Parliament rejects amendments to Decentralisation Act

Parliament today rejected amendments submitted by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed to the Decentralisation Act to transfer land and and lagoons under local council jurisdiction or ownership to the housing ministry.

The amendments were rejected with 68 votes against, six in favour and three abstentions. Pro-government MPs also voted against the amendment bill submitted by the PPM parliamentary group deputy leader.

“I am proposing amendments to the Decentralisation Act to the [People’s] Majlis today because of the disputes concerning land between councils, city councils and the housing ministry, and because the existing land law and decentralisation law does not make clear enough to us who has ownership of land,” Riyaz had said while presenting the legislation (Dhivehi) last week.

“Therefore, I certainly believe that the state’s property should be under one institution.”

In the ensuing debate, MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) accused the government of attempting to “destroy” decentralisation and render councils powerless.

The amendments would defeat the purpose of devolving decision-making powers, they contended, noting that articles 234 and 235 of the Constitution state that local councils shall have the authority to “raise funds” and “own property and incur liabilities”.

Riyaz  had argued that state assets should be under the control of the executive, alleging that councils with opposition majorities were deliberately obstructing development projects by refusing to provide land.