JSC clears Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf of ethical misconduct

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has cleared Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf of allegations of ethical misconduct and lifted his suspension after more than one year and five months.

The judicial watchdog revealed in a statement on Thursday (July 24) that the commission decided there was “insufficient concrete evidence” to prove wrongdoing following consideration of a report prepared by an investigating committee.

The JSC had suspended Bari in February 2013 pending the outcome of an investigation after a complaint was submitted the previous month.

Bari has reportedly been receiving full pay and allowances since his suspension.

Although the commission did not reveal any details regarding the complaint, local media reported that a female attorney from the Prosecutor General’s Office had alleged that Bari sexually assaulted her.

While the JSC refused to confirm the allegations at the time, JSC Spokesperson Hassan Zaheen told Minivan News last week that the commission only provides information to the media after concluding a case.

The JSC is tasked by the Constitution with investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action against judges.

Judge Bari has presided over a number of high-profile cases at the Criminal Court in recent years.

In February 2010, he acquitted Adam Naseer Aboobakuru, whom the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed had labelled one of the country’s “top six” drug kingpins.

Naseer was arrested in June 2009 with over MVR6 million (US$461,500) in cash while police also found a tin containing drugs outside his house.

Judge Bari, however, ruled that the prosecution was unable to establish that the money was earned from dealing drugs and that the narcotics could have been placed outside Naseer’s house.

In 2011, Bari also ordered the release of Abdul Latheef, who was suspected of involvement with a high-profile drug cartel.

Despite initially ordering Latheef be kept in detention, the Criminal Court changed its first decision in a letter sent to the police asking for the suspect to be transferred to house arrest.

Latheef had been taken into custody with over 1,000 grams of cannabis in the trunk of his car.

Judicial oversight

Last week, the JSC denied media reports alleging that an investigating committee had found former Criminal Court Judge Muhthaz Muhsin – who was appointed as the new prosecutor general on Tuesday – guilty of ethical misconduct.

Muhsin had allegedly attempted to save a suspect arrested for theft from being held in remand detention.

According to the JSC’s annual report for 2013, the commission has yet to conclude investigations or make a decision regarding 106 cases, which were pending at the end of last year, including one complaint dating back to 2008 and four complaints from 2009.

Other pending cases included 13 complaints from 2010, 16 complaints from 2011, 17 complaints from 2012, and 55 complaints from 2013.

The complaints against judges involved allegations of bias, lack of integrity, behavioural misconduct, discrimination, incompetence, procedural violations, inordinate delays in concluding cases, and breach of law and the constitution.

In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, noted that there was consensus on the view that the current composition of the JSC was “inadequate and politicised”.

“Because of this politicisation, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” she wrote.

Moreover, a lack of transparency regarding proceedings over complaints, the criteria used to initiate proceedings, and JSC decisions “nourishes serious allegations of selectivity in the management of complaints.”


Criminal Court staff file complaint over ‘unlawful suspension’

Criminal Court staff suspended following a refusal to work overtime without pay have asked the Department of Judicial Administration to review the court’s ‘unlawful’ decision.

Eleven staff members at the Criminal Court refused to work overtime on February 10 and were suspended on February 13.

The Criminal Court has subsequently decided to close offices after official work hours due to budget restrictions.

The court at the time told the press that it had no funds to pay overtime allowances for employees, and that the Ministry of Finance had not responded regarding the matter. The Civil Court has taken the same measures owing to lack of funds.


Criminal Court suspends staff refusing unpaid overtime

The Criminal Court has suspended a number of staff members after they allegedly refused to work overtime, reports local media.

According to local media reports, last Monday (10 February) staff at the Criminal Court refused to work overtime and left for home after the court informed them they would not be paid for overtime.

Local newspaper Haveeru quoted an employee, saying that they had been told of the suspension today. Media reports have quoted figures of around a dozen staff being involved.

According to the staff, they had previously petitioned the judges at the court over the issue prior to the strike.

