Committee passes budget, recommends constitutional amendment to reduce independent commissions

The People’s Majlis budget committee has passed the record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) state budget for 2015 and recommended a constitutional amendment to reduce the number of independent institutions.

The proposal by ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed said that bringing the state’s independent institutions under one body would reduce government expenditure.

The committee did not make any changes to the budget.

The 11 recommendations also included a proposal by Rasheed to amend the Decentralisation Act to reduce the number of local councils and cut salaries of all councilors except the council’s president. All councillors except the council president would be paid an allowance based on their attendance at council meetings.

MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the PPM’s ally Jumhooree Party (JP) did not vote for the two recommendations.

During former President Mohamed Nasheed’s tenure, the PPM leadership – formerly of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – rejected the MDP’s proposal for councilors to be established in only seven provinces.

DRP MPs at the time insisted on establishing a council in all inhabited islands and an atoll council for each of the 20 atolls.

As per DRP amendments, islands with a population less than 3000 now have five paid councilors, islands with a population between 3000 and 10,000 have seven paid councilors, and islands with a population over 10,000 have nine councilors.

Meanwhile, atolls which consist of two parliamentary constituencies elect three members from each constituency while atolls which have more than three Majlis constituencies elect two members from each constituency. Each Majlis constituency consists of 5000 people.

MDP MPs had walked out in protest from the Majlis sitting, claiming the DRP amendments would create “20 mini governments” and create an enormous financial burden on the state.

The budget committee today also passed a proposal by Rasheed requiring the government to formulate a master plan for population consolidation.

A proposal by the MDP to conduct all government trainings through the Maldives National University was also passed.

The committee also voted in favor of MDP MP Mohamed Aslam’s proposal requiring the government to commence work on establishing a development bank, get back money owed to the government, and to decrease the number of expatriate workers in the tourism sector by increasing the stake of Maldivians.

The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA)’s recommendation to establish a low interest loan scheme for housing and boat building, and the Jumhooree Party (JP) recommendation requiring the government to prioritise projects on constitutionally mandated services also passed.

The MDP had proposed establishing a pay commission to set state wage policy by the end of 2015 and providing a grace period of two to three years for new taxes, but the PPM dominated committee rejected these proposals.

The committee also rejected MDP proposals requiring deference to the Fiscal Responsibility Act and Public Finance Act in budget implementation.

The budget will now be forwarded to the Majlis floor for final review.

Related to this story

Finance minister presents record MVR24.3 billion state budget to parliament

MDP criticises proposed 2015 state budget as “aimless”

Government proposes changes to local government model

Decentralisation bill passed as MDP MPs walk out

Vice President calls for “population consolidation”


Prosecutor General resigns before no-confidence debate

Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizzu has today tendered his resignation, shortly before parliament was set to debate a no-confidence motion against him.

The President’s Office has confirmed that Muiz wrote to newly elected President Abdulla Yameen, following through on a previous promise not to allow the censure motion to reach the floor of the house.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) filed the motion against Muiz on October 24, claiming that that he had failed to take action against the police and the military officers who mutinied against former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 2012.

Parliament was scheduled to discuss the motion at 1:30pm today. The MDP currently holds a simple majority in parliament, recently using its position to secure the removal of Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor in the final days of the Waheed administration.

The MDP in its statement argued that the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report had given clear evidence of gross misconduct by the police and the military on February 7 and 8 2012, which included brutalizing protesters and undermining fundamental rights guaranteed to the people by the constitution.

The party alleged that the PG – despite having the power, authority, and the mandate to look into such actions – had failed to take any action against the wrongdoing noted in the CoNI report.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has also alleged that Muiz’s independence and impartiality had been compromised in return for his job security.

The PG is constitutionally required to act independently and impartially, with only general policy directives from the AG.

After the original hearings of the Majlis Independent Institutions Committee was disrupted by pro-government MPs, Muiz produced a written response to the charges earlier this month, maintaining that he had always executed his responsibilities in accordance with the constitution and Islamic Sharia.

President Yameen is now required to appoint to the post an individual approved by the majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis.


Finance Committee begins reviewing salaries of independent institutions, judges, MPs

Parliament’s Finance Committee Chair Abdulla Jabir has said that the parliamentary select committee has begun reviewing the wages and salaries of members of independent institutions, judges and members of the parliament.

During a committee meeting held last Wednesday evening, Committee Chair Jabir stated that it was responsibility of the Finance Committee to review wages and salaries annually. He added that the new initiative by the committee was part of the cooperation extended to the new government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom who has promised to a cost reduction policy.

