President Yameen delivers first presidential address

President Abdulla Yameen today delivered his first presidential address in the parliament’s first official session after recess.

President Yameen detailed his administration’s achievements – claiming success in all the 100-day initiatives.

He explained that the executive had now drafted a legislative agenda for the next five years which would be gradually submitted to parliament in the form of draft bills.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has described the address as “taciturn and rather nonsensical”, arguing that major issues such as the Supreme Court and the recent HIV scandal at IGMH were ignored.

Opening the ceremony, Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid noted that this was first instance where an MP has been unable to attend the presidential address due to incarceration, referring to MP Abdulla Jabir.

Shahid also condemned the attack on MDP MP Alhan Fahmy, calling for the cessation of all acts against the implementation of rule of law and legal obligations. Alhan attended today’s ceremony returning from Sri Lanka where he underwent spinal surgery following his February stabbing.

The president began his address by noting that, although national debt would increase this year to MVR31 billion, the debt percentage can be maintained at 78 percent of GDP in 2014.

Government developments

Yameen said that the government had decided to construct a youth city in Hulhumalé and that physical work on construction of a bridge connecting capital city Malé to the airport island Hulhulé will begin before the end of the year.

He added that once the development of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Hulhumalé is completed, it can be maintained for use for a duration of at least 50 years, and that the construction of two new airports – in Kulhudhuhfushi and Felivaru – have now been opened for bidding.

Yameen also spoke of the need to strengthen investor confidence, and pledged to eradicate all obstacles and difficulties currently faced by foreign investors.

Yameen noted that the number of tourist arrivals had already increased to 348,000 in the past three months, stating that this added US$70 million to government earnings. He added that the government intended to introduce tourism to atolls currently not involved in the sector.

Regarding the fisheries sector, Yameen stated that a system has been put in place where fishermen who earn less than MVR10,000 a month will be given financial aid from the state. He added that this will commence in a period of two months.

He also pledged that scholarship schemes will be offered in the near future to students who pass a minimum of three GCE Advanced Level subjects.

On the topic of health services, Yameen stated that arrangements are being made to introduce new health facilities – including ambulance speedboats – to the country. He added that an initiative has now begun where existing health institutions are being categorised and supplied with the necessary medical equipment.

The president said that the government would shortly submit a bill to parliament seeking to provide financial aid to persons with special needs,as well as a bill seeking the establishment of special economic zones within the country.

MDP Response

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy described President Yameen’s address as ignoring many pressing issues, suggesting that he appeared “disconnected with what is happening here and now”.

“To begin with, the whole country is appalled and in shock about the HIV infected blood transfusion at IGMH which recently came to be known of. And yet, there was no apology or even a mention of the matter,” said Fahmy

Fahmy suggested that the president spend excessive time discussing administrative issues such as queues outside government offices and phones not being answered efficiently at the expense of issues of wider importance, such as the judiciary.

“This is something the whole world is talking about, that our judiciary needs to be reformed. And yet, Yameen did not even mention them,” Fahmy continued.

“He also failed to condemn the way the Elections Commission is being unconstitutionally dragged to the Supreme Court at a time when there is an election looming overhead.”

The party’s official response will be delivered via the Majlis.


President Yameen’s India visit postponed

President Abdulla Yameen’s visit to India – his first official trip overseas – has been postponed, his Press Secretary Ibrahim Muaz Ali has today confirmed .

An official date for the trip is yet to be revealed. However, Indian newspaper ‘The Hindu’ has reported that it will be delayed until next year. According to the paper, the reason is that Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s will be absent from the capital from 20 December till next year.

President Yameen’s visit was prompted by an Invitation from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November, in reply to a letter expressing the President Yameen’s determination to strengthen bilateral relations with India.

Yameen’s trip comes as he attempts to improve the recently-strained Indo-Maldives relationship. As a prelude to the President’s visit, Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim took an official trip to India from 11-15 December, responding to an invitation from his counterpart.


Islam the core theme as PPM, MDP hold final rallies

Additional reporting by Ahmed Naish

The parties contesting Saturday’s presidential run offs have held final campaign rallies focusing on Islam in Malé tonight.

