Who Is In­charge?

Sib­ling ri­valry be­tween brothers Mau­moun Ab­dul Gay­oom and his half brother Yameen Ab­dul Gay­oom – leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The Mal­dives needs to look for fresh leadership to move for­ward on the road to democ­racy.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By K.A. Naqsh­bandi

There is a tug of war be­tween two brothers for the con­trol of the Mal­dives.

The bedrock of democ­racy is the rule of law and that means to have an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary – an in­sti­tu­tion where judges are not sub­ject to pres­sure and in­flu­ence and are free to take impartial de­ci­sions based solely on fact and law. When­ever and wher­ever jus­tice is sold to the high­est bid­der, demo­cratic norms are flouted. The Mal­dives is an in­stance.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Al Jazeera re­port, text mes­sage con­ver­sa­tions re­veal that the ju­di­ciary in the Mal­dives is far from in­de­pen­dent. Se­nior judges have re­ceived money and lux­ury flats and meet reg­u­larly with the pres­i­dent and his deputy, who med­dle in high-pro­file cases and ju­di­cial ap­point­ments. In one text mes­sage, the for­mer pros­e­cu­tor­gen­eral de­clared ab­so­lute loy­alty to Vice Pres­i­dent Ahmed Adeeb and promised "no one can touch" him. In

an­other, a Supreme Court judge, Ali Hameed, as­sured the vice pres­i­dent: "We will re­main sol­diers till the mis­sion is over in 2018! Or 2023 ? Hah! hah ! Hah !"

So it’s not at all sur­pris­ing that to ma­nip­u­late the exit of Mau­moun Ab­dul Gay­oom as the Head of the Pro­gres­sive Party of the Mal­dives (PPM), his half brother Yameen Ab­dul Gay­oom re­sorted to the Gay­oom fam­ily’s favourite toy — the Mal­dives ju­di­ciary. One of the many judges on Yameen’s pay­roll is­sued a ‘court rul­ing’ hand­ing over the chair of PPM to Yameen. In­ter­est­ingly enough the judge was none other than Haleem Bai, a ‘jour­nal­ist’ turned Civil Court judge ap­pointed by Yameen. He ruled that PPM now be­longs to Yameen be­cause Mau­moon is too in­ter­fer­ing and has brought the party to a grind­ing halt.

As a mat­ter of fact, Mau­moon has been a vic­tim of his own cre­ation — one of the most cor­rupt ju­di­cia­ries in the world — which, ac­cord­ing to a veteran Mal­dives jour­nal­ist, “has fi­nally turned around and bit the hand of its Mas­ter. Mau­moon’s party en­gi­neered and the Mal­di­vian Demo­cratic Party (MDP) the first and once the largest po­lit­i­cal party in the Mal­dives, al­lowed the dis­missal of Ar­ti­cle 285 of the 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion which de­fined the ba­sis of ap­point­ing ex­pe­ri­enced and qual­i­fied judges. Had it been fol­lowed, it would have cleaned the ju­di­ciary of the many in­ex­pe­ri­enced, un­qual­i­fied and some­times crim­i­nal fig­ures Mau­moon put on the benches dur­ing his 30-year rule.”

In­ter­est­ingly enough the fu­ture course of democ­racy in Pak­istan, to a great ex­tent, de­pends on the ef­fi­ciency of the courts and the in­tegrity of judges. Com­ment­ing on the judg­ment on the Panama Leaks case, the out­go­ing Chief Jus­tice An­war Za­heer Ja­mali has said that the courts can­not an­nounce ver­dicts to please some­one or in the face of pres­sure due to me­dia hype.

Speak­ing at a cer­e­mony, Jus­tice Ja­mali said the courts in Pak­istan were com­pletely in­de­pen­dent in their judg­ments and they were not un­der any kind of pres­sure. "For us, de­liv­er­ing jus­tice is the most im­por­tant thing," he said.

"We can­not give a ver­dict to please some­one or by get­ting un­der pres­sure be­cause of me­dia hype,” the chief jus­tice of Pak­istan said. "The ju­di­cial sys­tem is not just meant for ver­dicts, it is rather meant for pro­vid­ing jus­tice to peo­ple."

He warned that pre­vail­ing so­cial evils were weak­en­ing the coun­try and if other in­sti­tu­tions fail to do their job, then the ju­di­ciary is charged with dou­ble re­spon­si­bil­ity. Let’s hope our ju­di­ciary is com­pe­tent enough to shoul­der the dou­ble re­spon­si­bil­ity.