Article 102 of the constitution states, “The President, Vice President, members of the Cabinet, members of the People’s Majlis, including the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, members of the judiciary, and members of the Independent Commissions and Independent Offices shall be paid such salary and allowances as determined by the [Parliament]”

The task of determining salaries and allowances is entrusted to the Finance Committee under section 100(a) of the parliamentary rules of procedures.

President Yameen previously announced publicly that he would voluntarily be taking a fifty-percent pay cut, a promise which he made during the campaign for presidency. The president also at the time promised to slash the wages of political appointees by 30-50 percent, should he be elected in September.

Furthermore he at the time also pledged to cut the salaries of independent institutions claiming that it was a pivotal step for the country to avoid a sovereign default.

Two propositions were made to the Finance Committee which includes a proposition by interim Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed’s proposition to reduce the wages of a parliament member to MVR 20,000 (US$1300).

The second proposition was put forth by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ilyas Labeeb who suggested that the committee to collectively bring down the wages of all state institutions including the parliament, the judiciary, the executive and Independent Institutions.

Neither of the propositions was put for a vote during Thursday evening’s Finance Committee meeting.

MP’s Remarks

Speaking during Thursday evening’s committee meeting, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member and MDP MP Ahmed Hamza suggested the wages of judges and magistrates be brought down before doing the same for members of independent institutions and the parliament.

“President Yameen himself has taken a pay-cut. Right now we must all follow that example shown by him. Else, we would not be able bring down the recurrent costs [in the national budget],” the Biledhdhoo MP told the committee.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem also spoke in support of the committee’s initiative but disagreed with the idea of cutting down salaries of specific institutions such as judges and the judiciary with the intent to undermine such an institution.

MP Saleem argued that should the committee wish to bring down the wages of state institutions, then it must be done with thorough research and without discriminating against specific institutions.

“Such efforts must be sincere. This should not be done with the motive to reduce the pay for the judiciary or any specific institution,” MP Saleem told the committee.

However, opposition MP Abdul Ghafoor ‘Gabey’ Moosa openly disagreed to the idea of pay cuts citing that it could lead to more educated Maldivians taking up employment abroad. He added that based on the current inflation rates, it cannot simply be said that the current wages of state institutions are too high.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament – who is also a member of the committee – also spoke in a similar fashion where he criticised the proposition to bring down the wages of just parliament members, members of the independent institutions and the judges.

He also argued that due to how certain laws have been framed, it was not possible for parliament to bring down wages of some positions. Although the committee must move forward with the pay-cut initiative, the Deputy Speaker stressed that the committee needed to identify the positions which it intends to bring down the wages of.

“We ought to thoroughly research and foresee the outcomes of our decision to bring down the wages of state institutions. We need to assess what changes need to be brought in order to do such a thing,” the Deputy Speaker noted.

Wednesday evening’s committee meeting was forced to conclude after Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed arrived in the meeting room and begun disrupting it, taking points of order in which he complained to the Committee Chair for not informing him of the meeting.

Things became heated when Committee Chair MP Abdulla Jabir decided to call off the session without giving attention to the complaints by MP Riyaz Rasheed. Verbal abuses and physical confrontations ensued between Riyaz Rasheed and Jabir.

The committee meeting concluded with the Committee Chair MP Jabir announcing that it will reconvene in three days time after collecting necessary documents and information regarding the work. The committee also agreed to commit two hours of its time to the matter.

Previous efforts

Last December, Parliament passed revisions to the pay scheme approved by the Finance Committee for senior officials in the executive, judiciary and independent institutions.

The revisions included a MVR 5,000 (US$324) pay raise for board members of the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA). MIRA board members now receive monthly pay of MVR 15,500 (US$1,005).

Among other  changes brought at the time by the committee to the pay structure originally passed on December 28, 2010 was a monthly phone allowance of MVR 1,000 (US$65) for MPs, ministers, judges of the High Court and Supreme Court, members of independent commissions, the Prosecutor General, the Attorney General and the Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority.

According the revisions, should the phone bills exceed MVR 1000, the officials were allowed to claim compensation for the cost of phone calls made for official purposes.

The Finance Committee at the time also decided to discontinue monthly salaries for drivers of cabinet minister’s cars (MVR 7,500) as well as an allowance for petrol cost (MVR 1,000). Ministers were instructed to settle the expenses out of their salaries from April 2013 onwards. However, the committee did not terminate similar expenses for other officials provided state cars.

