EU demanded same sex marriage, freedom of religion, claim ministers

The European Union (EU) demanded legalisation of same sex marriage and freedom of religion in return for extending duty-free status to Maldivian exports of canned tuna, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed and Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee have claimed.

At a press conference this afternoon, Saeed said that the reason for the EU’s decision was the Maldives’ refusal to accept the condition for “allowing homosexual relations and the opportunity for people to follow any religion they want”.

“The Maldives is an Islamic state and will remain so. We will uphold Islam. We will not compromise on anything that conflicts with Islam,” he said.

Last year, the government’s application for a year’s extension under the ‘GSP Plus’ program was declined as it had not ratified all 27 required international conventions. The Maldives holds reservations concerning the freedom of religion component of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Dr Shainee said there was consensus among the public that same sex marriage and freedom of religion should not be allowed in the Maldives.

The ministers accused the opposition of attempting to deceive the public and obstructing the government’s development efforts.

Shainee said the opposition was twisting and distorting statements from government officials to divert attention from the government’s achievements during its first year in office, attempting to cast a “shadow” on the government’s achievements.

He accused former President Mohamed Nasheed of providing false information to foreign parties with the intention of “creating distrust towards the Maldivian people” and turning foreign nations against the Maldives.

The Maldivian people would suffer the consequences of the opposition’s alleged attempts to worsen relations with India and Europe, he said.

India has suggested remarks made in the People’s Majlis by Dunya last week regarding Sino-Indian talks on the Maritime Silk Road project were misleading, prompting government politicians to suggest the MDP was behind the confusion.

After publishing what is claimed to be evidence of the supposed discussions having taken place yesterday, Indian High Commissioner Rajeev Shahare tweeted a link to the official joint statement released at the conclusion of September’s talks between President Xi Jinpeng and Narendra Modi.

The 28-point statement contained no mention of the silk road project, while the Chinese press release referred to by the Maldives government mentioned that the two governments “should” work within the silk road framework.

Looking East

In his Republic Day address yesterday, President Abdulla Yameen accused the EU of imposing trade restrictions on the Maldives for refusing to change or abandon Islamic principles.

Until January 2014, fish exports to the EU – the single largest export partner by value – were duty-free under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme, a non-reciprocal trade agreement extended to developing countries.

Thailand, Ecuador, and China also lost GSP benefits this year.

The Maldives was forced to apply for GSP Plus status as a result of its graduation from least developed country status – a change President Yameen has noted as bringing “enormous challenges and hardships”.

President Yameen said yesterday trade and economic cooperation with China does not involve the same challenges to remaining an Islamic state posed by “Western colonial powers.”

“Participating in business with China does not involve any such compulsion for us,” Yameen said.

Former Fisheries Minister Shafeeu told Minivan News in November 2013 that the Maldives would lose its competitive advantage over the larger fishing fleets of nearby Sri Lanka and Thailand with a 14-20 tariff on fish imports, and reduce profits to “a marginal value”.

President Yameen said there was “no way forward” for the country on the issue.

“The government’s thinking is changing towards the East,” he said. Under the Maldivian Constitution, all citizens are required to be Sunni Muslim and the practice of other religions as well as places of worship are prohibited.

Shainee noted that the EU was still the Maldives biggest partner for fish exports and stressed that closer ties with China does not entail worsening relations with India or other friendly nations.

The government has been looking for new markets for fish exports – such as China, the Middle East, and America – and have introduced longline fishing, he added.

Of the companies responding to request for proposals from the government for infrastructure projects, Saeed said today that a large percentage were from China.

An agreement has also been signed between China and Maldives to form a joint commission on trade and economic cooperation, he added, which would facilitate economic growth.

Saeed also noted that China represents 40 percent of tourist arrivals to the Maldives.

The government decided to participate in the Chinese 21st Century Maritime Silk Route initiative because China is currently the strongest and fastest growing economy in the world, President Yameen said yesterday.

As a result, Yameen continued, the government believes that the “multi-million dollar infrastructure investment” needed for economic development would “arrive through this door.”


