The supreme court refused Thursday to hear an appeal filed by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom against a ruling that stripped him of all of his powers as elected leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives.
The apex court said it found no “legal basis” to hear Gayoom’s petition, and ruled that the civil court was right to install his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, as head of the PPM.
The judgment appears to bring to a close an acrimonious legal battle for the control of the ruling party, and hands victory to Yameen, who has now set up a rival secretariat.
Gayoom’s lawyer, Husnu Suood, said he was “extremely saddened” by the supreme court’s decision, which he described as a “ruling without a trial.”
“Everyone is entitled to an appeal, but that right has been taken away from President Maumoon,” the former attorney general said.
The supreme court ruled that the the civil court verdict, which was later upheld by the high court, was necessary to revive the PPM as it had been brought to a standstill amid the infighting.
“It is clear that the constitution of the Maldives does not allow any political party, that receives funding from the state, to be unlawfully suspended,” the judgement said, adding that the constitution promotes a multi-party democracy in the Maldives.
The civil war within the PPM was prompted by Gayoom’s refusal to hand Yameen the party ticket for the 2018 presidential elections, and intensified when his son, Faris Maumoon, a lawmaker, was expelled.
The 78-year-old proceeded to suspend the party’s governing council, in which Yameen loyalists hold a majority, and its internal committees, prompting two MPs to launch a lawsuit seeking court intervention to lift the suspension.
When the civil court issued a ruling ordering Yameen to reconvene the council, the Gayoom’s brothers set up rival secretariats, sacked each other’s loyalists and appointed their own deputies and secretary-generals.
The Gayoom-faction has meanwhile reconstituted the party’s disciplinary committee, declaring the previous body’s decisions to expel Faris as invalid.
The elections commission, however, has sided with the Yameen-faction, and taken off Faris and Aminath Nadira, Gayoom’s deputy, from the party’s registry.
Suood, the lead counsel for the former president, said Thursday they plan to challenge Faris and Nadira’s expulsion at the civil court, arguing that the disciplinary committee had failed to give the pair time to defend themselves.
Gayoom has meanwhile petitioned Attorney General Mohamed Anil and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives to intervene in the row.
In a letter sent to Anil on Wednesday, Gayoom noted that the attorney general had challenged a civil court ruling issued in the battle for the now-defunct newspaper, Haveeru, and asked him to intervene in the PPM dispute in the interest of the party’s members and the rule of law.
The HRCM meanwhile threw out the Gayoom’s petition saying it does not have jurisdiction over the legal battle. A final say only rests with the supreme court, the commission said.
In other developments, the Gayoom faction has refused to accept a letter from Yameen asking it to hand over the party’s database and assets. “The letter carried the PPM’s name. But this office has not sent such a letter to this office. That is why we sent it back,” said Abdul Aleem, the Gayoom-faction’s secretary general.
The letter from Abdulla Khaleel, a lawmaker who was appointed secretary general by Yameen, read: “A civil court ruling, which was supported by the high court, has handed over the administration of PPM to its advisor. Hence, we ask that the party’s assets, database of members and other documents relating to its administration be handed over to the advisor.”
Suood said Gayoom also plans to contest Khaleel’s letter and Yameen’s alleged usurpation of his powers, which the former president claims is illegal on the grounds that Yameen only holds a ceremonial role as advisor.
The high court had said the “extraordinary circumstances” arising from Gayoom’s suspension of the council allows for Yameen to take over control.