The revisions also saw increment of the health insurance premium given for judges and their parents from MVR 4,500 (US$292) to MVR 7,000 (US$454).

Despite the calls, the committee at the time also decided against making any changes to the remuneration of parliament members.

The revised pay scheme was passed with 38 votes in favor, two against and five abstentions.


The Maldives has one of the highest percentages of government employees to population of any country in the world, at around 11 percent.

Salaries and allowances have also rocketed up, unmatched by government revenue. Much of this growth occurred in the two years leading up to the 2008 election and the introduction of multi-party democracy.

An internal World Bank report leaked in 2010 showed that increases to the salaries and allowances of government employees between 2006 and 2008 reached 66 percent, “by far the highest increase in compensation over a three year period to government employees of any country in the world.”

With the introduction of the new constitution and its requirement for an assortment of independent institutions to oversee various aspects of government, the share of the wage bill to revenue soared to “an astronomical 89 percent.”

The President of the Maldives receives a base salary of MVR100,000 (US$6500) per month. During his government’s attempts to reduce civil servant spending on the urging of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), former President Mohamed Nasheed took a voluntary pay cut of 20 percent.

Despite this, the government’s attempt to impose austerity measures was blocked by the Civil Services Commission, leading to a series of scuffles between the Finance Ministry and the CSC.

The opposition at the time, now in power following Nasheed’s controversial resignation in 2012, contested Nasheed’s expenditure on 244 political appointees – a figure partly the result of the government’s early efforts to consolidate state employees under government-owned companies outside the purview of the CSC.

Figures released by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury showed that these 244 appointees were being paid MVR 99 million (US$6.4 million) a year, however Nasheed’s administration contested that this constituted just two percent of the state’s 2011 wage bill, comparing it to the 39 percent that went to the civil service, 24 percent to uniformed bodies, 17 percent to local councils, 10 percent to independent institutions, 5 percent to the judiciary, and 2 percent to parliament.

In comparison, Nasheed’s successor former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government during 2012 spent MVR 60 million (US$3.9 million) on 136 appointees, according to figures procured by Sun Online.

At the time, the monthly spend included 19 Minister-level posts at MVR 57,500 (US$3730), 42 State Ministers (MVR 40,000-45,000, US$2600-2900), 58 Deputy Ministers (MVR 35,000, US$2250), five Deputy Under-Secretaries (MVR 30,000, US$1950) and 10 advisors to ministers (MVR 25,000, US$1620).

Overall public expenditure in 2012 increased 12 percent on the previous year.  This was in large part due to measures such as the intensified recruitment and promotion of a third of the police force, and repayment of civil servant salaries cut during the Nasheed era.

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) noted that while total expenditure for the year was three percent lower than 2011, this was only due to the government’s failure to pay a large number of bills. Total public debt at the end of 2012 was 72 percent on GDP, the MMA stated.

Meanwhile, the government’s wage bill was in May projected to increase by 37 percent in 2013 as a result of hiring more employees, notably 864 new staff for the police and military – an increase of almost 20 percent.

In its professional opinion on the budget submitted to parliament, the Auditor General’s Office also observed that compared to 2012, the number of state employees was set to rise from 32,868 to 40,333 – resulting in MVR 1.3 billion (US$84.3 million) of additional expenditure in 2013.


Finance Minister aims to “rearrange” ministerial, independent institution spending

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad will hold discussions over the next week with government departments, independent institutions and the Maldives judiciary to try and reorganise their respective spending allocated within the 2013 budget.

Jihad has told Minivan News this week that he would be meeting with all state departments and various institutions to ascertain the likely financial difficulties they expect to face over the next year after after the proposed 2013 budget was cut by over MVR 1 billion (US$65 million). He stressed that efforts to reorganise funds would not impact the amount of spending assigned to each ministry, but rather how existing money was being spent.

The comments were made after the proposed MVR 16.9 billion (US$1 billion) forwarded to the People’s Majlis was reduced to MVR 15.3 billion (US$992 million) before gaining approval last month.

The parliamentary committee that had reviewed the budget at the time had originally recommended MVR2.4billion (US$156 million) worth of cuts that some of its members claimed could be made largely by reducing “unnecessary recurrent expenditures” within the budget.

The Budget Review Committee’s proposal for a MVR 14.5 billion (US$947 million) budget – in line with recommendations by groups like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – was met with mixed reactions from opposition and government-aligned parties at the time.

