Comment: Why we must object to the farce of a ‘trial’ against Nasheed

This article first appeared on Republished with permission

On Sunday, former President of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, was arrested. The arrest warrant issued by Criminal Court stated “terrorism charges brought against the subject and fears that he may not attend the Court or go into hiding” as reason for arrest.

The evidence and substantiation for Court decision was given as, “how matters had transpired when a case against subject was heard at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, and Police Intelligence reports”. The arrest warrant was provided on the request of the Prosecutor General who was according to the arrest warrant, “investigating case”.

Till then, there had been no mention of terrorism charges against Nasheed by any authority nor had an investigation into terrorist activities by Nasheed taken place.

Local media soon reported the trial has been scheduled in Criminal Court for 4pm today, and it emerged that the Prosecutor General had filed new terrorism charges in Criminal Court after withdrawing the case against Nasheed pending in Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court for over two years as Nasheed challenged the cherrypicking of his trial bench by the Judicial Service Commssion and the procedural appeals dragged on without decision.

As the new trial begins in a couple of hours, there is more reason than ever before to object to the farce.

  1. The current Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin is a former Criminal Court judge, who worked as a junior judge under Criminal Court chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed who is himself the subject in the case against Nasheed.
  1. Media reports the Criminal Court has selected a bench of three judges – Judge Abdulla Didi, Judge Ahmed Rasheed and Judge Shujau Usman – for the case.

The first two are both former members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) who played crucial roles within JSC in both re-appointing Abdulla Mohamed as judge despite him not meeting criteria and pending serious misconduct issues, and in covering up misconduct after re-appointment.

Moreover, both carry bias against Nasheed evident in JSC records, especially in discussions of misconduct allegations against Judge Abdulla Mohamed filed with the JSC by the President’s Office in 2009 when Nasheed was in office.

Judge Didi served on the JSC from it’s establishment as an interim commission in 2008 till 2015 as the lower courts appointee. Ahmed Rasheed elected by the law community served on the JSC from 2009 to 2015 and was appointed a Criminal Court judge by the JSC just days ago.

The third, Shujau Usman, was re-appointed a Magistrate by JSC despite a criminal record and was one of three magistrates cherry-picked by the JSC for the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench for Nasheed’s case.

Nasheed’s trial then is not simply political persecution by the government of President Yameen but an already orchestrated trial, managed by the JSC, with the Prosecutor General and the Criminal Court bench already set against Nasheed and ready to avenge Abdulla Mohamed.

Meanwhile, heading the JSC today is Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed infamous for his white underpants and sex tapes gone viral on the internet.

Aishath Velezinee sat on the Judicial Services Commission from 2009-2011.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: Mutiny of the State – Maldives gets away with another Coup D’etat

Article first published on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

A year ago the Supreme Court of the Maldives reigned supreme. The court, and at times the chief justice alone, ran wild with ‘the powers of the Supreme Cour’, citing Article 145 (c) for Supreme Court interference in all manner of issues.

Article 268 on supremacy of the Constitution binds the Supreme Court too – but both the Supreme Court andparliament majority were wilfully blind to this as they got their way, citing the Constitution to justify outrageous breaches of the Constitution.

Few among the general public in a polity with a history of authoritarian rule and unfamiliar with the concept of the rule of law understood contraventions of the Constitution, especially when the breaches were blatantly defended by the Supreme Court. In the absence of a culture of democracy it was often reduced to whatever the ‘majority’ decide – by hook or by crook.

To win was the ultimate goal in elections as well as in litigation, no matter how. Reason by the minority was drowned out and, with the Supreme Court politicised and the parliament majority with the president, an executive dictatorship reigned in the shadow of the supreme Supreme Court.

The gravity of the situation became visible to the public and the international community during the 2013 presidential elections, when the court repeatedly intervened in the election process, often working the graveyard shift to issue midnight decrees and directives to control the elections. Polls were nullified and voting was repeatedly rescheduled to ensure an election win for Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, half-brother of the 30-year dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Why the Supreme Court may have had an interest in seeing Yameen as the president may be seen in Yameen’s statement to the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) that decided the 7 February 2012 coup was not a coup

Soon after the presidential elections, the Supreme Court also facilitated a win for President Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in parliamentary elections, removing the Elections Commissioner and his deputy in the country’s first suo moto case. The Elections Commissioner was accused of contempt of the court and undermining its powers.

During the election campaign President Yameen, like PPM MPs in their campaigns, pledged to protect the judiciary from interference, condemning the local and international calls for judicial reform as “interference”. The Supreme Court is the highest authority, the bearer of the last word in all matters of law, and none had the power to criticise or demand reform of the judiciary – both the Supreme Court and President Yameen agreed.

Dismissive of all expert reports on the Maldives judiciary, the Supreme Court adopted contempt of court regulations to prohibit media and public criticism and went as far as to initiate court action against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) in suo moto vs HRCM – charging all members of the HRCM with high treason for their 2014 report to the Universal Periodic Review for noting that the Supreme Court unduly influences and controls the judiciary.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain played his cards to win. From giving the oath to Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed without question and legitimising the 7 February 2012 coup d’état, to guaranteeing a win for coup-leader Yameen in the 2013 elections, facilitating a PPM majority in parliament and remaining silent while the PPM majority systematically undermined the Constitution and ruled by law instead of upholding the rule of law, Faiz never faltered.

None of this mattered, however, when on December 14 – following an amendment to the Judicature Act which required the Supreme Court bench to be reduced from seven to five justice, the PPM majority in parliament removed both Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan — the only voice of reason, and often only voice of dissent from majority opinion in the court.

Supreme Court Justice and Chief of the Interim Supreme Court Abdulla Saeed – who I maintain engineered hijacking of the judiciary in 2010 in what I have since called the silent coup – was rewarded with the title of chief justice. Solemnising the historic oath of the new chief justice was none other than Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, whose dirty laundry made international headlines after the court ruled against display of white underpants in public protests. The white pants became a protest prop against Hameed after videos appearing to show the judge with foreign sex workers in a hotel in Sri Lanka went viral on the internet.

The Final Nail in the Coffin

Amendments to the Judicature Act were passed by the parliament majority on Wednesday and ratified by President Yameen on Thursday.

Under the new amendments, the bench was to be reduced from seven to five justices, and the High Court bench is to be chopped into three equal parts, with three of the nine justices assigned to three geographical regions. A total of 43 MPs voted for the change, all members of PPM – the government majority, and errant members of the opposition.

Within hours of ratification, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) who had staunchly refused to assess or remove a single judge as required for the de facto transition under Constitution Article 285, announced a decision to submit names Faiz and Adnan for removal. No reasons were given as to why or how the JSC reached the decision to remove them. The media was simply told it was a secret decision and that the commission had decided not to reveal procedure or reason.

