JSC lawyer to be elected under new regulations

The Attorney General’s Office has compiled new regulations to elect a member to represent lawyers for the ten-member judicial oversight body.

The regulations publicised on Sunday set new qualifications for a lawyer to stand for the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). A lawyer must be above 25 years of age, and must not hold political party membership or a criminal record.

Further, if a lawyer has completed a five year term previously, they will not be eligible to stand again.

The election will be held at the AG office. The office will give ten days notice to all lawyers before elections take place. Polls will be open from 8:30am – 4: 30pm on election day. If the date falls during the month of Ramadan, polls will be open from 9:30am – 3:30pm.

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Murrath requests court to summon police officers as appeal continues

Ahmed Murrath – currently appealing his Criminal Court conviction for the murder of lawyer Ahmed Najeeb – has today asked the High Court to summon police officers who investigated the case.

Local media reported that Murrath told the bench he had not seen Najeeb being murdered and that he was not in the room at the time.

Murrath’s lawyer told the court that in murder cases the defendant was permitted under Islamic Shariah to retract a confession. After this was queried by the bench, Murrath’s lawyer was not able to specify where in Quran or Sunnah it was mentioned.

Murrath is said to have told judges today that he confessed to the murder in order to escape punishments he received during the investigation period, claiming that his family members – including his mother – were arrested in connection with the case, and that he was prevented from sleeping.

Prosecutor General’s Office lawyers also spoke in the court, arguing that scholars have said the strongest evidence against a criminal is his own confession and that confessions made in cases concerning the rights of another individual cannot be retracted, reported local media.

The state lawyer said that being under the influence of an illegal drug was not a reason to commit a crime and that the defendant must take full responsibility for his actions if he willfully abused drugs.

Murrath and his girlfriend Fathimath Hanaa, were arrested and charged with Najeeb’s murder after the lawyer’s body was discovered by police at Maafanu Masroora house, (Murrath’s residence) in early evening of July 1.

The body was stuffed inside a dustbin, badly beaten up and with multiple stab wounds.

Sentenced

In July 2012, the Criminal Court sentenced the pair to death before the ruling was appealed at the High Court.

During the trial held in the Criminal Court, Murrath confessed to killing Najeeb out of anger and under the influence of drugs, alleging that the lawyer attempted to sexually assault his 18 year-old girlfriend while he was at Masroora House.

He told the Criminal Court that Najeeb visited Masroora House on June 30 to provide legal counsel on a case related to cash missing from Murrath’s mother’s account, and the issue of dividing the house.

Murrath said that he tied Najeeb to a chair, gagged him and taped his hands, feet and face while threatening him with a four-inch knife he had brought from the kitchen. He said that his girlfriend Hanaa had no role in it and was sleeping while he killed the lawyer between 6:00am and 7:00am during the morning of July 1.

Hanaa confessed in the Criminal Court to “helping” tape and bind the victim to the chair. She did not confess to killing him and said at the time she was sleeping, intoxicated from drinking alcohol.

Last month, Haveeru reported that Murrath’s lawyer Abdul Hakeem Rashadh told the High Court his client’s confession had been coerced, that his client’s responsibility was diminished due to the influence of drugs, and that he had the right to retract his confession as there were no witnesses to the crime.

Murrath is currently facing the death sentence for Najeeb’s murder – a sentence that the current administration has pledged to reintroduce after a 60 year moratorium.

Following orders by Home Minister Umar Naseer to begin preparations for reintroducing executions, the cabinet advised President Abdulla Yameen last month that there were no legal obstructions to carrying out the sentence.

The order closely followed the conclusion of the Dr Afrasheem Ali murder trial, in which Hussein Humam was sentenced to death. Similarly, Humam also claimed that his confession was obtained under duress.

President Yameen last week revealed that the government had formulated regulations for the implementation of the penalty. Calling the decision a “historic day”, Yameen vowed he would not bow to international pressure to reverse the decision.

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State to appoint lawyer to Hanaa in her appeal case

The Attorney General’s Office has said that it will appoint a lawyer for Fathimath Hanaa, who was sentenced to death after the court found her guilty of assisting Ahmed Murrath in murdering of prominent lawyer Ahmed Najeeb.