With the budget now passed, Finance Minister Jihad said that his department intended  to look at the entire amount of state financing allocated this year on a department-by-department basis to identify the most significant spending shortfalls.

The finance minister said the review would allow his department to rearrange the budget within each ministry, as well as independent institutions and the courts to better cover spending needs over concerns the state may face “some difficulties” in future.

Jihad claimed that the proposed “rearranging” of state financing would not require parliamentary approval as the allocated overall spending for each body and institution would remain the same.

However, despite the efforts to reallocate monies within each ministry, Jihad maintained claims that the present budget was likely to be insufficient to cover costs over the next year.

“We will have to submit a supplementary budget this year,” he contended.

People’s Aliance (PA) party MP and Finance Committee Chair Ahmed Nazim was not responding to calls today. Fellow Finance Committee member MP Riyaz Rasheed was also not available for comment at time of press.


Finance Minister Jihad has previously told local media that with services being provided by the government expected to double during the coming year, it would become more difficult for the state to manage its budget.

“Because the budget is reduced, it will become difficult to manage expenses at a certain point. We think that a supplementary budget has to be introduced,” he was quoted as telling the Sun Online new service.

According to the Finance Minister, talks have already taken place with various offices to reduce their budgets.

Budget amendments

The estimated MVR 15.3 million budget was passed by parliament with eight additional amendments on December 27.

Amendments voted through included the scrapping of plans to revise import duties on oil, fuel, diesel and staple foodstuffs, as well as any item with import duty presently at zero percent.

An amendment instructing the government to conduct performance audits of the Human Rights Commission and Police Integrity Commission and submit the findings to parliament was passed with 53 votes in favour, ten against and four abstentions.

Amendments proposed by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Waheed to shift MVR 100 million (US$6.5 million) to be issued as fuel subsidies for fishermen and MVR 50 million (US$3.2 million) as agriculture subsidies from the Finance Ministry’s contingency budget was passed with 68 votes in favour.

A proposal by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom to add MVR 10 million (US$648,508) to the budget to be provided as financial assistance to civil society organisations was passed with 57 votes in favour and three against.

Revenue measures

Of the measures proposed by the Finance Ministry to raise revenue, revisions to import duties, raising the Tourism Goods and Service Tax (T-GST) from eight percent to 12 percent in July 2013, increasing airport service charge from US$18 to US$25, leasing 14 islands for resort development and imposing GST on telecom services were approved within parliament.

The Finance Ministry had however proposed hiking T-GST from 8 to 15 percent in July 2013 and raising airport service charge or departure tax from US$18 to US$30.

Rightsizing the public sector to reduce deficit

Amidst proposals to balance state spending during 2013, recommendations to reduce the public sector wage were made by the auditor general and submitted to parliament prior to the budget being passed.

Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim observed that of the estimated MVR 12 billion (US$778 million) of recurrent expenditure, MVR 7 billion (US$453.9 million) would be spent on employees, including MVR 743 million (US$48 million) as pension payments.

Consequently, 59 percent of recurrent expenditure and 42 percent of the total budget would be spent on state employees.

“We note that the yearly increase in employees hired for state posts and jobs has been at a worrying level and that sound measures are needed,” the report stated. “It is unlikely that the budget deficit issue could be resolved without making big changes to the number of state employees as well as salaries and allowances to control state expenditure.”

Following the report, the The Budget Review Committee made cuts to overtime pay (50 percent), travel expenses (50 percent), purchases for office use (30 percent), office expenditure (35 percent), purchases for service provision (30 percent), training costs (30 percent), construction, maintenance and repair work (50 percent) and purchase of assets (35 percent).

The committee estimated that the cuts to recurrent expenditure would amount to MVR 1 billion (US$64.8 million) in savings.


Parliament’s Finance Committee revises pay scheme for senior state officials

Parliament today passed revisions to the pay scheme approved by the Finance Committee for senior officials in the executive, judiciary and independent institutions.

The revisions included a MVR 5,000 (US$324) pay raise for board members of the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA).

Article 102 of the constitution states, “The President, Vice President, members of the Cabinet, members of the People’s Majlis, including the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, members of the Judiciary, and members of the Independent Commissions and Independent Offices shall be paid such salary and allowances as determined by the People’s Majlis.”

The task of determining salaries and allowances is entrusted to the Finance Committee under section 100(a) of the parliamentary rules of procedures.

