Comment: Clearly rejected

Among the wheeling and dealings we’ve seen in the Majlis, the issue of Cabinet Ministers has been one of the most convoluted and silly arguments we’ve seen.

Can the Cabinet Ministers be questioned? Can’t they be accepted or rejected together? Are they just nominated or actually appointed? And therefore once chosen by the President, are they Ministers or Ministers-in-waiting? And in what capacity are they beholden to the Majlis?

Within two days the Supreme Court will decide on these questions. In two days, hopefully the drama will end, rather than begin anew.

Why are they going to court?

The Majlis has rejected seven Cabinet Ministers. MDP does not like this and would like all of their Ministers to keep their portfolios. Was approval necessary? Yes. Can the Majlis reject a Cabinet member without a vote of no confidence? Yes, but only when the President asks for their approval and acceptance of that appointment.

Nowhere is it written in the constitution that there is only one way to remove a Cabinet Minister, as Reeko Moosa suggests.

Article 101 of the Constitution states that a vote of no confidence is possible, but it does not say that a vote of no confidence is the only way to remove a Minister. There are in fact two ways: 1) A vote of no confidence; or 2) A rejection when appointed.

Once appointed, s/he is a Minister

The opposition claims that individuals were nominated rather than appointed. They claim that the President can choose people, and that those people would only become Ministers once they have approval. This is false.

The President does not nominate, he appoints. The moment those individuals take their oath by either the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or his representative, those individuals become Ministers of the Cabinet of the Republic of the Maldives as per Article 131 of the Constitution.

Article 131 states: ‘A member of the cabinet shall assume office upon taking and subscribing, before the Chief Justice or his Designate, the oath of office.’

The only thing that might be left up to debate is whether the Chief Justice could choose to simply not provide himself or his representative to swear the appointees in, and refuse to do so until each individual had parliamentary approval.

But in this case, Abdullah Saeed (Chief Justice at the time) did not do so. If you think back, though, you will remember that the cabinet was re-sworn at the same time that the MNDF had locked up the Supreme/High Courts and taken away the key. Not surprisingly, after Abdullah Saeed had sent his representative to swear in the cabinet he was given back the key to his office.

Nonetheless, once these individuals were sworn in, they were fully fledged Ministers, with every power, right, authority, and responsibility afforded them. All talk claiming they were just acting as ministers is just silliness. But if these people are already Ministers, do they still need approval? Isn’t it just a formality?

Approval or rejection necessary

Article 129C and D of the Constitution state:

C. Except for the Vice President, the President must receive the approval of the People’s Majlis for all appointments to the cabinet.

D. The President shall submit to the People’s Majlis, within seven days of making appointments to the Cabinet, the names of the appointees to the Cabinet for approval to the People’s Majlis.

Article 129C clearly states that the President “must receive approval” of the Majlis. Therefore, if any Cabinet Minister is rejected, then they are no longer Ministers of the cabinet. The only way they can continue is if the President swears them in again, where they will then have seven days before the President is required to send their names to the Majlis for a second time.

I do not believe there is any impediment to repeating this as many times as the President wants. Though I’m sure rejection after rejection by the Majlis would appear a complete farce in the eyes of the public.

Together or one by one

As to the issue of whether the cabinet should be approved together or individually, that is completely up to the preference of the Majlis Members. It is a tiny insignificant point that the constitution makes no reference to.

MDP thought there would be a bigger chance to get everyone approved if they are lumped together, because then DRP could be made to look stubborn and completely against all betterment of the nation if all of the cabinet members were wholly rejected.

One usually expects the entire cabinet to come to approval only once in a presidential term. It was assumed that after the approval of the entire cabinet, if a minister was dismissed, it would be done on a case by case basis.

But alas, that was not how things went down in this scenario. In this case, there is another instance which was particularly odd as well in the issue around whether Minister’s couldn’t be questioned.

Questioning Ministers

So, can a Minister be questioned? Of course, but only about the job at hand.

The opposition wanted to evaluate and judge each Minister before giving their approval. They claimed that a summons for this purpose required Ministers to come.

This is false. Ministers are only required to attend the Majlis for questions regarding their duties and responsibilities – not their qualification. In fact, under Article 98 of the Constitution, they can question any head of any government office if they so chose to. To answer falsely, or withhold information would directly violate the constitution.

The Supreme Court agreed with this evaluation in stating at the article in the Majlis rules of procedure that required their presence to judge their qualifications was outside of the constitution.

The bottom line and 2011 budget

The seven Ministers who were rejected by parliament remain rejected. However, until that rejection was decided by a vote of parliament, they were proper Ministers.

They were therefore required to answer summons that related to their job, but not to summons to simply scrutinize them on their qualifications.

The only way for the President to have Ali Hashim, former Finance Minister, present the budget is to reappoint him and swear him in. I believe Ali Hashim is one of our most capable Ministers, and if not for being caught in the crosshairs of political maneuvering, his position would not be in question.

