed up to other parties by mistake.”

Seriously.

In a ‘functioning democracy’, as Dr Waheed describes the Maldives, the facts of Lance Corporal Haleem’s death would have required a formal retraction. And, at the very least, it would have elicited an apology to the MDP for very serious wrongful accusations made against it. But that is not what happened, for it was not Lance Corporal Haleem’s death that was important but the concurrent narrative of MDP’s violence that it was used to construct. Under the circumstances, truth was irrelevant.

Thus the political abuse of Lance Corporal Haleem’s body continued apace.

After the condemnations came the heavily publicised State funeral. Of course, the fallen must be honoured. Policemen put their lives at risk protecting society, and we should appreciate that, especially so when they die on duty. But was the public spectacle put on by the Unity Government and Maldives Police Service really necessary?

It is not part of Maldivian culture to hold ostentatious, loud, photographed and televised funerals. We are humble and simple in our bereavement. But, pictures of Lance Corporal Haleem’s coffin being carried to Islamic Centre on the shoulders of sombre looking policeman were splashed across the media. As were pictures of various key Unity Government figures consoling the family, looking appropriately grieved, and even praying. Faith, like death, reduced to a photo opportunity.

Dr Waheed consoling the bereaved family. Pic: Haveeru Attorney General Azima Shakoor, a shoulder to cry on Pic: Haveeru Photographed prayers. Pic: Haveeru Smile, you are on camera Pic: Haveeru
Perfect for a group photo

[In a slight digression: I could not help but notice Lance Corporal Haleem’s distraught mother photographed at the burial ground paying her respects. I know several mothers, wives, daughters and sisters (myself included) who have desperately wanted it to be otherwise. But it has always been maintained that a woman cannot partake in the burial. What was it about this occasion that allowed the bending of a seemingly inflexible Islamic rule?]

Lance Corporal Haleem’s mother at the burial ground. Pic: Haveeru

Retaliation against the wrongfully accused

As the day passed, the rhetoric of MDP’s violence against the police was only ratcheted up, not lowered. Now the Unity Government’s efforts were on making people forget the truth. It seems as if the fact of Lance Corporal Haleem’s death has been buried with him. What remained of concern was the accompanying narrative—MDP is deliberately inciting violence against the police and must be stopped.

Thus the Maldives Police Service began ‘retaliation’ against MDP for a crime it had nothing to do with. Chief among several actions taken to avenge Lance Corporal Haleem’s murder was the  ‘leaking’ of a telephone conversation between Nasheed and MDP Mariya Didi, one of his closest allies and friends.

In the 29 March conversation, Mariya is heard updating Nasheed about police violence and use of pepper-spray against protesters resisting their dismantling of Usfasgan’du [MDP’s protest camp] that day. She asks for Nasheed’s advice, and he replies:

There’s not much we can do. I don’t know. What is there to do? I think [we] need to get people out to fight if we can get them. If we can get people to fight, get them out. It’s very clear to me, I think we need to fight back. If we can get people to fight. Find kids from Male to fight the police.

Mariya laughs. Not the response one would expect from a person who thinks she has just been assigned the task of recruiting a gang of thugs to take on the national security forces. Regardless, the police thought it prudent to release the audio clip.

For what purpose?

It was certainly not aimed at calming tensions or to make real the rhetoric of reconciliation. Nasheed’s supporters are unlikely to accept the private conversation between him and Mariya as evidence of his alleged brutality. For them, his commitment to non-violence was proven beyond doubt when not just the MDP-affiliated Coup Report but also the so-called CONI Timeline documented Nasheed’s unequivocal refusal to use weapons against the mutinying police, or anyone else, on 7 February.

