MDP to take province issue to Supreme Court

Spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group MP Ahmed Shifaz has said the parliamentary group intends to take the dispute over the province section of the decentralisation bill to the supreme court.

Shifaz said according to the constitution, when the parliament disputes an issue by resolution it has the power to ask for advice from the supreme court.

”The opposition say it is unconstitutional to divide the country in to seven provinces,” Shifaz said, ”so we are going to present a resolution to the parliament, and see what the Supreme Court says,”

He said he hoped the opposition MPs would agree to pass a resolution to hear what the Supreme Court says.

”According to the constitution the Supreme Court is able to give the last word,” he said. ”I hope they agree and pass the resolution.”

MDP MP Ahmed Hamza said the MDP parliamentary group had decided to present a resolution according to the Article 95 of the constitution.

Aricle 95 of the constitution reads as follows: ”The People’s Majlis may by resolution refer to the Supreme Court for hearing and consideration important questions of law concerning any matter, including the interpretation of the Constitution and the constitutional validity of any statute. The Supreme Court shall answer the questions so referred and shall provide the answers to the People’s Majlis, giving reasons for its answers. The opinion shall be pronounced in like manner as in the case of a judgement on appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Hamza said that the opposition MPs claimed that dividing the country into seven provinces was against article 230 [b] of the constitution.

Article 230 [b] of the constitution reads as follows: ”In order to provide for decentralised administration, the President has the power, as provided in law, to create constituencies, posts, island councils, atoll councils and city councils.”

”This is not a constitutional issue, in fact, this is a political issue,” Hamza said, ”we want the Supreme Court to say whether dividing in to seven provinces is against 230 [b] of the constitution.”

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed said did not wish to comment on the issue yet.

”This might even be a political issue,” he suggested.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said it was written in the constitution “in clear words” that the country’s administrative units cannot be divided into seven provinces.

Nihan said the party would not change its stand.

”I do not think the Supreme Court would say we are wrong either,” he said. ”I think our party will not change its mind.”

He said dividing the country into administrative units would make it more difficult for people to get services from the government.

Deputy Leader of DRP Umar Naseer said that presenting a resolution to the parliament to hear what the Supreme Court had to say on the matter “does not have any weight.”

”Although the Supreme Court can say whatever it likes, it’s in the hand of MPs to decide what to do with the provinces,” he said. ”They are just trying to delay this bill.”

He said that MDP MPs were already aware that people did not want to divide the country’s administrative units into seven provinces.


DRP ‘gate shaking’ case sent to Prosecutor General

Police have sent a case concerning the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-led protest outside MNDF headquarters in January to the Prosecutor General’s office, following investigation.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the case involved “some DRP members.” DRP Vice Presidents Umar Naseer and Ali Waheed have previously been summoned by police for questioning over the issue.

”It’s unauthorized to gather near the Maldives National Defense Force headquarters,” Shiyam said. “[The protesters] split police forces and shook the main gatesof MNDF,” he explained.

He said the case sent to the PG included “everyone in connection with the case.”

The PG’s office confirmed the case had been received but PG Ahmed Muiz would not give further details to Minivan News.

DRP leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said the purpose of trying to prosecute DRP protesters was that they “had been trying to make the government responsible and remind them of their pledges”, and that the prosecution was an attempt “to escape from the unfulfilled pledges made to the people.”

Thasmeen noted that it was also unauthorized to gather and protest near the parliament.

”I have seen people with loudspeakers and microphones near the parliament,” Thasmeen said, ”Why isn’t the government investigating and prosecuting them?”

He said he was surprised that the senior officials of the government had told the people the government was a democracy, but were now trying to arrest protesters.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Shifaz said that he would describe the riot as an act of ”terrorism”

Shifaz said trying to enter a country’s defense force base was “a very serious case”, and that the people involved in it should be prosecuted.

”MNDF have the authority to use weapons when that happens,” he said. ”They did not do it.”

He said whether or not someone was an MP, nobody was above the law.

”A penalty should be given for the people who were involved in the incident,” he said.


Parliament passes bill on broadcasting corporation

The parliament yesterday passed a bill establishing a broadcasting corporation, with board members to be appointed by parliament and responsible for controlling public media TVM and Voice of Maldives.

The bill effectively gives legal weight and parliamentary backing to the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), which already runs state media.

Out of 69 MPs present, 42 voted to pass the bill. The bill was presented to the parliament by the government, with MPs attempting to introduce 35, but during the vote only 18 amendments were passed.

Spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Parliamentary group Mohamed Shifaz said he was happy with the broadcasting bill but was unhappy on how the broadcasting corporation bill was passed.

Shifaz said that according to the bill the board members would be appointed by the parliament.

”The parliament will be appointing people for the board,” Shifaz said. “Parliament will do the interviewing and select people.”

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahloof said he was “very happy” with the bill, suggesting consternation within the MDP over the appointment of board members was “because TVM is the only media now which promotes the government.”

