AG Office appeals to overturn Civil Court’s ruling on Addu City Council

The Attorney General’s office has appealed at the High Court to overturn a Civil Court ruling that the criteria established by the Local Government Authority to determine cities are invalid.

The High Court of the Maldives said that the case was now in the High Court but it had not yet scheduled the hearing.

The Civil Court delivered the verdict day before yesterday after the case was filed in the court by Hassan Nasir of Hulhudhoo, a citizen of Addu Atoll.

In response to the allegations in the trials conducted in Civil Court the state argued that the Decentralisation Act does not say that the presence of all the members of the Local Government Authority are required when making a decision.

However, the judges ruled that the Local Government Authority was a national institution, and therefore its work was to be conducted similar to how other institutions were conducted.

The first time President Mohamed Nasheed declared Addu Atoll a city, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) filed the case in Civil Court, citing a law that a Local Government Authority shall be established to make a city, and the Local Government Authority shall also establish a criteria to determine cities and determine whether the subject atoll metthe requirements.

The Court then ruled in favor of DQP and ruled that president did not have the authority to declare Addu Atoll a city without completing the procedure mentioned in the Decentralisation Act.

The day after, President Nasheed established a Local Government Authority consisting solely of Home Minister Hassan Afeef. Afeef established the criteria and determined that Addu Atoll mets the requirements to become a city. The president then declared Addu a city for the second time in January this year.

With four days before Addu was to hold its City Council elections for the first time, the Civil Court ruled that the Local Government Authority’s criteria was invalid and the Elections Commission was forced to cancel the City Council elections.


Female badminton champion battles badminton bureaucracy in ongoing court battle

One of the Maldives’ most successful female badminton players is battling the country’s Badminton Association in court claiming she was dismissed for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

Neela Ahmed Najeeb, formerly the only female badminton player on the national team, holds a string of championship medals and several international competitions to her credit. Najeeb said that her abilities meant she could play against men during training sessions “and even beat a few of the good players, enough to compete with them.”

She claims the Association has sought to obstruct her from playing the sport ever since it sent her home from a competition in Sri Lanka in 2006 for allegedly smoking a cigarette.

In May last year, the 25 year-old was suspended from the Association altogether after clashing with her Indonesian coach, whom she alleged attempted to make her run for four hours in punishment for missing a training session – half an hour short of the average marathon.

“I had just started training again and I was not even physically fit,” she says. “I missed practice one morning and the coach told me to run for two hours, but I couldn’t do it – I’ve been in the national team for eight years and we’ve never had to do anything like that before. I ran for 30-45 minutes but I could not run anymore.”

The coach, she said, “didn’t like it, and said I could not join the training unless I ran for another 1.5 hours. I didn’t make it a problem.”

However, Najeeb said that, “a few days later, I missed another training session because of my work, and the next day [the coach] asked me to run for two hours again. I could only do 30-40 minutes, and he said that because I had only run 30-40 minutes the last time, I now had to run three hours.”

Najeeb says she took the matter to the Badminton Association, explaining she did not feel she was capable of running the three hours and was afraid of injuring herself early in the training. But she claimed they sided with the coach, “reasoning that he had a degree in Physical Education.”

“The last time I went to training I said I would run 30-40 minutes, but he said no, now I had to run for four hours.”

“I couldn’t believe it. I told him that was impossible. He became angry and said I was useless, and some things that really hurt me. He asked me to leave the stadium, and made a complaint about my behaviour, and filed a disciplinary case,” Najeeb says.

The next day, according to Najeeb, the Badminton Association sent her a letter saying she was terminated from the national team.

“They didn’t even talk to me. If they are going to fire a player from the national team, they have to give me a chance to appeal. They didn’t do that. I don’t want to be against them, they should be advising me.”

Najeeb had been selected to travel to Greece on June 10 last year for a youth training session by the International Olympic Committee.

However, athletes attending the training required the backing of their local association – and Najeeb claims the national chairman “said he was not going to give it.”