EU elections observers recommend legislation to improve future polls

The European Union’s Election Observation Mission (EOM) has recommended the Maldives take steps to clarify jurisdictional overlaps and to ensure the transparency of campaign finance.

“Our recommendations are focused on improving the environment for the next elections here in the Maldives,” said Chief Observer Edward Kukan.

“They are potential solutions, cornerstones for debate,” he added.

Presenting the final report of the mission conducted during the Majlis elections in march, the observers also advised further efforts to reduce vote buying and to guarantee secrecy of the vote.

As well as highlighting Supreme Court “interference” in the electoral process, the EU mission suggested that the dismissal of senior elections commissioners less than two weeks prior to polling violated both the constitution and the Elections Commission Act.

“Legislation should clearly define the division of the competencies of the courts, the Election Commission, the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission during the electoral process,” read the report.

The EOM also noted the lack of clarity surrounding the legal validity of the 16-point guidelines introduced by the Supreme Court during last year’s presidential elections.

“These guidelines did not appear to improve the elections process and they were not always practical or implementable.”

The mission – which also conducted media monitoring – called for an amendment to Article 27 of the constitution, which relates to freedom of expression that is not deemed contrary to the tenets of Islam.

The report recommended changing the article to bring it into alignment with the Maldives commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Article 19 of the ICCPR calls for everyone to have the freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print.”

Additional recommendations made by the group included greater efforts to promote the participation of women, whom the report described as being “acutely under-represented in public life”.

The decrease in the percentage of female MPs elected in March was viewed in the report of growing conservatism and de facto discrimination across society.

Securing votes

Following suggestions of local civil society that the fairness of the poll had been threatened by ‘money politics’, today’s report called for the overhaul of campaign finance rules.

“The area of campaign finance is insufficiently regulated and there were widespread allegations that over-spending as well as vote-buying were common practice.”

Regulations regarding “third party spending and in-kind” contributions” ought to be implemented, said the mission, while there should be an effort to minimise the use of state resources and a moratorium on candidates’ opening public works during campaigning.

Mission members noted that road construction projects were inaugurated in Addu atoll in the presence of President Abdulla Yameen and Progressive Party of Maldives candidates – a task normally reserved for the city council.

“Numerous reports of excessive campaign expenditure, as well as abuse of state resources, suggest the playing field was not level.”

Observers noted receiving reports of widespread vote-buying, threats, and bribery – these included the distribution of TVs and washing machines, scholarships, loans, and medical treatments.

Representatives of all parties aired allegations of endemic corruption following the March 22 vote, which saw pro-government parties win a handsome majority

It was also noted that the deadline for the declaration of campaign spending by candidates currently comes 14 days after period for legally challenging results expires.

Further recommendations made today included measures to protect the secrecy of small numbers of voters casting their ballots outside of their constituency.

The report argued that people should be allowed to register as voters in the constituencies in which they permanently reside in order to be effectively represented by their MP. Currently, Maldivian citizens are permanently registered on the island on which they were born.

With regards to the media environment, the mission suggested a merger between the Media Council and the Broadcasting Commission in order to provide a “clear delineation of responsibilities” for oversight during future elections.

The EU’s mission involved 30 observers from 16 EU member states, observing the entire electoral process including the legal framework, campaigning, media conduct, voting, ballot counting, and the general electoral environment.


EU Election Observation Mission reveals monitoring plans

In preparation for the upcoming People’s Majlis elections, the European Union has implemented a full EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) in order to deter malpractice and support the democratic process.

The mission is led by Chief Observer Eduard Kukan – a member of the European Parliament from Slovakia and former Minister for Foreign affairs. Mr Kukan introduced the EU EOM at a press conference held in Malé today (March 9).

“The mission comprises of five election experts who are being joined by four long-term observers on 9th March. Some 20 short-term observers will be deployed closer to election day,” the statement read.

“This will be the first full EU Election Observation Mission to take place in the Maldives, and I hope that our presence will contribute to a peaceful and inclusive democratic environment for the benefit of the Maldivian people,” Mr Kukan added.

