Parliament’s paralysing of HRCM is “unforgivable”: Saleem

Parliament’s failure to approve a President and Vice President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) before going into recess has left the country without a functional human rights body, according to former HRCM President Ahmed Saleem.

“Because of the irresponsible behaviour of the Majlis, the three member commission sworn in on August 17 is now defunct,” Saleem claimed.

The required quota of commission members is five.

“Two new members are still to be sworn in and there is no President or Vice President to preside over the meetings, which must be held at least once a month according to HRCM’s regulations,” Saleem explained.

“What the Majlis has done to HRCM is unforgivable, and it’s all because HRCM and human rights are not as important to the Majlis as taking their leave,” he said.

“The Majlis is destroying this country and leaving the government incapable of doing anything.”

Saleem’s concerns about HRCM were echoed by a coalition of local human rights NGOs, including the Maldivian Democracy Network, Maldives NGO Federation,Transparency Maldives and Democracy House.

“According to Article 9 of the HRCM Act, the President of the Commission holds the chair in all meetings of the Commission and is also tasked with assigning complaints that the Commission receives to the different members,” the coalition observed in a statement.

“The Vice-President of the Commission takes over these responsibilities when the President is either absent or unable to perform these duties. Thus, the non appointment of either a President or a Vice-President is an immense obstacle to the effective functioning of the Commission.”

The NGOs claimed it was the duty of the Majlis “to ensure that an important institution such as the HRCM does not fall into a legal void”, and that leaving the institution to flounder until parliament reconvenes in October “would be a great disservice to the people of the Maldives.”

The reasons for parliament’s failure to resolve the appointments of the commission’s President and Vice President are unclear.

The three members appointed to the Commission from the list sent to parliament by President Mohamed Nasheed included Maryam Azra Ahmed of Maafannu Hukuradhige, Jeehaan Mahmood of Dheyliyage in Hinnavaru of Lhaviyani Atoll and Ahmed Thalal of Henveiru Adduge. Saleem was listed but was not approved by parliament  – “it is my job to be critical of the government – I was surprised when the whole opposition voted me out,” he commented.

However President Nasheed’s nominations for HRCM’s President and Vice President, Azra and Jeehaan respectively, were not approved prior to parliament’s recess – an approval Saleem described “as usually just a formality”, but critical to the functioning of the institution.

Speaking in parliament on August 30 (pages 69-75), DRP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed said that while he considered the people appointed for HRCM as capable, the role of President and Vice President “should include a male.”

“Even if you look at it from a religious perspective or from the perspective of good policy, there should be a male in either post,’’ he said.

Independent MP for Kudahuvadhoo, Ahmed Amir, said it was “against human rights” to have two females in the roles of President and Vice President.

“It is the woman who calls for equality most of the time,’’ said Amir.

Minivan News attempted to contact Ilham, but he hung up with an apology.

Saleem observed today that the last commission “had men as President and Vice President and nobody said anything.”

“This time [President Nasheed] proposed two ladies. I have no problem with that – but they must be capable people,” he said, adding that “it would be nice to have a man and a woman for the sake of gender balance.”

The NGO coalition called on parliament to remain free of gender bias, stating that as the laws allowed women “to take up not only the Presidency of the Republic, but also become judges, commission members, commission presidents, and take up other important posts in the State, and that the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of most other commissions and bodies in the country are dominated by men, there is also no room to claim that women being appointed as both President and Vice-President of the HRCM is contrary to the rule of equality among the sexes.”

To not appoint a person to a particular post on grounds of the person’s sex “would in fact be contrary to Article 17 of the Constitution which enshrines the principle of non-discrimination”, the coalition suggested.

Maldives High Commissioner to the UK and the first female in the Malidves to receive a PhD, Farahanaz Faizal, said it was “absolutely horrifying to know that in the 21st century some of our parliamentarians are trying to obstruct this and discriminate against women simply because of their gender, no matter how experienced or qualified they may be.”

“In our recent past, we have had very capable women leaders in all walks of life, both in the government and outside, such as Moomina Haleem, our first female cabinet Minister,” Dr Faizal said.