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) promoted itself as the only choice to preserve the Islamic faith and sovereignty of the Maldives and heavily criticised international pressure following delays in presidential polls.

“When you go to vote next Saturday, think for yourselves, do you want Islam in the Maldives or do you want to allow space for other religions in the Maldives,” PPM presidential candidate Yameen Abdul Gayoom said.

President of 30 years and Yameen’s half-brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, called on the Maldives to leave the Commonwealth after the organisation placed the Maldives on its formal agenda pending the conclusion of presidential polls.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), meanwhile, defended its track record on Islamic Affairs during its three year stint in government and described Saturday’s vote as a decision between progress or the torture of Maldives’ authoritarian past.

Criticising the PPM’s sustained negative campaign, MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed said: “In this long campaign, they have used Islam as a tool to play with Maldivian hearts. They are spreading lies in this country, describing us as irreligious, and saying there are those who will allow the opportunity for other religions in this country. I assure you, as long as we breathe, there will be no space for another religion in the Maldives.”

The MDP and PPM gained 46.93 and 29.73 percent of the vote respectively. The third placed Jumhoree Party with 23.34 percent decided to back the PPM on Wednesday.

Foreign interference

Speakers at the PPM’s rally – held at Alimas Carnival – celebrated the alliance with the JP, praised President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan for staying in power beyond his term and condemned international criticism as undue interference in the Maldives’ domestic affairs.

Speaking to hundreds of supporters, Gayoom criticised foreign ambassadors’ pressure on Dr Waheed to hand over power to the People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid at the end of the current presidential term on November 10.

Ambassadors without “any manners” had “disrespected” Waheed by “turning up unannounced 10–12 times in a single day” at the President’s Office, demanding appointments and pressuring the president to resign, Gayoom said.

An hour before the expiry of the presidential term, Waheed declared he would stay on as president until the conclusion of presidential polls on November 16, but left the country indefinitely tonight on a private visit to Singapore. The Finance Ministry today confirmed Waheed had withdrawn MVR 525,000 (US$34,000) from the treasury for a supposed state visit to Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Gayoom went on to censure the Commonwealth for interference in Maldives’ domestic affairs and called on a new president-elect to “take steps to leave the Commonwealth.”

Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim said the Maldives was at present in a “vulnerable state” due to foreign interference and slammed the international community for pressuring Dr Waheed to hand over power to the Speaker.

He also called on the police and military to vote for Yameen.

JP leader Qasim Ibrahim accused the international community of backing a specific candidate in order to dictate the Maldives’ domestic policies. He also criticised at length Nasheed’s privatisation policies, particularly the decision to grant Ibrahim Nasir International Airport to India’s infrastructure giant GMR.

Dr Waheed declared the concession agreement void in November 2012.

“My appeal to you, to anyone I have helped, I am not asking for payment in kind, but save this Ummah. I am begging you to vote for Yameen,” Gasim said.

MDP’s final campaign rally

Speaking at the final campaign rally to a crowd of around 6000, Nasheed expressed confidence that “a government of the people will be established next Saturday.”

The new government will “fulfill your hopes, work for the people, provide social security, develop the economy at a rapid pace, increase the country’s finances and treasury again, and establish justice and fairness once again,” the MDP presidential candidate said.

“We didn’t hear anywhere, on any island, what PPM would do for this country. Their pledges were not budgeted or costed,” he said.

As Islam was “accorded the highest place in the hearts of Maldivians,” Nasheed said his opponents “used Islam as a weapon” to slander MDP with the label of “laadheenee” (irreligious or secular).

“I assure you, God willing, there will not be any room for another religion in this country as long as we draw breath,” he said.

Nasheed highlighted to the MDP government’s track record on Islamic affairs, which saw the formation of an Islamic Ministry and a Fiqh academy as well as the opening of an Islamic Bank.

“I had the good fortune of being the [Islamic] Bank’s first customer,” he said.

