President Dr Mohamed Waheed has expressed disappointment with the “ill-informed and irresponsible allegations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay”.
Pillay last week blamed the Supreme Court’s repeated interventions in the presidential election process for what she described as “the dangerous drift in the democratic process in the Maldives”.
“The government of Maldives rejects the claim that the Supreme Court and the Government are subverting the democratic process,” read a President’s Office statement.
“The United Nations must try to better understand the difficulties facing Maldives in their early phase of democracy, and provide support to find solutions rather than issue damaging statements from a distance,” the statement added.
The High Commissioner’s comment “undermines efforts of Maldives Supreme Court and the government to strengthen the Rule of Law in the country.”
Waheed’s rejection of Pillay’s criticism follows the response of the court’s Chief Justice, Ahmed Faiz, who quickly labelled the High Commissioner’s statements “irresponsible” and “poorly researched”.
“I harshly condemn UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s false allegations regarding the Maldives Supreme Court’s work to uphold its constitutional duties and responsibilities. I do not believe she has any authority to speak in such terms,” stated Faiz soon after Pillay’s statement on Wednesday (October 30).
Following allegations of voter fraud following an otherwise-applauded September 7 poll, the Supreme Court annulled the vote after ruling that over 5,600 ineligible votes had been cast.
The ruling was based on a confidential police report, kept secret from both the public and the Elections Commission’s defence lawyers. A leaked copy of this report has emerged this week (English).
After a second election date had been scheduled for October 19, polling was again delayed after police argued that the court’s 16 point guideline had not been followed when two of the three candidates refused to assign their names to the new voter lists.
Pillay’s statement last week described the 16 point guidelines as “onerous”. She also pointed to the international community’s longstanding concerns over judicial independence in the Maldives.
In the context of such criticism, the UK Bar Human Rights Committee has described the decision to annul the election as “troubling”.
The latest date set for the first round of the election is November 9, with a potential re-run scheduled for seven days later.
President Waheed – whose constitutionally mandated term expires on November 11 – returned to the country on Thursday night following “a private visit to Singapore and Hong Kong.”
Waheed was reported in local media today as saying that the current constitution is in major need of revision.
“We have found out that the political system we have introduced is in need of changes so that our nation will not continue upon suicidal track,” the President was quoted as saying at an India Maldives Friendship Association function on Friday night.
The People’s Majlis has approved a motion for presidential power to pass to the Speaker of the House Abdulla Shahid during this interim period, although although government-aligned politicians have continued to suggest that the opinion of the Supreme Court should be sought on this matter.
In its initial election annulment verdict, the court the court had ruled that Waheed would be able to remain in power even after the expiry of his presidential term, citing the continuity of government principle.
Waheed has meanwhile claimed that he has no interest in remaining president “even a day beyond November 11”.