No legal grounds to question Speaker’s JSC membership: Majlis secretariat

Read this article in Dhivehi

There are no legal grounds to question whether Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid should remain in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) whilst seeking re-election, the People’s Majlis secretariat said in a press release today.

The statement follows Majlis’ removal last week of its representative to the judicial oversight body, MP Ahmed Hamza, who is also seeking re-election.

In a letter informing the commission of Hamza’s removal last week, Speaker Shahid said the decision was made in reference to Article 10 of the JSC Act, which stipulates that a commission member will lose his seat if he stands in an election.

Both Shahid and Hamza are contesting in the upcoming parliamentary polls on opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) tickets.

The Majlis statement explained that Article 161(b) of the constitution “clearly shows” that a member appointed to the 10-member commission by virtue of his office (ex officio) would remain a member as long as he holds the post.

The article states that the speaker, the attorney general, and the chair of the civil service commission would remain “a member of the Judicial Service Commission only as long as that office is held.”

“Therefore, as the person in the post of speaker of the People’s Majlis is a member of the commission by virtue of office, there is no room to raise legal questions over whether he will remain a member of the Judicial Service Commission as long as he is in the [speaker’s post],” the press release stated in conclusion.

The statement was issued following media reports casting doubt on Shahid’s membership on the judicial watchdog.

Hamza meanwhile told Minivan News last week that the speaker and Majlis representative should be exempted from Article 10 “as it creates a legal vacuum.”

Prior to the speaker’s decision to remove him from the commission, JSC President and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla sent letters to both Hamza and President Abdulla Yameen claiming that the MPs’ position was vacant following his submission of candidacy papers to the Elections Commission.

Hamza responded by contending that Adam Mohamed’s attempt to remove him was intended to reduce the number of members who advocated for judicial reform and to block an investigation into Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed’s sex tape scandal.

Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman – the public’s representative on the JSC  – has also accused Justice Adam Mohamed of stalling the JSC’s investigation into the sex tapes.

Adam Mohamed had refused to schedule a vote on whether to suspend Hameed following his refusal to cooperate with the investigation, Hamza said.

“The JSC cannot be productive as long as Adam Mohamed remains the president,” he said. “I call on the public to pressure the JSC to table the motion to suspend Ali Hameed.”


Majlis committee opens up draft Penal Code for amendments

The Parliament’s special committee reviewing the draft Penal Code Bill has announced the completion of the reviewing of the bill and has opened the bill for amendments from parliamentary floor.

In a statement (dhivehi) released by the parliament today (December 24) stated that commenting has been opened until next Thursday 4:00pm.

Furthermore, the statement added that the final report on the draft bill has now been sent to Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid upon completion of the committee reviewing stage.

The long awaited bill, first submitted in 2006 and later resubmitted in 2009, took almost seven years to surpass the committee stage.

The first draft of the bill had been prepared by the University of Pennsylvania Law School under the leadership of legal expert Professor Paul H. Robinson, upon the request of the Attorney general in January 2006. The project was also supported by the UNDP.

Professor Robinson’s team have meanwhile published two volumes (Volume 1 and Volume 2) consisting of commentaries on sections of the draft bill.

“The author’s review suggests that the Maldivian criminal justice system systematically fails to do justice and regularly does injustice, that the reforms needed are wide-ranging, and that without dramatic change the system and its public reputation are likely to deteriorate further,” Professor Robinson wrote in his summary conclusion.

The bill, upon ratification, will replace the country’s 52 year old penal law.

According to local newspaper Haveeru, members of the parliament’s special committee tasked with the reviewing of the bill had urged all members to consider the connection between sections of the bill before proposing any changes.

The parliament had previously consulted with all state authorities including the Attorney General’s Office, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and the police during the committee stage of the bill.

According to local media reports, the Attorney General’s Office alone had proposed over thirty changes to the bill including a clause mandating that the new bill will come into force within six months of ratification.


The bill had also attracted severe criticism from religious sheikhs, most notably member of religiously conservative Adhaalath Party’s Sheikh Ilyas Hussain, who insisted that the bill would “destroy Islam” should it pass.

