The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed concern over President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s appointment yesterday of former Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) Spokesperson Latheefa Gasim to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), alleging the appointee had ties with the Jumhoree Party (JP).
In a press release yesterday (June 24), the party characterised Latheefa Gasim’s appointment as an attempt to “increase the political and other forms of influence of a particular group and promote their self-interest” through the judicial oversight commission.
“Latheefa Gasim is the wife of Mohamed Ikram, who is employed by Jumhoree Party presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim as the head of V-media’s political department and a presenter of VTV, who campaigns for Gasim Ibrahim,” the party said, adding that Ikram was also a member of business magnate Gasim’s JP.
JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim is the parliament’s representative on the 10-member JSC, which consists of three judges from the three tiers of the judiciary (trial courts, High Court and Supreme Court); a representative of the President, the Attorney General, the chair of the Civil Service Commission; the Speaker of Parliament, a member of parliament elected by the People’s Majlis, a member of the public selected by parliament; and a lawyer elected by licensed practitioners in the Maldives.
Gasim, the JP MP for Alif Dhaal Maamigili, is the chairman of the Villa Group of businesses, which owns resorts, tour operators, a cement packing factory, a gas provider, an airline and several retail outlets.
The MDP alleged in its statement that Gasim has been “working ceaselessly” through the JSC to bar former President Nasheed from the upcoming presidential election on September 7, adding that the rival candidate has made public remarks to that effect.
Latheefa Gasim’s appointment to the commission has secured “two seats for the Jumhooree Party presidential candidate,” the press release continued, which has afforded the JP leader “further opportunities to advance his political and personal interests and exert extreme influence on the JSC.”
The press release also noted that Latheefa Gasim had made several statements to the media concerning MDP presidential candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
The former DJA spokesperson was not responding to Minivan News at time of press.
Latheef Gasim’s appointment yesterday followed the removal of Mohamed ‘Reynis’ Saleem by President Waheed last week ostensibly over allegations that the lawyer commissioned gangs to retrieve money owed to him.
The President’s appointee on the JSC was summoned to the police for questioning over the allegations in May.
The Criminal Court meanwhile refused to grant police an arrest warrant to take Saleem into custody, a decision which was backed upon appeal by the High Court.
Saleem was the defence counsel of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim in criminal cases involving an alleged scam to defraud the now-defunct Ministry of Atolls Development.
The cases were dismissed by the Criminal Court shortly after the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012.
Meanwhile, in her report to the United Nations Human Rights Council following a visit to the Maldives, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul observed that the JSC had a “complicated” relationship with the judiciary, given that the commission “considers that it has exclusive jurisdiction over all complaints against judges, including over criminal allegations, while the Prosecutor General understands that the criminal investigation agencies have the competence to investigate criminal conducts by anyone.”
The special rapporteur stated that there was near unanimous consensus during her visit that the composition of the JSC – which includes representatives from all three branches of government instead of exclusively the judiciary as was the norm in other nations – was “inadequate and politicised”.
“Because of this politicisation, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” Knaul observed.