Among the changes brought by the committee to the pay structure passed on December 28, 2010 was a monthly phone allowance of MVR 1,000 (US$65) for MPs, ministers, judges of the High Court and Supreme Court, members of independent commissions, the Prosecutor General, the Attorney General and the Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority.

If the phone bill exceeds MVR 1000, the officials would be allowed to claim compensation for the cost of phone calls made for official purposes.

The Finance Committee also decided to discontinue monthly salaries for drivers of cabinet minister’s cars (MVR 7,500) as well as an allowance for petrol cost (MVR 1,000). Ministers would be instructed to settle the expenses out of their salaries from April 2013 onward.

However, the committee did not terminate similar expenses for other officials provided state cars.

The committee meanwhile approved raising monthly salaries of Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) board members by MVR 5,000 (US$324) and the health insurance premium for judges and their parents from MVR 4,500 (US$292) to MVR 7,000 (US$454).

MIRA board members would now receive a monthly pay of MVR 15,500 (US$1,005).

Followings its review of the pay scheme and consideration of requests, the Finance Committee however decided not to increase the salaries of Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) board members.

The committee also decided against making any changes to the remuneration of MPs.

Moreover, requests by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for a committee allowance as well as an additional allowance for Criminal Court judges ruling on extension of detention for criminal suspects were denied.

The revised pay scheme was passed with 38 votes in favour, two against and five abstentions.

Presenting the Finance Committee report (Dhivehi) to the floor, MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed said the change to phone allowance was made in light of issues raised by the Auditor General’s Office in various audit reports regarding the waste of public funds and phone credit transfers.

The decision was made to impose one rule and limit for all institutions and reduce costs, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Nolhivaram said.

As a recommendation to reduce state expenditure, the Finance Committee also decided to advise the government to merge the Customs Integrity Commission and the Police Integrity Commission to form a “National Integrity Commission” with oversight over all state institutions, Nasheed said.

Nasheed added that eliminating salary for minister’s drivers and fuel allowance would save 89 percent from the budget item.

Meanwhile, on December 23, the Finance Ministry issued a circular instructing government offices to arrange a medical insurance scheme for ministers, their spouses and children under 18 years of age to receive medical treatment in the Maldives as well as overseas in SAARC and ASEAN nations.

The offices were asked to make arrangements from their budgets for the health insurance scheme from the Allied Insurance Company with an annual premium of MVR 12,500 (US$810).


CMAG lobbying anticipated to be key focus during Nasheed’s UK visit

Former President Mohamed Nasheed is expected during a visit to the UK this week to lobby the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to keep the Maldives on its agenda and assist in enacting reforms to civil society institutions, his party has said.

With Nasheed this week making his first visit to Europe since February’s controversial transfer of power, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it anticipates the former president will lobby during the trip to keep the Maldives on CMAG’s agenda as well as to help set clear targets for a Commonwealth-backed reform agenda.

The MDP has claimed that it is now advocating for an agreement on “structural adjustments” that would help address concerns raised in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report.  The report, released last month, rejected accusations by Nasheed and his supporters that he was forced to resign from office.

The current government has meanwhile said that it would be difficult to look into concerns raised by the CNI concerning the events between February 6 to February 8 this year without potentially implicating Nasheed for his role in the alleged use of “excessive force” by police during his tenure.

The President’s Office also maintained that any reforms to the country’s judiciary or civil society would have to be made through the country’s independent institutions such as the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC)

Nasheed left today for the UK, where he is scheduled to meet senior UK government officials and MPs as well as top Commonwealth’s figures and human rights organisations. He will be joined during the visit by former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem and the party’s Deputy Chairperson (Finance) Ahmed Mausoom.

As well as speaking both in London and Scotland on the theme of democracy in the Maldives, the MDP today said it anticipated Nasheed, who is presently chosen to represent the party in the next general election, would also be likely to lobby to keep the Maldives on the agenda of the CMAG.

CMAG had placed Maldives on its formal agenda in February, at the time citing ‘the questions that remain about the precise circumstances of the change of the government, as well as the fragility of the situation in Maldives’ as reasons.

The government has maintained that the CMAG ‘lacked mandate’ to place Maldives on the agenda. Following this there has been multiple instances where the government had expressed disapproval in what it termed ‘interference’ by the Commonwealth.

MDP MP and spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that it was anticipated Nasheed would seek to have GMAG retain the Maldives on its agenda in order to pressure the Waheed administration to meet a number of commitments such as those raised in the CNI’s findings.

“I expect there will be strong lobbying for our position [on CMAG],” he said. We have agreed to go ahead with the CNI recommendations, though with the reservations raised by Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed.

