Until 2004, the police in the Maldives functioned as a paramilitary force under the Ministry of Defence and National Security. It was separated from the National Security Service, the main defence force since renamed as the National Defence Force, in September 2004 as part of the democratic reforms undertaken in the island country by former President Gayoom. Now under the Ministry of Home Affairs, the MPS functions as a civilian institution to prevent crime and maintain peace and order.
Since its creation as a civilian institution, a number of measures have been undertaken by the MPS to guide its transformation including creation of new ranks, reorganization of the structure, articulation of new strategies and goals encapsulated in their Strategic Plan 2007-2011, and change in training curriculum. These have considerably helped to boost public confidence in the police which had taken a massive beating by the turn of century under Gayoom’s regime. The foundation for democratic policing were further strengthened with the introduction of a new Constitution enshrining principles of liberty, equality and justice, as well as a new Police Act in August 2008. The 2008 Act put forward a new vision for policing with emphasis on serving the people and providing police services in concert with the public. It also put in place a strong Police Integrity Commission to serve as an external oversight body for the police, independently investigate unlawful activities occurring within the police, and ensure public trust and confidence in relation to police service. Together, these provide a comprehensive framework for establishing an accountable, professional and responsive police service in the country.
However, many challenges continue to constrain effective policing in the island country. There is a dearth of training on procedures and safeguards governing police powers; political control over recruitments and appointments remains a concern; and standards and facilities in the police station are below par. Worse, Maldives still lacks an Evidence Act in the absence of which police investigation remains poor. Other legislations such as Legal Aid Bill and Juvenile Justice are yet to be enacted which is severely affecting police performance. Independent institutions like the Police Integrity Commission require greater resources and capacity building in order to be able to effectively fulfil their mandate.
Political transformation of the Maldives opened up scope for us to extend our work in the Maldives. Although Maldives is part of the Commonwealth, it was never a British colony and thus had a very different legal and administrative system from the rest of the subcontinent. But with the transition in 2008, it adopted the common law system, thereby opening up space for intervention. Keeping in mind that lessons cannot be imparted wholesale into another jurisdiction, it was nevertheless felt that there is much gain in sharing lessons from the democratisation process across the subcontinent.
Accordingly, CHRI’s objective in the country is to increase the scope for democratic and community policing in the country through:
• Capacity building of relevant stakeholders particularly civil society organizations in order to enable them fulfil their mandate;
• Facilitating dialogue among stakeholders in order to deepen demand for better policing;
• Identifying ways in which best practices and international standards on policing can be best adapted to Maldives through regular monitoring and research