Deputy Minister for Health and Family, Mariya Ali, said she felt it was important that “more women are in such positions, because it inspires younger women to seek higher education, and shows them what they can achieve if they work hard.”

“I feel it is a very important step for us to take that women are given such high posts, because unless they are taken, stereotypical attitudes towards women will persist,” she said. “If they are capable, why not appoint them?”


Saleem suggested that the government had made a mistake by not waiting until all five members of the commission had been approved, including the President and Vice President, “instead of rushing the whole process.”

“No democracy can function without a functioning human rights body,” he said.

“According to Article 297 of the constitution, the old commission must continue functioning until a new five member commission takes over. If there is to be a legally functional HRCM to protect the rights of the Maldivian people it can only be the HRCM appointed for five years in November 2006 – or else constitute the new one lawfully ASAP.”

Parliament was also recently criticised for leaving HRCM in constitutional limbo following the conclusion of the interim period, after failing to conduct the reappointments in time for the August 7 deadline.

A source at HRCM observed at the time that the legal legitimacy of the institution’s activities were questionable until the new commission was approved: “we don’t even know if we are supposed to be going to work.”


33 thoughts on “Parliament’s paralysing of HRCM is “unforgivable”: Saleem”

  1. This entire discussion is entirely ridiculous.

    There is absolutely NO reason why two women should not be appointed. And I am incredibly surprised that these kind of BS arguments are coming out of people who are not ordinarily misogynistic.

    Saleem is absolutely right in much of his protests, though it would have been nice if we had seen the same type of vehemence coming from this HRCM institution itself. Democracy can only exist when horizontal methods/institutions of accountability are in place and active.

    To have them continually cut down, undermined, and stalled with arguments like there being too many women is completely unacceptable. The fact that there is no public outcry is proof of how misogynistic our society is.

    And the argument that this kind of discrimination is inkeeping with Islam is completely ludicrous. There is no where in any Islamic doctrine where it says women cannot lead human rights institutions!

  2. Now this SOB talks. All this time when you had all the positions filled, all you could crap out was how to better-treat rapists, drug lords, extortionists, thieves...

    The moment you are evicted, you cry foul!

    Good. HRCM was never a constructive body.

    xxxx off..

  3. Saleem was an incompetent HRCM president. He had no grasp of human rights concepts.

    I was immensely relieved when he failed to make it through Majlis to be returned to the commission. I hoped that this was the last I would hear from him in public life.

    Sadly this has not proven to be the case! Why on earth is Minivan News doing a full story based on an interview with him. The man is no longer relevant. And thank God for that! Please stop wasting space to accommodate useless has-beens like Saleem.

    Also, I found this statement highly amusing:

    “The Majlis is destroying this country and leaving the government incapable of doing anything.”

    This is a completely different tune to what he was singing before. Could it be that he is now trying to win favour of the government and land himself a cushy job?? I hope that doesn't happen.

  4. Mr. Saleem's words totally contradicts his character. He loves white westerners and everything western. However he believe in certain superiority in himself over Maldivans even if he is not so white.

  5. I am totally amazed that young people such as Ilham and Amir have such backward views of women in leading positions. I thought "Modern" parliamentarians such as Ilham and Amir would have good knowledge of gender equality. I guess these boys need to learn a thing or two about women leaders.

  6. Thasmeen, B Gasim, Yaameen are saying, this is our Majlis. OURS OURS OURS!!! Whether you like it or not we do things the way we want. The country can go to hell for all we care. So there!!!

  7. Voting you out of HRCM is one good thing the DRP did, Mr Saleem...

    You're outdated and you were a real drag.

    Face the fact that you presently do not need to wake up in the morning, read the paper, play tennis/badminton and go to HRCM office to produce press statements!

  8. Gender equality is misconceived by many. It does not imply that men and women are the same. It means they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment. Actually everyone stand to gain when everyone has equal opportunities. It is about having the opportunity to choose.

    Nominating these ladies for these positions is an indication of democratic values but considering all the commotion around it, it only reaffirms the attitudes that hinders women progress, role and her rightful place in the society and as an equal player. While so many positions are filled with men and no question was ever raised as to validity of the person in regard to the gender, why is it so hard for many people when it comes to recognizing a woman's intellectual capacity.

