Attorney General (AG) Ibrahim Riffath on Sunday night expressed disapproval over the Supreme Court's critical statement on South Africa's retired Justice Johann Kriegler, who is currently appointed by the AG Office to conduct an independent assessment of the Maldivian judiciary.
Riffath spoke up following the statement released by Supreme Court after Kriegler met with them on Saturday night as part of the study he is conducting into the judicial system. Kriegler is scheduled to meet experts in the field and related authorities to complete the assessment of the judiciary and submit the report to AG Office before August 29.
The Supreme Court claimed in its statement that Kriegler spoke of a plan to dismiss judges and suggested it would be better for them to resign before they were sacked in a demeaning way.
AG Riffath told local media Mihaaru that everyone was aware of the complications in the Maldivian judiciary, noting that the United Nations (UN) and other international bodies have released reports urging judicial reform.
Moreover, AG Riffath stated that the incidents which occurred on February 1, 2018, when the top court issued its landmark ruling to free several political prisoners, proved that there are outside influences on the court and judiciary. He noted that some of the judges residing on the bench that day are still filling the same positions.
Mentioning that judicial reform and restoring the public's trust in the justice system are key pledges of the government's manifesto and Agenda 19, Riffath criticized Supreme Court's statements regarding Kriegler.
"At a time when the Maldivian people and international bodies have lost trust in the judiciary, the Supreme Court issuing such statements is not the way to regain that trust".
Additionally, Riffath declared that the Supreme Court and the judiciary received ample time to bring about changes for reform, and stated that the government will always cooperate in anything related to judicial reform.
"Reforming the judiciary is one of the biggest pledges made by the government. We want to do it because that's what the people want. Fulfilling that pledge is one of our top priorities", the AG said.
Noting that many changes had to be brought about for reform, Riffath stated that such changes were included in Agenda 19, including altering the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), taking measures to strengthen the administrative work in courts, establishing district courts in certain areas and appointing a judicial administrator.
In addition, with public demand, judges may also be investigated for their disciplinary issues.
AG Riffath stated that change is unavoidable during reform but guaranteed that all the changes will be brought about within the limits of law.
Supreme Court, on the other hand, expressed that the role of an international consultant was to give counsel in a professional and independent manner, and criticised Kriegler's statements as being driven otherwise.
Moreover, the court declared that Kriegler's statements indicated that he had pre-planned a course of action without proper research into the justice system, adding that Kriegler's warnings were disrespectful to the authority of the state.