Fireworks have substantially increased in the political firmament of Maldives before the tiny archipelago in the Indian Ocean is scheduled to hold presidential elections in seven months. For the first time in the history of independent Maldives, the Opposition has approached the supreme court with a prayer that the president of the country be removed from office as he is unfit to rule for multiple reasons.
On January 28, the joint Opposition petitioned the supreme court of Maldives to temporarily remove President Abdulla Yameen from the office, levelling serious charges against him, including the most damning accusation of subverting the Constitution.
The petition has been signed by all important Opposition leaders – including former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed, Qasim Ibrahim and deputy leader of Adhaalath Party, Uz Ali Zahir, and urges the supreme court to rule that president Yameen has broken the law and is unfit for office.
The petition also asks the supreme court to establish a special ad hoc committee in order to investigate, formulate and submit an investigation report to the supreme court regarding the allegations of corruption against president Yameen and hold him accountable under Article 127 of the Constitution.
Opposition move won’t have much traction
Insiders believe that the joint Opposition move will eventually prove to be all noise, no fury. That’s because it’s the Maldivian parliament, not the supreme court, which has the powers to impeach or suspend the president of the country.
It is the Majlis, which must pass an impeachment resolution before the supreme court can look into the case. This petition cannot be legally admissible to SC and would, therefore, be thrown out. Only the Majlis has the authority to impeach the president or hand over his powers temporarily to the vice-president. The SC doesn’t have jurisdiction over this.
The Opposition can’t legally file a petition in the supreme court. This petition will not be accepted by the apex court and, therefore, it would not be recognised or recorded officially.
The Opposition could have moved the Majlis if it so wanted because it has the required numbers. Then why did the Opposition take this route, knowing full well that it won’t have much traction there?
Why the Opposition moved SC, and not parliament
The Opposition chose not to take this route because it feared that President Yameen could have muzzled the parliament as he has done several times in the past. Instead, the joint Opposition petitioned the supreme court as the parliament, has ceased to function since President Yameen ordered the military to storm the legislature.
The Opposition seeks to remove President Yameen from office for the following reasons:
1) Unprecedented corruption, including unjust enrichment from appropriation of state properties and funds for personal benefit, for the benefit of President Yameen’s family and political associates;
2) Violation of fundamental and constitutional freedoms of the Maldivian people, including enacting legislation to encroach on the rights of the people;
3) Enactment of legislation and ratification of laws in violation of letter and the spirit of the Constitution, thereby encroaching the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Maldives;
4) Failure to implement the provisions of the Constitution and the law, uphold rule of law, check and balance, oversight and accountability, including interfering with the lawful functioning of parliament and independent commissions.
The petition asserts that the auditor general, the prosecutor general, the anti-corruption commission and the Maldives Police Service under the minister of home affairs, who all are nominated and appointed by the president, have failed to impartially and without fear, stop President Yameen from appropriating state funds and properties.
In such an instance, it is the constitutional duty of the judiciary to uphold the Constitution and rule of law, protect and safeguard Maldives’ territorial integrity, defend and uphold rights and freedoms of the people of the Maldives, and to ensure the president discharges his duties and functions in accordance with the Constitution and laws. The joint Opposition, therefore, petitioned the supreme court to uphold the Constitution, to help the Maldivian people hold president Yameen accountable, and to declare as per Article 117(b) of the Constitution, that President Yameen is temporarily unable to perform the responsibilities of the office of the president and declare that President Yameen is temporarily removed from office.
The India factor
It’s an open secret that India has no love lost for the Yameen administration for a host of reasons, including its brazen support for China at India’s expense and a vast chasm between its stated policy of India-first and its actual actions on the ground.
There have been voices from the ruling dispensation of Maldives that India wants to stage a coup in Maldives and install it’s puppet government there. India has debunked all these rumours.
However, the Indian government continues to be suspicious of the Yameen government and has not swallowed hook, line and sinker the bait offered by the Maldivian foreign minister who visited New Delhi earlier this month and assured the Modi government of his government’s India-first policy.
If the Yameen government collapses by its own weight, then so be it. India won’t take an extra step in saving the Yameen government. This is very much the Indian position informally. The latest move of the Opposition is no less than a brahmastra (ultimate weapon), and India would very much like it to succeed. But the hard reality is that it won’t.
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