In a series of interviews to lead into the the 2014 parliamentary elections – scheduled for March 22nd – Minivan News will be conducting interviews with incumbent MPs.
All 77 sitting members have been contacted, from across the political spectrum, to be asked a standardised set of questions with additional topicals. The interviews will be published as and when they are received.
As part of the series, Minivan News interviewed MP Rozaina Adam,
MP Rozaina represents the Thulusdhoo constituency of Kaafu Atoll and was elected on a Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) ticket, she joined opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in November 2013.
Ahmed Rilwan: What made you enter the political arena and how?
Rozaina Adam: My family was involved in politics – my father was an MP and my mother served in the Special Majlis. So I have been interested in politics since childhood. But the system back then didn’t make it easy for anyone new to enter politics, but the introduction of party system provided many with this opportunity. So in 2008 I decided to run for People’s Majlis the following year.
AR: Based on your attendance and work in this ending term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?
RA: I am very satisfied with the work I did.
AR: What are the main committees you worked on? What particular bills did you focus on?
RA: I am currently in the Committee on Independent Institutions, National Security Committee, and the 241 [security services oversight] Committee. I am serving as the vice chair in all three committees now and the Chair of Sexual Harassment Bill Review Committee.
Earlier I was in the National Development Committee, and was the Chair of Domestic Violence Bill Review Committee as well as the subcommittee that reviewed the Anti-Torture Bill.
As for bills, I introduced the Domestic Violence Bill and proposed an amendment to the Majlis regulation to create a dedicated committee for women and children’s issues. I was working on the Sexual Harassment Bill when I discovered that the government is also preparing one, so I introduced the bill on behalf of the government.
I have also drafted a bill on medical negligence, it has been sent to the Ministry of Health for comments. It is still pending as I had to send it to each new minister with the government changing thrice recently.
I proposed an amendment to the Maldives Family Regulation to increase the child support payments, another amendment for the Decentralization Act to reserve a seat for women in the local councils and to arrange allowances for women’s committees. And the [second] amendment to the Public Finance Act requiring [the government] to send the budget to People’s Majlis earlier. These are the main bills that I worked on.
AR: What would you say are the biggest achievements within your term – in terms of what you have accomplished for your constituency and the country as a whole?
RA: I was able to include all major needs of my constituency in the budget, but there is not much I could do about the government halting some of these projects.
During my term in Majlis, harbors of K.Huraa and K.Dhiffushi were completed. Thuslusdhoo land reclamation and harbor projects were included in the budget, water and sewage system of Himmafushi and Thulusdhoo were completed. A set of classrooms were constructed in Huraa, work is in progress for classrooms in Thulusdhoo and Dhiffushi.
One major issue that my constituency faced was the controversy that followed the changing of Atoll Council from Thulusdhoo [when the Atoll Council decided to move the office from Maafushi to Thulusdhoo the government fought against it]
I see that as a major achievement. Even as an opposition member I worked against the government – with DRP members – to find a solution to that problem within the Majlis.
My main focus in Majlis was mostly women’s development issues. I focused more on such issues because only five out of 77 MPs are women. There are plenty of people to focus on other issues, but only a few people focus on women’s issues. So I chose to give more attention to that area.
For instance I put a lot of pressure to fast-track the Sexual Harassment Bill, especially during the Fahmy controversy [when President of the Civil Service Commission Mohamed Fahmy was accused of sexually harassing one of his staff].
I was in DRP back then, however I supported that [of removing Fahmy for sexual harassment] even though it was MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] that proposed it. It was because of my vote in the committee [ Committee on Independent Institutions ] that it was passed [to remove Fahmy]. And due to this the issue of sexual harassment came to national attention, I see that as a huge achievement.
AR: What would you say is the biggest mistake or worst step you have taken in your political career? Why?
RA: I can’t say it was completely wrong, but in hindsight, I am not entirely happy that I supported President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom]. When I look back now it seems so, but my decision was based on the information I received at the time.
Later I found from President Maumoon’s words and actions, especially what he said when Theemuge [Presidential Residence] audit report was published and how he justified it. It was all very different from the reality which was revealed when the original bills and documents were sent to the Majlis.
