What a laugh the Majlis is having at the people’s expense. If voting to give themselves the extra MRF20,000 (US$1300) was like spitting people in the face, having the pay cheque backdated is like rubbing the polity’s face in the MPs’ bejewelled excrement.
For what is this money being rewarded? For emotional distress caused by having to bend to the people’s will for eight arduous months? Has life really been that tough on MRF60,000 US$(3900) a month that MPs need financial redress for their suffering?
It really must have been difficult coming up to Ramadan, having to forgo one or many of all those pre-Ramadan MP necessities. No pre-fasting trips to Bangkok, no spiritual rejuvenation trips to Sri Lanka, no shopping trips to Malaysia, no tri-annual holiday abroad for the parliamentary off spring.
Having had to endure a month in which the prices from fish to furniture have gone beyond the common man’s reach, the collective empathy of the people are no doubt with the Majlis.
Kudos to the 17 who have said they do not want the allowance. Most fascinating, though, are the 16 who abstained. Would the allowance have been possible without them?
How complex and nuanced a question is: do you think you deserve the MRF20,000 a month at a time of grave national debt? It requires a simple yes or no answer – you are either with the people or you are not. Sitting on the fence on this question is even more self-serving than those who voted to keep the allowance – at least they were honest.
And then there are the MPs who are speaking out against the proposed income tax. On the grounds that it applies only to a small percentage of the population! Taxing the small percentage of the mega rich who have this country in a stranglehold, and letting the poor escape the burden – that is the purpose of it, one would have thought. In some MPs’ books, taxes should be equal – this is some people’s understanding of democracy, alas.
The avarice in the parliament is widespread, and its connections to big money are many. On the day of the salary vote at the Public Accounts Committee, its Chairman Ahmed ‘Jangiya’ [Panties] Nazim was in court for allegedly embezzling money from the public coffers to the tune of US$400,000.
If MPs stuck the polity’s face in their excrement, the Criminal Court’s decision to ban the media from MP Nazim’s court hearings buried the public in shallow graves dug in the same matter.
The accused is the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, the man who chairs the meetings at which decisions are made on how public accounts are to be balanced. He stands charged with fraud. If this is not a matter of public interest, then what is?
And what does the Criminal Court’s justification for the decision to ban the media even mean? Article 42 of the Constitution, to which the Court referred in its decision, says courts can only exercise their discretion to exclude the media if doing otherwise would disrupt public order, public morality or national security. None of these issues are at play here.
If the Criminal Court’s decision to gag the media refers to ‘other special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice’ as said in Article 42, what the Court is effectively saying is that it is open to suggestion by every lowly hack out there.
The ‘democratic norms’, only according to which the discretionary powers in Article 42 are to be exercised, has long established that dangers of prejudice by media criticism arises where a jury is involved – not in cases where judges are sitting alone.
Unlike a jury of 12 ordinary people, judges – assumed to have achieved higher levels of education and higher levels of ethics and morality than ordinary people – are seen as above outside influence, and able to make a ruling based solely on the evidence before him.
By saying the court cannot come to a fair and impartial ruling because of what is being said in the media, it is clearly admitting that the judge sitting alone is easily influenced and cannot be trusted.
Perhaps balancing the people’s right to freedom of expression with an accused person’s right to a fair trial was not a module covered in the Sentencing Certificate?
The media should be in an uproar over this gagging order. Apart from a statement from the Media Council, however, there has been nothing.
Where is the Maldives Journalists Association with their usual indignation? Where is the Maldives National Journalists Association? Where are the highly paid members of the Broadcasting Commission? Where is the burgeoning ‘free press’?
Will the real Fourth Estate please stand up?
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