Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has slammed statements issued by the Commonwealth and Canada expressing concern over the denial of legal representation to former President Mohamed Nasheed at the first hearing of his terrorism trial yesterday.

At a press conference today, Dunya dismissed Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson’s statement as “blatantly untrue.”

Nicholson had called Nasheed’s detention and denial of constitutional rights “abhorrent.”

“[Nicholson] had described Nasheed’s arrest as unlawful or illegal. Nasheed was arrested in relation to the kidnapping or unlawful detention of the Chief Judge of Criminal Court in 2012. That act was illegal by all international laws and principles” said Dunya.

Nasheed appeared in court yesterday with his arm in a makeshift sling after police officers manhandled the former president outside the court building when he attempted to speak with journalists.

The Commonwealth meanwhile stated that Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma was “concerned to note reports that former President Nasheed was denied the right to legal representation”.

Responding to the statements, Dunya said: “To criticise us in public statements with lies or biased with having only heard the oppositions point of view is not acceptable. The government will not accept these statements and will not pay any attention to them.”

She added that the Maldives has long been an independent and sovereign country, “and we do not want to be under any foreign influences or under a colonial power. No foreign power can tell Maldives what to do under President [Abdulla] Yameen.”


Dunya said the Maldives does not have a significant relationship with Canada.

“I don’t think they know what actually is happening in here,” she suggested.

“Canada is a very influential country in the Commonwealth. Big countries do influence [the Commonwealth] and especially if they are funding and assisting the Commonwealth, then the organisation will do what they want.”

Dunya also said the Maldives would not accept the Commonwealth’s offer of expert legal assistance.

“[The Commonwealth] wants to provide us with their expertise but we simply do not want it. We have other ways, countries ready to help and even our own way of consolidating democracy here,” she said.

Questioning the value of the Maldives remaining a member state of the Commonwealth, Dunya said the organisation had “wronged” the Maldives by placing the country on a watch-list in the wake of the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

While the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) had suspended the Maldives and placed the country on its formal agenda, Dunya noted that a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) later concluded that the transfer of power was constitutional.

“So we want to say to the Commonwealth, you have wronged us in the past and you are still mistreating us,” she said.

“We don’t get much aid or development from being a Commonwealth country. In 2012, Maldivians questioned the importance of us remaining in the Commonwealth. I am sure the question will arise again.”

She added that President Yameen would make a decision on whether to remain in the Commonwealth.

“Strategic misrepresentation of basic facts”

Dunya went on to say that she did not believe Maldivians could be adversely affected as a result of the government’s stand.

“Looking at the history, even if we are to face any problems [from the international community] we have to adhere to our principles, our methods and especially our independence and sovereignty,” she said.

Dunya also issued a statement today casting doubt on the Commonwealth’s assertion that it was “closely monitoring” the situation in the Maldives, noting that the Commonwealth Secretariat had not contacted the ministry over the past few days.

“On the contrary, I initiated a phone call to the Secretary General last night in which we exchanged views about issues of mutual concern in the Commonwealth and in the Maldives. I therefore regret the strategic misrepresentation of basic facts in the Secretary General’s statement,” reads Dunya’s statement.

It added that Nasheed was arrested with a court warrant and presented before a judge within 24 hours in accordance with “normal procedure,” after which the judge granted the former president the opportunity to appoint a lawyer.

However, Nasheed was brought to court more than 24 hours after the arrest for the first hearing of a trial on terrorism charges, rather than a remand hearing.

The former president appeared at the hearing without legal representation.

Citing new regulations, the Criminal Court informed Nasheed’s legal team on Monday morning (February 23) that the lawyers had to register at the court two days in advance despite being unaware of the trial until the former president’s arrest less than 24 hours ago.

Dunya, however, insisted that that police “followed the standard procedure and due process.”

“I wish to recall that the Commonwealth Secretariat had misread the situation in the Maldives once before, in 2012 and presented it to the CMAG, which took punitive measures against the country,” Dunya noted in her statement

“The Maldives, however, emerged from the situation vindicated by the CoNI Report. The government is hopeful that the Commonwealth will not repeat the same mistakes again.”

