Former civil service chief has no grounds for appeal, says CSC

The Civil Court has held the first hearing into the compensation case for dismissed President of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Mohamed Fahmy Hassan.

In late December, 2012, Fahmy filed charges against the state seeking compensation for losses after the People’s Majlis dismissed him from his position.

Fahmy’s dismissal followed the Majlis’ no-confidence motion in November 2012 after it had conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against him.

Speaking at the hearing of the case held today in the Civil Court, CSC legal representative Abdul Naseer Shafeeq stated that, as the law states that the president of the civil service must be appointed by the parliament, the parliament’s decision on the matter is final, local media reported.

Shafeeq added that once the parliament decided on the matter, he believed the secretariat was right in following the parliament’s decision. He further said that he had accepted the secretariat was right in not allowing someone other than the person appointed by parliament to enter the premises of the CSC and take up responsibilities of the Chair.

Fahmy’s access to the commission’s offices was revoked in September last year after he continued to attend work during the impasse between the judiciary and the legislature over his dismissal.

Last March, he Supreme Court -had ruled that parliament’s decision was void on the basis that it had breached the law. Fahmy used this ruling as justification in his case against the state.

He stated that, following the Parliament’s appointment of Dr Mohamed Latheef as the president of the CSC, Fahmy had no grounds to claim the responsibilities of the commission’s president.

Shafeeq further pointed out that Fahmy is currently filling another state position.

Incumbent President Abdulla Yameen appointed Fahmy to the post of Deputy High Commissioner of Maldives in Malaysia in the midst of the CSC scandal – just days after assuming office.

The state had previously raised procedural issues in the case, and arguing that the case cannot be carried forward.

Fahmy is suing the state for damages of over MVR7 million as compensation for financial losses and psychological trauma he has suffered through the CSC’s failure to allow him access to its premises and its severance of his pay after the parliament’ decision.


Police arrests man accused of sexual harassment of a minor

Police have announced that its branch in the island of Kulhudhuhfushi in Haa Dhaalu atoll has today arrested a 19 year old man accused of “forcefully committing illicit sexual acts” with a 15 year old girl.

Police stated that the man was arrested under a court warrant at 0940hrs this morning. Due to the status of the investigation, police have not yet revealed additional information regarding the case.


New CSC head asks president to resolve issue with Mohamed Fahmy Hassan

The new chair appointed to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Dr Mohamed Latheef has sent a letter to President Dr Mohamed Waheed asking him to find a solution to ongoing issues with previous commission chief Mohamed Fahmy Hassan.

Former CSC Chair Fahmy was dismissed by the parliament over allegations of sexual harassment against a female staff member.

In the letter, Dr Latheef stated that the issue of former CSC Chair Fahmy coming into work after his dismissal by the parliament was still unresolved and that it was an obstruction to the running of the institution.

Latheef told the president that this issue affected both the civil servants themselves and the services being provided to the public.

He referred to constitution Article 196(c) 116, stating that it was the responsibility of the president to solve the issues within government institutions and to uphold the constitution and laws.

Article 196(c) states that “the principles of governance of the state being determined by this constitution, the president shall uphold, defend and respect the constitution, and shall promote the unity of the state.’’

Parliament Yesterday (21 August) sent a letter to President Waheed informing him of the decision made to appoint Dr Mohamed Latheef as the new chair of the CSC.

On August 13, the parliament appointed a new member to the CSC to replace Fahmy, who was dismissed in November 2012 over allegations that he sexually harassed a female member of staff.

51 out of 54 MPs present in the parliament at the time voted in favor of appointing Fathimath Reenee Abdulsathar as Fahmy’s replacement, while the remaining three MPs abstained.

In November last year, parliament voted 38 – 32 in favour of removing the CSC chair after the Independent Institutions Committee investigated a complaint of sexual harassment against him lodged by a female CSC employee.

