Government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom has expressed disappointment at President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s failure to ratify two controversial bills outlining parliamentary and political party regulations.
Dr Mausoom today told Minivan News that he believed the president should have ratified both bills before then seeking to make changes to specific clauses once they had been passed into law.
He claimed such an act would have allowed President Waheed to remove potential doubts that he may be acting to protect his own political interests by not approving the bills.
The President’s Office confirmed Thursday (January 10) that the People’s Majlis privileges and powers bill and the political party bill had been returned to parliament for reconsideration Thursday (January 10) after originally being passed late last year.
Among the key features outlined in the two bills were potential punishments for anyone attempting to stymie or disrespect the Majlis and its work, as well as a requirement for all political parties to have 10,000 registered members or face being dissolved by the country’s Elections Commission (EC).
Both bills have been criticised in part by NGOs and smaller political parties in the country over fears about the perceived impacts they may have on the democratic development of the Maldives.
However, speaking to Minivan News today, DRP Deputy Leader Mausoom said that he believed the president should have opted to ratify the bill, which he contended has certain regulations and requirements that had long been overdue in the Majlis, before then attempting to enact amendments at a later date.
Dr Mausoom claimed that with Dr Waheed’s own Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) facing being dissolved as a result of being short of the 10,000 registered members required by the political parties bill, his failure to ratify it could lead to doubts over the partiality of the president’s decision.
“Maybe they are concerned they would not be able to get sufficient member numbers if it is passed,” he suggested.
As of January 13, 2013, Ethe lection’s Commission figures indicate that GIP has 3,218 registered members. Ratification of the political parties bill would have given President Waheed’s party three months to have obtained 10,000 members or face being dissolved by the EC.
Listening to minorities
Despite the comments, Dr Mausoom said the DRP was undecided on how to proceed over whether to seek a compromise in amending the two bills, or support the existing provisions.
“The bill defining privileges for the Majlis is long overdue. While there may be some room for fine tuning, the bill itself is a must,” the DRP Deputy Leader added.
Dr Mausoom said that with the political parties bill, he understood that major concerns existed regarding the requirements for 10,000 registered members. He claimed the DRP would take into account the views of minority parties in the Maldives before making any decision on the matter.
“There is thought that any political party should be able to obtain 10,000 members if it is to represent the views of the people, but there is also an argument to leave regulations as is it,” Dr Mausoom said.
“It is best to decide after listening to minority parties on the issue. We have always advocated as a party to listen to minorities whoever they are.”
Political parties were first authorised in the Maldives in May 2005 following an executive decree by then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Political parties have remained governed by a regulation requiring 3,000 members for registration.
This regulation did not stipulate that parties whose membership falls below the figure would be dissolved.
In March last year, EC Chair Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News that these regulations were “vague” as parties were not required to maintain 3,000 members once formed.
Despite a failure to ratify the two bills, Dr Mausoom rejected the notion that a divide had been formed between the president and the country’s legislature, adding that there were always likely to be differences of opinion within the present coalition government after it came to power in February 2012 under disputed circumstances.
“There is no friction between parties and the president. When we came to power, we had no unified policy, however any issues with have with the president we will raise with him,” he said.
The proposed amendments to regulations on political parties and parliamentary privileges were among a number of bills recently passed within the People’s Majlis that were attacked by local NGOs Transparency Maldives (TM) and Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) earlier this month.
In a joint statement, the NGOs expressed concerns that clauses within the bills threatened to “weaken the democratic, good governance system” and “restrict some fundamental rights,” in the Maldives.
The political parties bill in particular has come under fierce criticism from smaller political parties in the country. Earlier this year, Special Advisor to President Waheed and Leader of government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Dr Hassan Saeed warned he would seek to invalidate the bill should it be ratified by the president.
He told local media at the time that the bill infringed rights enshrined in the constitution and that he would file a case at the Supreme Court requesting the law be struck down.
Dr Saeed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Late last year, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party accused the Majlis of directly attempting to “eradicate” Islamic ideology from Maldivian politics and limit its efforts against what it alleged were attempts to secularise the country.
Adhaalath Party Leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla said he suspected that “black money” from Indian infrastructure company GMR was behind the decision to insert the clause requiring 10,000 members. The government late last year voided a sovereign agreement with GMR to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) – a decision strongly backed by the Adhaalath Party as part of a self-claimed “national movement”.
Imran claimed at the time that “a person with a brain would not deny” that the decision by parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee to raise the prerequisite to 10,000 members from 5,000 at a late stage was made “because the Adhaalath Party would be disqualified at that number.”
Parliamentary Speaker Adbulla Shahid, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim and the Majlis’ Minority Leader Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yameen were not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.