On Saturday, while the opposition, senior lawyers, commentators, media, social media activists, civil society, the public, and even the Civil Court declared the amendments to the Judicature Act unconstitutional and illegitimate, politicians bargained to win the two-thirds simple majority required to remove a judge.

On Sunday morning, while opposition-led protests were kept at a distance by Police barricades around the parliament building, government MPs voted to remove the  pair. The MDP issued a three-line whip to reject the dismissal of the justices, but with at least five opposition MPs making themselves absent from the proceedings, the required two-thirds vote was guaranteed.

MDP MPs and some JP MPs raised the matter of the unconstitutionality of the amendment to Judicature Act — the fact is that Article 154 of the Constitution, under which the Majlis had scheduled to remove the justices, does not permit the removal of a judge except where the JSC finds the person grossly incompetent, or guilty of gross misconduct.  MPs also noted no such report  from the JSC regarding the two judges who were to be removed had been made available to them, nor was it on record with the parliament.

It was noted that the only documentation before parliament was a three-line note from the JSC seeking the removal of Faiz and Adanan, and that this was forced upon the JSC by parliament via the unconstitutional amendment to the Judicature Act.

The parliament majority leader spoke for the government, laughing at opposition claims of unconstitutionality, and citing Constitution’s Article 70 and the powers of the parliament therein to “make any law on any matter and any manner, whenever and wherever Parliament wish”. The fact that there are limits upon the parliament, and that the parliament may not enact a law detrimental to the Constitution was lost upon him.

The vote was won and, on Sunday afternoon, it was reported that JSC had proposed Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Saeed for the post of Chief Justice. Sunday evening, Parliament was back in session and Abdulla Saeed was appointed the new Chief Justice with 55 votes. Before midnight, Abdulla Saeed had taken oath.

Corrupting of the Judiciary

In 2010, the JSC – supported by the then-opposition parliament majority – refused to execute Article 285 and re-appointed all sitting judges en masse. Further, both the JSC and opposition MPs misled the public on the commission’s actions leading up to the collective judges’ oath on 4 August 4, 2010.

The JSC published what it called the  ‘legal reasoning on the Article 285 decision‘ speaking of the “human rights of judges” and citing Constitution section 51 (h), and ICCPR Article 14:2, and UDHR Article 11 on rights of the accused, to explain why no sitting judge may be removed for misconduct or failing to be of good character.

“No one can be penalized (dismissed) by a retrospective law,” the JSC claimed in 2010 – the “law” referred to here by the JSC being the 2008 Constitution.

The JSC’s decision stood as few protested against it, and complaints to parliament oversight committee, the Anti Corruption Commission and the Human Rights Commission on the JSC’s treason were ignored or covered up.

The appointment of the Supreme Court itself was a political decision influenced by the existing power balance in the parliament and the pressure from the international community for “political negotiation and peace”.

Reports of the International Commission of Jurists, who probed the issue following appeals in 2010, and the UN special rapporteur on independence of lawyers and judges, and FIDH – who made inquiries after the February 2012 coup d’état – all recognise fundamental mis-conceptualisations in the appointment of judges and in the use of concepts like independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in the Maldives.

Rule By Law: Precedents in the Maldives

The removal of Faiz and Adnan from the Supreme Court bench through amendment legislation is not the first breach. A number of similar unconstitutional actions where political ‘majority’ power reigned supreme have set the precedent. Some major comparable instances are found in the following:

  • The removal of the chair of the JSC, High Court Chief Justice Abdul Ghani Mohamed through a High Court decree on January 21, 2010. The decision was taken by three of the five High Court justices while the fourth was on leave, and, without the knowledge of Abdul Ghani himself. The move contravened democratic principles. The JSC did not investigate the misconduct and abuse of power by the three High Court judges – despite the adoption of a motion to do so – and appointed two of the said three High Court justices to the Supreme Court, and the third as chief justice of the High Court.
  • The legitimisation of JSC’s breach of Constitution Article 285 by the Judicature Act of August 10, 2010, which brought down the standards and qualifications stipulated in the Constitution for judges.
  • The amendment to the Judicature Act on 10 August 2010, the same day it was passed and ratified, to qualify Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi for the Supreme Court bench.
  • The legitimisation of the 7 February 2012 coup d’état by majority power in parliament.
  • The removal of the Auditor General through amendment to the Auditor General’s Act in 2014.

Another coup d’état?

If a coup d’état is understood as hijacking of state powers, and bringing down of legitimate Constitutional government, and/or the derailment of Constitutional government, the Maldives has once against carried out a coup d’état, this time going full circle to complete what I have called earlier the silent coup.

With Monday’s move, all state powers are once again with the president who has got himself parliament majority with the power to write and rewrite law; and the shamelessness to do so without regard to the Constitution, democratic principles, public outrage, or international criticism.

With the Supreme Court secured, parliament is now on fast track, undoing the Constitutional rights and safeguards. Next step will be the elimination of all opposition including independent voices, all by Court order and verdicts, once again by the powers of the Constitution.

Where do the people of Maldives go with this case of the mutiny of the state against it’s own Constitution and people?

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

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Comment: Mutiny in the Supreme Court

Just three weeks to the Maldives’ presidential elections scheduled for September 7, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain has announced a mutiny in the Supreme Court!

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Chief Justice declared an injunction order issued by the “Supreme Court majority” of four judges on Thursday to be unlawful, issued without due process by the secret collusion of four members of the seven member bench, without the knowledge of himself and two other justices.

The injunction order is to stop the appointment of a Civil Service Commission (CSC) member to replace the disgraced CSC Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, who was removed from office and CSC membership by the Majlis earlier this year for sexual assault of a staff member. He continued to sit in the office despite the removal, while politicians haggled and MPs pointed the finger at each other and outside to explain his impunity and the absence of rule of law.

No one appeared to understand that it is the Majlis that has the power to appoint and remove CSC members, with the CSC Act having been amended in 2010 for Majlis to take full powers of appointment, oversight and removal of CSC members, or that squatting in public office after removal is a crime.

Also unnoticed, or deliberately ignored in public discussion, are the wider connections of the Fahmy case to the silent coup and the hijack of the judiciary in 2010 with the CSC Chair being an ex-officio member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), and the serious and dangerous implications of the Supreme Court mutiny on the upcoming elections.

Discussed in the Maldives on political platforms, media, social media and other public fora is “bad man Fahmy” – the removed CSC Chair at the centre of the controversy; “bad man Ali Hameed” – the Supreme Court justice who has continued to sit on the bench protected by both the JSC and Majlis despite his public expose in the sex tapes scandal where he is seen having sex with multiple foreign women in a Colombo hotel room; and “bad man Abdulla Saeed” – the interim, self declared “Chief Justice” who is said to “lead the majority in the Supreme Court”.