The only purposes the audio clip served was to harden government supporters’ dislike and mistrust of Nasheed, and to fortify government’s efforts to construct Nasheed as the cruel leader of the violent political organisation that is said to be MDP. To support their claim that MDP leaders are all characterised by political extremists prone to violence, they have also unearthed statements made by key MDP figures encouraging—wrongly so—retaliation against the police for their brutal violence against them during the events surrounding the transfer of government. Whether or not their words bear any relation to the murder of the policeman, once again, is of the least consequence. What it did beautifully was fit the government narrative.

What use to make of the audio clip, which the police has been in possession of since March, was decided shortly after Lance Corporal Haleem’s murder and long before facts of his killing were made public. Home Minister Jameel hinted at it on the night of the murder itself:

The ‘evidence’, with the allegation,  is continuing to play across the media—mainstream and social–since then.

Before they brought foreigners and shot them dead, now getting Maldivians to stab them…Bravo to the democracy Anni is bringing.

 

The poster with the last Tweet from President’s Spokesperson Abbas Riza reads:

6 February Massacre

Main reasons why a massacre was desired:

—to declare a state of emergency

—to abolish the JSC and give MDP the power to appoint judges

—to arrest the leaders who stepped up to defend Islam and the Constitution

—to hand MPL (Maldives Ports Limited) to a company of which India’s GMR is a shareholder

These are not the words and actions of members of a government eager to calm the political and social turmoil afflicting Maldives today. On the contrary, they are intended to cause the opposite effect.

If the Unity Government were serious about reconciliation in the five long months gone, it would have taken due action against members of the police who mutinied. It would not have given them promotions instead. It would not have appointed as leaders of the security forces men like Mohamed Nazim, Abdulla Riyaz and Mohamed Fayaz, men who the whole country saw playing a key role in the change of government on 7 February. The seeds of public mistrust of the police were planted on that day, and on 8 February. And they grow and mushroom with every day that passes without this government’s acknowledgement of the these facts.

There can be no reconciliation without the truth.

    26 comments

    1. Ash

      Excellent article. I wish people would think and understand the dirty role that the Gov is forced to play by the thugs controlling it. I often wonder why countries richest and people who had ruled this country for decades wants to control this country. These people are blaming blaming the people’s voice (MDP) just to get what they want from the Government. Shame on the Gov who do not understand that it is the people that they need to serve not selected thugs in the country. I agree thst people are angry but it is the coup which lead to this chaos in this country. People who are power addicted and who wants to abuse the finances of the Government iare no doubt behind the coup and inciting violence. Blame them and not the people who are fighting to make this country an equal place for all citizens but not only for the rich and filthy. Law an order is non existence now bcos government is creating all the hatred, and the corrupt people are making use of the situation. God knows the truth, how long can the people who are hiding live the dirty life ? My heartfelt condolences to late Haleems family may he rest in peace. I wish that we do not have to witness another sad encounter like this.

    2. malrow stein

      Good analysis. About time the “Unity Government” acquired a more accurate name don’t you think. Perhaps “Power Junkies”?

    3. Ibu

      Very briefed report with supporting to what’s said.
      Sad that the courageous cop didn’t get any credit from the coup government as they have used this case to a political win for them.
      The courageous cop got killed while in action to arrrest a dangerous criminal. Late Adam Haleem a hero who left his last breath in duty, trying to arrest a dangerous criminal to save the community from this dangerous criminal.
      It is questionable who and why this criminal was released from the police custody just 12 hours prior to this killing
      May Allah bless his soul

    4. hamdhoon hameedhu

      ther is some points thts informative but still the hall story is not right i think ther is no independent in writing this one. this is not politics. thts sure so 50% is correct. writers has to be independent first. other wise it will be not good. as president also no political rules to control government. wish the comment will be seen soon

    5. Mohamed

      The police man knows very well how Jabir has won Kaashidhoo seat in the recent election. This will be the reason for his death. The man who killed the police is Jabir’s brother in law. He was transferred to house arrest from jail on Jabir’s request.