The staff member who spoke to Haveeru has said that the decision to suspend the staff was made by the judges, suggesting that this was not an authority the judges had.

He also said that there were judges in the court that do not work overtime, but that no action had been taken against them thus making their own suspension unfair.

Furthermore, the employee revealed that before the allowances for judges working at night was introduced, there were four days on which all the judges of the court other that the chief judge had refused to work at night.

He also noted one instance when the chief judge had handed responsibility for extension of detention hearings to a junior colleague, before going fishing, with the result that there was no one at the court to proceed with these hearings.

Recently, the Criminal Court decided to close down after official work hours due to budget restrictions.

The court at the time told the press that it had no funds to pay overtime allowances for employees, and that the Ministry of Finance had not responded regarding the matter. The Civil Court has taken the same measures owing to lack of funds.

Spokesperson of Judicial Administrations Latheefa Gasim referred Minivan News to the Director of Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Majidh, who in turn referred Minivan News to a Criminal Court media official.

Criminal Court media official Ahmed Mohamed Manik subsequently said he would not like to comment on the matter.

Producing an extensive report on the state of the Maldivian judiciary last year, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul raised serious concerns about an impending budget catastrophe facing the judicial system.

“The immediate implications of the budget cuts on the judiciary are appalling. For instance, the Department of Judicial Administration only has funds to pay staff salaries until November 2013 and it had to cancel training this year,” Knaul noted in May 2013.

“The Civil Court reported that it would not have sufficient funds to pay its staff salaries after October 2013; furthermore, existing budgetary resources would not be sufficient to pay for utilities and facilities after June 2013,” read Knaul’s report.


Supreme Court suspends prominent lawyer pending investigation for contempt

The Supreme Court has today suspended former attorney general and high profile lawyer Husnu Suood from all courts, accusing him of violating lawyers regulation’s article 3.2[a][c].

Husnu Suood has shown the Supreme Court notice he has received to the media. It states that his comments regarding Supreme Court ruling number 42/SC-C/2013 constituted contempt of court.

The Supreme Court’s notice stated that it has asked the police to further investigate the case and that Suood is to be suspended from all the courts until this investigation is concluded.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Suood said that he believed this was related to the issue of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed’s sex scandal case.

Suood suggested that the Supreme Court had suspended him because he is in the committee investigating the judges alleged appearance on the tape.

‘’[Former Youth Minister] Hassan Latheef and Hisan Haseen were also both lawyers accused of the same thing, but the court gave them advice and did not take action against them, but I am suspended so it is not fair,’’ Suood said.

He noted that the Supreme Court ruling in question was the verdict that invalidated the first round results of presidential election first round.

“They [Supreme Court] told me that the suspension was regarding a tweet I posted on twitter which says that I believe that the Supreme Court’s ruling was in violation to the constitution,’’ he said.

“I deny that I was the one who tweeted it, but even if it was me I do not think that expressing one’s opinion is a crime.’’

He also said that there was nothing in the case for the police to investigate.

‘’Now there is nothing I can do about it I just have to wait for the police to finish the investigation. But what is there to investigate,’’ he asked.

Previously, the Supreme Court suspended Suood for alleged contempt of court.

On September 28, Suood said the dispute regarding the presidential elections had left the country’s ongoing democratic transition in “limbo”. The former AG had represented the Elections Commission (EC) in the election annulment case before being thrown out for ‘contempt of court’.

“I am of the view that all institutions have a duty to uphold the constitution,” he said at the time, in response to the EC’s efforts to conclude presidential polls within the legally mandated – article 111 of the constitution.

“According to the constitution, the Supreme Court’s word is final only in respect of the interpretation of provisions of constitution and law. Here, the Supreme Court had not given an interpretation on Article 111. However, Judicature Act says that all state institutions must abide by the rulings made by courts.”


Two more MNDF officers suspended indefinitely, Brigadier General removed from command

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has suspended two more officers, and removed Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal from his position as the Commandant of Training and Doctrine (CTD).

