Majlis notifies vice-president of impeachment vote

The People’s Majlis has notified vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed of a resolution calling for his removal, and granted him 14 days to respond to charges.

The notice was sent on June 30. Jameel must respond orally or in writing by July 13.

The motion to impeach has not been placed on the Majlis agenda yet, secretary general Ahmed Mohamed said.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had secured 61 signatures on the impeachment motion. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house is required to remove the president or the vice president.

Jameel is in London at present. PPM MPs have said that President Abdulla Yameen has ordered his deputy to return and answer the charges. But Jameel told an Indian newspaper that he had obtained permission before travelling to the UK for a human rights seminar.

The parliament has changed its standing orders to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president. The new rules state the Majlis can vote on the vice president’s impeachment without an investigation by a select committee.

Jameel has called his party’s attempts to remove him a “constitution coup,” and suggested that the international community should intervene.

Speaking to the New Indian Express on Tuesday Jameel said, “There is complete disregard for parliamentary procedure just to get the tourism minister after me. This is personal vengeance.”

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence and are seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Responding to Jameel’s allegations, Adeeb told Haveeru that Jameel had fled the Maldives after a failed coup attempt.

“A lot of people are accusing him of leaving with a lot of money and a lot of things. He is even now accused of dereliction of duty and fleeing the country. He has left the country because the coup he had planned has failed,” he said.

Adeeb also slammed Jameel’s call for help from the international community.

Jameel told the New Indian Express he had carried out his duties as ordered by President Yameen. “The President has to tell me that I have not performed properly, but he never told me that.”

Minivan News was unable to reach Jameel at the time of going to press.

Jameel had kept silent on the petition for impeachment, but released a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, in which he accused the PPM parliamentary group of greed and said that MPs have arbitrarily amended the constitution for their personal interests.

The parliament last week passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set the new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency.

Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously stated that candidates must be 35 years of age.

The opposition’s backing for the amendment is widely perceived to be a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are now preparing to begin talks to end a six-month long political crisis.


Legal status of penal code thrown into doubt

The new penal code is now in force despite parliament delaying its enforcement to July 16, the state human rights watchdog and prominent lawyers have contended .

A provision for postponing implementation of the new penal code was included in an amendment bill passed on April 12, a day before the new law was due to come into force.

The new penal code was ratified on April 13, 2014 with a one-year period for preparation.

The bill changed the date of enforcement from April 13 this year to July 16.

However, the bill stated that the amendments – including the provision for postponement – “will come into force starting from July 16, 2015.”

The provision for postponement was therefore inconsequential as it has not become law, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and lawyers Maumoon Hameed and Shaheen Hameed argued.

By following the old penal code, Maumoon Hameed said the state is presently enforcing “a law that does not exist.”

The HRCM wrote to the attorney general and prosecutor general last week seeking clarification of the legal dispute, saying it is unclear which criminal law the police, prosecutors, and courts are presently following.

The commission said it was “extremely concerned” about resulting human rights violations in the investigative and judicial processes.

Prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin told Minivan News that “as a common rule the old penal code would be in force now”.

“I cannot say anything specifically about the issue until the office has responded to the HRCM’s letter. Also, it is not my role to criticise laws but rather uphold it,” he said.

Former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz meanwhile dismissed the legal questions surrounding the penal code as an unjustifiably narrow approach in interpreting the law.

He said the “amendment makes it clear that the new penal code will come into effect starting July 16.”

“The amendment will also become part of the law. So the penal code now states the date it would come in to effect. We cannot simply single out one article and interpret the whole law. I think it’s quite clear,” he told Minivan News.

However, lawyers Maumoon Hameed and Shaheen Hameed insisted that the new penal code has replaced the old law.

There are presently no obstacles to enforcing the new penal code, Maumoon Hameed told Minivan News today.

“The new penal code states the old law would be dissolved when the latter law comes into effect. So I believe that the state is implementing a law that does not exist,” Hameed said.

Shaheen Hameed, former deputy speaker of parliament, also said he believes “the new penal code is in effect now”.

The current penal code was adopted in the 1960s and has been widely criticised as outdated, draconian and unsuited to the 2008 constitution.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had said the postponement was a “politically motivated attempt to continue using the current penal code as a means to harass and intimidate the opposition.”