Related to this story

Commonwealth, Canada express concern over denial of legal representation for former President Nasheed

Former President Nasheed arrives in court with arm in makeshift sling

Nasheed denied right to appoint lawyer and appeal “arbitrary” arrest warrant, contend lawyers

Police arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed ahead of terrorism trial


Commonwealth, Canada express concern over denial of legal representation for former President Nasheed

The Commonwealth and Canada have expressed concern over the denial of legal representation to former President Mohamed Nasheed at his trial on terrorism charges yesterday.

The Commonwealth spokesperson noted in a statement yesterday that the intergovernmental organisation was closely monitoring developments in the wake of the opposition leader’s arrest on Sunday (February 22).

“The Secretary-General is concerned to note reports that former President Nasheed was denied the right to legal representation at the court hearing that took place on 23 February. The Commonwealth has also noted the arrest of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on 10 February,” reads the statement.

“The Secretary-General raised his concerns today with the Foreign Minister of Maldives, Hon Dunya Maumoon, and has stressed the importance of ensuring that the rule of law is respected, with adherence to due process, and in accordance with the Commonwealth Charter.”

The statement added that Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma also “reiterated his offer to provide Commonwealth expert assistance in relation to upholding the separation of powers in Maldives, consistent with the Commonwealth’s Latimer House principles on the separation of powers between the three branches of government.”

Nasheed appeared in court for the first hearing of the trial yesterday with his arm in a makeshift sling after police officers manhandled the former president outside the court building when he attempted to speak with journalists.

Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson meanwhile put out a statement yesterday expressing “grave concern” at Nasheed’s arrest.

“Developments in Maldives and the brutal and unjustified treatment of the former president call into question Maldives’ commitment to due process and democratic principles,” reads the statement.

“Mr. Nasheed’s unlawful detainment and the denial of his constitutional rights, including to legal counsel and appeal, under the politically charged allegation of ‘terrorism’ are abhorrent.

“We expect that Mr. Nasheed will receive medical care without delay. Canada calls on the Government of Maldives to reaffirm its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and it urges that differences be resolved within the constitutional framework of Maldives. As tensions rise in the country, Canada urges calm and restraint on all sides.”

Official spokesperson at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, also expressed concern yesterday over the recent developments, “including the arrest and manhandling of former President Nasheed,” and appealed for peaceful resolution of the political crisis.

Meanwhile, the US State Department revealed yesterday that Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Biswal had spoken to Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to express concern over Nasheed’s arrest and subsequent developments.

“She urged the government to take steps to restore confidence in their commitment to democracy, judicial independence, and rule of law, including respect for the rights of peaceful protest and respect for due process,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a regular news briefing.

Right to legal counsel

The Criminal Court yesterday refused to register any of the former president’s five lawyers to advocate on his behalf at the terrorism trial.

Citing new regulations, the Criminal Court informed the legal team on Monday morning that the lawyers had to register at the court two days in advance despite being unaware of the trial until the former president’s arrest less than 24 hours ago.

“How can we submit forms two days ahead for a trial we did not know would take place two days before? It is clear to any sane person this is absolute nonsense,” Nasheed’s lawyer, Hisaan Hussain, told the press.

The legal team was also unable to appeal the Criminal Court’s arrest warrant – which they contended was “arbitrary” and riddled with irregularities – after the court informed the lawyers that the new appeal form was as yet unavailable.

Concluding the first hearing of the terrorism trial yesterday, Judge Abdulla Didi granted Nasheed three days to appoint a lawyer and prepare his defence on charges of ordering the military to detain Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The judge also ordered police to hold Nasheed in pre-trial detention until the conclusion of the trial.

Related to this story

Former President Nasheed arrives in court with arm in makeshift sling

Nasheed denied right to appoint lawyer and appeal “arbitrary” arrest warrant, contend lawyers

Police arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed ahead of terrorism trial

MDP, JP rally supporters ahead of mass February 27 march


Seminar on new Penal Code commences at Nasandhura Palace Hotel

A two-day seminar to create awareness in the legal community of the new penal code – to be implemented in April of this year – has commenced at Nasandhura Palace hotel Haveeru reports.

The programme, conducted with the assistance of the Commonwealth, will hear lectures from the Commonwealth secretariat’s legal and constitutional affair division’s legal advisor Mark Guthrie, Australian Chief Magistrate Ray Renaud, and UK judge Shameen Quraishee.

