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Page added on May 19, 2010

National Security Committee meeting on Gitmo detainees postponed

National Security Committee meeting on Gitmo detainees postponed thumbnail

Today’s National Security Committee meeting regarding the transfer of Guantánamo Bay inmates to the Maldives has been rescheduled, after Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid requested to cancel it.

The meeting has been postponed for next week, after a call from Shahid to the Chairman of the committee and leader of the People’s Alliance (PA), Abdulla Yameen.

He wanted to postpone the meeting until Parliament reconvenes in June and all committee members are back from leave.

Yameen said the meeting “was cancelled by the speaker,” and has been rescheduled for next Sunday. He said although he was not sure if all members of the committee would be present at the meeting, “we will have quorum.”

He did not want to comment on the issue of the detainees “as of yet.”

Independent MP for Kulhudhuffushi-South, Mohamed Nasheed, said “when the chair wants to hold a meeting, the speaker has no right to postpone it.”

He said the decision to hold a committee meeting, whether during recess or session, was completely up to the chair of the committee, “and there’s nothing the administration or the speaker’s office can do.”

Nasheed said the Majlis committees were all “very democratic institutions,” and all the powers vested in the chair were provided for in the codes.

“The only people who can object is a majority from the committee itself,” he added.

Nasheed said “the meeting will not be cancelled” and there will be “lots of hearings” with the Foreign Ministry, Police, and the Attorney General, among others.

He said the situation will be verified, details asked for and documents submitted on the matter.

“The committee will then make an assessment and then report to the Majlis.”

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said Yameen had decided “all the party should be present,” and added “the Parliament should be involved” in deciding upon the issue of the detainees.

He said it was important the meeting was held with “the inclusiveness of all [11] members,” and should be postponed until all members returned from leave.

“If anything happens to Maldives, we should all be concerned about this.”

Price per head

MP Nasheed said he was “not in favour of the meeting going in a particular way,” but he believes it is “a serious issue” where law and policy must be looked at carefully.

He said the government was trying to paint the detainees as “innocent and helpless Muslims,” but, he asked, “if they don’t want them in the jurisdiction of the US, why keep them in a third country?”

Nasheed argued that the detainees’ fundamental freedoms were still being encroached on. “Their movements are still controlled. Why do all these things?”

He said although the “government’s spin” was that they were innocent, he noted that Bermuda’s government was paid US$9 million per head for each Guantánamo detainee they settled in their country.

“They ought not get into this deal just for the money,” Nasheed said, adding that there were children in Vilingili orphanage who needed families, money and staff to look after them. “Why take in Chinese or Palestinians?”

“If they’re innocent, free them,” he said. “But the government is saying they are not even capable of committing a crime. This is absurd.”

He noted the government had initially tried to transfer two Chinese nationals who had been detained at Guantánamo, until a Chinese delegation came to the Maldives protesting that the two men were terrorists.

He said the government withdrew its intention to resettle the two men “only after China issued a press release.”

Precedent

The small South Pacific island nation of Palau, a former US territory until 1994, agreed to take in 17 Muslims from China last June, according to The Times (UK).

The men, from the Xinjiang area in China’s north-west, belong to the Uighur ethnicity.

They claim to have been persecuted for decades under Beijing’s rule, and fled to neighbouring Pakistan.

They were taken to Guantánamo on the basis that they had received a small-arms training, which they claim was to defend themselves from China.

China has repeatedly asked the US government to send the men back to China, claiming they are terrorists, but their plea has met with harsh opposition. The US fears they will be killed or tortured if sent home.

China has also asked many other countries not to take the men in, leaving Palau as the sole country on the list of volunteers to resettle the Uighurs.

They were found innocent in 2004, but remained in Guantánamo until Palau’s government agreed to take them in. Palau is one of the few countries that does not recognise China, but maintains diplomatic relations with Tibet.

Additionally, the US gave Palau US$200 million in “development and budget” aid, but the White House has denied the money is tied to the transfer of the detainees. The Pentagon, on the other hand, has called it a “pay-off.”

Correction: When stating that US$9 million was paid per detainee, MP Nasheed was referring to the case in Palau, although the government of Bermuda also accepted four Uighurs from Guantánamo Bay. Whether Bermuda’s government accepted money from the US was not made public.

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