On 14 March 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that parliament’s decision to remove Fahmy from his position was not based on reasonable grounds and invalidated the decision.

On August 15, the Supreme Court issued an injunction to halt parliament’s appointment just as the President’s Office prepared to give credentials to Reenee.

However, the following day Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain accused his own court of issuing the injunction without his knowledge.

Former Judicial Services Commission (JSC) member Aishath Velazinee has argued that the Majlis was given authority over CSC appointments in 2010, describing the Supreme Court’s move as a “mutiny”.

During a visit to Fuvahmulah this week, President Waheed expressed his disappointment with the court’s dispute, whilst maintaining that his hands were constitutionally tied.

“All institutions are independent. Although the head of state is the president, there are no arrangements in place for him to take action against other institutions. There is not much authority. The president has quite ceremonial powers,” he is reported to have said.


Parliament appoints new CSC member to replace Fahmy Hassan

The parliament has appointed a new member to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to replace Fahmy Hassan, who was dismissed in November 2012 over allegations that he sexually harassed a female staff at the commission.

Fahmy however continues to serve as chair of the commission after his dismissal was invalidated by the Supreme Court.

The parliament secretariat today issued a statement confirming that Fathimath Reenee Abdulsathar of Maafannu Unimaage had been appointed as the new member of the CSC.

According to the statement, 51 out of 54 MPs present in the parliament voted in favor of appointing Reenee as Fahmy’s replacement, while the remaining three abstained.

The parliament secretariat said the Independent Commissions Committee had researched those who applied for the position and submitted it to the parliament floor on August 5, 2013.

Local media reports suggested no candidate was able to meet 75 percent of the Independent Commissions Committee’s interview criteria, so the committee forwarded the matter to the parliament chamber.

Minivan News contacted Fahmy today seeking comment regarding the appointment of his replacement, however he stated that he did not want to say anything to the media at the moment.

In November last year parliament voted 38 – 32 to remove the CSC chair after the Independent Institutions Committee investigated a complaint of sexual harassment lodged by a female employee of the CSC.

On 14 March 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that parliament’s decision to remove Fahmy from his position was not based on reasonable grounds and invalidated the decision.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported that the alleged sexual harassment incident occurred on 29 May 2012, and that the victim was a female senior research officer.

On June 17, Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee launched an investigation into the alleged harassment.

Fahmy was alleged to have called a female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”it won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

According to local media, the woman told her family about the incident, who then called Fahmy. Fahmy then sent her a text message apologising for the incident, reportedly stating, ”I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations, Fahmy told Minivan News previously that the female staff member had made up the allegation after she learned she had not won a scholarship to Singapore offered by the CSC.


Women’s rights group protest against impunity of Civil Service Commission President following sexual harassment allegations

Local NGO Voice of Women (VoW) held a protest outside the Maldivian Civil Service Commission (CSC) on Friday (March 28) to oppose the return CSC President Mohamed Fahmy, after the Supreme Court dismissed parliamentary findings in a sexual harassment matter and permitted him to return to work.

Fahmy returned to work on March 17 following a Supreme Court ruling three days earlier, stating that Fahmy’s removal from his position by parliament was unconstitutional. According to the judgment, Fahmy was to be reinstated and compensated for lost wages since December 2012.

The 6-1 majority opinion of the Supreme Court bench held that Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee violated due process and criminal justice procedures in its sexual harassment inquiry, and that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was convicted at court following his dismissal by parliament – double jeopardy).

The group of a dozen vocal protesters marched in the rain from parliament to the CSC, where they waited with placards for Fahmy to emerge. Some of these messages read: “sos save the csc from Fahmy,” “zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” “supreme court wake up,” “no more excuses, no more abuses,” “my body my rights,” “the workplace should be safe and free from oppression.”

VoW President Haifa Naeem explained to Minivan News that sexual harassment in the workplace is an endemic issue and that “victims are being re-victimised by the state”. VoW is urging parliament to fast track the sexual harassment bill.

