Civil Court dismisses case to invalidate outcome of PPM primary

The Civil Court has dismissed a case seeking to invalidate the outcome of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) primary vote in March, that saw MP Abdulla Yameen selected as its presidential candidate for September’s elections.

A Civil Court spokesperson confirmed to Minivan News that during Thursday’s hearing the presiding judge rejected the case, which was filed last month by a PPM member.

The member who filed the case alleged that thousands of voters were not officially registered with the PPM at the time they cast votes on their preferred party candidate. Further details on the case were not available to the court official at time of press.

Sun Online reported that the case was rejected on the grounds that the PPM member, Rahma Moosa, was not one of the candidates and therefore could not claim infringement of her rights.

Umar Naseer told the online publication that he would file the case in his own name on Sunday (May 5).

Confirmation of the trial’s rejection was announced as local media reported that a rally scheduled to be held Friday (May 3) to announce MP Yameen’s running mate for the presidential elections had been postponed as a result of adverse weather.

MP Yameen, half brother of PPM founder and former Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was not responding to calls at time of press. PPM MP Ahmed Nihan meanwhile had his phone switched off when contacted this afternoon.


Divisions between PPM supporters appeared following March’s primary, when Umar Naseer – the only candidate to stand against Yameen during the contest – accused his opponent had controlled all of the party’s organs, including the council and election committee, and had “rigged” the vote in his favour by ballot stuffing, falsifying the count.

The allegations have been rejected by Yameen and the wider PPM, while Naseer found himself dismissed from the party late last month after he refused to respond – either verbally or in writing – during a seven day period provided by the PPM’s disciplinary hearing to retract the allegations.

Amidst the formation of divisions in the party at the time, PPM member Rahma Moosa lodged a case on April 18 at the Civil Court challenging the results of the party’s presidential primary.

Moosa reportedly filed the case claiming that 8,915 people who were not officially registered as members of PPM had been allowed to vote in the primary.

She contended that the move contravened the Political Party Act and compromised the rights of all general members of the party.

Coalition talks

The PPM, as the country’s second largest party in terms of parliamentary representation, last month said it would not rule out forming a coalition with President Dr Mohamed Waheed or any other fellow government-aligned parties ahead of the presidential elections.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News at the time that the party had already engaged in talks over the possibility of forming a power sharing agreement with other parties in the government of President Waheed, although no final decision had yet been taken.

Nihan said that rival political parties needed to reassess their views on power sharing after thousands of people attended a gathering held by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on April 19 to announce the signing of Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid.

Nihan’s comments were echoed at the same time by current Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who is speculated in local media to be among the leading candidates to stand as the PPM presidential candidate’s running mate during the elections.

Dr Jameel told Minivan News last month that a changed political landscape since the country’s first multi-party elections in 2008, necessitated a willingness to share power more than ever.

“We have to recognise that the PPM and the [opposition] Maldivian Demoratic Party (MDP) are the two major political forces in the country capable of winning elections. Hence, if the governing coalition desires to forge an alliance, it cannot realistically exclude the PPM from any such move. Whether a coalition, inclusive of the PPM can be realised prior to the elections is possible or not, we cannot alienate major political parties in an election,” he said at the time.

“Therefore, the role of smaller parties attempting to win an election of this scale without the inclusion of major political parties is in my opinion, a risky business,” Dr Jameel added.


Comment: ‘Deal’ or ‘no deal’, that’s not a question

With former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed walking out of the Indian High Commission (IHC) in Male’ as voluntarily as he entered, political tensions within the country and bilateral relations with New Delhi have eased. Hopes and expectations are that domestic stakeholders would use the coming weeks to create a violence-free, atmosphere conducive to ensuring ‘free, fair and inclusive elections’. The presidential election is tentatively scheduled for September 7, with a run-off second round, if necessary, later that month.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has argued that any election without him as its nominee could not be free and fair. They fear his possible disqualification, if the pending ‘Judge Abdulla abduction’ case results in Nasheed serving a prison term exceeding one year. As the single largest political party on record – going by the number of members registered with the Election Commission and given the party’s penchant for taking to the streets – the MDP cannot not be over-looked, or left unheard.

At the same time, questions also remain if political parties can circumvent legal and judicial processes considering Nasheed faces criminal charges. The argument could apply to the presidential hopefuls of a few other existing and active political parties in the country. ‘Criminality in politics’ seemed to have preceded democracy in the country.

