National office formation not a response to council disputes, government claims

The formation of seven national offices to oversee government projects at regional and local level is not a response to ongoing disputes with some councils following decentralisation, the President’s Office has today said.

The administrative structures of the seven national offices were formed by members of the cabinet yesterday to oversee developments within seven regions across the country to try and coordinate national developments within newly decentralised councils. The councils were themselves established after last month’s local elections.

Administering these local councils has already led to problems in some areas, with police being called in to try and work through disputes concerning the government and newly elected local councils over whether they have the right to relocate their offices.

Some opposition parliamentarians today moved to criticise the formation of the administrative offices as a contradiction to the purpose of decentralizing power to allow councils to meet specific needs of their constituents.

However, the President’s Office has said that the formation of these administrative centres were constitutionally required and not a response to developments this week that saw confrontations with police at the islands of Thulusdhoo and Funadhoo.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the seven offices were established as stipulated under Article 71 of the Decentralisation Act as a means to oversee government development programmes and ensure budgets were being met by councils.

As a result of the formation of these offices, the President’s Office said that the cabinet had decided that all activities of the city, island and atoll councils formed during last month’s local elections were conducted through the offices.

While all these councils at “ground level” were able to meet and deliberate on local matters that affected their constituents, Zuhair said that they “technically remained” part of the national executive when it came to overseeing national developments set out by the government.

“There are budgeted programmes for each island that the government has decided to extend nationally,” he said.

Zuhair added that these seven regional offices would therefore work to oversee the administrative functions of decentralized government and any national developments undertake locally.

According to the President’s Office, the session saw the cabinet appoint individual personnel to oversee each regional office. These positions included:

• Mohamed Hunaif as Minister of State for the Upper North Province and head of the National Office for the Upper North Region

• Ali Niyaz as Deputy Minister of State for the North Province and head of the National Office for the North Region

• Hussain Irfan Zaki as Minister of State for the North Central Province and head of the National Office for the North Central Province

• Ibrahim Mohamed as Deputy Minister of State for Central Province and head of the National Office for the Central Region

• Ahmed Mujuthaba as Minister of State for the South Central Province and head of the National Office for the South Central Region

• Mohamed Shareef as Deputy Minister of State for the Upper South Province and head of the National Office for the Upper South Region

• Ahmed Adhham as Deputy Minister of State for the South Province and head of the National Office for the South Region

Although not directly related to disputes this week between the government and local councils, the president’s press secretary claimed that the offices were a means of overseeing councils were accountable nationally.

According to Zuhair, decentralisation resulting from local elections held on 5 February did not equate to granting individual councils the power to act as independent federal states.

“What we are saying is, that it is for the president to decide which state owned buildings shall be used for council offices as stipulated under the constitution,” he added.

However, the formation of the national offices was met with criticism by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf who said that opposition parliamentarians would oppose the cabinet on the issue through the courts if necessary.

“It can’t be done,” Mahlouf said in regards to the formation of the seven offices. “We went through the [local council] elections to give power to the people. No government authority can stop or control work [of the councils].”

With the majority of councils under control of the DRP and other opposition parties outside of the major residential municipal regions of Male’ and Addu Atoll, Mahlouf claimed that he believed opposition parties would oppose the national offices.

“[The decision] may go to the courts. It is something we would support. There is no need to send the police,” he said, pointing to this week’s disputes over council offices.