“Hell will come” to parliament over provinces section: MP Mohamed Nasheed

Parliament’s decentralisation committee has removed the concept of ‘provinces’ from the contentious Decentralisation Bill, claiming that dividing the country into seven provinces and not keeping it divided into its current  21 administrative regions is unconstitutional.

During the decentralisation bill’s third innings at Parliament, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-led committee in charge of reviewing the bill voted in favour of removing the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) proposal of provincial division.

In protest against the removal of the ‘provinces’ from the bill, four MDP MPs walked out of the committee meeting last week leaving the remaining seven members to take a vote on whether the provincial divisions should remain or be removed.

According to Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed, this “sticking issue” has been causing disagreements in Parliament and within the committee since the Bill was first introduced. The reasons behind the argument were “partly legal, partly political,” he explained.

According to the Constitution, the country should be divided into 21 administrative districts. Nasheed points out that the Constitution does not mention provinces; nor does it say whether the country can or cannot be divided into provinces.

Nasheed said the DRP is against the move because they claim it is unconstitutional, while the MDP counters that because provincial governance is in the party’s manifesto and people voted for MDP, it should be allowed.

Nasheed said the government began constructing new province offices and appointing ministers while the bill was still being disputed, and has spent Rf125 million (US$9.6 million) on administrative costs already.

“The government did not consult with the main opposition [before going ahead],” he said.

In an effort to avoid the protests and disruption that occurred during the last vote in parliament over the bill, Nasheed suggested a compromise whereby the president has the right to group regions together for administrative reasons, similar to the way it is done in the health and education sectors.

“It does not need to be crystallised in law,” he explained.

He noted that creating provincial councils would only complicate things as it would mean four layers of government in the country: island council, atoll council, province council and national government.

However Nasheed said he believes that “no one will give up” on the issue, as “the government has climbed the ladder so high, it would be a major political defeat if they back down. Right now, it’s MDP against everyone else,” he said.

Nasheed said he expects “a lot of friction” in Parliament this coming week, suggesting that “hell will come” when the issue is sent back to the Majlis.

MDP response

MDP MP for Henveiru South Hamid Abdul Gafoor said the bill “should have been enacted into law on 1 July 2009… it has to be done within the transitional two years [since the change of government]. There are only three months left.”

Gafoor said because the population of individual atolls are so small, sometimes under 10,000 people, it is not enough people to make administrative costs economically viable.

“We need [about] 40,000 people [in each region] to make it economically feasible,” he said, noting that this would mean cutting civil servants “as the extra layer simplifies the system.”

Gafoor said there would still be atoll councillors, but there wouldn’t be a need for representatives of the central government in each atoll, therefore reducing costs.

“We will cut down on red tape, on bureaucracy,” he said.

Gafoor added that if this section of the bill is passed, the subsequent elections for provincial ministers and representatives would be “a landmark election” for the country.

DRP response

Chairperson of the Decentralisation Committee and DRP MP Mohamed Mujthaz said there will only be another vote if an MP proposes amendments. Otherwise, he said, “tomorrow, the committee will finish [reviewing the bill].”

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said the DRP has been “refusing to add” this concept of provincial division from the beginning.

He said DRP has never been against decentralisation, as it clearly stated in the Constitution the country should be run by a decentralised government. But he added “it is unconstitutional” to make the division into seven provinces and not the stipulated 21 regions.

Nihan said this new division would only complicate things more, adding “the public is now confused” as to where to go: the island office, atoll office, or province office: “The service is getting far away from the people.”

Nihan said MDP can ask for an amendment in Parliament, but said he thought “the public is not in the mood to let this happen.”

Government response

Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair, said “the president’s view has been publicly stated. Just having atoll councillors does not prove good economics; it is too small a population.”

Zuhair said although the Constitution stipulates the country be divided into twenty-one atolls, “it does not prohibit” dividing it by provinces.

He said grouping the atolls into provinces was “necessary” and noted that “aid agencies have [also] grouped them. This is not a new idea.”

