Velezinee attack a “huge concern” for free speech: Dr Sawad

The stabbing this morning of Aishath Velezinee, Presidential Member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) responsible for ensuring ethical conduct in the judiciary, has been condemned as an attack on free speech and law and order in the country, attorney general Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad has said.

Velezinee was taken to Male’s Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGHM) after she was stabbed in the back with a sharp object whilst out in the city this morning, police have confirmed.

The Maldives Police Service were unable to confirm if any suspects had as yet been apprehended over the attack and were continuing to investigate the case.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Dr Sawad said that the attack was a “huge concern” for the country. “Judicial abuse at any level cannot be tolerated,” he said.

Beyond the concerns held as a private citizen over an attack within the capital, Dr Sawad added that the assault on Velezinee had a direct impact on judicial proceeding in the country.

“The JSC is constitutionally mandated to oversee the ethical functioning of the judiciary, she [Velezinee] had been very vocal in her role and that is something that must be accommodated [in the courts],” he said “If we cannot express our opinions openly, than this obviously impacts the functioning of the judicial body and how it serves the public.”

Dr Sawad said that beyond his role as Attorney General, as a private citizen he was dismayed that “law and order in the capital could have deteriorated to such an extent”.

Haveeru reported that President Mohamed Nasheed had visited Velezinee this morning in hospital following the attack, which reportedly occurred on a junction between Maaveyo Magu and Majeedee Magu, expressing hope she would continue her work at the JSC.


Tourism Minister Dr Sawad nominated as new attorney general

Tourism Minister Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad has been nominated as the new attorney general of the Maldives, according to a senior government official.

Husnu Suood resigned yesterday, taking some responsibility for the constitutional crisis, and urged Speaker Abdulla Shahid to step down as well.

The source told Minivan News that Dr Sawad was ready to take the oath of office pending the missing law on judges, which the administration is waiting for parliament to pass.

‘’As soon as the parliament passes the new law on judges, the new Attorney General will take the oath,’’ said the source.

Dr Sawad was not contactable at time of press.

Meanwhile, the MNDF has blocked the the interim Supreme Court judges from entering the Supreme Court, on advice from the former Attorney General that the interim Chief Justice and judges at the Supreme Court ceased to have any legitimacy following the interim period deadline last Saturday.

When queried why the Supreme Court judges were not allowed to enter to the court, the source replied “that’s because they are not judges.’’

The opposition – and yesterday, the Civil Court – contends that the interim Supreme Court continues to function until a new court is appointed by parliament.  The government claims this chapter was annulled after the two year deadline.

The former Attorney General Husnu Suood resigned claiming his position is untenable in the “constitutional void” triggered by parliament’s failure to enact legislation ensuring the continuation of state institutions such as the judiciary.

In his resignation letter, Suood stated that he had resigned because he did not believe that the state could be operated according to the constitution, because he had noted that state institutions had failed to fulfil their responsibilities as obliged by the constitution.

As a consequence, Suood wrote he did not have the opportunity to perform his own duties and responsibilities under article 133 of the constitution, prompting his resignation.

All three arms of state – executive, judiciary and legislature – are now deadlocked.


Maldives to be the “best country” for press freedom, says President Nasheed

President Mohamed Nasheed has said that the Maldives intends to be “the best country in the world in terms of press freedom.”

In a message to the Commonwealth media development workshop, a four day training event that started this morning at Holiday Inn in Male’, Nasheed said the government wanted the Maldives to have  “the most free and most professional media in the world.”

”We strongly believe that press freedom is important for consolidating democracy,” said Nasheed. ”We also believe that development can only be achieved through a transparent and free discussion of ideas.”

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad, and President of Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir also addressed participants in the workshop.

Secretary General of Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma, in his message to the participants, highlighted the role of journalism in the society and explained how  important a balanced news article was.

”Journalism is an honourable profession,” Sharma said. ”You can hold accountable both the government and the private sector.”

He said that members of the press played a pivotal role in revealing the truth and upholding the values and principles that would lead to a just society.

In his address, Dr Sawad said journalists in the Maldives “are not responsible”, and urged them to be more professional, sophisticated and accountable.

Dr Sawad said that in the past the free pens of the Maldivian journalists were held hostage.

”But today we are seeing what we dreamed we would see in the 80s,” Sawad said. ”Now we have a new constitution and new legislation.”

He urged journalists at the workshop to convey the truth with their pens, adding that ”the government will not let you down.”

The Commonwealth media workshop is a four day event being conducted by the Commonwealth in collaboration with Maldives Journalists Association (MJA). Around 25 local journalists are taking part, including Minivan News.