Maldives Decides 2013

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Minivan News has launched ‘Maldives Decides 2013’, a hub of content concerning the four candidates competing in the 2013 presidential election.

Each candidate’s entry includes an overview of their recent political history with extensive links to relevant articles published by Minivan News, an overview of their policy positions, and a brief analysis of their support base.

The hub also includes an unofficial poll, links to Minivan News’ ongoing election coverage, and resources provided by the Maldives Elections Commission.

Additionally, all candidates have been sent and invited to respond to the following 10 questions, which will be published unedited as received:

  1. What about your personal experience makes you suitable to become President?
  2. What are the top three challenges facing the Maldives, and how do you intend to address these?
  3. Given the present state of the economy, how are you going to get the money to fulfill your pledges?
  4. Is there a need for judicial reform, and how do you intend to address the state of the judiciary should you be elected?
  5. How do you expect the events of 7 February 2012 to affect voter sentiment at the ballot box?
  6. Is Islamic fundamentalism a growing concern in the Maldives, and how should the government respond?
  7. What role should the international community play in the Maldives?
  8. Why should a woman vote for your party in the election?
  9. Why should a young person vote for your party in the election?
  10. What will the Maldives be like in 10 years time, should you be elected in September?

Minivan News hopes ‘Maldives Decides 2013’ is of value to its readers, and looks forward to a free, fair and inclusive election on September 7.

Visit Maldives Decides 2013

Feel free to discuss this project below, or send enquiries directly to [email protected]


Comment: A preface to explaining democratisation in the Maldives

If several different people don’t write about the significant events changing their societies, romanticization of and myths around those events creep in, and that is one way unreal heroes and unreal villains are born. Because of this lack of literature on the historic changes that have been taking place in the Maldives, this musing is a preface to democratisation in the Maldives.

Since the beginning of what Samuel P Huntington famously called the “third wave” of democratisation in mid-1970s, efforts toward finding explanations of comparative democratisation intensified. To this day, there is however no single theory of demoratisation that will satisfy everyone or that will explain every single case of democratisation. There are probably many factors and independent variables that explain democratisation.

The Maldives’ case also shows that no single explanatory factor or theory is sufficient. But, following Huntington, we could try to explain Maldives’ democratisation along its “why” and “how”.

The Why: modernisation, valuation and grievances

There will hardly be any Maldivians who seriously dispute that the current president Mohamed Nasheed has no important role to play in democratisation in the Maldives.

“What and who” he is, I think, is a representative case of why and how democratisation happened in the Maldives. The “what” factors are well explained by modernisation theory of democratisation most famously advanced by Martin Lipset. Lipset argued that that economic development and modernisation are strongly correlated with democracy. In brief, he argued that education (an aspect of modernisation) facilitates people’s valuation of their beliefs and values and thereby they come to accept democratic values.

I said Nasheed is a representative case because I want to emphasise five factors relevant to democratisation in the Maldives. First, Nasheed was educated in Great Britain where he was, both as a child and an adolescent, exposed to democracy in practice.

Second, I want to emphasise the fact that the global discourse of democracy as the most viable political system permeated the hearts and minds of many Maldivians.

Third, Nasheed is not a representative case of the whole or even majority of the Maldives’ population. He is a representative case of only those who are relatively exposed to the discourse of democracy and who have been one way or another aggrieved by the personal dictatorship of Gayoom.

Fourth – and I know this is going to be very controversial – the Maldives’ democratisation is not a mass-based democratisation movement as evidenced by the relatively low support the “democratic opposition” garnered in elections starting from the election for Constitutional Assembly. Alternatively, this is evidenced by the high support Gayoom still attracts.

Hence, the Maldives is closer to the transition model explained by Guillermo O’Donnell. The Maldives is a case of democratisation largely by elites who had either come to value democracy (because of modernisation factors) and/or who were aggrieved by the personal dictatorship of Gayoom (While the “clan power-struggle” model explained by Mohamed Nasheed in his illuminating book, Maldives Politics, bears some structural similarity to this model, I doubt Nasheed’s model any longer explains the Maldives’ politics).

