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Maldives: President Yameen Threatens the Opposition on Independence Day

Paper No. 5761                                     Dated 7-Aug-2014
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
A country that is still struggling with its democratic credentials, it was a surprise to see President Yameen threatening the main opposition for criticising his policies which he says amounts to a threat to Maldivian independence! 
Almost at the same time, the Supreme Court has suo motu enacted a new regulation authorising the courts to punish those individuals whose action or even gesture would amount to contempt of court!  It may be recalled that the Judicial system is the weakest link in the consolidation of democracy in Maldives.
Who is threatening democracy in Maldives? The President and his party in power or the Judiciary or the opposition?
Another question that arises is whether Yameen is planning for a “crack down” on the opposition just  for the crime of criticising the policies of the regime that are supposedly affecting the independence of the nation? 
It is no surprise either that recently the  Transparency Maldives has pointed out  “stagnation in democratic consolidation and a reversal in democratic gains” in the country.  It said that while the Election Commission, Anti Corruption Commission and the Auditor General’s office ranked as the strongest pillars of democracy in the country, the political parties and the civil society received the lowest scores on this point. It also noted the erosion in separation of powers and the judiciary’s attempt to undermine the independence of the EC and the ACC.  
President’s Independence Day’s Speech:
 In his address to the nation on the 49th independence day ( July 26), President Yameen lashed out at the opposition for criticising his policies rather than dwelling on his government’s achievements and his plans ahead.  Some of the points made by him include-
* Opposition Political Parties are deliberately trying to disrupt stability by creating a spirit of unrest in society.  Incitement of such fervour in the past had repeatedly threatened the independence of the nation.
* He does not believe that failing to achieve love and consent of the public should be the reason to plunge the nation into a “deep pit” of hatred and strife. (  This amounts to saying “ I will do whatever I want no matter whether the common man likes it or not”)
* In a deliberate attempt to create distress and anxiety, the opposition is pushing for a tourism boycott.  It is also convincing the fish importers to cease purchase of Maldivian fish. ( This is with reference to the statement of the Fisheries Minister on July 16 accusing the opposition for attempting to “destroy” the fisheries industry after te MDP issued a statement condemning President Yameen’s fisheries policy)
* The act of attempting to weaken the country economically is tantamount to threatening independence!
In response to the charges of the President, the opposition MDP called the remarks “uncivilised, outmoded and unacceptable.”  Former President Nasheed said that President’s address in the wake of a severe debit crisis is very “cartoonistic.”  Nasheed added that the economic situation is bleak.  Compensation to GMR company whose contract for building and running the international airport at Male was abruptly terminated is going to be heavy and beyond the country’s means.  Added to this is the State Trading Organisation’s debt of 150 million US$ to Emirates National Oil Company and the Indian Exim Bank will also have to be paid a huge amount that is due- and the foreign currency resources are dwindling!
The Singapore Tribunal in its order on the arbitration in the dispute between GMR and the Maldivian government had declared that the concerned agreement between the two is “valid and binding” and held the Government of Maldives and the MACL ( The Maldives Airport Company Ltd.) “ jointly and severally liable in damages” for losses caused by the premature termination of the contract in December 2012.  While the extent of compensation is yet to be decided, the court ordered Maldivian Government to pay 4 million dollars within 42 days towards the cost of arbitration proceedings. ( The amount was paid)
The Supreme Court is Supreme!
The Supreme Court in its wisdom has on its own made new regulations authorising the courts to initiate legal proceedings and punish individuals for any expression, action, gesture or a piece of writing inside or outside a courtroom that could be considered as contempt of court ( promulgated on 24th July)
The objective is to establish justice, removing obstacles to trials and upholding the honour and dignity of the courts. ( Emphasis ours)  
Portraying judiciary in a negative light, any utterance or action that demeans a court, judge or a court official, criticising or berating a court or a judge or committing any act that causes loss of respect and dignity of a court or a judge or attempting to bring the court into disrepute would all be punishable under this law.
It looks that in Maldives, the only way to uphold the honour and the dignity of the court is by prosecuting those who criticise them!