“If it is passed, there is no doubt that there will be no religion in this Muslim society that claims to be 100 percent Muslim. There will be no Islamic punishments,” the controversial sheikh said while delivering a sermon last March. “Refusing [to incorporate] a single Hadd [fixed punishments specifically mentioned in Quran] is destroying Islam,”

The fierce remarks made by Ilyas – who heads the Adhaalath Party’s scholars’ council and sits in the Fiqh Academy – prompted in a parliamentary inquiry where the sheikh was summoned to the committee.

New changes

Professor Robinson in the final report compiled that included the two new volumes of the penal code stated that a high priority had been given to ensure that the bill reflects Maldivian values instead of European, American or any other jurisdiction.

“The drafters have relied primarily on three sources. Of first importance are current Maldivian statutes. Where there is no applicable Maldivian statute, principles of Shari’a have been relied upon, especially those of the Shafi’i school,” read the report.

“Lastly, shared community values have been given deference, as reflected in the views expressed by the many Maldivian judges, prosecutors, private defense lawyers, government officials, and ordinary Maldivians we have met during our many discussions,” it added.

The new code will consist of three parts, the first part titled as the General Part contains all of the general provisions affecting liability and punishment. The second part known as the Special Part defines all offences and the third part contains the rules governing the sentences.

Among the major changes brought in the Draft Penal Code – which consists of more that 1,200 sections – includes grouping of offences into chapters based on the subject matter, modernisation of the existing offences and grading of the offences to reflect on the seriousness of the offences.

Previously speaking to local media, Chair of the Penal Code Review Committee MP Ahmed Hamza said the new code, if passed, would revolutionise the current Maldivian criminal justice system.

Hamza furthermore expressed hope that bill would be passed before the end of the current parliamentary session.


Speaker regrets “false” allegations by MP Muttalib of Indian-backed coup

Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid has expressed regret over “false” allegations by MP Ibrahim Muttalib claiming that parliament was planning to establish a 100-strong military force armed by India for the speaker to assume the presidency on November 11 in the absence of a president-elect.

A press release by the parliament secretariat on Saturday (November 2) stated that Shahid “regretted” the Adhaalath Party MPs’ remarks, which could “incite fear among the public and sow discord.”

“The Speaker of the People’s Majlis said that he assures the Maldivian people at this opportunity that he would not do anything in violation of the constitution of the Republic of Maldives,” the statement read.

Muttalib’s allegations at an Adhaalath Party press conference on Saturday followed the swearing-in of retired Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) first lieutenant Mohamed Haleem as the parliament’s sergeant at arms, who would be in charge of overseeing security of the Majlis premises – a task presently carried out by the military.

Parliament also announced plans to hire two deputies and four assistants to the sergeant at arms as well as 100 security officers to form a security unit that would take over from the MNDF.

The decision to set up the unit has since been slammed by the Defence Ministry, contending that overseeing security of parliament was among the security services’ constitutional duties.

The parliament’s press statement meanwhile noted that the post of sergeant at arms was among the Majlis officers listed in provision 11(a) of the parliamentary rules of procedure.

It added that Mohamed Haleem was appointed to the position following interviews conducted by the General Affairs Committee with interested candidates, after which it had proposed three names to the Majlis floor.

Haleem’s nomination was approved with 56 votes in favour out of the 57 MPs who participated in the vote, the statement noted, which included MPs from the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives, Jumhooree Party and the Maldivian Development Alliance.

The structure of parliament service employees to assist the sergeant at arms was determined by the General Affairs Committee, the statement added.

On October 27, parliament approved a proposal by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party for the Speaker of Parliament to assume the presidency in the absence of a president-elect at midnight on November 10.

At the Adhaalath Party press conference, Muttalib claimed that the purpose of establishing the security unit was to prepare for an attack if the police and military refuse to cooperate with Speaker Shahid becoming caretaker president on November 11 if there was no president-elect.

The Fares-Maathoda MP also alleged that the Indian government and GMR could provide weapons to parliament, adding that the formation of “two governments” would inevitably lead to bloodshed.

“Shahid is preparing to get himself sworn into office on November 11. So they are establishing a military force of 100 armed officers. India is heavily involved in this plot. Otherwise we wouldn’t be concerned about this. Given the present actions of India, we cannot rule them out being involved in such a thing. So this is a Majlis orchestrated coup to facilitate that,” Muttalib was quoted as saying in local media.

The governments of India, Britain, Canada and Denmark would then recognise the new administration, Muttalib claimed, after which Indian troops would arrive to protect Shahid’s government amidst the resulting chaos.


