Defence minister Nazim faces no-confidence motion from LGA board

Local Government Authority (LGA) board members have tabled a no-confidence motion against Chairperson and Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim.

Board members Shamau Shareef and Shujau Hussein have told Minivan News that Nazim has refused to follow procedures in considering the motion.

“He should consider it immediately. He said he is president and he can do whatever he wants. He was very arrogant, and very childish,” said Shujau Hussein, the public’s representative on the board.

Following a proposal from another board member to postpone consideration of the motion today, four of the nine members signed a resolution to consider it on December 31. This resolution was rejected by Nazim, explained Shujau.

Formed under the 2010 Decentralisation Act, the LGA is tasked with overseeing and coordinating the work of the Maldives’ 199 city, atoll, and island-level councils.

Both Shujau and Malé City Councillor Shamau expressed concern that Nazim – also acting minister of health – was not working to protect decentralisation in the country.

“He is not standing up to protect the system,” suggested Shamau, who noted that the chair had failed to protect Malé City Council from persistent reduction of its powers.

“His answer was that, since he is sitting in the cabinet, he can’t speak against colleagues,” explained Shamau.

Shujau – who said he had presented 18 procedural issues to support today’s motion – pledged to take the matter to the Civil Court if it is not heard on December 31.

Removal of public lands from the purview of Malé City Council earlier this month left the opposition-dominated authority with next to no authority, after the gradual removal of powers since 2012.


The original Decentralisation Act assigns a number of services and lands to the councils, though failure to make amendments to relevant legislation – particularly the Land Act and the Finance Act – has led to contradiction in the current laws.

The LGA board is tasked under the act with ensuring that “the work and activities of the councils created under this Act is functioning in accordance with the Constitution, this Act, and other Laws”.

When asked to comment on today’s events Nazim told Minivan News that he would have a spokesman explain what had been discussed at today’s meeting, though no spokesman had called at the time of publication.

Concerns over the government’s plans for decentralisation prompted councils from the country’s southernmost atolls to sign a pact to defend the system earlier this week.

The Medheaari Declaration – signed by the Gaaf Dhaalu, Gaaf Alifu, and Fuvahmulah atoll councils, and Addu City Council – calls upon the government to protect decentralisation, as well as making plans to secure fiscal autonomy.

“What happened in Malé, will it be repeated in the atolls?” asked Addu City Council Mayor Abdulla Sodig.

“We always have the fear that the government will come after Addu City Council after it deals with Malé City Council,” he told Minivan News.

Shujau explained that the southern pact had not been discussed at today’s LGA meeting

Recently proposed amendments to decentralisation – from pro-government MP Riyaz Rasheed – called for a reduced number of local councils and to cut the salaries of all councillors except the council presidents.

The government proposed similar changes in March of this year to the previous Majlis, with Nazim stating that the changes would allow professionals to hold council positions without having to leave their jobs.

The government has also expressed a desire to cut down on the cost of decentralised governance.

The current model of more than 1,000 elected councillors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, which had originally proposed limiting the number of councillors to no more than 220.

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Southern atolls sign pact to defend decentralisation


Southern atolls sign pact to defend decentralisation

The Maldives’ southernmost atoll councils have signed a joint declaration calling upon the government to protect the country’s decentralised authorities.

Atoll councils from Gaaf Dhaalu, Gaaf Alifu, and Fuvahmulah, joined with Addu City Council to sign the Medheaari Declaration yesterday (December 21).

The pact, which includes measures to secure fiscal autonomy, comes after repeated moves by the central government to remove powers granted to Malé City Council under the 2010 Decentralisation Act.

“What happened in Malé, will it be repeated in the atolls?” asked Addu City Council Mayor Abdulla Sodig.

“We always have the fear that the government will come after Addu City Council after it deals with Malé City Council.”

Representatives of the four councils met in Addu City Hall yesterday to sign the six point declaration, which Sodig described as “historic”.

As part of the arrangement, the councils passed a resolution vowing that all fees collected by local authorities should be deposited in council bank accounts.

