The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has appealed for assistance from the international community over the “increasingly blatant collusion between politicians loyal to the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and senior members of the judiciary – most of whom were appointed by Gayoom during his thirty years of power.”
In a statement by the MDP forwarded to diplomatic missions and United Nations offices by the Foreign Ministry concerning the events of October 20, the ruling party explained that a protest was launched against “an ongoing, highly-politicised Supreme Court case” contesting the eligibility of MP Mohamed Musthafa for the May 2009 parliamentary elections.
“The Supreme Court case is the latest installment of an ongoing attempt by Gayoom to secure a parliamentary seat for his son, Gassan Maumoon,” the statement alleged, noting that Gassan was defeated by the MDP MP for Thimarafushi constituency.
The High Court however ordered a re-vote after Gassan challenged the result, which was won again by Musthafa.
“Having lost two votes – both recognised as free and fair by the independent Elections Commission (EC) – the Gayoom family again turned to the courts for help,” the statement continues.
“Umar Naseer, a senior member of Gayoom’s political party [Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)], lodged a case at the Supreme Court claiming that Musthafa had not been eligible to run for parliament because of an outstanding debt owed to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) – a bank which became insolvent and had its loans and debts taken over by the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).”
Musthafa at Supreme Court
After the MMA clarified to Musthafa that he did not have an outstanding debt, the EC decided that he was eligible to stand for the Thimarafushi seat.
However, Umar Naseer told Minivan News in May 2010 that Musthafa “has to pay US$31,231.66 (Rf401,326.83)” to the MMA and that the Civil Court ruled on August 28, 1997 that the debt should be paid by MP Musthafa and his company Seafood International Private Limited.
“We raised the issue at the Elections Commission (EC) during the parliamentary elections and the former president of EC said that there was no debt which should be paid by Mustafa,” Umar said.”That’s why I took it to the Supreme Court.”
Before Musthafa was summoned to court last Thursday – which prompted the MDP national council to pass a resolution to launch a protest – the Supreme Court last conducted a hearing on the case on March 17 this year.
At last Thursday’s hearing, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz said the apex court wished to “clarify a few points after reviewing the case.”
The Supreme Court Justices asked Musthafa a number of questions regarding the case, including if he had issued a personal guarantee for the loan.
Musthafa said he had not given any personal guarantee and insisted that the loan was issued to Seafood International Pvt Ltd.
Following the MDP’s protest alleging that the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) were subject to political manipulation by the opposition and members of the former government, opposition parties accused the ruling party of attempting to exert undue influence over the judiciary by “intimidating judges,” warning of “dangerous” consequences for the nation.
The MDP statement meanwhile contended that Musthafa’s case “fits a pattern whereby cases filed against MDP supporters and those who sympathise with the MDP are fast-tracked while more serious cases against family and friends of Gayoom never reach court.”
On August 29, Independent MP Ismail Abdul Hameed was abruptly summoned to the Criminal Court and sentenced to one year and six months banishment about 30 minutes before a crucial vote on the government’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation. The Kaashidhoo MP had been voting with the ruling party on the economic reform bills.
The statement also referred to the corruption trial of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim, charged with multiple counts of defrauding the former Atolls Ministry, which remains “indefinitely delayed.”
In the statement, MDP Chairman ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik accused senior judges of being “intent on defending the political and economic interests of their erstwhile friends and former paymasters from the regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.”
In May this year, the JSC, the watchdog body charged with overseeing the judiciary, abolished its Complaints Committee citing “efficiency”, with complaints against judges subsequently forwarded for review by the legal section and Chair Adam Mohamed Abdulla, a Supreme Court Justice.
Last year the JSC received 143 complaints concerning the conduct of judges. By its own statistics none were tabled in the commission, and only five were ever replied to. Chair of the former complaints commission, Aishath Velezinee, was meanwhile stabbed in the street in January this year.
The JSC also failed to table or even acknowledge receipt of a report on the judiciary produced by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which questioned whether the JSC’s possessed the technical ability and knowledge to investigate complaints and hold the judiciary accountable, as well as its independence.
Moosa went on to accuse the judiciary of “using the sanctity of judicial independence to protect the status quo and to remain unreformed. Nearly every judge appointed by Gayoom has retained his place on the bench – despite the fact that many of them have no legal qualifications whatsover.”
“We therefore look to our friends in the international community to help us address this difficult situation, and to support efforts to secure that which we all want – a strong, independent, professional judiciary, responsible to the needs of the society it serves,” the statement concludes.
Meanwhile in a statement released yesterday, the party revealed that its Councillor AbuBakr Fulhu “was unexpectedly called to the High Court for sentencing in a case originally brought in 2009 under Article 88(a) which contended that he had encouraged his brother to argue with a magistrate.
“The Criminal Court originally acquitted him, however, the local MP (an ally of Gayoom) has been pressing for a review by the High Court. Today, two years after the last hearing on the case, the High Court has suddenly summoned Aboo Bakr Fulhu for sentencing.”
The ruling party contended that the move was “clearly part of a concerted campaign, and we thus call on the international community to be vigilant. For example, senior members of Gayoom’s party, such as Umar Naseer, are informing the public about the outcome of cases against MDP supporters – before the verdicts have even been handed down, and are publicly predicting that many more MDP MPs will be brought before the courts and will be stripped of their seats”.