The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) parliamentary group has decided to make a recommendation to the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to challenge the constitutionality of amendments brought to the Audit Act last week.
“The NEC will make a decision tomorrow,” MP Rozaina Adam said at a press conference this morning.
Under Article 143 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court and High Court has the jurisdiction “to enquire into and rule on the constitutional validity of any statute or part thereof enacted by the People’s Majlis.”
Rozaina argued that the amendment stipulating that the president shall reappoint an auditor general within 30 days was unconstitutional.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Thoriq had proposed adding a clause to the audit law stating that the president shall nominate for parliamentary approval an individual or individuals to the post of auditor general within 30 days of ratifying the amendments.
The amendment was passed with 36 votes in favour and 22 against at Wednesday’s (October 29) sitting of parliament.
At today’s press conference, MP Imthiyaz Fahmy meanwhile stressed the importance of the public protesting the unconstitutional move.
Imthiyaz said he had learned that parliament’s Counselor General Fathmath Filza had also advised Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed that the amendment was unconstitutional.
President Abdulla Yameen ratified the amendments less than 24 hours after it was passed, he noted.
Imthiyaz said the haste with which the amendment was passed and ratified shows the PPM government’s eagerness to replace the auditor general following allegations of corruption made against the party’s deputy leader – Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb – in a special audit report of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company (MMPRC).
Meanwhile, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim told newspaper Haveeru last night that he would also contest the constitutionality of the amendment at the Supreme Court.
The amendment contravenes the process specified in the Constitution for the appointment and removal of the auditor general, Niyaz contended.
Article 218 of the Constitution states that the auditor general could be removed from office “(a) on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence; and (b) a finding to that effect by a committee of the People’s Majlis, pursuant to article (a) and upon the approval of such finding by the People’s Majlis by a majority of those present and voting, calling for the Auditor General’s removal from office”.
Niyaz told the local daily that he does not intend to remain in the post even if the Supreme Court strikes down the amendment.
Following the release of the MMPRC special audit report, Niyaz revealed that death threats were sent to both himself and his family. Niyaz is currently on leave.
During last week’s parliamentary debate, PPM MP Thoriq said he proposed the amendment with reference to Article 211(b) of the Constitution, which states, “A statute shall specify the responsibilities, powers, mandate, qualifications, and ethical standards of the Auditor General.”
Thoriq noted that the Audit Act was passed in 2007 before the ratification of the Constitution the following year and did not specify the responsibilities, mandate, qualification and ethical standards of the auditor general.
PPM MP Ibrahim Waheed has meanwhile told local media that the post of auditor general became vacant with the president’s ratification of the amendments.
Waheed contended that as Niyaz was appointed under the 2007 audit law, a new auditor general must be appointed in accordance with the Constitution following the amendments to the Audit Act.
Article 210 of the Constitutions states, “The President shall appoint as Auditor General a person approved by a majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis from the names submitted to the People’s Majlis as provided for in law.”
Waheed argued that Niyaz was appointed in the absence of a law passed after the adoption of the Constitution in August 2008.
“So the legal obligations and responsibilities of the present Auditor General will stop. And if he is willing to go ahead, he also has to apply to the post just like others. An Auditor General will be appointed under this constitution after the parliament approves the name sent by the president,” he was quoted as saying by Sun Online.
The 17th People’s Majlis had unanimously approved former President Mohamed Nasheed’s nomination of Niyaz Ibrahim to the post of auditor general in May 2011.