In the latest hearing of her appeal case, the High Court bench had announced that Hanaa was not eligible for a state-appointed lawyer.

Hanaa had subsequently told the court that she needed three months to appoint a lawyer, with the Prosecutor General’s Office giving no objection to this request.

However, the Attorney General’s office has today told local media that Hanaa now meets the requirements after she submitted additional documents to the office.

On July 2, 2012, the 65 year-old lawyer’s body was found stuffed inside a dustbin at Masroora house – Murrath’s residence – badly beaten with multiple stab wounds.

Speaking at the Criminal Court during the 2012 trial, Murrath’s girlfriend said that her boyfriend killed Najeeb after he became “sure” the lawyer had attempted to sexually assault her. She admitted to tying Najeeb’s hand, legs, and taped his mouth while Murrath threatened him with a knife.

“We thought he must have a lot of money as he is a lawyer,” she told the court, after declining representation from a lawyer.

Najeeb’s cash card was taken from him and the pair had used it to withdraw money.

According to Hanaa, she did not know that the victim had been killed until Murrath woke her up and told her at around 4:00am. At the time Hanaa said she was sleeping – intoxicated from drinking alcohol.

Murrath corroborated this course of events in his statement, saying that she was asleep when he killed the lawyer. He confessed to killing Najeeb out of anger and apologised to the family members.

On February 17, Ahmed Murrath – the man sentenced to death by the Criminal Court after being found guilty of murdering Najeeb – retracted the confession previously given to the court.

During the last hearing held in to the appeal case of Murrath, his lawyer Abdul Hakeem Rashadh told the High Court that his client’s hands were handcuffed behind his back when he made the confession which therefore could not be considered a confession made without coercion.

On February 9, the cabinet advised President Abdulla Yameen that there was no legal obstruction to implementing death sentences, after the Home Minister Umar Naseer had ordered an end to the 60 year moratorium on executions.

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Supreme Court accepts case to invalidate transfer of power to speaker

The Supreme Court has accepted a petition to invalidate a People’s Majlis resolution authorizing the Speaker to assume the presidency in the absence of a president elect by the end of the current presidential term on November 11.

The case was filed by by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) council member and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s lawyer Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed.

Speaking to Minivan News, Wadde said that he did not believe that the parliament’s resolution constituted a resolution, and said he did not know any legal term with which to refer to the parliament’s decision as it was against the constitution and laws.

”The decision is clearly against the constitution and I have requested the Supreme Court to invalidate the decision,” he said. ”The parliament on October 27 passed that decision that says that all powers of president must be transferred to the parliament Speaker or someone in the parliament.”

He explained that he had originally filed the case on October 29 before the Supreme Court accepted it today.

On October 27, the resolution was passed at a sitting scheduled in response to a letter to Speaker Abdulla Shahid from President Dr Mohamed Waheed requesting parliament “to take initiative in finding a solution to any legal issues that will arise if a new president is not elected by the end of the current term [on November 11].”

The resolution was submitted by MDP parliamentary group leader and MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and supported by MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

In a Q&A with the speaker Minivan News asked his opinion on the government aligned MP’s suggestion that the Supreme Court should decide on interim arrangements.

”We have had some MPs calling on the military to take over. I think these individuals are very unfamiliar with democracy. And democratic principles. And it is a shame they sit in a house which is supposed to represent the people,” responded Shahid.

During the interview he also expressed his hope that President Dr Waheed will respect the resolution as it was he who initiated it.

”He wanted the parliament to initiate and tell him what the parliament thinks. The parliament is the representative body of the people of this country. And the parliament overwhelmingly, with the majority of the total parliament, adopted this resolution,” he told Minivan News.

The same day, Waheed also submitted another case to the court asking it to rule that the MDP MP Ahmed Hamza’s appointment to the judicial watchdog – the Judicial Services Commission  – was conducted in breach of the constitution.

Waheed also submitted a case to the Supreme Court requesting it to rule that Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party Leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali was disqualified as an MP.

