MP Riyaz Rasheed threatens to sue Finance Minister, Attorney General over state benefits to former President Nasheed

Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed threatened to sue Finance Abdulla Jihad and Attorney General Azima Shukoor at parliament today for providing state benefits to former President Mohamed Nasheed under the Privileges and Protection for former President’s Act of 2009.

Riyaz’s remarks came during introduction of a bill the MP for Thaa Atoll Vilufushi has submitted to bring amendments to the 2009 law, specifying circumstances where the financial benefits could be denied to ex-Presidents.

Riyaz contended that former President Nasheed was not eligible for financial benefits under the law as he had not completed a full five-year term.

While the government had initially questioned Nasheed’s eligibility, the Finance Ministry began providing the financial benefits to the former President in May 2012.

“Even though the Finance Minister is doing it [releasing the funds] based on legal advice from the Attorney General, they have to answer for this,” Riyaz said today. “There will come a day when these two will face a lawsuit over this. We are waiting for the day when this government ends. We will sue the Attorney General and Finance Minister on that day.”

He however added that it was “not easy to proceed with this now” as the DQP was part of the ruling coalition.

Riyaz’s amendments meanwhile state that ex-Presidents would not be eligible for state benefits if they committed or participated in an unlawful act or encouraged such an act.

Moreover, former Presidents would be deprived of all privileges and protection if they commit or encourage an act that threatens the country’s independence; commit an act that leads to the loss of Maldivian territory; commit or encourage an act of terrorism, join a terrorist organisation or call for others to join such a group; and commit, encourage or call for “an act that could pulverize the country’s economy”.

If a former president is convicted of corruption, embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds during his or her tenure, Riyaz’s amendments state that he or she would be deprived of state benefits for a period of 10 years.

If the amount embezzled or misappropriated exceeds MVR 10,000 (US$650) the amendment proposes extending the period by one month for each additional MVR 1,000 (US$65).

In addition, if a former president is convicted of a criminal offence committed while in office, state benefits would be discontinued for a period of 10 years.

If a former president is convicted of a criminal offence committed after leaving office, he or she would be deprived of state benefits for five years.

During today’s debate, MPs of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed that the purpose of Riyaz’s amendments was to terminate state benefits to former President Nasheed, accusing him of personally targeting the MDP presidential candidate.

Government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Alhan Fahmy – former vice president of MDP before defecting to the JP – agreed with his former colleagues that the bill was “politically motivated” and submitted “out of personal animosity.”

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ilham Ahmed however supported the amendments and suggested that Nasheed should not receive state benefits based on the former President’s disrespect of courts, alleged sale of national assets and call for a tourism boycott.

Meanwhile, the office of former President Nasheed last week accused the government of “negligence” in providing the legally mandated monthly allowance to cover expenses of the office.

In a press release on Thursday, the former president’s office noted that article 8 of the Privileges and Protection for Former President’s Act (Dhivehi) states, “In the event that a former president wishes to conduct social work beneficial to the community, the state shall provide up to MVR175,000 (US$11,350) a month to arrange for an office, employees and other matters.”

Article 128 of the constitution states that a former president “serving his term of office lawfully without committing any offence, shall be entitled to the highest honour dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges entitled to a person who has served in the highest office of the land.”