Transparency Maldives (TM) has called upon the state and political parties to operate within the Constitution, and to respect democratic norms and principles.
“Transparency Maldives notes with grave concern the increasing trend of undermining democratic practices and institutions by the State,” read a statement from the NGO today.
TM cited the attempts to reduce the number of judges in the Supreme Court, the sudden removal of the auditor general by the parliament, and the resolution of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) calling for the presidency to be handed over to Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim.
The MDP, private lawyers, and civil society groups have also heavily criticised the – now successful – attempts to remove Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan from the Supreme Court.
In a statement released prior to the Majlis decision to remove the pair, TM argued that their removal would further undermine the independence of the judiciary.
“The impartiality and independence of the Supreme Court is not solely decided by the number of Supreme Court Justices but rather by the upholding of judicial integrity and principles,” argued the anti-corruption NGO.
TM said the decision to dismiss the pair without publicising the criteria used to deem them guilty of gross misconduct or gross incompetence – as required in Article 154 of the Constitution – raised questions about the fairness of the process.
“The criteria used must be objective, based on merit, transparent and well-publicised so that any public concerns about the process may be addressed.
The NGO suggested that amendments to the Judicature Act also denied the judges in question the right to defend themselves prior to their dismissal – a point also made today by the Maldivian Democracy Network.
Auditor General removal
Similarly, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim was removed from his post in October after pro-government MPs introduced amendments to the Audit Act.
“TM notes that the recent amendment to the Audit Act which abruptly ended the tenure of the sitting Auditor General, before the Constitutionally mandated seven-year term serves to undermine the independence of the Auditor General’s Office,” said today’s statement.
The press release further noted that the removal of the auditor general is only constitutionally allowed for proven misconduct, incapacity, or incompetence.
Niyaz’s removal was justified on the grounds that the Audit Act predated the 2008 Constitution and thereby did not include the current responsibilities, powers, mandate, qualifications, and ethical standards required for the post holder.
Niyaz chose not to stand again for the post, requesting the High Court to place an injunction against the new amendment – though his replacement was sworn in on November 24, within on hour of his approval by the Majlis.
“It must be noted that the passing of the amendment and the consequent removal of the Auditor General coincided with the release of an incriminating audit report against a Government Minister.”
The same day the Majlis authorised Niyaz’ removal, Niyaz had signed an audit report which implicated Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb in a US$6million corruption scandal.
Adeeb – also Progressive Party of Maldives deputy leader – was quick to dismiss the report as politically motivated, while the government appears to have taken no further action in the case – despite pre-election pledges to root out corruption.
“TM calls on state authorities to ensure that heads of independent state institutions are given the autonomy to do their mandated work free from insecurity.”
MDP Gasim decree
Finally, TM denounced the MDP’s resolution which called on President Abdulla Yameen to hand power to JP leader Gasim Ibrahim.
The position taken by the party’s national council last week was condemned by TM as an “attempt to destabilize the elected government and infers overriding the electoral processes stipulated in the Constitution.”
The MDP leadership suggested that growing gang violence – which has resulted in four murders in the capital this year – coupled with the water crisis meant the president should step down.
“The president is not fulfilling presidential duties and ruling in absentia. So it is better for him to handover governance to Gasim Ibrahim,” said former President Nasheed during the meeting.
“TM reminds that any change in government should only be brought by a vote of the people and calls on state parties to not undermine the electoral processes of the country.”
The PPM responded to the resolution last week by accusing the MDP of attempting to disturb peace and unity during the water shortage.
The PPM also characterised the national council decision as an “undemocratic and uncivilised” attempt to topple a legitimately elected government.
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