“Once Fahmy’s integrity was lost, he should not be at the CSC. We are standing here with enough evidence that he has been sexually harassing people,” stated Naeem.

“Most women are afraid to come out because they are not protect by law or the state, but we are behind them,” she said.

VoW founding member Dr Abdul Malik echoed these sentiments.

“Systems are not in place to give necessary protection if women come out and voice these kinds of incidents,” Malik stated.

“We will back the victims to the extent civil society can, but its the responsibility of the state, judiciary and law makers who can do something, do more,” he added.

It is important to recognize what’s happening “all around” the government and throughout the nation, VoW Treasurer Aminath Saeed told Minivan News.


The CSC employee who filed the complaint against Fahmy, Shahuma ‘Shahu’ Haleem, spoke with Minivan News about her experience.

“He’s been doing this for quite some time now. This was the first thing I heard when I came to office, but I never thought he was ever going to touch me.

She explained that whenever she hears her friends talking about being sexually harassed she urges them to “speak up”.

“They are afraid of being fired, because he’s the ultimate boss [of the civil service]. Anyone cannot come out here today and do this. I can be fired and still survive, but not many people have that option,” Haleem stated.

Haleem explained that she filed complaints with parliament, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights. She claims the Gender Ministry did not even call her back.

The HRCM claimed that they had not received enough evidence to prove whether or not Fahmy had harassed the employee. In late November 2012, parliament dismissed Fahmy in a 38-32 vote after the Independent Institutions Committee investigated the complaint.

“Women are getting the wrong message, that some people are in fact untouchable,” stated Haleem.

“It’s been proven over again that he has lied and has in fact done it, but then the [Supreme] court rules in favor of him,” she added.

Government employee reactions

An long-term government employee in the crowd who asked not to be identified said workplace sexual harassment was a systemic problem throughout every government institution.

“That kind of harassment is totally accepted throughout our society. It has been tolerated for a long time and has become part of the Maldivian culture. People think that it is bound to happen when men and women are together,” she said.

“It’s because of the way women are perceived in society. We are see more as sexual objects, our productive role is less prominent, but our reproductive role is more [valued].

“Today’s protest is an important milestone because it has sparked debate. Even if you only see a few people here it speaks a lot for a country that has been suppressed for a long time. It is very brave for Shahu to bring this issue out into the open,” she added.

Other employees, both from the CSC and various government ministries, also spoke to Minivan News as they passed through the protest while leaving work.

Many said they do not know much about the issue, Fahmy or the allegations against him.

Others claimed sexual harassment “is a pretty big issue, but no one talks about it”.

A Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture employee said he was aware of rumors that a lot of women faced sexual harassment and said he supported their cause.

“I also want women’s rights, but by protesting like this nothing will happen,” one woman declared.

A CSC employee told Minivan News that sexual harassment is a “problem” but said that “women are weak”.

“People don’t believe it is happening. They need to be more aware. Even in Shahu’s case most people didn’t find it a big deal,” another woman stated.

“People have to go to extreme lengths to show it’s actually sexual harassment,” she added.


MDP protest against Supreme Court

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held a peaceful street protest on Friday (March 22) against the Supreme Court following two controversial rulings against parliament.

Starting from Usfasgandhu, roughly 400 protesters led by former President Mohamed Nasheed took part in the demonstration calling for authorities to refrain from undermining parliament.

Local media reported that the protesters stopped near the Supreme Court to voice their opinions, further calling for the Supreme Court bench to be abolished and the resignation of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

On March 14, Supreme Court declared two decisions made by parliament last year as unconstitutional.

According to the court ruling, parliament’s decision to remove Civil Service Commission President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan over allegations of sexual harassment and to conduct no-confidence votes through secret ballot violated the Maldives constitution.


