President Abdulla Yameen on Tuesday declared that he announced the state of emergency in order to hold two justices of the Supreme Court answerable for graft accusations, since the top court’s recent verdict had barred the judicial watchdog from investigating its judges.
In a live address to the nation Tuesday afternoon, Yameen detailed the sequence of events since last Thursday which led to the declaration of the state of emergency on Monday night.
Yameen began with the Supreme Court’s landmark order late Thursday to free nine prominent “political leaders”, stating that it came as an incredulous shock to the government as they included prisoners convicted of major offences such as terrorism and corruption. Stressing the importance of justice being served while releasing convicts, Yameen said that the government must ensure that the Constitution is being followed while complying with apex court orders.
Hence he had sought the counsel of Attorney General Mohamed Anil and Prosecutor General Aishath Bisam, both of whom had stated that executing the order “would not be easy” in line with their respective constitutional mandates, said the president.
However the Supreme Court, Yameen highlighted, had refused to accept the legal concerns filed by the prosecutor general and attorney general. The top court had also in a recent ruling decided that the judicial watchdog, Judicial Commission Services (JSC), cannot investigate the court’s justices. Thus the JSC could also not convene, said Yameen.
Despite the court snubbing the PG’s submissions, Yameen highlighted that the Supreme Court had continued to accept other submissions, namely a motion to impeach the president and another case to reinstate the police chief and his deputy whom Yameen had fired shortly after the Supreme Court’s order Thursday. Neither of these cases falls under the top court’s jurisdiction, the president pointed out.
The Supreme Court had also deliberated on removing the attorney general and prosecutor general from their posts, claimed Yameen. He lambasted the Supreme Court, declaring that the AG Office and PG Office were also independent institutions in a country that followed the Separation of Powers, and that both had the right to raise concerns over a court order that contradicted with their legal responsibilities.
“That was when we began [to look into things] very seriously and figure out what influence had befallen the Supreme Court.”
Yameen narrated that authorities had then discovered that Judicial Administrator Hassan Saeed had purchased a flat from reclaimed suburb Hulhumale, which allegedly involved corruption. Similar cases were also discovered regarding Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed of the apex court.
While the police had investigated Hassan Saeed and sought to arrest him after he “went into hiding”, Yameen noted that the Supreme Court had abruptly terminated the arrest warrant, which came as another shock to the government. He declared that it was not for the apex court to interfere with an investigation that had not yet undergone trial via the lower courts.
“We were looking not into the justices’ cases, but Hassan Saeed’s, who is not a judge,” said Yameen, noting that a Supreme Court order was needed to summon or arrest a judge as per Maldivian laws.
“But when the Supreme Court overturned Hassan Saeed’s issue, we figured that the court would not issue any orders [allowing probes] into the cases against Abdulla Saeed and Ali Hameed.”
Repeatedly declaring that no individual’s actions can be exempted from being overseen or investigated, including top court judges and the president himself, Yameen said that the Supreme Court had also rejected four letters of concern he had tried to file regarding recent events.
“I also bade the chief justice to meet with me [on Monday], but he refused to do so,” Yameen claimed.
The president stated that while JSC was accorded the power to probe Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed as the judicial watchdog, the court had in its recent order barred the commission from doing so.
“If JSC were to do it, the Supreme Court would have the power to invoke contempt of court for not complying with its verdict. And that wasn’t something we wanted any state institution to face,” said the president.
“And so I declared the state of emergency because there was no other way to hold [Saeed and Hameed] answerable to their cases.”
Yameen added that the authorities were looking into the scale of “this coup” and its orchestrators. He claimed that the police had already made substantial findings which would be revealed very soon.
Moreover, he assured the public that the current state of emergency would not enforce any curfews, and that it would not interfere with the people’s businesses and daily lives in any way.
The government had announced the 15-day state of emergency after a deadlock on the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling late Thursday. In addition to the release of nine political prisoners, the verdict ordered to reinstate 12 legislators that were unseated for defecting from the ruling party and annulled the apex court’s previous ban on floor-crossing.
In the wake of the SOE declaration, Yameen had ordered five arrests in a crackdown: his estranged half-brother and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his son-in-law Mohamed Nadeem, Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, Judge Ali Hameed and Judicial Service Administrator Hassan Saeed.
The state of emergency has drawn great criticism from opposition parties as well as international bodies. It suspended 20 Articles of the Constitution, including curbing the powers of the parliament and Supreme Court, banning the impeachment of the country’s leadership, and allowing the security forces to make unwarranted arrests.