Speaking at the ceremony today, Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Didi expressed his joy over the introduction of the new penal code which he described to be a progressive step for the development of the Maldivian criminal justice system. The code was approved in the Majlis last year, four years after first being introduced.

Further, Justice Abdulla Didi thanked the Commonwealth for its continued efforts to aid the development of the Maldivian judiciary, assuring that the Maldivian legal system will maintain a close relationship with the organisation.

According to Haveeru, Maldivian court officials, magistrates, and judges along with other members of the legal community will attend the seminar.

Source: Haveeru


PPM accuses JP of misleading public, bringing government into disrepute

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has slammed alleged attempts by the Jumhooree Party (JP) to deceive the public and bring the government into disrepute.

In a press release on Thursday (December 18), the ruling party condemned “completely unfounded and false” public remarks from the estranged coalition partner after JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim suggested the Maldives was facing international censure over the removal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Justice Muthasim Adnan from the Supreme Court bench.

International condemnation of the move was a “red light” for foreign investors, Gasim contended at a ceremony last week to mark the signing of Independent MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed to the JP.

“We’re giving a bad signal. [We are] talking about comments made about the Maldives looking at the statements from America and the Commonwealth,” the business tycoon was quoted as saying in local media.

While the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) described the dismissal of the justices as “astonishingly arbitrary,” the Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) in a statement on Tuesday called it unconstitutional and a clear breach of the Commonwealth Principles.

“The superficial legislative and administrative manoeuvres used to get rid of them [the judges] were grossly unfair and in flagrant violation of the Maldivian Constitution, UN and Commonwealth standards on independence of the judiciary, and the obligations of the Maldives under international law,” read the ICJ statement.

The pair were removed following the passage of government-sponsored amendments to the Judicature Act, which proposed reducing the number of judges on the apex court from seven to five.

Following ratification of the amendments by President Abdulla Yameen, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) promptly recommended the dismissal of Faiz and Adnan, which was approved by parliament last Sunday with 53 votes in favour and 21 against.

The PPM statement meanwhile argued that weakened international relations have been repaired through the efforts of the current administration.

A number of friendly nations offered assistance during the recent water supply crisis in the capital, the party noted, while the government has launched major development projects in collaboration with foreign partners in recent months.

Foreign investors were presently carrying out projects in the country while expressing interest in further projects, the statement added.

Meanwhile, speaking to the press last week, Gasim also denied making a deal with the PPM to allow a free whip for the JP’s 12 MPs to vote as they saw fit in the removal of the Supreme Court justices.

While five out of 12 JP MPs voted to dismiss the pair, Gasim himself voted against the move.

However, PPM Deputy Leader Ahmed Adeeb had thanked Gasim on social media for “letting JP MPs vote as agreed for free whip today.”

Related to this story

Majlis removes Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, Justice Muthasim Adnan from Supreme Court

Judicial independence, rule of law “severely jeopardised” in the Maldives, says Commonwealth organisations


Maldives team take part in 20th Commonwealth Games

Athletes from the Maldives took part in the opening ceremony for the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow yesterday.

The 23-strong team paraded alongside j ust under 5000 fellow competitors from 71 nations and territories.

The games were officially opened by Queen Elizabeth after singers Susan Boyle and Rod Stewart were joined by a giant kilt in a ceremony celebrating Scottish culture.

Following the conclusion of the official baton relay, Queen Elizabeth noted that the baton represented “a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family.”

Hassan Saaid – the holder of the Maldives’ record for the 100m – carried the national flag into Celtic Park where the team was greeted by a crowd of 40,000.

Saaid – a competitor in the London Olympics in 2012 – recently returned from a year of training in Jamaica, during which time he beat his personal best and again broke the Maldives national record.

Saaid and Hussein Inaas will compete in track events, while the Maldives will field six competitors in Badminton, six in table tennis, four in swimming, and five in shooting events.

Badminton player Maisa Ismail is the youngest member of the team, aged just 15-years-old while Ismael Shafeeq is the most senior Maldivian competitor and will take part in the rapid fire pistol shooting event.