Saeed was chosen to be Nasheed’s representative on a reformed CNI panel charged with investigating the events surrounding the transfer of power on February 7. However, he resigned the day before the findings were released over concerns at what he claimed was omitted evidence and witness accounts from the final report.

Ghafoor added that with the CNI report suggesting a need for structural adjustment of certain civil society institutions along with the judiciary – a major concern for the Nasheed administration in its last few months – he hoped the Commonwealth would support such reforms.

“Whilst in government, we had previously participated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a voluntary basis whilst in government to undergo structural reform,” he claimed. “It required bitter medicine, such as in the sacking of some civil servants, but it was vital in trying to cut the state debt.”

Ghafoor added that he hoped CMAG could provide similar assistance in setting up a structural adjustment programme that set clear dates by which key reforms in areas like the judiciary or civil society were to be enacted.

“We have agreed to move ahead with the CNI with reservations, but we want to see wrong doings identified in the report being addressed,” he said, pointing to the actions of some police and military figures in the transfer of power.

While the Commonwealth was scheduled to last week rule on whether the Maldives would be removed from the investigative agenda of CMAG, it announced the decision would be delayed until its next meeting on September 28.

The President’s Office at the time expressed confidence that the country would be taken off the agenda at the next meeting, saying that this move had been supported by all but one of those present for the teleconference. Local media have reported that the delayed decision has been a result of a “technical glitch” during a live CMAG webcast, a situation Ghafoor claimed that he had yet to received clarification on.

“I’m not aware of any hitch taking place during the CMAG meeting. What we hope is that they will would keep us on the agenda and back a structural adjustment programme that would call for certain commitments to be met at specific dates,” he claimed.

Parallel to Nasheed’s UK visit, Ghafoor claimed that the MDP’s national council was also engaged in pressuring the party’s parliamentary group to boycott the People’s Majlis once it reconvenes, at least until the party was given guarantees about certain concerns it held about reforms.

“The national council on Thursday decided to try and pressure the parliamentary group to boycott Majlis,” he said. “We are discussing this today as a party. We are clear that we would wish to disengage from the Waheed regime unless our concerns are addressed.”

Responding to the MDP’s comments, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News that in looking to address the concerns raised by the CNI concerning security forces and the country’s judiciary, it would continue to rely on independent institutions in the country.

“I understand that the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has already looked into some of the matters raised. I don’t know what they are looking at or what stage they have reached right now. Similarly, President Dr Waheed has also promised to refrain from interfering with the judiciary here, even when he has not been made aware of what is going on,” he said.

Masood stressed that the government would not however be able to set up any additional commission or mechanism to oversee reforms.

“Independent institutions can come in and oversee this. We would encourage them to do this and will not interfere with their work,” he said.

However, in terms of addressing the CNI’s concerns about the transfer of power, Masood also claimed that Nasheed himself faced possible criminal action for the events occurring on February 6 and February 7 before his resignation.

“During the events of February 6 to February 8, I wouldn’t say that Nasheed was in power, but he was in office, resulting in excessive force being used by police up to his resignation,” he said.

Masood said that President Waheed has accepted that police had used “excessive force” during protests held on February 8 after he came to power and condemned such acts.

“President Waheed has already said he will take action against those with involvement [in the use of excessive force], due process would be taking place through groups like the PIC,” he said.

However, Masood added that any calls from the EU or Commonwealth to investigate the events surrounding the transfer of power would lead to difficulties over the actions of Nasheed in the build up to his resignation.

“Any investigation would have to focus on Nasheed’s role in this, the Commonwealth and EU countries are asking us not to touch him,” he said.  “While the independent institutions can look into this, the EU and Commonwealth will be unhappy if their boy becomes involved in investigations. This will happen as there are many questions [Nasheed] has to answer.”

Nasheed, who is presently set to face trial over his role in the controversial detention this year of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, has alleged that charges against him are politically motivated in order to prevent him from standing as a candidate for the MDP at the next general election.  Nasheed has alleged that Judge Abdulla had been detained over fears he was a threat to national security.

Independent institutions

Despite the government’s decision to rely on the country’s independent institutions to help oversee any reforms or investigations into the CNI’s recommendations, groups such as the Elections Commission have this month found their work under increased scrutiny following the release of the CNI report (CNI).

Prominent members of both the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) have this month questioned the ability of their own institutions to fulfil their mandates.

