The People’s Majlis has today approved Criminal Court Judge Muhthaz Muhsin for the post of prosecutor general (PG).
Muhsin’s nomination for the role – vacant since November – received 62 votes in favour, and seven votes against, while 12 MPs abstained.
President Abdulla Yameen had nominated Muhsin and his nephew Maumoon Hameed for parliamentary approval on June 2. As Muhsin’s name was put to a vote first and approved, Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed did not call a vote for Hameed.
Thirteen MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also voted in favour of Muhsin.
They were Addu Meedhoo MP Rozaina Adam, Felidhoo MP Ahmed Marzooq, Hithadhoo South MP Ali Nizar, mid-Hithadhoo MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, Hulhuhenveiru MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Komandoo MP Ahmed Nashid, Kulhudhufushi North MP Abdul Gafoor Moosa, Kurendhoo MP Abdul Bari Abdulla, Addu Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef, mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim, Mulaku MP Ibrahim Naseer, Vaikaradhoo MP Mohamed Nazim, and Velidhoo MP Abdulla Yameen.
While the Jumhooree Party (JP) decided today that its 12 MPs would abstain in the vote, JP MP for Kendhoo Ali Hussain voted in favour of Muhsin.
MDP MP for Alifushi, Mohamed Rasheed Hussain ‘Bigey’, joined the remaining 11 JP MPs in abstaining while all seven MPs who voted against Muhsin belonged to the opposition MDP.
The MDP parliamentary group had reportedly decided last night to issue a three-line whip against Hameed and to give its 23 MPs a free whip to vote as they chose for Muhsin.
With 20 MPs in attendance at parliamentary group meeting last night, the proposal by Deputy Speaker Moosa Manik was passed with 13 votes in favour.
Meanwhile, at a parliamentary group meeting on Saturday (July 19), MPs of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) decided to endorse Muhsin despite the party’s leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, urging ruling party MPs to vote for his nephew Maumoon Hameed.
Majority Leader MP Ahmed Nihan confirmed to Minivan News that a three-line whip was also issued for PPM MPs to vote for Muhsin.
All PPM MPs in attendance along with MPs of coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) voted in favour of approving Muhsin as the new PG.
“The reasoning behind the decision of the PPM parliamentary group this afternoon apparently went something like this: ‘He won’t do as he’s told!'” he wrote.
“Given this reasoning, and the evident desire to install a puppet instead of someone who will uphold the law without fear or favour, I applaud the decision to endorse someone (anyone!) other than me.”
Responding to the post, former MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed alleged that PPM MPs on the independent institutions oversight committee were instructed to award zero percent to Hameed and 100 percent to Muhsin during the vetting process.
Following evaluation of the nominees at a closed session based on academic qualifications, experience, and competence, the oversight committee awarded Hameed 33 percent and Muhsin 67 percent and decided against recommending either nominee for approval.
In a letter to PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Nihan demanding an explanation of the PPM-majority committee’s decision, Gayoom had contended that the committee meeting where the nominees were interviewed was conducted in violation of parliamentary rules.
In the wake of the PPM parliamentary group’s decision to vote for Muhsin, MDP MP Rozaina Adam meanwhile tweeted, “Could President Yameen publicly humiliate President Gayoom more than this? Yameen’s choice is very clear.”
Vacant PG post
Rozaina also alleged that Yameen had conspired for the previous parliament to reject Maumoon Hameed in April by ensuring that several PPM MPs would be absent for the vote.
Several pro-government MPs – including Nihan who was with President Yameen in Japan and MDA Leader Ahmed Siyam – were conspicuously absent at the sitting, which saw Hameed fail to garner the required 39 votes after falling just three votes short.
According to Article 221 of the Constitution, “The President shall appoint as Prosecutor General a person approved by a majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis from the names submitted to the People’s Majlis as provided for in law.”
Following the previous parliament’s rejection of Hameed, President Yameen refused to submit a new nominee and opened up a third call for applicants, announcing his intention to nominate Hameed for a second time to the newly elected 18th People’s Majlis.
The PG’s post has been vacant since November 25 following the resignation of Ahmed Muiz ahead of a scheduled no-confidence motion in parliament.
Meanwhile, Acting PG Hussein Shameem’s resignation in early May brought the criminal justice system to a halt after state prosecutors went on strike, citing concerns of a lack of accountability in the absence of a PG.
However, the Supreme Court ordered prosecutors to resume work “without any further excuse” and ordered the seniormost official at the PG office to assume the PG’s responsibilities.