Democracy, in the Maldives, is simplified to a struggle between The Majority and The Minority, with majority by any means deciding all, be it in the Majlis, the High Court, the Supreme Court or elsewhere. Democratic principles and standards, due process and rule of law, transparency and accountability, are all dismissed, the focus of all being on majority building by any means to have their way.

The report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers issued in May 2013 Ms Gabriella Knaul, highlights the critical issues in Maldives engagement with democracy, and provides insight into the coup of February 7, 2012 like no other report, but remains ignored by government, opposition, civil society and other actors.

Precedent: Mutiny in the High Court

On January 21, 2010 a similar mutiny took place in the High Court, in my opinion the first of the many mutinies that had eventually led to the coup of Feb 7, 2012 and the fall of legitimate government with the forced resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed, the first President elected through democratic process.

The High Court mutiny attacked the JSC, removed the JSC Chair who was the then Chief Judge of the High Court, Abdul Ghani Mohamed, and delivered the Commission to the then Vice Chair of the JSC, now removed Justice of the interim Supreme Court, Mujthaaz Fahmy, who had cleverly manipulated the Commission, committed high treason using public office and the powers of JSC, hoodwinked the public, and delivered the full judiciary intact to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his allies.

The High Court mutiny was never investigated by the JSC despite a unanimous decision in the Commission in January 2010; the modus operandi of Mujthaaz Fahmy being to give in when challenged in a public display of concession and going behind the back to corrupt any decision he did not agree with.

The first Inquiry Committee appointed by the JSC to investigate the High Court Mutiny never sat, and I, a JSC member at the time, was informed by the Commission that it was due to the non appearance of Inquiry Committee member, then interim Supreme Court Justice, Ahmed Faiz Hussain – now the same Chief Justice who has declared that “the majority” has gone behind his back and there is a mutiny in the Supreme Court.

The Inquiry Committee never sat, and there was no investigation or action against the judges in the High Court mutiny, and eventually they were rewarded with lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court under the careful management of the Majlis majority. The removed interim Justice Mujthaz Fahmy was rewarded for life by the Majlis.

Ironically, but to no surprise, those in the Supreme Court mutiny today are the same “judges” in the High Court mutiny of January 21, 2010, who were appointed to the Supreme Court on August 10, 2010 in a political deal reached by the political leaders and the sitting interim Supreme Court who had by then declared themselves permanent.

The international community itself played by the politicians without a single independent observer to comment, had itself played a role pushing for “calm” and haste over due process and trust, ignoring the politics of it all, and the serious and lasting negative impact on democracy in the Maldives.

The Maldives is today more an active crime scene than a State, and whilst free and fair elections are a necessary first step to come out of the current situation, return to Constitutional rule, and rebuilding the democratic State we failed to build in the first attempt, there is little reason to expect a smooth electoral process.

The final word on the results of the September 7, 2013 elections will surely come from Court and not votes; and it is imperative that the political leaders and the international community come to an agreement on an alternative dispute resolution mechanism leaving the corrupted judiciary out of the process.

Ignoring the serious issues, hoping for the best, and relying on the possible goodwill of the judges given the power of numbers voting, is, unfortunately, no guarantee.

Aishath Velezinee (@Velezinee on twitter) is an independent democracy activist and writer. She was the Editor of Adduvas Weekly 2005-07 and served on the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission (2009-11). She claims the Commission she sat on breached constitution in transition; and advocates for redress of Article 285, and a full overhaul of the judiciary as a necessary step for democracy consolidation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Three years ago, the JSC colluded to reappoint Gayoom’s judges: Aishath Velezinee

On this day three years ago, on July 27, 2010, I cried in public, standing on the road, outside Maldives Police Headquarters.

I had gone to the police to report that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was sitting at work, on a public holiday, in a hastily called, irregular, unlawful sitting, putting the final stamp on a long-drawn conspiracy to hijack the judiciary.

It was, I now believe, the first major takeover in the coup that brought down the Maldives’ first democratically-elected President on Feb 7, 2012.

The station was on holiday mode and there was no one available to hear my complaint. The junior officers at the counter tried calling superiors but it appeared they had all been busy with the Independence Day, the day before, and were “off”.

There was none to speak to. I told the officers on duty that the Judicial Service Commission was sitting, at work, and that given two hours, they would bring down the state, and walked out. They stood, in silence.

I had tried all other avenues before, and had tried to reach President Nasheed through his office. The President was out of reach, out of Male’ on official ceremony with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), on their territory, outside Male’ where he was Commander in Chief with the MNDF alone.

I was helpless to stop it, and I was convinced the state was collapsing. The Judicial Service Commission was at that moment sitting, colluding, to reappoint Gayoom’s judges en masse and approving them name by name, without check or inquiry.

No one else in the country appeared to know. The media found it all too fantastic. It appeared a Hollywood script, too unreal to be taken seriously.

I stood outside the Police Headquarters, frantic, tears streaming down my face from behind my big black sunglasses, trying to think what to do next, when Colonel Zubair came out of MNDF Headquarters saw me and came up. He saw me crying as I couldn’t stop the tears, though I pretended I wasn’t crying, and it just started pouring and poured more as I spoke. I explained my predicament to Zubair, who called up a police chief.

To cut short, it was explained to me that they understood my case but the police could not act to prevent the Judicial Service Commission from breaching the constitution, acting against the state, hijacking the courts, or robbing the people of the independent judiciary guaranteed by the constitution. These were the crimes I was reporting in my non-legal mind.

I walked back slowly, and went to Maanel, my haven, where I ran to breathe whenever the JSC stifled me, and where I went to vent and collect myself before running back when the JSC taunted, threatened, and attacked me as it often did in those days, in 2010. The JSC was just down the street.

I went to Maanel, left safe the documents I’d taken out from JSC that morning safe, and telling Wimla and Huchen what was going on, I left Maanel and walked back to JSC with only a water bottle, my phone and JSC keycard.

I was on my way to my first ever protest, having only been an observer, a reporter, in the years protesting had begun.

All along, I had been calling up media and contacts, telling people what was going on, and there was some public activity. A small crowd was already gathered outside the JSC when I went back.

I had gone that morning at 10:00am to find the Speaker, Abdulla Shahid, sitting at his place in the Commission, to the right of then Commission Chair, interim Supreme Court Justice Mujthaaz Fahmy, ready to complete the elaborate pretence of executing Constitution Article 285.

Until then, I had kept hope Abdulla Shahid was outside the matter, and despite all evidence to the contrary had kept my trust in him, and appealed to him, to bring an end to this awful charade that was about to kill the Constitution. I knew Abdulla Shahid understood constitution and democratic principles and standards like no other.

Seeing Shahid, I realised this was far bigger a conspiracy than I had wanted to believe.

I protested, inside the conference hall where the JSC continued with its treason despite my live commentary via my phone to a loudspeaker speaker outside. I protested until early evening when it finally ended.

By then there were MPs and a few lawyers speaking on the media, and the media was covering the protests outside JSC.

The people protested. And the JSC pretended to hear. After the protesters left, they returned the next day, and quietly carried out the crimes that haunt us today.

I stayed away on July 28, 2010, having informed the Commission that I would not be participating in any unconstitutional sittings or activities in the JSC.

It was Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, member appointed to the JSC from the Public by the Majlis, who protested on July 27, 2010, against the JSC’s breach of trust.

Sheikh Shuaib walked out in protest over the JSC approving the appointment of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, despite the commission having evidence Abdulla Mohamed did not possess the qualifications of a judge required under Islamic Sharia.

Sheikh Shuaib then spoke tothe  media and informed the public what had happened in the JSC that day, July 27, 2010.

I spoke with JJ Robinson of Minivan News a few days later about what I was seeing.

The rest is history, to be written and rewritten, as it comes.

Velezinee protests the reappointments in 2010:


Comment: Courts now more a source of comedy than justice

In May 2013, the report presented to the UN Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers made critical observations on the Maldives’ state and current constitutional crisis.

Ms Gabriela Knaul observed, among other things, two issues that, in my opinion, negate any belief in the Maldives as a democratic State respecting rule of law, or even as a so-called infant democracy intent on building a democratic government and a democratic culture.

She noted; (1) The “concept of independence of the judiciary has been misconstrued and misinterpreted in the Maldives, including among judicial actors”; and (2) The “People’s Majlis should bear in mind how their actions or inaction affects the establishment of the rule of law.”

Can there possibly be a more damning observation to conclude that the Maldives State has failed? Can there be a more damning observation to declare that the Maldives State does not hold legitimacy under its’ own Constitution? Or, in fact, that the events of February 7, 2012 were the end result of a long drawn struggle, and the eventual kill of the Constitution?

The responses of the State to the UNSR report is further incriminating.

The Government, instead of being alarmed or attempting to inquire or redress as may be expected of a responsible State, pointed the finger at Ms Knaul, inferring the report “undermined the country’s sovereignty and legal jurisdiction”.

How it undermines the legal jurisdiction is not quite understood, and it appears the Government is referring to Ms Knaul’s interpretations, perhaps claiming it a sovereign right, the right to interpret its laws independently, independent of established international law, democratic principles and standards?

The Parliament saw little of concern in the report. Government aligned MPs had no initiative and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) overlooked the fundamental questions on the legitimacy of the Courts, the breach of trust by judge, Court and the Judicial Service Commission, instead focusing on subsidiary issues: Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court and the political trial of President Nasheed.

The corruption of the judiciary, impunity of the JSC and its constitutional breaches are matters the Parliament has been unable to address, the real struggle being within the Parliament itself, as conflict of interest interferes in MP duties.

Presidential candidate, Jumhooree Party (JP) leader, MP and sitting JSC member Gasim Ibrahim, during a rally soon after the UNSR’s visit to the Maldives in February this year, went as far as to call Ms Knaul an ignorant busybody – “just like that Velezinee” – who does not understand the Maldives is a sovereign country and has the right to define and interpret its own Constitution and act free of foreign influence.

He had a lot more to say, suggesting the UNSR was either charmed or bought into repeating a tale the majority do not agree with!

The JSC itself too found the UNSR had not told the tale they had to tell. The same for the Supreme Court, which has previously expressed the opinion that they are not bound by international human rights covenants the State is a Party to.

Today, the Courts in the Maldives are more a source of comedy than justice, ridiculed rather than respected, and the subject of much discussion on the widely used social media network as “news” of judges, Courts and JSC make frequent headlines on local media.

The most recent scandal to hit the headlines, and rise to international news too, is the blackmail of a Supreme Court “Justice” using a sex tape of the judge in a compromising position.

The police caught the blackmailer red-handed. He turned out to be Ahmed Faiz, an Executive Committee member of sitting President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP).

Ironically, Faiz had been dismissed from Dr Waheed’s government himself following an earlier leaked audio clip in which Faiz was heard telling some friends all about how the February 7, 2012 coup that was not was really a coup had been carried by Faiz on behalf of Dr Waheed.

I myself was ambushed by the same Faiz in a café a few weeks after the tape leak and he told me a very long story where he said Dr Waheed had dismissed him only from an honorary position he held without pay, that it was “just for show” to pacify the public, and that he was not dismissed from his real paid job!

Faiz also confided that he’d been called to meet President Waheed where all was explained to Faiz and he was reassured Waheed was only taking a superficial action to end pressure from others. Faiz owned up to it being him on the recording, alleged that it was the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) of former President Gayoom behind the leak of his conversation, and named a PPM activist as the one responsible.

It must be said, Faiz is not a person I had met in person or spoken a word to before this chance meeting, and I only “knew” him from Facebook where he had harassed me relentlessly (2010-11) without reason or argument until I finally blocked him.

Since the leaked sex tape, another “tape” of another friendly chat has been made public. In this spy camera recording, Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, who is alleged to be the subject in the exposed sex tape, and Mohamed Saeed, a local businessman from Ali Hameed’s native Addu Atoll, are heard to discuss the politics of the judiciary, and a mention of a possible murder is also heard.

If Ali Hameed as heard on the tape is to be believed, the judiciary is in cohort with the politicians backing the coup, and are now at the receiving end of the political scuffles within the “unity government” as the politicians realign in a bid to take over government in the scheduled September 7, 2013 elections.

The Supreme Court remains silent. So does the Judicial Service Commission. The Parliament, instead of focusing on holding the State accountable, has taken upon them the role of attacking or defending the judge and Courts.

Considering that “the Supreme Court has been deciding on the constitutionality of laws ex-officio, without following appropriate examination procedures, under the understanding that they are the supreme authority for the interpretation of the Constitution,” as the UNSR Ms Knaul noted, and that the checks and balances do not function, it seems the scramble now is to re-conquer the Supreme Court.

The sitting “Judges” remain sitting ducks, without will or agency to stand up independently for the independence of judges, and to protect their own good names tarnished in the political struggle to control or free the judiciary.

Where the President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had, for 30 years up to 2008, “the supreme executive and judicial authority” and the culture developed therein, it is no surprise that there is little understanding or identification of real issues by the masses.

Worrying is the continued misreading by the politicians and the miseducation of the public.

Aishath Velezinee (@Velezinee on twitter) is an independent democracy activist and writer. She was the Editor of Adduvas Weekly 2005-07 and served on the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission (2009-11). She claims the Commission she sat on breached constitution in transition; and advocates for redress of Article 285, and a full overhaul of the judiciary as a necessary step for democracy consolidation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: Small island state to superpower

“I would like to reassure all our friends in India, what it is and what it isn’t. We have status of forces agreements with more than 100 nations around the world. And these are basically agreements we have with partners where we have significant military activities, typically exercises.

“So for example, with Maldives we have coconut grove, which is an annual marine exercise. So the status of forces agreement helps to provides framework for those kinds of cooperative activities.

“And they are desirable things to have. But it does not in any way signify an expansion of our military presence or some major new development in the US-Maldivian military co-operation. It’s simply more of a framework to provide for (ongoing) co-operation…”

That was the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, speaking to the Press Trust of India (PTI) on the question of a SOFA to be signed between the US and the Maldives.

In an interview on May 7, 2013 widely reported around the world, Blake is reported to have said; “I haven’t seen the draft agreement. So I can’t comment,” before confirming that the US is “in the process of negotiating one now”.

“These are standard texts round the world, nothing very secret about them,” Blake is reported to have said, adding; “I do not foresee that this (SOFA) is going to be difficult negotiations (with Maldives). These are the things we do with partners around the world,” he said adding that it might be very well should be able to signed very soon.”

Emphasis, here is my own, to highlight a confounding sentence which appears not only in the Zee News report shared by US @StateDept with Maldivian tweeps, but is reproduced in almost all media reports. Petty as this may be, but really, what does it mean?

(a) Maldives-US SOFA might be signed very soon.
(b) Maldives-US SOFA should be signed very soon.
(c) Maldives-US SOFA might very well be signed very soon.
(d) Maldives-US SOFA might be very well.
(e) Maldives-US SOFA it might be very well should be able to signed very soon.”

It might very well be simply an editor’s miss, reproduced by all.

Of more significance to me, is the fact that Blake could not verify the authenticity of the alleged draft of the SOFA agreement published on

“I haven’t seen the draft agreement. So I can’t comment,” Blake is reported to have said. Yet, instead of stopping at that, Blake went into a detailed explanation quite outside the real questions the leaked draft raises.

The US Embassy in Colombo had earlier confirmed to Minivan News that they are in discussion with the government of Maldives to sign a SOFA, but had not confirmed or denied the leaked draft is the draft under discussion.

The Maldives government has been far more elusive, the Minister for Defence Mohamed Nazim denying it all in an interview to local daily Haveeru published after the US Embassy had confirmed discussions were ongoing. But then Defence Minister Nazim is not known for his forthrightness or honesty in the Maldives or Sandhurst, from where he is reported to have been expelled for dishonesty.

All in all, what we have learnt so far is:

(a) What a SOFA is.
(b) What a SOFA is not.
(c) That there are US plans to sign a SOFA with the Maldives “very soon”.
(d) Maldives government is not comfortable acknowledging plans to sign a SOFA with the US.

Courtesy Ahmed Abbas (@Qaumuge Mehi on Facebook)

Very little has been said on the real subject of concern – the terms and conditions in the leaked draft SOFA – that gives US absolute access and free run in the Maldives, without check or restraint. The US can place boots on the ground if, when, where and how the US deem necessary at any given time during agreement period.


Does “no boots on the ground” guarantee no boots on the ground in the future? What if America fears the rise of China and the advent of the “nightmare scenario”? How would the Maldives feature in such a scenario? What opportunity does SOFA provide if the US deems it necessary for the US to “be operational” in the Maldives to “watch terrorists,” “protect waters,” ensure regional security or any other such purpose necessary for “reasons of security”?

The United States, together with India, were the first to accept the February 7, 2012 transfer of power in the Maldives. They reacted even before the people of Maldives did, shocked as the public were by the scenes of February 6 and 7, 2012 and the weeks leading up to it, they had witnessed live on local TV. By the time public reacted on February 8, 2013, and the overwhelming public support for President Nasheed became too obvious to be dismissed, the coup had been stamped legitimate by both India and the US.

To their credit, both US and India did step back a bit, but the US has not only continued its support to the government but has worked closely with the coup leaders, strengthening the coup-backing military, bringing in PISCES, the border surveillance system, and now the SOFA.

The US has no diplomatic presence or shoes on the ground in the Maldives, but has been on the ground far more than usual, with diplomats from Colombo flying in regularly and US missions on the ground almost monthly.

So, what could be Dr Waheed’s game plan? Given that it is undeniable that Mohamed Nasheed would win the public vote and there are less than a 100 days to voting, why is Dr Waheed sitting so comfortable? What could be Waheed’s surprise manifesto?

The only thing left now for Dr Waheed to come up with is Green Cards for all!

Dr Waheed, who is himself said to be a US permanent resident or Green Card holder, might very well be planning a bigger surprise with his ‘Forward with the Nation” campaign; taking the Maldives all the way from a small-island-state to a superpower, in less than five years.

A novel strategic pivot for the US as it stands to gain not only the SOFA and retain Coconut Grove, but gets to have its very own 100 percent Islamic State within the United States which would no doubt please the Islamists in the Maldives, the US itself, and outside.

The greening of Male’ initiated just this week by the Maldives Police Services too, all suggest Dr Waheed may go green, and issue Green Cards for all.

Would the people of Maldives vote to be the 51st State?

Aishath Velezinee (@Velezinee on twitter) is an independent democracy activist and writer. She was the Editor of Adduvas Weekly 2005-07 and served on the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission (2009-11). She claims the Commission she sat on breached constitution in transition; and advocates for redress of Article 285, and a full overhaul of the judiciary as a necessary step for democracy consolidation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: The private eye?

This is the second of a series of articles as I attempt to unpack the Naaz Report, Access to Justice in the Maldives: Through the Eyes of a Colourless Lens published in May 2013.

Part one of Velezinee’s critique of the Access to Justice report is available here.

1. Naaz was a warden of Vice President Waheed Deen who taught and groomed her. He sponsored her study in Australia where she read Law, and lived and worked in Australia before returning home in late 2009.

2. I was first introduced to Naaz in 2009 by a mutual friend, a judge, who was a school friend of Naaz, and my closest friend at the time. As I understood, Naaz had been away for a long period, returned to the Maldives for a “break year,” and was excited by the changes she was seeing in the Maldives. She wanted to contribute to the nation with her knowledge and experience, and at the same time build her CV. Maldives lacks people of the knowledge, experience, exposure and grooming Naaz has, and she could help fill the gap. Naaz was living in Bandos Island Resort, courtesy of VP Deen, and was exploring opportunities. It was an exciting time.

3. She met with the then Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed by appointment to introduce herself, and express her interest, and met others whom she knew from earlier, looking for a way to contribute.  I was aware of the issues in child protection and the lack of expertise in law or human rights in the then Department of Gender and Family Protection (DGFPS) and thought Naaz could contribute much to strengthening the child protection system, and encouraged her to take up the challenge.