Parliament approves MDP proposal for speaker to assume presidency after November 11

Parliament today approved a proposal by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for the speaker of parliament to assume the presidency in the absence of a president-elect by midnight on November 10.

Today’s sitting was held in response to a letter to Speaker Abdulla Shahid from President Dr Mohamed Waheed requesting parliament “to take initiative in finding a solution to any legal issues that will arise if a new president is not elected by the end of the current term [on November 11].”

As a possible second round of the presidential election has been scheduled by the Elections Commission (EC) for November 16, President Waheed’s letter (Dhivehi) noted that “there is a possibility there might not be a president elected in accordance with article 111 of the constitution.”

Solih’s proposal, seconded by MDP Chairperson and Hulhuhenveiru MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, was passed with 39 votes in favour and one abstention. MPs of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) did not participate in the vote, claiming that the proposal was unconstitutional.

In the event that a new president is not elected by November 11, the motion states, “The Speaker of Parliament shall carry out the duties of the President until a person can be elected to the office.”

As interim president, the speaker “shall have all powers granted to the President by the constitution.”

The motion added that if the speaker cannot assume the office, the duties shall pass to the deputy speaker. If both are unable, a member of parliament elected by a resolution shall assume the presidency.

Moreover, the motion stipulates that a presidential election and, if necessary, a second round run-off election should take place within 21 days of the speaker assuming the role of caretaker president.

The new president-elect and vice president-elect must take the oath of office no more than 18 hours after the EC announces the official results of the election.

A second motion proposed by MDP MP Ali Waheed to grant authority and discretion to the speaker to expedite decisions required by parliament “to prepare for  the interim period” was passed with 37 votes in favour, two against and one abstention.

Speaker Shahid joined the MDP in April.

“State of necessity”

Article 124(b) of the constitution states, “In the event of the permanent incapacity, resignation, removal or death of both the President or the Vice President, and both offices becoming vacant at the same time, leading to an incapacity to carry out the duties of the President, until such time as a President and a Vice President shall be elected, the duties of both offices shall temporarily be carried out, in order of priority, by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by a member of the People’s Majlis elected by a resolution of the People’s Majlis, until successors in office are chosen.”

During today’s parliamentary debate, PPM MPs contended that the Speaker cannot assume the presidency without amending the constitution as there was no constitutional provision for the state of affairs in the absence of a president-elect after the expiry of the five-year presidential term.

Dhivehi Qaumee Party MP Riyaz Rasheed said if parliament passed the MDP’s proposal, he would file a case at the Supreme Court to invalidate it.

JP MP Ilham Ahmed meanwhile proposed that the military should take over if presidential elections are not concluded by November 11.

As the constitution states that the security services are established “to enable all Maldivians to live in peace, security and freedom,” Ilham said he believed executive powers should be handed to the security services, consisting of the police and military.

The JP deputy leader added that he could see “as clear as broad daylight” an impending takeover “by the benevolence of Allah.”

PPM MP Ahmed Shareef recommended referring the matter to the Supreme Court for legal advice, while MP Ali Arif declared the PPM’s support for President Waheed remaining in the post after November 11.

Speaking at a rally on Friday night, PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen reportedly said it would be “irresponsible” for President Waheed to resign before a new president was elected.

The PPM parliamentary group leader called on President Waheed to remain in the post and cease making statements about resigning, adding that it was the PPM that “maintained your government.”

MP Arif noted that the Supreme Court stated in its judgment annulling the September 7 election that the current president could remain in the absence of a president-elect.

“If extra time beyond that given by the constitution is needed, under the principle of necessity, to complete a specific task as specified in the constitution, it does not necessitate the end of a legal government in place. That such a government will continue to exist under the doctrines of ‘state of necessity’ and ‘continuity of legal government’ under such circumstances is recognised by both constitutional and legal jurisprudence,” the Supreme Court stated in the case summary of its judgment.

Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed said that the current administration could not continue after November 11, suggesting that a constitutional amendment was necessary to specify a process to be followed in the absence of a president-elect.

Nasheed cautioned that any motion or resolution passed by parliament in lieu of a constitutional amendment could be overruled by the Supreme Court. The independent MP abstained in both votes today.


MDP proposes bill allowing Speaker of Parliament to take charge after expiry of presidential term

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) yesterday (October 23) proposed a bill to parliament, which if passed would allow the Speaker to take charge of the government should no president-elect be determined by November 11.