Fifth, international factors, which are of course again well documented in democratisation literature, played an important role by virtue of the fact that both the authoritarian system and opposition were subjected to what I call international “politics of naming and shaming”.

The How: a play of elites?

“Why” factors, however, don’t tell us the causers of democratisation. This is where transition model is helpful.

Democratisation researchers subscribing to transition paradigm say there must always be a crisis in the authoritarian regime for democratic transition to take place. It could be an economic or other crisis.

Where was this crisis in the Maldives? Was it Evan Naseem’s murder and subsequent riots? Was it 12/13 August mass arrests and subsequent divisions in Gayoom’s regime? Or was it the December 26 Tsunami?

Another factor emphasised by O’Donnell is the rise of a more moderate/liberal elite faction within the government. Alternatively, the dictator himself or herself could start to liberalise because of the crisis.

The Maldives I think is a case of ‘transplacement’ transition where transition occurred through the actions of both the government and the opposition. Gayoom of course maintains it is a case of ‘transformation’ where he initiated reforms.

It is debatable whether Maldives is one of transplacement or transformation or mixed case.

It certainly is not a case of replacement where the personal dictatorship of Gayoom was overthrown or replaced by democrats.

It is perhaps more accurate to say that liberalising elites within the government played the game within the regime. Also, ironically, the hiring of (PR firm) Hill & Knowlton itself could have played against the hardliners in regime as ‘public relations’ never work without real reforms.

The transition paradigm also gives room for the opposition elite. In fact, in the Maldives the opposition protests (again by no means popular mass mobilisations) and opposition campaigning by figures such as Ahmed Shafeeg Moosa using 21st century information technology were the reasons a liberalising elite faction was born in the first place.

There were also factors that facilitated or obstructed democratisation in the elite-interplay. These included, among other things, the problem of divisions within the opposition itself. Usually, it is the moderate elites within the opposition that facilitate democratisation.

Revolutionary-minded figures such as the current president Mohamed Nasheed within the opposition were unsuccessful in mobilising enough numbers for an outright overthrow of Gayoom regime. They ultimately had to moderate or adapt themselves towards a “transplacement” model where the opposition and regime elites negotiated the terms of democratisation.

Finally, while the opposition protests were not mass-mobilisation protests, they had the benefit of seeking international attention for a “politics of naming and shaming”. As a country dependent on import, foreign aid, tourism, and good standing with the outside world, the “politics of naming and shaming” by long-standing human rights NGOs like the Amnesty International and pressures from the EU became too much for the authoritarian regime.

So that is how the Maldives transitioned to an “electoral democracy” in October 2008.

Azim Zahir is studying for a Master of Human Rights at the University of Sydney, Australia.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


JSC members ‘too busy’ to meet and adopt Standards of Procedure

The need to spend quality time with family, party political duties, and other outside commitments has prevented the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) from meeting to adopt its Standards of Procedure, now overdue by 10 months.

According to the JSC Act, the Standards of Procedure should have been adopted by January 26 this year.

The Standards of Procedure, or House Rules, are required to set the rules and regulations according to which the JSC should carry out its Constitutional responsibilities.

The JSC is an independent body constitutionally mandated to oversee the ethical standards and principles of the country’s judiciary.

Without the Standards of Procedure, the Commission is run on ad-hoc basis, often according to the discretion of the chairperson.

The day-long meeting in which members were to work on adoption of the Standards of Procedure was scheduled for Saturday.

It was also decided that the meeting would be held outside of Male’ from 9:00 in the morning till 8:00 pm.

JSC Chairperson, Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed, excused himself from the meeting citing court work and family commitments on Saturday.

Dr Afrasheem Ali, Deputy Chair and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), could not attend the meeting as his Saturdays, he told the JSC, are reserved for party political work.

Majlis Speaker Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Civil Service Commission President Fahmy would not be in the country on Saturday.

For Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Didi, the reason for being unable to attend was the location of the meeting. He was unwilling to travel outside of Male’.

