State Finance Minister requests Supreme Court review legitimacy of 11 opposition MPs

State Finance Minister Abbas Adil Riza has asked the Supreme Court to determine the legitimacy of 11 opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs he alleges are in breach of the constitution.

Citing clause 74 of the constitution, Abbas told Minivan News he had filed a case invoking the Supreme Court’s authority to decide on the legitimacy of the opposition MPs, claiming that there was evidence to support allegations they had breached it.

The nature of the 11 MP’s alleged offences remain unknown, with Abbas declining to detail the exact charges at time of press.

The MDP today said that it had not been informed of the case against the MPs, but stressed concern over what it called the “fundamental problems” with the independence of the country’s courts and legal watchdog, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

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 JSC and the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court it created to overhear a trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Knaul herself also concluded as part of preliminary findings from an eight day fact-finding mission to the country this year that the judiciary has been “misconstrued and misinterpreted” by all actors including the courts themselves.

Judicial legitimacy

However, Abbas said he “did not regard” claims by UN Special Special Rapporteur Knaul or the MDP on the judiciary as legitimate, rejecting allegations of political bias in the country’s courts.

“Whenever the MDP has a trial go in their favour, the judiciary is legitimate. For rulings against them, it is bad,” he said. “Here in the Maldives, the constitution is our rule book.”

Abbas, who is also a spokesperson for President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP), added that as there was “clear evidence” the 11 MDP MPs mentioned in the case had breached the constitution, the Supreme Court was duty bound to investigate.

However, he said that the names and alleged misdemeanors of the 11 MPs would only be revealed during the course of the case.

According to Abbas, the case was hugely important for the country owing to a lack of “moral guidelines” outlining behaviour of MPs.

MDP response

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said he had not been informed of the case filed by Abbas at time of press, but guessed that those targeted would be MDP members who presently had cases filed against them either in the country’s courts or with the Maldives Police Service.

“Police right now have cases against against a third of the MDP’s MPs,” he said. “Eleven sounds like the number of MPs who have been charged for taking part in protests and things like that.”

Hamid added that the party was particularly concerned about the case concerning “fundamental problems” it held with the country’s judiciary – pointing specifically at the JSC’s failure to follow article 285 of the constitution regarding the reappointment and vetting of judges appointed by former President Gayoom. He added that the party was also concerned about the JSC’s composition and conduct.

Hamid added that as a member of parliament’s Independent Oversight Committee charged with investigating the nation’s judiciary, there would be a further conflict of interest should he himself be among the 11 MPs charged.

Hamid was arrested in November last year during a special operations carried out by police on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll.

Police at the time said they found large amounts of “suspected” drugs and alcohol upon searching the island with a court warrant.

Also among those arrested during the raid was MP Adbulla Jabir, formerly of the JP, who has since rejoined the MDP.

No confidence motion

Earlier on Monday, a no-confidence vote was suspended against Jumhoree Party (JP) MP and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s position on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

MP Gasim is to stand as a direct rival against former President Mohamed Nasheed in elections scheduled for later this year

The JSC itself appointed three judges to oversee the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed on charges that he illegally detained a senior judge during his presidency. All trials over the judge’s detention were suspended earlier this month pending a High Court ruling on the legitimacy of the bench of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court conducting Nasheed’s trial.