Despite provisions in the 2010 act allowing for revenue raising measures, amendments to financial legislation have yet to be introduced, meaning that fees raised by local authorities are still sent to the capital Malé.

The 2014 UNDP Human Development Report has pointed out that harmonising laws remains a key challenge facing the decentralisation transition, as well as suggesting a pressing need to reduce the size of government at all levels.

While the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority has recently established an office in Addu, the city council has refused to allow it to begin operations until it pledges not to interfere with local fee collection.

Sodig explained that Addu City Council does not currently send its local fees to the capital, though the neighbouring atoll councils still do.

The President’s Office has declined to comment on the Medheaari Declaration.

An additional point contained in the document includes sending a letter to to the Majlis saying that any amendments to the Decentralisation Act must be brought in line with the spirit of the country’s decentralisation laws.

Recently proposed amendments to decentralisation – from pro-government MP Riyaz Rasheed – called for a reduced number of local councils and to cut the salaries of all councillors except the council’s president.

At yesterday’s meeting, the councils also agreed to write to all government institutions requesting that they respect the Decentralisation Act and uphold the powers of the constitution, and its specific provisions on local governance.

The removal last week of further lands originally granted to Malé City Council prompted the capital’s mayor to condemn what he called the government’s systematic abrogation of the council’s powers.

“We are now only in charge of facilitating construction in Malé, issuing death and birth certificates and cleaning mosques. But the constitution clearly states the Maldives must be administered through decentralised councils,” said Mayor Mohamed Shihab at the time.

The southern atolls yesterday also pledged to meet annually as well as to sign a joint MoU on February 24, agreeing to work together on socio-economic issues.

The southern atolls have traditionally supported the current opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – as is Malé City Council, which has labelled the government’s removal of its authority an attempt to destroy decentralisation.

All of Addu City’s 6 councillors are MDP members, while the party won just over 40 percent of island, atoll, and city council seats nationwide in January’s local elections. The elections commission was unable to provide information on the current distribution of councillors in Fuvahmulah, Gaaf Alifu, and Gaaf Dhaalu at the time of publication.

Previous comments from government officials have suggested that political decentralisation must follow economic development throughout the atolls.

“Land, labour, and capital – the central government and the regional governments are fighting for it as we don’t have enough resources even for the existing government to cover the budget deficits,” Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb has explained.

“I believe when there’s enough economic activity we can give more powers to the councils.”

Analysts have suggested that political wrangling over the implementation of decentralised governance – which included wholesale revisions to the original act proposed by the MDP government – has left the atolls’ populations less empowered than ever.

Addu, Fuvahmulah, and Huvadhoo (containing Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaalu atoll councils) currently contain 14 percent of the Maldives population.

The same three atolls declared independence from the central government in 1959, forming the short-lived United Suvadive Republic before government forces regained control in 1963.

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Malé City Council close to shut-down after police confiscate documents and server system

Nearly all services at Malé City Council have come to a halt after police confiscated important documents and several hard drives, including the server system necessary for daily operation.

Police searched and confiscated the council’s office last night (November 26) after a search warrant was issued by the Criminal Court on request from the Maldives Police Service regarding a corruption case against council staff members.

The warrant, signed by the Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, said that “some council staff had shared and gained unlawful advantages from some PDF files sent to the council by Maldives Land and Survey Authority.”

The survey authority and the land registration project fall under the authority of the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

The council has denied receiving any such files from the ministry or any other authority, stating that the council had previously provided information to the housing ministry and if any information had been sent back it would have originated from the council.

Council members told the media today that it was concerns it would be unable to prepare Friday prayer sermons, and that the waste management section might come to a halt as a direct result of the Police confiscating the server.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed said the council is now unable to receive any payments, expressing fears that human resources would be unable to pay the council’s 1000 employees this month.

Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shahib said that the MPS also confiscated information gathered by the council to write up a study on providing alternative methods to solve the housing issue faced by the city.

Council vs government

Maafannu Hulhangu constituency councillor Shamau Shareef said the incident is one of many intended to intimidate the council and to prevent it from providing the services to the people of Malé.