4. In the end, Naaz joined the UNDP office in Male as a Project Director to lead the Access to Justice project, an ongoing UN program with the government.  With the UNDP, Naaz had privileged access to all institutions that few others had.

5. The author’s introduction in the publication, Access to Justice in the Maldives: Through the Eyes of a Colourless Lens (May, 2013) reads somewhat different.

6. In it she informs the reader she was the “Protecting Human Rights and Access to Justice Project” Program Specialist as well as the Project Manager with UNDP Maldives”, and that she is “a practicing lawyer in Australia” who has been “in the legal field for over 12 years”. All facts.

The “framing”, however, is misleading. It gives the reader the impression that the author is an Australian lawyer practicing in Australia, who happened to be in the Maldives working with the UN between 2010-12. A Maldivian would have “interests”, but what interests, as such, would an Australian have in rewriting a narrative? The framing, thus, gives a false impression of author as standing outside.

7. Second, the tag “Lead Researcher and Author: Naaz Aminath (LLB, GDLP, LLM)” implies the report is the work of a team. This too is misleading. There is no research team mentioned elsewhere in the report or credits, nor is there a reference list or bibliography included in the report.

8. Copy editing is credited to Maaeesha Saeed and Aishath Rizna, who was the Registrar at the Interim Supreme Court during the transition period, and is currently working for the Department of Judicial Administration.

10. Could the author be deliberately misleading the reader? Are these all innocent omissions and/or typos? Maybe. Or maybe not. What is the purpose of the Naaz Report?  What influence could it have on the political processes in the Maldives today? Everything, depending on the winners in the presidential elections scheduled for September 7, 2013.

11. Naaz’s long standing patron, Waheed Deen, a businessman, resort owner, and society-man of wide social contacts known for his philanthropy and gift-giving, is the current Vice President, handpicked by Dr Waheed following the February 7, 2012 coup d’état. And the fact is, with all the plotting and re-plotting, it was “on a judges’ back” that Dr Waheed rose to office.

What went on in the JSC during 2009 and 2010 is clearly linked to events of January and February 2012, as I tried explaining to the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) in my testimony.

So, what does Naaz say?

1. On “access to justice”, Naaz argues that the urban-rural disparity, the “deficiency in development and lack of access to justice creates inequality and injustice while giving an advantage to politicians to ‘buy’ their ideas rather than sell it.”  Access to Justice as a fundamental right, and the broader definitions of it, and the constitutional guarantees and requirements are not recognised.

2. There is no mention of the crucial role of an independent judiciary in democratic government, or necessity of independent judges and public trust in the justice system to protect human rights and provide access to justice.

3. The fact that a UNDP Study (2000) of governance found the judiciary to be “the weakest link” in transitional constitutional democracies; and that Article 285 of the Maldives’ Constitution provided exactly for this challenge, is not recognized by Naaz.

This, despite her position as the Project Director of the Access to Justice project with the UNDP in Male’ during the Maldives’ transition from a constitutional autocracy to a constitutional democracy.

4. The Maldives, I maintain, lost an independent judiciary and the independence of judges through the high treason of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), on which I sat a member under oath.

The JSC nullified Article 285 unconstitutionally in an elaborate game of lies, deception and drama. The state refused to officially acknowledge the dispute in the JSC, or the alleged treason and constitution breach, with the Majlis majority unashamedly covering up the hijack of the judiciary in what I have since called the Silent Coup.

5. Post coup, the JSC has become exposed as it never was in 2010. The frequent public appearances of the JSC, especially the Chair, Supreme Court justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla, has revealed more about the Commission than any other intervention could.

Concurrently, renewed interest in transitional matters, and inquiries into the JSC and its functioning by independent experts have exposed the secrets of JSC: the JSC does not act to uphold the Constitution, is highly politicised, and misconstrues constitutional concepts and law for its own ends and the benefit of judges. In short, the JSC acts against the Constitution and the State.

6. The latest report on the Maldives’ judiciary and access to justice by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Lawyers and Judges, Gabriella Knaul, provides a substantive summary of the challenges Maldives faces, and highlights where a UN-led Access to Justice program must focus.

7. On the ground in 2010, Naaz was a sympathetic ear to my complaints against the JSC, and my grievances against the Parliament for their failure to hold the JSC accountable, and to ensure Article 285 was fulfilled meaningfully. I was advocating for substantive and meaningful action on Article 285 aimed at judicial reform as envisaged by the Constitution, and Naaz agreed with my interpretation and opinion.

8. Naaz always left with me a standing offer of assistance, which was much appreciated, as I do not have a background in law. In retrospect, that assistance never materialised, as Naaz was occupied when and where I did request help. My requests mainly were for assistance in reading through some of my drafts, and in translating to English and/or preparing briefs in English to share some information of the ongoing dispute, and the dozens of pages I was putting out in Dhivehi at the time.

9. With all attempts to get an inquiry into Article 285 and the JSCs’ constitution breach blocked, the judges took their infamous “symbolic” oath, en masse, on August 4, 2010. No one, neither the state institutions nor the media, questioned the oath or its legitimacy despite what was witnessed live and the questions it raised. It was the public left with unanswered questions.

10. The UN was satisfied. Naaz was on the ground, and was active in the efforts that followed to legitimise the judiciary, appointed unconstitutionally and without due process,  by the will of the majority. No one mentioned rule of law. Not until 2012.

Aishath Velezinee (@Velezinee on twitter) is an independent democracy activist and writer. She was the Editor of Adduvas Weekly 2005-07 and served on the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission (2009-11). She claims the Commission she sat on breached constitution in transition; and advocates for redress of Article 285, and a full overhaul of the judiciary as a necessary step for democracy consolidation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: In black and white

This is the first of a series of articles as I attempt to unpack the Naaz Report, ‘Access to Justice in the Maldives: Through the Eyes of a Colourless Lens’ published in May 2013 and available here.

The eyes behind the colourless lens

1. Aminath Naaz, the eyes behind the colourless lens who authored the publication, Access to Justice in the Maldives: Through the Eyes of a Colourless Lens (published May, 2013) is one of the few legal experts without a direct conflict of interest who had access to the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Maldives’ Courts at all levels.

She also had direct contact with the Supreme Court judges both during the interim period and after, as well as access to all other State institutions, UN agencies, international organisations and NGOs in the period when the Maldives was to build the constitutional democratic state. Or at least the backbone of a democratic government: an independent judiciary.

2. Naaz was also the only Maldivian outside of the closed JSC and the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA), who had access to the Judicial Service Commission and the records therein.

3. Naaz, who as Project Director of the UN Maldives led the “Protecting Human Rights and Access to Justice Project,” was in an influential position of unique power and authority, as well as a position of immense responsibility given that this was at a historic moment in the Maldives when the State was in transition.