The MDP government also secured foreign financial assistance to upgrade the Faculty of Shariah and Law, constructed a new building for the Arabiyya School and trained Quran and Islam teachers to fill 150 vacancies in schools, Nasheed continued.

On the third day of the MDP government, Nasheed said, the government authorised scholars to deliver their own Friday sermons, which were previously “written only by President Maumoon and [former Chief Justice] Sheikh [Mohamed] Rasheed.”

“As you know, before our government, these scholars were in shackles in solitary confinement,” he said, adding that the MDP government secured the right for religious scholars to preach without fear of persecution.

While 55 mosques were built in the 30-year reign of President Gayoom, Nasheed said 42 mosques were built during the MDP’s three years in government.

The 96,000 votes that the MDP won in the first round was proof that the allegations of “secularism” were not damaging to the party, Nasheed said.

However, the persistent allegations were creating doubts in the minds of younger generation, he contended.

The MDP’s policies for the next five years included training 300 Quran teachers to first degree level, conducting an international Islamic conference with renowned foreign scholars and the construction of an “Islamic Knowledge Centre” with a library, lecture halls, and a mosque with a capacity of 500 worshippers.

Nasheed went on to say that the goal of the MDP was seeking “the proud Maldivian” who can stand tall and provide for his family through honest work.

The MDP government would “build a completely new nationhood based on Islam, human rights, social security and economic opportunity,” he said.

The government would secure a better income for fishermen and promote mariculture, he said.

Nasheed pledged to provide housing to every applicant of the MDP government’s flagship “Veshi Fahi Male'” de-congestion programme.

Nasheed also vowed to reform the judiciary for the public to have confidence in the justice system and Maldivian courts.

Referring to the MDP government’s “Second Chance” programme, Nasheed said he would not forget “youth languishing in jails.”

“Our country is at a crossroads, on the edge of a razor blade. We can reach a safe shore or go down the path of ruin. I am certain that the people of the Maldives will choose saving the country. I know the the Maldivian people will want a prosperous life. I am certain that the Maldivian people will want once again for a Maldivian Democratic Party government to be formed, for social security, for a better way,” he concluded.

Speaking at tonight’s rally, former Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari – who joined MDP today – said there were more than 300 religious scholars in the Maldives and many supported MDP. Bari also praised MDP’s “landmark” Islamic policies.

Meanwhile, JP Council Member Moosa Rameez said he had decided to back Nasheed against his party’s decision not because he did not love Gasim. Rameez recounted security officers invoking God’s name when they beat him in his genitals and said he could not support a return to 30 years of torture.


Parties rally on penultimate day before polling

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held final campaign rallies on Thursday night ahead of the first round of presidential elections scheduled for November 9.

The Jumhooree Party did not hold a full scale rally on the evening.

The PPM promoted the party as the only party that would protect Islam and Maldives’ sovereignty and hailed the PPM’s presidential candidate Yameen Abdul Gayoom as an economic expert.

The MDP focused on themes of good governance, ensuring basic services such as medical care, transport and education and ending the authoritarianism of the past.

Yameen’s speech centered on alleged corruption during the three years MDP’s presidential candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed had stayed in power and the importance of protecting Islamic faith.

“Yellow is a colour that has quarantined our whole country. They sold our airport to foreigners, but with God’s will and the work of many united parties, we were able to get it back,” Yameen said, alleging “although it was done under a contract, it is still classified as corruption as it would have benefited the foreigners more than the people of our country,” continued Yameen.

Referring to a speech given by his Electoral Agent Abdulla Ameen – who had listed out 11 persons he alleged had gained large amounts of money through corrupt means during Nasheed’s administration – Yameen argued that Nasheed’s government had misused MVR4,700million.

“However, when Nasheed came to power, he made a Presidential Commission – outside constitutional provisions – to investigate Maumoon and his cabinet for corruption. They could not find any evidence against Maumoon, nor will they ever be able to. Is it still the thirty years [of Gayoom’s administration] that we should still be questioning?”

“We will give you the dignified life you want”: Nasheed

Speaking to thousands of supporters at Raalhugandu, MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed said, “We will defeat those who brought about a coup through the vote. God willing, we will win this election in one round. We will take the Maldives to safe shores.”