Shifa has previously suggested that the government was plotting to ‘destroy decentralisation’ after the housing ministry seized numerous plots of land from the council including two parks, artificial beach, carnival area, south harbour area, Usfasgandu, Dharubaaruge, and land near the T-Jetty.

Last month, she complained that poor allocation of funds for road development projects under the council as one of the main reasons behind the severe floodings on the western side of the capital island during heavy downpours.

Shamau said today that the council had no choice but to resort to “begging” the Maldives Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) to assist it setting up flood control pumps which promise a temporary solution to the problem.

October also saw masked individuals wielding machetes uprooting over thirty council owned areca palm trees on the sides of the capital’s main thoroughfare road Majeedhee Magu.

Following a further disagreement over the replanting of the vandalised trees, the cabinet announced it had removed the council’s jurisdiction over the city’s roads.

The roads are now under the control of the housing ministry and the Maldives Road Development Corporation (MRDC) which has started cleaning the drains, bringing some alleviation to the flooding.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged police involvement in the chopping down of the palm trees while naming several Special Operations (SO) officers after the MCC requested the public to submit any information about the issue.

Shamau also stressed the poor fund allocation towards the road development projects in Malé which only has a mere MVR 3.4 million (US$ 220,00) while pointing out that a new elevator at the president’s office has been budgeted MVR 3 million (US$ 200,000).

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Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?

The uprooted trees and flooded streets of Malé in recent days seem to have laid bare the continuing tensions between local and central government in the Maldives.

After the central authorities last week removed the city council’s jurisdiction over the roads of the capital, senior figures from both the government and opposition have made the legal case for and against the decision.

Friction between the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) dominated Malé City Council and successive governments has left the local authority with just 5 of the 22 public areas granted to it after its establishment in 2010.

Attempts to replace the trees – allegedly cut down by off-duty police officers – were thwarted by the state-owned Malé Road Development Corporation last Wednesday, who police allowed to continue despite councillors’ calls to uphold the Decentralisation Act.

While the former Speaker Abdulla Shahid has suggested the cabinet has violated the law in taking over maintenance of the capital’s roads, Attorney General Mohamed Anil suggested that the move was compliant with both the Decentralisation Act and the Land Act.

The President’s Office have said the council had failed to deal with the recent floods, although the council continues to point out that it has received less than half the funds allocated to it from the 2014 budget.

“We don’t even have an account in which to put money,” explained Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed.

After his ministry gave orders to tear down the areca palms planted along Malé’s main thoroughfare last week, the housing minister added to the confusion today by suggesting the council would be irresponsible to challenge efforts to make the capital greener.

Others suggest that the real roots of the issue lie with a government unwilling to cede power to local authorities, resulting in what some have described as decentralisation in name only.


“They don’t believe in the concept,” suggested Shifa. “Instead of facilitating decentralisation, they are trying to show that it can’t function.”

Defending the government’s action, President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz has said that the decision regarding street maintenance was consistent with its policy of utilising state land for social purposes.

Authority over the city’s mosques will soon revert to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, leaving the council with control over only Malé’s burial grounds – completing the steady removal of land since the fall of the MDP government in 2012.

While the current administration has previously called on local authorities to cooperate in order to bring development to the people of the country, the provisions of the flagship Special Economic Zones Act appears to make such acquiescence redundant.

The yet-to-be-specified SEZs – designed to attract foreign investors with deregulated territory – will render local authorities powerless

“There will be consultations with the local councils, but the decision making power will be here because we want to take decisions very fast and we want development as soon as possible,” tourism minister and Chairman of the SEZ investment board Ahmed Adeeb has previously explained.

In the same interview, Adeeb made clear that his government does not feel decentralised authorities are currently suited to aid the country’s development.

“Land, labour, and capital – the central government and the regional governments are fighting for it as we don’t have enough resources even for the existing government to cover the budget deficits,” he explained.

“I believe when there’s enough economic activity we can give more powers to the councils.”

The ‘begging system’

The MDP’s claims that its political opponents are attempting to sabotage the decentralisation project in favour of maintaining a Malé-centric ‘begging system’ began before the ink had dried on the 2010 Decentralisation Act.