Supreme Court rules secret ballot, dismissal of CSC chair unconstitutional

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that contested decisions by parliament to remove Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan and conduct no-confidence votes through secret ballot are unconstitutional.

On December 3, 2012, parliament voted 41-34 to approve amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach the President and remove cabinet members through secret ballot. The house rules were changed with pending no-confidence motions against President Dr Mohamed Waheed and Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed submitted by the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

In late November, parliament dismissed Fahmy in a 38-32 vote after the Independent Institutions Committee investigated a complaint of sexual harassment by a female employee of the CSC.

Both moves were challenged at the Supreme Court, which issued injunctions or stay orders to parliament to halt both conducting no-confidence votes through secret ballot and appointing a replacement to the CSC, pending rulings on the legality of the decisions.

In its judgment (Dhivehi) on the constitutionality of secret ballots for no-confidence votes, the Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to strike down the amendment to parliament’s standing orders as unconstitutional. The majority opinion contended that the move contravened article 85 of the constitution as well as parliamentary principles and norms of free and democratic societies.

Article 85 stipulates that meetings of the People’s Majlis and its committees must be open to the public.

In the second judgment (Dhivehi) on Thursday night, the Supreme Court noted that Fahmy was alleged to have committed a criminal offence and contended that the Independent Institutions Committee violated due process and principles of criminal justice procedure in dealing with the accused.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was convicted at court following his dismissal by parliament (double jeopardy). Following the judgment, Fahmy would be reinstated and compensated for lost wages since December 2012.

Delivering the judgment, Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Saeed reportedly said that a person should be considered innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law and was entitled to protect his reputation and dignity.

Dissenting opinion

Meanwhile, Justice Ahmed Muthasim Adnan – the only Supreme Court justice with a background in common law – issued dissenting opinions in both cases.

On the constitutionality of the secret ballot, Justice Adnan noted that article 101(f) of the constitution states that “the regulations governing the functioning of the People’s Majlis shall specify the principles and procedures concerning a resolution to remove the President or Vice President from office as provided in this Constitution.”

Unless a clause added to the regulation was explicitly in violation of the constitution, Justice Adnan said that he believed it “could not be challenged in any court in the Maldives.”

He further noted that while article 85 of the constitution requires parliamentary proceedings to be open to the public, 85(b) states that a majority of MPs present and voting could decide to exclude the public or press “if there is a compelling need to do so in the interest of public order or national security.”

Moreover, article 85(c) states, “Article (b) does not prevent the People’s Majlis from specifying additional reasons for excluding the public from all or any part of a committee meeting of the People’s Majlis.”

He added that the secret ballot would be taken at a sitting open to the public.

In the case submitted by Fahmy contesting his dismissal, Justice Adnan’s dissenting opinion noted that article 187(a) of the constitution authorised parliament to remove members of the CSC “on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.”

Article 187(b) meanwhile states, “a finding to that effect by a committee of the People’s Majlis pursuant to article (a), and upon the approval of such finding by the People’s Majlis by a majority of those present and voting, calling for the member’s removal from office, such member shall be deemed removed from office.”

Justice Adnan argued that an inquiry by a parliamentary committee into alleged misconduct would not be a criminal investigation. Therefore, he added, the oversight committee would not be required to prove guilt to the extent required at trial before making a decision.

He further noted that parliament’s dismissal under the authority of article 187 and a possible conviction at a late date could not be considered meting out two punishments for the same offence.

Separation of powers

Following the injunctions issued by the Supreme Court in December 2012, MDP MP Eva Abdulla told Minivan News that the supremacy of parliament was at stake in the cases before the apex court.

“By its actions, the Supreme Court is challenging the separation of powers that underpins the constitutional basis of governance,” Eva said.

Meanwhile, Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, contended in his blog on December 12 that the Supreme Court did not have the legal or constitutional authority to issue the injunctive orders against parliament.

Moreover, the Supreme Court “does not have the power to even accept those cases,” he wrote.

