Army’s intervention in immigration is progress, not policy failure: Human Resources Minister

Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef has denied that his ministry and immigration authorities failed to deal with longstanding internal concerns over corrupt “discretionary” practices, after the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) temporarily took over border control this week.

The country’s defense forces have taken over front-line immigration services as well as the employment arm of the Human Resources Ministry amidst an ongoing investigation into allegations of what Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid claimed was corruption in the work permit system.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Latheef claimed that cabinet’s decision to deploy the military to oversee immigration was further encouraged by the revelation that the Maldives remained on the US State Department’s Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking. The report criticised the country for having increasing number of migrant workers from Bangladesh and to a lesser extent, India, being subjected to forced labour in the Maldives, as well as showing little evidence of increased efforts to tackle the problem.

Latheef claimed that despite an apparent lack of direct action on suspected human trafficking, his office had supplied a database of information and accounts from 16,000 illegal immigrants working in the country that had been used to identify companies and employment agencies suspected of foul play.

However, with foreign worker exploitation estimated to rival fishing as the second greatest contributor of foreign currency to the Maldivian economy, the human resources minister claimed that it was now vital to bring about regulatory reforms that would cut out the “discretionary powers” among both civil servants and political figures in government departments like his own.

“Giving too much discretion – to anybody, especially when money is so much involved – leads to corruption. Even I do not require any discretion for that matter. It should be in black and white,” he said.

Latheef claimed that these concerns should not be viewed as an indication of complete failure within the ministry’s handling of expatriate workers.

“I wouldn’t say that the Department of Immigration or human resources failed in this. We have done a lot of work, a lot of substantial work that has provided us with lot of findings especially the [information] about the 16,000 illegal expatriates I was referring to. That’s quite an achievement.”

Latheef said he accepted there had been delays in taking action against alleged corruption within the country’s visa system, which he claimed was identified immediately after coming into office in 2008.  The minister added that it had not been possible for the combined efforts of his ministry and the immigration department to resolve them alone.

“I do admit there is a delay in taking action, but I don’t see how this can be resolved without a third party getting involved. I think the MNDF is ideal for this and that is the decision we took in the cabinet,” he said. “It’s not like one morning I woke up and discovered that something was wrong. I discovered this on November 12, 2008. The very first press conference I gave in 2008, in December if I’m not mistaken, I did mention there are a lot of issues and faults in the database of the ministry and I have been working on this since.”

Latheef said that a number of findings had been passed onto the police as part of ongoing investigations, though he said that the different functions of government meant the ministry could not move by itself to try and combat the alleged corruption within it.

“I’ve submitted cases to police and raised issues with the cabinet, so it’s time everyone understands what I was trying to say back in 2008 and 2009. Now I’m very happy that the MNDF has come to my office and they are doing the work that I have tried to do. I do see some good things in it.”

With three years of concerns over the ministry’s role in assigning and regulating work visas to foreign workers, Latheef claimed that the ministry would now need to demonstrate a significant and visible change in policy to restore confidence in its operations.

Among these changes, the minister claimed, would be new software systems and database management software implemented in conjunction with the National Centre for Information Technology (NCIT) and the MNDF, as well as tighter legislation.

Through this proposed legislation, which Latheef said had begun to be put into force from the middle of this month, the government is said to be hoping to provide a much more comprehensive system for dealing with expatriate workers along with new IT systems designed to reduce discrepancies in visa numbers.

“Discretionary powers”

With large sums of money involved in the national trade in human trafficking, Latheef claimed it was vital to move away from a system of allowing individuals wide-spread discretionary powers to approve or disapprove visa applications.

“The previous regulations we have had allows a lot of discretionary powers for the directors and assistant directors who are sitting in the ministries, giving them the right to reject or issue quotas,” he said. “It is not an oversight – it is a deliberate work of the previous government I should say.”

Amidst additional challenges said to be facing the government, Latheef said that streamlining communication and collaboration between different ministries had been a significant issue since the government of President Mohamed Nasheed had been voted into power in 2008.

Earlier this week, Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid told Minivan News that the relationship between the Human Resources Ministry and the Immigration Department prior to the MNDF’s intervention had been “strained”, and that there was no shared IT system linking the records of both.

In addressing the claims, Latheef said that he believed that the appointment in February of Abdulla Shahid to the post of immigration controller had already led to changes in inter-departmental policy concerning visa allowances.

“Especially with the former controller [Ilyas Hussein Ibrahim], it was not easy to hold discussions on any matter. I’m not criticising his policies or administrative capacity. But as politicians, we should be able to sit down and discuss anything we want to and try and find a comfortable solution – especially when we are in the same government,” he said. “Now it is very much easier for me. Even today I had a meeting with the controller [Shahid] and the defense minister discussing this [visa] issue.”

The human resources minister claimed that distrust in the past between his own office and the Department of Immigration had perhaps prevented important information being shared between the two bodies.

“For instance, the Immigration Department would not share with us the information on issues of working visas because of mistrust they had – and vice versa. With these new developments, all this information could be viewed by a lot more government agencies,” he said. “I’m not sure on this, as we are still discussing the matter, but the police should be a party that are able to see and view all our data from the ministry. If we issue a work permit to anyone, there should be other agencies in the government who should be able to view this from their computers. It’s always a check when someone else is watching you.”

Ultimately, Latheef said that he believed cabinet ministers had to show more trust in their own judgments on key policy issues, rather than relying wholeheartedly on civil servants from within their departments.