Following its failure to win a majority in the 2008 parliamentary elections, the MDP government had to accept a version of its decentralisation bill without the structural and fiscal provisions it had originally planned for.

The rejection of over 300 proposed amendments by the opposition-controlled house – including attempts to restore the provincial model on which the scheme was based – prompted MDP MPs to walk out of the Majlis prior to the bill’s passage in April 2010.

Subsequent amendments increasing the number of councillors were described by the party as “economic sabotage”, leaving the country with a system the UNDP has described as a “major barrier to fiscal consolidation”.

Since assuming power, the same political groups have moved to reduce the recurrent costs of a system that had grown to an estimated US$64 million per three year term.

Meanwhile, the 2014 UNDP Human Development Report pointed out that harmonising laws – a problem typified by the legal wrangling in/over the streets of Malé – remains a key challenge facing the decentralisation transition.

[T]he Decentralization Act identified land management as a core responsibility of the councils. However, this contradicts the Land Act, which provides that the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure manage land distribution. Similarly, the Decentralization Act and the Constitution make provision for fiscal decentralization, revenue generation and management of own revenues by councils. This contradicts the Finance Act, which mandates all revenues collected from any Government body be deposited in the Government’s central public account.

Maldives Human Development Report 2014


Among the objectives envisioned in the Decentralisation Act are the empowerment of people and the creation of an environment conducive for peace and prosperity.

However, a report into the process by UNICEF in 2013 suggested that the political wranglings at the center of Maldivian government have left the islands worse off than before decentralisation was introduced.

“Local Councils are now less empowered than they were in 2008 which was when they officially had even less functions and revenue raising powers,” concluded the UNICEF report.

“More importantly the above arrangements mean that Council finances are micro-managed from the centre. So Councils have almost no autonomy to prioritise and manage their resources. There is, thus, basically no fiscal decentralisation.”

Decentralisation advocate Salma Fikry argues that the central government has little interest in genuine devolution of powers, preferring ‘deconcentration’ which allows for dispersed administrative powers without real financial autonomy.

“I do agree that Island Development Committees were doing better work, but the underlying truth was that the government could choose who to support and who not to support,” said Salma.

She suggested that the desire for decentralised government stemmed from the realisation in the atolls of disparities in regional service provision – another issue highlighted recently by the UNDP.

The central government will not allow for revenue raising measures at the local level as this would reduce political leverage, she explained.

The UNICEF report further noted that political partisanship and overstaffed local authorities had resulted in “political bickering” between council members, “stalemates”, and “no decision making”.

Malé Deputy Mayor Shifa also suggested that the problems with the current government stemmed from political rather than practical reasoning.

“Just because it is done by the MDP, they will destroy it.”

UNICEF concluded that the decentralisation process in the Maldives had been “rushed”, noting that such far-reaching changes can take decades to implement successfully.

During the time it took to compile the 2013 report  a new level of provincial government was introduced and subsequently abolished within two years, with UNICEF noting the subsequent “confusion at all levels of government”.

Observing recent events in the capital, it appears that the Maldives decentralisation experiment will continue to struggle to take root and may well be washed away in the next political downpour.


Maldives strategically unprepared for SEZs, argues former Finance Minister Inaz

The Maldives is strategically unprepared for the negative consequences of creating special economic zones (SEZs), former Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz has warned.

In an opinion piece published on newspaper Haveeru last week, Inaz argued that SEZs could worsen income inequality, deprive local councils of sources of revenue, and lead to a large influx of foreign labour.

“If [the government] wants to create special economic zones, it should prioritise solving problems in the judiciary that the entire country is concerned about as well as the budget deficit,” he wrote.

Policies concerning the SEZs should be formulated with a long term plan that looks ahead 10 to 20 years into the future, Inaz advised.

Investor confidence should be secured, he continued, for which laws needed to be reviewed through political dialogue.

Speaking at a forum on SEZs last week, Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Dr Azeema Adam also cautioned that political consensus was necessary for SEZs to be successful and stressed the importance of a long term strategic plan.