The move comes just three days after the MNDF introduced an amendment to its own regulations to include a chapter that imposes punishments and penalties against officers who incite ‘upheaval and chaos’ within the military ranks.

Hours after the new amendments were brought into force, First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef was handed an ‘indefinite suspension’ from the service on the grounds that he was found guilty of attempting to cause upheaval and chaos within the military rank.

During the early hours of Friday, the MNDF in a statement on its website made the announcement that two more officers – Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed and Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid – had been given an indefinite suspension.

According to the statement, both the officers had been suspended under the section 4(a) of the MNDF Employment Regulation – the same provision which the MNDF justified the suspension of First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef.

The statement claimed that Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed had been suspended for inciting “upheaval and discord” among the ranks of the military while Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid had been suspended for “disseminating confidential information to the public without authorisation”.

Meanwhile, the suspensions also coincided with the removal of Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal from his position as Commandant of Training and Doctrine (CTD).

Brigadier General Shamaal, who was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General in 2010 during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, has undergone extensive military training and education, acquiring expertise in the field of defense and security studies.

He is currently a member of United Nations Senior Experts on Security Sector Reform (SSR) Roster – the first ever Maldivian to acquire membership on the roster.

Apart from the Commandant of Training and Doctrine of MNDF, Brigadier General Shamaal is also a Commandant of the MNDF Marine Corp.

MNDF Media Official Colonel Abdul Raheem confirmed to local media that two officers Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed and Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid had been suspended indefinitely.

He also confirmed that Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal had been removed from his position, but said he did not exactly know the reason for the removal. However, Colonel Raheem said that MNDF has not yet taken any decision to remove Brigadier General Shamaal from his position as Commandant of the MNDF Marine Corp.

The ‘anti upheaval and chaos’ amendment that has now become the 22nd chapter of the Military Regulation dictates that upheavals and chaos that are incited through speech, writing, action or gesture among members of the military will be subjected to administrative punishments and penalties.

The new definition of incitement of ‘upheaval and chaos’ laid down in the new amendment includes:

  • Making demands through petitions drawn among two or more officers
  • Displaying content that could sow discord and disorder amongst military flanks through speech, writing, graphical depictions, photographs or any other means
  • Speech or conduct that amounts to doubts and questions being raised about the legality of an order given to the officers or a group of officers and
  • Incitement of hatred and false allegations towards the upper ranks of the military.

The suspensions and actions taken against senior MNDF officers are believed to have begun following a letter of concern sent to the Chief of Defense Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam by senior officers of the MNDF.

In the letter, the officers raised concerns over threats to national security and internal security following the recent Supreme Court order to indefinitely suspend the run-off election of the Presidential Election – which could possibly lead the country to a state of constitutional limbo.

A leaked copy of the letter obtained by Minivan News suggested that Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal was the first person to sign the letter.

MNDF Media Official Colonel Raheem – a signatory of the letter himself – confirmed the authenticity of the letter, telling Minivan News last week that it had been intended to inform the MNDF leadership of their “concerns about political turbulence in the country right now and how the military should plan and prepare for it”.

In a similar notion, Former Male Area Commander of MNDF Retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi – who is publicly regarded as a hero for his exploits during the 1988 Tamil coup attempt – in a letter published on social media advised military officers to uphold the law and constitution regardless of who attempted to undermine it.

“My advice to the military officers is: ‘Do not give the opportunity to anyone who plans to rule this country by taking the laws to their own hands and override the constitution and undermine the constitutional framework of this country’,” wrote the ex-Brigadier General.


JSC suspends Chief Judge of the High Court

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has indefinitely suspended Chief Judge of the High Court, Ahmed Shareef, over a complaint filed against the judge last year.

JSC Chair and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla insisted at a press conference today that the disciplinary action had no relation to the ongoing High Court case filed by former President Mohamed Nasheed contesting the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench appointed by the commission.