    6. nihama

      A brilliant write up. When I was reading this, I felt like I was watching a political movie of some sort. I know the government finds the pressure that MDP has put them in as a real nuisance. They would have wanted everyone to be silent and at home so that they could go with their business. But how could the people do that when the president they had elected resigned under duress in front of their eyes and then the very next day they were brutalized in a peaceful demonstration? How could they stay at home when Waheed and his government does not even bother to condemn the acts of violence by the police? How could they stay at home when they see and hear of injustices being dished out depending on the affiliations and colours?

    7. Ibrahim Rasheed

      The ugly truth is that almost all the violence, murders, thefts, burglaries and government corruptions, 99% were carried out by the current coalition partners. Almost all leaders like Dr. Waheed (Feb. 7,8) his lord Ex-president Maumoon (30 years reign of terror), Dr. Hassan Saeed, Dr. Jameel and Police Riyaz, all have blood of the Maldivians dripping from their hands. Either through murder or beatings. The Coup was initiated to make sure they are not brought to justice. As such, these crooks will not stop at anything to tarnish any opposition that stands up and call for justice.

    8. nerd

      Biased article ad misleading. For one thing ion the translation there is a big difference between “I want to fight them” and ” I think we need to fight back”. And did the writer deny the fact that MDPs calling for violence. Was the politicians lying when they said that MDP is calling for attacks against violence. Leaving the important part hidden and propagating your point is not good journalism…

      • thappe

        Dear Nerd, I guess you have lost focus. Article is about politicizing a tragic death of a Maldivian Policeman; Government using the opportunity to further polarise an already divided nation; Compromising Islamic principles/customs/practices, one for political advantage by making the burial a huge media event and second by allowing women into the burial grounds. Govt’s propaganda machine in full swing to take full advantage of a huge loss for the bereaved family of L/C Haleem.

      • Sirius

        It appears the entire point of this article was lost on you “Nerd”.
        This whole thing the police and our darling government constructed is nothing but lies and lies and lies and more lies. They are doing everything and anything they can, to get rid of MDP and to bring back a regime that lasted 30 years and, if they succeed, will last more than 30 years with no MDP around to stop them.
        As Thappe said they have completely forgone the ritual of not allowing women in to the burial grounds and they are the ones ignoring Islamic values.
        I say this article was quite a good one. It attacked the points it had to attack. And if people like you can’t see it, well, it sucks to be narrow-minded and to be you.

    9. Thappe

      Excellent article! well researched and well presented. Its unfortunate that the politicians are dividing the nation and the Islamists are putting fuel on fire further exacerbating the situation. It’ll take a very long time for us to heal and to start appreciating the real values of democracy.

    10. Macken

      You have exaggerated some issues to prove your view point. Is it uncommon to hold televised funerals? Well, take the case of the MNDF personnel that was killed during a training by “accident”; or the students from Hiriyaa and their principal who drowned to death durng a camp. I think such cultures are changing along with the competition among the media outlets to be the first and best to bring as much details of such events.
      I know MDP supporters have a habit of labeling anyone who speaks against them as Gayyoom sympathizers. I am not a fan of Gayyoom or the current regime, but collectively labeling the armed forces and the police as “baaghees” is wrong as far as i believe. Creating a culture of disrespect for the law enforcement agencies would be disastrous in the long run. It is true that police were really violent during the protests that followed February 7. However, I am against calling for collective punishment of police and armed forces and their families.

      • Sirius

        So you are saying we shouldn’t have cared when Nazim sir and my friends died?
        If I recall correctly, no photos of them were taken with people pretend praying and the Islamic tradition of not allowing women into the cemetery was also followed.
        Nazim sir left a child and wife and an aged mother behind. So why weren’t they allowed in like this policeman’s female family members?
        And what else can we call them? There are far worse names than baaghees and I say there should be collective punishment of the police and the armed forces.