The constitution only provides for a similar transition within the limits of the presidential term. The current Speaker of the House is MDP member Abdulla Shahid.

The bill (Dhivehi) sponsored by MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – who is today seeking refuge from arrest in the Majlis chambers  – coincided with the party’s presidential candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s contention that incumbent Dr Mohamed Waheed could not remain in power after November 11.

Meanwhile President Waheed himself has maintained that he does “not want to stay in this position even a day beyond November 11”.

Despite the statements by the president – who obtained just 5 percent of the popular vote in the annulled September 7 presidential polls – the Supreme Court has previously ruled that Waheed would be able to remain in power even after the expiry of his presidential term, citing the continuity of government principle.

This principle, first developed by the British, establishes defined procedures for allowing a government to continue its essential operations in case of nuclear war or any other catastrophic event.

The new bill titled ‘Legislation underlining transitional arrangements in the event no president-elect and vice president-elect is not determined at the end of the 2008 presidential term’ states that the primary purpose of the bill was to prevent any constitutional void that could arise in case no successor to the president or vice-president was elected by November 11.

Section 3(a) of the bill states:

‘Until the new president and the vice president are elected, the duties and responsibilities of the President would be undertaken by the Speaker of Parliament. If the Speaker of Parliament is unable to take the duties and responsibilities, then Deputy Speaker of Parliament will take undertake the duties and responsibilities. If both the Speaker of Parliament and the Deputy Speaker Parliament are unable to undertake the responsibilities and duties, it would be undertaken by a member of parliament determined by a resolution passed by the parliament.’

The section 3(b) meanwhile states that any person who takes charge as per section 3(a), is required to take the “oath of office by persons temporarily discharging the duties of the office of President and Vice President” as stipulated in article 126 of the constitution.

The bill also demands that the new caretaker-president ensures the completion of the first round of presidential election or the run-off election as mentioned in the article 111 of the constitution within a twenty-one day period.

The bill states that the winner of the presidential polls must take the oath of the office within 18 hours of the Elections Commission announcing the final results of the poll.

It also states that the term of the new presidency would commence only after they take oath, resulting the renewal of the presidential term every five years would take place on November 11.

The section 6 of the bill – a sunset provision – states that the bill would automatically expire once the new president and vice president take the oath of their office.

The submission of the bill also coincided with the Civil Service Commission’s meeting with all the presidential candidates regarding the appointment of the director of transition – a temporary official selected among the civil servants to oversee the transition of governments – as stipulated in the Presidential Elections Act.

Although MP Ghafoor’s bill has been submitted to the parliament, a date has to hold the preliminary debate of the bill is yet to be scheduled.

Parliamentary procedures dictate that the bill gets formally accepted to parliament only if the majority of the MPs vote in favour after holding the preliminary debate.


Gasim calls for state of emergency to pursue criminal prosecution of Elections Commission

Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim, called on President Dr Mohamed Waheed to take action against Elections Commission (EC) members for allegedly violating the constitution “even by declaring a state of emergency.”

Speaking during a debate at today’s sitting of parliament, the JP leader contended that EC members had violated the constitution by allegedly “speaking against article 113”, which states that the Supreme Court shall have sole and final jurisdiction to determine all disputes concerning the election of a presidential candidate.

EC members should face criminal prosecution for allegedly divesting the constitution of its power and authority, the MP for Alif Dhaal Maamigili insisted.

Following the presidential election on September 7 in which he came third with 24 percent of the vote, Gasim alleged electoral fraud and contested the results in the Supreme Court, which subsequently annulled the polls on October 7.

The business tycoon went on to call upon President Waheed to “act in accordance with the constitution even by declaring a state of emergency” as failure to do so would see “the nation fall outside the bounds of the constitution.”

Chapter 11 of the constitution empowers the president to declare a state of emergency for 30 days “[i]n the event of natural disaster, dangerous epidemic disease, war, threat to national security, or threatened foreign aggression”.

However, the declaration of the state of emergency must be submitted to the People’s Majlis for approval within 48 hours, after which parliament has the authority to revoke the declaration.

Asked about Gasim’s appeal at a press conference today, President Waheed said the EC faced a number of serious difficulties and that the commission had done a lot of work within a short period.