While claiming that he was not aware of anyone within his ministry who was deliberately trying to undermine the government, Latheef said that he was concerned some politicians were relying too much on civil servants who had held their positions for almost two decades.

“I’m not aware of anyone who is deliberately following an agenda of the previous government in this ministry, but knowingly or unknowingly, some people tend to work in alliance with [them],” he said. “In other words, sometimes they forget the government has changed and that it is a new bunch of people running the country now, with a very different manifesto and manner of administration and its time they understand that. That has been there, even in this ministry.”


14 thoughts on “Army’s intervention in immigration is progress, not policy failure: Human Resources Minister”

  1. Hassan Latheef what you are saying now are not justifying at all.
    You seem not to understand that you have not got a leadership quality in you at all. That is the truth!
    Regarding Iliyaas Hussain, what we read and hear shows that he is a corrupted person.
    We are not surprised at all, his background is of corrupted Pakistan trained Mullah. We have to blame the person who has given such an important job!

  2. Latheef you seriously need to get a reality check , go home.
    The MNDF are there because you could not deliver

  3. Minister Latheef should have moved more swiftly to stop the illegal activities that he knew was happening right under his nose. A lot of people have made money by exploiting weakness in the system used to control foreign labourers.
    The manning of counters with Mndf officers hasn't produced the desired effect of faster service at all. Counters are performing only 30% of the required load which is creating a huge backlog.

  4. Neil, I have seen this picture on Minivan News enough numbers of times that I now feel I have already read everything that can be written under this picture. This is the second time I have said this in about as many days.

    Why can't Minivan put fresh pictures with your articles? This is not the only picture that you resue and reuse. There are several of them that makes Minivan look very stale.
    The picture of Palrliament building taken from Medhuziyaaraiy Magu will be posted with most articles about the parliament procedures.
    The picture of the parliament, taken from inside the chamber, will be used with articles about MPs.
    The black and white picture of a girl sitting in a dark corner will be posted with all your articles about rape and pedophilia.
    The picture of Islamic Centre will be posted with all articles about religion.
    The picture of a gavel is used with all articles related to the court cases.
    This list is almost endless.
    I wish you will post fresh pictures with fresh articles.

  5. Minister latheef

    You seem to be double faced hypocritical person with no leadership qualities , yr portfolio had the biggest chunk of administrative responsibilities which you have constantly failed, take a glimpse the youth bulge in the country unattended, you failed the TVET MIVET , ignored the sports sector. To attain media coverage a new invention of water sports stories were created. You ignored ilo best practices after even ratifying or addressing huge labour expat population. What mechanisms are established to address to expat labourers being exploited even to attain there basic human rights . You seem to be a power hungry person in the fore front like a puppet of another power hungry wolf mr. Ibra be yr self . don't let your clean image be spoiled , is this ministry a family affair all bog an villains ruining this .

  6. Controller Abdulla Shahid claimed was corruption in the work permit system. Since this stupid Shahid advisor to IT Most Corrupt Green Waheed is behind this and he wants IT Faisal and some immigration innocent staffs to blame everything.

  7. MNDF: what do they really do? Except once in every few months, do a parade around the island. And every few years do some vermin extermination project. The most useful are helping those lost-at-sea boats. One a month maybe, at most.

    But other wise the highest paid guys in town have no work at all.

    So we might as well make use of those lazy a..holes to do something.

    Latheef : you have failed. As per your reasoning, IGMH must now be run by MNDF. I sm sure they can do it. Much better than it is now. And Bank of Maldives as well. they have failed too. Why not MMA?

  8. If the Minister has no hand in all these corrupt practice then why did you fought so much with the immigration not to allowed immigration to collect the visa fees when the law says so? u says u r an legal expert. then u must know the law. because of your infighting finally Finance took over the payments from you and immigration. why Hassanko, u r so interest to keep the payment receiving to your ministry. President Nasheed want all faction to be obedient to his rule so when top posts distributed this job is for Ibra faction as a result you are there not because you are fit for the job. Once MNDF release its report, if they ever release, we all will know how corrupt your ministry was!

  9. Hassanko was also against the boarder control system which DoIE going to implement because with the new scanning VISA ID technology all it will be difficult for any one to forge the records and HQ always will have latest information. Hassanko wanted the old type of VISA card which easily can forge and no security features. But Hassanko and his boss Ibra is smart. They have joined the Yellow Gang and have secured their post. Now in Maldives its not what you know its whom you know. Moosa, Maria, Mr. President, IH Zaki, Sarangu Adam, so on.

  10. hassanko latheef is such an incapable hypocrat. the man was once in mdp. moved with ibra to slp. then jumped ship again to mdp. Its time anni get rid of these incapable people. Anni's leadership is at stake because of these corrupt incapable peopl.

  11. Even new Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid join with them, to bring informatics system which they dont have any smart technology. Informatics is part of Ibra partner

  12. If Minister Latheef thinks this is progress, it might be interesting to ask him what he considers failure.

  13. It's not fair that a Minister says he knows our illegal problem but requires a 3rd party....I would say to the Minister that there is no issue that a 3rd party is not required, for example, if one cannot get-on with one's spouse, a 3rd party shall be required but I think the majority settles without a 3rd party involvement...

    Minister!! you don't require rocket science to do your job. You have skill and ability to identify those who misuse the database or power....I just mentioned it as you are trying to keep us asleep even today talking nonsense...Please stop it for Allah's sake my dear MINISTER!!!


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