Gasim calls for public vigilance over political parties trying to buy MPs

Government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim has accused other political parties of attempting to bribe MPs to jump parties, and boost support for their policies.

Speaking at a rally on the island of Gahdhoo in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll on Friday (June 28), MP and local business tycoon Gasim asked the public to be vigilant against what he alleged were efforts by political parties to “buy” the country.

Gasim noted with particular concern that large sums of money were being paid to MPs by unidentified political parties looking to boost their parliamentary representation and support their respective agendas.

“We hear members change parties for US$2 million,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru. “Why are they being paid such vast sums to change parties? Why?”

Gasim’s comments were made on the back of widespread media speculation that Ahmed Mahloof, an MP for the fellow government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), was looking to switch to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

JP Spokesperson Moosa Rameez told Minivan News earlier this year that it was “against the values” of the party to offer incentives to encourage MPs to join.

The comments were made after former PPM MP Ilham Ahmed told media that his allegiance was “not for sale”, despite his “love and admiration” for JP Leader Gasim.

MP Ilham later joined the JP in April following the PPM presidential primary vote.

Various political parties have moved to reject claims they offer MPs incentives to back them.  However, NGOs in the country have previously expressed concern at a perceived accountability failure in the Maldives’ democratic system allowing MPs to switch freely between rival parties for personal gain.

Transparency Maldives has claimed the lack of mechanisms for investigating the alleged use of incentives to encourage MPs to transfer to other parties had done very little to “allay fears” among the general public of parliament being a corrupt institution.

Ibrahim Shareef, former Deputy Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), said in January this year that he did not believe MPs were necessarily having their allegiance bought by rival parties.

However, he said there was realistically “always a temptation” for elected officials to transfer to a party expected to come to power.

Shareef claimed such behaviour was a likely factor in growing public disillusionment with democracy.

Earlier this month, Parliamentary Speaker Abullah Shahid, who switched his allegiance from the DRP to the MDP in April 2013, confirmed that five MPs had recently moved to new parties.

This movement of MPs included Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim from the People’s Alliance (PA) going to the PPM, MPs Ahmed Shareef Adam and Ahmed Moosa from PPM to President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP), and MP Ali Azim from the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

DRP MP Ali Saleem meanwhile left the party to become an Independent MP.


Judiciary needs transitional arrangement before elections: former JSC member

The former Presidential Member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Aishath Velezinee has called on international organisations to lead a transitional arrangement for the judiciary prior to September’s presidential elections.

UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul’s final report to the UN Human Rights Council extensively outlined the political, budgetary and societal challenges facing the judiciary and wider legal community, as well as the politicisation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and its failure to appoint qualified judges under Article 285 of the constitution.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed “deep concern” over the failure of the judicial system to address “serious violations of human rights” during the Maldives’ 30 year dictatorship, warning of “more instability and unrest” should this continue to be neglected.

“The UN special rapporteur’s report has raised very serious concerns that the public should be thinking about, because it has implications that affects every single individual in this country, the report is not for the state alone,” said Velezinee during a press conference held on June 5.

“The report raises questions regarding the impartiality of the supreme court. It highlights a political bias in the supreme court,” Velezinee said. “If we are going to allow the supreme court to be the decider on elections, there is very little reason for the public to have confidence in the election results.”

Velezinee noted that because only three months remain before the September 7 presidential elections, “It is time for the parliament and for the leaders to sit down together and come to a transitional arrangement.”

“That transitional arrangement should include a bench or some system outside of existing courts, outside of the supreme court, that will have a final say on all election related issues,” she stated.

“It can’t be done only locally. We need the expertise, presence and participation of the International Commission of Jurists as well as the UN in a transitional arrangement,” she continued.

“Considering the status of the state today, we need a partnership. Bilateral participation would not be something to promote, the best thing would be to have broader participation with international partners,” Velezinee added.

Resistance to consolidating democracy

“Our country today is at a serious critical junction and the issues are all coming from resistance to consolidating democracy,” said Velezinee.

“One of the most serious issues noted in the [UN special rapporteur’s] report is the misconstruing of democratic concepts in the constitution, and the use of these for personal gain by state officials within the JSC, Supreme Court, as well as parliament.”

“After elections the judiciary must be overhauled,” she declared.

The JSC was required to re-appoint judges under Article 285 of the constitution who possessed “educational qualifications, experience and recognised competence to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a judge, and must be of high moral character.”

“It is only through acknowledgement and acceptance that we have breached the constitution on article 285 that we will have the opportunity and the legitimacy to overhaul the judiciary,” explained Velezinee.

“That is very important, unless we do that we may fall into a cycle of coups… and this will go on unless the judiciary functions correctly.”

Velezinee said that while only the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) “has stood by the constitution”, it had failed so far to directly address the controversial re-appointment of unqualified judges to the judiciary.

“I have heard the MDP talk about problems in the judiciary and with individual judges, but I am disappointed I have not yet heard them speak of the constitutional breach of article 285,” she told Minivan News.

“[Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla] Shahid is an expert on democracy and is ready to intervene to return the Maldives to the constitution,” claimed Velezinee. “Having Shahid join the MDP is good because now they can go ahead and return the country [to constitutional rule].”

“I also welcome [former Attorney General Husnu] Suood breaking his silence and taking initiative. It’s a good sign he’s speaking up,” she added.

Eariler this week Suood claimed that the JSC had been taken over “dark powers”, and that it was fully under the control of certain political figures.

Suood further contended that the presidential candidate for the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and PPM MP Ahmed Nazim, and retired Supreme Court Judge Mujthaz Fahmy have long been in the business of influencing the judges and the verdicts they had been issuing.

“The entire judiciary is under the influence of [retired Supreme Court Judge] Mujthaaz Fahmy,” he alleged.

Suood further alleged that Deputy Speaker Nazim had close ties with members of the JSC, and said several judges had told him that Yameen Abdul Gayoom – half brother of former President of 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – had on several occasions given instructions to the judges over the phone as to how their sentences should be phrased.

Yameen and Nazim have denied the allegations.