“I don’t believe this is the time to take legal action against them. There is still room to work together to resolve the issue,” he said.


Gasim’s remarks came during a debate on an early day motion submitted by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Azim calling on Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid to assume the presidency if a president-elect cannot be sworn in on November 11 as stipulated by the constitution.

The motion without notice – a non-binding motion that opens the floor for a one-hour debate – also called for the immediate resignation of President Waheed, contending that his administration had obstructed the constitutionally mandated presidential election from taking place.

Article 110 states, “Elections for the office of President shall be held within one hundred and twenty days to thirty days prior to the expiry of the existing presidential term.”

Presenting the motion, Azim noted that the constitutional deadline to conclude a presidential election expired on October 10. He argued that amendments to the relevant laws as well as interim arrangements with the Speaker assuming the presidency was necessary to avoid a constitutional void after November 11.

While the Supreme Court judgment annulling the September 7 election stated that the current president could remain in the post after November 11 in the absence of a president-elect, Azim said that the judgment was “unconstitutional.”

“If extra time beyond that given by the constitution is needed, under the principle of necessity, to complete a specific task as specified in the constitution, it does not necessitate the end of a legal government in place. That such a government will continue to exist under the doctrines of ‘state of necessity’ and ‘continuity of legal government’ under such circumstances is recognised by both constitutional and legal jurisprudence,” the Supreme Court stated in the case summary of its judgment.

In the parliamentary debate on the motion today, MDP parliamentary group leader, MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, contended that the Maldivian state has lost its democratic status as citizens have been deprived of “one of the most important bases of democracy.”

Constitutional void

Pro-government MPs meanwhile spoke against the MDP’s motion, insisting that the Supreme Court was the highest authority on constitutional matters.

“We have to accept the decisions of the Supreme Court,” MP Riyaz Rasheed said in response to MDP MPs arguing that the EC did not have to abide by the guidelines imposed on it by the Supreme Court judgment.

Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed – legal reform minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – argued that the speaker could not assume the presidency after November 11 even if President Waheed resigned.

Nasheed explained that the constitution did not specify a process to be followed in the event that a president is not elected by the end of the five-year presidential term on November 11. The constitution only specified a process for fresh elections if the president or vice president resigned before the end of their terms, he said.

Article 124(b) of the constitution states, “In the event of the permanent incapacity, resignation, removal or death of both the President or the Vice President, and both offices becoming vacant at the same time, leading to an incapacity to carry out the duties of the President, until such time as a President and a Vice President shall be elected, the duties of both offices shall temporarily be carried out, in order of priority, by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by a member of the People’s Majlis elected by a resolution of the People’s Majlis, until successors in office are chosen.”

“However, this constitution does not say what should be done if a president is not elected within the period in which it must be done,” Nasheed said.

If President Waheed resigns after November 11, Nasheed suggested that parliament should amend the constitution to specify a process to be followed in the absence of a president or vice president after the end of their terms.


Speaker Shahid to boycott JSC meetings should Fahmy participate

Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid has warned President of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Adam Mohamed that he would boycott the commission’s meetings should Chair of Civil Service Commission (CSC) Mohamed Fahmy Hassan continue to be a part of it.

Shahid’s warning came shortly after Attorney General Aishath Bisham conceded during a meeting with Parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) that any JSC meetings including Fahmy would have no legal effect.

In response to a question by the committee chair, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Waheed, Bisham insisted that Mohamed Fahmy Hassan would not have to be reinstated as chair of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) after the Supreme Court ruled that his removal by parliament was unconstitutional.

Fahmy was dismissed from his CSC post in November 2012 in a no-confidence vote in parliament following an inquiry by the Independent Institutions Committee into allegations of sexual harassment against a CSC employee.

Both Fahmy and the victim were summoned to the committee after the complaint was lodged in the first week of June.

Fahmy was alleged to have called the 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.”

MPs voted 38-32 to approve the committee’s recommendation to remove Fahmy from the post.

The Supreme Court however ruled 6-1 in March 2013 that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was convicted at court following his dismissal by parliament (double jeopardy).

The Supreme court contended that the Independent Institutions Committee violated due process and principles of criminal justice procedure in dealing with the accused.

In a letter sent on Monday, Speaker of Parliament – who is by virtue of his position, a member of JSC – stressed that even though the chair of CSC is also by virtue of his position a member of JSC,  Fahmy cannot sit in JSC because he had been deposed from his position by parliament.