17-year-old Mohamed Naseem, from Hithadhoo in Addu City, is the sole competitor from the southern atolls. Naseem will compete in both the men’s singles and doubles events in addition to the mixed doubles.

The Maldives’ swimmers were the first to compete today, with three national records falling.

Aminath Shajan broke her own national record in the 200m women’s freestyle event, Aishath Sajina set a record time for the 50m breaststroke, and Nishwan Ibrahim became the fastest Maldivian male in the 50m butterfly event

Despite consisting of 53 member states – which make up just under one third of the global population, the games include additional territories competing under their own flags.

The largest team sent to Scotland for games is Australia’s, made up of 417 athletes, while Brunei has entered just one competitor to compete in the games


Commonwealth’s future “lies in celebration of diversity”: former President Gayoom

The future of the Commonwealth lies in the celebration of the diversity that exists within the organisation, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said last night at an event held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, by the Commonwealth Chair-in-Office and President of Sri Lanka Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa.

President Gayoom was the chief guest at the event organised to celebrate the cultural diversity of the Commonwealth.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – daughter of the former president – also attended the event whilst in Colombo on an official visit, during which she paid a courtesy call on the Sri Lankan president.

The Maldives joined the Commonwealth under President Gayoom’s leadership in 1982.

“In his speech, President Gayoom said that the diversity within the Commonwealth makes the organisation one of the strongest international bodies in the world today. The former President, also highlighted the importance of mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding between the countries of the Commonwealth, in order to foster peace and create an environment conducive for development to happen. The Commonwealth brings together, to the same table, countries of different cultures, development levels and political ideologies, as equals. This, President Gayoom, said, must be celebrated and respected,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement today.

Former President Gayoom’s remarks were echoed in a message to President Rajapaksa by President Abdulla Yameen today, in which he said that the diversity of the Commonwealth was a source of strength.

The President expressed his hope that the common beliefs shared by the Commonwealth countries will guide us towards finding mutually beneficial solutions to the global problems facing the world today,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“The President further conveyed his appreciation to the Sri Lankan Government, for hosting a special event in its capacity as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth to celebrate the cultural diversity of the organization, in which former President of Maldives, His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom participated as the Chief Guest.”


Majlis elections: Supreme Court’s actions overshadowed polls, say international observers

The European Union has noted a “violation of rules” by the Supreme Court, as well as warning that the right to a free vote had been “undermined” by reported vote buying in their observations of the parliamentary elections.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) and the Commonwealth Observer Group both presented their interim reports at press conferences held today (March 24) in Malé.

Presenting the EU’s statement, Chief Observer Eduard Kukan said that although the voting was “calm and orderly,” with the process conducted in a “professional, impartial and transparent manner,” the Supreme Court’s removal of two members of the Elections Commission less than two weeks before the poll “raised serious concerns” and “overshadowed the electoral period”.

“The [Supreme Court’s] consequent removal of the chairperson and his deputy represented an assertion of power reserved to the People’s Majlis. It was a violation of the rules in both the constitution and the Elections Commission Act,” the EU EOM statement noted.

Similarly, the Commonwealth group’s interim statement – presented by the Chair Bruce Golding – congratulated the Maldives on holding a “peaceful and conclusive election,” but was “deeply concerned” by the Supreme Court’s actions which “inevitably had a negative effect on the overall electoral environment”.

As a result of this, the COG noted it was “disappointed that there was still a lack of clarity regarding inconsistencies between the Maldivian Electoral legislative framework and the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court last year.”

When reporters asked Mr Kukan if the Supreme Court influenced the results of the elections, he noted that it made a “difficult electoral environment,” but added that their sole mission was to observe the election process.

“It’s up to the people who they vote for,” he added.

Vote buying, media plurality, and female candidates

Another key finding in both statements was reported vote-buying and excessive campaign expenditure.

The EU EOM highlighted the tradition of high spending during elections, with candidates legally spending up to 1,500 MVR or some €70 per voter in a constituency.

According to the report, this spending is “insufficiently regulated,” and concluded that the lack of cap on spending “undermines” the right to a free vote from compulsion or inducement.

The Commonwealth mission made the recommendation that “concerted and systematic efforts need to be made to address this issue”.