Saturday’s vote was a vote for a dignified life, shelter, medical care, transport, education and job opportunities, Nasheed said.

He spoke of the long journey Maldivians had traveled out of authoritarianism and the numerous setbacks along the way. He commended the determination of the Maldivian people to move forward.

He described the delay in voting as an attempt to destroy the constitution.

“It is always the people of this country who have the power to uphold the constitution. Saturday is an opportunity to use that power to save this state, this Maldives. Vote for me, god willing, we will make Maldives upright again. We will give you the dignified life you want,” he said.

The Maldives is rich in natural resources and Maldivians deserve a lot more than they currently have, Nasheed said.

He also said the Supreme Court’s annulment of the vote had in fact increased support for the MDP.

Speaking about the PPM and JP’s reluctance to sign the voter registry on Tuesday, Nasheed said the two parties had changed their minds because of international pressure.

“They say for the nation, for the country, but in truth at last they had to sign the voter list because a German tourist agency ordered them to. They had to sign because a tourist agency told them to. Because that’s where the dollars come from. [They] contest elections for dollars. [They] sign the voter lists for dollars. All of life is based around for dollars. Maldivians want to tell them I am a proud Maldivian. I will look after my children through honest work,” he said.


November 2 election date not possible: Elections Commission

The Elections Commission (EC) has this morning said that expediting the presidential polls by one week is not possible after all three candidates requested the election be moved from November 9 to November 2.

The EC has said that the commission lacks the facilities to do so in such a short period.

Speaking to the press outside the EC, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate and former president Mohamed Nasheed said that the three candidates would nevertheless continue to discuss concluding the presidential elections by the end of the current presidential term on November 11.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen also said he had not yet given up hope.

Yameen had requested a meeting with Nasheed and the Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate Gasim Ibrahim at 10:00pm last night after the People’s Majlis passed a resolution to hand over the presidency to the Majlis Speaker – MDP MP Abdulla Shahid – in the absence of a president-elect by November 11.

The PPM and JP had boycotted the Majlis vote, but the resolution passed with the support of 39 MDP and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs.

Speaking to the press outside Traders Hotel last night, Yameen said the three candidates had wanted an elected president to be sworn in at the end of the current presidential term on November 11.

“The most important matter we agreed on was to meet the Elections Commission tomorrow to ensure this election is transparent, credible and acceptable to all citizens. The first aspect of that is to expedite the date for the first round. If the elections [commission] can do it, to hold the election on next Saturday, [November] 2. Along with that, the second round, at the latest on November 9,” Yameen said.

He reiterated that the voter registry must be acceptable to all parties. He claimed the voter registry could be compromised as it was maintained electronically.

The candidates had asked the EC to start verification of re-registration forms immediately and to revise its work plan to hold elections by November 9.

“All of us three candidates want the election to be a fair decision by all citizens. To ensure we do not have to go to the courts again. We will not be unreasonable in this matter. Nasheed, Gasim and Yameen want this list to be accurate,” he said.

Current schedule, past record

According to EC timeline, a draft of the final voter list is to be publicized on November 1 and 2 and re-registration forms will be sent to the Department of National Registration on November 3 for verification.

The voter registry will be finalised, printed and sent to presidential candidates on November 4. Candidates will be asked to sign the voter lists on November 5 and 6.

Qasim said the three candidates will give the EC as much leeway as possible in expediting elections.

“We agreed, on November 11 an elected president must be sworn in. The three candidates [agreed] to give the Elections Commission as much leeway as possible while upholding the basic principles of the Supreme Court,” he said.

Expressing support for an election on November 2, Nasheed said he hoped two rounds of the presidential election are held before November 11.

“We spoke and agreed not to view each other with hatred, or think the other to damage the other, not to take that path, to do what we can to facilitate the development of the nation for the citizens,” Nasheed added.

The November 9 poll is the EC’s fourth attempt at holding presidential elections. The JP sought a vote annulment at the Supreme Court after narrowly placing third in the first round of presidential elections held on September 7.