Prior to and during the elections, the observers will meet with everyone involved, and will look at the entire electoral process.

“The findings of the EU elections missions are based on verifying facts following an analysis of all technical aspects,” Mr Kukan noted.

The EOM is to work independently to give an “impartial, balanced and informed analyses of the elections”. In doing so, the mission hopes to monitor the extent to which the election complies with the country’s international democratic commitments and to domestic law.

Their findings will be published in a report intended to strengthen human rights and the rule of law, to deter malpractice, and to improve the electoral environment. The report will also make concrete recommendations to help improve the electoral framework.

The EU was invited to conduct the mission by the Maldives Election Commission (EC). This invitation was independent from any other government organisation, though the EOM has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

When Mr Kukan was asked if the Supreme Court charges against the EC will affect the forthcoming elections he stated, “we have to be very cautious.”

However, the mission head added that it would be inappropriate to give an assessment or any statement.

This will be the Maldives’ first full EOM, following the EU’s monitoring of the 2013 presidential election which the organisation – along with all monitors, domestic and international – described as “transparent and competitive”.

After the Supreme Court had begun investigating allegations of fraudulent voting, former Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed, told the court that positive assessments of the September 7 presidential poll by local and international election observers “do not carry much weight”.

“Yes, I even agree that the voting process went very smoothly. But those foreign observers don’t know the depth of the issues. Their words do not carry much weight. Some of the elections which have been observed by the international observers, some people have died, but yet they have reported the election went smoothly,” Saeed told the court.

The Supreme Court subsequently annulled the first round of the election, imposing a set of 16 guidelines upon the future activities of the EC.

A preliminary statement of the current mission’s findings will be announced at a press conference to be held within two days of the elections, which take place on March 22.

Following this, a final report will be published two months after the elections.

The mission will operate in line with the “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation”, which was adopted in 2005 by a number of international organisations at the United Nations in New York.


Week in review: February 22– 28

A tragic incident at the country’s main public hospital – IGMH – caused outrage this week as it was revealed that HIV infected blood had been given to a patient.

Profuse apologies from the Home Minister were not enough for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who accused the government of hiding the news for eight days in order to complete the celebrations of its first 100 days in power.

Earlier in the week, Minivan News was informed that certain operations at the hospital had been suspended owing to the lack of the necessary staff safety equipment. The week had begun with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid pledging US$10 million for the renovation of the Indian-built facility.

The introduction of unlimited health insurance had already been announced earlier in the week. The ambitious pledge is soon to be followed by larger pensions, both of which are set to be sustained through the issuance of government debt.

Promises for completion of the long-awaited Malé-Hulhulé bridge within two years were also given, though development of the central atolls appeared to be coming at the expense of the Addu – the country’s second-city.

High priority is being given to the housing situation of police officers, while the fisheries minister launched a training scheme for long-line fishing, arguing that deviation from the country’s traditional pole-and-line approach was important to utilise all fishing grounds.

The Supreme Court’s decision to prosecute the Elections Commission (EC) on contempt of court charges prompted alarm this week from both representatives of the EU and Maldivian civil society, who demanded the court “earn the respect of the people”.

The EU called upon the government to ensure the EC’s independence in the run up to the March 22 parliamentary elections. Despite the government’s financial restrictions on EC spending, the commission has assured that polls will be unaffected.

While on the campaign trail, the MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed warned that the people of the country would not tolerate further electoral interference, labelling the ongoing court case “unjust”.

While Nasheed assured that his party does not intend to obstruct the government should it win a majority, President Yameen remained unconvinced, assuring voters that the MDP would attempt to remove him.

Yameen also rounded on the current members of the country’s legislature, arguing that the public had lost confidence in the institution. The recently jailed MP Abdulla Jabir was this week cleared of further cannabis possession charges – his lawyers have suggested his earlier conviction violated his constitutional rights.

