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Maldives: Unconstitutional Power Grab by the Supreme Court?:

Paper No 5958         Dated 23-June-2015
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
 
The Supreme Court of Maldives is said to have made yet another strike at the roots of democracy in Maldives.
 
 Earlier, last year it interfered with the conduct of the General elections and even went to the extent of sacking both the Election Commissioner and his Deputy for not adhering to the sixteen point guide lines issued by them on the conduct of the elections.
 
This time, it is said that the Supreme Court took up a “so motu” case for sedition against the Human Rights Commission of Maldives for sending a report on the judiciary wherein it had reported that the Supreme Court controlled and influenced the lower courts to the detriment of the Maldivian Judiciary.  This report was a routine one- “ Universal Periodic review” sent to the UN by the HRCM and is not mandated to consult the Judiciary on such reports.
 
It is alleged that as a reprisal against the report, the Supreme Court has issued a eleven-point guide lines for the Human Rights Commission to be followed and it specifically bars the Commission from communicating directly to the foreign governments without the government overseeing it.  The full details of the directive are not yet known but what is seen is an attempt to “muzzle” the Human Rights Commission of Maldives.
 
The guide lines are supposed to “protect the unity, peace and order and uphold Maldivian norms, faith, etiquette and the rule of law.”
 
Surprisingly, there has been no response from the President who perhaps is not aware that while it suits him well in his quest to take total control of Maldives, it is setting up a bad precedent and does not realise (if he still cares) that the directive of the judiciary will be cutting at the very roots of democracy in Maldives.
 
These guide lines have been opposed by the opposition MDP, Civil Society organisations and lawyers.  They have roundly condemned the guidelines as one that undermines the commission’s independence and have rightly pointed out that the Supreme Court has infringed on the parliament’s mandate by writing laws for the Commission.
 
The UN’s reaction has been quick and strong.  It described the Supreme Court decision as purely and simply an act of reprisal against the Human Rights Commission for its legitimate cooperation with the UN Human Rights System and its mechanism.  
 
The international service of Human Rights (ISHR) said that the ruling of the Supreme Court is a clear breach of Maldives’ membership of the UN Human Rights Council.  The UN High Commissioner Zerd Ra’ad Al Hussein called the verdict as “completely unacceptable.”  
 
President Yameen has finally succeeded in getting Gasim Ibrahim, the chairman of the Jumhooree party which was a constituent of the opposition alliance to “oppose tyranny” out of his way.  Gasim who was sure to be arrested for alleged financing of the rallies had been last seen in Bangkok and then in Germany.  He has sent a statement that he would be retiring from politics and would no longer aspire to contest the next presidential elections.  With the freezing of all his accounts in Maldives and a fine of 90.4 million dollars for the Villa group, it appears that Gasim is in dire financial straits.  The 5000 strong villa group and its subsidiaries have not received their salaries and many of the students sent abroad for education on scholarships are also said to be stranded with no financial support.  
 
What an irony that Gasim declared that “in order to serve the people” he would now look after his business interests and renounce  politics totally!  It occurs to me that Gasim deserved this fate that despite all his capabilities, philanthropic acts and opportunities he made a wrong choice in the crucial runoff in the Presidential elections by supporting Yameen for the Presidency! Perhaps he thought that it would serve his business interests better.  Another person who is likely to be axed soon  is the Vice President Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.  He should be lucky if he does not meet the same fate as that of the former Defence Minister Nazim.
 
It is said that June 12 rally of the opposition was a tame one with only about 2000 workers participating.  But then their leaders had been put behind bars under terrorism laws! A bigger one is being planned on the 50th independence day on July 26.  But what is surprising is that the government formally celebrated with fireworks etc. on the 12th on the failure of the opposition to repeat the rally of May 1st.  
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