In a series of interviews to lead into the the 2014 parliamentary elections – scheduled for March 22nd – Minivan News will be conducting interviews with incumbent MPs.
All 77 sitting members have been contacted, from across the political spectrum, to be asked a standardised set of questions with additional topicals. The interviews will be published as and when they are received.
As part of the series, Minivan News interviewed MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa.
MP Moosa represents the Kulhuduffushi North constituency and is from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), being originally elected as an independent candidate before signing for the MDP in 2010.
Daniel Bosley: What made you enter the political arena and how?
Abdul Ghafoor Moosa: In my area, in the north, during President [Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s regime there was no development at all, so we are joining the politics because we wanted some development of the area.
DB: Based on your attendance and work in this ending term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?
AGM: I have been in attendance at all the sessions and also have performed very well in the parliament, so I am happy about that.
DB: What are the main committees you were acting on? What particular bills did you focus on?
AGM: I have been on the Public Accounts Committee, and also the the Members Privileges Committee.
Members Privileges Committee concerns privileges of the members, the Public Accounts Committee involves the whole finance of the country and also to see what are the problems [and] where the government’s funds will be realised.
DB: What would you say are the biggest achievements within your term; in terms of what you have accomplished for your constituency and the country as a whole?
AGM: During the MDP government, we have gotten the maximum number of projects for Kulhuduffushi – like road construction and sewerage. I have looked after my people very well.
DB: What would you say is the biggest mistake or worst step you have taken in your career? Why?
AGM: In politics? So far, nothing. I don’t have anything for which I feel regret – I never did.
DB: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR 20,000? Why or why not?
AGM: Yes. Because my people aren’t bothered about anything I’m doing regarding the financial status – what I get I will spend to them. So they have no complaints about the salary or allowance whatsoever. There’s no complaints from my people – they never asked me not to take it.
DB: And if they did?
AGM: Then I don’t take it. There never have been any complaints regarding that. What we believe is that we are getting what we deserve. You see like government ministers, they are getting paid MVR62,000 salary, their phone bill, their car, their allowance, driver, fuel, transport – all in all it comes to around MVR180-190,000 per month. Same as court judges.
You see, if you want to go to our area, the airfare plus the transport – everything will cost about MVR6000, plus accommodation and everything. A return trip to my area will cost MVR20,000 – because, a boat cost will be MVR2500 one way, so two-way will be about MVR5000. Plus airfare is about MVR2,500.
DB: What is your view about parliamentarians and other public servants declaring their financial assets publicly for the electorate to be able to refer to?
AGM: At the moment it is there, but there is no system in the country to evaluate it. Because they are asking us to declare our assets, but there is no law – they have no right to materialise any of this legally. So what is the use? There should be a law, because the reason to declare the wealth is so they can see if there is any corruption or anything but even other government authorities don’t have any authority to check my account.
It is good to have it, but the effect is not there – there’s no income tax law here, so how can they verify my income and everything? They cannot say anything I have is illegal unless the income tax and all these things are there. The way they are doing it now – we have to declare how much money is in the account, that is my personal money which was in the account, and how much personal expenses I have, and the amount of shares I have in the company. Nothing more than that – so that is not enough to work on an investigation even.
Very rich people are in the parliament – people that don’t want to declare everything.
DB: Are you contesting in the next elections? What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected for a new term?
AGM: Yes. I have a few things to be done. Still the public health sector is lacking. What we believe is that the north is very much different from the south, and also from Malé. So we need a lot of economic activity to be done there, most important is that Hanimaadhoo airport has to invested in – because we see even Haa Dhaalu has no resort, in Haa Alif we have a few but these resorts they have paid their management four times and they’re not paying to the government or even the staff. It is not actually economically viable for these things without the airport. Airport depends on the jobs – everything. You know, we should have more economic activities, because otherwise people are not surviving there – there’s no things happening there.
So that’s my next hope, to have Hanimaadhoo airport invested in and to had Kulhuduffushi hospital developed. You go anywhere – our hospital they only have oxygen and aspirin. How can they call it a hospital? It is like a medical centre – people have to know these things very well. IGMH and Kulhuduffushi hospitals should be at the same level. We don’t have any facilities – for everything they have to come to Malé. It is worse that when MDP was in power – there’s no proper doctors, there’s no specialists.
DB: What improvements do you feel the 18th parliament will need to make to improve as an institution?
AGM: We are in a changing process. Still things are not in a proper way. This is the first Majlis, we are sitting in the first Majlis, that has been democratically elected. So, even the government is not fully mature to have a fully democratic system. You see, whenever an authority criticises the government, even whether the the government are MDP or PPM [Progressive Party of Maldives] or whatever, the government takes it personally in the sense like they are not acting on a fact basis – and this is the problem.
They are not happy with the auditor general, they are not happy with the Anti-Corruption Commission, they are not happy with the Civil Service Commission, even the Human Rights Commission. Because the government cannot cope with these things. They always think these people are criticising they are supporting some other party – there’s no issue base. Then they don’t want to give budget to them, they are financially tightening, so many things are happening. So this is the problem we are facing today.
Even the present government is not happy with the auditor general. If there’s something wrong he has to write in the audit report. It’s nothing personal, but the government can’t cope with these things. It was happening in the MDP government also – even now we see the same things repeat.
DB: What are your thoughts on party switching – do you think it undermines the party system?
AGM: Party switching – you see we have 35 or 34 members in MDP – there are few people who was always floor-crossing. Those people are doing it, other than these we don’t have these issues with other members.
It is a problem everywhere in the world, not just in the Maldives. That same problem is continuing here and even you are likely to see in India and Pakistan this is happening.
The problem is here, the system is not working – the people they are changing the party due to some issues like the government is influencing the judiciary to attack the actions against all these and all these and these. Those things are there very much.
DB: What do you feel the major issues of concern will be for your constituents over the next five years?
AGM: As I mentioned, the health sector is very poor and there is no economic activity. Over fifty percent in the north are below the poverty level. Most of the families – maybe five or six members – only one or two persons will be earning the income – which is not more than eight or nine thousand. Still they need economic activity. If they don’t get it, it’s very difficult to survive. We have to cross the poverty level – the only option is that we have more economic activity.
The only option we are left with is the guest house policy. In the north we have very big, very beautiful islands where the locals are living, and in those islands we have ample space. A few islands we have about 5-6km beach. You know, guest house policy can work out there very nicely. But even this government is not preparing for that. That is the only option where they can get a job and be on their own island. When they can’t find a job from their island, there are a lot of other social problems – family will be living there and they will be working here [Malé] for one or two year, they went back home, there are a lot of problems.
People want to get jobs in their own place which we can do easily if the government would just support that. But those things are not happening – you know Hanimaadhoo airport? – this airport has been operating for 25 years, but still to develop it into an international airport the government doesn’t need to spend any money on this. Only thing is they have to give it to a party to do it – they can give one or two islands for that, they can give a 50 year contract for that. Last time when they called for tender, 29 parties submitted their plans but when the government changes they have all been thrown to the dustbin now. We want this airport to be a big-time airport. Tourism is the only option for the time being.
We have huge islands where agriculture can be done, plus aquaculture can also be done, but for the time being even Hanimaadhoo could be developed within one year’s time and we could have a good income there.