To end the dis­pute once for all, Pres­i­dent Yameen in­sisted that there should not be any fur­ther dis­cus­sions within the rul­ing party and urged mem­bers to unite in a bid to re­solve the dif­fer­ences.“If there are prob­lems within our party, I strongly sug­gest that we find a way to re­solve it,” he stressed. PPM law­mak­ers loyal to pres­i­dent Yameen then de­cided to amend the law, putting an age cap of 65 years for po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers in a bid to oust Gay­oom. The amend­ment thus put an end to Gay­oom’s era as the PPM leader for ever.

In the 2013 elec­tions the PPM nom­i­nated Yameen as its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date but Mau­moon con­tin­ued as head of the party. Both were happy with their re­spec­tive po­si­tions en­joy­ing the au­thor­ity con­sti­tu­tion­ally granted to them un­til June, when Mau­moon as the Head of the party op­posed a bill amend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion to al­low Mal­di­vian ter­ri­tory to be si­phoned off and sold to any­one in­ter­ested --em­pow­er­ing the gov­ern­ment to lease is­lands for devel­op­ment as re­sorts with­out com­pet­i­tive bid­ding. His son, an MP, voted against it and was ex­pelled from the party. The same day his daugh­ter, Dunya Mau­moon also re­signed as for­eign min­is­ter.

Sib­ling ri­valry led to the divi­sion of PPM as Mau­moon with­drew his sup­port from the Yameen-led gov­ern­ment. The rift be­tween the brothers led to split of party into two fac­tions -- Mau­moon’s loy­al­ists and Yameen’s loy­al­ists. Iron­i­cally, the ul­ti­mate breakup took place on the fifth an­niver­sary of PPM. Mau­moon the party’s founder who groomed his younger brother Yameen and made him the pres­i­dent of the coun­try was very in­tel­li­gently re­moved from the po­lit­i­cal scene of the Mal­dives, declar­ing him ob­so­lete and an ob­sta­cle to the gov­ern­ment.

Just hours af­ter Mau­moon’s PPM Coun­cil meet­ing, Yameen held his own PPM Coun­cil meet­ing. Chair­ing the coun­cil meet­ing of his fac­tion, Mamoun ap­pointed a new Sec­re­tary Gen­eral and made it clear that his brother had fi­nally over­stepped the lim­its. At his own Coun­cil meet­ing, Yameen did the same as his brother — he elected a new Sec­re­tary Gen­eral and ap­pointed other loy­al­ists to key po­si­tions.

Though the rift be­tween the two brothers started soon af­ter Yameen took oath as the pres­i­dent, the last nail in the cof­fin was Mamoun’s re­fusal to en­dorse Yameen as the PPM’s can­di­date for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2018. Yameen’s sup­port­ers dragged the dis­pute into the courts, where Mamoun’s de­ci­sion was su­per­seded and he was re­placed by Yameen as the leader of the party. He now holds the posts of both Pres­i­dent of the coun­try as well as the head of the party.

With both the im­por­tant po­si­tion in hand, there will be no check and bal­ance on Yameen. Ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion he can re­main in power as long his party wants him. Now that he is also the head of the party, he has noth­ing to worry and con­tinue as the Pres­i­dent of the coun­try as long as he wants with­out any ob­sta­cle. The ab­so­lute power has neg­a­tive as­pects too and his­tory is re­plete with the mis­er­able fate of dic­ta­tors.

In­jus­tice and ab­so­lute power tend to breed cor­rup­tion. Al Jazeera's In­ves­tiga­tive Unit very re­cently ex­posed mas­sive cor­rup­tion at the top of the Mal­dives gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing theft, bribery and money laun­der­ing. Pres­i­dent Yameen is ac­cused of re­ceiv­ing cash in bags filled with up to $1m -- so much that it was "dif­fi­cult to carry," ac­cord­ing to one of the men who de­liv­ered the money.

Ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­ports there is grow­ing threat of a coup. The Mal­dives be­came a democ­racy in 2008 when Mo­hamed Nasheed be­came its first freely-elected leader, end­ing three decades of au­to­cratic rule un­der Yameen’s half-brother, Mau­moon. Since Yameen came to power in 2013, he has en­acted a se­ries of in­creas­ingly dra­co­nian laws. Un­der his rule, hun­dreds of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists have faced charges and sev­eral se­nior fig­ures have been given long jail sen­tences, in­clud­ing Nasheed, who was painted as an­tiIs­lamic and now lives in self-im­posed ex­ile in the UK. Re­ports have emerged that a group of ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers — in­clud­ing Nasheed — had met in Sri Lanka, planning how to oust Pres­i­dent Yameen.

The Mal­dives be­longs to Mau­moun or Yameen? The answer is sim­ple; it nei­ther be­longs to Mamoun nor Yameen --- the cor­rupt ones. It will ul­ti­mately be­long to the peo­ple of the Mal­dives.

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