Former President and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Presidential Candidate Mohamed Nasheed has said that he and his party will reform the state’s judicial watchdog the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) within the remaining 68 days before the scheduled presidential elections.
Speaking during a press conference on Monday, Nasheed said issues coming up recently concerning judges significantly threatened the dignity and credibility of the entire judiciary.
“The Maldives has set standards for judges established through its constitution. We are witnessing a time where those standards are being grossly ignored by the state institution concerned with judicial oversight and accountability,” he said.
Recalling his decision to arrest Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, which eventually led to the ousting of his government on February 2012, Nasheed said that there had been 12 cases filed against the judge in JSC but the commission had failed take any action.
“Eventually, I raised the concerns to the police commissioner, the Defense Minister and the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF). When they took the action which they all believed was the best decision, you all witnessed what happened next,” Nasheed said.
Apart from the fall of his government, the dire repercussions of the arrest of the judge included a criminal prosecution of Nasheed and senior officials of his government at the Hulhumale Magistrate Court, in what he and his party contended was a politically-motivated attempt to scuttle his re-election bid.
A stay order from High Court led to the temporary suspension of the trials, and the suspension of the Chief Judge of the High Court by the JSC on year-old charges of misconduct.
Nasheed claimed other judges had begun displaying similar behaviour as that of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, and said as yet state institutions including the JSC had failed to take adequate measures.
He also said that there are disputes within the JSC which had to be resolved through parliament.
Among these disputes included the recent stand made by the Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, warning the JSC Chair that he would boycott the commission meetings should Hassan Fahmy – the Chair of Civil Service Commission who was deposed by parliament but reinstated by a Supreme Court ruling – continue to take part in its meetings.
In a letter sent in early June to the JSC Chair, the Speaker of Parliament – who is by virtue of his position a member of the JSC – stressed that even though the chair of the CSC is also by virtue of his position a member of JSC, Fahmy cannot sit in the JSC because he had been deposed from his position by parliament.
“Therefore we need to take measures to find a way Speaker Shahid can sit in the commission, by deciding the matter of Fahmy. Therefore, in the 68 days left before the elections, we need to reform the judiciary. That is fairly easy for us now and I am confident that we can do that,” Nasheed said this morning.
Among the much needed reforms, the former President said the JSC must re-establish its credibility by making decisions in a transparent and informed manner.
“On the other hand, a presidential candidate currently sits in the JSC. We need to find another way where such anomalies are not present in the commission,” Nasheed said, referring to Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, who sits in the commission as parliament’s representative.
Speaking about the current composition of the JSC, Nasheed said there was no specific model for an organisation such as the JSC.
“In some constitutions, parliamentarians are vested with the duty to oversee the judiciary while in others there have been cases where judges have looked into the cases of other judges. There have been committees appointed by heads of states that have looked into such cases,” he said.
Therefore, the question was not about the composition of the judges but rather the personal integrity of members sitting on such commissions, he said.
Nasheed emphasised the need for transparency, calling for the media to be allowed to cover JSC meetings and report on matters that take place within the commission.
Highlighting recent video footage that appeared on social media depicting Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed and a local businessman discussing the political affiliations of the judiciary, Nasheed claimed that while every individual was entitled to right of private life, such videos of judges must be investigated even police investigated those who were trying to use them for blackmail.
Nasheed also expressed concern over a possible hand in the government over the leaking of the videos involving judges after a senior council member of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) was arrested trying to sell explicit sex videos featuring a judge.
Nasheed also expressed his frustration over MPs from former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), alleging they lacked any commitment towards judicial reform.
“PPM members do not see the need to take action against disciplinary issues of the judges, they do not see that the JSC needs reforms, they do not see that there are problems with the Supreme Court and they do not see the need to investigate pornographic videos of judges. Instead they say they those who shot the videos should be held culpable,” he claimed.
Nasheed said that his party had a 90-point legislative agenda to reform the judiciary once elected, but said this would require a sizable majority for his party in the parliamentary elections early next year.
“This legislation will cover most of the reform we are seeking. Before we embark upon this, we need to have a majority in parliament and without this it would be fairly difficult for us to implement these reforms,” he said.
He noted that after the elections the new government would face a period of a limbo until the parliamentary elections in May, but said he was “very confident” his government would overcome this.