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Maldives Independent Commissions and Independent Offices – casualties of political trading?

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed today made the much awaited nominations to Parliament for the Elections Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and Prosecutor General. The nominees primarily comprise of members of President Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, Opposition Leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party and its coalition partner, People’s Alliance.

The names proposed for the Elections Commission are Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Yoosuf (MDP); Ogaru Ibrahim Waheed (formerly MDP, now posing as Independent); Mohamed Ibrahim (formerly DRP, now MDP); Fuad Thaufeeq (formerly MDP, now PA) and Mauroof Ahmed (PA).

Sheikh Rasheed is the son of Baa Thulhaadhoo MDP leader and Counselor for Baa Atoll, Yoosuf Moosa. Ogaru Waheed was previously head of the Department of Inland Revenue in the Gayoom administration. Mohamed Ibrahim headed two state companies before becoming Deputy Minister of Construction and Infrastructure in the Gayoom Administration. He then moved to the interim EC, chairing the interim EC throughout its period. Fuad Thowfeeq was a key member of MDP’s policy review committees before joining PA and moving onto the interim EC. Mauroof Ahmed headed the Labour Section for several years before becoming Deputy Minister of Home Affairs after the DRP/PA coalition agreement was signed in the pre-presidential election period.

The nominees for the Anti Corruption Commission are Hassan Luthfee (S. Hithadhoo Ranfas), Abdulla Hilmy (GDh. Thinadhoo Halaveli), Khadeeja Rasheed (S. Hulhudhoo Violet Fehi), Mohamed Shareef (G. Winter House), Mohamed Waheed (G. Iheli, Male’ Dhafthar). The names proposed for the Anti-Corruption Commission do not show much public service experience, nor the prominent party leanings shown by the nominees for the EC. However, there is a definite predominance of the southern atolls in the line-up. What is also clear is that none of these nominees demonstrate any experience as befits the important post of a member of the Anti Corruption Commission. While Luthfee and Hilmy are members of the interim Anti Corruption Commission, little can be said commending their work in an interim commission that has repeatedly shown extreme partiality towards the Nasheed Administration.

In addition, President Nasheed has proposed current Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz to retain the post of Prosecutor General.

The nominees for the EC, ACC and PG are reported to have been selected from about 130 applicants to the President’s Office. The applications were in response to an announcement by the President’s Office in early June calling for applicants to these posts. In a country which boasts over 8% of its population as educated above Masters’ Degree level, it is surprising to see the quality of President Nasheed’s nominations. It is also noteworthy that, in addition to marginalizing the nation’s educated, President Nasheed has also totally rejected the country’s professional, civil and political experience.

While the nomination of Nasheed’s family members and cronies, his party’s financiers, and MDP demonstration leaders to his administration’s key political posts are justified by his Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair as multi-party democracy in action, such extreme partiality as shown in the above nominations cannot be justified in relation to independent commissions and offices. The function of such constitutionally independent institutions is to represent civil society without any partiality and to act as guardian of citizen rights by balancing the powers of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. It is a blatant violation of the fundamental tenets of democracy when the powers of the state attempt to co-opt and hijack independent commissions and independent offices.

A case in point is Ahmed Muiz, the current Prosecutor General. Until his appointment as PG, Muiz ran a long standing law firm with partner Husnu Sood, the current Attorney General. Both are President Nasheed’s classmates and followers. Both have nominally divested themselves of shares in the firm Muiz Sood and Co. by transferring these to proxies.

The fact remains that within the short period in which they have held corresponding offices of state, collusion between Muiz and Sood have robbed the Maldivians citizens of their right to justice. This is highlighted by the recent incident where Muiz has refused to press criminal charges against Sood who willfully presented false documents to the High Court. These are crimes under Sections 62, 66 and 67 of the Maldives Penal Code. By not charging Sood, Muiz is guilty under Section 76 of the Penal Code of aiding and abetting a criminal to evade justice. Both Muiz and Sood are hence also liable under Section 80 of the Penal Code for misfeasance in public office by abetting a criminal to escape due punishment. The Parliament should by rights hold Muiz accountable for repeatedly neglecting his legal duties in order to protect his cronies. In the light of these facts, by nominating Muiz for the post of PG, President Nasheed is spitting in the face of democracy.

Another case in point is the nomination of Mohamed Ibrahim for the Elections Commission. The recent High Court decision invalidating the May 9th parliamentary vote on Thaa Thimarafushi is clear evidence that Mohamed Ibrahim, as Commissioner of Elections, is culpable of gross negligence of duty and of acting in collusion with the MDP. In the Thimarafushi High Court case, the EC had testified in court that the vote on Thimarafushi as free and fair, and held in accordance with law. Yet, in the light of compelling eveidence, on June 11th the High Court ruled that the Thimarafushi vote was held in the midst of blatant violations of elections law and other laws of the country. It ordered the EC to hold a fresh vote in 30 days of the order. With such a clear court ruling compromising the independence and integrity of the EC, Mohamed Ibrahim should have resigned on his own, in accordance with internationally accepted norms. Instead he chose to apply to retain his post. This nomination too shows President Nasheed’s total and utter disrespect for the tenets of modern democracy. Mohamed Ibrahim is a relative of President Nasheed’s best friend and cousin by marriage, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (MP for Lhaviyani Hinnavaru).

The same can be said for the inclusion amongst the nominees of leading members of opposition parties, the DRP and PA. Both parties in coalition hold 46% of parliamentary seats. The inclusion of senior opposition members amongst today’s nominations clearly points to a political tradeoff between President Nasheed and the opposition coalition. With President Nasheed on the war path hunting for alleged corruption cases against the leaders of DRP and PA, there is indeed basis for trade-offs between the two sides. Sadly, the casualties of this political trade-off are again the Maldivian people. As shown by these nominations, Maldivians can only dream of independent commissions or independent offices to represent their interests.

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