The government is selectively announcing that the Constitution is in jeopardy, Mulaku MP Abdulla Yameen claimed yesterday during a press conference held by opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Yameen, the half brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, accused the government of using the Constitution according to its own needs and condemned President Mohamed Nasheed’s remark that the “constitution is at a standstill” as a “serious issue” and must be investigated.
Yameen added that the President does not have the constitutional authority to be involved in or enforce the judicial system.
However speaking yesterday at a rally held by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), President Mohamed Nasheed said establishing justice and fairness through a modern and competent judiciary was “one of the main reasons MDP came out to change the government.”
Referring to the constitutional stipulation to evaluate sitting judges for reappointment during the two-year interim period, President Nasheed said the judges who were sworn in were not held to the criteria now specified as Parliament had not yet passed a Judges Act at the time.
In spite of this lag, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) reappointed the judges and conducted the swearing-in ceremony in the face of vocal opposition
from former President’s Member of the JSC Aishath Velezinee.
In May 2010, Nasheed said he informed the JSC that its approved criteria was not in alignment with constitutional standards or public expectations. The concerns were ignored, Nasheed said, and the JSC proceeded to reappoint judges from the former government.
When the constitutional interim period elapsed in August, then Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed “declared on his own that he was permanent” and that the interim bench had tenured itself.
Saying he did “what has to be done at the time” as elected head of state, Nasheed said he then ordered the Defence Minister to lock the interim Supreme Court because “the opportunity to institute a judiciary envisioned by the constitution was narrowing.”
Eventually, Nasheed explained, he agreed to a cross-party compromise on enacting the Judges Act and confirming the Supreme Court bench because “in my view, it was essential to institute a Supreme Court.”
After ignoring complaints against the judiciary, the JSC attempted to investigate Judge Abdulla late last year, however the body was blocked by a Civil Court ruling.
“If the general principles of the Maldivian constitution is to be upheld, in my view it is not a judge who would overrule [the civil court decision] but the head of state,” Nasheed observed.
The judge was arrested on Monday, January 14 after attempting to block his own police summons at the High Court.
According to Yameen, the judge was “kidnapped” by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), inciting claims that the Maldives had become a military dictatorship.
The Judge is being held at an MNDF training facility in Girifushi, the same island used to base the famous underwater cabinet meeting in 2009.
PPM has asked the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) to provide round the clock surveillance of the judge’s well being while in custody, Haveeru reports.
Meanwhile, President Nasheed explained that the decision to take Judge Abdulla into military custody was not made “with the intention of causing misery or a loss to anyone” or “for the satisfaction of arresting a person.”
The government would “never support or encourage inhumane treatment or anything unlawful,” he said.
“Our only purpose is to establish a court house envisioned by the constitution and hoped for by the people,” he added.
Nasheed also suggested that the democratic transition in South Korea had precedent of military intervention to assist the transition.
PPM announced that peaceful protests against the “abduction” will continue, but urged protestors not to engage in violent or destructive acts, local media reports.
According to local media, PPM yesterday consulted lawyers to file the issue in court.