In addition to these cases, Wadde – alongside Jumhooree Coalition member ‘Madhanee Ihthihaadh’ (Civil Alliance) President Sheikh Mohamed Didi – filed a case in the apex court challenging the candidacy of the MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed.

This filing of this particular case was criticised by both the president and senior PPM leadership.

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PPM member asks Supreme Court to remove DRP leader from parliament

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) council member and prominent lawyer Mohamed ‘Wadde’ Waheed has filed a case at the Supreme Court requesting the court disqualify Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali from parliament.

Wadde yesterday told local media that Thasmeen took a MVR2.9million (US$188,067) loan from Parliament Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim and did not pay the money back in accordance with a Civil Court ruling.

Nazim filed a case at the Civil Court in 2011 to recover MVR1.9million (US$124,513) unpaid out of the MVR2.9 Million (US$188,067) Thasmeen took from him as a loan.

Article 73(c) of the constitution states: “A person shall be disqualified from election as, a member of the People’s Majlis, or a member of the People’s Majlis immediately becomes disqualified, if he has a decreed debt which is not being paid as provided in the judgment.”

Wadde said that, although Thasmeen had now paid all the money, he did not pay according to the Civil Court ruling, which required the repayment of MVR320,000 (US$20,779) each month for six consecutive months to clear the debt.

The Civil Court ruling came in April 2011, with Thasmeen unsuccessfully appealing the case at the High Court the same month.

In June 2012, Nazim filed another case at the Civil Court because Thasmeen was not paying as per the Civil Court resulting in the court issuing a warrant freezing all the bank accounts of Thasmeen and ordering the Immigration Department to hold Thasmeen’s passport.

Lawyer Wadde was chosen to contest the Kaashidhoo parliamentary by-election for the PPM in March 2012, before the party decided to support now-MDP MP Abdulla Jabir – then a member of the Jumhooree Party – prompting public criticism from Wadde.

The lawyer was also at odds with his party’s senior leadership last month after filing a case in the Supreme Court challenging opposition MDP candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s candidacy.

In October Wadde also submitted a case to the Supreme Court seeking a ruling against the motion passed by parliament to appoint Speaker Abdulla Shahid as interim head of state in the instance that an elected president cannot be installed by the constitutionally mandated date, November 11.

The same day, Wadde also submitted another case to the court asking it to rule that the MDP MP Ahmed Hamza’s appointment to the judicial watchdog – the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – was conducted in breach of the constitution.

Last night, the MDP issued a statement condemning the filing of the case against Thasmeen, alleging that the PPM was trying to undermine the constitution through the Supreme Court.

The party called upon the PPM to stop all of its works against the spirit of democracy.

The MDP said the PPM was using the Supreme Court to defeat political opponents because is understood that it had been defeated in the political field.

The Supreme Court ruled on October 24 that both MDP MP Ali Azim DRP MP Mohamed Nashiz be stripped of their parliamentary seats over decreed debt. The ruling was subsequently rejected by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee, with scuffles ensuing between the military and MPs at the subsequent Majlis session.

The current MDP and DRP alignment constitutes a simple majority in parliament.

The party also said that the citizens would not allow the PPM to use courts under the influence of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to deprive the MDP of its majority in parliament.

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Nasheed’s lawyer arrested in Addu City

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyer has been arrested by police in Addu City after allegedly disobeying police orders on Wednesday night (March 27).

Hisaan Hussain, who is part of Nasheed’s legal team, told local media that she had been arrested shortly after her husband was detained by police earlier in the evening.

Local media reported that police had conducted an inspection at Hithadhoo Kalhibis beach barbecue area following reports that people had been intoxicated in the area.

According to Hisaan, her husband had been arrested after he had questioned the actions of the police when they turned up to the family event.

Hisaan claimed that she was then later arrested when she went to Hithadhoo Police Station to submit a request to act as her husband’s lawyer.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has since claimed that the arrest of Hisaan – who has now been released by authorities along with her husband – was a direct attempt by police to intimidate Nasheed’s lawyers.

“We see it as pure harassment. The Police are trying to intimidate lawyers who represent the MDP and President Nasheed. It is extremely disturbing that the police have again displayed their complete disregard to the law.