The suspension was a “precautionary” measure while investigation of the complaint was proceeding, he claimed.

“There are no legal grounds to stop looking into a complaint submitted [to the commission] or halt proceedings,” he said, adding that ongoing court cases and disciplinary proceedings at the JSC were “two completely different systems.”

High Court Chief Judge Shareef was summoned to the JSC earlier this month almost a year after the complaint was lodged.

Meanwhile, a hearing of Nasheed’s case scheduled at the High Court today was cancelled after one of the judges took a leave of absence.

The chief judge – who is among the three judges presiding over the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate’s case – was suspended over a complaint filed by seven other High Court judges, Justice Adam Mohamed revealed.

The decision was approved at a JSC meeting today with three votes in favour and one against.

According to local media, Attorney General Aishath Bisham, President’s Member Mohamed ‘Reynis’ Saleem and Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi voted in favour while Public Member Shuaib Abdul Rahman voted against the motion.

Lawyers’ Representative Ahmed Rasheed and Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan reportedly abstained while High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed did not participate in the vote.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Majlis Member MP Gasim Ibrahim did not attend the meeting.

Shuaib told private broadcaster Raajje TV following the meeting that the decision was made in violation of due process and JSC procedures as a report regarding the allegations against the chief judge was not presented to the commission members.

The motion or petition to suspend Shareef was proposed by Attorney General Bisham, who is yet to receive parliamentary consent for her appointment.

Meanwhile, at the press conference this evening, Justice Adam Mohamed refused to reveal either the details of the vote or the members in attendance despite repeated queries from reporters.

He also refused to state which High Court judge would take over the chief judge’s administrative functions.

In June 2012, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was asked to investigate allegations that Chief Judge Shareef met officials of Nexbis in Bangkok, Thailand while a case concerning the controversial border control project awarded to the Malaysian mobile security firm was scheduled at the High Court.

According to newspaper Haveeru, Shareef had applied for a leave of absence from May 30 to July 1 before the JSC made its decision today.

The local daily also reported that today’s hearing of the former president’s case was cancelled after Judge Abbas Shareef took a last minute leave.

Former President Nasheed’s office said in a statement today that the hearing was “unexpectedly cancelled three hours prior” to the scheduled time.

“We condemn the actions of the Maldivian courts, which violate the electoral rights of nearly 50,000 Maldivian Democratic Party members. Today’s disruption to President Nasheed’s campaign trip to Raa atoll is an unnecessary, politically motivated challenge. The JSC continues to try and cover up the unconstitutional manner in which they appointed the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench through attempts at influencing the judiciary, while the Courts create logistical challenges such as today’s.  However, it does not stop affect the spirit of President Nasheed’s campaign,” MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, Nasheed’s spokeswoman, said after the cancellation.

Nasheed meanwhile returned to Raa Atoll today to resume his presidential campaign.

“Undue influence”

The MDP organised a march against the JSC on Saturday (May 25) to protest JSC Chair Adam Mohamed’s alleged attempts to unduly influence the trial of former President Nasheed.

The party contended that Justice Adam Mohamed was abusing his power and authority as head of the judicial watchdog body to intimidate judges on the High Court bench.

On April 1, the High Court ordered the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to suspend Nasheed’s trial pending a ruling on the legitimacy of the panel of judges appointed by the JSC to preside over the case.

In the first hearing of the High Court case, the JSC contested the High Court’s jurisdiction to rule on the legality of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench constituted by the commission.

The JSC has sent letters to the High Court requesting expedition of Nasheed’s case, the party noted in a press release.

The MDP objected to the judicial oversight body summoning the Chief Judge of the High Court for questioning over a complaint filed a year ago.

The move amounted to intimidation of judges and undue influence on judicial processes, the party contended, calling on the JSC to cease its “dirty and cowardly” efforts as the commission was the adverse party or respondent in the High Court case.

“Actions such as these are seen as thinly veiled attempts at influencing the Judiciary,” the former president’s office said today.