Under the new code, the punishment for protesters who do not have a criminal record will be less severe as judges are required to take mitigating factors into consideration under new sentencing procedures.

However, the ruling party said more time was needed to raise public awareness and address concerns of religious scholars.


Family to sue police over ‘home invasion’

A family in Malé are planning to sue police for entering their residence without permission or a court warrant to arrest two young men accused of assaulting officers.

Residents of Galolhu Sheen told Minivan News that more than 10 police officers barged into the house around 10:50pm on Monday night and “brutally” arrested two brothers, aged 17 and 19, who were not from the house but were friends of the family.

As well as submitting a complaint to the Police Integrity Commission, the family plan to sue the police for unlawful entry and damages over “psychological harm” suffered by young children who witnessed the incident.

The constitution bars entry to homes under most conditions, with article 47(b) reading: “Residential property shall be inviolable, and shall not be entered without the consent of the resident, except to prevent immediate and serious harm to life or property, or under the express authorisation of an order of the court.”

A police media official told Minivan News that a court order was not needed when a person “commits a criminal offence and flees from police”.

The official added that under those circumstances, the residence was considered part of the “crime scene”.


The incident occurred after scuffles between patrolling police and army officers and a group of young men talking outside Galolhu Sheen.

Police and army officers have been patrolling the streets of Malé as part of a joint security operation launched following a spate of violent assaults in the capital that saw a 29-year-old man murdered on March 29.

Three army officers and one police officer approached the group and told them to leave, one of the young men – a resident of Sheen – told Minivan News on the condition of anonymity.

“The police officer in dark blue uniform didn’t have a name tag,” he said.

The group of friends told the security services personnel that they would leave in a moment, he said, but were repeatedly ordered to leave immediately.

When two of the young men complained about the officers addressing them with obscene language, the security officials became angered and tried to arrest the pair, he said.

An officer grabbed one of them and twisted his arm, he continued, which prompted his brother to intervene.

He alleged that one of the soldiers punched the 17-year-old and the police officer started pepper spraying the pair in the face.

The situation calmed down in about five minutes, he added.

“I said there’s no need to fight, you can take them if you want. I told [the officers] to wait, I’m going to take them inside to wash their faces,” he said.

The officers did not respond or prevent them going inside, he stressed.

About 14 police officers then entered the residence through the main door, which leads to a narrow corridor with family quarters on the side.

Three or four police officers then barged into the room where the pair were washing their faces and dragged the older brother out after allegedly punching him.

Police pepper also sprayed him at close range, after which another group of officers entered the room and dragged out the younger brother.

He stressed that the door was open and the officers did not seek permission or ask the pair to come out.

Police said in a statement yesterday that an 18-year-old and 19-year-old were arrested for assaulting a police officer. The officer did not sustain injuries, the statement added.

However, sources who spoke to Minivan News insist that the younger of the two teenagers involved is 17 years of age.

The criminal court yesterday extended the remand detention of the minor to five days in police custody and placed the older brother under house arrest for five days.

“Bad police”

The owner of the home told Minivan News that she gave a statement to police today about the incident.

She arrived home while police were entering and asked for an explanation, she said, but police did not respond. Upon arriving in the area, she was immediately affected by the pepper spray in the air.

While police were dragging out the older brother – who was on the ground and apparently crying in pain – she grabbed his shirt and asked police why they were arresting him.

“They said ‘he spoke to us with filthy language, he can be taken, we’re taking him,'” she recalled.

A woman who was inside Galolhu Sheen wears a face veil and noted that the officers could have caught her without the veil when they entered her quarters without permission.

Her seven-year-old, ten-year-old, and 17-year-old were woken up when police entered, and witnessed the incident from upstairs.

She said the brothers frequently visited the house for sleepovers. The younger boy had been a vice captain at his school.

After seeing police beating the pair inside their apartment, the children ran and hid inside a wardrobe, she said, and could not sleep later that night.

“We hear from people that [police] are brutal, but now we’ve seen with our own eyes,” she said.

“The seven-year-old also saw how they treated [the pair]. He didn’t want to go to her Quran class last night. He said, ‘I can’t go anywhere at night, mommy, the bad police will come.'”

