President appoints executives to CMDA, MQA

Former Financial Controller at the Finance Ministry Ahmed Assad has been appointed to the post of Chairman of the Capital Market Development Authority (CMDA).

Assad was appointed by President Mohamed Nasheed earlier today. He is a brother of Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam.

Assad served as the State Minister for Finance and Treasury before accepting the post of Financial Controller on April 8 this year. He resigned from this position in November for undisclosed reasons.

In a letter accepting Assad’s resignation, President Nasheed thanked him for his support in drafting the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) manifesto, Haveeru reports.

The President also appointed today Dr. Abdul Muhsin Mohamed as the Chief Executive Officer at the Maldives Qualification Authority (MQA). The MQA oversees and issues professional credentials in the Maldives.


Financial Controller resigns from post

Financial Controller Ahmed Assad resigned from his post yesterday, but did not specify the reasons for doing so in his resignation letter.

Assad had served as State Minister for Finance and Treasury before accepting his latest post on April 8. He is the brother of Housing Minister Mohamed Asla.

According to local media Haveeru, Assad provided technical support to the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) during the 2008 campaign, and allegedly drafted the party’s manifesto.


MP allowance debacle “not a mix-up”: State Finance Minister

The Finance Ministry today rejected implications that yesterday’s release and recall of the controversial Rf20,000-a-month committee allowances against a court injunction was a mistake which had caused confusion in the government.

“I don’t think it’s a mix-up,” said State Minister of Finance Ahmed Assad today. Assad was unclear about the court injunction.

“Releasing that sort of money is not a big procedure, I think this is just people trying to follow the general rules and experiencing an administrative error,” he said.

Assad didn’t believe anyone deserved blame, and said that “if anything, it is the ministry at large that was at fault.”

Local daily Haveeru yesterday reported that the allowances had been issued “by mistake.”

Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz had not responded to Minivan inquiries at time of press.

The court injunction, which was issued on September 26, ordered the Finance Ministry not to release funds for the committee allowance until the court rules on a case filed on behalf of a civil servant, contending that the allowance could not be given before deducted amounts from civil servants salaries were paid back.

The injunction has since been appealed by the Attorney General’s Office at the High Court, which is due to hold a first hearing on Sunday.

Parliamentary privileges

Meanwhile parliament yesterday debated a motion without notice proposed by Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed claiming that a civic action campaign launched by concerned citizens in late August violated MPs’ special privileges.

MDP MP Ahmed Easa told Minivan News yesterday that colleagues had said the allowance was being released to the parliament secretariat, but he was told that it had been held back by the Minister of Finance.

“I don’t think there was any wording, anything in what the court said indicating that they couldn’t release the money,” said Easa. “But no money has been going in to my account today, I can tell you that.”

Easa elaborated on the allowance, saying that the amount of staffing support and allowances other government branches received justified MPs accepting the proposed allowance.

“The MP point of view is that some of the independent wages and allowances are greater than MPs. The MPs are expected to do research and other duties, but we don’t have an office, a supporting staff, a phone allowance, a travel stipend to visit constituents or other things to support our work. Seven percent of our salary is taken out for a pension fund, and Male’ is an expensive place to live,” said Easa.

Easa said he will accept the allowance, but pointed out that he had always objected to it in parliament on the grounds that all payrolls should be streamlined.

“But if these other government groups are taking an allowance, why not the MPs? This is a democracy, so I always respect the majority decision.”

Lawyer Mohamed Shafaz Wajeeh, one of two lawyers involved in the civil case, argued that the number of people benefiting from the allowance does not justify the sum released, which amounts to Rf18 million (US$1.1 million).

“It’s greed. Just greed,” Shafaz said. “MPs and higher-ups in the government are probably more aware of their own power than they should be. The thinking behind this goes against everything we know.”

Shafaz suggested the government consider other options, such as releasing the allowance in installments to lighten the burden on the state budget and other subsidiaries.

“But I’m not sure how much political will there is to do this. Everyone says the allowance is a good idea.”

Civil society

Although members of the civil sector earlier issued a statement objecting to the allowance, which they called “a gross injustice to the Maldivian people,” they have not articulated an official position on the issue of late.

