President Waheed launches party campaign camp at wife’s house

President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP) will launch a party camp to attract more supporters at Waheed’s wife’s home, local media has reported.

Waheed has declared he will compete in upcoming presidential elections, but said he was undecided as to whether he would compete as an individual or form a coalition with another party, GIP Deputy President Mohamed ‘Nazaki’ Zaki told local media.

The party’s first camp to attract more supporters will open in Male’ next Wednesday at First Lady Ilhama Ahmed’s family residence, local media reported.

According to Zaki, the party campaign to increase members had so far been a success and a second camp is expected to open later this month on Feydhoo in Seenu Atoll.


Civil court rejects legal challenge to MPs’ committee allowance

The Civil Court today rejected a case filed on behalf of a civil servant challenging the legality of controversial Rf20,000-a-month committee allowances for MPs.

A group of concerned civil servants filed the case on behalf of Maah Jabeen, Seenu Maradhoo Fenzeemaage, arguing that releasing funds for committee allowance without reimbursing civil servants for amounts deducted from their 2010 salaries violated constitutional provisions on fairness and equal treatment.

On 26 September, the civil court issued an injunction prohibiting the Finance Ministry from releasing funds to parliament until the court delivered a judgment on the case.

In October 2009 – almost a year into the new administration – unpopular pay cuts of up to 15 percent for civil servants were enforced as part of austerity measures to alleviate the country’s ballooning budget deficit.

The austerity measures were met with a severe political backlash. In December 2009, the opposition-controlled parliament added Rf800 million (US$62 million) to the 2010 state budget, including the restoration of civil servant salaries to previous levels.

In January 2010, however, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury refused to restore the salaries after just three months of the cost-cutting measure.

After weeks of legal wrangling with the parliament-appointed Civil Service Commission (CSC), the ministry accused the independent commission of hiding “a political agenda”, and in February 2010 filed a case with the police asking them to investigate it on suspicion of trying to topple the government “and plunge the Maldives into chaos.”

At the height of the dispute in early 2010, permanent secretaries at ministries were ordered to submit different wage sheets by both the Finance Ministry and the CSC.

In April 2010, the Civil Court ruled that Finance Ministry did not have the legal authority to overrule the CSC. Although the government contested the ruling and refused to restore salaries to previous levels, the High Court upheld the lower court ruling in May this year.

Meanwhile in the verdict issued today, the Civil Court noted that the state had appealed the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court, which has since agreed to hear the case.

The court ruled that there were no legal grounds to order the Finance Ministry not to release the funds to parliament as the two budget items in question were “not in the same state or condition.”

Civic action

After parliament’s Public Accounts Committee decided to issue the committee allowance as a lump sum of Rf140,000 as back pay for January through June, a loose association of concerned citizens launched a campaign noting that the state had a staggering fiscal deficit of Rf1.3 billion (US$85 million) as of the first week of September.

Neither lawyer from the civic action campaign was available for comment today.

Some sources have meanwhile criticised the MPs for comparing their salaries and privileges to those of United States congressmen.

“You can’t do that, the two countries are too different,” said No MP Allowance Media Coordinator Hamza Khaleel.

“The salary difference between the highest-paid civil servant and a congressman in the US is 175%, while in the Maldives it’s 365%,” Khaleel pointed out. “Our MPs get as much as MPs in Sweden, but our GDP is nowhere near Sweden’s.”

NGOs have retreated from the issue in recent weeks, but No MP Allowance, a group of concerned citizens which operates primarily through social media outlet Facebook and has almost 3000 members, has been networking to protest the allowance since February. Khaleel said the group is the “single largest civil movement for this issue.”

“You can see that our Facebook page is very active. All of the members might not show up to protest but they are writing letters and suggesting ideas, so you can see that they are involved,” said Khaleel.

Khaleel noted that MP opposition and negative media have deterred the group from publicising its plans, but he said media coverage lately had improved.

Upon hearing of the court’s verdict today, Khaleel said No MP Allowance’s campaign did not depend on a court ruling but on the constituents’ opinions.

“If you ask the MP’s constituents, they will say that the MPs aren’t doing as much as they could have. Very few MPs have taken up issues that are community-focused,” he said.