The Maldives was at the time in transition from a long established constitutional autocracy with all powers vested in the Head of State, to a multi-party constitutional democracy with separation of powers and the introduction of independent offices and bodies for check and balance.

4. At this exciting and critical juncture in Maldives’ history, a time of constitution building, of state building, when for the first time ever the Maldives was set to introduce and build democratic state apparatus, orientate duty bearers to the newly introduced standards and practices alien to the existing culture, Naaz was an expert in a position to explain concepts and guide events – as Naaz herself has observed.

5. Naaz was situated “inside,” with the necessary knowledge of democratic concepts, standards and best practices as well as the law – a Maldivian with a law degree from Australia who had studied, worked and lived in Australia, a democratic nation. She had the knowledge to fill the gap or limitation she herself observed in the Maldives, from the general public to policymakers to technical experts in government and state bodies who are ignorant of the “new concepts that have been so rapidly introduced to the country” (Naaz, 2013: 5).

6. Naaz introduces herself as “a practicing lawyer in Australia [who] has been in the legal field for over 12 years”; she is privileged in having had opportunity to study, work and live in a democratic nation, and be exposed to the governance practices and standards upheld in a democratic state over a long term period where, it may easily be assumed, one would assimilate and internalise the culture, together with the adoption of language and accent.

7. I, myself a member of the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission at the time, kept trust in Naaz, and where doubts crept, I shrugged them off – a sensitive subject due to the politics of Article 285 – convincing myself Naaz understood the real issues: the treachery that had taken place in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and loss of an independent judiciary, its consequences for the State and the  risk to democratic government.

I kept hope Naaz would intervene – at the right time, right place, in the right way – to ensure the Maldives upheld its constitution and international obligations. After all, she was an expert in a position of influence, and I lost no opportunity to keep her fully informed of all I was observing as a sitting member of JSC (2009-11), and my actions therein. Naaz herself talked to me a number of times, frustrated by the JSC, and the ignorance that existed.

8. Thus, I have been waiting since 2010 for Naaz to speak on the substantive and meaningful issues around access to justice in the Maldives and an independent judiciary, a constitutional right of the people from a legal, human rights perspective. Such debate, and discussion, has been almost nonexistent in the politics of democratic transition in the Maldives.

9. Following the events of 2010 and constitutional breach by the Judicial Service Commission on which I was a sitting member at the time, in December 2010 I published a ‘working paper,’ Democracy Derailed: The unconstitutional Annulment of Article 285 and its Consequences for Democratic Government in the Maldives. It dealt with the issues in the Maldives’ democratic transition, and what I believed was a constitutional crisis we had found ourselves in due to abuse of powers and breach of trust by the JSC, the parliament and other duty bearers who failed to hold the JSC accountable despite repeated appeals, and the loss of an independent judiciary to treason by a few powerful actors within the state.

In December 2009, I published my observations and analysis of the existing situation, dangers and risks to constitutional government. This was of course shared with Naaz who was leading the UN Access to Justice Project.

10. Naaz was silent. Nor did the UN express concern at the failure of the state to meaningfully execute Article 285, or the events that followed. I have written in detail of what I witnessed in my book The Silent Coup; In Defeat They Reached for The Gun of what I witnessed – the conspiracy in which the Maldives’ judiciary was hijacked in transition using the JSC as a tool.

11. UN agencies were the only international presence on the ground in the Maldives in 2010, apart from handful embassies, and as such, I had appealed through Naaz to the then UN Resident Coordinator Mr Andrew Cox, to help in “saving Article 285”.

12. Mr Andrew Cox had found my “madness” discomfiting, my appearance unappealing, and my language incomprehensible, and it was to Naaz I turned as one with the presence and language to advocate the cause I fought. He was always civil to me, but never acted, and I was never sure he comprehended what I spoke of.

Much later, I learnt Cox had gone to the extent of warning the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) of my mental status. ICJ was the only organisation to take the issue seriously and send a fact finding mission to the Maldives following the Article 285 controversy.

13. Hence, Naaz was the intermediary [with the UN]. I relied on Naaz to push the constitutional case for the meaningful execution of Article 285 and the establishment of an independent judiciary, as well as for assistance to alert the international community, specifically the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on what was happening in JSC, and Majlis cover up. After all, Naaz fully understood my “madness” and the state of affairs within JSC and in the judiciary as a whole.

14. All attempts at an inquiry blocked, the judges took oath en masse in a controversial ceremony on August 4, 2010. Naaz was on the ground and was active meeting the JSC during the time. Immediately after the events of August 4, 2010 Naaz was seen in media photos meeting the Speaker Abdulla Shahid. It was usual for the Speaker, President and Chief Justice to meet UN project directors and give the photos to the media. The discussions, it was reported, were on access to justice, strengthening the judiciary and developing the judges.

15. Article 285 was never executed, and the allegations never investigated. Nor were the controversial events of August 4, 2010 ever raised to a proper platform and investigated despite repeated challenges in the media by politicians who defended the JSC without inquiry.

16. Naaz, as Project Director, poured in UN funds to strengthen and legitimise the judges who sat in question. The issues of constitutional supremacy, rule of law and due procedure were never raised by Naaz, or the UN, with relation to Article 285. Nor did Naaz recognise the centrality of Article 285 to democratic government, and the protection of fundamental constitutional rights.

17. President Mohamed Nasheed who took oath of office on November 11, 2008, following the first ever democratic elections held in the Maldives’ history, stunned the country when he “resigned” on February 7, 2012 in a live televised statement. He was flanked by ex-military and ex-police seniors, the current Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim, and the current Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz who had no official portfolio on February 7, 2012 to explain their presence at the scene that day.

The televised resignation had followed weeks of violence, which, in the light of evidence that has emerged since, could have been planned and staged by police and military leaders together with the politically motivated Sheikhs, backed publicly by opposition leaders. On that day, February 7, 2012 Naaz was a UN Project Director of the “Protecting Human Rights and Access to Justice Project.

18. The controversial transfer of power was a coup d’état that remains unproven, among other reasons, I believe, for the lack of an independent judiciary. It is surprising Naaz has found this irrelevant to her report. I, however, find it central to the subject and stated purpose of her publication and would like to highlight it as a major event that will in my opinion, continue with grave consequences to the future of the Maldives.

19. In the days immediately after the events of February 7, 2012 a photo went viral on social media – #mvcoup – show a smiling Naaz in Republic Square, shortly after the forced resignation of President Nasheed, holding a national flag in her hand:

20. In a comment on twitter after the publication of the Naaz report, Ibrahim Ihsaan (@iiihsan), a Maldivian law student who claims to know Naaz from “working on drafting legal aid scheme for UNDP in  those days,” says he  met Naaz in Republic Square that day, and had asked her, “What is the UN doing?”