“We urge the Police and the Police Integrity Commission to look into the matter and take urgent action against those officers who continue to violate the law & brutalise Women,” President Nasheed’s spokesperson MP Mariya Didi claimed.

Contrary to reports in local media, a statement from the MDP claimed that police had searched the area under a law relating to gang violence.

The MDP statement further claimed that Hisaan, who is 24 weeks pregnant, had been pushed to the ground by police, while her husband was punched in the face by an officer.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls or text messages from Minivan News at time of press.

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Lawyer Najeeb murdered: Supreme court and AG call for action as public demand death penalty

The judiciary and authorities have come to high alert after prominent Lawyer Ahmed Najeeb was found brutally murdered on Sunday night.

Police were called to second floor apartment in Maafanu Masroora house in the capital Male’ at around 6:45pm yesterday evening, where they found 65 year-old Najeeb’s body inside a large dustbin, gagged, badly beaten up and stabbed multiple times.

According to eye witnesses, his face was lobotomised with a knife beyond recognition, and a blade was found stuck underneath his chin.

Though police have not revealed details of the case they have confirmed that a suspect, identified as 29 year-old Ahmed Murrath, has been arrested in connection to the murder. His 18 year-old girlfriend is also also being questioned by the police, according to some media reports.

Murrath, who is registered as residing at the house where lawyer’s body was found, is reported to be a convicted criminal released under the former government’s Second Chance Program, under which over 300 inmates incarcerated for drug offences were conditionally released.

Devastated family members of Najeeb and friends were seen crying at Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) last night as the hospital official conducted the medical examination of the body.

“He was so badly beaten up and stabbed. Everyone is so shocked and devastated. He is a very nice and kind man. Why would someone to something so horrible?” said a relative of  the victim.

According to early reports, Najeeb was providing legal counsel in dividing the house, Masroora, between its heirs. Police have yet to give confirmation of this.

He is scheduled to be buried after Asru prayer this evening.

Judiciary on alert

Meanwhile, Najeeb’s background as a lawyer and writer has prompted both Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor and the apex court to take the unprecedented step of issuing statements condemning the murder.

He is the sixth victim to be killed this year, while several others have been brutally injured in a spate of gang violence across capital Male’ and atolls.

The Supreme Court said that “attacks against lawyers will not be tolerated” and that it takes every necessary measure to provide protection and security to lawyers.

“Crimes like these are committed with utter disregard to dignity entitled to the people, and are beyond the boundaries of humanity. When such crimes occur, the whole society plunges into fear and chaos,” the statement read.

Therefore, it adds, taking action against the attacker responsible for Najeeb’s murder is necessary for both public security and peace.

The Attorney General’s Office meanwhile echoed the apex court’s statement, emphasising that lawyers today are serving in an “increasingly dangerous environment.”

The AG’s Office reported that Azima made clear the need for prompt actions to make sure such crimes are not repeated.

Calls for death penalty grows

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, speaking at a press conference today, repeated his call for a decision on the implementation of the death penalty in relation to such crimes.

“We want death for death,” a crowd gathered near IGMH last night shouted, as Najeeb’s body was brought to the ambulance.

In recent times gang violence, burglary, mugging, sexual abuse of children and murders are increasing to levels of alarming concern in society, and the rise in criminal-related death tolls have provoked public pressure to implement the death penalty or capital punishment in the Maldives.

Under Islamic Sharia, the death penalty is the punishment of a murderer (one who kills deliberately) and that he is to be killed in retaliation (Qisaas) unless the victim’s next of kin let him off or agree to accept the ‘Diyah’ (blood money).

Although death sentences are issued by courts in the Maldives, traditionally those sentences a commuted to life imprisonment under the power vested in the President.

From January 2001 to December 2010, a total of 14 people were sentenced to death by the courts, and none from them have been executed. The last person to be executed in the Maldives after receiving a death sentence was in 1953 during the first republican President Mohamed Ameen. Hakim Didi was charged with attempting to assassinate President Ameen using black magic.