The venue of the meeting had not been finalised when the meeting was cancelled. JSC Interim Secretary General Moomina Umar told Minivan News that it would have been a place where members had access to full conference facilities, allowing them to focus on the urgent issue at hand fully.

Moomina also said that subsequent attempts by her to move the meeting to Male’ to facilitate objections had not received a positive response, forcing the meeting to be cancelled.

The ten member JSC needs six members present before a meeting can be held.

On 21 October, JSC Chairperson Justice Mohamed walked out of a meeting in which some members pushed to have adoption of the Standards of Procedure put on the agenda as a matter of urgency.

Judge Abdulla Didi, who excused himself from Saturday’s meeting because it was to be held outside of Male’, also walked out of the meeting with Justice Mohamed, making it impossible for members to put the Standards of Procedure on the agenda of its next meeting.

Justice Mohamed, speaking to media, blamed his decision to desert the meeting on the ‘vulgar behaviour’ of the President’s Member at the JSC, Aishath Velezinee.

Velezinee, along with Attorney Ali Sawad, JSC Lawyer Ahmed Rasheed and JSC Member of the General Public had objected to the continued and systematic manner in which the JSC Chair avoided making adoption of the SoP a matter of top priority.

The JSC released news of Justice Mohamed’s desertion of the meeting immediately, an act which he has claimed is against JSC Regulations as communications with the media cannot be done without prior majority consent of members.

The claim, however, is inaccurate.

A unanimous JSC decision dated 2 September this year (JSC-B1/10/200), authorised Media Officer Hassan Zaheen, Deputy Legal Officer Abdul Fatthah Abdul Ghafoor and Moomina Umar to speak to the media on its behalf.


JSC President deserts emergency meeting, refuses to adopt House Rules

The Chair of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) deserted an emergency meeting of the JSC Thursday night, refusing to meet members’ demands for adoption of the Commission’s House Rules as a matter of high priority.

The JSC’s deadline for adopting House Rules, as stipulated in Article 40 of the Judicial Service Commission Act, expired ten months ago on 26 January of this year.

Without House Rules, the Commission’s work has no set standards of procedure according to which to carry out its responsibilities, allowing for Commission business to be conducted on an ad hoc basis, and according to the discretion of the Chair himself.

JSC is the independent body Constitutionally mandated with oversight of the country’s judiciary. It is responsible for maintaining the standards, principles, ethics and discipline of members of the judiciary.

Chair of the JSC Supreme Court Justice Adam Abdulla convened Thursday’s emergency meeting, which he later deserted, to discuss the impending departure of three Chief Judges who are travelling abroad to finesse their English Language skills.

The JSC is required to appoint substitute Chief Judges to replace any that leave their post on a temporary or permanent basis.

Four members of the JSC, however, refused to discuss the substitutes’ appointments unless Justice Abdulla acceded to their requests to put House Rules adoption at the top of the Commission’s agenda when it meets later today.

Justice Abdulla refused the demand of the dissenting members who included the Attorney General Ali Sawad, JSC Lawyer Ahmed Rasheed, Member of the General Public, and President’s Member Aishath Velezinee. He chose to abandon the meeting instead.

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Didi, one of the three judges scheduled to travel to India yesterday to brush up their English Language skills, joined Justice Abdulla in the walkout.

In a leaked audio recording of Thursday’s meeting listened to by Minivan, Chief Judge Didi is heard urging Justice Abdulla to leave saying, “Let’s go. Nothing can be done in this place. Let’s leave, Adam”.

The two men then walked out of the meeting. Both the matter of the House Rules and the matter of appointing substitute judges to stand in for those taking English lessons remain yet to be addressed.

Minivan has learned this morning that Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed remained in Male’, foregoing the English language training after the JSC’s failure to appoint his substitute.

The two jurisdictions without a magistrate, however, could remain a legal limbo until the JSC appoints substitutes.

Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed is one of the six judges under official investigation by the JSC for alleged misconduct

So far the Investigating Committee of the JSC appointed to look into allegations against Judge Didi has spent over a Rf100,000 solely on reimbursing its members for their attendance. The Investigating Committee, too, is yet to adopt any House Rules.

