President Abdulla Yameen has been criticised by opposition leaders and lawyers for saying he has a duty to interfere in the running of the Supreme Court.
The president made the remarks at a rally of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives held in Malé.
Yameen told the crowd Monday night it was the president’s duty to intervene if state institutions, including the Supreme Court, lost their way.
“Even if it is the Supreme Court losing its way or the Elections Commission losing its way or the police force losing its way or even the security services losing its way; it is a powerful duty entrusted on the president by, if I remember right, Article 115 of the constitution,” he said. “Because it is the responsibility of the president to ensure to the citizens that all of these institutions are being run according to law.”
Yameen was referring to Article 115 (a) of the constitution which says it is a duty of the president “to faithfully implement the provisions of this Constitution and the law, and to promote compliance by organs of the state and by the people.”
The president’s comments, aired on state broadcaster PSM and the privately run Channel 13, come while the Supreme Court is considering the registration of a motion filed by the opposition and two former presidents asking that the court remove him from power.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, the former deputy prosecutor general and lawyer Hussein Shameem said the article cannot be misconstrued to mean that the executive can interfere in the administration of the judiciary.
“There are responsibilities of the executive to the other powers. Such as ensuring they have the budget to discharge their constitutional duties and other resources that they need in order to complete the functions stipulated in law,” he said. “But that does not mean running interference on the functioning of them.”
The opposition has condemned Yameen’s comments.
Spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, told the Maldives Independent that the president’s comments amounted to threats against the highest court.
“The timing of the comments are concerning. The opposition has a motion in the Supreme Court appealing the removal of the president, so this is seen as a threat to the court and its judges. It is difficult to interpret it any other way,” he said.
Imthiyaz noted that on previous occasions the president had dismissed international calls for judicial reform, referring to the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers.
He said: “All the reports by UN and international experts that the Maldivian judiciary is corrupt and needs immediate reforms are dismissed immediately. The government refuses to work on judicial reform saying that they can’t do anything since the judiciary is an independent power. But now the president is saying that it is his duty to ensure the lawful running of the Supreme Court. Why is he talking about this now?”