Her children were traumatised by the incident, she said, and one of them today that she “wished we had an iron gate.”

Photo: police officers stop and search suspects last week 


Gasim “economically paralysed,” says JP Deputy Leader

The current government has “economically paralysed” Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim, its Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim has said.

“Even though Gasim has not been put behind prison bars, the government has economically paralysed him,” Ameen said at a press conference of the opposition’s newly formed “Maldivians against brutality” alliance today.

Gasim could not actively participate in opposition activities as the government has “cornered” the tycoon by targeting his businesses, Ameen said.

While the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) accepted the Adhaalath Party’s (AP) invitation to form a united front against the government, the JP’s national council is yet to decide whether the party will join the new alliance.

However, Ameen and several other senior JP members have been working with the alliance, claiming their participation was in an “individual capacity.”

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla accused the government of planning to seize all of Gasim’s assets and making sure he was “unable to move his hands or legs” in his defence.

Meanwhile, in an appearance on Gasim’s Villa TV, MDP Vice President Mohamed on Saturday said Maldivians should not wait and watch while the government destroyed Gasim’s Villa Group.

On March 1, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) gave a 30-day notice to Villa Group to pay US$100 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines.

Moreover, in February, the tourism ministry seized several islands and lagoons leased to Villa Group as part of an out-of-court settlement.

MDP-JP alliance

After officially leaving the ruling coalition in January, the JP formed an alliance with the MDP in January and launched nightly protests on February 10 against what they alleged were repeated violations of the constitution by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

Gasim himself and other JP leaders took part in the protests, which culminated in a mass rally on February 27.

Following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest on February 22 ahead of a surprise terrorism trial, Gasim called on the Prosecutor General to withdraw the “politically motivated charges” and vowed to continue protests.

However, after failing to return from a trip to Sri Lanka to attend the February 27 protest march, Gasim has not appeared in opposition protests. He has also not made any public statements since a meeting with Home Minister Umar Naseer on March 5.

Villa Group is one of the largest companies in the Maldives with the holding company Villa Shipping and Trading Pvt Ltd conglomerate operating businesses in shipping, import and export, retail, tourism, fishing, media, communications, transport, and education.


JP defection is no loss to government, says Gayoom

The Jumhooree Party’s (JP) departure from the Progressive Coalition causes no loss to the government, says Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Arriving in Malé after attending an environmental forum in New Delhi, Gayoom told media that the current government remains “strong and steadfast”.

“Initially, we had a coalition between three political parties, now there is one between two. The coalition with JP broke apart due to some disagreements that arose a while ago. However, the coalition with MDA [Maldives Development Alliance] remains very strong,” he said.

The JP has today responded by suggesting that the PPM leader was unwilling to see violations committed by the ruling coalition.

The party officially joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last week, after having officially left the coalition, though relations with the PPM were effectively severed in May last year.

After describing the opposition’s claims to be defending the Constitution as laughable last week, Gayoom again criticised the agreement.

“If they claim to be protecting the Constitution, then they must also tell us exactly how the incumbent government has acted against the Constitution. They haven’t been able to do so. The truth is, they don’t really have much of essence to say about this,” he told media.

The former 30-year ruler asserted that the administration of his half-brother Abdulla Yameen respects the Constitution, rejecting claims that the replacement of the auditor general last October, and the dismissal of two Supreme Court judges in December, was unconstitutional.

He insisted that those actions cannot be described as undermining the Constitution, as they were taken “lawfully through the establishment of laws”.

“These laws are made in ways that the Constitution allow us to. We can’t make any laws that go against the Constitution, as the contradicting clauses will themselves become void. So these actions were conducted in accordance with what the Constitution stipulates,” he explained.

Doesn’t want to see: JP

JP Spokesperson Ahmed Sameer has subsequently dismissed Gayoom’s comments, stating that the current government’s unconstitutional actions are “apparent for all to see”, suggesting that Gayoom chooses not to acknowledge them.

“Gayoom sees them, knows about them, and is deliberately using the majority that the PPM currently has to undermine the rights of the people,” alleged Sameer.

“We citizens should be deeply concerned if a man who ruled for such a long time cannot even recognise violations of people’s rights while it is happening right in front of him”.

He went on to give various instances in which the party believes the government has acted unconstitutionally.

