Criminal Court hears separate cases against opposition MPs

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Imthiyaz Fahmy and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor were brought before the Criminal Court today for separate hearings to face the respective charges of “scandalising” the country’s judiciary and refusing to provide a urine sample to police.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’ has pleaded not guilty to charges of “disobeying orders” for contemptuous comments allegedly made about the country’s Supreme Court earlier this year.

Meanwhile, fellow MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor asked for his Criminal Court case, in which he is charged with refusing to give a urine sample to police, to be thrown out completely.

Ghafoor allegedly failed to provide the urine sample after being arrested on an uninhabited island along with a group of MDP politicians and other senior political figures.  A number of those arrested with Ghafoor were charged with alcohol and drug possession.

However, Ghafoor today told the Criminal Court that police had not asked him to provide a urine sample following his arrest on November 16, 2012, arguing that the case should therefore be dropped.

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office had previously told the Criminal Court that it has 11 witnesses testifying against Ghafoor, proving that he was in possession – and under the influence – of alcohol when arrested on the island of Hondaidhoo last November.

Meanwhile, MP Fahmy stands accused of making contemptuous remarks about the country’s judiciary during a television show earlier this year – charges he denied during the opening hearing of his own case today.

The opposition MP added that the court had granted him the right to appoint a lawyer before reconvening. The next hearing is currently scheduled for November 24.

Fahmy argued that as an elected representative in parliament, it was questionable why he could not make comments criticising the country’s judiciary on television when he had made the same accusations during live transmissions broadcast from parliament.

“In a free democratic society, the offensive of scandalising court is not even recognised. It’s dead elsewhere in the world, but still alive here in the Maldives. This is unacceptable,” he said.

Fahmy case background

In April, Fahmy told Minivan News that Police had begun an investigation of a case filed by the Department of Judicial Administration against him, over his allegedly “contemptuous remarks” against the Supreme Court and its judges.

Addressing the allegedly contemptuous remarks made during a program broadcast on Raajje TV, Fahmy argued this week that he had been addressing the concerns of constituents by expressing his belief that the country’s Supreme Court had encroached on the powers of parliament.

He also alleged that the Supreme Court’s judges were not qualified to understand or interpret the country’s democratic constitution, arguing the apex court was the most “undemocratic” institution among the three branches of state.

Fahmy added that his comments were mostly reiterating the conclusions drawn by numerous international legal experts about the Maldives court system in recent years; including the views of UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul.

Knaul, in a report released earlier this year, expressed “deep concern” over politicisation within the country’s court system.

The special rapporteur stated that there was near unanimous consensus during her visit to the Maldives this year that the composition of watchdog body the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – which draws members from sources outside the judiciary, such as parliament, the civil service commission and others – was “inadequate and politicised”.

This complaint was first highlighted in a report published by the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) in 2010.

Current presidential candidate of the Jumhoree Party (JP) and former JSC Member MP Gasim Ibrahim later called Knaul’s findings ‘lies and jokes’ at a rally held in February.

“[Gabriela Knaul] claimed that the judges were not appointed transparently, I am sure that is an outright lie. She is lying, she did not even check any document at all nor did she listen to anybody.”

“She is repeating something that was spoon-fed to her by someone else. I am someone who sits in JSC. She claimed there were no regulations or mechanism there. That is a big joke,” Gasim claimed at the time.


The introduction of unrestricted, universal free healthcare with no agreed regulation or management was an act of folly: Dr Hassan Saeed

The Aasandha health scheme introduced on January 1 this year, “is and will always be completely financially unsustainable in a country such as the Maldives. And in fact would be in any country – however rich- anywhere in the world,” President Waheed’s Special Advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed writes for Haveeru.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a sensible and mature debate about the future of social health insurance in the Maldives? And what’s the chance of that? Pretty slim if you read former President Nasheed’s usual mixture of tedious invective and fabrication.

The introduction of unrestricted, universal free healthcare with no agreed regulation or management was an act of folly, recklessness and irresponsible political immaturity that rivals any of the actions of Mr.Nasheed’s administration.

And what’s more he knew this but still went ahead with it. And the consequence is that we now have the IMF breathing down our necks and a budget deficit that threatens to derail all government social programmes.

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Abandoned child legally assigned foster parents for first time in Maldivian history

The Family Court has assigned foster parents to a 10-month-old baby for the first time in Maldivian history. The child, who had been abandoned, was transferred from state care to a married couple on Sunday, September 18.

“This is the first time that non-biological parents have been given legal guardianship of a child in the Maldives,” said Ilham Mohamed, a local NGO worker familiar with the matter.

Mohamed said that foster parents previously risked the biological parents turning up to demand money and/or the child. “This example will make the process more secure,” she said.

The new foster parents will have the same legal rights given in adoption, except for the rights to consent to marriage and leave an inheritance.

Mohamed pointed out that in many cases where a father will not consent to his daughter’s marriage, the young couple requests and often receives court permission. She said the process usually takes between two and three months.

The couple’s lawyer, former Attorney General (AG) Aishath Azima Shakoor, told local media that the couple wanted to opt for their new daughter to inherit an equal share of their property. According to Mohamed, Maldivian law allows foster parents this option.

Shakoor recently told local media that the court had transferred the state’s legal guardianship of the child under Shari’a law to the couple, who have agreed in writing to protect and provide for the girl.

The Maldives did not provide services for abandoned children before the 1990s. Sources say that the number of abandoned children rose during that decade, possibly due to the allegedly higher rate of drug use among young adults at that time.

In 1992, the Ministry of Gender and Family established the Unit for the Rights of the Child (URC), now known as the Child and Family Protection Services (CFPS). Since then, the ministry maintains that the number of care-giving staff and institutions are unable to meet demand.

An Auditor General’s report dated 2009 reported 43 children at the state’s orphanage on Villingili, near Male. The report noted that the orphanage was understaffed and staff members were unable to provide sufficient care for children below the age of five. Most employees were not trained in child psychology, and there were no provisions for medical emergencies.

The orphanage on Male is currently over capacity and children are not segregated by age, said Mohamed.

Minivan News previously reported that Maldivian Family Law requires various next-of-kin be asked to care for abandoned children before the state assumes responsibility. But the process of identifying proper care-givers was reported long and difficult, and the Ministry of Family and Gender was regularly backed up with applications at the time.

The report also noted that adoption, as it is handled in the West, is illegal in Islam.

“Adoption in the Western style is not part of Islam,” explained Mohamed. “But fostering, or taking people into your care, is part of Islamic culture. It doesn’t really matter what name you use, foster or adopt, just so long as children have a safe place to live.”

Mohamed said she believes most orphanages have wait lists, and expects foster parenting to increase significantly.

“The couple that has been approved struggled to convince local authorities of their case. But now that this has been done once, it won’t be difficult for people to do it again.”

Mohamed noted that the struggle to legalize foster parenting began in the late 1990s, and calls the recent case a “very significant event.”