Instead, Najeeb said she was informed her application was invalid following the disciplinary report filed by a coach four years ago for the alleged smoking of a cigarette while attending the Sri Lankan tournament in 2006. “Which,” she added, “was not true.”

“I think this must be personal – this is not what you do to an athlete. You don’t just terminate them,” Najeeb claimed.

“I think Maldivian players deserve better. If you have a problem with a coach, [sporting associations] are supposed to advise you – but the Badminton Association takes everything personally.”

President of the Badminton Association, Ali Amir, told Minivan News that he was unable to comment on Najeeb’s disciplinary action as the case was pending in court, but did confirm that the Association was defending the case.

A senior badminton player Minivan News spoke to, who requested anonymity, said he felt it was unfair that Najeeb had been obstructed from practising for 4-5 years.

“She was not supposed to smoke [while attending the Sri Lankan tournament in 2006], and she did smoke, and was sent back to Male’. We have to sign an agreement [with the Badminton Association], but there was nothing in it saying that if we smoke we are sent back to Male’.”

“After that she was unable to play on the national team for two years. Eventually she was allowed a new coach, but then she was suspended again in May last year.”

“It’s a big loss for her,” he added, speculating that “there is something going on between [Najeeb] and the Badminton Association. I have no idea what.”

“She can’t even play alone – if anyone from the Association sees her in the stadium, they call the guards to take her out. The Association is doing this, not the players.”

The new coach’s running regime was “very ruthless”, he claimed. “If we do not come to the morning session we have to run 1-2 hours that night and lose time training. It’s useless.”

Najeeb said she “will not quit playing a sport I love”, but confirmed that she has been escorted from the stadium “because I don’t have an association membership card. It is really frustrating.”

Najeeb and the lawyer representing her in the case, Mizna Shareef of Shah, Hussein & Co, allege that her suspension contradicts the termination procedure of the Constitution of the Badminton Association as she was not given a chance to defend herself.

“The Association unfairly and quite harshly terminated Neela without establishing adequate cause and without giving Neela the opportunity to defend herself,” Shareef told Minivan News. She added that outside the Association’s own regulations “there are no applicable laws covering this type of situation.”

The case was lodged in May this year but despite having three hearings, Shareef claimed “the Badminton Association has stalled the case by appearing in court without having prepared their statements.”

“The longer this case gets delayed, the longer Neela suffers without being served justice. At this point, there is no certainty as to when the case would end,” Shareef said.

“Neela,” she added, “has personally experienced gender discrimination where the Association has held a different set of disciplinary standards for its male players. If we are successful in getting a judgement in Neela’s favour, it would definitely encourage more woman players to play the sport at a professional level, without fear of discrimination and unfair treatment.”

Najeeb, for her part, describes the time she has been away from badminton as “one of the most difficult times in my life”, and that if she is allowed to continue playing on the national team, “I have faith I can achieve more for my country.”

“I resigned from my job to make the training sessions, but they just took their decision [to terminate me] without thinking. They are misusing their power. For me badminton is my life, and they’ve taken it away from me – twice.”


JSC reverses tack, says it will investigate all allegations of misconduct

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is reviewing its earlier decision not to investigate allegations of misconduct against three judges made by Treasure Island Private Limited.

The Treasure Island case against the JSC, which began in early October this year, implicates three judges in miscarriages of justice against the company.

Treasure Island alleges that the JSC neglected its Constitutional responsibilities in failing to investigate the company’s subsequent complaints against the judges.

Now Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, Interim Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy, High Court Justice Ahmed Shareef Ali and Senior Magistrate Ali Naseer, alleges Treasure Island Chief Ali Hussein Manik, abused the justice system to wrongfully take, and pass the ownership on to someone else, a resort island belonging to him.

He names influential figures in the tourism sector during the previous government as having been involved in the case.

The three judges he named, Manik alleged, abused the law to rule against Treasure Island in its civil case against the parties he alleges wrongfully took the island from him.

Responding to the allegations of professional negligence, the JSC initially told the court in October that two of the complaints were not within its Constitutional mandate for ensuring the ethical standards and principles of the judiciary.

