Parliament Watch aims to increase citizen involvement in the legislative process: MDN

Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has beta-launched its ‘Majlis Watch’ website, although the site remained password protected at time of press.

MDN Executive Director Fathimath Ibrahim Didi told Minivan News today that the project and its website are meant to provide a platform allowing citizens to more conveniently get involved in the legislative process. The website will also provide updates about the events at parliament on a more timely manner than the annual reports currently being released by the NGO.

“Through the website, you can access draft bills which the parliament is working on. This will give citizens a chance to submit comments and concerns. In future, we will highlight bills we are working on each week, so as to increase efficiency,” Didi said.

MDN has also released its Parliament Watch report, an analysis of the work of the parliament for the year from March 2011.

Representation and attendance

The political parties holding seats in the parliament in this period were Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Jumhooree Party (JP), People’s Alliance (PA), Qaumee Party (QP) and Adhaalath Party (AP). DRP had split up into two factions, one of which was later registered as the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). However, although the party held a number of seats, PPM was not officially recognised in the parliament.

According the report, by 31 December 2011, MDP had 34 representatives in the parliament, while DRP and PPM each had 15 members, JP and PA had 2 members, QP and AP had 1 member each, and there were 7 independent members.

In 2011, the 17th People’s Majlis held a total of 91 meetings. While the report states that 67 members showed at least 81 percent attendance, it further points out that only four members of parliament attended all meetings. They were MDP MPs Imthiyaz Fahmy, Mohamed Rasheed, Ibrahim Rasheed and Abdul Ghafoor Moosa.

Independent MP Ismail Abdul Hameed attended 55 out of the 91 meetings. He had a corruption case against him in the courts, and his right to attend the meetings were a contentious issue during that year’s parliamentary meetings.

The least number of meetings were attended by DRP MP Mohamed Ramiz, who attended 47 out of the 91 meetings, and Independent MP Ahmed Shiyam who was present at only 45 meetings.

The report further speaks of the number of times parliamentary meetings were disrupted for various reasons. It states that there are 193 instances where meetings were stopped due to lack of quorum and 26 instances where meetings were adjourned until the members named by the speaker were escorted out of the parliament hall. A total of 13 members had been asked to leave the parliament meeting hall, the most common being PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof.

Parliament remains suspended by Speaker Abdulla Shahid due to his concerns over political turmoil several months ago, however committees are meeting.

Legislative work

A total of 17 bills were passed in 2011, half the amount of bills passed in 2010.

Similar to the previous two years, the maximum number of bills that were passed in 2011 were in the area of Constitutional and Administration. The two other areas that were given priority are Religious and Social bills and Economic and Financial bills.

What needs to change?

MDN calls on members to not discriminate between members of their own party and those of the opposition when working with the constituents they represent.

It further notes that many MPs have expressed concerns that they are expected to spend on constituents from their own salaries. MDN states that this practice would prove detrimental to democratic norms. The NGO calls upon MPs to refrain from giving out hand-outs, and to instead work on strengthening the necessary social security frameworks.

MDN also calls on the parliament to increase accessibility to meetings, bills, motions, etc to the general public. It also notes the importance of members considering national interest ahead of political gains.

The electorate itself is asked to ensure that they cast an informed vote when electing members to represent them in parliament.


2 thoughts on “Parliament Watch aims to increase citizen involvement in the legislative process: MDN”

  1. MDN lacks the trained human resource to effectively implement this plan.

    However, this is a good initiative, so the government and donor agencies must support the NGO help realize its goals.

    Also Fathimath et. al. must try to get experienced consultants on board to draft the necessary framework within which they could really make a contribution to furthering the goals of democratic consolidation. I believe MDN's first focus should be on educating the public on the role and function of Parliament within the constitutional framework adopted by the Maldives. Awareness in this crucial area is depressingly low even in the urban area of Male.

    MDN must try to disseminate simple and educational material on how Parliament conducts its work, the importance of legislation, the extent and limits of the powers held by MPs, the stages followed in the legislative process etc. etc.

    Simply keeping tabs on the attendance of MPs and publicizing the same is really not the most productive method of raising public awareness about Parliament. That is of course my view MDN may think differently.

    In this day and age, MDN could achieve a lot by strengthening a website for the proposed Majlis watch program.

    It would also be great if the NGO could provide, in simple and layman terms, the objectives of new bills submitted to Parliament so the public could make an informed decision on where their support lies. Also voting records could be tabulated in order to show how each political party, as a whole, voted on an issue. This would be a great resource for the media as well. As several political parties make loud speeches about supporting this or that and vote against the very same proposal in Parliament.

  2. To start off with, it will be useful if Parliament Watch could get the Parliament Committee Schedule available on the public domain to deter the ingrained practice of secretively conducting committee meetings below the public and media radar.


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