EC dismissals: “Falsified” accounts by international community undermining judiciary, says Chief Justice

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz has accused the international community of fabricating lies regarding the Supreme Court’s verdict against the Elections Commission (EC).

In doing so, “they have engaged in a battle against the constitution with an independent nation”, said Faiz.

The Chief Justice released a statement strongly condemning statements released by the US State Department and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

These voices of disapproval were joined today by Australia, which has similarly expressed concern over recent developments, noting its “firm expectation” that scheduled elections will go ahead “in a manner that is free, fair, credible and peaceful”.

In his response to such comments, Faiz claimed that neither international countries nor organisations have the authority to criticise and spread falsifications regarding any verdict of the Supreme Court.

Claims by the international community that the apex court is unduly influencing the work of the EC and undermining their independence is against the truth, argued the chief justice.

“I would like to say that these statements regarding a Supreme Court verdict in an internal legal case of the Maldives are inclusive of falsified claims, and undermine the respect and authority of the Maldivian judiciary,” said Faiz.

“They are thus an irresponsible act by the international community, one conducted without observing the events occurring in the Maldives or getting clarifications of the matter from local authorities. I thereby strongly condemn these statements,” the statement read.

“The Maldives is a free and independent state. It is a sovereign state which rules over itself. The releasing of falsified accounts and statements of the Maldives’ Supreme Court’s actions to fulfill its legal obligations is neither an assistance towards consolidating democracy in the Maldives nor towards maintaining rule of law or strengthening of the justice system.”

Faiz emphasized that he would continue to fulfill his legal obligations concerning the mandates of the courts, and that he would do so without any hesitation towards or consideration of international opinion.

Challenging the Supreme Court

Faiz also condemned local groups’ criticism of the verdict. The Maldivian Democratic Party and the Majlis secretariat have both deemed the ruling unconstitutional.

Faiz stated that the most important duty of the apex court is to establish justice, rule of law and to maintain the empowerment of law, and the constitution requires that the Supreme Court has the final say in the interpretation of laws.

He further noted that it was the constitutional responsibility of all state authorities to maintain the respect and positive reputation of the courts.

“While this is so, when the few persons in charge of running the matters of the state repeatedly challenged the verdicts of the Supreme Court and undermined the respect towards the courts, it was an act that certainly eroded people’s trust in one branch of the state and an act that paved the way to the obliteration of the foundation of the Supreme Court,” Faiz continued.

“There is no doubt that the failure to take action against such acts – despite them becoming alarmingly common – negatively affects the Constitution of the Maldives and casts a shadow over the courts of law.”

“It is an incontestable reality that it is a danger to our constitution when there are matters in the judiciary which need to be reformed through the joint efforts of all state authorities, and instead of constructive work to achieve this, the courts are challenged and the judiciary is attacked.”

Faiz concluded the statement asserting that he will continue to work according to his mandate regardless of the criticism that comes his way, and without any hesitation despite any criticisms or obstacles that may be put forth by international organisations and foreign countries.


American high school teacher implementing sustainable mosquito control project in the Maldives

“For most people in Siskiyou County, mosquitoes are no more than a nuisance. But in the Maldives, where they breed rapidly and transmit painful and sometimes deadly Dengue fever, they’re much more of a problem”, Californian publication Mount Shasta Herald  reports.

“Former Mount Shasta High School teacher Trudy Rilling-Collins is working to control mosquitoes in the Maldives in an environmentally friendly way. She recently enlisted help from MSHS graduate Sydney Miller to implement sustainable mosquito control projects with local islands in the Maldives, a double chain of 26 atolls consisting of 1,200 islands off the coast of India and Sri Lanka.

Rilling-Collins hopes to create a project model that will empower the Maldivian people to effectively control mosquitoes on their own. Not only will this benefit the people – both local Maldivians and tourists – but it will also help the environment, she explained.”

To read more, click here.


Protests over anti-Islamic movie spread to the Maldives

Crowds of protesters gathered in front of the UN building on Friday, protesting against the movie “Innocence of Muslims”, perceived as offensive to the Prophet Mohamed.