He added the parliament had informed President Mohamed Waheed Hassan about its decision.

“In that letter, when the parliament came to the decision [to remove Fahmy], then-Attorney General Aishath Azima Shukoor and current Attorney General Aishath Bisham stated that Mohamed Fahmy Hassan could not sit in JSC as the President of CSC as that position had become vacant with the parliament’s decision.”

“The Attorney General Aishath Bisham had also said that JSC meetings attended by Fahmy cannot be deemed legal, during the 46th committee meeting of parliament’s executive oversight committee on June 4, 2013,” Shahid wrote.

Therefore, Shahid claimed that he would not take part in any meetings attended by Fahmy.

Speaking to Minivan News on Monday JSC Media Official Hassan Zaheen confirmed receipt of the letter from Speaker Shahid but said he did not see the need for the commission discuss the matter as it was “not part of the commission’s mandate as per the law”.

Don’t put me in a trap – President Waheed

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan speaking on the issue said it was “very complicating” for him to make a decision about Fahmy.

Fahmy had previously claimed in the media that he would only take a decision on whether to continue being part of CSC  after President Waheed made a decision on the issue, claiming that it was the President who had given him the letter of appointment.

Instead of addressing the issue directly, Waheed, who appeared unwilling to address the matter during a press conference on Monday, told the media that Parliament and the Supreme Court were in dispute over the matter.

At such a complicated time, Waheed said, “Even individuals must help in resolving conflicts peacefully”.

“Always doing something that puts the President or the government in a trap is not a very good thing. I think the best thing to do at this time is let Fahmy take the initiative and decide on the matter. That is my position,” he said.

The parliament has meantime opened the opportunity for interested candidates to apply for the “vacant” position of CSC President.

Waheed however maintained that, prior to any appointments to the commission, the parliament should discuss the matter with the Supreme Court to avoid any further conflict.


Reports of Speaker Shahid, DRP MPs’ defection to MDP unconfirmed

Rumours that Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid and two other government-aligned MPs, Alhan Fahmy and Abdulla Abdul Raheem, have joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are being widely circulated by local media.

Minivan News was unable to confirm the reports at time of press as Speaker Shahid and the other MPs were not responding to calls. The DRP has acknowledged the rumours, but has said it has not been officially informed of the switch.

Local media has also reported that government-aligned MPs Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed, MP Ali Azim and MP Hassan Adil are also preparing to join the opposition.

Speaker Shahid, Ali Azim and Nasheed are all from government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP). The supposed reason for their defection, as reported in local media, was a clash within the party’s parliamentary group over its stand on recently scheduled no-confidence motion against Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

A source in the MDP familiar with the matter alleged to Minivan News that the defection of the MPs was prompted after DRP Leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali brokered a “last minute deal” with the government in return for DRP not voting against the minister.

According to a 2010 report by former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, loans totalling Rf1 billion taken out by Fonadhoo Tuna, a company owned by Thasmeen at the time, and luxury yachting company Sultans of the Sea, connected to the party leader, had yet to see any repayments.

Together the loans accounted for 13 per cent of the total amount loaned by the bank in 2008. Naeem commented at the time that defaults on bank loans issued to “influential political players” could jeopardise the entire financial system of the country.

DRP MPs Mohamed Nashiz and Ali Azim were summoned to court in November 2012 regarding the debts, just as parliament was voting to determine whether no-confidence motions against ministers could be taken in secret.

Those summons were in relation to a Civil Court ordering Mahandhoo Investments and Kabalifaru Investments – two companies with ties to DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – to repay millions of dollars worth of loans to the Bank of Maldives Plc Ltd (BML). The verdict was also upheld by the High Court in October 2011.

MP Azim alleged at the time that President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and other senior members of the executive had approached him, offering to cancel the court summons if he agreed to vote for the secret balloting in a way they preferred.

According to the MDP source, ahead of the no-confidence motion on April 8 the DRP had “in principle agreed” to vote against the minister, but had changed their minds at the last minute. Speaker Abdulla Shahid was “left no choice but to call off the session”.

Shahid called off the parliamentary session following point of orders taken by opposition MDP MPs over the issue of the secret ballot, which the Supreme Court had overturned despite parliament’s earlier vote in favour.

