The current administration has “destroyed” the Supreme Court, undermined separation of powers and ushered in an unprecedented authoritarian rule, former president Abdulla Yameen declared at an opposition rally on Friday night.
Yameen heavily criticised impeached Supreme Court justices over the apex court’s February 1, 2018 order for the release of jailed politicians, repeating allegations of bribery and coup plots.
“I said then it was a coup. I will say tonight, that eclipse coup was truly the beginning of the end for today’s judiciary, it started on February 1 last year,” he said at the well-attended rally at the carnival area in Malé, calling the former judges “the biggest traitors” and defending his decision not to enforce the order.
Yameen reacted to the shock ruling by declaring a state of emergency and arresting chief justice Abdulla Saeed and justice Ali Hameed, after which the three remaining justices rescinded the full bench order. None of the five justices who signed the order are now on the bench.
Yameen went on to blame alleged vote rigging for his heavy defeat in last year’s presidential election and challenged the government to properly investigate the theft of US$90 million from state coffers during his administration.
The beneficiaries of the embezzlement scheme from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation include senior government officials and ruling party lawmakers, he said. “So how can this be investigated? This case can’t be investigated. The police won’t have the capacity, the courage to go the deepest into this case,” Yameen said, expressing confidence that he would not be implicated in the ongoing investigation.
“God willing, a complete investigation of MMPRC will be concluded in our government,” he added.
A verdict in money laundering charges raised against Yameen over the MMPRC scandal is due on Thursday. He was charged in connection with US$1 million deposited to his personal bank account by SOF, a company that was used to funnel the bulk of US$90 million stolen from the MMPRC.
Yameen also contended that new investments have not been made during the government’s first year and claimed that political posts were 70 percent higher than his administration. Economic growth has slowed after rapid development under his reign, he said.
The 60-year-old opposition leader also accused the government of trying to silence and intimidate religious scholars with police probes and defended NGO Salaf from accusations of extremism and jihadi recruitment. “We believe Salaf is an association with leaders who show us the right path,” he said.
Friday night’s rally drew the largest crowd of any opposition gathering since Yameen left office in November last year.
At the rally, Faresmaathoda MP Hussain Mohamed Latheef, who won re-election as an independent, rejoined the Progressive Party of Maldives led by Yameen.