The Criminal Court today sentenced Independent MP for Kaashidhoo, Ismail Abdul Hameed, to one year and six months banishment after he was found guilty of corruption.
Banishment is a traditional punishment in the Maldives in which those sentenced are forbidden to leave a designated island.
The Prosecutor General pressed corruption charges against Hameed alleging that he had abused his authority as the former Director of Waste Management at the Male’ municipality to financially benefit a Singaporean company named Island Logistics in a deal to purchase a barge.
According to local media reports, Judge Abdulla Didi noted in the verdict that the agreement stipulated the barge was to be delivered within 90 days of signing the agreement, upon which 50 percent of the value was to be paid to Island Logistics.
Although the barge arrived in the Maldives on October 23, 2008, Hameed had however signed a document claiming that the barge was delivered on schedule on April 28, 2008.
The judge ruled that Hameed’s actions were intentional and in violation of the Anti-Corruption Act.
Under article 73(c)(3) of the constitution, MPs found guilty of a criminal offence “and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months” would be stripped of their seat.
Article 78 of the constitution meanwhile states that “whenever there is a vacancy among the members of The People’s Majlis, an election shall be held within sixty days from the date of the vacancy. A by-election shall not be held within six months prior to a general election.”
Deputy Elections Commissioner Hassan Fayaz told Minivan News that the Elections Commission (EC) will commence work to hold the election of the vacant seat when the parliament officially informs the commission that a seat is vacant.
“If a seat is vacant the commission will hold the election to elect a member, but the parliament haven’t officially informed the commission about a vacant seat,” he said. “I think it will take some time because he has the right appeal the verdict in superior courts.”
However, according to media reports, Hameed has not indicatated that he will appeal the verdict at the High Court or not. The MP for Kaafu Atoll Kaashidhoo was not present for today’s vote on the government’s Goods and Services Tax.
Hameed had voted with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in most votes during the past two years.
Speaking at a press conference today, ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik criticised the judiciary and accused the Criminal Court of imposing double standards on MPs facing court cases.
Moosa claimed that Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim of the opposition People’s Alliance (PA) had dodged court summons eight times.
When Nazim finally appeared at court, said Moosa, the court barred journalists from observing the trial.
“If a parliament seat becomes vacant in any constituency of the Maldives, God willing, we at the MDP will do everything we can to win the seat,” he said.