Criminals can hold senior positions if law is interpreted to allow Yameen to run: EC

Former President Abdullah Yameen and his lawyers at Supreme Court of Maldives. | Photo: X

Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that if the Constitution is interpreted to allow former President Abdullah Yameen to contest the presidential election, major criminals will be given the opportunity to hold senior positions in the state.

Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the case of opposition leader former President Abdulla Yameen after Yameen filed a constitutional case over the matter. Elections Commission (EC) decided that Yameen did not meet the constitutional criteria as no court has overturned his 11-year sentence.

According to the constitution, if a presidential candidate has been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than 12 months, three years must have elapsed since his release or pardon.

Election Commission counsel Mahfooz Saeed told the Supreme Court that if the Constitution is interpreted to allow people to run for the presidency if the verdict is not final, the possibility of major criminals in the post of President and other positions in the state will be opened.

Members of Parliament, ministers and members of independent institutions will not have a sentence longer than a certain period of time, he said, adding that they will have the opportunity to remain in office because the sentence is not final.

“People serving sentences for various criminal cases can be elected or come to those posts. For example, there may be people in Parliament who have been convicted of criminal offences. There may also be people who have been convicted of a terrorism offences,” Mahfooz explained.

Mahfooz said that could not be considered as the intention of the special assembly that made the constitution. The Supreme Court has also ruled that a judgment will remain in force unless it is quashed by a higher court.

Mahfooz said there was no reason to interpret the Constitution further regarding the condition of the presidency. He said the Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the Constitution should be interpreted if it is not clear.

Mahfooz also added that Yameen has a jail sentence and proven debt, which makes him unqualified for the presidency. Citing that the USD 5 million fine imposed on Yameen for money laundering has not been paid yet.

When asked by the bench about it, Yameen’s lawyer Hamza Latheef said the commission did not mention the issue of proven debt in the initial disqualification document. He said the commission informed him in a later letter.

Yameen asked for an opportunity to say that the fine is part of a jail sentence. The deadline given by the court to pay the fine has not expired and the MIRA has not ordered the payment, he said.

Mahfooz said the Elections Commission looked into whether Yameen paid the money or not.

In addition, under the Prisons and Parole Act, prisoners serving sentences cannot participate in any political party activities. Therefore, under it, Yameen cannot contest the presidential election on the PPM ticket, he said.

Mahfooz said the PPM had already asked for an additional opportunity to nominate another candidate in the event of Yameen’s failure to contest.