The current government could thus be charged with ‘selective’ application of criminal law. The MDP calls it ‘politically-motivated’. While in power, Nasheed’s Government resorted to similar tactics ad infinitum. No one had talked about ‘disqualification’ when cases did not proceed. There were charges the MDP had laid against former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as well, in its formative days as a ‘pro-democracy movement’ in Maldives.

On the political plane, the reverse could be equally true. What is applicable to others should be applicable to Nasheed. Or, what is applicable to Nasheed (whatever the criminal charges) should be applicable to the rest of them as well. It would then be a question of non-sinners alone being allowed to stone a sinner! Yet, sooner or later, the Maldives as a nation will have to decide its legal position and judicial process regarding ‘accountability issues’.


A national commitment to addressing ‘accountability issues’ in civilian matters, however, may have to wait until after the presidential polls this year and the subsequent parliamentary elections in May 2014. Political clarity is expected to emerge along with parliamentary stability. The ‘Judge Abdulla abduction case, in which Nasheed is accused number-one, has taken center-stage in the political campaign in the run-up to the presidential polls. Like all issues Nasheed-centric, it remains personality-driven, not probity-driven.

The 2008 Constitution, provides for multi-party elections as well as gives former presidents immunity from political decisions and criminal acts that they could otherwise be charged with during their days in office. In a grand gesture aimed at national reconciliation after a no-holds-barred poll campaign, President-elect Nasheed met with his outgoing predecessor, Gayoom, without any delay whatsoever, and promised similar immunity. President Gayoom, despite motivated speculation to the contrary, arranged for the power-transition without any hiccups.

The perceived dithering by Nasheed’s government in ensuring immunity for Gayoom through appropriate laws and procedures meant that the latter would still need a political party to flag his personal concerns. The government and the MDP argued that the immunity guarantees wouldn’t be matched by similar promises. Gayoom would stay away from active politics for good, so that it could be a one-off affair as part of the ‘transitional justice process’, which was deemed as inactive by some, but pragmatic by most.

Today, Gayoom has the immunity, and a political outfit to call his own. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), a distant second to the MDP in terms of parliamentary and membership shares, is expected to provide the challenger to Nasheed in the presidential polls, if he is not disqualified prior to the election. Given that Nasheed was still a pro-active politician when the ‘Judge Abdulla case’ was initiated could be an explanation.

In this crude and curious way, there is a ‘level-playing field’, however the equilibrium could get upset. The question is whether the Maldives deserves and wants political equilibrium or stability of this kind. The sub-text would be to ensure and social peace and political stability between now and the twin polls, where policies, and not personalities are discussed. What then are the alternatives for any future government, in the overall context of policies and programmes for the future? While personality-driven in the electoral context, these things need universal application.

Various political parties now in the long drawn-out electoral race, will be called upon to define, redefine and clarity their positions on issues of national concern, which could upset the Maldivian socio-political peace in more way than one. There could be ‘accountability’ of a different but universal kind. Making political parties to stick to their electoral commitments is an art Maldivians will have to master, an art that their fellow South Asian nations have miserably failed to master.

Reviving the dialogue

The forced Indian interest in current Maldivian affairs has provided twin-opportunities for the islands-nation to move forward on the chosen path of multilateral, multi-layered, multi-party democracy. India has helped diffuse the politico-legal situation created by Nasheed’s unilateral 11 day sit-in in the Indian High Commission. With Nasheed in the Indian High Commission, the judicial processes in Maldives were coming under strain. He and his MDP were losing valuable time during the long run-up to the twin-elections, both of which they would have to win to avoid post-2008 history from repeating itself.

The episode would have once again proved to the MDP and its leadership that it does not have friends in the Maldivian political establishment, which alone mattered. The sympathy and support given by the international community, evident through favorable reactions to his sit-in from the UN, the US and the UK, among others, could only do so much. In an election year, the party and the leader needed votes nearer home, not just words from afar. Despite being the largest political party, the MDP’s political and electoral limitations stand exposed.

On another front, too, the MDP has lessons to learn. Throughout the past months, the Government Oversight Committee of Parliament, dominated by the MDP, has taken up issues of concerns that are closer to its heart and that of its leader, providing them with alibi that would not stick, otherwise. The Committee thus has come to challenge the findings of the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), which was an international jury expanded to meet the MDP’s concerns regarding the February 7 power-transfer last year, when Nasheed was replaced by his Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, now President.