The JSC responded to the protest march with a statement of its own the following day, appealing against “obstruction” of the commission’s constitutional and legal responsibilities.

The JSC noted that the constitution and Judicial Service Commission Act of 2008 mandated the commission to investigate complaints against judges and enforce disciplinary measures.

The commission was entrusted with powers to summon and question persons and take witness testimonies, the JSC stated.

There were “no legal or constitutional grounds” to interpret carrying out the commission’s legal responsibilities as intimidation or exerting undue influence on judges, the statement added.

The JSC statement concluded by calling on all parties to “not commit any act or participate in any activity that could obstruct the constitutional and legal responsibilities and duties of the commission.”

Meanwhile, in her report to the United Nations Human Rights Council following a visit to the Maldives in February 2013, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul wrote that “the trial of the former President raises serious concerns regarding the fairness of proceedings.”

Knaul questioned the constitutionality of the Hulhumale’ Court and the appointment of the three-member panel of judges, “which seems to have been set up in an arbitrary manner, without following procedures set by law.”

She also expressed concern with “the significant backlog of complaints with the Judicial Service Commission that are not dealt with or at least are perceived as not being dealt with. Some judges that have several complaints and cases for misconduct against them are still sitting.”

Moreover, Knaul wrote that according to several judges, “disciplinary procedures before the Commission lead to public humiliation and damages to their reputation.”

“Some even said that, when summoned by the Commission, the principle of presumption of innocence is not respected and they do not have appropriate time and access to information to prepare for their cases. Judges are also often not told for what allegations they are being investigated. It is common that, after an appearance before the Commission, judges are not informed if their case was dropped, if a decision was taken, or if it is still pending,” Knaul wrote.

“The Special Rapporteur is worried that disciplinary proceedings before the Judicial Services Commission are not in line with international law and principles, and may sometimes be used to expose and question the integrity of judges and magistrates before the media and the general public before the conclusion of a proper investigation into the allegations. She wishes to underline that, according to the Basic Principles on the independence of the judiciary, judges are entitled to a fair hearing under an appropriate procedure, which should be subject to an independent review.”

Among a number of recommendations to reform the Maldivian justice system, Knaul suggested taking “appropriate measures to enforce the code of conduct of judges in a transparent and consistent manner, with full respect for the fundamental guarantees of fair hearing and bearing in mind the importance of the reputation of judges and magistrates.”


High Court overturns Criminal Court’s July 2010 suspension of senior police officers

The High Court on Tuesday overturned the Criminal Court’s suspension of two senior police officers in July 2010, ruling that Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s decision to bar Superintendent Mohamed Jinah and Inspector Mohamed Riyaz from the court for six months was unlawful.

The pair was suspended after they appeared in court over the detention of then-opposition MPs Abdulla Yameen, Ahmed Nazim and Gasim Ibrahim on charges of bribery and treason.

The suspension for alleged contempt of court was appealed at the High Court by the Attorney General’s Office on July 21, 2010.

Police meanwhile filed a complaint against the chief judge at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) alleging “obstruction of high-profile corruption cases.”

The JSC has however not completed an investigation of the complaint to date. The case is among 168 complaints that the commission has yet to conclude as of December 2011, according to the JSC annual report for 2011 (Dhivehi).

In January 2012, the JSC revealed that there were 11 complaints filed at the commission against Judge Abdulla Mohamed, including allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Procedural fairness

In its judgment on Tuesday (Dhivehi) – more than two years after the case was registered – the High Court ruled that the administrative action against Jinah and Riyaz was neither procedurally fair nor in accordance with regulations on holding persons in contempt of court.

A police media official told Minivan News at the time that court had “sent a letter signed by the Chief Judge of the court to Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh. The letter did not mention any specific reason [for the suspensions], only ‘ethical grounds’.”