Zuhair said MDP MPs are boycotting the committee and said “there will still be intervention,” assuring “there will be a vote” in Parliament to resolve this.

He added that the president could, “by decree” include the provinces into the bill, “but it’s not the ideal situation. The president is still trying to garner support.”

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14 thoughts on ““Hell will come” to parliament over provinces section: MP Mohamed Nasheed”

  1. Just take a look at those who ran as candidates in 2008 Presidential elections.

    Next figure out how many of them had provincial systems in their manifestos.

    So the agenda today is telling. Isn't it?

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  2. MPs, for the sake of the oath you each took, if for nothing else, please come to a compromise. Dialogue is the way to go, not walking out in protest or playing hardline games or ignoring each other when it comes to national issues. It is sad and really unacceptable that today the people have to beg our elected (adult) representatives across parties to leave their childhood behind and come to their senses. Surely there can be a way in which this issue can be resolved in the interest of the nation.

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  3. why don't anni and his athesit group now condemn MP Nasheed for calling HELL!! hehe..

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  4. The people voted for an MDP Itthihaad manifesto and provinces were part of this.

    And Nasheed is wrong. There is nothing "partly legal" about this. This is wholly political. MDP promised providential councils and DRP is determined to not see MDP's manifesto fulfilled because then they can claim that MDP failed the people and did not meet their campaign promises.

    All the rhetoric about "keeping MDP honest" and making "sure the meet their pledges" is blatant political maneuvering and empty rhetoric. The Maldivian electorate is so young - when it comes to democracy - that they are not going to really understand DRP's role in the lack of services being provided the country. They are not going to understand how deadlock in Parliament is so detrimental to our nation and how it has DIRECTLY led to social degradation.

    This is out of control. The political posturing that's going on is ridiculous.

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  5. This is just another episode of DRP opposing everything MDP does just to make life difficult for MDP. They don't have any regard to what is good or bad for the country. And that is not something new for DRP.

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  6. Laura, I think you should better go over the article before it appears in print. Please explain;

    "claiming that diving the country " ,

    “prohibit” diving it by provinces."

    What is this all about diving!!!!!???

    Thank you, corrected.

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  7. Yeah. the president could implement the provincial system by a decree. However doing things in the nice way is better. But if its not working, then go with the plan B. This is what happens when a bunch of uneducated and in experienced Youth take over the parliament. Yeah because experience and Education in the Filed of Law is important. However people will never understand.. They only love the person who shout in front of a crowd. I am pretty sure that the people are take this into account and try to resolve in the next council election.

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  8. What the hell wrong with these people ?? Even a day time, they will fight proven it's night ??? DRP must reconsider what's good for Maldives not for ZAEEMU

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  9. My GOD!! (ooopps..I shouldn't say this too loud..coz if some one say god some of the athesit elements think he/she must be a fundamentalist..so..I better say..."My MONEY or MY LADY!!") DRP is fighting to get back their dictatorial regime back with Maumoon family as the royal class! MDP (only the raw athesit group within) is fighting for a secular (with gay rights and what not!!) in Maldives. SO I GUESS ORDINARY MALDIVIANS ARE TRAPPED..THEY HAVE NO WAY TO GET PROPER JUSTICE NOR ECONOMIC EQUITY!! We need real reformers!! We don't need Gayoom puppets nor the heavy alcohol drinkers hijacking government! WAKE UP!!!

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  10. I agree with Hollow Man 100%. The trouble is the same uneducated, inexperienced lot would gain experience to fool the electorate by the time the next election comes.

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  11. Let the Opposition members pass the bill with the ammendments they think are good. End of the day for this to become a binding bill Mr. President has to ratify. If President is not happy with what has passed then he will not sign and send the bill back to parliament with his amendments. in this case what will the Opposition do. To change that they need to get majority of the total MP's .

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  12. Why dont we have 1999 atolls instead of 21! Each island can be taken as a separate atoll!

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