Following  reports of the murder, the government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM)’s parliament group member Ahmed Mahloof  proposed an amendment to the Clemency Act (Act no 2/2010) which would make performing the death penalty mandatory in the event it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

His amendment would require the President to enforce any death penalty if the Supreme Court issued the verdict of death, or if the Supreme Court supported the ruling of the death penalty made by either the Criminal court or the High Court. This move would halt the current practice of the President commuting such sentences to life imprisonment.

Previously, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed and later MP Ibrahim Muthalib also submitted similar amendments to the clemency act although both subsequently withdrew the motions.

“I believe nobody would want to die. So if the death penalty is enforced, a person who is to commit a murder would clearly know that if he carries out the act, his punishment would be his life. I believe this will deter him from committing such acts,” Mahloof said following the submission of the amendment.

In the Initial Report of Maldives under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prepared by Human Rights Commission (HRCM) in 2011, the commission noted that growing public sentiment to impose death penalty.

But implementing death penalty may not be as easy as it sounds.

According to the commission, the Maldives has affirmed the UN Resolution of Moratorium on death penalty on 18 December 2007, which emphasises all states that still provision capital punishment “progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed.”

“This resolution still needs to be passed by the parliament” it reads.

Furthermore, there are several laws pending which are related to the enforcement of the death penalty including, the passage of the revised Penal Code, Criminal Procedures Code, Evidence Bill and Witness Act, the commission adds.

The Maldives is yet to establish an independent forensic institution to provide accurate information to support the judiciary to make an impartial decision on matters concerning the administration of the death penalty.

Meanwhile the commission acknowledged that the “life threatening acts of crime in the country have been aggravated” due to a number of direct and indirect factors, of which the direct problems include “inadequate legislation pertaining the criminal justice system”.

The existing Penal Code which was enforced in 1981 and its last amendment made in 200 has many parts which are not relevant to the present context and does not reflect the spirit of the present Constitution.

Moreover,the commission identifies the  inadequate legislations pertaining to evidence and witnesses, dismissal of forensic evidence by courts, absence  of  a witness protection program and inadequate correctional and rehabilitation system for convicted offenders as key factors.

“The lack of a comprehensive integrated crime prevention mechanism remains the greatest weakness in addressing the issue of increase in crime. High numbers of unemployed youth, and the persistent substance abuse and drug addiction among youth in the country are indirect factors catalysing the increase in crime,” the HRCM report adds.

Therefore, to address the above, says the HRCM, the “state should revise the existing Penal Code, and bring into force the Criminal Procedure Code – the other legislation pertaining to evidence and witnesses.”

“The State should further establish effective rehabilitation mechanisms for offenders, better prisons and correctional facilities to house and to rehabilitate criminals, and to strengthen effective coordination between drug rehabilitation system and criminal justice system,” it concludes.

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Juvenile Court extends detention of minors charged with Muheeth murder

The Juvenile Court extended the detention by 15 days of three minors charged with the murder of 20 year-old Abdul Muheeth, as one of the minor had not appointed a lawyer to respond to the murder charges pressed against him by the Prosecutor General.

A Juvenile Court official told local media that the three minors will have to provide detailed answers to the charges pressed against them in the next hearing, which will be held after 15 days.

Juvenile Court Spokesperson Zaeema Nasheed was unavailable for comment as she was attending the Juvenile Justice Program.

Three men have been charged in the same case, in addition to the minors.

Police identified the three men as Muhujath Ahmed Naseeh of Gahdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, Ali Mushaf of Maradhoo in Addu City and Mohamed Maimoon of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll.

Abdul Muheeth of G. Veyru was rushed to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) after he was stabbed at 1:45am near the Finance Ministry building on February 19. He later died during treatment.

In March, Police Inspector Abdulla Satheeh said Muheeth was mistakenly killed by a gang and that he was not the intended target.

Police said Muheeth was not a member of any gangs and said he held a responsible job at the time he was stabbed to death.

The Juvenile court is also hearing a second murder case involving a girl and two boys under the age of 18, who are suspected to be involved in the murder of 21 year-old Ahusan Basheer.

Family members of Ahusan Basheer were recently summoned to the court to approve a possible death sentence verdict if the three minors were to be found guilty in the case.