The High Court noted that the Criminal Court did not reply to a letter from the Maldives Police Service – sent two days after receiving the letter from the Criminal Court on July 11 informing the Police Commissioner of the suspension – seeking clarification concerning the unprecedented action.

Police had asked the court to clarify the date the hearing in question took place, the nature of the contempt allegedly exhibited by the pair or the alleged violation of ethical codes, whether it had taken place outside the hearing and whether the police officers were given any warning prior to the administrative action.

While article 43 of the constitution guarantees the right to “administrative action that is lawful, procedurally fair and expeditious,” the High Court noted that due process was not followed by the Criminal Court as the officers were not informed either of the reasons for the action or “the date of the incident”.

The High Court ruling also referred to article 68 of the constitution, which states, “When interpreting and applying the rights and freedoms contained within this Chapter, a court or tribunal shall promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, and shall consider international treaties to which the Maldives is a party.”

“Obstruction of investigations”

Appearing on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on July 17, 2010, then-Deputy Commissioner of Police Ismail Atheef explained that Jinah and Riyaz had appeared in court on July 9.

However, the letter from Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed informing police of the suspension was received two days later on July 11.

“If someone is in contempt of the court, action has to be taken immediately according to provision five of the court regulations,” he noted.

Atheef added that the detectives were not given any warning nor had their conduct in court been noted by the journalists who were present.

“So when this letter came to us, the way police interpret it is that this is an obstruction specifically of our investigation,” he claimed.

It was the first time that police officers were suspended from the Criminal Court, Atheef said.

The former Deputy Commissioner contended that the suspension was a deliberate obstruction because Riyaz and Jinah, as the two lead detectives and top police lawyers, would have had to appear at court to seek an extension for MP Nazim’s detention.

Meanwhile, Jinah was among a number of senior officers assaulted by mutinying police inside the police headquarters before the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012.

Following the police mutiny at the Republic Square and violent clashes with military officers, Jinah was handcuffed and taken to the Dhoonidhoo detention island.

Local media reported this week that Jinah was demoted from the rank of chief superintendent to superintendent on November 19.

Jinah was reportedly demoted over remarks he made to the media following the arrest of Gassan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

However, in June this year, the Civil Court ruled in favour of Jinah in a case filed by Gassan claiming violation of his basic rights by the superintendent. In October 2011, Gassan was arrested on suspicion of hurling a wooden block into a crowd of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protesters outside the former president’s residence.

While the former head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED) has reportedly decided to leave the Maldives Police Service, police have said the request made last month has not yet been granted as the disciplinary board was investigating a case involving the senior officer.


Date to resume parliamentary sessions “yet to emerge”, claims MDP

An exact date for resuming parliamentary sessions in the Maldives has “yet to emerge” following the suspension of the Majlis Speaker, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said, as government-aligned parties request for the chamber to be reopened to MPs.

MDP MP and spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today that the decision by Speaker Abdulla Shahid to suspend parliament “indefinitely” on July 31 had been the correct course of action, adding that MPs were on the “right track” to finding a potential resolution during the final 10 days of Ramazan.

Despite the claims, government-aligned MPs have continued to criticise the conduct of the MDP over the Majlis suspension.  The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has this week urged that parliamentary sessions continue with the assistance of security forces to remove any members attempting to disrupt hearings.

Speaker Shahid at the time of announcing the suspension of parliament said that MDP MPs had confronted him in his private chambers after party member Mohamed Rasheed ‘Kubey’ was forcibly removed at the beginning of sitting.

“Moreover, confrontations occurred between MPs in the chamber to the point of becoming dangerous,” an official statement read, adding that “an atmosphere of calm necessary to conduct sittings could not be assured” as all recent sittings had to be cancelled due to disorder.

Shahid explained that he decided to invoke the Speaker’s authority under section 213(e) of the rules of procedure to cancel sittings indefinitely as he believed a political solution had to be sought through dialogue among parliamentary group leaders.

