Maldives: Ethical use of corruption?
ECONOMYNEXT – A simmering political crisis has come to a head in the honeymoon paradise of Maldives with international praise being showered on what rights activists have called the world’s most corrupt judiciary.
From the highly controversial jailing of former president Mohamed Nasheed on trumped up terrorism charges in 2015 to the more recent jailing of vice president Ahmed Adeeb in 2016, Maldivian courts had become hate symbols for the opposition and international rights groups. There was also pressure on the international community to impose targeted sanctions on senior members of the current regime as well as senior judges.
Nasheed had repeatedly called for reform of a highly corrupt judiciary. In fact, the downfall of Nasheed in February 2012 was partly due to his move to arrest a criminal court judge known to be shamelessly politically biased.
Since then, the Maldivian judiciary had been going downhill.
The Maldivian courts had ordered a woman to be stoned to death for adultery and also wanted a 16-year-old girl to be publicly flogged on a charge of premarital sex even though she was a victim of rape. Both were retracted after international pressure.
A UN panel ruled that the 2015 conviction of Nasheed was politically motivated and that he should be freed along with compensation for wrongful incarceration. Ditto for another dissident, ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
The international community repeatedly asked for the independence of the Maldivian judiciary and reforms, but, on Thursday, all of a sudden, the Supreme Court’s decision to quash the convictions of Nasheed and other political dissidents appears to have wiped the slate clean. The court also restored 12 MPs who had been sacked for defecting from President Abdulla Yameen’s party.
The United States led international applause, possibly forgiving the apex court for its sins in the past six years.
"The United States urges the Maldivian government to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling," the US State Department said in a brief statement on Friday, which did not address the rotten core of the Maldivian judiciary.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was more measured in his statement without offering any remarks that would absolve the Maldivian courts of their guilt.
"Sri Lanka is observing the situation in the Maldives… We urge all parties to find a peaceful solution to the current situation," Wickremesinghe said without mentioning the maligned courts.
No one has commented on how the Maldivian judiciary suddenly discovered its spine and why it is has made a U-turn and ditched its pay masters.
Speculation in the Maldivian capital was that a corrupt court had gone to the highest bidder. From the perspective of most Maldivians, they saw it as buying justice for a good cause, to get rid of a greater evil and restore people’s freedom.
The shock ruling opens the way for exiled former leader of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed to run for president after the Supreme Court quashed his conviction for terrorism. The ruling has also given the opposition a majority in the 85-member parliament which could impeach the current president.
Yameen has responded by shutting parliament and refusing to abide by the court’s decisions.
Nasheed, who was barred from contesting any election after his 2015 conviction on a terrorism charge, has described Yameen’s refusal to obey the Supreme Court as a "coup".
The larger question now is the credibility of the international community which appears to have absolved the Maldivian judiciary of its history of blatant political bias. (COLOMBO, February 5, 2018)