Statement accusing Mulay of interference was forged, says JSC

The High Commission of India in the Maldives has expressed disappointment with the Agence France-Presse (AFP) newswire after it published a story on what the high commission claimed was a “forged” media statement from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The statement, with JSC header and dubbed an ‘official translation’, said the JSC “regrets the interference of the High Commissioner of India in Maldives in his personal capacity with the judicial process of the Maldives, by keeping former President Mohamed Nasheed within the diplomatic confines  of the High Commission thereby impeding the due process of the Law.

“We appreciate the official stand of the Indian Government to refrain from interfering with the internal affairs of Maldives and respect independence of the judiciary,” read the statement.

It was emailed from an anonymous gmail account, [email protected].

The High Commission of India issued a press release on Sunday (February 17) admonishing the AFP for circulating the report based on the false JSC statement.

“The High Commission expresses its disappointment that a respected news agency like AFP has chosen to give undue publicity to such a cheap gimmick against the High Commissioner in the current sensitive atmosphere, without even bothering to check the veracity of the said letter with the JSC or High Commission of India in Male’,” the statement read.

The high commission statement was accompanied with an email from the JSC Secretariat denying having issued the release.

JSC Secretary General Aboobakuru Mohamed said the letterhead was “forged” and the statement was “false”.

“Regarding the issue of sheltering by the Maldivian ex-president, Mr Mohamed Nasheed within the compound of the High Commision of India, Male’, Maldives, we, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of Maldives, categorically deny issuing any statement on this regard,” the statement said.

The Indian High Commission called on AFP “to immediately retract its report and issue an apology prominently for the damage caused to the reputation and good will of the High Commissioner and the Indian Mission.”

Various new outlets have reported senior Maldivian government officials echoing the sentiment of the “forged” JSC statement: “The fact of the matter is that some individual Indian diplomats are interfering in our internal affairs. This must stop,” a senior government official told AFP, asking not to be named.

Maldives-India relations

Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay was meanwhile summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday (February 17) – the first time a high commissioner has been summoned by the ministry according to local media.

Mulay reportedly delivered a brief diplomatic note discussing the Indian government’s accommodation of Nasheed.

“We have not interfered with Maldivian politics and have no intention of even doing so. India also wants the Maldives’ judicial process to go on. We also want stability and peace in the Maldives. We want political reconciliation through peaceful dialogue,” Mulay told local media afterwards.

Following India’s initial warning that a failure to allow all political leaders to contest the elections would call into question the integrity of the electoral process and perpetuate instability, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry declared it was “unfortunate that the government of India has decided to comment on the types of candidates that could contest the upcoming Presidential Elections in the Maldives scheduled for September 2013.”

Local newspaper Haveeru quoted an unnamed government official as stating that the “political atmosphere in the Maldives would reach a boiling point” if India allowed it.

Meanwhile, President Waheed Hassan Manik  promised to promote democracy and maintain law and order in a statement issued Saturday (February 16).

He emphasised his “dismay” that Nasheed had sought refuge in the High Commission, instead of heeding his court summons, which expired on February 13.

“There is no reason for him to remain in the High Commission and to instigate street violence. The court order has nothing to do with my government. Upholding the rule of law means nobody is above the law,” Waheed said.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad implied that India was trying to fuel political turmoil in the Maldives.

“Mulay should take direct responsibility for the fresh unrest and violence in the capital,” he told local media.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has also expressed his disappointment over the Indian government’s decision to provide refuge to Nasheed in the Indian High Commission.

Nasheed’s trial

Former President Mohamed Nasheed failed to attend the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court hearing on February 10, resulting in a court order for police to produce Nasheed for trial regarding his controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

In response to rumours of Nasheed’s imminent arrest, he entered the Indian High Commission on February 13 seeking India’s assistance.

His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain that the charges – based on his detaining Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during his final days in office – are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.


Finance ministry snubs parliamentary committee

Finance Minister Ali Hashim failed to appear before parliament’s internal affairs committee today, after he was called to clarify the manner in which independent institutions in the Maldives are funded.

Hashim was asked to appear after institutions including the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), the Election Commission (EC) and the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) complained to parliament that they lacked financial independence and must “beg” for funds from the Finance Ministry.

“He left the country,” said independent MP Mohamed Nasheed, the committee’s chair. “He said he was preoccupied during the first time we set, so we sent him a formal letter rescheduling the meeting for this morning at 11:15am. He didn’t respond and we learned he had left the country.”

Nasheed said the committee had instead asked the State Finance Minister Ahmed Assad to appear, “but he said he was in another meeting. I said he should give this one priority, so he sent two junior officers.”

Nasheed said the committee had decided to invoke article 99 of the constitution and force Hashim to attend the next committee meeting after 9 January. That article allows: “the People’s Majlis or any of its committees the power to summon any person to appear before it to give evidence under oath, or produce documents.”

“If he doesn’t appear, we’ll make a report to parliament questioning his confidence,” Nasheed warned. “He’s being irresponsible and it’s so unnecessary and uncalled for.”

Hashim was unavailable when Minivan News attempted to contact him.

A question of independence

Independent institutions are currently required to seek approval from the Finance Ministry for all funding, a situation they argue undermines their ability to function independently of the executive.

“It is actually a problem,” explained Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem. “We haven’t had financial independence and we have to seek approval from the finance ministry to run programs. The money has already been budgeted and there is no need for us to be overseen by the finance ministry.”

During a meeting between the parliamentary committee and the heads of independent institutions, HRCM President Ahmed Saleem complained that the process undermined the commission’s integrity by leaving it unable to pay bills on time.

“We just got the money yesterday to pay for an invoice received two to three months ago,” he said. “This undermines our credibility.”

Saleem noted that while the PGO had yet to have a request for its money denied, the EC had not been so lucky.

“97 per cent of the finances we had allocated for training this year are still untouched and it is already December,” complained Mohamed Farooq from the EC.

“We don’t get any finance for our programs unless the Finance Ministry approves it. They are the ones who decide if we should conduct training programs.”

The prosecutor general, HRCM, EC and ACC “are all reading from the same script on this issue,” Nasheed said.

“Even when their budgets have been approved they still have to ask for permission, because the money is not physically transferred to a separate account.”

Furthermore, he said, the ministry’s decision to reduce the salaries of staff in independent institutions by 15 to 20 per cent “was made in violation of the laws used to create those institutions.”

The finance minister had previously suggested a percentage of the institution’s budgets might be made available, “but that still doesn’t solve the issue,” Nasheed argued.

“They see this as encroaching on their independence. If there is less money available then the budgets of these institutions should be subject to quarterly review and adjusted by parliament.”