It is a shame and a travesty that this issue is dominating so much of the public’s time and that these Ministers are losing their livelihoods over it. It is a shame that so many other bills that need passing, like those on drugs, evidence, and the penal code are left on the sidelines while we quibble about Ministerial portfolios.

While I have my own claim and object to GIP (Gaumee Itthihaad Party) not receiving its three cabinet portfolios in Economic Development, Education, and Fisheries as was understood in the MDP Itthihaad Coalition agreement, I still do not condone spending time on this issue when so many more desperate issues are waiting to be addressed.

There are procedures for cabinet appointments that should have been followed. There once was a clear understanding of how to go about all of this. But instead of it being a simple and day long matter, it has led our nation to constitutional crisis. Instead of following procedure we all now look at the constitution from a thousand different angles and wrest every type of meaning we can from every line before proceeding in the way most beneficial to us.

I am not a government apologist trying to hide constitutional violations, nor an opposition sympathizer trying to topple the government. I’m just trying to make sense of a now convoluted issue.

I pray that the Supreme Court protects the constitution and laws it was created to uphold and that their life time tenures ensures justice free of political sway and maneuvering.

I pray that we can move forward from this upcoming Supreme Court decision and find a way to create a whole government dedicated to the MDP Itthihaad manifesto confirmed two years ago.

I pray our conscience prevails and sanity finally reigns.

Note: Article 87 states:

A. Unless otherwise provided in this Constitution; all decisions made by the People’s Majlis shall be decided by a majority of the votes of members present and voting (Approval or rejection of Cabinet Ministers is done this way as it is not mentioned anywhere else.

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11 thoughts on “Comment: Clearly rejected”

  1. Great article that makes alot clear. However, you do not mention all the constitutional violations:
    - taking the key and forcing the chief justice to swear in the cabinet
    - violating proceedure
    - saying that the president will not even seek approval cause it is not necessary
    - not giving the names to majlis
    - blocking MPs from attending majlis
    - telling ministers they don't need to go for questioning at all! Not just for "qualification" but about their duties too
    - refusing to accept rejection of cabinet ministers
    - having councilors in place when the local election is going to happen.

    All these things are illegal and this article keeps skirting around all these issues without mentioning them once!

    If they were ministers then they should be held accountable. And if the president stopped them from being accountable, he should be held accountable as well!

    This article made things clear. But also avoids the real issue. Just say what you mean!

  2. Key Ministers of the government have been rejected by the parliament. Taking aside the law can we ask the question as to whether any President can possibly run a government
    With Ministers in whom he has no confidence. Obviously any President would only put together a team of cabinet Ministers based on loyalty and confidence in people whom he can entrust to run ministries. I feel the clause requiring the cabinet approval is an obstructive law in need of annulment.

  3. There is absolutely no reason that any President should not be able to find someone that would be acceptable to the Majlis/Parliament as well. I have absolute faith that there are those in this country that meet those qualifications, and that the President can trust to do their job.

    Hawwa, i spoke of the cabinet issue at hand, not the action, justification, or motives of the executive or legislature.

  4. I wonder why Mahmood Razi was approved when they have been screaming their heads off about the Aiport privatization and I wonder why Dr Sawad was not approved when he clearly has not done anything to piss these guys off?

    They absolutely have no "hama" or reason in taking these decisions. Does not make sense.

    I believe that if they are responsible political parties, they should come forward to the media and explain why this that person was rejected or approved.

  5. I believe that if a minister cannot any longer serve in the post once the parliament gives disapproval, the constitution would have stated it in the clause which explains how a minster can be removed from office like how it details the procedure on the no confidence votes/motions on ministers.

  6. the constitution of this country is flawed and needs to be rewritten. till then there is no peace. dqp

  7. Interesting...Salim Waheed is back!! I wonder he can get out of the great shadow he is in!

  8. the only reason that the parliament did not approve certain names is because they want to control the cabinet too. the reason they approved some is most probably to look "innocent" in front of the public. looking at the reject/approval list one can see that capability was clearly not taken in to consideration. and i dont think the constitution is flawed. its a work in progress and not complete. as for the mdp- itthihad coalition, come on! mdp is just supposed to wait and listen while the vp goes on tv and criticizes the government?? and also it would have worked out much better if itthihaad had appointed capable ministers (kuda rasheed is not a capable person). itthihaad would argue about this, but the truth is he was flown in to the country from some un job to take over the ministry cos there was no one in the party to take the post. so the moment President nasheed had some breathing space he started getting rid of the "excess baggage" that was holding the government back. i know certain people would find it hard to digest these things. but thats the truth. i would also like to note that some of these mdp ministers are not capable of running ministries or anything else for that matter.

  9. Kuda - Rasheed - the former Trade minister was very capable. Even when Anni fired him, he was forced to admit Kuda was vet capable but he was only fired because the Vice President said how Anni was going back on his campaign promos and breaking their agreement. How Anni was no longer listening or consulting waheen when he had promised to!

    We voted for Anni's change but ONLY with Waheed's experience. Without that there is no government. Anni has shown that he is as ba a dictator as Maumoon.


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