The Criminal Court’s running feud with the Prosecutor General’s Office continued this week, with the PG’s Office accusing the court of overstepping its authority when introducing new time limits for the forwarding of cases.

In the Civil Court, a dispute over an oil trade agreement between the State Trading Organisation and Villufushi constituency MP Riyaz Rasheed was thrown out after the former’s legal team failed to show up.

Further agreements on oil trade could be on their way, however, as the the national oil company announced it was searching for outside assistance for further exploration projects.

Though well-qualified to discuss oil, Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz was reported to be visiting the Maldives in order to talk about potential investments in tourism, transport, and Islamic affairs, as well the provision of a soft loans to the Maldives.

One avenue of Saudi investment into the country was confirmed this week, with a prominent investment firm from the kingdom making plans for a US$100 million resort in Laamu atoll.

Maldivians seeking to travel in the other way may have to delay their plans, however, after both the Civil Court and the Anti Corruption Commission ordered the Islamic Ministry to halt the awarding of contracts for Hajj trips pending investigations into the bidding process.

Elsewhere this week, the second case of forced child prostitution in the country’s southern atolls, while an inmate at Maafushi jail suffered severe head injuries during a fight with other inmates.


EU concern over Supreme Court’s action against Elections Commission

Read this article in Dhivehi

The EU has expressed “concern” over the Supreme Court’s decision to prosecute the Elections Commission for contempt of court

“The EU Delegation notes with concern the current action of the Supreme Court on its own initiative to bring before it members of the Elections Commission who have expressed concern over its judgments,” read a press release from the EU delegation based in Sri Lanka.

The court’s decision to bring the charges of contempt of court refer to criticism of the decision to annul last September’s presidential election first round.

The EC has also been accused of disobeying a Supreme Court order by dissolving eight political parties earlier this month.

September’s annulled vote had been universally praised as free and fair, while the evidence used to cancel the result has been criticised by the UN as well as EC President Fuwad Thowfeek.

“The EU Delegation recalls the importance of legal proceedings being fair and transparent in accordance with international standards, and call on the Government of the Maldives to ensure the independence of the Elections Commission in the run up to and during the Majlis Elections so that they can proceed as scheduled on 22 March 2014. “

In addition to utilising new ‘Sumoto’ (or ‘Suo motu’) regulations that allow the apex court to initiate hearings and act as both plaintiff and judge in a trial, the Supreme Court’s contempt charges are based on privileged testimony given to the People’s Majlis by EC members.

Article 90 of the constitution says no person will be subject to any inquiry, arrest, detention, or prosecution with respect to anything said in the People’s Majlis or any of its committees if such a statement is not contrary to tenet of Islam.

However, claiming the establishment of justice to be a tenet of Islam, Supreme Court Judge Ahmed Abdulla Didi has said the EC’s testimony at the independent commissions oversight committee obstructed justice and could therefore be used in court.

EC President Thowfeek has denied the charges against the commission, noting that “testimony provided at the People’s Majlis committee was not given to hold the court in contempt, but to be held accountable to the EC’s actions.”

The Supreme Court has said that no party has the authority to question or criticise its decisions as per Article 145 (c) of the constitution which states that the Supreme Court shall be the final authority on the interpretation of the constitution, the law, or any other matter dealt with by a court of law.

In today’s statement, the EU has expressed concern that the current proceedings “risk undermining the vital independence of the Elections Commission, respect for the separation of powers and free expression in the Maldives.”

The issue of separation of powers has been a regular theme this week as politicians continued to campaign for the March 22 poll, with leaders from both the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives claiming that their parties can best ensure the three branches of government are kept apart.

Most recently, while campaigning in Malé for the governing coalition on Sunday (February 23), former President Dr Mohamed Waheed suggested that “we have separated the power so much that the country is suffering”.

“This country can’t go forward if we separate the powers any more,” said Waeheed.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday told representatives of the UN that he did not expect his MDP to take part in the elections should the EC members be arrested and replaced.


Germany grants €3million for climate protection project

The governments of the Maldives and Germany yesterday signed a climate protection agreement that will see the granting of €3million from the European partner.