There is nothing else that I see as mistake. I was in DRP because I accepted the party policies. But with the presidential elections we realized that DRP’s goals cannot be achieved as it still remains a party created by Maumoon. I decided to change to MDP because I believe the political sphere will actually have [just] MDP and PPM. And I don’t believe PMM was established to serve the people. We know exactly why they left us [DRP], it was to sustain President Maumoon’s family rule. So I believe a lot of good can be achieved for the people through MDP. If we look in to the background of MDP we can see there are opportunities for everyone in this party.
AR: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR20,000? Why or why not?
RA: I have no personal feelings towards it, neither for nor against it. But I do take it. For the most part of my term I served as an opposition MP, so it was tough to manage problems faced by my constituents.
MP s don’t have to provide financial assistance to their constituents, but we should understand that it still is the established culture in Maldives, it doesn’t seem to be changing. It is hard to ignore when someone approach for assistance especially for medical purposes. The common mindset is that MPs are supposed to provide this assistance, so we have to.
AR: What is your view about parliamentarians and other public servants declaring their financial assets publicly for the electorate to be able to refer to?
RA: I don’t have any problem with that.
AR: Are you re-contesting in the next elections? Why? What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected for a new term?
RA: For the next Majlis I am running for Addu City’s Meedhoo constituency seat. I chose that constituency because my mother is from Addu City, and as a person who fights for gender equality I don’t believe that people only belong to their father’s island. So I believe I belong Addu City as much as I belong to Malé City.
We can see that instead of developing, Addu City is going backwards. It used to be one of the most developed regions in Maldives even during the early days of President [Ibrahim] Nasir. But day after day more people had to migrate to Malé City for various reasons and the place now seems abandoned. It is because there are no basic services. Even now, while we call it a city, there are no water and sewage services, roads are not repaired, electricity services is weak. If we take a look at education and health we don’t see services adequate for a city. I am going face the challenging task of develop Addu City as a city, doing whatever could be done within the Majlis.
If I am elected, my vision is to propose a bill to Majlis that would set standards and detail the services that should be available in a city. I wish to state in the bill that basic services – such as water, sewerage, repairing of roads – should be provided within a certain period of being declared as a city. Addu City should have university campuses, have services such as renewal of ID cards, paying migrant worker visa fees if it is city. Actually the services provided in Malé City is also not that good. So all cities will benefit from this bill.
AR: What improvements do you feel the 18th Majlis will need to make to improve as an institution?
RA: I think MPs should work more responsibly in serving the people through the Majlis. Speed up the committee stage of bills.
And we see that it is the government, and not MPs, who propose most bills to the Majlis. There are some difficulties in doing this. We don’t get the necessary legal assistance from our Majlis, in other countries there are legal assistants to help MPs draft bills. We as MPs discuss the issues and how those issues have to be dealt with, but drafting a bill is a technical work. Currently we have to pay private firms to draft bills, and it is costly.
I think this is something the secretariat should work on, there should be a drafting department capable of providing this assistance.
AR: What are your thoughts on party switching? Do you think it undermines the party system?
RA: It does not undermine party system. Party is actually a political ideology, so if a person’s thinking changes and that the current party does not follow the same line of thinking, one has to go where that thinking exists.
I don’t believe in changing party for money. But changing to a party that fit’s one’s political thinking and ideology is a right, and it is a right guaranteed by the constitution for every citizen.
When the general thinking of majority membership of the party varies from mine, if I stay in that party I will always have to work against the common members of the party.
There are not much of difference ideological between MDP and DRP, especially DRP leadership. The split up came during the presidential elections when it came down to MDP versus PPM – DRP had to take a side. We found that common members wanted to side with PPM, but most people in DRP leadership has a thinking similar to MDP.
I assure to all members of MDP that I came to MDP because I wanted to. And despite what some anti-campaigners say, I did not change party for the seat and I will never change to PPM.
AR: What do you see as major challenges for political participation of women in the Maldives?
RA: There should be equal rights, and you could say women can run for parliament and they can also get elected even without reserving seats. But we can see the results, that it is not the reality. If that was the case people would be elected equally [from both genders].
Another issue is financing campaigns, most cannot fund campaigns by themselves. We need to find ways to provide funding for women who compete in elections. The government also need to create awareness and encourage women to get into politics.
But we can’t reserve seats without amending the constitution. Another way to deal with this is for parties to encourage women to compete in their strongholds. If I’m elected I will do whatever is necessary for the empowerment of women.