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The Counter Terrorism Effort In Maldives Politics Essay

Introduction

Long gone are the days when Maldives was celebrated as the ‘Heaven on Earth’ and heralded as one of the most peaceful and harmonious countries. Today, malevolent and divisive forces are embedded within our society and are wreaking havoc in the societal fabric and creating very significant national security threats. One such element is the presence of extremist and radical entities, and more significantly, terrorism.

Maldives has earnestly embarked on countering the malice of radicalism and terrorism; but the process has been fraught with a lot of political inconsistency, as well as inter-agency squabbling between the Maldives National Defence Force and Maldives Police Service. In addition, absence of critical legislation and the lack of an overarching national counter-terrorism framework greatly inhibit a broader inter-agency process critical for successful counter –terrorism policy formulation.

This article focuses on the counter-terrorism efforts undertaken in Maldives and the major issues in the conceptual approach employed to formulate CT policy. This article posits that three pre-conditions are absolutely vital for successful CT policy formulation in the Maldives: enactment of requisite legislation, establishment of CT inter-agency framework and process and close coordination with regional and international partners.

‘Terrorism’ this global threat phenomenon can hold many definitions. Its perceiving threats can differ from country to country. Causes and its impacts may also vary from situation to situation. However, these threats are multiple, changeable and costly challenge to all nations experiencing these conditions.

According to Maldives history, Maldivians started embracing Islam since 12th century and it never got so vibrant and the people from its north to south had been following the same for ages. In 70’s Wahhabism was introduced by Saudi clerics and a dozen of Maldivians started to follow in the same isolated manner but nothing of such events too and had never took place.

Late 70’sand early 80’s some Saudis in links with few Pakistanis came and started funding schools which had been asked to close later by the authorities of that time. Since this was not been able to achieve then the recruitment starts to invite the Maldivian youth to their religious schools of Pakistan and then to Saudi Arabia for their religious study. Some of the students got turned to their camps and some escaped and got returned to their families realizing this was not right.

Hence this article looks into the general terrorist threat perception as well as the various measures taken by the Maldives towards detering, detecting, and defeating terrorism.

Background

In 1988 when a group defected from Sri Lankan Tamils LTTE (Liberation of Tamil Elam) named as PLOTE (People Liberation of Tamil Elam) armed attack the capital city Male’ in the middle of the night killing 9 soldiers and 11 civilians. This was the first of such incident to our recent history. This horrific incident ended in a maritime hostage situation followed by a hot chase in the Indian Ocean with the help of Indian Navy.

No matter the scale or ratio would be, the impact experienced to the people lived in the capital city of Male’, when an IED (improvised Explosive Devices) went off in Sultan Park in 2007, was bitter. This event that shook the country and injured a dozen of tourists was an enough cautionary indication. This too can be considered as a warning and also its investigation given the depth of the growing extremism.

However, since 2002 lot of signs of such which have no direct influence caused the authority to relax and stay cool without much effort to curb down the phenomena till off that date. This timing coincided with the birth of a new democratic movement in 2004. Consequently, this brought unstableness to the country’s authority, holding its traditional accomplishments.

These new challenges brought and faced many internal security situations to the law enforcement agencies, where lot of civil unrests, strikes and demonstrations were on the agenda of the opposing movement against the continued leadership for its sixth term. However, this retro encouraged to form an intelligence set up in the military and also to raise a special forces which became two great tools in countering terrorism where especially in prevention and response phases.

Previously, with diverged effort towards these extreme groups they were no longer being able to suppress but went and reached to its peak. Later, this turned to be an incentive for their cause. The reason believed that the act was more used to overwhelm political opponents other than bringing down terrorist acts. Ultimately the shocking events took place in late of 2007 gave rise to the frequent events that took place during this period and it became to the notice of outside world that the threat was very real.