It has become increasingly clear that Nasheed’s sit-in and street-protests by the party ongoing throughout much of the past year, has not brought in a substantial number of new converts to the cause, other than those who may have signed in at the time of power-transfer. The party needs more votes, which some of the government coalition parties at this point in time may have had already in their pool. By making things difficult for intended allies through acts like public protests and the contestable sit-in, the MDP may not be able to achieve what it ultimately intends to despite the element of ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ too underlying their actions.

The reverse is true of the government leadership, and all non-MDP parties that otherwise form part of the Waheed dispensation. They need to ask themselves if by barring Nasheed from candidacy, they could marginalize the ‘MDP mind-set’ overall, or would they be buying more trouble without them in the mainstream. They also need to acknowledge that without the IHC sit-in, Nasheed could still have generated the same issue and concern in the international community, perhaps through an indefinite fast, the Gandhian-way. Doing so would have flummoxed the government for a solution and avoided direct involvement by India. Subsequently, India was blamed for interfering in Maldivian national politics by certain circles in Male’, but without their engagement, the current crisis could not have been solved in the first place.
In the final analysis, the sit-in may have delayed the judicial process in Maldives, but has not prevented it. Waheed’s government has said it did not strike a political deal to facilitate Nasheed’s reviving his normal social and political life by letting himself out of the IHC. In context, India had only extended basic courtesies of the kind that former Heads of State have had the habit of receiving, but usually under less imaginative and less strenuous circumstances.

New Delhi still understood the limitations and accompanying strains. In dispatching a high-level team under Joint Secretary Harsh Varshan Shringla, from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), to try and diffuse the situation, India seemed to be looking at the possibilities of reviving the forgotten ‘leaders’ dialogue’ that President Waheed had purportedly initiated but did not continue. With able assistance from outgoing Indian High Commissioner Dyaneshwar Mulay and company, the Indian delegation has been able to diffuse the current situation. The rest is left to Maldives and Maldivians to take forward.

The forgotten ‘leaders’ dialogue’ was a take-off from the more successful ‘roadmap talks’, which coincidentally Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai was facilitating, after the power-transfer controversy this time last year. While coincidental in every way, the Indian engagement this time round should help the domestic stake-holders to revive the political processes aimed at national reconciliation.

India has clearly stated that it has not had a role in any dialogue of the kind, nor is it interested in directing the dialogue in a particular direction. They have also denied that a deal has been struck over Nasheed ending his IHC sit-in and re-entering Maldivian mainstream, as well as his social and political life. In his early media reactions after walking out of the IHC, Nasheed has at best been vague about any deal, linking his exit from the IHC to a commitment about his being able to contest elections.

Any initiative for reviving the Maldivian political dialogue now should rest with President Waheed, whose office gives him the authority to attempt national reconciliation of the kind. The MDP can be expected to insist on linking Nasheed’s disqualification to participation in any process of the kind, but the judicial process could be expected to have a impact, adding social pressures to the party’s own political compulsions.

Courts and the case

A lot however will depend on the course of the judicial process that the ‘Judge Abdulla abduction case’ has set in motion. A day after Nasheed exited the Indian High Commission, Brig-Gen Ibrahim Didi (retired), who is co-accused in the case, told the suburban Hulhumale’ court that President Nasheed had ‘ordered’ the arrest. Defence Minister Thol’hath Ibrahim Kaleygefaan ‘executed’ the order given by Nasheed, as he was then Male’ Area commander of the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).

Didi’s defence team questioned the ‘innocence’ of Judge Abdulla, and contested the prosecution’s claim that there are precedents to Article-81 Penal Code prosecution against government officials for illegal detention of the kind. According to media reports, the prosecution argued that Judge Abdulla was ‘innocent’ until proven guilty, and promised to produce details of precedents from 1979 and 1980, at the next hearing of the case against Didi, now set for March 20.
At the height of the ‘Nasheed sit-in’, the three-Judge Hulhumale’ court heard Thol’hath’s defence argue against his ordering the illegal detention of Judge Abdulla, saying that as Minister, he was not in a position to either order or execute any order in the matter. The defence seemed to be arguing that the legal responsibility, accountability or liability for the same lies elsewhere. The court will now hear the evidence against him on March 13.