With the Supreme Court verdict pending as the second round of elections approached on September 28, the EC decided to proceed with polls. However, the Supreme Court issued a midnight injunction ordering police to halt elections preparations.

Shortly afterwards, on October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the September 7 polls, citing widespread electoral fraud despite unanimous domestic and international observer praise of a free and fair electoral conduct.

The apex court ordered a revote by October 20 and delineated 16 electoral guidelines for including obtaining candidates signatures on the voter registry and obtaining police help in dispatching ballot boxes and papers to polling stations.

However, the EC was unable to proceed with polling after police forcibly halted the election at the eleventh hour following the government’s refusal to facilitate polls without the PPM and JP having approved the voter registry.

The PPM and JP have accused the EC of fraud and have called for members to resign.

In an interview with Television Maldives (TVM), EC president Fuwad Thowfeek said the EC requires at least 21 days to hold an election. Fuwad said he could not ask his staff to work like “pharaonic slaves” again.

“The Elections Commission believes it will take us 21 days to hold an election at the earliest. So if we start immediately, November 9 is the earliest date, with a shortened time frame for tasks,” he said.


Yameen and Nasheed to meet over election

Presidential candidate of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Abdulla Yameen has requested a meeting with Maldivian Democratic Party candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed over the upcoming presidential election scheduled for November 9, local media has reported.

Speaking to the press outside the People’s Majlis, Yameen’s Spokesperson Abdulla Muaz said the MDP had accepted the request and that the meeting would take place soon.

“PPM presidential candidate Yameen Abdul Gayoom will meet MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed. They are meeting about supporting each other during the presidential election,” Muaz said.

The revote of the first round of presidential elections was cancelled at the eleventh hour on October  19 after police prevented Elections Commission (EC) officials from leaving EC HQ with election related documents. Police said they would not support the election after PPM and Jumhooree Party (JP) refused to approve the voter registry.

The Supreme Court, in its verdict annulling the September 7 election, delineated 16 guidelines including obtaining candidates’ signatures on the voter registry. However, the guidelines did not say what the EC must do should candidates refuse to sign the registry.


Will Nasheed pull it off again in the run-off?

If there is anything unanticipated about the presidential polls in Maldives, it is the date of the run-off, second round. The Election Commission (EC) has declared that the second-round polling will be held on Saturday, 28 September, and not a week ahead as forecast earlier.

Otherwise, the Maldivian voter has given the expected verdict in the first round of polling on Saturday, 7 September. Despite hard-nosed campaigning by the four contenders, the voter has declared – for a second time in five years – that none in the race could win over their confidence and secure a mandate in the first round.

Given the contemporary nature of the nation’s politics, this time’s front-runner – and former president – Mohammed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has little elbow room to look for willing coalition partners for the second round in order to make up for the five-percent vote-gap that denied him a win in the first round. If the trend from the past continues, it could then be a coalition of the runners-up against the front-runner, who can at best then campaign in a ‘coalition with the people’ – which did not take the MDP to its electoral goal in the first round.

It has been a loud commentary on the state of politics since the country became a multi-party democracy five years ago. At the time, the MDP was a second-round beneficiary of a hasty coalition that was put in place after the results for the first round were out. Today, the very same party and the very same candidate who came to power on a coalition platform are contesting alone, and campaigning for a non-coalition set-up for the nation.

As per the EC declaration, Nasheed cornered a high 45.45 percent vote-share instead the 50 percent-plus-one vote required for a first-round victory. He was followed by former minister Abdulla Yameen, with 25.35 per cent, Gasim Ibrahim (24.07 percent), and incumbent President Mohammed Waheed Hassan (5.13 percent). Yameen belongs to the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), while Gasim is the founder of the Jumhooree Party (JP). President Waheed contested as an independent as his Gaumee Ittihad Party could not register the revised minimum 10,000-membership – unilaterally fixed by Parliament – after the MDP and PPM joined hands.

