MDP MP and Party Chairperson Maryia Ahmed Didi today withdrew a resolution to cut the controversial Rf20,000 (US$1550) committee allowance from the MP Privileges Bill.
Mariya told Minivan News today that she withdrew the resolution following a vote by the MDP Parliamentary Group.
“I was not at that meeting,” she said, “but I bowed to the party’s rules and took it out. However I told parliament that I did not want the Rf20,000 committee allowance myself and urged group members not to take the committee allowance. That got a good reaction from quite a few MPs.”
Mariya acknowledged that there was strong public sentiment against MPs receiving the committee allowance, including among the party’s own member base, which on top of their Rf 62,500 (US$4860) salaries would place Maldivian MP income on par with that of Sweden.
“The Rf 20,000 committee allowance was in the small print of a report from the monetary committee on the salary of all institutions,” Mariya noted.
Leader of MDP Parliamentary Group ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik was not responding to calls at time of press.
Following Mariya’s withdrawal of the resolution opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf resubmitted it.
“I was the first one to raise it before Mariya, but the Speaker [DRP MP] Abdulla Shahid went with Mariya’s changes, perhaps because of the factional fight [the opposition] is having. When Mariya withdrew it today I resubmitted it.”
Mahlouf’s submission means the resolution will go to committee stage which will debate the matter before submitting it to the floor for a vote.
Increasing MP salaries by Rf 20,000 would be a huge blow to parliament’s credibility, Mahlouf said, “as the public do not believe we are working to their expectations.”
He said he believed Mariya had been pressured by the MDP Parliamentary Group to withdraw the resolution.
“I decided this by myself. Nobody pressures me any more because I don’t follow DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen in parliament,” said Mahlouf, who has sided with the party’s dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer and its Honorary Leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, against Thasmeen’s faction.
The core issue regarding the salary increase, he explained, was the number of people petitioning MPs for money and assistance. This, he said, was the reason he had initially voted in favour in favour of the increase.
It was, he said, “very normal” for him to give away US$2000 (Rf 25,700) of his salary every month, “not only to constituents, but people from other parts of the country. People who are very poor come forward and ask me to please help them, and get very mad at me if I don’t.”
“At first I voted in favour [of the increase] because so many people were coming to me for help. This was something that was done for a long time back, and people now expect aid from parliamentarians. I was not a rich person before I was elected and I can’t give all my salary away, so that was the main reason I voted [in favour]. But maybe the next time somebody asks I can [justify] myself. When the general public are asking us not to do this, we should stop doing it.”