The third complaint, it said, was pending a decision at the time the case was filed.

Faththah said today, however, that the JSC had decided to use existing legal mechanisms to review its earlier decisions not to investigate the complaints and to re-assess whether or not the complaints should be investigated.

“What the company asked the court for is a legal mechanism under which to review the JSC decision not to investigate its complaints. We have now provided that mechanism by beginning the process to review our earlier decision”, Faththah said.

Deciding to re-open complaints against members of the judiciary represents a shift in the JSC’s earlier stance which suggested that allegations of misconduct by some members of the judiciary could be outside of its Constitutional mandate.

The JSC said today that it does not need a court ruling to make it perform its Constitutional duties, and stated that it will examine every complaint of misconduct made against every member of the judiciary without a court having to make such an order.

“Since the Commission is reviewing every complaint received by the appellant, the Commission does not feel that a court ruling is necessary any more,” Faththah said.

What Treasure Island wants from the JSC, it was already providing, he said. A court ruling was both obsolete and irrelevant, he said asking for dismissal.

Treasure Island Limited, however, insisted on court intervention.

It’s chief Manik, who had earlier told the court he did not have any trust in the JSC, said he wanted the court to make an order allowing him to see the agenda of the meeting in which JSC members decided not to investigate allegations against the three judges.

Treasure Island had asked the court for the same ruling on 17 October 2010, when the court last sat on the issue.

What the JSC told the court today is that since Treasure Island is asking specifically for the court to order JSC to provide the documents as evidence, in the absence of such an order by the court, the JSC was not obliged to provide the documents.

The Constitution requires any decision taken by the JSC to be one reached by a majority vote at a meeting in which more than six of its ten members are present.

If Judge Nihayath orders that Treasure Island should be allowed to see minutes of the meeting, it would be able to verify whether or not the JSC followed proper procedure in making the decision, twice, not to further investigate the complaints made by Treasure Island.

The JSC is yet to adopt a Standards of Procedure according to which all its duties would be performed, leading to dissent and tension among its members, and between members and the Secretariat.

In the last few weeks, a rift has appeared in the JSC between members who want the JSC to adopt its Standards of Procedure as a matter of urgency and allege that the Chair of the Commission is systematically evading the issue.

Two weeks ago JSC Chair Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed walked out of a meeting when four members demanded that he table adopting the Standards of Procedure at the Commission’s next meeting.

The four member group pushing for adoption of the Standards include the Attorney General, the President’s Member, Member of the Public, member of the law community and member of the High Court.

A day-long meeting to adopt the Standards of Procedure scheduled to be held outside of Male’ on Saturday, the next time when the matter was put on the agenda, was cancelled as various members excused themselves citing other commitments.

Three meetings of the JSC have since been held but none included discussion of the Standards.

Although it is a group of the same members who happen to be unavailable for any discussions on the Standards of Procedure, none of the members have publicly declared whether or why there is a reluctance on their part to adopting the Standards.

The Secretariat of the JSC, meanwhile, is also in a state of chaos after Chair Justice Mohamed reportedly intimidated the Interim Secretary General Moomina Umar and other members of staff over their decision to speak to the media without prior approval from the Chair.

The claim by Justice Mohamed is inaccurate as the JSC unanimously adopted a declaration on 2 September, authorising three members of the Secretariat, including Moomina to speak to the media.

Taking over from his lawyer to represent himself, Manik appealed to Judge Nihayath for the court’s intervention as he did not trust the JSC to do its duties.

“Without an honest JSC, we, the people of this country cannot have our right to justice,” Manik said.

Judge Nihayath adjourned the case to 5 December 2010.


Civil Court defers JSC negligence case indefinitely in the absence of official seal

The Civil Court ruling on whether or not the Judicial Service Commission is guilty of neglecting its Constitutional responsibilities has been delayed indefinitely because the court lacks an official seal with which to stamp the decision.

The Civil Court has been shut for business since President Mohamed Nasheed ratified the Judicature Act on Thursday due to a change in the Court’s name from Arabic to English. A Dhivehi word is not in use to refer to it.