Similar protests have erupted across the Arab world following the release of video offensive to Muslims on the the video-sharing website, YouTube. The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that the video was promoted by radical Islamophobic Christians in the US and then broadcast in Egypt by Islamic activists.

Protests have occurred in Iraq, Iran, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Kashmir, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Nigerian city of Jos. The most serious incident was in Libya, where demonstrators killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three embassy employees by firing a rocket-propelled grenade at their car. British and German embassies have also been attacked.

On Friday in Male’, a leaflet was distributed inviting persons to the protest at 4:00pm, titled “In Protection of Prophet Mohamed”. The leaflet did not specify who the organisers of the protest were.

Police had cordoned off the area ahead of the time, and protesters initially gathered opposite Billabong International School. Placards were mostly in English, and had a range of messages expressing their anger against the movie and the US in general.

Some of the placards in the front row read: “Behead those who insult our Prophet”, “Our prophet is dearest to us than our mother”, “May Allah curse America”, and “Maldives: Future graveyard of Americans and Jews”.

In less than an hour protesters broke through police barricades, shoving police away angrily and approached the UN headquarters. The few police officers present cleared the entrance of the building, but let protesters remain right in front of it.

Female protesters remained at the far end of the road, near the Billabong school.

A US flag was set on fire, with protesters surrounding it chanting “Allah Akbar”. A number of speeches were made, accompanied with chants. Some of the most repeated chants include asking President Waheed to return America’s US$20,000 contribution to restore the historical Buddhist artifacts in the museum, which were destroyed by a mob of vandals during February’s political turmoil. Some protesters stated loudly that if the idols were restored, they would promptly destroy them again.

At one point, protesters demanded the resignation of Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

A lecturer at the Maldives University, Sheikh Mohamed Thoyyib, was given protection by the police after his speech asking protesters to show patience and compassion like the Prophet enraged some of the people gathered there.

Young children accompanied some of the protesters, with some children and their parents holding toy guns in their hands.

The protest was adjourned in time for maghrib prayers, at around 6:30pm.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs released a statement on Thursday condemning the movie. It stated that the enemies of Islam had always used tools of the times to insult the Prophet, but that such efforts would not at all harm the character of the Prophet, as he was held in high regard all over the world. The statement called on people to show restraint and to offer prayers for the Prophet.

The Islamic Foundation of the Maldives also issued a press release today, stating that “Countless numbers of Muslims all around the world intensely revere the person of Mohamed, in fact they revere him more than their own lives, and therefore it is extremely offensive for them to defame Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).”

The Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs has meanwhile officially condemned the attacks on the US Embassy in Cairo and the US Consulate in Benghazi.

In a series of Tweets last night, the Maldives’ Islamic Adhaalath Party (AP) condemned the video, whilst urging Muslims not to resort to violence.

“AP strongly condemns the anti Islamic video ‘Innocence of Muslims’ which is highly provocative and highly insulting to Muslims,” said the party, before adding, “Islam forbids resorting to violence against innocents. We should not attack our foreign guests and/or foreign diplomatic offices.”

The protests come at the end of a week that has seen two visits from to the Maldives from both the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Michele J. Sison, and US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake.

Local media reported that threats were made against Sison during the protest.

There were also reports that the crowd had issued warnings against Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon who also visited the country this week to discuss the recently completed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) with leading politicians.


US pledges US$500,000 for elections assistance in the Maldives

The US government has pledged US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) for an elections programme  to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.

The program will be made available from July 2012, said Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Colombo, Valerie Fowler.

Meeting the press on Thursday afternoon in the Maldives National Art Gallery, Fowler said the US would also “work with the Commonwealth to help the Maldives work through the current situation to elections”.

The US will lend any support, including technical assistance, to ensure the next presidential election in the Maldives is conducted “smoothly and observed the rule of law”, Fowler said.

“Through USAID we are in the process of starting an election programme that will assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election. We have allocated US$500,000 to start that process and anticipate that we can begin as soon as July 2012,” Fowler noted.

Referring to the discussions she held with political parties during her trip, Fowler said “I echoed our call on all sides to maintain an open and transparent dialogue and use Maldivian mechanisms to resolve the political situation”.