Launching the scheme at the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Minister of State for Environment and Energy Abdul Matheen Mohamed expressed his gratitude to Ms. Randa Kourieh-Ranarivelo – Sri Lanka Country Director for German development firm GIZ – who signed the agreement on behalf of the German government.

GIZ – ‘Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit’ or the German Society for International Cooperation – is a corporation working in close alignment with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“The physical component under this project is to install photo voltaic (PV) systems in Raa atoll Ungoofaru island and Dhaalu atoll Kudahuvadhoo island,” a press release from the ministry explained.

“Under this project 119 kW of grid connected PV system will be installed in Ungoofaaru and 166 kW of grid connected PV system will be installed in Kudahuvadhoo.”

Whilst €800,000 is allocated for the solar panel project, the remaining allocation will go towards ‘soft components’ such as preparing a renewable energy investment guideline and developing low-carbon guidelines for resorts.

The ministry expects the physical component of the project to begin in February and for the work to be completed in 6 months.

The Maldives was pledged a further €4million from the European Union earlier this month to address climate change in the low-lying island nation.

In a recent report titled ‘Turn Down The Heat’, the World Bank reasserted the urgent need for concerted efforts to support the Maldives in adapting to climate change, due to a projected sea level rise of 115 centimetres by 2090.

In the document, a 4 degree Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) global temperature increase was predicted by the end of the 21st century unless concerted action is taken immediately.

Based on the report’s findings, the World Bank has highlighted the urgent need for concerted efforts to support the Maldives in adapting to climate change.

As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, with an average elevation of 1.5 meters above sea level, the Maldives is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise.

“The Maldives is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts and has set best practice examples in adapting to climate change consequences,” stated Ivan Rossignol, World Bank Acting Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The current administration, under recently elected President Abdulla Yameen, is in the process of formulating a series of 100-day goals, though it has yet to set-out clear policies on the environment.

Climate change failed to feature in either Yameen’s, nor this main challenger Mohamed Nasheed’s election campaigns.

Former President Nasheed’s efforts to raise awareness of climate change – most notably at the 2009 Climate Change Forum in Copenhagen –  brought international acclaim and significant donor aid to the Maldives.


“We in the EU should apply maximum pressure to reverse this judicial coup,” says European MP

Charles Tannock, Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has told a plenary session of the EU parliament in Strasbourg that organisation should apply “maximum pressure”  to reverse what he described as a “judicial coup” in the Maldives.

“The people of the Maldives deserve better than this: they must have their voices heard, and their decisions respected. The constitutional crisis in Male which looms if a new President is not elected before the current President’s mandate expires could spell disaster for this small but dignified nation,” Tannock told the 766 member legislature.

The MEP went on to call for politicians to put the interests of their country ahead of their own careers and “a small band of disfavoured elites allied to ex-President Gayoom and Islamist parties, who determine the country’s future.”

“I believe the Maldives could face a very strong and unwelcome response from the international community if these failings are not mended, he told journalists following the session.

“I am sure that no regime there would find it comfortable if governments began advising their citizens not to visit as tourists because of the dire state of human rights including particularly women’s rights and the lack of basic democratic freedoms.”

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said she was “deeply concerned” following the most recent delay in the Maldives presidential elections.

“The EU reiterates its confidence in the impartiality and efficiency of the Maldivian Election Commission. It recalls that elections cannot successfully be held if the process can be repeatedly brought to a halt through legal injunctions,” she said in a statement.


International observers should “help, not hinder” state institutions: Foreign Ministry

President Mohamed Waheed’s government has called on international groups to “help, not hinder the state institutions in exercising their constitutional duties”.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement follows unanimous confidence from international election observers in the credibility of the first round of polling, and calls for the losing parties to accept defeat and allow the second round to proceed as scheduled on September 28.

Presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who narrowly missed a place in the run-off with 24.07 percent of the vote, is pursuing a Supreme Court case to have the results annulled, alleging electoral impropriety. The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Attorney General Azima Shukoor have intervened in the case against the Elections Commission.

