Government questions Nasheed’s eligibility for former president privileges

The President’s Office has raised questions over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s eligibility for constitutionally-provided immunity and privileges.

Article 128 guarantees “the highest honour, dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges” to any person who has served in the office of the president and stepped down without committing any offenses.

However, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said Nasheed’s eligibility was in question since he had not completed a full-five year term. Nasheed resigned in his fourth year of office, an act he later claimed was “under duress”.

Riza pointed to Article 3 (a) of the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act, which affords a monthly allowance of RF 50,000 (USD 3243) for a president who has served one term, and Rf 75,000 for a president who has served two terms (USD 4864).

Riza said the clause specifies that a president has to complete a five-year term in order to be eligible for financial benefits.

But Nasheed’s former Legal Affairs Secretary Hisaan Hussein said the constitution overrides the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act, and said Nasheed had a “right” to immunity and privileges.

Further, Article 12 of the Immunity and Privileges Act, interprets former president to be one “who stepped down after completion of term or resigned from office” without committing an unlawful act, she noted.

Even if the government’s concerns were valid, a full term is specified only with regards to financial benefits, and not in clauses relating to accommodation allowances, health care coverage, security, and travel arrangements, she said. Yet, except for the provision of security, the government had refused to extend any privileges to Nasheed, Hisaan said.

Riza said President Waheed had only arranged for Nasheed’s security “through special privileges afforded to the President.”

International bodies have expressed concerns over Nasheed’s safety, after Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed issued a court order for Nasheed’s arrest following Nasheed’s resignation on February 7.

The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) had held Judge Abdulla in military detention for three weeks prior to Nasheed’s resignation. The order was never acted upon.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) summoned Nasheed on Wednesday for questioning regarding his role in Judge Abdulla’s detention.

Riza said the President’s Office has now requested legal advice from the Attorney General Azima Shukoor on providing immunity and privileges to Nasheed. “As soon as we get legal advice, we will proceed,” he said.

Minivan News was unable to contact Shukoor at time of press.

In addition to monthly financial allowances, the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act provides for a monthly accommodation allowance up to Rf 50,000 (US$3243). The President and his/her spouse are also entitled health care coverage, security and travel assistance.

Further, if a former president wishes to conduct charitable work, the act allows for an allowance of Rf 175,000 (US$11,349) to cover overhead costs.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who served as president from 1979- 2008, set up the nonprofit Maumoon Foundation in 2010. The organisation’s stated aims are to assist the poor and needy. It awarded nine scholarships for higher education abroad in 2011.