She acknowledged the opening of parliament sessions as a positive step forward and highlighted the need to amend the Police Act and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Act – both pre-date the constitution – in order to depoliticise the country’s security forces. Meanwhile, Fowler said she was pleased to be told that important national legislations such as the Penal Code, Criminal and Civil Procedure Codes and the Evidence Act were under committee review.

However, Fowler noted that the US believed there needed to be an “environment conducive to early elections”, an aim that could only be created through dialogue, as well as capacity building measures.

“We hope the political party talks will resume in the coming days. These talks represent a positive avenue for progress when each of the parties participates with an open mind. In addition, we call upon parties to support the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI),” she said.

Deposed former President Mohamed Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has declined to cooperate with three-seat CNI appointed by President Waheed, citing unilateralism and lack of independence and international participation.

Nasheed alleges that he was forced to resign “under duress” in an opposition-backed coup, in which he alleges Dr Waheed was complicit.

Asked whether the US recognises Dr Waheed’s government’s legitimacy, Fowler said “we do not recongise individuals, we recognise states and we are in fact working very closely with the government of the Maldives”.

However, she added: “A full and impartial investigation into the circumstances that prompted former President Nasheed to resign is necessary, and we look forward to the report of the commission.”

Responding to the concerns raised over independence of the Inquiry Commission and a possible US role in the investigation, Fowler observed, “we have not received any requests from the government to help the (CNI) commission of inquiry’s work” but “we understand the government of Maldives is working closely with the Commonwealth’s special envoy.”

According to Fowler, “Assistant Secretary Robert Blake has been in regular contact with Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon, and we expect to work closely with the Commonwealth, both in terms of policy and technical support, to help the Maldives work through the current situation to elections.”

She also said that the US appreciated the work of other international parties and noted that it was in touch with Indian Foreign Secretary Shri Ranjan Mathai – a key figure within ‘roadmap’ talks aimed at facilitating early elections.

Fowler added that both the US and the wider international community would be paying close attention to bi-elections scheduled for April 14, where several parties are fiercely competing over two vacated seats in parliament.

“These elections, the first since transfer of power, must be transparent and the results accepted as fairly achieved in order to avoid making the political situation even more challenging,” she contended.

“This is an important time in Maldives history.  The Maldives has a well earned reputation and international standing as being a moderate, progressive young democracy. Further domestic conflict and instability will hurt that reputation and has the potential to do significant damage to international tourism in the Maldives,” Fowler concluded.


Comment: They don’t hate your freedoms

In his landmark speech at Cairo University in June 2009, US President Barack Obama announced that “No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other”.

It was an apparent departure from the aggressive foreign policy of his predecessor, George W Bush, who was an advocate of revolutionary change in the Middle East, having stated in a 2005 speech that the United States would no longer “tolerate oppression for the sake of stability”.

Nevertheless, American commitment to its much-touted democratic values has always been a grey area – and the question has once again come to the fore in the wake of the ongoing Egyptian uprising.

The embattled current Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, reigned for over 30 years – supported and funded by the United States.

Egypt is the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel – receiving up to $2 billion every year in economic and military aid; the tear-gas canisters thrown at protestors on the streets of Cairo have ‘Made in USA’ written on them.

The US continued to support the recently-ousted Tunisian president Ben Ali, despite recently leaked cables revealing that they were fully aware of the debauchery and corruption that marked his 23 year old regime.

The leaked cables mentioned a lavish 12 course dinner for the American ambassador at the beachfront home of Ben Ali’s son-in-law where, reportedly, there were “ancient artefacts, Roman columns, frescoes and a lion’s head from which water pours into the pool.”

The dessert – ice cream and frozen yoghurt – was specially flown in from Saint Tropez.

The United States also turned a blind eye when the winners of the Algerian elections were arrested, and a State of Emergency was imposed in Algeria in the early 1990s that would last nearly two decades.

In the past, the US has embraced dictatorships in Chile, Guatemala, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq – and continues to support despotic regimes in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and several tiny Gulf sheikhdoms – all apparently in the best interests of its national security.

America’s myopic vision of its ‘national interests’, however, has often come back to haunt them.