President Nasheed, the former MNDF chief, Maj-Gen Moosal Ali Jaleel, and Col Mohammed Ziyad are others accused in the case. Of them, Col Ziyad’s case is being taken up along with that against Thol'[hath and Didi. Like Nasheed did before emplaning to India for a week, Gen Jaleel had also obtained court’s permission to travel abroad. It remains to be seen how fast the cases would proceed, how fast the appeals court will become involved, and whether the pronouncements of the trial court will reach a finality ahead of the presidential polls.

It is unclear if Nasheed’s defence team has exhausted all opportunities for interlocutory petitions, going up to the Supreme Court through the High Court or, if it has further ammunition of the kind in its legal armor. Inadvertently, Nasheed’s staying away from the court on three occasions over the past four months, the last two in quick succession, and his seeking court’s permission to go overseas twice in as many months may have had the effect of buying him and his defence the much-needed time. They have delayed Nasheed having to face the politico-legal consequences flowing from the trial court verdict in the ‘Judge Abdulla case’.

For his part, independent Prosecutor-General (PG) Ahmed Muizzu clarified after meeting with the visiting Indian officials that there was no question of his office seeking to delay the pending prosecution against Nasheed. The PG’s office was among the first to criticize the Nasheed Government on Judge Abdulla’s arrest in January 2012. President Waheed’s Office, and other relevant departments of the government, too has now indicated that the dispute is between Nasheed and the judiciary so they have no role to play, nor do they have any way of stalling the proceedings if the courts decided otherwise. It is a fair assessment of the legal and judicial situation, as in any democracy.

For India, the sit-in may have provided an unintended and possibly unprepared-for occasion to re-establish contacts with the Maldivian government and political leadership after the ‘GMR issue’, however tense and unpredictable the current circumstances. It possibly would have given both sides the occasion and opportunity to understand and appreciate that there is much more to bilateral relations than might have been particularly understood, particularly by the media.

Otherwise, with the Indian media noticing the Maldives more over the past year than any time in the past, the pressures on the Government in New Delhi are real. In the context of recent domestic developments like the ‘2-G scam expose’, ‘Lokpal Bill’, ‘Team Anna movement’ and the ‘Delhi rape-case’, the Indian media has come to play an increasing role in influencing the Government, along with partisan sections of the nation’s polity in the ‘coalition era’, after decades of lull. This is reality New Delhi is learning to work with. This is a reality that India’s friends, starting with immediate neighbors, must also to learn to live with.

The coming days are going to be crucial. The Hulhumale’ court’s decision on summoning Nasheed will be watched with interest by some and with concern by some others. Parliament is scheduled to commence its first session for the current year on March 4, when President Waheed will deliver the customary address to the nation. At the height of the controversy regarding the power-transfer February 7, 2012 last year, MDP members protested so heavily that President Waheed had to return despite Speaker Abdulla Shahid’s repeated attempts to convene the House. The House heard President Waheed on March 19, instead of on the originally fixed date of March 1. A combination of these two factors could set the tone for the political engagement within the country and thus the mood and methods of political stakeholders on the one hand and the election campaigns on the other.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

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]


Court case completion rate drops 29 percent

The Judicial Administration Department completed 29 percent fewer cases in 2010 than in 2009, in spite of a decrease in cases submitted to the court.

Only 2,484 out of the 3,057 cases submitted last year were concluded. In 2009, 3,488 were completed.

Meanwhile, magistrate courts in the islands closed 840 criminal cases while 1,644 cases were completed by the superior courts, reported Haveeru.

Nearly 1000 fewer criminal cases were reported to the courts in 2010 than in 2009.

The magistrate courts in the islands received 900 criminal cases in 2010 compared to the 1,433 cases received the previous year while 2,157 cases were filed at the superior courts in capital Male.

Phone calls made to the Criminal Court were dismissed at reception, and media personnel were unavailable at designated times and phone numbers. One media contact would not address the issue.

Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed refused to comment on the matter, and forwarded the phone call to a media officer who had previously refused to comment as well.

Registrar Ali Adam also said he was unable to discuss the matter.


Umar Naseer to take EC to court over decision to retain IDP

Former president of the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) Umar Naseer, who recently joined the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), has announced he intends take the Elections Commission (EC) to court over its decision not to allow the disbanding of the IDP.

Umar left the IDP last month to further his political career, claiming there was “no future” in being president of such a small party. He claimed a “the majority” of the IDP wished to disband the party altogether.

However, Deputy President of the IDP, Mohamed Hassan Manik, said the majority of the members disagreed and believed that the IDP “can still be run as a viable and independent political party.”

Umar’s decision to abandon the party, he suggested, was made “because it will be easier for him to try and become president of the Maldives [in the DRP].”