Until President Nasheed signed the Judicature Act into law, the official name of the court had been Madhanee Court – ‘madhanee’ being the Arabic word for ‘civil’.

The Judicature Act, passed by the Majlis on 4 October, uses the English word ‘civil’ instead of the Arabic word ‘madhanee’ to refer to the court.

The Civil Court stopped its work once the Judicature Act came into force as it does not have an official seal bearing its new name with which to stamp its hearings and other official documents.

The Family Court and the Criminal Court, too, are suffering the same plight of being unable to rubber stamp their decisions after the name change.

A period of seventeen days was available between the Majlis passing the Judicature Act and President Nasheed ratifying it in which the seals could have been made.

Treasure Island Ltd is suing the JSC for professional negligence, alleging that it failed to investigate complaints of misconduct against two judges, one of whom is the former head of JSC and former Surpreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy.

The JSC is an independent body Constitutionally mandated to oversee the judiciary and maintain its ethical and disciplinary standards.

Judge Mariyam Nihayath of the Civil Court, who on October 19 refused to admit additional infromation offered by potential JSC whistleblower, President’s member Aishath Velezinee, was set to hold a further hearing on the case today.

It is not known when the courts will have the necessary tools with which to resume justice.


Man found dead in apparent suicide on Velidhoo

Police have reported death of a 24 year-old man from Velidhoo in Noonu Atoll, after he was discovered hanged from ceiling fan in his room at 12:35pm yesterday.

An official from the island office told Minivan News that the man was discovered by his father.

“He lived a very normal life and worked in his brother’s restaurant on the island,” the official said.

”According to what most of the islanders are saying, he had this problem with his girlfriend’s father; he had not been accepted by him. He lived together on the island with his girlfriend from Male’ and they were about to get married, but her Dad sent a letter to the court saying he would not give the consent for the marriage to take place.”

Deputy Minister for Health Mariya Ali said the Maldives lacked a comprehensive mental health system, and that the number of psychiatrists in the country was inadequate.

“Normally a person with a serious mental condition will be assessed and taken to ‘Guraidhoo’ (a mental health rehabilitation centre) until their psychotic episode is over,” Mariya said. “But after being discharged, the aftercare is not very strong and patients may stop taking their prescriptions. Their condition can deteriorate and they can relapse.”

Furthermore, Mariya said that it was very likely that the country’s high rate of child sex abuse was leading to a high prevalence of mental health disorders in later life, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety problems, but that there was little general awareness of mental health issues in Maldivian society.

The Maldives also lacks the equivalent of a ‘Samaritans’ helpline, common in many developed countries, offering counselling and advice for people coping with depression or suicidal thoughts.

”The former government developed a draft mental health care policy with the assistance of the World Health Organisation (WHO), but it was never implemented,” Mariya noted. “We are now revising this policy and after that we should have an idea of what a mental health response system should look like.”


Civil Court issues injunction on land sales

The Civil Court of Maldives issued an injunction yesterday to temporarily cease the auctioning of plots in the Male’ southwest harbour, pending a ruling on the case filed by the opposition joint coalition challenging the legitimacy of the process.

‘’If the opportunity is given to continue the transactions, the court believes its potential consequences may be irreversible,’’ reads a statement from the court.

The four opposition parties in parliament, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), People’s Alliance (PA), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), contested the policy in court on the grounds that the cabinet made the decision in violation of the Land Act 2002, article three of which states that the president should declare policy.

As the cabinet has not been approved by parliament, the coalition argues it did not have the authority to hand over the task to Male’ municipality.

Moreover, the coalition claims that the transactions violate article 250[a] and article six of the constitution.

On July 20, the President’s Office announced the cabinet’s decision to sell off 11 plots of 50,000 square feet of land as part of the policy to develop the southwest harbour area.

”Proceeds from the sale of this land will be used to finance the development of entire harbour area, and build multi-purpose buildings to lease,” the President’s Office revealed at the time.

Over Rf100 million has been raised so far from the sale of four plots in the first phase of the auction.