However, local media yesterday reported that DQP Vice President and Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed had sent a letter to the speaker citing the conduct and perceived role of the MDP in having parliament suspended as an “infringement” of democratic rights in the country.

As well as calling for notification of the present situation to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), Riyaz was quoted by local newspaper Haveeru as calling for parliament to press ahead with its work to amend and enact national legislation such as through the various parliamentary committees.

“The work of the committees is stalled due to the suspended parliament. Hence as the laws to combat the rising crime rates, unrest, violence and acts of terrorism are held up at the committees, we request [the Speaker] facilitate the resumption of Parliament sessions and Committees,” a letter attributed to Riyaz read.

“Article 105 of the Constitution obligates the security forces to assist the speaker.”

When contacted today, DQP Secretary General Abdulla Ameen forwarded Minivan News to Riyaz himself for a response to the letter, however the MP was not answering calls at the time of press.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the DQP’s coalition partner the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) said it had not been involved in any talks to resume the Majlis sessions.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader and MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom nonetheless called on the MDP to give up on its “stubbornness” and respect democratic rights in the nation in order to facilitate parliament resuming its work.

Dr Mausoom did not elaborate on the exact commitments he believed the MDP should make regarding addressing its “stubbornness”.

Meanwhile, MDP MP Ghafoor contended that the suspension of parliament had been the result of an understanding with the speaker concerning “internal security” in the Majlis chamber.

“The Majlis is not a place where you should be forced to remove an MP from chamber, it was not feasible to continue like that,” he said, concerning the atmosphere in parliament leading to the institution’s suspension.

Ghafoor contended that the speaker had decided under existing parliamentary regulation to discontinue holding sessions in the Majlis until a solution to the current unrest could be found through proposed talks between parliamentary leaders.

“Dr Waheed is also invited to join the discussions,” he said. “As far as I know talks are on track.”

Ghafoor claimed that the party had nonetheless committed to calling off it’s “direct action” street protests – conducting on consecutive nights last month as part of aims to “topple” the present government of President Waheed. The MDP alleges the administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan came to power on February 7 in a “coup d’etat”.

“Although we are within our right to protest, we have suspended these protest for the last ten days of Ramazan,” he said. “We have done this voluntarily to give enough time for talks to be conducted in the Majlis and this is shaping up well.”

According to Ghafoor, the decision to stop protests during the remainder of the Islamic holy month had been in order to open talks with government-aligned parties and the president within the Majlis to outline a plan to move forward with parliament.

“I believe we are on the right track [regarding recommencing parliamentary sessions],” he claimed. “There is now a ten day window for all parties represented in the Majlis to hold discussions. All the conditions are right for talks to resume.”

Sun Online reported today that discussions were taking place between representatives of the government coalition parties on whether President Waheed should join the proposed discussions between the country’s parliamentary group leaders.

The report added that the president was presently yet to decide on whether he would be participating in talks in line with requests from the opposition MDP.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News today that aside from the previously proposed all-party talks that were established by as part of a wider roadmap plan announced in February, Doctor Waheed was not presently involved in trying to resolve the issue of parliament’s suspension.


Parliament agrees to extend General Regulations Act in spite of Majlis suspension

Parliament briefly reconvened today despite its ongoing suspension, as both government-aligned and opposition MPs agreed on extending the General Regulations Act until April 2013.

The General Regulations Act – parent legislation for 47 regulations governing a number of government and party political functions – was due to elapse at midnight today creating fears of a potential “legal void”.  This was avoided after the act was renewed with cross party support in a brief Majlis session held following discussions between the country’s key political parties in recent days.

However, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayythithunge Party (DRP) has said that “no party in the country” stood to gain from the continued political deadlock that saw parliament suspended indefinitely last week amidst forced cancellations.

Despite the Majlis suspension, 48 MPs out of 51 present in the chamber voted in favour of extending the regulations contained in the General Regulations Act during this morning’s session.  The session was concluded with a vote 15 minutes after commencing.

