Civil Court orders EC to release funds for People’s Party, Social Democratic Party

The Civil Court has ordered the Elections Commission (EC) release funds for both the People’s Party (PP) and the Social Democratic Party following an earlier decision by the EC to withhold the money citing political inactivity.

The EC had contested that the budget was withheld because the two parties were receiving public funds but had not been engaged in political activity “to an adequate level”.

Civil Court judge Maryam Nihayath ruled that it was not within the jurisdiction of the EC to determine whether a political party was working to achieve the goals mentioned in its charter.

The judge ruled that Elections Commission was obliged to distribute the budget allocated for each party according to the Elections Commission Act and that there were no probable grounds to believe that the EC had authority to decide whether or not to deliver the money.

Ruling on the suit filed by PP against the EC, Judge Nihayath ordered the EC deliver the money to the party by Thursday.

The Social Democratic Party also filed a lawsuit against the EC for holding the budget allocated for the party, and the Civil Court ruled in similar fashion, ordering the EC to pay the party by Thursday.

Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Hassan Fayaz told Minivan News that the Commission was studying the legal implications of the decision, before deciding whether to appeal.

“Political parties are allocated a budget [from public funds] and in this case we felt these parties were not doing anything [political], and decided it was time to be proactive and make a decision,” he said.

“In the absence of a law you look to public opinion,” he said. “Public opinion was that these parties were not operating as political parties, but were still receiving money from the Elections Commission.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that the EC had withheld funds from the People’s Alliance Party (PA),  rather than the People’s Party (PP). Minivan News regrets the error and apologises for any confusion caused.


Haama editor fined Rf5000 for defaming Yameen

Editor of Haama News Saif Azhar was fined by civil court last Thursday for defaming the character of People’s Alliance (PA) leader Abdulla Yameen.

Civil Court Judge Maryam Nihayath ruled that an article published in June last year claiming that Yameen had US$32 million in his HSBC bank account was defamatory.

Saif was fined Rf5000 (US$385), currently the maximum penalty for defamation in the Maldives. Yameen also has lawsuits pending against Ibrahim Waheed, the journalist who wrote the article, the editor of Jazeera Daily Fayyaz Faisal, the owner of Haama Daily (Axis Maldives) and Ahmed Muhsin, the assistant editor of TVM.

Yameen had sought Rf2,570,000 million (US$192,000) for psychological damages and Rf21,775,305 (US$1.67 million) for material damages, claims which were dismissed by the judge.

Azhar said he was not in town when the article was published and had no knowledge of it, claiming that his journalist Ibrahim Waheed had written the piece.

”In the article we mentioned that the source [of the information] was online news website Manadhoolive,” he said, ”but the judge decided that we had not referred to any source.”

He said the same article published in Haama News was also published in the newspaper Haveeru.

President of the Maldives Journalism Association (MJA) Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said the association did not support journalists defaming people’s character.

”We do not support journalists writing stories without any evidence or proof,” he said. ”It’s a practice everywhere to fine journalists.”

Secretary General of the PA Ahmed Shareef said the outcome of the case showed that the country was strengthening its judicial service.

”Journalists have to be more responsible and careful when publishing articles,” he said.

Yameen failed to response Minivan News at time of press.

The former editor of weekly magazine Sandhaanu was also recently ordered to pay Rf5000 (US$389) for defaming Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon, the former president’s son.

Ghassan took Abdulla ‘Fahala’ Saeed to the civil court seeking Rf3.375 million (US$262,600) over an article Fahala had written in the 118th edition of Sandhaanu magazine.