The Elections Commission has challenged the veracity of the evidence and argued that even were it factual, it was not sufficient to alter the outcome of the first round.

“The Maldives, as a young democracy, continues to face a number of challenges in its journey towards consolidating democracy and strengthening its independent institutions. For this journey to continue the constitutional framework set up in the Maldives through a democratic process should be respected and the authority of the independent institutions should be upheld,” read the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Elections are the primary means of democratic participation and it is an inalienable right of each individual. Similarly, attempts to resolve questions relating to the electoral process through democratic means, is also part of democracy. These fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law should be accepted by all concerned,” the statement read.

“It has to be recalled that while the local and international observers and monitors did a commendable job in observing the elections, it is the State institutions that are constitutionally mandated to address any question related to the elections and electoral process. The Government, therefore, wishes to call on anyone interested in promoting democracy in the Maldives to help, not hinder, the State institutions in exercising their constitutional duties,” it added.

“Live up to your responsibilities”: UN Secretary General

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged political leaders in the Maldives “to live up to their responsibilities, respect the democratic process, and continue to allow for a peaceful, inclusive and credible vote to take place in the second round.”

Ki-moon “stresses the utmost importance of the will of the Maldivian people being respected throughout the process”, and noted that the conduct of the first round had been “widely recognised as a success by international and domestic election observers.”

European Union: “Respect the electoral process”

The European Union delegation to the Maldives has encouraged “all parties to respect the electoral process” and stated that it “looks forward to the second round on 28 September and a peaceful transition.”

“It is essential to ensure that the outcome of these elections fully respects the wishes of all Maldivians and that the Maldives’ democratic institutions are safeguarded, in order to enable its government to confront the political, institutional, economic, social and environmental challenges the country faces,” the EU stated.

UK Foreign Office: “Crucial that all parties respect the outcome”

Noting that all election observers both international and local and judged the election to be transparent and competitive, “carried out peacefully and in good spirit”, UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has called on all presidential candidates “to respect the result of elections and the will of the people of Maldives.”

“The Commonwealth Observation Mission’s interim statement noted that the voting register ‘appeared to be accurate and robust’, and that party and candidate observers were present in all of the polling stations they had observed,” Burt observed.

“Ahead of the second round of elections planned for 28 September, we encourage all Presidential candidates to respect the result of elections and the will of the people of Maldives, work side by side for a peaceful transition and encourage calm amongst their supporters,” he said.

“We hope that the second round of elections will be held as scheduled, and conducted in a similar free, fair and peaceful manner. It is crucial that all parties respect the outcome of this free and fair democratic process and make progress in further strengthening democratic institutions in the Maldives.”

“There are always losers in every election”: Commonwealth Special Envoy

One of the strongest statements was issued on Thursday by Commonwealth Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon, who was appointed to monitor the Maldives following 7 February 2012’s controversial transfer of power.

“This election marks a renewal of the country’s democratic credentials, with an 88 percent voter turnout. This displays a determination to get the country back on to a sound democratic foundation,” McKinnon said.

International opinion was “firmly behind” the second round of elections proceeding as planned on September 28, he said, noting that “There are always losers in every election everywhere, but the winners here must be the people of Maldives. The results of their votes must be paramount to the process and the result.”

Transparency Maldives: “Don’t undermine results without credible evidence”

Locally-based NGO Transparency Maldives has also called on parties to the presidential election not to undermine the credibility of the results without evidence.

Transparency deployed the single largest team of election observers with 400 monitors across the country.

“In view of the cases submitted and allegations made at the High Court and Supreme Court of the Maldives regarding systematic vote rigging, Transparency Maldives notes that it did not find any evidence that support allegations of systematic election day fraud during the nationwide observation,” Transparency stated.

Transparency Maldives appeals to all actors and institutions to refrain from undermining the integrity of and confidence in the election day processes without credible evidence of fraud.

US State Department: “Respect the democratic process”

The United States issued a statement last week calling for all political parties to “respect the democratic process and continue to allow for a free, fair and peaceful vote to take place.”