Mahloof said the MDP MPs were worried that if TVM became independent, “there will be no one to promote the MDP.”

”TVM would never report anything negative to the governemnt,” he said. ”It always promotes the government, that’s why they are worried that TVM might become independent when the parliament appoints board members for the broadcasting corporation.”

He said if the bill was approved by the president, media in the Maldives would become “free and independent.”

MDP MP Ahmed Easa said that appointing the board members by the parliament, announcing for interested applicants for the position and interviewing the applicants by the parliament made the parliament “a place where business is done.”

Easa said that the opposition MPs passed the bill because “they want to change the public media the way they want to.”

”It is fine if the parliament monitors the board,” he said, ”but if they are appointing people for the board that means the parliament is [participating in] the country’s business community.”

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom said the bill was passed with majority support of MPs.

Mausoom said the President Mohamed Nasheed should “be very happy” with the way the bill was passed claiming that many people blamed the government for attempting to control the media.

”Now the president can say he has no power over the media,” Mausoom said.


Parliament votes to dismiss Auditor General 43-28 in favour

Parliament today voted to dismiss Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, with 43 voting in favour of the no-confidence motion and 28 against.

President Mohamed Nasheed was last night reported to be seeking to urgently meet with MPs, foregoing a function marking the close of the donor conference.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Shifaz said all the party’s MPs had voted against the no-confidence motion on Auditor General ”as it was a responsibility of the government to defend all its institutions, and we are on the government’s side.”

On the other side, MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA) coalition were joined by seven independents, the two Dhivehi Qaumee Party MPs and the sole Republican Party representative.

Shifaz said he believed the Auditor General had not committed anything that warranted a no-confidence motion.

”DRP want to remove him from that position due to the reports he released, which accused many senior leaders of corruption including former president,” he said. ”They had personal issues with him.”

He claimed the parliament procedures need to be changed and there were many things to be corrected.

”The speaker has not revealed the Anti-Corruption Commissions report to MPs yet, because it contains things which accuse his own party’s members of corruption,” Shifaz claimed.

DRP MP Ahmed Ilham said it was now “very clear” that the Auditor General was corrupt.

”Independent MPs who always vote on MDP side voted on DRP side today,” Ilham said.

He said the government was trying to defend Naeem in many ways, “which proves that the government is promoting corruption in the country in the name of erasing it,” he said.

”MDP MPs forced the parliament to be canceled two days, and MDP activists disrupted the peace of the nation just to defend the Auditor General.”

Ilham said that if there was a credible corruption case against former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, “the government should not wait a single second before investigating those cases.”

”Those are just rumors they spread,” he said. “Why won’t the government go ahead and prove it to the people?”

Ilham said while people believed Naeem was independent as the Audit Office was a independent institution, ”that the government tried to defend him proves he was a man fully on MDP’s side.”

Naeem was appointed by Former President Gayoom and a DRP-majority Majlis.

What happened

The Auditor General was accused of corruption by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for using the government’s money to buy a tie and visit Thulhaidhu in Baa Atoll.

Naeem claimed the charges were an attempt to discredit his office and prevent him from reclaiming the government’s money stored in overseas bank accounts.

“A lot of the government’s money was taken through corrupt [means] and saved in the banks of England, Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia,” Naeem claimed two weeks ago, during his first press conference in eight months.

The motion to dismiss him was put forward by the parliamentary finance committee, chaired by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim, who the previous week had pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the former ministry of atolls development while be was Managing Director of Namira Engineering and Trading Pvt Ltd.

Tension over the motion led to violent clashes inside parliament, which spread to supporters of both major parties outside the chamber. Police were forced to use tear gas on several occasions over the weekend to subdue crowds of violent demonstrators.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair claimed the DRP were trying to remove Naeem because he had accused the party’s senior leaders of corruption during their administration.

”They are intending to spread doubt among the people, and they think it will be easier to defend themselves if the Auditor General is dismissed,” Zuhair said.

The dismissal of the Auditor General would “not be a big loss” to the government’s attempts to recover the money, ”as there are many professional accountants in the Audit Office”, Zuhair said.

He said all the political benefits being attributed to the no-confidence motion on Auditor General were due the government, ”as [Naeem] was elected by a majority of DRP MPs.”

The dismissal of the Auditor General is unlikely to slow the government’s appetite for reclaiming state funds it believes are stashed overseas.

Today during the closure of Donor Conference, President Mohamed Nasheed confirmed that a “stolen asset recovery program is part-and-parcel of the World Bank projects.”

“We are a member of that program and will of course be working within the framework available to us,” he said.

“If there are any stolen assets I’m sure we will be able to identify them, and if they are ill-gotten I sure we will we will be able to repatriate them.”

There was “no timeline”, the President added.

The Stolen Asset Recovery program (StAR) is a 2007 joint initiative between the World Bank and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “fosters much needed cooperation between developed and developing countries and between the public and private sectors to ensure that looted assets are returned to their rightful owners.”