Meanwhile, the EC ruled that Naseer’s decision to disband the IDP was not valid under the party’s own regulations and that it could continue to exist as a political entity, following an investigation of what the EC’s president Fuad Thaufeeq described as “a big mess.”

“We found that the number of persons in the executive committee required to be present at a meeting to change a rule was not satisfied,” he said. “This is according to their rules.”

According to Thaufeeq, the decision to dissolve the party was taken at a meeting where less than the required 50 per cent of the executive committee were present.

“We looked at the minutes and percentage attendances at the meetings and found this regulation was not strictly followed, and is why we do not conisder Umar Naseer’s decision to dissolve the party to be valid.”

Thaufeeq said it was Naseer’s right to take the matter to court, and acknowledged that while this would be very expensive for the independent commission, “we don’t have any option.”

“There are two groups within IDP. One is with Umar Naseer, the other is against him,” Thaufeeq said. “I have no clue how this will be resolved without going to court, because regardless of our decision either group will take us to court.”

Naseer had not responded to Minivan News’ request for comment at time of press.


Yameen files civil court case against Thasmeen over debt collection

The civil court has confirmed that the leader of the People’s Alliance (PA) Abdulla Yameen has filed a court case against Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, the recently elected leader of PA’s coalition partner, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

The court said the case was regarding ‘debt collection’, but was unable to reveal the amount being sought. The case was filed on 31 Jan and the submission fee paid today, the court stated, adding that a judge would now be assigned to the case and a hearing scheduled.

Yesterday Yameen spoke to newspaper Miadhu claiming the elections process within the DRP was “not free and fair”, and that it was undemocratic that the party’s leader should be automatically selected without an election. Miadhu noted that Yameen’s own party had elected him as leader uncontested.

Yameen said today that the court case was “a civil case with no bearing on a political arrangement”. He said he “wished the coalition well” and did not want anyone “especially the media” to politicise the matter.

In late December Yameen denied that the relationship between the two coalition parties was strained, telling Miadhu that any problems within the coalition were the “wishful thinking” of the MDP.

DRP member Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef said while he assumed the issue of the court case between the two leaders would be discussed by the party’s council, “this issue does not concern me as a DRP member.”

“The bottom line is that Yameen has filed a case against Thasmeen, not that the leader of the PA has filed a case against the leader of the DRP. It has nothing to do with the parties.”

The coalition agreement, Mundhu noted, was “a parliamentary coalition agreement, not a fully-fledged coalition.”

He said he did not expect the court case to damage the public’s perception of the coalition, an alliance which gave the two parties a working majority in the 2009 parliamentary election.

“We just heard the headline, we’re not sure where its coming from, or why they felt the need to go ahead with a court case,” Mundhu said.

When the Congress meets later this month, “Thasmeen is going to be the leader – that’s basically a fact,” he noted.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom endorsed Thasmeen as his successor to the DRP leadership during a speech announcing his retirement from politics last week.

DRP spokesman Ibrahim Shareef said the court case “means nothing” and was furthermore “a private matter”.

Yameen’s comments regarding the fairness of the party’s selection of leadership were “his own private opinion”, Shareef stated, and as for the health of the coalition, “there are some difficulties but they are not major concerns.”

Spokesperson for the rival MDP party Ahmed Haleem Zaki speculated that the court case was “politically motivated.”

“Yameen wants to become a leader,” Haleem said. “He has a lot of experience during the last government and is a very qualified guy. He is very educated and has a good mind, and is very determined: he has played a sometimes very dirty role in politics. Thasmeen isn’t popular in the Maldives – he has 6-7 members in parliament, but a lot of financial problems.”

In November last year Thasmeen and several members of his family were questioned by police over issues raised during an audit of the Bank of Maldives (BML).

According to the report by Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, loans totalling Rf1 billion taken out by Fonadhoo Tuna, a company owned by Thasmeen, and luxury yachting company Sultans of the Sea, connected to the party leader, had yet to see any repayments.

Together the loans accounted for 13 per cent of the total amount loaned by the bank in 2008. Naeem commented at the time that defaults on bank loans issued to “influential political players” could jeopardise the entire financial system of the country.

In early December the civil court ordered Sultans of the Seas to pay over Rf654 million (US$50 million) in unpaid loans, fines and accumulated interest to BML over the course of one year.

Thasmeen had not responded to Minivan News’ requests for comment at time of press.