Southern atolls sign pact to defend decentralisation

The Maldives’ southernmost atoll councils have signed a joint declaration calling upon the government to protect the country’s decentralised authorities.

Atoll councils from Gaaf Dhaalu, Gaaf Alifu, and Fuvahmulah, joined with Addu City Council to sign the Medheaari Declaration yesterday (December 21).

The pact, which includes measures to secure fiscal autonomy, comes after repeated moves by the central government to remove powers granted to Malé City Council under the 2010 Decentralisation Act.

“What happened in Malé, will it be repeated in the atolls?” asked Addu City Council Mayor Abdulla Sodig.

“We always have the fear that the government will come after Addu City Council after it deals with Malé City Council.”

Representatives of the four councils met in Addu City Hall yesterday to sign the six point declaration, which Sodig described as “historic”.

As part of the arrangement, the councils passed a resolution vowing that all fees collected by local authorities should be deposited in council bank accounts.

Despite provisions in the 2010 act allowing for revenue raising measures, amendments to financial legislation have yet to be introduced, meaning that fees raised by local authorities are still sent to the capital Malé.

The 2014 UNDP Human Development Report has pointed out that harmonising laws remains a key challenge facing the decentralisation transition, as well as suggesting a pressing need to reduce the size of government at all levels.

While the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority has recently established an office in Addu, the city council has refused to allow it to begin operations until it pledges not to interfere with local fee collection.

Sodig explained that Addu City Council does not currently send its local fees to the capital, though the neighbouring atoll councils still do.

The President’s Office has declined to comment on the Medheaari Declaration.

An additional point contained in the document includes sending a letter to to the Majlis saying that any amendments to the Decentralisation Act must be brought in line with the spirit of the country’s decentralisation laws.

Recently proposed amendments to decentralisation – from pro-government MP Riyaz Rasheed – called for a reduced number of local councils and to cut the salaries of all councillors except the council’s president.

At yesterday’s meeting, the councils also agreed to write to all government institutions requesting that they respect the Decentralisation Act and uphold the powers of the constitution, and its specific provisions on local governance.

The removal last week of further lands originally granted to Malé City Council prompted the capital’s mayor to condemn what he called the government’s systematic abrogation of the council’s powers.

“We are now only in charge of facilitating construction in Malé, issuing death and birth certificates and cleaning mosques. But the constitution clearly states the Maldives must be administered through decentralised councils,” said Mayor Mohamed Shihab at the time.

The southern atolls yesterday also pledged to meet annually as well as to sign a joint MoU on February 24, agreeing to work together on socio-economic issues.

The southern atolls have traditionally supported the current opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – as is Malé City Council, which has labelled the government’s removal of its authority an attempt to destroy decentralisation.

All of Addu City’s 6 councillors are MDP members, while the party won just over 40 percent of island, atoll, and city council seats nationwide in January’s local elections. The elections commission was unable to provide information on the current distribution of councillors in Fuvahmulah, Gaaf Alifu, and Gaaf Dhaalu at the time of publication.

Previous comments from government officials have suggested that political decentralisation must follow economic development throughout the atolls.

“Land, labour, and capital – the central government and the regional governments are fighting for it as we don’t have enough resources even for the existing government to cover the budget deficits,” Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb has explained.

“I believe when there’s enough economic activity we can give more powers to the councils.”

Analysts have suggested that political wrangling over the implementation of decentralised governance – which included wholesale revisions to the original act proposed by the MDP government – has left the atolls’ populations less empowered than ever.

Addu, Fuvahmulah, and Huvadhoo (containing Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaalu atoll councils) currently contain 14 percent of the Maldives population.

The same three atolls declared independence from the central government in 1959, forming the short-lived United Suvadive Republic before government forces regained control in 1963.

Related to this story

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Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?

Addu City condemns government’s “obstruction” of guesthouse venture


8 thoughts on “Southern atolls sign pact to defend decentralisation”

  1. Its not Southern Atolls. Its Addu only that always want to seprate.

    The VP is from Fuamulak. The former President Waheed has his roots in Huvadhoo. The only people who who wants Presidency are Addu people. And thats exactly why they can never get it. Why? Because they want it so much

  2. this very good and I support the desition of the Addu city council and the join atoll for their currage and positive desition and we should be proud of United suvaideev island

  3. "Despite provisions in the 2010 act allowing for revenue raising measures, amendments to financial legislation have yet to be introduced, meaning that fees raised by local authorities are still sent to the capital Malé."

    Oh, yes, for millenia, the inferior people of the islands had to send their "jizee" to the Raja who resided in Male. It has never stopped and is unlikely to stop with the current regime in place.

    The courageous decision taken by these 4 atolls have to be applauded and marks another key point in our democratic transformation, i.e. power to the people and not just a single over-lord seated in Male.

    One would hope that other atolls, especially those with larger populations will join this initiative to ensure that the "Raja" in Male does not once again dictate every aspect of their lives.

    If the original decentralisation scheme was followed through, we would have half a dozen provinces throughout the country, elected directly by the people and answerable more effectively to them. With powers to raise revenue, they could ensure local priorities are handled rather than the Raja in Male going after party political priorities.

    Of course, there will be those who will try to destroy these alliances by coming out with stupidities about suvadhive and other non-sense. This is about our local populations wishing their aspirations to be answered directly and not have their everyday lives dictated by some distant Raja reminiscent of medieval times!

  4. Expect to see a concerted effort by certain "interest groups" to discredit this using derogatory phrases such as "magoodhandi" and trying to link this to totally irrelevant events in the late 1950s.

    This issue is bigger than the 4 southern atolls. We have to applaud them for taking a lead. Get others to join as well.

  5. Is there any reason why the Southern Atolls could/should not become autonamous but still remain part of the Maldivian nation..It works [to some degree] here in the UK,,with Wales/Scotland and Northern Ireland all having their own parliaments,,but still being part of a central government.....My own opinion >>Male can see that the future prosperity in the Maldives lies with the southern atolls,,they have everything that Male does not,,including that major thing--space,,,,room to develope,great facilities and the vision to succeed by the people..Addu may one day become the capital of the Maldives..

  6. What the southern Atolls need now is the capability to deliver nuclear strikes to the South Asian theater on a first-strike and second-strike level.

    This will ensure autonomy and freedom because stupid as the Maldivian National Dumbass Federation is, they wont risk invasion knowing full well that if they do, their 'capital' can vanish in a white-hot fireball.

  7. All these is done for the sake of Nasheed. Nasheed is the man who had requested to Sobe to get this into limelight .

    But truth of the matter is that this was not done genuinely and is done for political reason.

  8. Good point by @salesman
    Addu city council can start by enriching uranium


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