The Islamic revolution of 1979 that deposed the US-backed Shah of Iran, installed in its place a powerful, hostile theocracy that has refused to budge, and continues to ruthlessly crackdown on pro-democratic activists on the streets of Tehran.

The ‘Death to America’ chant that originated during this revolution continues to be the catchphrase of militant Islamist groups decades later.

It cost the US a disastrous war that continues to bleed their economy to oust former ally Saddam Hussein and today, CIA-trained Osama Bin Laden is the most wanted man in America.

Nevertheless, the US continues to pursue policies that risk their long term security in favour of short term political goals.

The US reactions to the uprisings in Iran and Egypt are a study in contrast; in 2009, they openly supported the pro-democracy ‘Green movement’ in Iran, since it was perceived to be in their immediate self-interests.

It was, however, only when the true magnitude of the Egyptian uprising became obvious that the less than enthusiastic US response changed to more vocal support.

Even more contentious is the manner in which the United States has responded to the democratic verdict of Arab people, on the rare occasions where they have exercised their democratic rights.

For instance, President George W Bush, who had emphatically promoted democracy as a part of his ‘freedom agenda’, refused to deal with Hamas despite their landslide victory in the 2006 elections in the West Bank that were unanimously declared by international observers as being free and fair.

Similarly, Hezbollah’s electoral victory in Lebanon was met with hostility.

Separate polls conducted by Zogby International and BBC reveal that even as the US pours billions in aid to Middle Eastern dictatorships, it has earned very little sympathy in return.

In a 2002 survey, 76 percent of Egyptians expressed disapproval of USA – two years later the number had jumped to 98 percent. In Saudi Arabia, another close US ally, the disapproval ratings have increased from 87 percent in 2002 to 94 percent in 2004.

Interestingly, the Pew Forum notes that there is general public admiration for American freedoms and prosperity though there was strong resentment at US foreign policy that deprived them of political freedoms.

Given this, the US should resist attempts to keep its political opponents such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt out of the democratic process – as it has only led to disillusionment with the democratic system in the past.

The paranoia of Islamist regimes shouldn’t prevent the US from accepting the rights of people to choose their own leaders, and shape their own destiny.

Indeed, in a democracy, even Islamist parties have to work hard to retain their mandate, as evidenced by Hezbollah’s defeat in the 2009 elections, and the victory of a US backed group.

The Arab uprisings have proven that the US must reconsider its policy of funding strong armed despots to suppress Islamist parties – as even the mightiest dictators cannot survive the wrath of an oppressed public.

Instead, America must address the root causes of the widely prevalent anti-American sentiment, not the least of which is their unflinching support of Israel despite their perceived military excesses, which are deeply unpopular in the Arab world.

The Israeli attack of an aid flotilla, the operation in Gaza, the Lebanon war, etc have all attracted condemnation from International Human Rights groups, but the American government missed the opportunity to get behind Arab outrage in these cases.

It continues to elude US policy makers that if only they would adopt a more even-handed approach towards the Israel-Palestine conflict, the entire Arab world would embrace America.

The present bitterness towards American policies is being exploited by Islamist parties in countries ranging from Iran to Pakistan to the Maldives to hide their own short comings and grab power.

America remains a very important and essential player that continues to be the embodiment of freedom and achievement. Whether it is their vibrant democracy, strong constitutional rights, scientific and technological achievements, or free enterprise and innovation, America provides a strong cultural leadership and acts as a guiding light for countries around the world.

Indeed, the recent Wikileaks cables revealed that popular American television sitcoms had a far greater impact in curbing extremism and promoting a cultural understanding of Western values in Saudi Arabia, than the millions of dollars spent on US propaganda in the region.

Perhaps it would be in America’s – and the world’s – best interests to answer the Arabs’ cry for dignity and freedom, and take a principled stance to help them usher in an era of political freedom and economic opportunity.

As President Obama said in his State of the Union speech in 2011, America is the first nation founded on an idea – an idea that everyone deserves the chance to shape one’s own destiny.

If the US wants to win the battle for hearts and minds of the Arabs, it must promote that ideal sincerely for all people, and acknowledge that freedom of speech and democratic representation are not just American values, but universal human rights.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]