Aiman Rasheed of local NGO Transparency Maldives’ suggested that weak and unassertive institutions must take some of the blame for the events of February 7 and the surrounding political crises.

“The independent institutions need to step up their game by standing for and protecting the values for which they were constituted,” said Aiman at the time.


Finance Ministry will consider budget increase requests from independent institutions

The finance ministry has today said that it has received requests for budget increases from a number of independent institutions. The ministry did not specify which institutions these were.

Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad has told local media today that the requests for increases will be reviewed by the ministry. He said that increases would be granted after assessing how much need there is for it.

Jihad said that the previous 15 percent deduction from the budgets of all institutions had been made for the sake of bringing down state expenditure, further saying that this could not be done without the support of all stakeholders.


HRCM completes investigations into February 8 “human rights abuses”, “terrorism”

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has completed investigations into alleged police brutality and retaliatory “acts of terrorism” alleged to have been conducted by anti-government protesters on February 8, 2012.

Two separate investigations related to the conduct of both police and anti-government protesters on February 8 were today sent to authorities including the Prosecutor General’s office and parliament.  The completion of the investigations comes just 24 hours after the HRCM sent its findings concerning the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed to the same bodies.

HRCM member Jeehan Mahmoud said all but one of its investigations into the government changeover in February and the events that led up to it had now been completed.  One more report into the alleged human rights abuses conducted by police on the day of February 7 was left to be completed, she added.

Despite not having yet seen the findings, representatives of the government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) today welcomed investigations from national independent institutions such as HRCM.  The now opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile said it too would wait on the outcome of the investigations, but claimed that it remained sceptical about the independence of the investigation and the HRCM.

Nasheed investigation

The HRCM investigations, which saw former President Mohamed Nasheed become the first leader of the Maldives to be brought before the commission over the detention of Judge Abdulla Mohamed, also looked into acts perpetrated against the deposed former leader and his supporters following his controversial resignation. Nasheed claimed he was forced to resign from office on February 7 in a “coup d’etat.”

Jeehan Mahmoud said that aside from the investigation into Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s detention, additional reports had today been dispatched to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the government and the People’s Majlis for official responses as required under HRCM protocols.

“As well as the judge case, we today forwarded investigations into cases of alleged police brutality and also a separate review of the so-called “terrorism activities” carried out in Addu Atoll that saw police stations and other buildings attacked,” she said. “We have one more investigation to be completed on the alleged human rights abuses of February 7.”

Mahmoud claimed that no date had yet been set for the investigation to be concluded – due in part to ongoing difficulties in conducting interviews with various parties believed to be involved.

“So far this has been the most difficult investigation as not many people that we have requested to come to give testimonies have arrived. There are many high-profile political actors involved [in the investigation]. They have obviously prioritised what issues they need to address right now,” she said.

Mahmoud claimed that certain people that the HRCM wished to interview about the events of February 7 were not appearing after being requested to attend on numerous occasions.

“We are looking at human rights abuses right now. If someone in a uniform has committed acts of abuse, or whoever’s rights have been violated, we want to know. There has never been an investigation as complicated as this for us.”

Majlis response

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that he welcomed any findings by independent institutions such as the HRCM that could shed light on the political unrest that had occurred both leading up to and after February 7.

In relation to both the investigations into former President Mohamed Nasheed’s alleged conduct in detaining Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, as well as human rights abuses claimed to have been carried out by police, Nihan said anyone found to have committed crimes should be brought to justice.

“Though I cannot speak for my party as a whole, it is my personal opinion that I welcome any independent investigations that can be viewed by all political parties here. Any investigations that are submitted to authorities should be fully probed,” he said.

With independent institutions having been appointed by parliament, Nihan added that it was right for groups like HRCM and their work to be accountable to the Majlis’ Independent Institutions Oversight Committee.

“Of all of these reports , it is the Majlis which has the authority to take proper action against anyone found of wrong doing,” he said.

Depending on the reports’ findings, Nihan claimed that if there was evidence to support such an action, former President Nasheed, police officers and any other party found to have acted illegally must face prosecution.

“Every person has the right to be innocent until proven guilty of a crime. However, whether a former president or a representative of the courts, no one is above the law,” he said.

MDP MP Hamid Adul Ghafoor told Minivan News that he had also not seen the HRCM reports that had been dispatched during the last few days and would wait to review any findings before commenting on them directly.

However, Ghafoor, who also serves on the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee, said that from his previous experiences of the HRCM’s conduct, he would take their findings “with a pinch of salt”.