Allegations of vote buying were highlighted in a previous statement by NGO Transparency Maldives (TM), who stated that “wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack [the] democratic process.”

Furthermore, TM revealed that a survey conducted prior to last year’s presidential election showed that 15 percent of respondents had been offered “money or other incentives” in exchange for their vote.

In addition to vote buying, both the EU EOM and the COG expressed concern over the media and freedom of expression during the elections. According to the Commonwealth, local stakeholders expressed concern that coverage by private media outlets were influenced by political affiliations.

“The liberalisation of the media sector in 2008 has so far not led to media pluralism,” stated Kukan. “Ownership of the main private TV and radio stations is concentrated in the hands of a small number of businessmen and politicians whose ideology is reflected in the editorial decisions.”

Kukan added that the “significantly partisan editorial content” hinders the “diversity and impartiality” in the election coverage. Kukan named broadcasters such as Raajje TV and VTV who he accused of “overly promoting their chosen party and candidates.”

The EU EOM also noted deficiencies in the legal framework’s adequacy to support the elections according to the international standards to which the Maldives has subscribed.

“Contary to the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], the rights to vote and to stand to election are limited on the grounds of religion, as citizenship is limited to Maldivians of Muslim faith, and candidates must be Sunni Muslim.”

The EU report added, “the Maldives has entered a reservation to article 18 of the ICCPR, thus restricting freedom of religion, and a reservation to article 16 of  The Convention on the Elemination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) restricting gender equality in family matters, thereby protecting inheritance laws which discriminate against women.”

The report noted an “extremely low numbers of female candidates,” with a total of 23 female candidates – just 5 of whom were elected. This indicates a decrease from 6.4 to 5.8 per cent female members of parliament.

The report noted that this, along with the low voter turn out for women was in part down to “prevailing and increasing social and cultural norms which disempower women, confining them to the domestic sphere.”

After continuing to observe the post-electoral period, the EU EOM will produce a detailed final report including recommendations for future elections.

The Commonwealth’s official report will be published following the group’s departure on March 28.


Commonwealth parliamentary elections observer group arrives

In preparation for the parliamentary elections, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has constituted an Observer Group with a view to assess compliance with national and international standards, and to strengthen the electoral framework.

The observation is led by former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who introduced the group at a press conference held in Malé today (March 19).

An arrival statement was read by Golding, who stated that the group’s task was to “consider all factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process,” and stressed their commitment to staying “objective, impartial and independent.”

The group will “assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards to which Maldives has committed itself, including both the Maldivian constitutional and legislative framework and relevant Commonwealth and international commitments,” Golding added.

The group consists of seven members who will be drawn from across the regions of the Commonwealth, and includes a range of experts from political, electoral, legal, and media fields. Golding explained that the observers will be deployed across various atolls on March 20, but did not disclose when asked which atolls they would be monitoring.

A preliminary statement of findings will be published shortly after the elections on March 22, followed by an official report which will be published following the Group’s departure on March 28.

When asked by Minivan News during the conference whether their arrival in the Maldives has been well received by the government, Golding confirmed that they met all the relevant stakeholders and had a “good balance of views conveyed to us about the challenges that may exist.”

The Commonwealth team sent to observe the 2013 presidential election described the initial poll as “inclusive and competitive”, before the results were annulled by the Supreme Court after allegations of inconsistencies within the voter registry.

The group had described the voter register as “accurate and robust”, with Chair of the observation group Dr Lawrence Gonzi noting that “Fears expressed by some political parties regarding possible large numbers of deceased voters and voters registered in the wrong geographic area seem to be unfounded.”

Golding was also asked by local media today if a credible and fair election was possible following the recent decision by the Supreme Court to dismiss the Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz Hassan.

Goulding responded that they have “taken note,” but added that he was unable to divulge the details of their discussions.

In addition to the Commonwealth, the European Union have been invited by the Elections Commission to implement the Maldives’ first full EU Election Observation Mission (EOM).

According to the Chief Observer Eduard Kukan, the EOM intend to strengthen human rights and the rule of law, to deter malpractice, and to improve the electoral environment. Their report will also make concrete recommendations to help improve the electoral framework.

India this week revealed that it had declined an invite from the Elections Commission to send a team of observers due to election preparations in India itself.

