Is Calling for the Resignation of the President Unconstitutional?

This article was originally published as an Editorial in Dhivehi Observer on Wednesday, 9th June 2004, when I we started working with the MDP and the democratic reform movement in the early 2000, triggered by the brutal murder of an inmate in Maafushi Prison and sebsequent attempt of cover-up by Dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom.

National Security Service (NSS) of  Maldives wants to know how Mr. Abdul Rasheed got the idea to display the  now very  famous banner calling for Gayyoom’s resignation during the reform debate conference held on 5th of July in  Ghiyaasudheen School.

An informant in NSS says that the questioning and the reason behind the recent harassment of Abdul Rasheed, who has been taken to NSS for questioning 4 times over the last 48 hours, is because Gayyoom wants to know how he got the idea, and furthermore why did it say “WE” and not “I”. Gayyoom does not think that there can be anyone in the Maldives who would want to call for his resignation. He also wants to know if this was a premeditated attempt to destabilize his regime and to create public disorder. According to NSS, there has been some discontent amongst the public as a result of this action. According to the informant, Mr. Rasheed has vehemently denied causing any public outrage and causing hatred amongst people toward the government of Gayyoom. Furthermore, he is adamant that Article 25 of the constitution gives him the right to express his thoughts in this manner. He further added that Gayyoom did not get 100% in the last referendum which indicates that there must be some people who would want his tyranny to come to an end.

On 10th of June 2004, reacting to the self-acclaimed informal speech of Gayyoom on constitutional reform, Mr. Moosa (Sappe’), Elected Council Member of Maldivian Democratic Party and Editor-in-Chief of Dhivehi Observer News Website, called for the resignation of Gayyoom on BBC World TV in which he called for the immediate resignation of Gayyoom. This was shown on National TV in Maldives, yet it did not lead to any violence. With that call, more Maldivians would have got idea and the inspiration to call for Gayyoom’s resignation, so if anyone is guilty for planting the idea than it is Mr. Moosa (Sappe’) who should take the blame.

When I asked Mr. Moosa why he had taken this unprecedented initiative in calling for Gayyoom’s resignation he explained “I do not recognise Mr. Gayyoom as the legitimate President of the Maldives. He has undermined the Constitution of the Maldives time and time again. The paradox is that we can’t prove him guilty because he is the Head of the Judiciary. However, as responsible citizens, it is our duty to uphold and protect the constitution of the Maldives. My legal advisors are in no doubt that Mr. Gayyoom has committed High Treason as per Article 12 (1) of the Constitution of the Maldives. They have further advised me that as a citizen, I am liable to be charged for High Treason for not pointing it out to the people of Maldives as per Article 12 (2) of the Constitution of the Maldives”

Constitution of the Maldives: Article 12: High Treason

  1. Any person who, by the threat or use of force or in violation of the Constitution, abrogates or attempts to abrogate the Constitution or attempts to undermine the Constitution or conspires to commit any of the said acts shall be guilty of high treason.
  2. Any person who aids and abets or is an accomplice in the commission of any act mentioned in clause (1) of this Article or any person who has knowledge of the commission of such act and has failed to report the same shall also be guilty of high treason.

The strange thing is  Mr. Moosa is absolutely right. It is  NOT illegal to call for his resignation. So, let us now look at the constitutional view on resignation of the President of the Maldives. Is it possible for the President to resign? Is there such providence in the constitution? What is the procedure? The answers to all these questions is “YES”. So, how on earth is calling for resignation unconstitutional? Sp, to refresh the memory of the reader, let us revise the relevant clauses from the Constitution of the Maldives.

Constitution of the Maldives: Article 46: Resignation of the President

The President may, by writing to the Speaker of the People’s Majlis specifying the reasons thereof, resign from the office of President. However, the President shall continue to hold office until such time the Speaker of the People’s Majlis submits within three days, the said letter of resignation to the Majlis and notifies the President in writing of the acceptance by the People’s Majlis of the said resignation.

Removing “him” from office is however, a much more prolonged and complicated affair, still it is another constitutional right of the people.

Constitution of the Maldives: Article 47 : Removal from Office of President

47/1. The President may be removed from office where any of the following matters has been alleged against him and has been dealt with in accordance with sub-clauses. (2)(a) and (2)(b) of this Article and the People’s Majlis havingdeliberated on the report submitted pursuant to sub-clause (2)(d) of this Article by the Committee of Investigation on its findings, resolves by a two-thirds majority that sufficient evidence exists to accept the allegations against the President and hence the President be removed from office.

a.  The President becomes disqualified under the provisions of the Constitution for the office of President.

b.   The President becomes permanently incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office by reason of mental or physical infirmity.

c.   Intentional violation of the Constitution.

d.  Commission of an offence for which a hadd is prescribed in Islam.

47/2.

a.  A motion to remove the President from office may be considered in the People’s Majlis only when one-third of the members of the People’s Majlis write under their hand addressed to the Speaker of the Majlis alleging any of the matters mentioned in sub- clauses (1)(a), (1)(b), (1)© and (1)(d) of this Article,  specifying the reasons thereof, and if the Majlis, upon such matter being submitted to the Majlis, resolves by a two-thirds majority to consider such motion.

b.  The allegation made against the President shall be investigated by a Committee of Investigation comprising five persons of which two persons shall be nominated by the People’s Majlis, two persons appointed by the President and one person acceptable to both the People’s Majlis and the President. No person serving in the said Committee of Investigation shall be a member of the People’s Majlis. And each of the said persons shall have the ability and competence to investigate such a matter. In the event the People’s Majlis and the President cannot agree upon a person to be appointed with their concurrence, such person shall be chosen by a two- thirds majority of the People’s Majlis. The said Committee of Investigation shall be presided over by a member of the Committee upon whom both the People’s Majlis and the President agree. In the event that the People’s Majlis and the President cannot agree on such a member, a member chosen by a two-thirds majority of the People’s Majlis shall preside over the said Committee.

c.  During the investigation referred to in sub-clause (2)(b) of this Article, the President shall have the right to appear and be heard in the said Committee in person or by a lawyer.

d.  The Committee of Investigation mentioned in sub-clause (2) (b) of this Article shall, within thirty days from the date of submission to the Committee of the said matter, submit a report containing its findings on the matter at issue to the People’s Majlis.

47/3  In the event that the People’s Majlis resolves to remove the President from office in accordance with clause (1) of this Article, the President shall be deemed removed from office with immediate effect upon notification of the same to the President by the Speaker of the Majlis.

If Gayyoom really wants to test the waters, the popular sentiments of the people of Maldives, he should exercise the power and duties of the President and call for a referendum, as it is a constitutional right that he has. One might wonder why he doesn’t do that and prove once and for all that people want him.

Constitution of the Maldives: Article 42 : Powers and Duties of the President

In addition to the powers and functions expressly conferred on or assigned to the President by the Constitution and law, the President shall have the power to execute the following:

f.   Holding public referendums on major issues concerning which the President requires to obtain public opinion.

Now, here is an idea. The questions should be plain and simple. Any of the following will suffice and will yield the answer that he seeks, provided that there is a fair and free referendum.

Sample Question 1 – Do you want me, Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, to resign from the post of President of the Maldives?

Sample Question 2 – Do you believe that I, Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, am a dictator?

Sample Question 3 – Do you believe that I, Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, have undermined the constitution of Maldives?

Sample Question 4 – Do you believe that I, Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, do not practice the rule of law in the Maldives?

Sample Question 5 – Do you believe that I, Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, can be trusted with constitutional reform?

“I do not recognise Mr. Gayyoom as the legitimate President of the Maldives. He has undermined the Constitution of the Maldives time and time again. The paradox is that we can’t prove him guilty because he is the Head of the Judiciary. However, as responsible citizens of the Maldives, it is our duty to uphold and protect the constitution of the Maldives. My legal advisors are in no doubt that Mr. Gayyoom has committed High Treason as per Article 12 (1) of the Constitution of the Maldives. They have further advised me that as a citizen, I am liable to be charged for High Treason for not pointing it out to the people of Maldives as per Article 12 (2) of the Constitution of the Maldives”

Ahmed Shafeeq Ibrahim Moosa (Sappe’)

Member of the Maldivian Democratic Party General Council www.mdp.org.mv

This article landed me in a a lot of hot water with the then Dictator Gayyoom’s administration resulting me from being banned from entering the Maldives. At the time of writing the article I was living in Brisbane, Australia doing my final year of studies for my Bachelors Degree in Media. The ban was listed in July 205. 

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