Her response, in Dhivehi, was “Vaanvee goiy mi vee”: “It’s happened as it should”, and then she added, “because Anni [President Nasheed] did not release Ablo Qaazee.’”

21. Naaz had expressed the same sentiment on her Facebook status of February 7, 2012 declaring it to be “The happiest day of my life,” in a post she later deleted.

22. She subsequently left the UN post. Shortly afterwards she reappeared in the President’s Office working as some sort of presidential aide for President Mohamed Waheed, who took Office as President on February 7, 2012. Dr Waheed had selected Waheed Deen, a businessman, resort owner, and society-man of wide social contacts known for his philanthropy, as Vice President.

Aishath Velezinee (@Velezinee on twitter) is an independent democracy activist and writer. She was the Editor of Adduvas Weekly 2005-07 and served on the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission (2009-11). She claims the Commission she sat on breached constitution in transition; and advocates for redress of Article 285, and a full overhaul of the judiciary as a necessary step for democracy consolidation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: Will Maldivians be allowed to choose their leader?

President Nasheed is poised to win the Maldives’ presidential elections on September 7, 2013. It has become increasingly obvious that the only way to prevent Nasheed’s return is to ensure his name stays off the ballot paper.

At the same time, the repeated exposure of the farce of the courts and the dishonesty and idiosyncrasy of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by open parliamentary committee sessions since the February 7, 2012 coup d’état, and the mounting evidence against the JSC in many international reports investigating the status of the Maldives’ judiciary and its transition, has made it increasingly difficult to convince the public or the international community that any decision to exclude Nasheed from the elections will be impartial.

With less than four months to the elections it is undeniable to all observers on the ground in the Maldives, including the skeptics, the political opponents and the grudge bearers who form the majority opposition to Nasheed, that he has won the hearts and minds of the Maldivian public. The colour yellow, symbolic of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) undeniably brightens the islands despite the pink in the corridors of power.

Fifteen months since his forced resignation, the public has continued to rally around Nasheed who has come to be popularly known as the “elected president”. All signs today suggest Nasheed will win the upcoming September 7 elections in one round of voting. As the latest campaign slogan of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) promisea, President Nasheed is set to appear a clear winner, in one round; #EhBurun. Nasheed himself predicts 150,000 votes to MDP.

The government parties, despite an outward show of confidence and ‘fighting spirit’, are in silent consensus that there is no formidable challenge to Nasheed from any of their named candidates. Nor is there a possibility of a fight unless the so called ‘unity government’ can agree to back a single candidate to challenge the MDP.

But that is out of the question given that there is no common ideology shared by the seven parties said to be part of the unity government. What the coalition leaders share in common are a desire for presidency, and a need to cover-up the coup they led and backed in an effort to expunge President Nasheed.

The sitting coup-appointed President, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, is today seen a front-runner among the opposition leaders, despite his Qaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP) not having the required 10,000 party membership, and his rise to office having little to do with any power or influence he held.

According to the latest published Election Commission records, dated March 10 2013, GIP has a total of 3930 registered members and 1101 forms pending. It is highly unlikely Dr Waheed will be able to double his party membership in the next few months.

Dr Waheed is backed by his Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed, the leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), whose personal opinion of Dr Waheed is that he is “the most naïve and gullible amongst political leaders” -an opinion he revealed to a group of Maldivian students he entertained while in London to lobby with CMAG following the coup. A leaked audio recording  has Dr Saeed explaining the “unique coup” they pulled, and belittling Dr Waheed: “Honestly, he’s the dumbest of them all.”

Dr Hassan Saeed’s own party has had no say in the decision as the DQP leadership split between Dr Waheed and the majority party in the unity government, Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Deputy leader of the DQP, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, has switched to the PPM, adopted as the running mate and Vice President of Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

PPM’s interest, still, is control over the courts as signified by the selection of Dr Jameel, an old Justice Minister of Gayoom and the only one within the unity government who may be able to direct the sitting judges to Gayoom’s needs. Quite likely, DQP members will swing independent of both Dr Hassan Saeed and Dr Jameel.

Joining Dr Waheed is the religion-waving Sheikhs of the Adhaalath Party, whose use of the religion card has failed to win them any seats in parliament or council despite their capacity to rouse frenzied crowds in rallies denouncing “moderate Islam” as blasphemy.

Umar Naseer, who commanded the coup d’état of February 7 2012 according to his own testimony to the Commission of National Inquiry,  has declared support for Dr Waheed after his expulsion from PPM within weeks of losing the presidential primaries.

Umar was expelled as a disciplinary action after he accused Yameen Abdul Gayoom of not only vote rigging in the party primaries but of links with serious organised crime including gangs and the drug trade, during a post-primary rally for his supporters.

If Umar Naseer is to be believed, brother Yameen is quite the Don, and if anyone knows, Umar does, having been a lifetime loyalist of Gayoom until he was discarded. EC records show PPM to have 22,383 registered members and 1671 forms pending.

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has bravely stuck to its charter which decrees that the party president is the party’s presidential candidate despite internal discord and the eventual exit of DRP founder and appointed leader-for-life, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

What remained of DRP after Gayoom’s exit was left to party president, MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, who was Gayoom’s 2008 running mate, his one-time Home Minister, and the presidential candidate of DRP for 2013 per the party charter. The DRP has 21,411 registered members and 1147 forms pending after the split.

The DRP has however conceded defeat, backing out of elections to back Dr Waheed, in a move which may be deemed another silent coup. The party president is the presidential candidate only if the party chooses to contest in elections, and the DRP council has decided it is not in 2013.

Business Tycoon, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Educator, MP, the Honorary Dr Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party (JP, Republican Party) declared himself a presidential candidate way before calls for early elections and the contested power transfer of February 7 2012, but has not yet found a coalition partner willing to back the JP.

Aside from the politicians, military leaders and police seniors share a common interest with candidates Dr Waheed, Yameen and Gasim to cover up the coup and their crimes. Judges too are neither free of influence, nor independent of politics. Having given into politics once, their interest will be to sit on to the bench they appropriated with a ceremonial oath and no due process, just as the sitting president did when he took office.

Given the current scenario, and the growing conviction that ousted president Mohamed Nasheed will return with a clear majority of the kind he never had in 2008, how far will the “friends of Dr Waheed” and those who backed the coup d’état go to ensure Nasheed’s name stays off the ballot paper? Whose interests would be served by eliminating him?

Aishath Velezinee (@Velezinee on twitter) is an independent democracy activist and writer. She was the Editor of Adduvas Weekly 2005-07 and served on the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission (2009-11). She claims the Commission she sat on breached constitution in transition; and advocates for redress of Article 285, and a full overhaul of the judiciary as a necessary step for democracy consolidation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]