President Abdulla Yameen’s failure to discuss judicial reform in his first presidential address was due to the “trust [he] has in the institution” and because of the respect the government feels towards the bench, he has said.
Speaking at the opening of a campaign office for PPM candidate Mohamed Ameeth, Yameen stated that the government will not criticise the judiciary’s verdicts, and that the institution has the government’s trust.
Yameen had been the subject of criticism from the political opposition, who described his speech at the opening of the People’s Majlis as failing to address the country’s most pressing issues.
Yameen did acknowledge, however, that there are delays in the completion of some cases by the judiciary, adding that the executive is currently working with the judiciary to seek solutions to the issue.
“Even during the presidential election campaigns we never criticised any judgement or verdict of the judiciary. What we did criticise was the slow rate of cases going through, and how some cases get delayed for long periods of time,” said the president.
“That is still the case, and we will continue talking about this lack of speed,” Yameen said.
Following the president’s address, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy accused the president of omitting critical issues from the address, including the state of the judiciary, and decentralised governance.
Discussing the approaching parliamentary elections yesterday, the president suggested that the MDP had a record of acting dictatorially when holding a Majlis majority.
He accused the now-opposition party of unduly influenced independent institutions when in power, asserting that this behaviour will never be seen from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives government.
Yameen further stated that the MDP, while loudly advocating for the separation of powers, had “locked and bolted the powers”.
While the opposition currently hold the majority of seats in parliament, they have so far failed to appoint a prosecutor general or a member for the vacant seat in the EC, he noted.
The MDP has pledged judicial reform during it’s Majlis campaign, while the party’s slogan for this year’s campaign is ‘Vote for the scale for separation of powers’.
Case against the EC
Yameen also addressed the case against the Elections Commission (EC) in the Supreme Court, stating that it was not a matter that concerned the executive.
He stated that, while some foreign countries are raising concerns about the matter, he believed the court case against the EC was something the government need not interfere with.
Yameen questioned the logic of countries who expressed concern about the matter, stating that it was “inexplicable” when the separation of powers was generally accepted.
“It is these foreign powers who most strongly want assurance that the executive will not interfere with matters of the judiciary. And yet today, when there is a case against an independent institution, they are worried that we are not interfering and making comments on the matter.
“Our foreign policy is to respectfully accept their concerns, and to still not comment on an institution which in our sovereign right the government wishes to refrain from commenting on,” Yameen stated.
He asserted that justice would be served to all alike – whether they be from among the general public, or someone holding a senior office in a state institution. The president concluded by saying that even if he himself was summoned to the Supreme Court, he would attend dutifully and without question.
While addressing the UN Human Rights Council this week, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon also called upon the international community not to undermine the Maldives judiciary .
The judiciary has been criticised by a number of international actors as being both under qualified and lacking independence.
Prominent critics have included the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul, the International Committee of Jurists, the UK Bar Human Rights Committee, and the US State Department.
In June 2013, spy camera footage revealed a Supreme Court judge allegedly speaking about the politicisation of the judiciary, stating “even [Parliament Speaker]Abdulla Shahid will know very well that my stand is to do things the way [current president] Yameen wants.”
In the tape, the judge also claimed to be a person who “even Yameen cannot play with” and that over time he had “shown Yameen” who he is.