Even before 2007 so many incidents took place. However, highlighted events known to the outside world were a Maldivian taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, another involved in ISI (Inter Service Intelligence) Headquarter attack in Lahore/Pakistan and also not the last but Waga border crossing of nine Maldivians in 2009. Still these are few incidents but there were many known related incidents observed in the recent past. Even this year brought lot of indications that the growing of extreme threat has became a never ending story.

The flowing of narcotics in the country is a growing fears almost an effort without a cure and its threats are multi-facets and genuine for the last few decades. Number of youth involvement and no sincere law enforcement is causing trouble. This caused harm to the financial sector of the country failing to monitor the outflow of foreign currency. Partly, unemployment leads to form criminal gangs on the street corners and they are committing crimes for their daily bread and butter. These gangs are connected to few authoritative figures and they seem to be untouchable.

Narco-terrorism is understood to mean the attempts of narcotics traffickers to influence the policies of a government or a society through violence and intimidation and to hinder the enforcement of the law and the administration of justice by the systematic threat or use of such violence. Today it is a mere fact although it is hesitant to express. However, it cannot deny these happenings are known to one and all and a higher percentage of crimes are related to narcotics.

Global effort to fight against the terrorism Maldives showed support in many forums and regional bilateral agreements have signed amongst the law enforcing agencies at institution level. However, the confidence for the international concerns has never got diminished for many reasons. Recent Mumbai attacks from a maritime route and their sympathizers across the ocean may disturb our neighbours further.

Countering Efforts

MNDF has taken positive steps with the help of foreign assistance bringing experts from abroad to formulate its first counter terrorism response plan in 2007. However, as like many new organisation it also brought lot of challenges and got delayed for as there were no strong policies adhered to support for such.

Legislation and Conventions

Maldives first anti-terrorist bill was passed in 1990 but then the threat was different and focus was more to home grown threats. Reviewing of its first anti-terrorist bill and redrafting with necessary changes was drafted few years back an effort by police legal team with the help of foreign assistance and lot of delay causing it to come out from the cabin.

Even before 90’s Maldives contracted with two or more conventions related to terrorism. Mainly, this was not to support any hijacking or any crime of that nature in the civil aviation sector. Even after that less than a dozen of conventions regarding terrorism had been signed at global level. Few were signed at regional level.

The Department of Immigration and Emigration signed an agreement with Malaysia's Nexbis Limited in November 2010 to install a new border-control system with an integrated database which was a new hope to be added. Although, some legal issues causing a big delay to the system existence and its becoming active.

Prosecutions of individuals promoting violent extremism and terrorism were unsuccessful, as existing laws severely limited the ability of law enforcement agencies to prosecute such cases. The US State Department has reported there were no successful prosecutions of suspected terror suspects during 2011 in the Maldives, and raised wider concerns about the potential radicalisation of young people from the country in foreign madrassas. This was expressed on theirs, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011”. [1] 

Preparedness

Although new birth of a proper intelligence set up from the traditional way was started in 2004, although it was infant at that stage without the intelligence it would had been hard to find the culprits behind the 2007 sultan park bombing so swiftly. Year 2007coincided with the initial effort to raise acounter terrorism response group later formed as Special Forces of Maldives in late27th October, 2009. New EOD(Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams were raised for the 17thSAARC, 2011 and now their teams are well dispersed to serve in the regions.

Training

Though initially from early 90’s Maldivian National Defence Force started train it troops mainly for insurgency operations. Partly this training was more oriented towards on counter terrorism training situations. Later, training was more specifically focused to fight against the terrorism. Joint concept was introduced and lot of training were conducted with this thought.

Exercises with foreign troops were taken place in case of such imminent threats as joint training. Troops were sent across its maritime border in groups or else as individuals to get training from different schools or to conduct exercises in liaise with friendly armies. MNDF and its fighting wings are either marines or coastguard conducts many exercises annually under different scenarios especially with the foreign troops. Neverthless noted exercises which had been going for a while are named as," Ekueuvrin”, ”Dosti”, “Exercise Fusion Metal 12-1”, “Balance Metal” .

