Despite an opposition walkout, the nomination of judges to the Supreme Court was steamrolled through the Majlis on Thursday. Later the same day the apex court was established with Abdullah Saeed as its acting head. Why was the opposition less than enthusiastic about being onboard?
Opposition MDP had on 6 September issued a statement expressing concerns about lack of suitably qualified judges for the Supreme Court. The specific concern was the lack of constitutional expertise, particularly at a crucial juncture when the Court will often be required to interpret the Constitution. The amended Constitution is based on liberal democracy, a rather novel concept for serving judges in the Maldives, as it is not part of their training or experience. To bridge this gap, MDP had suggested appointing some expatriate legal experts to the Court. Two days later DRP rejected the proposal on nationalistic grounds.
Now that judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court, let's have a brief look at their CV to see if opposition fears were justified:
- Justice Abdullah Saeed did his first degree in Islamic Sharia and Law. Subsequently he did his masters in Malta and is currently pursuing PhD studies in Maritime Law. He is licensed to practice law in the European Union.
- Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussein has a degree in Islamic Sharia and Law, and has held the position of judge at the High Court.
- Justice Abdullah Areef has a degree in Islmaic Sharia and Law, and has been the presiding judge at the Criminal Court for many years.
- Justice Yousuf Hussein has a degree in Islmaic Sharia and Law from Madinah University, and has been the presiding judge at the Family Court.
- Justice Mujuthaz Fahumy has a local certificate of training as judge, and has been the presiding judge at the Civil Court.
Apart from MDP and JP members of the Majlis, legal experts cutting across the political spectrum had also expressed their concerns when the candidates were announced. Even legal reform minister Mohammed Nasheed also expressed his disappointment that none of the candidates had any formal exposure to the common law. Husnu Suood had raised his concern with many Majlis members. Liberal Party leader Ibra expressed his disappointment saying, "We are talking about the people who will interpret the Constitution made for a liberal democracy with Maldives ready for the 21st century."
Now that the heat and dust of the politicized battle for the Supreme Court is over, it's perhaps time for the Justices themselves to take a long and hard look at themselves to see if they are up to the task entrusted to them. If not they must seriously consider hiring a team of legal experts from abroad to advise them. Let good sense prevail.