If electoral participation is the hallmark of any democracy, Maldives has it in abundance. The first-round voting figure this time was 88.48 percent of the total 240,000-strong electorate. It compares more enviable than the high 85.38 percent and the even higher 86.58 percent vote-share in the first and second round, respectively, in the first-ever multi-party presidential polls of 2008.

With a 15 percent increase in the electorate over the past five years, the voter-turnout this time is also a better reflection on the revived interest of the first-time voters in the democratic process than was anticipated during the run-up to the polls. However, with a second-round now on the cards, the competing parties would have to keep the voter-enthusiasm at an equally high, if not higher levels, in the second-round.

Gasim’s decision on the second-round alliance could also decide if he or his party would move to the court on their post-poll allegation of more voters than the registered number at some ballot-boxes. Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek, who announced the first round results five hours after the scheduled time in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday (September 8), denied the JP’s claim but has promised to look into specific complaints.

The judiciary’s position also ensured ‘inclusive elections’ that the international community in particular had sought, considering that no one in Maldives had contested the MDP’s position as the largest political party with the highest membership – and Nasheed as the most popular leader/candidate in the country. It is another matter that the judiciary at all levels had conducted themselves with the kind of dignity that political critics would not grant it – after the MDP-dominated Government Overseas Committee in Parliament had tried to haul up three subordinate judges trying Nasheed’s case.

A ‘few more thousand’ votes?

In his first reaction to the first-round results, Nasheed reportedly said that the party would launch its second-round campaign to get “a few more thousand votes” that he did not get to make for an outright victory. To be precise, with 95,244 votes in his kitty, Nasheed would have required 10,751 more votes to make it to the presidency in the first round.

Against this, PPM’s Yameen, a half-brother of party founder and Nasheed’s presidential predecessor Gayoom, declared that they would get 60 percent and more in the second-round. Clearly, he was referring to a non-MDP coalition, which would still have only added up to the higher, yet residual, 54.55 percent after deducting Nasheed’s take-home in the first-round.

Both claims read good on paper, but the ground realities are not as simple as that. The MDP leadership, cadre, and candidate needs to be congratulated for taking their vote-share from Nasheed’s 24.91 percent first-round figure in 2008 to 45.45 percent, an unprecedented 80 percent increase over past five years. Yet, with the party straining every nerve by the hour over the past one-and-half years, without leaving anything to chance, adding every new vote and every new voter (to the turnout) in the second-round is going to be more difficult than is acknowledged.

For Yameen, coalition-formation itself is the starting-point for problems or benefits – and in that order. PPM chief Gayoom lost no time in meeting party managers to discuss and finalise the second-round strategy even as the results from the first round were trickling in. Long before the first-round polls, he had pledged his support to Gasim, his own runner-up now, should the latter end up being the number two after Nasheed.

A reluctant Gasim returned the assurance much later. With his party contesting the vote-count for the second-place, it remains to be seen how Gasim – with possibly the highest number of ‘transferrable votes’ – would react. He could be expected to insist on a done-deal with the PPM (probably) not only for government-formation but also for the subsequent local council polls (December) and more importantly for the parliamentary elections, due in May 2014. It was in the absence of a fully-operational deal that he and his running-mate Hassan Saeed found themselves out of the Nasheed government even before the ink on their purported pacts had dried the last time round.

With Gasim’s JP heading a coalition itself, Yameen and PPM would also have to talk to the Adhaalath Party and Hassan Saeed’s Dhivehi Quamee Party, as well as President Waheed and his running-mate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. It can be protracted and painstaking, which in the glare of media lights, the Maldivian voter may not be happy about – given the character of an emerging coalition of the kind, after the past five years of instability and destabilisation.

In Gasim’s company was also Gayoom’s brother-in-law Ilyas Ibrahim, a former cabinet minister with his share of voters in certain islands. Ilyas had backed ‘PPM rebel’ Umar Naseer for the party’s presidential nomination. The two walked out of the PPM to back Gasim, and he cannot be seen as deserting the duo for Yameen without having second thoughts or commitments.