Upon concluding the session Speaker Shahid announced that the matter raised by MDP MPs regarding Supreme Court’s decision had been sent to parliament’s General Affairs Committee. He said the committee will review the decision and begin working the following day.

Despite the rumours, the DRP MPs have been in no hurry to confirm the reported switch.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that “a re-alignment in favour of the opposition is definitely happening”.

“I can confirm you as I am a parliamentarian myself that several parliamentary groupings who previously stood behind the old dictatorship are slowly dismantling now. They have now started to realise that backing an old dictatorship is wrong,” said Ghafoor. “I can guarantee you that a re-alignment is definitely happening and dismantling of the old dictatorship is imminent.”

However Ghafoor declined to reveal the names of those MPs involved in the claimed switch.

Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef said the party had received no official confirmation that Speaker Shahid or any of the party’s MPs had resigned from the party or were  looking to switch to the MDP.

However, Shareef said he could not rule out the possibility of such a switch in the current political climate, citing that political defections “occur very fast in this country”.

“Anything is possible” he admitted. “As far as we are concerned, there are a lot of rumors right now about a political switch.”

Should the defections happen as rumored, the number of opposition MDP MPs will be 35 – just 4 MPs short of the parliament’s simple majority required for the dismissal of cabinet ministers and pushing through legislation.

Parliament breakdown by party (prior to rumoured defection of five DRP MPs):
MDP 29
PPM 19
DRP 11
JP 3
PA 1
Independent – 11

JSC again summoned to Parliament’s Oversight Committee

Parliament’s Independent Commissions Oversight Committee is to summon all members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to attend the committee on Wednesday (March 20).

Members of the JSC are being summoned to face questions regarding the manner in which judges were appointed to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench.

Earlier this month, the JSC had informed Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid that the commission would not be held answerable to the oversight committee.

Despite the JSC Chair and Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed declaring that the commission refused to discuss matters regarding the Hulhumale’ Court, individual members of the JSC later attended the committee meetings.

Oversight committee member and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, said that the committee had received a total of 18 documents and recorded minutes from the JSC regarding the formation of the Hulhumale’ Court bench.

Citing the minutes from the meeting, Hamid said that a magistrate from Hulhumale’ court had originally proposed a bench of judges to the JSC on September 2, 2012.

Two days later on September 4, Hamid claimed that the JSC had met “in a panic” and had sent a letter to the magistrate telling him to “hold everything, we will tell you what to do”.

“The JSC went into this meeting and propose their own bench because they want their own people. Between 12.30 and 4.30pm on September 4 the JSC had decided on a new bench. The magistrates suggested bench was never even discussed,” Hamid told Minivan News.

The oversight committee member alleged that in “just four hours” the JSC had proposed a new bench, written to the Supreme Court and the Judicial Administrator and had received a response, “They got through six acts of documentation in just four hours”, he added.

In regard to the JSC minutes, Hamid stated that on September 10, 2012, a judge from “different judicial administration” sent a letter to the JSC under the heading ‘Is the Hulhumale’ Court Legitimate?’

“Once again the JSC went into panic mode and hold another meeting. According to the minutes, they start posing questions like ‘does he have the right to use the letterhead to write such things?’ while another member states the JSC needs to take disciplinary action against the man,” Hamid claimed.

Various members of the JSC have criticised the formation of Hulhumale’ court during the committee meetings held earlier this month.

Vice Chair of the JSC, Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi told the oversight committee that he did not believe the JSC could establish a court through a vote.

Ealier this month, when asked directly whether he believed the court to be a legitimate entity, Didi answered: “I am not saying it is a legitimate court. Then again, nor am I saying it is illegitimate. All I can say is I don’t believe it will be liquidated.”

“I can’t really recall the law too well but the JSC certainly cannot form a court,” he added.

Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, who is also a member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), told the committee he believed the judicial watchdog had acted unconstitutionally in assigning magistrates to a particular case.

“In deciding upon the bench, the JSC did follow its rules of procedures. As in, it was voted upon in an official meeting and six of the seven members in attendance voted on the matter. The seventh member being the Chair, does not vote in matters,” Shahid explained to the committee.

“However, whether it is within the commission’s mandate to appoint a panel of judges in this manner is an issue which raised doubt in the minds of more than one of my fellow members.”

Parliament’s Independent Commissions Oversight Committee is summon the JSC to be present at Wednesday’s meeting scheduled for 2.30pm.