Before deserting the meeting Justice Abdulla told the dissenting members of the Commission that nobody had the authority to impose conditions on him, as stated in a press release issued by the JSC on Thursday night.

JSC regulations state that any matter which the Commission, or any member of the Commission, wishes to include in the agenda of its meeting should be duly included in the agenda.

When contacted by the media subsequent to the JSC press release, Justice Abdulla said he walked out because he could not tolerate what he described as “the vulgar behaviour of Velezinee”.

Justice Abdullah did not mention that three members of the JSC other than Velezinee, including the Attorney General, had joined together in demanding the adoption of House Rules as a matter of urgency.

Placing the blame squarely on Velezinee’s behaviour, he told the media she had “belittled the importance of the meeting” and accused her of being a disruptive force in the Commission’s work.

“Yes, I do try and disrupt the ‘work’ that they do”, Velezinee said. “They are not carrying out the responsibilities as required by the Constitution. It is my duty, and the obligation of every member of the JSC, to ensure that the JSC performs its proper functions.”

Velezinee said certain members of the JSC appear to have a false perception of the Commission as “a welfare organisation for members of the judiciary with the oversight to ensure their individual and collective well being”.

Justice Abdulla’s claims that Velezinee’s behaviour forced him to leave the proceedings contradict the press release by JSC, and also the proceedings as heard in the leaked audiotape.

When referred to the the JSC press release, which had been issued after his desertion and of which he was not aware until contacted by the media, Justice Abdulla told Haveeru that it was not a valid document as it had been issued without a required approval of the majority.

After the recent controversy over Article 285 of the Constitution and the re-assembling of JSC at the end of August, however, JSC had approved three senior Secretariat staff as media spokespersons with the authority to brief the media.

Dismissing Justice Abdulla’s claims as a frequently used strategy of “character assassination to deflect attention from the JSC’s sustained negligence of its Constitutional responsibilities”, Velezinee listed a variety of issues deliberately left out of the JSC agenda.

“Adopting the House Rules and other regulations required of the Commission under the JSC Act, appointing Justices to the High Court, and appointing a Secretary General to JSC”, she said, are vitally important issues that are yet to receive any attention.

Velezinee said that without House Rules the JSC has not been able to perform some of its chief responsibilities such as preventing impunity among judges and building public confidence in the judiciary.

The Complaints Commission of the JSC, mandated to examine complaints against members of the Judiciary, for instance, has met only once in the last five months despite having over a hundred complaints awaiting its examination.

To date JSC has not settled a single complaint it has received regarding the conduct of a judge.

Minivan has also learnt that Judge Abdulla ignored requests by the US Embassy and Commonwealth delegations to meet with the Commission, and failed to inform Commission members of such requests.

The 10-member JSC voted Justice Abdulla as Chair with five votes, while waiting to decide whether or not to investigate his involvement in the High Court Declaration of 21 January 2010.

The Declaration removed High Court Chief Justice Abdul Ghani from JSC accusing him of misconduct and installed Justice Abdulla as head of JSC.

Meanwhile, Justice Abdulla moved up to the Supreme Court, vacating the High Court seat in the JSC. To the seat was returned Chief Justice Abdul Ghani, who had been removed from the JSC by the High Court Declaration only months previously.

The allegations of misconduct against Chief Justice Abdul Ghani have not come to the fore since his re-instalment at the JSC.

A report of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is due out soon, revealing the findings of its visit to the Maldives last month. The ICJ delegation was lead by former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Dr Leandor Despuoy.


MP Moosa Manik files torture complaint against former President Gayoom

MP Moosa Manik, parliamentary group leader of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), has filed a complaint against former President Maumoom Abdul Gayoom alleging mental and physical torture, reports Miadhu.

Manik’s complaint lodged at the Maldives Police Service, also claims that the former regime of Gayoom oppressed him financially.

According to the Miadhu report, Manik alleges that he was falsely imprisoned and tortured physically and mentally under the direct order of Gayoom in 1982.