    The arguments presented here against these ladies are feeble and an intellectual discussion on "why" they are not good for these positions may be more interesting for a reader.

  9. Such discriminatory remarks in this day and age! Surely this country is going backward socially?

  10. Well now we know what will happen to women's rights of this country if DRP comes back in to power! Thank you Ilham for letting us know if advance what a hopelessly inferior man you are so that we do not ever vote for DRP as long as there are men like you working for the "development" of this country. Btw why don't you joing Adaalath party? And for your information, while all the senior posts, including government and Parliament are held by men, all they, including yourself, are capable of doing is behaving like boys whose toys have been snatched away from them! So if you think men can do a better job than women, fine, but first lets try and find such men shall we, instead of tolerating these little boys, such as yourself! Shame on you Ilham, if the women in DRP had any firm belief in women's right, they would make Ilham make a public apology! otherwise, sorry DRP , you have just confirmed what a bunch of losers you really are!

  11. Mr Saleem is speaking independently and he is right now doing a very good job, tell me one good reason why we should not blame majilis.

    This is what happens when a nation see a Constitution lack of education and greed takes place.

    Political Scenarios of circumstances at present involves the chief legal representatives, prosecutors and lawyers…. apocrypha! What remains are the people in destitution of Inadequate regulations.. We need more people like Saleem who is willing to help the nation independently and we should be proud. We cant neglect and divert the truth even if Yamin and Gasim plays horse-trading in Majilis.

  12. Reading some of the comments make me sick - really sick. I think what saleem said is absolutely right. The majlis has indeed paralyzed the hrcm and it is disgusting. I feel sorry for our society which has become so negative over the past few years. I wonder if we ever will become a compassionate society. Attacking and maligning the man who tried to protect their rights for the past so many years and that too under very difficult circumstances, is sickening and it is obviously not what democracy teaches us. respecting others is. Will we ever learn to use human rights such as freedom of speech and expression for the betterment of our society?

  13. @sameer & fehiakiri:

    True, what Saleem has said is commendable and very accurate. However, the issue here is not what he has said, but rather when he said it. The state of our Parliament has been pathetic and unworkable for quite some time now. Why didn't Saleem say this before, when he was the President of the Human Rights Council? Why hasn't he been more outspoken about the state of human rights in this country until now? I respect Saleem as an individual but as the President of the Human Rights Council, he failed badly and you can't blame people for wondering why he is so outspoken all of a sudden when he just let things be when he had the power to make a difference. We need people to work independently as well, but if those in institutions such as the Human Rights Council don't have the guts to stand up for the people of this country, then they shouldn't be in those positions. There's a reason why these positions have such a high pay and benefits, and its not to turn a blind eye to the situation the country is in today!

  14. This is what one can expect from a parliament that is intellectually bankrupt. My question is, irrespective of political parties, whose parliament is it? How did they get in there? Instead of blaming others let’s blame those who voted them in.

  15. These parliamentarians got where they are by paying Cash for Votes. Got the money then they got the vote - what a shame for the people who voted for cash - they the ultimate loozers..

  16. Shows true colours of DRP. It's a shame DRP has elected backward and highly retarded people like Ilham, Umar Naseer and Ali Waheed as their leaders. Hardly any hope for a responsible opposition.

  17. @Mariyam

    It is also a fact that the period and circumstances depends on the Publications distributed by the commissions and NGO's are not heard in a tone compared to the fundamental stage of political scenario, so how are we suppose to value any source where the politics are marketed among an undeveloped. It is always better off to talk, discuss the present situation rather than comparing with our ancestors.

  18. @Mariyam

    It is also a fact that the period and circumstances depends on the Publications distributed by the commissions and NGO’s are not heard in a tone to this stage of fundamental political scenario, so how are we suppose to value any source where the politics are marketed among an undeveloped. It is always better off to talk, discuss the present situation rather than comparing with our ancestors.

  19. This arogant... All he did was eat up the fat salary for 5 years... Shut up before your name becomes ugly.. right now it is still beautiful...