Should the second-round contest go on in a predicted way, then a lot would depend on the voter-turnout and the possibilities of many of them shifting loyalties from the first-round commitment. An exhausting first-round turnout also means that there is more room left for maneuverability. An additional percentage point or two could make the difference to the results in a way. A deduction in that figure could make any second-round prediction even more complex and complicated.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


JSC “fully controlled by political figures”: lawyer for Chief High Court judge

Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is set to face another court battle after attorneys representing Chief Judge of High Court Ahmed Shareef announced on Thursday that they would challenge the commission’s decision to suspend the judge.

Chair of JSC, Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed, had earlier held a press conference declaring the commission had decided to “indefinitely suspended” Chief Judge Shareef, over a complaint filed against the judge last year.

That decision came hours after the High Court temporarily halting the hearings of a case against the JSC lodged by former President Nasheed – who has accused the judicial watch-dog of exceeding its mandate in appointing the three-member judges panel to the Hulhumale Magistrate Court currently hearing a criminal case against him.

According to the JSC Chair, the suspension of Chief Judge Shareef – who is among the three judges presiding over the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed’s case – was a “precautionary” measure while investigation of the complaint was proceeding.

Judge Shareef in the new Civil Court lawsuit against the JSC will be represented by former Attorney General and veteran lawyer Husnu Al Suood and his law firm, Suood, Anwar and Co.

Briefing the media about the court case which is set to be filed on Sunday, Suood said that Chief Judge Shareef was suspended in contrast with the existing laws and the decision undermines the independence a Judge requires in executing his legal duties.

He said the Chief Judge’s team of counsels will plead in court that the decision by the JSC was an attempt to unduly exercise influence over judges.

He also added that once the case is registered at the Civil Court, a request will be made at the Supreme Court to take over the case, as has been the previous practice.

The Supreme Court previously took over the case filed at Civil Court by prominent lawyer Ismail Wisham against the JSC, challenging the legitimacy of the Hulhumale Magistrate Court it created.

The case was also represented by Suood, which eventually led to the Supreme Court endorsing the legitimacy of the controversial court in a 4 to 3 majority decision in which Chair of JSC and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed cast the controversial deciding vote, despite initial pleas against the judge sitting on the bench by Suood on the ground of ‘presumption of bias’.

“Not a small thing”

Speaking of the JSC’s decision, Suood – who is also the President of Maldives Bar Association – said the suspension coming after the JSC sitting’s on the case for a year was “not a small thing”.

“That is not a small thing when you get a suspension after one year. Suspending a country’s Chief Judge of High Court is not a small thing,” he said.

JSC Chair Adam Mohamed has meanwhile said “there are no legal grounds to stop looking into a complaint submitted [to the commission] or halt proceedings”.

According to local media reports, the call for an indefinite suspension of the Chief Judge was proposed to the JSC by the incumbent Attorney General Aishath Bisham – who is yet to receive parliament’s consent following her appointment – and was passed by the vote of three members out of the 10-member commission.

Those who voted in favour included two representatives of the executive branch, the attorney general herself, the President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s representive Mohamed ‘Reynis’ Saleem, and a third vote by Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi.

The public’s member to the JSC Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman opposed the motion while lawyers’ eepresentative Ahmed Rasheed and Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan abstained. High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed did not participate in the vote.

Both the Speaker of parliament Abdulla Shahid and Parliament’s representee to the commission MP Gasim Ibrahim did not attend the meeting.

Politically motivated and influenced

Suood said the JSC’s passing of a motion to suspend the judge with a vote of just three members – two of whom represented the executive – lead to presumption that the vote had been influenced.

He said that such a grave motion being passed by the support of just three members also led to the belief that the JSC was seeking to undermine the independence of the judges.

“There is reason to believe this decision had political motives behind it,” said the veteran lawyer.

Suood further said the decision could also be perceived as a way to prevent a further delay of the case filed by Nasheed, who is contesting the legality of the three-member judges panel appointed to Hulhumale Magistrate Court by the JSC.

