Week in review: March 1– 8

This week saw tensions between the Elections Commission (EC) and the Supreme Court rising as the commissioners were hauled before the court once again.

After telling a Majlis committee that the court’s election guidelines were undermining the commission’s work, EC Chair Thowfeek was grilled by the bench before a travel ban was placed on himself and his colleagues.

As well as having their travel restricted, EC members also raised concern that the commission’s budget – in addition to being given piecemeal by the Finance Ministry – was insufficient to conduct the March 22 Majlis poll.

With voter re-registration completed this week, the EC noted that one in four voters intended to vote in places other than their permanent residence.

After the US State Department’s human rights report joined the chorus of those critical of the Maldives judiciary, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon asked the international community to support rather than undermine the country’s courts.

After receiving criticism from the political opposition for failing to mention the judiciary’s issues in his first address, President Yameen stated that he had complete trust in the institution.

This comment prompted the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) Mohamed Nasheed to suggest that this faith stemmed from the Progressive Party of Maldives’ strong influence over the courts.

Speaking on the campaign trail, Nasheed pledged that an MDP majority in the Majlis would seek to reform both the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission.

Two fellow MDP MPs seeking to return to the campaign trail were the recently jailed Abdulla Jabir and the recently stabbed Alhan Fahmy.

While Jabir’s legal team pleaded with the court to allow the Kaashidhoo MP the opportunity to campaign during his incarceration, Alhan was told that the Civil Court could not invalidate the candidacy of the disputed Feydhoo by-election winner.

Government agenda

As well as listing the government’s recent achievements during his address at the Majlis opening this week, President Yameen explained that a legislative agenda had been formulated. This agenda was subsequently revealed by the Attorney General to include 98 new bills and 109 amendments to existing laws.

The government’s pledge to increase the pension to MVR5000 was delivered – after some confusion while the Home Ministry’s drive against drugs continued with plans made to reintroduce sniffer dogs to the Maldives.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz received a royal welcome from the government this week, releasing a joint statement with Yameen reiterating the countries’ mutual commitment to moderate Islam and strengthened bilateral ties.

As the fallout from the IGMH HIV scandal continued, hospital officials revealed that a member of staff had been taken into police custody after admitting culpability for the error which led to the transfusion of infected blood.

Health Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela explained that the expenses of the victim’s children would now be borne by the state, though local NGO Voice of Women expressed concern that the family may still face discrimination due to “societal myths and misinformation” about the illness.

Shakeela told the Majlis government oversight committee that her resignation was not the solution to the health sector’s problems.

The same committee was also informed that a Maafushi Jail inmate – left in a coma after being attacked by his cellmates in February – had requested to be taken out of his quarters more than an hour before the attack.

The government’s attempts to keep Raajje TV away from President’s Office press conferences were dropped by the AG this week, while the broadcasting commission asked DhiTV to respond to allegations that it had irresponsibly criticised the Anti Corruption Commission.