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 Mohamed ‘Shippe’ Shifaz.
MP Shifaz represents the Baarah constituency in Haa Alif Atoll, and is a member of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Daniel Bosley: What made you enter the political arena and how?
Mohamed Shifaz: In my constituency there are about four islands – during Gayoom’s regime there was no development in my area, there was no sewerage, no proper education, there was no harbour, there was nothing. That’s what most of the people are demanding for – their needs. But during our previous term, we didn’t provide these things – in our government, the MDP government.
DB: Based on your attendance and work in this ending term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?
MS: Very few sessions missed – my attendance is good. Also I am working in the parliamentary group – I am also one of the top level. So, I can be there. I think my constituents like me. There are not questions about my performance in parliament.
DB: What are the main committees you were acting on? What particular bills did you focus on?
MS: The General Committee and also the Government Responsibility Committee. [I worked on] freedom of media, and right to information and also the establishment of the broadcasting corporation.
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?
MS: I think the achievement is we are establishing a new system – our democracy is very young, and also our parliament is very young, MPs also young. I believe the achievement is to change from dictatorship to democracy and also we got a lot to the people. Now they have the right to a demonstration, they have the right to media, the have many rights through the parliament, through the MDP government. So they are out achievements for the people.
DB: What would you say is the biggest mistake or worst step you have taken in your career? Why?
MS: Most of our parliamentary group MPs they have personal events, so in my career also there was something, but I think it’s not an issue. It is through the blackmailing from these coup government peoples.
DB: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR 20,000? Why or why not?
MS: Yeah – I didn’t vote for that. I’m also taking but I didn’t vote for it. Also my constituents, they don’t have any problems with it – nobody calling. But I didn’t vote for it.
I think, in my constituencies, all these people are demanding for their own development. They are always demanding for proper education, water, sewerage – these things. They don’t care about the committee allowance, because we are spending it all to them. I think it’s separate, in my own view. It’s not a good thing, but we don’t have another choice.
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?
MS: I don’t have any business other than this, I’m not doing anything to raise finance. So, I can do everything they need and I show statements and everything. Every year I submit to Majlis so they can collect it from me. I think it’s not a problem also.
DB: Are you re-contesting in the next elections? What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected for a new term?
MS: Yes. I think I can do it. I can do it and my constituents also, they want – because I didn’t fulfil their needs this term. I believe my job is not finished, not done yet. That’s why I need next term.
I am going achieve the water, sewerage, also the harbour, education, health sector. There are major issues, most of the people are jobless – we need to create more jobs. I think my main goal is to achieve that, jobs for them. Also the drug issues, the child abuses – this is also a very serious issue in the constituency, especially the drug issues. Most of our youngsters are the victims of these things.
DB: What improvements do you feel the 18th parliament will need to make to improve as an institution?
MS: From government, we need more support from them. They are favouring their few members – this is not the way I think. We must have these immunities, the privileges. If they want to arrest, they can arrest – anytime. We don’t have any independence to work here. I think this is from government we need support.
DB: What are your thoughts on party switching – do you think it undermines the party system?
MS: I think the party system is the only think we’ve got. Without the party system we couldn’t get anything for the people. The party is very important for the Maldives, these small nations. But I think most people that because of the party system we have some social issues, but after five or ten years everything will be fine.
DB: What do you feel the major issues of concern will be for you constituents over the next five years?
MS: The situation has not changed, several needs they are demanding so I think I am always representing from them. If they don’t want me to do something, I’m sure I will not do that. If they don’t want me to be in parliament, I will not be there.
I think the most important thing is to establish rehabilitation for the youth, I mean for drug victims. Next five years, my target is to establish a rehabilitation centre in my constituency for the drug victims.