Article 88(b) of the constitution states: “Unless otherwise specified in this constitution, the validity of any proceedings in the People’s Majlis shall not be questioned in any court of law.”

Nasheed argued that decisions made by parliament could not be challenged in court except in instances clearly specified in the constitution, which did not include dismissal of members of independent institutions and amendments to Majlis regulations.

The purpose of article 88 was to prevent parliament’s decisions being challenged or overturned, Nasheed said, as in the absence of such a clause the Supreme Court would become a “People’s Appeal Majlis” with supremacy over the house of elected representatives.

“If every decision of the People’s Majlis is appealed at the Supreme Court in the manner that any judgement by the High Court can be appealed at the Supreme Court, then there is no difference between the People’s Majlis and the High Court,” Nasheed wrote.

This was against the separation of powers envisioned in the constitution, Nasheed said, which vested legislative powers in parliament and clearly specified instances where its decisions could be challenged at court.

Former legal reform minister Nasheed is chair of the Independent Institutions Committee. Asked by the Supreme Court to hand over minutes of the committee inquiry, Nasheed had refused.


Government submits sexual harassment bill to Majlis

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam has submitted a bill to parliament on behalf of the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik aiming to define and outlaw sexual harassment across Maldivian society.

The decision forms part of a wider government strategy to submit twelve separate bills to the Majlis after an amendment to parliament regulations was approved in October.  The amendment to the People’s Majlis’ Rules of Procedure enabled the current government to submit bills to the legislature despite President Waheed’s Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP) having no elected representatives in parliament.

DRP MP Rozaina Adam was not responding to calls at time of press.

The government has stated that the objective of the sexual harassment bill is to ensure gender discrimination is made illegal at workplaces, educational institutes, and other service providers such as hospitals.

The bill defines sexual harassment as “any sexual act committed against, or towards, a person without their consent”.  It states that a sexual act is defined as words which are spoken, or written, a sound that is made, a picture or a drawing that is shown, a physical action or gesture that is made, or any other action which could be perceived, believed or known by the recipient to be done with a sexual intention.

Details are also included on the specific actions by employers, employees and service providers which would be outlawed should the bill be passed.

Employers are also required to refrain from implying through actions or words that acceptance of sexual advances is a guarantee of securing advancement at work or additional opportunities.

The bill also governs institutions mandated with taking care of persons, including children, the elderly and persons with special needs. The bill specifically prohibits sexual harassment against any persons under the care of such institutions.

As per the bill, each organisation must have a committee mandated with oversight of the issue of sexual harassment.  The committee should consist of ten members, of which the majority is to be female. The bill also defines the procedures the committee must follow when handling complaints.

The bill is yet to be scheduled for debate on the parliament floor and comes after CSC President Mohamed Fahmy was voted out of his post on November 20, 2012 under allegations of sexual harassment against an employee.

The Supreme Court has since ordered the parliament to halt appointing a new member to his post, until the court comes to a ruling on whether Fahmy’s rights had been infringed upon through his dismissal.

Meanwhile, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yaamin has submitted a motion to Parliament’s Independent Commissions Oversight Committee, asking it to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against a member of the Elections Commission.

The full bill submitted to the Majlis can be read here.  (Dhivehi)


Parliament votes out CSC President Fahmy over sexual harassment allegations

Parliament on Tuesday voted out President of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Mohamed Fahmy on charges of sexual harassment against an employee.

The 70 members who partook in the vote were split 38 for removing Fahmy, 32 against and 2 abstentions.

The parliament debated on the report on the case submitted by the Committee on Independent Institutions prior to the vote.

Chair of the Committee, Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed, said that in addition Fahmy himself and the employee who had submitted the complaint Aminath Shahma, other members of the CSC and staff members had been questioned by the committee.

Nasheed said that other staff members, including Fahmy’s personal secretary, had made statements which backed Shahma’s allegations, while Fahmy’s defense had nothing to support it. He added that the committee had asked both Fahmy and Shahma if they were willing to repeat their statements under oath, to which Shahma had agreed while Fahmy refused to respond.