  20. On human rights isues, Saleem was comparable to a dead fish washed up on the shore left there to rot... Absolutely inactive and useless. He was silent about Nazim the "Murtadd" for example. Now his losing his job he is flapping about wildly like a convulsive dolphin...

  21. I wonder why people like aisthu and ‘so concerned’ are so enraged with saleem. What has he done to them? Do any of these people understand what human rights are and how the human rights institution works and what its obligations are? From the little I know of saleem, he is selfless and very down to earth, extremely honest and sincere and is among those few who have no skeletons in his cupboard. My friends who know him tell me that he even rejected a govt offer to give him a car and is an example to public servants in the country. Don’t you people have respect or something good to say about somebody who spent 42 years of his life serving the govt and the people?

  22. It is all Anni's fault. He should have nominated Dunya as President and Yumna as Vice President!

  23. In a way I am glad, all of these things are showing the true colours of parliamentrians, in the next parliamentary elections I will with no guilt or shame asl my memeber to give me at least a round ticket to singapore for a vote. After all this is all I would get from him...

  24. I will NOT vent at Saleem anymore... if Minivan in return stops giving him a voice...

  25. This is what happens, every time if someone raise an issue the writer or the narrator gets into a personal ring with the readers. I don't know when we will understand human rights and to deal with the problems rather than the person preparing the Publications.

    @so concerned on Sat, 4th Sep 2010 6:13 AM
    If commissions and NGO's are not political and if anyone talking about Human Rights, they should also learn how to Respect Humanity.

  26. These bunch of bigots should be voted out from the parliament. They fail to realize that they are in the twenty first century. Sadly, these are the kind of morons created by Gayoom and his clan. People like Ilham and Ali Waheed, actually, immature kids, have got their boot size all muddled up! Just because they could talk face to face with that Gayoom man they think they are in “Sidrathul Munthahaa”! They are the laughing stock of this country. The likes of Hassan Saeed and his collaborator Jameel are already on their way jumping into this bandwagon.

  27. I am not against women in hard earned positions. Go ahead!

    But TWO women up there could make things is a bit more sentimental than sensible!

  28. “Even if you look at it from a religious perspective or from the perspective of good policy, there should be a male in either post,’’ he said. "

    Hands down the most misogynist remark I've heard this year.

    The DRP vice-president and his party needs to make a public apology for this ugly remark.

  29. Left without a human rights?.

    I object to that statement.

    I believe, that human rights - ergo, the rights of each and every man, woman, child and otherwise; is not something to be "given out" by a government body.

    If the "organ of the government", cannot do its task - it falls to the people to enforce justice.

  30. Just totally blown away by the blatant sexism being demonstrated by our Honourable DRP Majlis members. I consider these statements unacceptable and a slap in the face of all women in our country. A violation of human rights to have women in leadership positions? Is this the DRP policy on women?

  31. Reading some of the comments make me sick – really sick. I think what saleem said is absolutely right. The majlis has indeed paralyzed the hrcm and it is disgusting. I feel sorry for our society which has become so negative over the past few years. I wonder if we ever will become a compassionate society. Attacking and maligning the man who tried to protect their rights for the past so many years and that too under very difficul

  32. wow! in a small island country that has a 100 percent muslim population and there is an alarmingly high stabbing, murder, daylight robbery, schoolboy road gangs and corrupted politicians run thug groups just because relevant authorities'(the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Government) disability of governance we all have to go into our mosques and pray for a good health care facility like we all did on the day tsunami hit out country...what do you think my dear fellow citizens of this country???? i don't think we can get global standard doctors for our hospitals also as doctors are NOT fools to come and live where there is NO law and order at all...We all believe we must have the right to live with peace and harmony, don't we??????????

  33. Mr. Saleem is a honest, dedicated and very straight forward person. Those of you trying to slander him should first get your facts right. The commission cannot conduct any commission meeting without either the president or the vice president. All the decisions of the commission can only be taken by the commission meeting. It says so in the Human Rights Act passed by the parliament. The parliament it self shoud have realised this. So you see, what Mr. Saleem has said is true. By failing to select a president and a vice president, the parliament has indeed paralysed the Human Rights Commission for the time being.


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