“The first round of the Maldivian presidential elections on September 7 was widely hailed as a success and represented a victory for the democratic process in Maldives. The Commonwealth, United Nations, and local Maldivian observers joined the United States in congratulating the Maldivian people and the Election Commission for this successful process,” said Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department Marie Harf.

“We encourage all parties and all presidential candidates to respect the results and work together for a peaceful transition for the benefit of the Maldivian people,” she added.

Statements by election observers “do not carry much weight”: JP’s lawyer Dr Hassan Saeed

Gasim’s running mate and – lawyer leading the party’s bid to annul the first round or delay the second – has meanwhile declared in court that the positive assessments of the poll by local and international election observers “do not carry much weight”.

“Yes, I even agree that the voting process went very smoothly. But those foreign observers don’t know the depth of the issues. Their words do not carry much weight,” Dr Saeed, a former Attorney General, told the Supreme Court during the second hearing last week.


“Difficult” to consider elections credible unless Nasheed is allowed to contest: European Union

The European Union (EU) has declared that it would be “difficult” to consider the Maldives’ upcoming presidential elections credible unless former President Mohamed Nasheed is allowed to contest.

Nasheed is currently being tried in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court over his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed.

His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain that the charges are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent Nasheed from contesting elections in September, and have condemned the former President’s repeated arrest on the court’s order by squads of masked special operations police.

A number of international institutions including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, and the UK’s Bar Human Rights Commission, have recently expressed concern about the politicisation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court it created, and its appointment of the three member panel of judges overhearing the Nasheed trial.

The JSC’s members include several of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including rival presidential candidate, resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim.

Last week, several members of the JSC also testified to parliament’s independent commissions oversight committee that the creation of the court and appointment of the judges were politically suspect.

JSC Member appointed by the public, Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, last week revealed that the JSC had openly discussed their intent to eliminate Nasheed from the upcoming elections.

Chair of the Commission, Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed, had abused his post and powers as the chair to try and eliminate Nasheed from contesting the elections, said Shuaib, alleging that Adam Mohamed had “used the commission as a political tool”.

“The politics of the majority control the commission, hence the rule of law, due process and due diligence do not exist in the JSC,” Sheikh Rahman stated. “The commission has no amount of respect for constitutional principles.”

“It is common now to hear a lot of MDP and Nasheed bashing in commission meetings. This was not how things usually were before. I believe politically biased comments like this have increased since Gasim joined the JSC as a representative of the parliament,” Sheikh Rahman said.

In a statement on Thursday, the European Union said it “reiterates its view that the participation of the preferred candidates from all political formations in the Maldives is essential to ensuring the success of the forthcoming elections; it would be difficult to consider them credible and inclusive if Mr Nasheed and his party were to be prevented from standing or campaigning.”

“The EU takes note of the acceptance by the prosecution of a defence request to defer the trial until after the upcoming presidential elections in September and hopes that this would offer the means to ensure that ex-President Nasheed is able to participate in the electoral campaign, under the same conditions as other candidates,” stated EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.

In the statement, the EU also reminded Maldivian authorities of their “commitment to ensuring [Nasheed’s] personal safety and security.”

“The EU encourages all parties to exercise restraint, to act responsibly, and to work together to ensure that the outcome of these elections fully reflects the wishes of the Maldivian people, so safeguarding the Maldives’ democratic institutions and enabling its next government to confront the serious economic, social and environmental challenges which the country faces,” the statement concluded.

Following the EU’s comments, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad tweeted on Saturday (March 16) that “it’s not proper for governments to discredit the independence and integrity of our judiciary. Doing so is undermining Democracy in Maldives.”

Masood added that the 2013 elections would be free, fair and exclusive, but would be “exclusive” of individuals who did not meet the legal criteria.

Nasheed’s trial is meanwhile due to resume on April 4 following a four week recess granted by the court.  The hearing has been scheduled despite the state prosecution stating it had no objection to delaying the trial until after the September 7 elections.