MDP rejects MP Shareef’s proposal to reduce Supreme Court bench

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) national executive council has rejected an amendment proposed by MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef to reduce the number of Supreme Court judges from the current seven to five.

Speaking to the press today, opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed said the amendments would require reappointment of the Supreme Court bench, and said the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) majority in the parliament and their refusal to consider the opposition’s concerns would result in a bench biased towards the PPM.

“The current issues within the judicial system does not amount to the number of judges at the Supreme Court. There are bigger issues that require immediate resolution,” he said.

In a speech last night, Nasheed described the amendments as an attempt by the PPM to fit the Supreme Court bench into President Abdulla Yameen’s fist.

The amendments came in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to accept a complaint over “an unconstitutional decision” to reappoint the auditor general, he claimed. The Supreme Court today rejected the complaint.

Shareef defected from the MDP to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in 2008, but rejoined the MDP during the presidential elections of 2013. Gayoom left the DRP to form PPM in 2011.

Shareef said he believed a seven member Supreme Court to be too large for the Maldives. He has also proposed two three-member High Court benches be established in the North and South.

Meanwhile, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said Shareef had not consulted the party before he submitted amendments.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said the party’s MPs are now obliged to proceed with the national council’s decision.

Meanwhile, local media reported that Hulhuhenveiru MP and Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik had boycotted the council meeting following a heated argument. Speaking to Haveeru afterwards, Manik pledged to support Shareef, even he if he has to do so alone, and claimed MDP members had treated Shareef disrespectfully at today’s meeting.

The Supreme Court – established in 2008 – has been in the midst of numerous controversies in and out of the Court room.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court used a ‘suo moto’ proceeding – allowing the Court to act as both the plaintiff and the judge – against the Elections Comission (EC)’s President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz.

They were charged with contempt of court and disobedience to order and sentenced to six months in jail as a result of testimony given in the People’s Majlis independent commission’s oversight committee.

More recently, the Court employed a similar ‘suo moto’ proceeding against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) after it criticized the judiciary in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) sent to the UN.

The Court charged HRCM with undermining the constitution and sovereignty of the Maldives by spreading lies about the judiciary in the UPR while stating that the report – based on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knau – was ‘poorly researched’, ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous.’

June this year also saw Judge Ali Hameed – a sitting Judge at the Supreme Court – being cleared of a sex tape scandal after three recordings surfaced allegedly showing Ali Hameed engaging in sexual acts with three different woman.