President Abdulla Yameen ratified the SEZ Act on September 1, which he has said would “transform” the economy through diversification, whilst relaxed regulations and tax concessions were necessary to attract foreign investors and launch ‘mega projects’ to mitigate the reliance on the tourism industry.

Inaz meanwhile predicted that a population of foreign workers many times the size of the local population would be created with the development of SEZs.

“Problems (social, political and economic) as well as opportunities that could arise as a result of the [expatriate] population should be weighed academically and discussed and debated,” he advised.

Inaz served as finance minister during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed and oversaw the enactment of tax reforms in 2011.

After leaving the Maldivian Democratic Party in February 2012, Inaz told Minivan News he would “always remain independent and serving the national interest.”

Consequences of SEZs

Unlike China and other East Asian countries where SEZs were created about 50 years ago, Inaz observed that the Maldives has never been a “closed economy.”

A large and cheap labour force and rich natural resources contributed to China’s economic success, he noted.

However, he added, social scientists believe that industrial development came at the cost of social cohesion.

Moreover, large multinational companies exert undue influence over decision-making in China and other East Asian nations, Inaz suggested.

While a free market economic policy has always been pursued in the Maldives, “with the designation of separate economic zones, other regions of the Maldives would be closed economically,” Inaz wrote.

Inaz argued that policies enacted in China to integrate its economy with a globalised world were unsuited to the Maldives.

In addition to establishing infrastructure such as airports, utilities and transport networks, Inaz observed that China trained skilled workers such as engineers, accountants, and lawyers years in advance.

“The question is whether there are nearly enough Maldivians with good work ethics who would be inexpensive (compared to neighbouring countries)?” he asked.

Social and economic problems created as a result of not regulating migrant workers during the past 15 years could increase manifold with SEZs, Inaz warned.

If Maldivians were unprepared for new jobs, Inaz predicted that wages could also be adversely affected in the domestic job market.


One of the biggest challenges facing the Maldives was income inequality and the small size of the middle class, Inaz continued, which was most evident in the regional disparities between the capital and outer atolls.

Inaz stressed that empowering local councils to generate income by utilising land and lagoons was necessary to reduce disparities.

While social security benefits reduces the income gap, Inaz warned of the negative impact on government revenue of tax exemptions for investors in SEZs.

China and Singapore created SEZs after putting the state’s fiscal affairs on a sustainable footing, he noted.

The value of the Maldivian currency deteriorated as a result of persistent budget deficits since 2004, Inaz observed, which forced the state to print money to finance deficit spending.

Consequently, the interest rate on treasury bills was now nine percent, he noted, which restricts opportunities for local businesses to partner with foreign investors in the SEZs.

“It would be unwise to establish [SEZs] without easing the burden placed on Maldivian businesses by the budget deficit and T-bill rates,” he advised.

If SEZs are created with the fiscal status quo unchanged, Inaz suggested that the government would lose sources of revenue from taxes and lease rent.

The government’s position in negotiations with potential investors would also be weak, he contended.

Inaz further argued that successive governments had been unable to improve provision of services due to a weak system of governance.

“With this reality and serious challenges, what high ground would we climb for safety from the big waves formed by opening up the whole country through a special economic zones law?” he asked.


MDP condemns restriction of powers of local councils

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has strongly condemned a decision by the government requiring local councils to seek permission directly from the president for conducting transactions involving state-owned land.

In a press release yesterday, the main opposition party said it was “extremely concerned” with moves by the current administration to restrict and limit powers and authority of island, city, and atoll councils.

As conducting transactions involving plots of land under council jurisdiction was one of the main tasks of local councils, the party contended that the government’s intention was to undermine the system of decentralisation introduced by the landmark Decentralisation Act in 2010 through devolution of decision-making powers.

The decision would undermine the authority to generate income and own land granted to local councils by the constitution, the MDP statement added.

Articles 234 and 235 states that local councils shall have the authority to “raise funds” and “own property and incur liabilities”.

In June, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure removed two parks from the jurisdiction of the MDP-majority Malé City Council, while Dharubaaruge convention centre was reclaimed by the government in May.


Goverment to amend Decentralisation Act

The Government has proposed an amendment to the Decentralisation Act in a bid to cut spending on the Civil Service.

