Supreme Court under armed forces control, parliament deadlock continues

Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) blocked Supreme Court judges from entering the courthouse Monday morning a day after Civil Court ruled interim Supreme Court remains until the establishment of a permanent Supreme Court by the parliament.

On Sunday Civil Court ordered Defence Ministry to release Supreme Court keys withheld Saturday by the armed forces.

MNDF released the keys to a Supreme Court administrator on the court’s second attempt to retrieve them Monday morning instructing the official to carry out administrative work only.

Two Supreme Court judges including Ahmed Faiz nominated as Chief Justice by President Mohamed Nasheed were stopped at the gate by MNDF guards.

Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair later told Haveeru the government’s interpretation of the Civil Court ruling allowed the continuation of Supreme Court’s administrative functioning only and not its interim bench.

The government continues to follow advice given by resigned Attorney General (AG) Husnu Suood, Zuhair said.

Before his resignation Sunday morning “accepting blame for the constitutional void created by lack of interim period legislations” Suood said Supreme Court could only function with new judges – an argument contended by several legal experts who interpret the Civil Court ruling as declaring the continuation of the Supreme Court bench and not “its four walls.”

A major legal row sparked over the continuation of Supreme Court, some independent commissions and diplomats when parliament failed to legislate their continuation by the end of the constitutional interim period at midnight Saturday.

DRP Leader and Opposition Whip Ahmed Thasmeen Ali

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-led opposition which controls parliament majority were at loggerheads over setting the agenda order for a sitting eventually called off after three postponements.

“Legal advice given by the former Attorney General remains. The government interprets [the Civil Court ruling] as continuation of the administrative functioning of the court only, to ensure delivery of the people’s constitutional rights,” Zuhair said.

Meanwhile, the President’s Office arranged an oath taking ceremony Monday morning, Haveeru understand, to appoint Toursim Minister Ahmed Ali Sawad as the new AG.

But the ceremony was cancelled, Haveeru learnt, when President Nasheed received legal advice that it could not proceed without appointing new judges to the Supreme Court.

According to the constitution cabinet members shall take their oath of office before the Chief Justice or a judge appointed by the Chief Justice.

Interim Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed described the government’s move Monday as turning Supreme Court into a military court.

“Supreme Court can only be opened and closed on armed forces orders. The court’s functions are also directed by them. So I believe that the Supreme Court has been turned into a military court,” Saeed said.

Meanwhile, all four members of the panel decreed by President Nasheed to administer the functioning of Supreme Court and Department of Judicial Administration resigned less than 24 hours after they were appointed at midnight Saturday.

Muthasim Adnan, the last appointee to withdraw his name, wrote to President Nasheed it was not a responsibility he could perform “within the boundaries of the constitution now in place.”

On Sunday morning, President Nasheed and parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid discussed ways of expediting parliament’s work, but MPs failed to convene Monday.

Speaker Shahid told journalists Sunday he hoped to hold a sitting Tuesday if talks between opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) do not produce an outcome before Monday.

“I hope that we would be able to find a solution for [Monday’s] sitting. But considering the present circumstances, I do not think [Monday’s] sitting can be held. No party wishes to proceed with the sitting if the agenda is not in the way they want it,” he said
2010 August 08

Male

Source – Haveeru News Service

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