Parliament cancelled during debate over retrials

Speaker of the Parliament Abdulla Shahid cancelled last night’s hearing on the Court’s Bill when the debate heated up between ruling and opposition party MPs, during the last sitting of the second session of parliament for 2010.

A statement issued by the parliament this morning said that the parliament had ceased for recess and would resume in October.

During last night’s session, ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs expressed disapproval amendments proposed by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs, however all the amendments presented by the opposition were passed.

The amendment that triggered uproar was a proposal to prevent the courts from conducting trials related to activities of the former government. The amendment also obstructs the retrial of controversial cases.

MDP Parliamentary Group leader Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik claimed that last night’s sitting was to be cancelled “because DRP MPs tried to take hold the judiciary in their fists more than they already do.”

‘’We had to protest against the way parliament’s session was conducted when DRP MPs forwarded their self-interest,’’ said Moosa. ‘’DRP presented an amendment that disables courts hold trials of ‘recent cases’.’’

He said the “friendly environment” in parliament established after conclusion of the constitutional deadline “has now vanished because of the DRP MPs.”

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom said last night’s session “was ruined” by MDP MPs when the session “was not going the way MDP MPs wanted.’’

“We have the right to propose amendments; all the things they are saying are excuses,’’ said Mausoom. “MDP MPs just do not like following the due procedure of the parliament.’’

Mausoom said MDP MPs had previously boycotted parliament sessions when matters did not go the way they wanted, and suggested it would have been better “if they also did so this time”.

‘’Our amendments were proposed to broaden the bill and to frame it in such a way that the courts can perform their work best,’’ he said. ‘’All the amendments were presented after discussion with [DRP’s] parliamentary group.”

The Bill on Courts was presented to the parliament by the government.


MBC to take MNBC issue to court

The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), established under a law enacted by parliament, has said it will take the government-created state media body Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) to court, in a dispute over which organisation would take control of the state media’s assets.

Daily newspaper Haveeru reported that the MBC will request in the Civil Court that the MNBC transfer all the assets, money and staff of MNBC to MBC.

Political Adviser for the President, Hassan Afeef, recently stated that the MNBC would not be dissolved even though parliament had established the MBC.

Afeef claimed that the two channels of the state media, Voice of Maldives and Television Maldives, were assets of MNBC and no asset of a company shall be transferred to another company without the consent of the owners, and that therefore the two channels could not be given to MBC.


Yameen’s ‘protective custody’ was unconstitutional, rules Civil Court

The Civil Court of the Maldives has ruled that the government’s detention of Abdulla Yameen, People’s Alliance (PA) and half-brother of former President Gayoom, was unconstitutional.

The PA is a minor opposition party which in coalition with the major Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has a parliamentary majority. The government has accused Yameen of bribery and treason, however following his arrest in June the Supreme Court refused to extend the period of his detention.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) held Yameen in isolation on the presidential retreat of ‘Aarah’ for nine days, releasing him on July 23. The government and the MNDF claimed Yameen’s detention was “for his own protection” after several groups of protesters clashed with police outside the MP’s house.

In July the MNDF took Yameen into protective custody after a group of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters gathered near his house and threw stones and water bottles.

MNDF claimed that Yameen was kept in isolation for his own safety and that he requested MNDF provide him security. However Yameen claimed he was taken by MNDF against his will.

In his verdict, Sameer noted that MNDF did not had the power to detain Yameen in Aarah for his protection under the MNDF law, article number 105 [b] and 243 of the constitution.

Chief Judge of the Civil Court Ali Sameer further ruled that the MNDF did not have the authority to restrict Yameen’s rights and freedoms, as guaranteed under the constitution.

Sameer declared that MNDF violated articles 41, 19, 21, 26, 30, 37, 45 and 46 of the constitution.

Any freedom and right guaranteed by the constitution could only be restricted according to a law enacted under article 16 of the constitution, or following the declaration of a state of emergency, Sameer said.

He added that it was a responsibility of all state institutions to uphold freedoms and rights mentioned in the constitution.