The Act, regarding local councils, currently ensures that five council members must be elected for every island with less than 3000 people, while islands with more than 3000 people are entitled to seven councilors.

In cities, one councilor is elected for each constituency.

The proposed amendment amalgamates the island and atoll councils to a limited extent.

Individuals may belong to both councils, and there will no longer be separate elections for the atoll councils.

Ibrahim Muaz, spokesman for the President’s Office, said, “the president’s thinking is not to cut-down on the number of councilors. But to elect councilors based on the population of the islands. This is a move to curb State expenditure.”

The government hopes to implement the amendment before the local council elections in January.

However, Moosa Manik, MP for Hulhu-Henveiru and Chair of the Parliamentary National Security Committee, warned that it may be impossible to implement the changes before January.

The committee has recently passed other local council reforms, including designating any island with more than 10 000 people a city (currently 25 000) and inviting the president of the women’s committee into council.

The Maldivian Democratic Party had proposed similar legislation in 2010, aiming to cut down on administrative costs by establishing seven provinces in place of the twenty-one atoll system.

The bill was shot down by opposition MPs, mostly from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, on the grounds that the proposed changes were unconstitutional.


Government undermining decentralised administration, claims LGA vice chair

Vice Chair of the Local Government Authority (LGA) Shujau Hussain has warned that the government’s alleged non-cooperation and failure to provide funds for local councils could “bring the system of decentralised administration to a halt.”

Speaking at a press conference yesterday (April 17), Shujau claimed that the Finance Ministry was withholding funds to atoll and island councils.

“The system coming to a halt will have a big impact on the country’s stability. Politicians should know this. It is not just squabbling among political parties that threatens stability. The day this system comes to a halt is the day this country is plunged into a deep pit,” he said.

Shujau claimed that employees of pre-schools in certain atolls have not been paid salaries for past three months, adding that a solution had not been found after months of meetings with the Finance Ministry and an exchange of official letters.

“The government says they want the system of decentralised administration to function very well. [But] what the finance minister is doing is withholding everything owed to councils,” he claimed.

“This government wants to keep the centralised system in place to govern. So I do not believe that President Waheed’s government is providing any cooperation at all for the system to function.”

Moreover, said Shujau, a number of island council offices have been closed due to lack of funds in the budget to pay utility bills.

Minivan News was awaiting a response from Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad at time of press.

Shujau meanwhile went on to question the government’s “sincerity” in providing support for local government.

The LGA was set up by the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010 as a parent body tasked with overseeing local councils and coordinating with the government.

Last week, Shujau criticised the Attorney General’s Office for failing to approve 2,000 LGA municipal regulations. He suggested that the lack of approvals demonstrated an unwillingness among the government and President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s cabinet to allow local government mechanisms to function.

In January this year, the government asked the LGA to dissolve the Male’ City Council (MCC), which has an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) majority.

The MCC has been involved in a number of disputes with the government during 2012 following February’s controversial transfer of power.

LGA member Ahmed Faisal told local media at the time that the Home Ministry requested the MCC be dissolved following deliberations by the cabinet.

“We have received a letter signed by the Home Minister. But we have not tabled the issue in the agenda yet. And I don’t even believe that the Home Minister could order a council to be dissolved like that. Because there are a lot of things the LGA has to complete before that,” Faisal was quoted as saying.

Faisal accused Home Minister Jameel of requesting the city council be dissolved for “political purposes.”

Faisal also criticised Jameel for allegedly being unaware of the difficulties faced by councils in his role as chair of the LGA. The LGA member stressed that dissolving councils was a long process and that the LGA has not made any decision yet, adding that dissolving the council without addressing difficulties it faced would be “unjust.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a rally last week, former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed that a host of public services has been either disrupted or discontinued following the transfer of presidential power last year.

“Every island that I go to, I see commenced projects unfinished. Harbours have come to stop. Sewerage systems have come to a stop. The change of school sessions to a single session have come to a stop. Aasandha [health insurance] has become a Baisandha [halved]. Transport [networks] have come to halt, everything has stopped. So I think Waheed’s campaign slogan is ‘halted’,” he was quoted as saying.