“Our main focus is still to get constituents to write to their MPs asking them not to take the allowance. We have drafted sample letters that we are distributing for signatures, and will collect and deliver to the MPs. We represent the constituents, if they are not satisfied then we still have work to do,” Khaleel said.


Former President to launch DRP campaign with rally at Guraidhoo

Former President and main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) ‘Honorary Leader’ Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is leaving for Guraidhoo in Kaafu Atoll, along with a DRP campaign team including the party’s former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf said that tonight a rally would be held at Guraidhoo to gain support for the party.

”We do not have much time, so we would not be traveling to many islands this time,” DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf explained. ”But we will be going to islands such as Villingili in Gaafu Alifu Atoll and Fuvamulah.”

Mahlouf said that during tonight’s rally, only Gayoom would address the people of the island.

”Umar Naseer will be addressing the people of other islands,” he said. ”Our Honorary Leader believes that Umar is still the Deputy Leader of the party and so do I.”

The Elections Commission has previously stated that Naseer was removed from the party’s membership list following a request from the senior party’s leadership.

DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali was invited to join the campaign team, Mahlouf said, but said he did not know whether he would attend.

”I read in the paper that Thasmeen is going in another direction, I don’t know much about him,” Mahlouf said. ”MPs like Ahmed Nihan and Ali Arif are in our campaign team.”

Mahlouf said that Gayoom will hold a final rally in Male’ on February 3, which he said would be the final rally before the Local Council Elections.

”After the Local Council Elections we will resolve Umar’s issue,” he said.

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told Minivan News that he had scheduled another rally at Thulusdhoo tonight.

”We are all working to achieve one goal. I think it would be much more successful if we campaign separately in different parts of the country so that we can broaden the campaign,” said Thasmeen. ”According to my travel schedule I will not meet the Honorary Leader during the campaign.”

Thasmeen noted that while Gayoom was traveling to Haa Dhaalu Atoll this weekend, he was scheduled to visit Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.


MDP Parliamentary group head calls for Gayoom’s arrest

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader and MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik has called on President Mohamed Nasheed and Home Minister Hassan Afeef to arrest former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, ahead of the local council elections.

Speaking at a MDP rally held at Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani Atoll, he alleged that Gayoom had “tortured many citizens of this nation” and claimed that the former president was “causing civil unrest by spreading enmity.”

”We are here to rule the country with courage. Despite the opposition parties dismissing all the cabinet ministers, the President will rule this country by himself with the citizens,” Moosa said. ”We will not put this nation on the hands of torturers, not any more.”

Moosa said that even if only one seat of the local council elections was won by the opposition party, ”[the people] will suffer the bitterness of it.”

He also thanked the MDP parliamentary group for their efforts to “make useful laws for the country” in this difficult situation.

DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf observed that Reeko Moosa “has always been like this – shouting about Gayoom and demanding he be charged.”

“There have been a lot of allegations of corruption made against Gayoom, but in the past two years nothing has been proven,” Mahlouf said. “What I know is that if anything happens to him, the whole country will become very chaotic. There are many people willing to die for him.”

Gayoom wrote a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron in November alleging intimidation by the Nasheed government, expressing concern that the President would attempt to have him arrested “despite my innocence”, and despite praise from election observers at the “smooth handover of power” and assurances of safety and privileges in the Constitution for the former president.

Instead, the former President claimed Nasheed’s government had “escalated its attempts to harass me” in the run up to the local council elections, despite his retirement from politics earlier in 2010.

MDP Chairperson and MP Mariya Ali also spoke at the rally held over the weekend.

”We have traveled to many islands now, we can see the ‘other Maldives’, we can see the Maldives becoming yellow, we can see the local councils elections falling in to our hands,” said Mariya.

Mariya said that MDP was not the type of party that would point a finger at a person and say “here is the MDP presidential candidate.”

”In fact, MDP will determine who could bear the responsibility and give it to a person capable of carrying out that responsibility,” she said.

”We have reclaimed the land of Hinnavaru within nine days, only because we have elected a president that was appointed that way.”

MDP’s campaign delegation also visited Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll.