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Column

Resignations alone won't hide rot in Maldives judicial system!

Maldives' judicial system is a farce. Corruption, political influence and verdicts for sale have long been common knowledge. But the leaked testimonies now confirmed as authentic by the police have quite literally blown the lid off and unmasked the rot in our justice system.

The testimonies leaked on social media on Wednesday included several from lower court judges saying how the now jailed chief justice Abdulla Saeed and judge Ali Hameed had influenced their rulings. The leaked documents also included testimonies from top police officials and the intelligence report following the February 1 court order to release jailed political leaders which plunged the country into fresh political turmoil.

Acting chief criminal judge Adam Arif in his testimony to the police had said the now jailed chief judicial administrator had called him and put him on speaker saying that the two top court judges wanted to speak to him following the order on February 1.

While on speaker, chief justice Saeed had said to be "mindful when sentencing political figures," the testimony read. Then judge Hameed had ordered him to release three out of the four lawmakers now charged in the coup plot which included former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

The chief justice had also ordered to annul the arrest warrant issued against the chief judicial administrator Hassan Saeed on February 4, according to judge Arif's statement.

Judge Mohamed Haleem Ali in his statement said the two top court judges had influenced several civil lawsuits including the controversial ownership dispute of Maldives' oldest newspaper 'Haveeru' which ultimately resulted in its closure.

In addition, the chief justice had conveyed a message from the president which ultimately led judge Haleem to remove Gayoom as the ruling party head and handover the reins to his half-brother and incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Some other judges also admitted to having changed their rulings "to ones president Yameen wanted" on orders of one of the two top court judges.

The statements have sparked public outrage and calls for the judges to resign are echoing throughout the archipelago. But resignations of a handful of judges would not stop the rot. The revelations of influence and corruption by the lower court judges have snuffed out the sliver of hope for justice we, the common people have simply clung onto for so long. Who in their right mind would be brave enough to say the verdicts referred to in the leaked statements were the only ones compromised?

This time it wasn't unsubstantiated accusations. Or a report by one of our concerned international partners. These were the words of our honourable judges. An unmistakable confession. The leak at long last proves what we already know. What we have always known. Justice remains at the whim of a few. However, despite the deplorable nature of the statements, the lower court judges were mere puppets. The tools or weapons that 'more powerful hands' used to attain their own more sinister motives.

So clamouring for a few 'foot soldiers' to resign although a must, would not suffice. Because the roots are deeper and the reverberations even more dire. What we really need are re-trials. On a massive scale. Every verdict needs to be reviewed and re-visited. And the police should not be investigating the leak. What they should do is investigate these blatant admissions of guilt. Follow the 'stench' up to the highest levels of government.