“One of the first statements by the President’s Spokesperson was a justification of why President Yameen did not mention the judiciary in his presidential address in the parliament. He then said that the judiciary is absolutely strong and without fault. Why then did he bring such a major change to such a solid institution later on?” asked Sameer.

The spokesman went on to say that, when deciding which two judges to remove from the Supreme Court bench, the government had dismissed two of the judges most trusted by the public, while allowing a “disgraced judge” to remain in position.

He also pointed to the proposed constitutional amendment submitted to parliament, seeking to restrict persons over 65 years of age from running for presidency.

“The constitution clearly states that any citizen can run for an elected position. How then can this amendment be in accordance with the law?” he asked.

“It is a deeply concerning matter that Gayoom is turning a blind eye to the atrocities against the Constitution being committed by the rule of his party,” Sameer concluded.

The Progressive Coalition currently controls 49 of the Majlis’ 85 seats, while the opposition alliance – which has pledged to work together both inside and outside the Majlis – has a combined 34 MPs.

Related to this story

Gasim defiant as opposition sign agreement to defend Constitution

Opposition alliance a “waste of time”, says Gayoom

Judiciary excluded from presidential address due to Yameen’s trust in the institution

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


MDP asks Civil Court to halt Majlis decision on judges’ removal

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has requested a stay order to stop the Majlis vote this afternoon to remove two of the country’s seven Supreme Court judges.

The opposition has asked the Civil Court to halt the 1:30pm vote and examine the process by which the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) recommended the dismissal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Musthasim Adnan.

The Civil Court yesterday issued a resolution condemning the move, stating that the People’s Majlis had “forced” the JSC to deem Faiz and Adnan unfit for the bench through an “unconstitutional” amendment to the Judicature Act.

Amendments to the act were passed in the Majlis last week calling for the reduction of the Supreme Court bench. The JSC – given three days to decide upon the judges to be removed – opted for Faiz and Adnan within 24 hours.

Former JSC member and whistleblower Aishath Velezinee has said: “The fact that JSC has taken a decision – and that within hours of ratification – shows this is a pre-decided conclusion, a political decision and is not based on any legitimate reasoning.”

“The constitutional duty of JSC is to protect independence of judges and, in my opinion, the JSC should have challenged the unconstitutional amendment. The JSC could have petitioned the High Court to decide on the constitutionality of the amendment.”

Private lawyers have today taken up the case in the High Court, with Hasaan Maaz Shareef, Mohamed Faisal, and Shaheen Hameed also asking for the vote to be halted and for the annulment of what they consider to be unconstitutional changes to the Judicature Act.

Meanwhile, former Attorney General Husnu Suood has also said the amendment is illegal.

“The most important aspect of judicial independence is security of tenure. The amendments brought to the Judicature Act eliminate this attribute. There will be no judicial independence if the Supreme Court judges are at the mercy of the People’s Majlis and the executive.”

“If the Majlis and the president can change the bench as they see fit, this fundamental basis is lost. There will never be judicial independence in the Maldives.”

Security of tenure was introduced in the 2008 Constitution in order to create an independent judiciary, although further requirements to improve the ethical and educational standards of judges were bypassed after the failure of the JSC to implement Article 285.

MDP MP and Majlis Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik last week described the formation of the current Supreme Court bench as a “shameful” political bargain between the MDP and then–opposition parties in 2010.

Civil Society groups have also released statements today expressing alarm at developments, pointing out that the decision will undermine the independence of the judiciary, as well as compromising the judges’ right to defend themselves.

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has described the proposed removal of the judges as being in contravention of constitutional procedures – “a travesty in the guise of upholding the Constitution”.

“The aforementioned decision has been made contrary to the standard of incompetence for judges issued by the JSC itself. A procedurally irregular decision, such as this, cannot be considered legally binding,” stated the NGO.

MDN also questioned additional amendments to establish High Court branches in the north and south of the country, suggesting that the manner in which the authority to transfer High Court judges had been moved from the JSC to the Supreme Court “gives room to suggest that such changes are politically motivated”.

Meanwhile, Transparency Maldives (TM) – in a statement expressing alarm persistent infringement of the constitution – has questioned the sincerity of what pro-government MPs have described as a move toward judicial reform.

