Threats to disband Addu City Council are “impossible” and show lack of “political understanding” the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.
The statement follows warnings from President of Local Government Authority (LGA) and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim that the council could be disbanded if it did not cooperate with the government.
The six member council was one of two administrative divisions – along with Malé City – designated as cities in the 2010 Decentralisation Act.
Both are dominated by the opposition MDP, with all six of Addu’s council seats being won by the party in recent local elections.
Speaking at a government coalition campaign rally held in Addu’s Hithadhoo island earlier this week, Nazim said that residents did not cooperate with the government and that this can create problems, local media reported.
“Action may have to be taken against them, and could lead to dissolving the council”, he was quoted as saying.
Speaking at the same rally, President Abdulla Yameen remarked, “while the MDP may say that they would hold the government accountable if they win a majority in parliament, they would in reality create problems for the government.”
In response to these comments, the MDP have released a statement characterising Nazim’s “unlawful threat” as a “warning to stop the empowerment and development of Addu City citizens.”
The opposition party accused the government of attempting to dissolve the Addu City Council in order to revert the country to autocratic rule.
“However, the people of Addu City have always shown that they will not bow to such dictatorial actions,” the statement read.
Spokesperson Hamid told Minivan News that the threats made by Nazim were impossible, and a sign of the government’s “desperation” and lack of political understanding.
“Decentralisation is very much welcome and they have tried to revert back to centralisation” he added.
As part of its Majlis election campaign, the MDP has pledged to amend the Decentralisation Act in order to empower local councils. Former President Nasheed has said the party’s aim was to secure financial independence for local government.
“We want each council to conduct business transactions using the island [to generate income] for establishing sewerage and water systems, build roads or even construct a harbour or do work needed for the school – we want to find a way for you to undertake these efforts on your own,” said Nasheed last month.
Budget for Addu
Prior to Nazim’s remarks, President Yameen told residents in Hithadhoo that the 2014 state budget comprised of developmental projects that would solve the problems in Addu City.
Speaking at a parliamentary campaign event held on Tuesday (March 18), the president said that apart from the projects that will be run via the state budget, he had also planned other developmental projects for Addu by obtaining funds from other sources, reported Haveeru.
“According to my information, 50 percent of the finance needed to deal with the land erosion problem has been arranged by the Saudi government. We have written a proposal to Kuwait Fund to attain the remaining 50 percent funds as loan aid,” Yameen was quoted as saying.
In addition, Yameen said that work on building the Islamic Centre in Hithadhoo will commence in June this year.
If the public wanted to see these plans completed, the governmental coalition would need to acquire the parliament’s majority, Yameen said, calling upon the people to vote for candidates representing the government’s Progressive Coalition.
Shortly after this year’s budget was proposed, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig suggested the financial difficulties facing his council were a result of the failure to implement the Decentralisation Act properly.
“Right now decentralisation in this country is just for show,” Sodig told Minivan News in December. “The government and Majlis need to resolve these issues if the citizens are to benefit from decentralisation in a meaningful way.”
Under the landmark legislation, the LGA is tasked with monitoring councils, ensuring standards, improving technical capacity, and coordinating with the central government.
The LGA board consists of a cabinet minister appointed by the president, a member appointed from the MCC, four atoll councillors elected from among members of atoll councils, a representative from civil society appointed by parliament, a member of the general public appointed by parliament, and a member elected from the Addu and Malé city councils.