Countering Terrorist Finance

Maldivian law does not criminalize money laundering apart from a small provision in the Drugs Act. However, the Maldives Financial Intelligence Unit of Maldives Monetary Authority took the initiative in drafting an Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism act with assistance from the IMF.  The UN 1267/1989 and 1988 consolidated lists for individuals and entities associated with the foreign terrorist organizations and were sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for forwarding to the Maldives Monetary Authority, which then instructed banks and creditors to take action and report back within a specified time period. The draft bill was sent to the Attorney General's Office in July 2010 and was sent back to the Maldives Police Services and the Prosecutor General for review and comment. 

In July 2011, Maldives Financial Transactions Reporting came into effect, which aims to safeguard Maldives financial and payment systems from being used to promote acts of terrorism and money laundering, and to protect financial services and products from being used to conceal the proceeds of crime

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism 

Last August the government of the United States has stressed that it was concerned over the hundreds of young Maldivians attending madrassas in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia which has led to many of them bringing home radical ideology.

The Government of Maldives recognized that counter radicalization efforts form a critical component to long-term success against violent extremism, and has pursued initiatives to counter violent extremism.  The Ministry of Islamic Affairs implemented a program designed to mobilize religious and social leaders to work against all forms of violence in society, including religious extremism. 

The Islamic Ministry already conducted over 15 seminars and workshops for religious leaders, educators, and local government officials.  Several of these workshops included participants from across the country.

It also runs many religious programs through media organizes many religious lectures and also arrange platforms to the religious scholars with different ideological views to discuss.

Intelligence Sharing

At the start there was not much of intelligence sharing. Lack of mutual trust amongst the agencies and their past experiences, always put hesitancy to their front. There was not much of a difference between intelligence and information sharing. Similarly this happened to most of the countries in their start or birth of these kind of set ups. Leadership interests seem more of raw information than the intelligence.

However, due to joint training and democratic openness information sharing encouraged ever than before. Sharing with foreign partners also improved over the years. Sri Lanka and the Maldives have reached agreement to share intelligence and exchange information on the flow of funds that may be linked to terrorist activities even in 2007. This understanding continued and emerged following discussions between leaders from both sides in Colombo on 19th June, 2009. Police did the same from their counterparts in Sri Lanka.

On 7 March 2005 Defence Attaché's Office (DAO) was established in the High commission of the Republic of Maldives in India. The service extends on intelligence and information sharing between the agencies and further it strengthen the on-going relationship.

Formation of a new Counter Terrorism Department

For long defence sector effort to the existence of a counter terrorism office was finally come to its reality in late August. With the introduction of its first white paper of its form was an additional strength to put an end to rivals between laws enforcing agencies. In this paper, it had discussed in details of its formations of the new organization set up.

The mission of the Department of Counter Terrorism is to coordinate and liaise with relevant ministries and agencies to prevent, protect from, and respond to the threat of terrorism in order to recover from and normalise the situation.

First of its focus on countering terrorism was given in limit. This was after many hassle amongst the agencies to the quest of who should lead? But this would definitely be a beginning of new challenges and also a good foot step of its miles to cross.

Voicing on International Forums

The Maldives’ Ambassador to the United Nations Ahmed Sareer speaking at the review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in New York on 29th June, 2012 gave assurance to the country’s continued dedication to the ongoing fight against global terrorism. [2] 

During the last 17th SAARC Summit held at Addu City concerns have been raised over the terrorism in the region. In the recent visit by Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony visit to Maldives on 16th September, 2012 agreed on an array of steps to step up their cooperation in many areas out of which counter-terrorism was highlighted. Hosting conferences speak about terrorism and also giving the maximum in participating in these international forums are clear indications of Maldives strive for its excellence in this regard.

Response Plan

Interagency approach...Joint exercise conducted at home and as well as with foreign troops. Regional exercises were conducted...Intelligence sharing is going on with the regional neighbours as well as global concern agencies...

“I think the requirement to counter terrorism and its way out should come from domestic approach rather abroad.”

“A counter-terrorism bill is a necessary requirement to enact as soon as possible.”


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