Government questions Nasheed’s eligibility for former president privileges

The President’s Office has raised questions over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s eligibility for constitutionally-provided immunity and privileges.

Article 128 guarantees “the highest honour, dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges” to any person who has served in the office of the president and stepped down without committing any offenses.

However, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said Nasheed’s eligibility was in question since he had not completed a full-five year term. Nasheed resigned in his fourth year of office, an act he later claimed was “under duress”.

Riza pointed to Article 3 (a) of the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act, which affords a monthly allowance of RF 50,000 (USD 3243) for a president who has served one term, and Rf 75,000 for a president who has served two terms (USD 4864).

Riza said the clause specifies that a president has to complete a five-year term in order to be eligible for financial benefits.

But Nasheed’s former Legal Affairs Secretary Hisaan Hussein said the constitution overrides the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act, and said Nasheed had a “right” to immunity and privileges.

Further, Article 12 of the Immunity and Privileges Act, interprets former president to be one “who stepped down after completion of term or resigned from office” without committing an unlawful act, she noted.

Even if the government’s concerns were valid, a full term is specified only with regards to financial benefits, and not in clauses relating to accommodation allowances, health care coverage, security, and travel arrangements, she said. Yet, except for the provision of security, the government had refused to extend any privileges to Nasheed, Hisaan said.

Riza said President Waheed had only arranged for Nasheed’s security “through special privileges afforded to the President.”

International bodies have expressed concerns over Nasheed’s safety, after Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed issued a court order for Nasheed’s arrest following Nasheed’s resignation on February 7.

The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) had held Judge Abdulla in military detention for three weeks prior to Nasheed’s resignation. The order was never acted upon.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) summoned Nasheed on Wednesday for questioning regarding his role in Judge Abdulla’s detention.

Riza said the President’s Office has now requested legal advice from the Attorney General Azima Shukoor on providing immunity and privileges to Nasheed. “As soon as we get legal advice, we will proceed,” he said.

Minivan News was unable to contact Shukoor at time of press.

In addition to monthly financial allowances, the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act provides for a monthly accommodation allowance up to Rf 50,000 (US$3243). The President and his/her spouse are also entitled health care coverage, security and travel assistance.

Further, if a former president wishes to conduct charitable work, the act allows for an allowance of Rf 175,000 (US$11,349) to cover overhead costs.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who served as president from 1979- 2008, set up the nonprofit Maumoon Foundation in 2010. The organisation’s stated aims are to assist the poor and needy. It awarded nine scholarships for higher education abroad in 2011.


MDP MP proposes amendment lowering amounts paid to former presidents

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) acting Chairperson, MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has called on the parliament to vote to pass amendments presented by MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa to the Former Presidents Act.

The amendments presented to the Act lowers the allowances granted to former presidents and also gives the authority to concerned department to cut the allowances if the department finds that the former president was misusing the allowances.

The amendment also requires the state to lower the monthly Rf75,000 (US$4863) financial allowance paid to Rf30,000 (US$1945).

Currently the Former Presidents Act obliges the state to grant Rf75,000 as financial allowance to any former president who has ruled the country for more than two terms, Rf50,000 (US$3242) as a living allowance for rent and other expenses of living and another Rf175,000 ($11,348) to setup his own office and deliver social services to the community.

The amendment presented by Musthafa states that if the former president already has a house or a part of a house registered on his name he shall not receive the living allowance, reduces Rf175,000 to setup his own office to Rf35,000 (US$2269).

The amendment document Musthafa presented states that the only person currently receiving the allowances mentioned in the Former Presidents Act – former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – had been granted the Rf175,000 allowance to to serve the community but had failed to do so.

Musthafa’s amendment also states that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has rented his own house and has been earning hundreds of thousands of rufiya each month, ‘’so granting another Rf50,000 for living would be unfair for the state.’’

Speaking on the amendment during the parliament sitting, Jumhoory Party (JP) Leader ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim said he did not support the bill.

‘’Although Rf300,000 is allocated for him in the current [Former Presidents] Act, we know that he has been taking only Rf175,000 of it,’’ said Gasim. ‘’This is a big political game played to mislead the public.’’

Gasim also noted that Gayoom had publicly announced that he would not contest in any political elections.

Yesterday’s parliament session was cancelled after MPs started taking point of orders simultaneously. The Speaker decided the session could not be continued.

In March this year, an audio clip of a conversation made between Musthafa and Peoples Alliance Party (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim was leaked to the media.

In the voice clip, Musthafa explains that while he did not believe that former President Gayoom deserved financial benefits after returning to active politics, he had considered withdrawing the bill but was dissuaded by DRP Leader and MP Thasmeen.