False allegations, he told Miadhu, were made against him of assisting his brother Ibrahim Manik in a rebellion against Gayoom.


Judicial Service Commission sued for negligence, says its decisions “affect only judges”

Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the constitutionally mandated body responsible for ensuring the standards of the nation’s judiciary, has said its decisions have a direct effect only on judges.

The JSC was defending against allegations of professional negligence made by Treasure Island Limited at a Civil Court hearing today.

“Treasure Island is not directly affected by the JSC decision not to investigate the complaints it made against the judges, and therefore, does not have any legal right whatsoever to bring a case against the Commission”, the legal representative for JSC, Abdul Faththah, told Judge Mariyam Nihayath.

Treasure Island has alleged that the JSC failed to execute its responsibilities by neglecting to investigate three complaints submitted in 2009. The JSC has a special sub-committee of five members, set up specifically to investigate complaints against the judiciary.

The complaints of misconduct concern two judges – Judge Ali Naseer and former Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy, also former head of JSC. At the time Treasure Island made the complaints to the JSC, Justice Fahmy was the Comission’s deputy chair.

The cases in which Treasure Island complained of misconduct by judges involve some prominent members of the tourism industry, including the Ministry of Tourism, and a sum of money amounting to over a million US dollars.

Treasure Island complained to the JSC that Judge Ali Naseer wrongfully excluded the company’s evidence from a 2008 case in order to rule against it.

It told the JSC that at another hearing, then chief Civil Court Judge Fahmy threw out a Treasure Island case by calling an emergency sitting at 9:00pm on the evening of 14 May 2008.

Treasure Island complained that although it was summoned to the hearing, the defendants were not present when Judge Fahmy dismissed the case.

The JSC argued at today’s hearing that the constitutional right of every person, group or member of a community directly affected by administrative action to take the matter to court did not apply to Treasure Island.

“It is only the judge against whom the Commission takes disciplinary action that will be affected by the action and not Treasure Island,” Faththah argued. “Therefore, Treasure Island does not have any legal right to bring the matter to court”.

The JSC also denied the allegation that it had refused to investigate the complaints made by Treasure Island, and submitted to court a copy of its reply to the company’s first complaint. The one line response dated 28 July 2009 stated: “This is to inform you that we do not see anything in your letter to which this commission needs to respond.”

The JSC’s response to the second complaint, in August 2009, was to say that it was neither its responsibility nor within the mandate of the JSC to investigate the ruling of a judge, and reminded the complainant of appeal mechanisms available to anyone dissatisfied with a decision of the court.

In today’s hearing, the JSC’s Legal Officer, Faththah told the court that both the constitution and the JSC regulations state unequivocally that it has the choice to ignore any complaints that it does not see as valid or genuine.

The criteria for what constitutes a valid or genuine complaint is not defined in either document, and is left to the discretion of JSC members.

“To describe the commission’s decision to exercise a legally sanctioned choice as illegal is an allegation with no basis in law,” he told Judge Nihayath.

Article 163 of the Constitution also stipulates that any decision of the JSC “shall be taken by a majority of the members present and voting”. The JSC’s submission to court today did not refer to the stipulation, nor did its responses to Treasure Island make it clear that the decision not to investigate the complaints were made in the required manner.

Minivan has learned that 118 complaints against the conduct of judges have been made at the Complaints Committee of the JSC this year alone. Not one of the complaints have been investigated.

A meeting of the Committee was scheduled for 6 October 2010, a day ahead of the Treasure Island hearing in court. The meeting could not go ahead as planned, however, as only two members attended. Three members are required to attend before a meeting can be held.

Minivan has also learned that yesterday’s meeting was the first one scheduled by the Complaints Committee in the last five months despite the large number of complaints pending.

Treasure Island today refused an offer of an out of court settlement made by the JSC. Director Ali Hussein Manik told Judge Nihayath that he was tired of “going again and again to the JSC” and that he wanted a decision of the court.

Judge Nihayath adjourned the case until 17 October 2010, agreeing to a request by Manik to give him time to consider JSC’s submissions today.