Transparency Maldives is pursuing collaborations with various government and independent institutions in attempts to legally assist both local and foreign victims of corruption in the country.
Transparency Maldives Project Director Aiman Rasheed said a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed this week with the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to provide technical advice through the establishment of an Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) was also being sought with a number of other local institutions and bodies.
According to the NGO, the centre will seek to offer assistance and legal advice for both local people and expatriates – especially in the case of workers from countries like Bangladesh – to help them address incidences of corrupt practices in the country.
With consultations taking place with various national bodies and organisations like the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office, Transparency Maldives claims it expects to announce additional partners for the project over the next month.
Rasheed told Minivan News that by June 10 he hoped to have additional support from a number of these bodies alongside the commitments of the ACC.
“We have so far received very positive responses from the PG’s Office and the HRCM,” he claimed. “In all honesty, we’ve been quite surprised at how open many of the institutions have been. We hope to have more big stakeholders on board.”
Under the terms of the MOU signed this week with the ACC, Rasheed claimed Transparency Maldives aimed to provide technical advice to the commission to try and help it make its systems for dealing with corruption “better”.
“The ALAC is designed to try and make things easier for victims of corruption. There is no protection right now for most people and it can be hard to get access to existing protective mechanisms,” he said. “We will provide complainants with proper legal advice on where they stand. Also, we currently have very little data in regards to current complaints. The MOU will let us better understand what gaps there are in the system and what exactly people are complaining about.”
Rasheed claimed that the ALAC project, which has been adopted by other national bodies aligned with Transparency International, had so far provided legal and technical assistance to some 48,000 corruption cases worldwide.
He added negotiations were presently taking place with customs and judicial authorities in an attempt to come to an agreement for similar collaborations.
However, Rasheed stressed that each institution had its own distinct set of rules and regulations in relation to its work.
“Our plan is that we would like to have a toll free number that would allow a person who has been a victim of corruption to call or message us anonymously with a complaint,” he said.
When questioned on what sort of remit and powers the ALAC would have to address allegations of corruption concerning public and independent institutions, Rasheed claimed that Transparency had already been addressing certain “concerns” levelled at the project.
He said that some of these concerns were related to fears that the work of the ALAC would simply just be duplicating existing state-mechanisms currently in place. Rasheed denied this was the case.
“Our intentions are to give people an easier way to complain and get legal advice over corruption concerns,” he said. “However, this does not mean that we will be interfering with the international mechanisms of these groups.”
Rasheed claimed that the MOU would instead be designed to go directly to a body such as the Maldives Customs Service and share the numbers of potential complaints raised against it, whilst also providing advice on how to address such concerns.
In working to address more specific local concerns, Rasheed claimed that Transparency Maldives aimed to make use of the ALAC programme to address issues related to labour authorities and human trafficking – one of the NGOs “biggest concerns” at present.
“Right now we found the whole system just so corrupt. So we have an agreement to bring a member of staff from Transparency Bangladesh here over the next year to help us deal with complaints from Bangladeshi workers,” he said.
Earlier this month, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh in the Maldives, Rear Admiral Abu Saeed Mohamed Abdul Awal, said he believed workers from the country were regularly being brought to the Maldives to perform unskilled work, usually in the construction industry.
Awal alleged that upon arriving, expatriates from Bangladesh were suffering from the practices of “bad employers”.
“This is a real problem that is happening here, there have been many raids over the last year on unskilled [expatriate] workers who are suffering because of the companies employing them. They are not being given proper salaries and are paying the price for some of these employers,” he said.
The comments were echoed earlier this week by the First Secretary of the Indian High Commission in the Maldives S. C. Agarwal.
Agarwal told Minivan News that both skilled and unskilled Indian workers employed currently in the Maldives continued to be “penalised” due to certain government and private sector employers failing to fulfil their legal obligations.