“Any move to reform the judiciary must be sincere and look at the entire judicial system, especially the judicial watchdog body, JSC, so that meaningful and real reform may take place,” said the anti-corruption NGO.

Related to this story

Parliament reduces Supreme Court bench to five judges

JSC recommends dismissal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan

Civil Court condemns move to dismiss Chief Justice Faiz and Justice Adnan


Comment: Find Rilwan, find the Constitution

The preliminary results of the 2014 census show the number of Maldivian citizens has increased by 42,288 since 2006, bringing the total number whose rights are protected under the Constitution to 341,256.

341,256 people whose right to life, liberty, and security of person the state is duty-bound to protect and promote, without discrimination.

The September census still counts Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, born 18-01-1986, as a Maldivian citizen – and the government’s statisticians are obliged to so for another 4 years.

100 days have now passed since Rilwan disappeared in suspicious circumstances, but wherever he is – and in whatever condition – he continues to be a Maldivian with the same rights as 341,255 other people.

A closer look at Rilwan’s disappearance, however, casts doubt on where those rights are, and in what condition they are in.

A comprehensive list of the ways in which my friend and colleague has had – and continues to have – his basic constitutional rights ignored would normally follow here. But without the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21, the remaining fall like a house of cards.

Among the rumours that have swirled since Rilwan was taken from us is that he was abducted because of sensitive information he had, or perhaps due to incriminating documents that were in his possession.

But there is mounting evidence to suggest that the document Rilwan was in possession of was in fact the Maldives’ Constitution – born 07-08-2008.

It seems increasingly likely that Rilwan – or his abductor – still has possession of this sensitive text as its whereabouts and prescriptions also appear to have vanished.

Indeed, a closer look at this missing evidence would now seem to condemn a number of institutions whose role is clearly defined within the document.

Article 236 of the Constitution states that the primary role of the Maldives Police Service is to “enable all persons in the Maldives to live in peace, security, and freedom” – in short, to protect Article 21.

In the absence of the original, the Police Integrity Commission will undoubtedly use a copy of the Constitution during their current research into the disappointing progress of the Rilwan’s investigation.

Next under suspicion comes the People’s Majlis, granted authority over the security services under Article 238 (b), whose relevant committees have declined to adequately investigate where Article 21 was taken on August 8, and by whom.

Article 75 says members of the Majlis should be guided by considerations of national interest and public welfare. Perhaps certain members who have seen fit to ignore a 5000 signature petition will recall this should the constitution be found alive and well.

At the cabinet level, the recollection that a minister’s role also requires the defence of public safety – i.e. Article 21 – might be more useful to citizens than the ‘reassurance’ that some crimes just cannot be solved.

Finally, the absence of the Constitution would explain the confusion regarding the role of the president. Locating the missing document would help to confirm the head of state’s sworn duty to uphold, defend, and respect it.

As well as being obliged to ensure the compliance of all state organs with the Constitution, the president was elected to “protect the rights and freedoms of all people”, which leads straight back to Article 21 – Rilwan’s life and his liberty.

To paraphrase President Abdulla Yameen: A constitution is missing, I think. So work will be done to find the constitution, right?

Where is Rilwan? Where is the Constitution? How can 341,255 people feel safe and protected when the rights and freedoms of one man have been abducted with so little resistance?

Ahmed Rilwan, wherever he may be, holds the rights of his 341,255 compatriots. Find Rilwan, and you can rest easy knowing that you are also protected by the state.

For as long as he remains missing, so does the guarantee that you, your friend, your brother, or your child, is among those whose right to life, liberty, and security of person has not also been ‘disappeared’.

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]


Auditor general’s position opened for applications

The President’s Office has this morning called for applications for the auditor general’s post after controversial changes to the Audit Act last week.

Incumbent Niyaz Ibrahim has told local media he will not be applying for the post, intending instead to challenge the constitutionality of the amendments which require the president to reappoint an auditor within one month.

The announcement was published in the government gazette today and will be open until 3pm on Monday, November 10. Forms are available on the President’s Office website.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party is also considering challenging the legality of the amendment, introduced as part of changes to legislation bringing statutes in line with the 2008 Constitution.

