The high court upheld Sunday a civil court verdict that handed control of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives to President Abdulla Yameen.
Delivering a verdict in a rushed appeal, Chief Judge Abdulla Didi said the civil court was right to seize control from Yameen’s half-brother and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom due to “extraordinary circumstances” arising from the 78-year-old’s refusal to convene the party’s governing council and sacking of his deputy.
The appeal was concluded just a week after Gayoom was stripped of his powers as elected leader and Yameen, an advisor to the party, was installed as the head of the PPM.
Husnu Suood, lead counsel for Gayoom and a former attorney general, told reporters they would contest the verdict at the supreme court.
“We don’t believe that this ruling is right. So we will take this to the supreme court,” he said.
The appeal was filed without Gayoom’s knowledge by a man named Abbas Wafir, who was not party to the initial dispute, leaving the former president’s lawyers scrambling to file a third-party intervention.
They had claimed that Yameen, as advisor to the party, held a ceremonial role and was not entitled to the party’s leadership. Further, the Yameen-loyalists who had filed the lawsuit against Gayoom had only requested the court to lift the suspension of the governing council and had not asked for the president to be installed as the head of the party, they argued.
But the appellate court said Gayoom’s refusal to convene meetings of the PPM’s governing council had brought the party to a standstill, a situation that was not envisioned by the party’s charter or the Political Parties Act.
Moreover, Gayoom’s sacking of the party’s deputy leader, MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, had paralysed the party leadership. In such extraordinary circumstances, the party’s advisor was the best man to take over, the court ruled.
Judge Didi also upheld Wafir’s right to challenge the civil court verdict, ruling that any individuals affected by a court’s decision had a right to appeal. Wafir, as a member of the PPM member, had a legitimate interest in the case, he said.
The leadership row has plunged the party into disarray and split it into fully-fledged rival factions.
The feud between the two brothers broke out into the open in June when Gayoom refused to endorse his half-brother for the 2018 presidential election and intensified when his son, MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon, was expelled for voting against a government-sponsored bill at his behest.
After accusing ruling party MPs of facilitating corruption and undermining democratic reforms he initiated, Gayoom then suspended the PPM council and launched an agenda to reform the PPM.
Earlier this month, Gayoom said the council would remain suspended until Yameen loyalists apologise for walking out of its last meeting on July 19.
The same MPs, who had sought court action to force Gayoom to reconvene the council, had also asked the court to remove Gayoom from the party’s leadership. But the second case was later withdrawn.
Suood, Gayoom’s lawyer, accused Yameen of seizing leadership to obtain the party ticket for the 2018 polls.
“When this problem started, there was a debate, who should get the party’s ticket? We saw a certain person trying to take the ticket against the party’s charter. The whole purpose was to obtain the ticket against the party charter,” he said on Friday.
“Because of the makeup of the party’s congress, it is possible that the person might not get the ticket. So what could have been done to prevent that? Taking away the party’s leadership. With the way things have turned out now, that person is running the party, or the party council.”
Meanwhile, Yameen has called for dialogue, saying he does not wish to speak ill of his “beloved brother” in public. The split was a “big gift” to the opposition, he said.