Maldives Democracy Network (MDN) Director Fathimath Ibrahim Didi said that individuals in the organization were involved at the beginning, but that they did not represent MDN.

“Now, I think there may be a group working against the allowance, but it is loosely formed involving people from NGOs, lawyers and individuals,” she said.

Transparency Director Ilham Mohamed told Minivan News that a volunteer team was addressing the matter, but that large protests had not been organized among local non-government organizations (NGOs).

“I believe there may be sporadic gatherings in different places,” said Mohamed. “I do know that the NGOs that were involved in the original statement opposing the MP allowance are unified on this issue.”


The decision to approve the Rf20,000 (US$1200) monthly allowances in December 2010 was met with  protests and widespread public indignation. However in June this year, parliament rejected a resolution proposed by opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf to scrap the allowance.

Meanwhile the current civic action campaign was prompted by parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) deciding in late August to to issue a lump sum of Rf140,000 (US$9,000) as committee allowance back pay for January through July this year.

Article 102 of the constitution states that parliament shall determine the salaries and allowances of the President, Vice President, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, members of the Judiciary, and members of the independent institutions.

The Rf20,000 allowance was initially approved on December 28, 2010 as part of a revised pay scheme recommended by the PAC.

During yesterday’s debate on a privileges motion regarding the anti-committee allowance campaign, MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed, a member of the PAC, explained that the committee felt that MPs should earn a higher salary than High Court judges.

“But even then the honourable members of the Public Accounts Committee believed that MPs were receiving a sufficiently large salary in relation to the country’s economic situation,” he said, adding that a decision was made to institute a “symbolic” committee allowance.

“The thinking at the time was to give it to MPs who attend committee meetings as a very symbolic thing, for example one laari or 15 laari. But to ensure that take-home pay for MPs would be Rf82,500,” he said.

However, he continued, this “noble effort” became politicised and the subject of “an anti-campaign programme.”

Colonel called for legal action against the activists “when they go beyond the boundaries of free expression” and the right to protest, claiming that MPs’ families and children had been targeted.

Echoing a claim made by a number of MPs yesterday, Colonel said none of his constituents had asked him to decline the allowance.


MPs planning no-confidence motion against finance minister

A group of MPs have announced they intend to put a no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Ali Hashim before parliament.

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed claimed Hashim’s conduct in his role as minister had on several occasions been “against the law.”

”It’s not only the issue of civil servants salary, he has done many things against the law,” he claimed.

Nasheed has previously said he would pursue a no-confidence motion against Hashim after the finance minister failed to appear before a parliamentary committee investigating the ministry’s treatment of the independent commissions.

“He left the country,” noted Nasheed at the time, adding when the committee requested State Finance Minister Ahmed Assad appear in Hashim’s stead, the ministry sent two junior officers.

“If he doesn’t appear, we’ll make a report to parliament questioning his confidence,” Nasheed warned. “He’s being irresponsible and it’s so unnecessary and uncalled for.”

Today, Nasheed said that the group of MPs had almost finished the necessary documentation “and I will be the first to sign the petition.”

He said he did not yet want to reveal the details of what the petition contains.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party DRP MP Ahmed Ilham said he supported the no-confidence motion against the finance minister.

”He bought shares in the Maldives Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) [without the knowledge of parliament], he is paying salaries to province councillor when they have yet to be approved – these things are against the law,” Ilham claimed.

Former president of Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) Umar Naseer and candidate for the vice-presidency of the DRP said motion was overdue, and accused Hashim “of being unable to read and write.”

MDP MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik said he preferred not comment on the issue before the petition was presented to the parliament.

MDP Spokesman Ahmed Haleem said parliament had failed the last time it tried to press a no-confidence vote (against Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed), “and I do not think they can do it this time either.”

He accused Nasheed of trying to make the no-confidence vote to gain support from DRP.

”At first we hoped Nasheed would be a very beneficial man for the country and would do a lot of good, but now I see he does so many things against democracy,” Haleem said.

Minivan News sought response from the finance ministry on several occasions but received no response at time of press.