After much debate by MPs with opposing views on the parliament floor, Nasheed responded saying the the Committee on Independent Institutions had oversight mandate over the CSC, and that it did not need to conduct a criminal investigation to remove Fahmy from his post.

“What we applied are widely accepted civil standards. Based on our findings, 7 out of the 10 committee members decided that it was more likely that Fahmy had committed this act than that he did not. And that is enough to remove him from his post,” Nasheed said.

He added that this had no relation to Fahmy’s role in the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – of which the CSC president is by default a member. He also clarified that unlike the claims of some MPs who had spoken in Fahmy’s defense, the Prosecutor General’s office had not sent the case back to the police but rather had asked for additional clarifications.

Workplace harassment: a common problem for women

Many MPs, including independent, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs, spoke in favour of removing Fahmy from his post.

DRP MP Rozaina Adam, MDP MPs Eva Abdulla and Mariya Ahmed Didi spoke of workplace harassment being a common issue faced by Maldivian women.

Although MP Visam Ali stated that the matter needed further investigation and submitted an amendment asking for parliament to postpone Fahmy’s dismissal until the authorities looked into the matter more deeply, Rozaina stated that the parliament was not mandated to run a criminal investigation and that it should remove Fahmy as he was believed to have committed an act unacceptable from a man in his position.

“Honour is not something we get just by addressing each other as ‘Honourable MP’, as stipulated by the regulations. We need to prove to our constituents that we work in their interest,” Eva Abdulla said.

“Even the former Auditor General was removed because this parliament through its findings believed him unfit for his post. It was not done after a police investigation.”

“In the JSC, Fahmy actually voted in a way that benefited [the MDP], by voting that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is illegal. The MDP will work with principles and not a political mindset,” Ali Waheed said.

“Shahuma stood up and shared this issue with a lot of courage. We cannot turn our backs on this,” he went on, “And this HRCM report – They say they can neither prove whether he has or has not done anything. What have they found? What’s the point of releasing this one day before the vote?”

Removing Fahmy may lead to more allegations

Members of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) mainly spoke in defense of Fahmy, alleging that this could “possibly be a politically-motivated allegation”.

Most of them stated that since a criminal investigation was involved it was better to let the police and courts come to a decision on the matter before the parliament voted on removing him.

PPM MP Shifaq Mufeed said, “Let’s not turn this parliament into an investigative body”, adding that the police were more qualified to run a professional investigation.

“We might be faced with an unrecoverable loss if we remove Fahmy, as he is a member of both the CSC and the JSC. If we remove Fahmy, there may come planned false allegations against other members of independent commission,” he said.

“To Shahuma, I have to say: ‘be patient, madam’. Let the police investigate. We are not going to incriminate Fahmy and take Shahuma’s side, nor are we going to incriminate Shahuma and take Fahmy’s side.”

Adhaalath party member and MP Ibrahim Muthalib also spoke against removing Fahmy in parliament today.

“If we are to make our women nude and exposed, and then send them out to mingle with men, then why speak of protecting them? Honourable Speaker, this cannot be done in this manner. If a man and a woman are in a room alone, Satan will be there as the third person and will encourage sinful activities,” Muthalib said.

“Their place is in their houses, to serve their husbands and look after children. If we give them the opportunity to go out and mingle then we can no longer talk about their dignity and protection. It is people who harass women who are now speaking in their defense here today,” he further added.

Cannot confirm whether or not the harassment happened: HRCM

Meanwhile on Monday, a day ahead of the vote against Fahmy in parliament, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) released a report on the case.

HRCM claimed that they had not received enough evidence to prove whether or not Fahmy had harassed the employee.

The report further said that although Fahmy had sent a text to Shahuma with an apology, it was unclear what the apology had been meant for.