“President Waheed has neglected the most prosperous one and a half years of this nation. Since my government was changed through a coup, I can only perceive this coup [government] as something that has come to halt.”


DRP, MDP oppose amendments to “take power” from local councils

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has said it would not support any measures that “take power” from local councils after parliament today voted to reject amending the Decentralisation Act.

DRP Deputy Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom said that while the party might consider some “balancing measures” to enforce controls on councils to combat political bias, it would not favour efforts to curb their powers.

The claims were made as parliament today rejected an amendment to the Decentralisation Act that proposed a number of changes, including dissolving councils which rejected the legitimacy of any serving government.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the vote reflected increasing support even among government-aligned parties for decentralised governance, despite what it alleges are continuous “politically motivated” attempts to undermine local councils.

Government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed had proposed the decentralisation amendments, which were rejected by 30 MPs today in parliament. According to local media, 13 MPs were in support of the proposed amendments.

Local news service Sun Online reported that the proposals contained nine amendments to the act, that would also grant the government stronger control over municipal councils including their right to lease land and lagoons.

MP Rasheed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Council powers

Dr Mausoom said the DRP did not support the proposed amendments, believing that local councils at island and municipal level needed to be empowered and improved, rather than weakened.

“The DRP will not support taking away their powers,” he said.

Addressing the challenges facing decentralised governance across the Maldives, Dr Mausoom claimed that the distribution by councils of already limited resources to their constituents was in certain cases being impacted by political bias.

He contended that some councils had been reported to provide services and resource along party lines, possibly requiring in future some form of measures to ensure all members of the public were being treated equally.

Dr Mausoom denied DRP dominated councils may be favouring their own members however, while praising the overall majority of councillors for how they were conducting their duties.

“Some MDP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) councils are dong very well, but others are biased in their work,” he added.

A few months after the formation of local councils back in 2011, former opposition and state figures expressed concern to Minivan News that general inexperience among local councillors and obstruction by the government of former President Nasheed had led to some significant teething problems for the decentralisation process.

“Ridiculous” amendments

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor today claimed that while a number of MPs aligned to the present government had continued to try and reverse decentralisation, the DRP was more openly supporting councils against “ridiculous” amendments such as those proposed by MP Riyaz Rasheed.

Hamid alleged that the DRP had in the past “not believed” in decentralisation that was introduced following inaugural local council elections in 2011.

However, he claimed there had been an apparent change in policy since a split within the DRP that saw a number of members including its founder and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom break away and form the PPM, which now holds the minority leadership within parliament.

Speaking following today’s parliamentary vote, Hamid said that despite the amendments being rejected, other government-aligned parties were constantly working on legislation that would reverse decentralisation introduced following inaugural local council elections in February 2011.

“They are trying to reverse what we have gained,” he claimed. “[When decentralisation was passed] we got about 60 percent of what we wanted for these councils. The DRP had a huge majority back then and made life very difficult for us. They were able to overturn our plans for financial decentralisation.”

Hamid said he believed the present DRP members, which include former senior members of former President Gayoom’s autocratic government, had shown there was support for retaining local councils.

However, he accused government-aligned parties of backing a “constant number” of amendments to the Decentralisation Act that directly target opposition-led bodies such as Male’ City Council (MCC).

‘Usfasgandu’ issue

The MCC has notably been locked in legal wrangling with the Housing Ministry over the last 12 months concerning its ability to lease an area of land known as “Usfasgandu” to the MDP for use as a staging ground for protests and other activities.

Usfasgandu was handed back to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) by Male’ City Council earlier this week.

The area was cordoned off by police in January after the High Court issued a warrant requesting the area be kept under police custody until it reached a verdict on the case.

Male’ City Council leased the Usfasgandu area to the ousted ruling party in March 2012, prompting repeated attempts by the government to reclaim the area on the grounds it was being used for criminal activity, including the practice of black magic.

The MDP had moved to the area after a previous protest camp at the tsunami monument was dismantled and completely repainted by police and military on March 19, 2012.