“I wonder what these reports are going to say regarding the police brutality allegations. I have personally lost confidence in the institutions such as the HRCM,” he claimed. “Take for instance the time they summoned [former] President Nasheed. He was happy to be interviewed but they did not have a strategy in terms of their questioning. Let us see what they conclude, but I do not think it bodes well on their ability to conduct these investigations.”

Ghafoor alleged that the members presently sitting on the country’s independent institutions such as the HRCM, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) had all been appointed at a time when now government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) had a majority within parliament.

“I do have to question the independence of a lot of these institutions, which have several outstanding motions against them relating to the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee,” he added. “Ultimately, the whole system is just so corrupt right now.”

According to Ghafoor, the HRCM had shown itself as a body in the past that had failed to be proactive in terms of investigating alleged abuses, particularly those claimed to have been commited under the tenure of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“The HRCM has not to date looked into the cases of abuse, torture and missing persons that occurred under Gayoom,” he claimed. “They have constantly failed in my eyes and have shown themselves to be very selective in the cases they have pursued. They have actively said they would not be investigating cases linked to the Gayoom government.”


Independent institutions raise concerns over budget cuts

Several independent institutions, including the Maldives National University (MNU), have raised concerns over cuts made by the Finance Ministry to their proposed budgets for 2012.

The program-based budget submitted by some of the institutions was revised by the Finance Ministry to maintain recurrent expenditure in line with projected income.

The Rf 14.6 billion (US$946.8 million) state budget for 2012, was submitted to parliament on November 28 by Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz. It is now being reviewed by parliament’s budget review committee headed by local business tycoon, MP Gasim Ibrahim.

The committee met with senior officials of the Local Government Authority (LGA) and the MNU this week, as well as several other institutions, during which they  complained about cuts made by the Finance Ministry during the revision process prior to the submission to parliament.

MNU Chancellor Dr Musthafa Luthfy told the budget review committee that the initial budget proposed by the university was Rf191 million (US$12 million), which was reduced to Rf174 (US$11 million) on the Finance Ministry’s request.

However, according to Dr Luthfy, the ministry then cut down the university’s budget by a further by 22 percent, reducing the total budget for 2012 to Rf136 (US$9 million) – which he noted was “too small to run the university development programs planned for next year”.

He also said the university would be unable to hire qualified professors, and that new courses starting in 2012 would be negatively affected.

Local Government Authority (LGA) members said the Finance Ministry had downsized the proposed budget by 63 percent, reducing it to Rf13.8 million. Major reductions were made to the budget allocated for training and salary items.

According to the authority, the budget cuts will bring forth several problems in consolidating the decentralisation process.

Meanwhile, the budget proposed for two city Councils has also been reduced. Though a total budget of Rf295 million (US$19 million) was proposed by Male City Council, it was reduced to Rf140 million (US$9 million) and the proposed budget for Addu City Council was cut down by Rf100 million (US$6.5 million) leaving only Rf69.3 million (US$4.5 million).

Members from both City Councils have been quoted in local media as saying the cut backs would hinder city development plans and would cause the Council to fall behind in delivering services. They have asked the parliament to revive the amount.

Speaking to Minivan News, Deputy President of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), Muaviz Rasheed, said that the commission needs a minimum Rf27.7 million (US$1.8 million) for 2012 to smoothly run the office, provide training and conduct investigations.

However, the Finance Ministry had allocated Rf22 million which was Rf5 million less than the proposed budget, and slashed the staff training budget to “zero”, according to Muaviz.

“We need to provide professional training to staff to develop their investigation skills. There are also ACC employees who are gaining professional education abroad who are contracted to continue work here upon their return. But with no training budget, we won’t be able to continue financing their education. It would be a great loss to the institution,” he said.

With mounting concern from several institutions about the budget cutbacks, the parliament committee is expected to revise the budget before submitting it to the floor for final vote.

Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz told Minivan News today that the ministry is currently discussing “budget concerns” and will make a formal statement on Tuesday.

During the budget introductory statement he made at the parliament, Inaz said the program-based budget was prepared with special focus on producing results and maintaining recurrent expenditure in line with income.

“The programs included in the budget are based on the Strategic Action Plan,” he explained. “Special attention has been given in the budget programs to provide adequate and quality service to the public. The government’s aim is to match up the figures in the budget with development plans and ensure that all state expenditure is made to achieve a stated target.”

Steering committees have been formed to oversee the 31 programs in the budget, Inaz continued, urging MPs to also evaluate the progress of implementation over the course of the year.