November 16, 2014
The preliminary results of the 2014 census show the number of Maldivian citizens has increased by 42,288 since 2006, bringing the total number whose rights are protected under the Constitution to 341,256.
341,256 people whose right to life, liberty, and security of person the state is duty-bound to protect and promote, without discrimination.
The September census still counts Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, born 18-01-1986, as a Maldivian citizen – and the government’s statisticians are obliged to so for another 4 years.
100 days have now passed since Rilwan disappeared in suspicious circumstances, but wherever he is – and in whatever condition – he continues to be a Maldivian with the same rights as 341,255 other people.
A closer look at Rilwan’s disappearance, however, casts doubt on where those rights are, and in what condition they are in.
A comprehensive list of the ways in which my friend and colleague has had – and continues to have – his basic constitutional rights ignored would normally follow here. But without the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21, the remaining fall like a house of cards.
Among the rumours that have swirled since Rilwan was taken from us is that he was abducted because of sensitive information he had, or perhaps due to incriminating documents that were in his possession.
But there is mounting evidence to suggest that the document Rilwan was in possession of was in fact the Maldives’ Constitution – born 07-08-2008.
It seems increasingly likely that Rilwan – or his abductor – still has possession of this sensitive text as its whereabouts and prescriptions also appear to have vanished.
Indeed, a closer look at this missing evidence would now seem to condemn a number of institutions whose role is clearly defined within the document.
Article 236 of the Constitution states that the primary role of the Maldives Police Service is to “enable all persons in the Maldives to live in peace, security, and freedom” – in short, to protect Article 21.
In the absence of the original, the Police Integrity Commission will undoubtedly use a copy of the Constitution during their current research into the disappointing progress of the Rilwan’s investigation.
Next under suspicion comes the People’s Majlis, granted authority over the security services under Article 238 (b), whose relevant committees have declined to adequately investigate where Article 21 was taken on August 8, and by whom.
Article 75 says members of the Majlis should be guided by considerations of national interest and public welfare. Perhaps certain members who have seen fit to ignore a 5000 signature petition will recall this should the constitution be found alive and well.
At the cabinet level, the recollection that a minister’s role also requires the defence of public safety – i.e. Article 21 – might be more useful to citizens than the ‘reassurance’ that some crimes just cannot be solved.
Finally, the absence of the Constitution would explain the confusion regarding the role of the president. Locating the missing document would help to confirm the head of state’s sworn duty to uphold, defend, and respect it.
As well as being obliged to ensure the compliance of all state organs with the Constitution, the president was elected to “protect the rights and freedoms of all people”, which leads straight back to Article 21 – Rilwan’s life and his liberty.
To paraphrase President Abdulla Yameen: A constitution is missing, I think. So work will be done to find the constitution, right?
Where is Rilwan? Where is the Constitution? How can 341,255 people feel safe and protected when the rights and freedoms of one man have been abducted with so little resistance?
Ahmed Rilwan, wherever he may be, holds the rights of his 341,255 compatriots. Find Rilwan, and you can rest easy knowing that you are also protected by the state.
For as long as he remains missing, so does the guarantee that you, your friend, your brother, or your child, is among those whose right to life, liberty, and security of person has not also been ‘disappeared’.