Proposing the motion, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Thoriq noted that the Audit Act was passed in 2007 before the ratification of the current Constitution and did not specify the responsibilities, mandate, qualification and ethical standards of the auditor general.

The amendment was passed last week, the same day the auditor general signed a damning report into an alleged US$6 million corruption scandal involving Minister of Tourism and PPM deputy leader Ahmed Adeeb.

Adeeb has labelled the report political motivated, suggesting an attempt to defame him by his political opponents.

Minivan News understands former Deputy Speaker and PPM MP Ahmed Nazim was involved in leaking documents related to the case to online news outlet CNM, which first broke the story of the Anti-Corruption Commission investigating the transactions.

In an interview with Haveeru yesterday, Niyaz denied being influenced by the Dhiggary MP Nazim, stating that their relationship during Nazim’d time as head of the Majlis’ financial committee was not in any way unusual.

Both Niyaz and his family have received death threat since the release of the report.


Former justice minister slams “judicial dictatorship”

No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan

The Maldivian judiciary is not functioning as envisioned in the revised constitution adopted in August 2008 and should be reformed, former Justice Minister and former Speaker Ahmed ‘Seena’ Zahir has said in a scathing critique of the justice system.

“If we don’t want an executive dictatorship from a dictatorship, we don’t want a judicial dictatorship either,” the former speaker of parliament reportedly said at a ceremony held on Monday night (September 29) to inaugurate an association of former students of the private Malé English School (MES).

Zahir’s criticism follows the Supreme Court initiating suo moto proceedings against members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives over its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission to the UN Human Rights Council.

The Special Majlis constitutional assembly convened to amend the constitution – of which he was a member – did not envision the judiciary “meddling” in executive affairs, Zahir said.

Judges were offered tenure, job security and high pay, he noted.

He added that the judiciary was misinterpreting constitutional provisions while the mandate of judges was limited to conducting trials.

“That should be brought to an end. It won’t come to a halt by jailing those who talk about this. Someone has to raise their voices on behalf of the people,” he said.

Zahir called on the public to exercise the constitutional right to freedom of expression and raise their voices for judicial reform.

The MES senior student association could take up the call as it should be done in an academic and unbiased manner without politicisation, he advised.

Zahir – who served as justice minister in the cabinet of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and participated in the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) presidential campaign last year – suggested that political parties were unwilling to speak out for judicial reform.

He also noted that the judiciary would have to arbitrate and settle commercial disputes under foreign investment laws.

Such laws, however, would not serve its purpose of attracting foreign investment if the judiciary remained unreformed, Zahir contended.

Zahir advised a bipartisan effort to amend the constitution, noting that the ruling PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance had a comfortable majority in the People’s Majlis.

“And their supporters also support amending the constitution,” he said, adding that the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) would also back such an effort as it has been advocating for judicial reform.

However, Zahir said he did not see efforts to reform the judiciary through parliament.

The purpose of amending the constitution should not be “removing A from the post and appointing B,” he added.

Suo moto

Less than two weeks before the parliamentary polls in March, the Supreme Court charged Elections Commission Chair Fuwad Thowfeek and Deputy Chair Ahmed Fayaz with contempt of court and dismissed the pair under unprecedented suo moto proceedings.

Subsequent changes to contempt of court regulations made in June authorised courts to penalise individuals for any expression, action, gesture, or piece of writing “inside or outside a courtroom” that could be considered contempt of court.

At yesterday’s trial against the HRCM members, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain slammed the commission for basing its observation – that the Supreme Court controlled and influenced the judiciary to the detriment of lower courts – on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul.

Faiz said the judiciary had rejected Knaul’s report as invalid. In June 2013, the government accused Knaul of undermining the Maldives’ sovereignty and jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, in 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council, of which the Maldives is a member, said it was “deeply concerned about the state of the judiciary in the Maldives.”

“The state has admitted that this body’s independence is seriously compromised.  The Committee has said the judiciary is desperately in need of more serious training, and higher standards of qualification,” a statement read.

The Supreme Court in particular needed “radical readjustment,” the committee said. “As 6 of 7 Supreme Court judges are experts in Sharia law and nothing more, this court in particular is in need of radical readjustment.  This must be done to guarantee just trials, and fair judgments for the people of Maldives.”