“The Maldives Elections Commission had invited our Election Commission to observe the polls. But the Election Commission is very busy managing the current schedule, so we have declined,” the New India Express reported a senior government official from the country as having stated.

Officials at the Indian High Commission in Malé have confirmed that no observers will be sent, though it was pointed out that High Commission staff would be performing some observer functions.


EC dismissals: Commonwealth, UK, EU, and India join international chorus of concern

The Commonwealth, UK, EU, and India have joined a growing international chorus expressing concern with the Supreme Court’s removal of the Elections Commission (EC) chair and deputy chair over charges of contempt of court.

“Such action by the court less than two weeks before the [parliamentary] election could be viewed as potentially affecting the electoral process adversely,” read a statement released yesterday by the Commonwealth secretariat.

The UK described the move as an “unprecedented expansion of judicial powers”, while India urged respect for the constitution. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton called the ruling a “serious setback in the democratic transition of the country.”

A statement from the President’s Office meanwhile called upon international partners to respect the Maldives’ constitution, echoing a statement released by the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz on Tuesday (March 11).

The Supreme Court ruling on Sunday left the EC without the three members required for a legal quorum to hold meetings and finalise decisions ahead of the polls scheduled for March 22.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma noted the parliament’s approval of a new member to the EC yesterday, which ensures that the quorum is restored.

“We hope that a credible and inclusive parliamentary election can be held in accordance with the constitution, and that Maldivians will be able to cast their votes with confidence and with the will of the people being respected,”  the secretary-general said.

The secretary-general stressed that separation of powers was “a fundamental political value” of the Commonwealth.

“For a democracy to function effectively, it is critical that institutions operate within their own constitutional mandate and do not encroach either on the ability of other independent institutions to execute their own remits or on the constitutional authority of other branches of government,” he stated.

“Actions that undermine the independence of an elections commission have a negative effect on democracy as a whole.”

The secretary-general noted that the Commonwealth Observer Group to the Maldives for last year’s presidential polls had recommended that “there should be better recognition of the mandate and statutory and constitutional independence of the Elections Commission.”

The Commonwealth statement also noted that the Supreme Court “assumed new powers enabling it to initiate cases”.

The Supreme Court summoned EC members on February 27 and began a surprise trial on charges of contempt of court under new ‘sumoto’ regulations that allow the apex court to initiate proceedings and act as both prosecution and judge.

Yesterday’s flurry of statements followed condemnation of the Supreme Court decision by the United States, Canada and the United Nations earlier this week.

In response, the President’s Office has contended that “negative external reaction to judicial decisions” undermined the constitution and hindered efforts for consolidation of democracy.

“Unprecedented expansion of judicial powers”

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Hugo Swire expressed “deep disappointment” with the Supreme Court’s dismissal and sentencing of the EC chair.

“The charges laid and the procedures adopted represent an unprecedented expansion of judicial powers,” the Foreign Office statement read.

The Supreme Court’s contentious ruling “appears to undermine the hard won independence of the Election Commission. This is extremely worrying so close to parliamentary elections,” the statement read.

Noting the appointment of a new member to the EC, the minister urged the government to ensure that the “the Election Commission’s independence is swiftly restored and to ensure that inclusive, free and fair Parliamentary elections are held within constitutional deadlines and in line with international standards.”

“This is essential for the consolidation of democracy in the Maldives and for the country to uphold its international reputation after the difficult events of the last two years.”

The EU’s statement commended the work of the EC, noted the key role of an independent elections body in a democracy, and drew attention to its team of monitors currently in the Maldives for this month’s poll.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs meanwhile issued a press release welcoming the “commitment expressed by the government of Maldives to holding the parliamentary elections as scheduled”.

“India has consistently supported the strengthening of democratic processes and institutions in the Maldives. In this context, the Government of India has noted with concern the removal of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the Elections Commission of Maldives from their positions and deferred prison sentence of the Chairperson,” the press release stated.

As “a close friend and neighbour of the Maldives”, the Indian government urged state institutions and political parties to respect the constitution and rule of law.

The statement also expressed hope that the EC’s independence will be ensured and that “the forthcoming parliamentary elections are held in a free, fair and credible manner, fulfilling the democratic aspirations of the people of Maldives.”