The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is seeking a parliamentary majority to reform the judiciary, former President Mohamed Nasheed said last night.
Speaking at an event in Vilimalé to launch the campaign of MDP candidate Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed, Nasheed said the Supreme Court feared that the opposition party would secure a majority in the People’s Majlis.
“They have summoned the Elections Commission there and are intimidating [commission members] for one purpose. They know the extent to which Supreme Court judges and other judges are tied to various politicians. They do not want the judiciary to be reformed because they want to remain in their posts, enjoy their undue advantages and keep engaging in corrupt activities for eternity,” Nasheed said.
No other party apart from the MDP would even talk about judicial reform, he added.
“What we will do with a parliament majority is reform the judiciary, reform the Supreme Court, reform the Judicial Service Commission,” he continued.
“You have to believe that none of our political opponents could say that they will reform the judiciary. They like it the way it is. What judges are doing is good [for them], too.”
Other parties and politicians turn a blind eye to injustice and the shortcomings of the judiciary as it served their interests, Nasheed contended.
Fair administration of justice was essential for a just society, Nasheed continued, pledging to complete the MDP’s ‘journey to justice’ campaign to reform the judiciary.
“Our government was toppled because we began this journey. All the obstacles we are facing is because of this reason. Nonetheless, we will not back down and, God willing, we will succeed in this task,” he said.
The former president also called on Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain to stop the apex court’s alleged efforts to “intimidate” members of the EC.
Nasheed concluded by expressing his hope that the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22 would be free, fair and transparent.
Contempt of court
Nasheed’s remarks followed the Supreme Court summoning EC members on Wednesday to a surprise trial on charges of contempt of court.
The apex court contended that the EC had criticised the judgment which annulled the first round of presidential election held in September 2013, and disobeyed a Supreme Court order by dissolving eight political parties earlier this month.
The commission members were summoned under new ‘Sumoto’ or ‘Suo motu’ regulations that allow the Supreme Court to initiate hearings and act as both plaintiff and judge in a trial.
In addition to initiating proceedings against EC members, the apex court has in the past ordered police to investigate MDP-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV over a report the station aired comparing the Maldivian justice system to that of ancient Sodom, suspended lawyers for publicly criticising the judiciary, and sought criminal charges against MPs for allegedly defaming the court.
In late January, the Supreme Court suspended former Attorney General Husnu Suood pending a police investigation, claiming that his criticism of the court’s decisions constituted contempt of court.
Suood told Minivan News that he believed the suspension was related to the sex tape scandal of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed. Suood was a member of the committee investigating Hameed’s alleged appearance in the leaked tapes.
The former AG was also barred from the apex court last year while he was representing the EC.
In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Lawyers and Judges, Gabriela Knaul, expressed concern over “the case of a lawyer who had been indefinitely suspended by the Supreme Court for allegedly criticising one of its judgements in public”.
“Such a suspension leaves no avenue for appeal and review and it represents a violation of the rights of the lawyer. The Special Rapporteur is also concerned about reports regarding threats of contempt of court used to muzzle the freedom of expression of lawyers,” the report stated.