    11. Macken

      This is in no way a professional piece of writing. The government trying to take advantage of a policeman’s death was wrong. You are on the same page with them when you are trying turn it round and score points for MDP. You should also have included twitters by MDP supporters calling for violence and even stabbing of policemen.

    12. Afshan

      Dear Macken, just as there was a murderer registered in PPM [the author was considerate enough to leave that out and not point fingers but I am not], there might be a small faction of MDP members who are raging against the entire police and defense force. But if you had heard most of the speeches or read most of the tweets [which I understand you have not, judging from yoru words], you will see majority of us are calling for action to be taken against the mutinying police and defense force personnel, not attacking the entire police or mndf. In fact many of us have family members and friends in the police and mndf, ours being such a small society. We do not call to attack or kill them. We refer to them as ‘fuluhunnaa sifainge therein bagaavaathugai baiverivi faraaiythah’ – this is the usual rhetoric, meaning those within police and mndf who participated in the coup. It angers and dismays us greatly that these people, who not only brought a coup but violently assaulted many of our members on feb 7, 8 and so many occassions since then until now, walk about freely without any repercussions of their actions. I hope you wisen up and refrain from attributing the very same false allegations that this article has highlighted in the first place.

      • Macken

        Appreciate your time to reply me but i beg to differ. Most MDP supporters refer to the Maldives Police Service as “Baaghee police” and the MNDF as “Baaghee sifain”. Thats how they are referred to by most of them. I have seen even high-level officials of the party calling for violence against the police. I understand the frustration among the members of the party about the events after February 7th and their grudges towards those who were involved in it. But calling for violence is wrong. It is a fact that it is done by the MDP members and condoned by some in the leadership. Hence an initial response to an attack against a policeman being condemnation of such calls of violence against law enforcement agencies makes sense to me.

    13. Ammaday

      Its soo wonderful that youth of maldives are so conscious of what’s going on in the country. 30yr old dictator tried to destroy entire generation by introducing drugs n thru gang violence however, with grace of almighty, they have only awakened sleeping Giants!!

    14. nizam

      nice but u have missed one paragraph……… lately openly and officially call for killing…i was mentioned clearly …….and agreed for what they did… i think you forgot about that “23 dec ihthihaadhu” protest official website. when it’s officially released by Adhaalath president sheik Imran. Same day organizer Ihthihaad Abdulla agreed it and due to nasheed’s government and public pressure he again changed their slogans..

    15. BSA

      Why couldn’t he be buried in his home island? Wouldn’t that be more honorable? Why were the grieving family brought all the way to Male’? Everything here is such exhibitionism!!! Thank you for your excellent work

    16. Anonymous

      A good article for someone very biased, no one even noticed that the only tweets taken screenshots were from pro-government twitter accounts and the fact that the inciting of violence had gone even throughout the whole time at which the reports of the stab attack were spreading over twitter. I find it very amusing to read the pro-MDP side of the argument stating only the ‘facts’ that need to be highlighted for the political gain of MDP.

      Cheers to the blogger

    17. amira

      good post.
      I find it rather amusing and disheartening that the the body had to be brought all the way to Male’ – of course done for political gain. (I mourn the death of the official. I mourn for the family and the child left behind – and I pray Jannat for him and strength for his family to go on)
      It would have been more respectful for him to be buried in his island instead among his family and friends. The officials and political leaders who wanted to attend would have attended the funeral even if it was held in that island. Sad that his death was made into a political circus by people like Qasim, Jabir and the like going live on TV to defame and blame MDP supporters collectively. Shame on the ‘unity government’. And shame on Dr Waheed for his role in the propaganda.

    18. ali shareef

      an excellent analysis, as one comment said MDP calls ”Baaghee police” and Baaghee sifain” i must say that unless otherwise the two institutions remove those officers fron the force all will be labeled as ”traitors”. Clean the two institution as we have videos and photographs of the officers who took part in the protest and attacked national security head quaters. Thats the only way the label will be REMOVED.

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