“The JSC is one party to the ongoing High Court case of which Chief Judge Shareef is among the judges who presiding over the case. It is wrong in every aspect for JSC to take action against the judge,” he said. “Due to such actions, public confidence in state institutions is being lowered day by day.”

“Entire judiciary under the influence of retired Supreme Court Judge Mujthaaz Fahmy” – Suood

Suood also alleged that two parliament members and a retired Supreme Court judge have long been influencing the work of judges and their verdicts on several cases.

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

He further contested that his allegations were based on evidence, and said he would do everything possible to make the judiciary free from such undue influences.

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

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

Despite claiming to have strong evidence to support his allegations, Suood admitted that it would be extremely difficult for the authorities to take action against the three individuals.

JSC juggling judges to appease politicians

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

He alleged that in a bid to serve the interests of a few politicians, the JSC was planning to juggle judges from court to court and even had planned to give salary increments to certain judges.

Among the planned switches, Suood claimed that Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed – who was taken into military detention during former President Nasheed’s administration over allegations of gross judicial misconduct – is set to be transferred to Civil Court, while JSC member and Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi will become the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court.

Among other changes, Suood claimed that JSC had been working to transfer the two “best serving” Civil Court Judges – Judge Aisha Sujoon and Judge Mariyam Nihayath to the Drug Court.

“These things are carried out under a great plan. They are installing judges to courts as they please,” Suood said.


All the three individuals accused by Suood have dismissed the allegations in responses given to local media.

Speaking at a membership event held in PPM’s headquarters on Friday night, PPM’s presidential hopeful Yameen Abdul Gayoom denied the allegations, describing them as an “outright lie”.

“The JSC is taking action against a judge. They don’t have judges sitting on the JSC. Therefore I do not believe anyone can influence the JSC,” Yameen said.

He further expressed his frustration over the allegations claiming that it had become common for people to make erroneous and slanderous remarks against political figures.

“This would not have happened if defamation had been kept as a criminal offence. All this is happening because defamation has now been changed to a civil wrong,” he said.

He further said that even though he did not influence judges and their work, he admitted to speaking about lapses within the judiciary and the delaying of cases on public forums.

“It would be better for Suood to stop making such irresponsible comments and focus on working for his clients,” Yameen responded.


MP Yameen proposes Parliament look into EC Member sexual harassment allegations

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yameen has proposed that the Committee on Independent Institutions investigate allegations of sexual harassment against a member of the Elections Commission (EC).

Following a staff protest at the EC in March, a complaint was lodged with the oversight committee that some members were acting in breach of existing laws and regulations. A female employee of the EC who had attended a related committee meeting in June stated then that a member would take hold of her hand while she was serving drinks.

Chair of the committee Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed shared details of the issue. He stated that Yameen was referring to a matter where a female employee had stated that when she served coffee to a particular EC member, he would “take hold of [her] wrist and do something.”

Stating that the accused member had been summoned and questioned on the matter previously, Nasheed clarified that the issue was not an actual complaint filed by any staff member of EC.

Nasheed stated that after reviewing the responses the committee had at the time decided that it was not an issue that needed further attention.

However Yameen said that the matter should be reviewed under the clause regarding Personal Relations of Employees. He proposed that the employee who had made the allegation be summoned to committee to clarify more details of the matter.

Yameen raised the issue the day after the President of the Civil Service Commission Mohamed Fahmy was voted out of his post under sexual harassment allegations.

All PPM MPs who participated had voted against the removal of Fahmy.

Speaking at the debate on Fahmy’s removal, PPM MP Shifaq Mufeed said “We might be faced with an unrecoverable loss if we remove Fahmy, as he is a member of both the CSC and the JSC (Judicial Services Commission). If we remove Fahmy, there may come planned false allegations against other members of independent commissions.”

Elections Commission Vice President Ahmed Fayaz said that he had no knowledge of the matter.

“I have never received a complaint as such from any staff member about any EC members. Nor do I have any knowledge of such a complaint being even officially lodged, verbally or written, at either our commission, the police, gender ministry or anywhere else,” he added.

Minivan News tried contacting Yameen at the time of press, but he was not responding to calls at the time of press.