Both Parliamentary Speaker Adbulla Shahid and his deputy, Ahmed Nazim, were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press following today’s vote.

General regulations

The General Regulations Act was passed prior to the adoption of the new constitution on August 7, 2008 as a parent legislation for over 80 regulations without a statutory basis, or were not formulated under an Act of parliament. These included regulations for political parties, freedom of assembly, criminal justice procedures, companies and finance leasing transactions, insurance, jails and parole, freedom of information and building codes.

Article 271 of the constitution states, “Regulations derive their authority from laws passed by the People’s Majlis pursuant to which they are enacted, and are enforceable pursuant to such lawful authority. Any regulations requiring compliance by citizens must only be enacted pursuant to authority granted by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis.”

The parent act prolonged the lifespan of the regulations for a one year period until new legislation, such as a Criminal Procedures Act, Evidence Act, Freedom of Information Act and Political Parties Act, could be enacted.

The act provided for further extensions based on recommendations by parliament’s Rules Committee. The last extension was approved in December 2011.

Addressing today’s vote, DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef said that the parent act has been renewed every year since the new constitution came into affect to ensure government was able to function correctly – with parliament failing to have to passed certain key legislative requirements.

Despite the approval, Sharref claimed that “any political party” seeking to stall the Majlis from functioning had nothing to gain beyond adding to current public disillusion with the current democratic process in the nation.

“It is not for the good of the nation for any one political party to stall parliament. The parliament must work efficiently, as it is the only place where we as politicians can debate,” he said. “I believe that parliament must find a solution quickly [to the current Majlis deadlock] as there is much disillusion among the public who had believed democracy was designed to solve problems.”

Shareef contended that in the current environment, “many people” in the country appeared to be questioning the direction of democracy in the Maldives.

“I am not sure whether people may have been expecting too much? I wouldn’t like to say. But right now what has democracy brought us? The nation is polarised as it never has been before, where even some families are not speaking due to political divides,” he said.

“Something somewhere appears to have gone terribly wrong with democracy. It is not enhancing welfare or development here.”

When questioned as to the possible solutions to apparent public apathy regarding parliament’s work, Shareef claimed it was the duty of all parties to return to negotiating through the Majlis to try and settle political differences without hindering legislative process.

“All the main parties need to understand that the country is going down the drain right now,” he said. “No one party to stands to gain in the present environment and they need to help find a solution and stop inciting violence, by putting forward an agenda.”

While not naming a specific party, Shareef’s calls to stop “inciting violence”, were made as President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government – with whom the DRP serves as part of a coalition government – said is would not not consider reconvening talks with opposition leader, former President Mohamed Nasheed until threats of violence ceased.

Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which represents country’s only elected opposition, said last week it would not rule out halting ongoing protests to facilitate fresh “high-level talks” with its political rivals. However, the party said it would only do so if it obtained  “substantial” commitments from government-aligned parties.

Proposed “Roadmap” talks were launched in February with the stated aim of overcoming the political deadlock resulting from the controversial transfer of power that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan into office. Former President Nasheed and his party continue to allege that Waheed came to power in  a “coup d’etat” – and that the government is illegitimate.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News last week that while the party’s protests which it maintains are “largely peaceful”, were “totally within” the law, it would not be a “big deal” to stop the street demonstrations if it would help secure meaningful talks.

However, Ghafoor claimed that the party was ultimately sceptical over the commitment of government-aligned parties to ensure “substantial” and “worthwhile” dialogue.

“We have always maintained dialogue is the best way to proceed in the current situation,” he claimed. “What we have seen in the last party talks has just been ridiculous demands such as the issues about keeping crows and using black magic. We found out as a party that we are not dealing with serious people.”

The last round of the UN-mediated talks, held at Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort and Spa in early June, collapsed after parties aligned with the government presented the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with a list of 30 demands.

The list included calls that the MDP “stop practising black magic and sorcery”, “stop the use of sexual and erotic tools”, and “not walk in groups of more than 10”.