Four of Basheer’s family members said they approved of death sentence. According to the Juvenile Court there were four additional family members who needed to tell the court their stance in order to decide whether death sentence should be passed if the suspects were found guilty.

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MP allowance debacle “not a mix-up”: State Finance Minister

The Finance Ministry today rejected implications that yesterday’s release and recall of the controversial Rf20,000-a-month committee allowances against a court injunction was a mistake which had caused confusion in the government.

“I don’t think it’s a mix-up,” said State Minister of Finance Ahmed Assad today. Assad was unclear about the court injunction.

“Releasing that sort of money is not a big procedure, I think this is just people trying to follow the general rules and experiencing an administrative error,” he said.

Assad didn’t believe anyone deserved blame, and said that “if anything, it is the ministry at large that was at fault.”

Local daily Haveeru yesterday reported that the allowances had been issued “by mistake.”

Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz had not responded to Minivan inquiries at time of press.

The court injunction, which was issued on September 26, ordered the Finance Ministry not to release funds for the committee allowance until the court rules on a case filed on behalf of a civil servant, contending that the allowance could not be given before deducted amounts from civil servants salaries were paid back.

The injunction has since been appealed by the Attorney General’s Office at the High Court, which is due to hold a first hearing on Sunday.

Parliamentary privileges

Meanwhile parliament yesterday debated a motion without notice proposed by Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed claiming that a civic action campaign launched by concerned citizens in late August violated MPs’ special privileges.

MDP MP Ahmed Easa told Minivan News yesterday that colleagues had said the allowance was being released to the parliament secretariat, but he was told that it had been held back by the Minister of Finance.

“I don’t think there was any wording, anything in what the court said indicating that they couldn’t release the money,” said Easa. “But no money has been going in to my account today, I can tell you that.”

Easa elaborated on the allowance, saying that the amount of staffing support and allowances other government branches received justified MPs accepting the proposed allowance.

“The MP point of view is that some of the independent wages and allowances are greater than MPs. The MPs are expected to do research and other duties, but we don’t have an office, a supporting staff, a phone allowance, a travel stipend to visit constituents or other things to support our work. Seven percent of our salary is taken out for a pension fund, and Male’ is an expensive place to live,” said Easa.

Easa said he will accept the allowance, but pointed out that he had always objected to it in parliament on the grounds that all payrolls should be streamlined.

“But if these other government groups are taking an allowance, why not the MPs? This is a democracy, so I always respect the majority decision.”

Lawyer Mohamed Shafaz Wajeeh, one of two lawyers involved in the civil case, argued that the number of people benefiting from the allowance does not justify the sum released, which amounts to Rf18 million (US$1.1 million).

“It’s greed. Just greed,” Shafaz said. “MPs and higher-ups in the government are probably more aware of their own power than they should be. The thinking behind this goes against everything we know.”

Shafaz suggested the government consider other options, such as releasing the allowance in installments to lighten the burden on the state budget and other subsidiaries.

“But I’m not sure how much political will there is to do this. Everyone says the allowance is a good idea.”

Civil society

Although members of the civil sector earlier issued a statement objecting to the allowance, which they called “a gross injustice to the Maldivian people,” they have not articulated an official position on the issue of late.

Maldives Democracy Network (MDN) Director Fathimath Ibrahim Didi said that individuals in the organization were involved at the beginning, but that they did not represent MDN.

“Now, I think there may be a group working against the allowance, but it is loosely formed involving people from NGOs, lawyers and individuals,” she said.

Transparency Director Ilham Mohamed told Minivan News that a volunteer team was addressing the matter, but that large protests had not been organized among local non-government organizations (NGOs).

“I believe there may be sporadic gatherings in different places,” said Mohamed. “I do know that the NGOs that were involved in the original statement opposing the MP allowance are unified on this issue.”

“Symbolic”

The decision to approve the Rf20,000 (US$1200) monthly allowances in December 2010 was met with  protests and widespread public indignation. However in June this year, parliament rejected a resolution proposed by opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf to scrap the allowance.

Meanwhile the current civic action campaign was prompted by parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) deciding in late August to to issue a lump sum of Rf140,000 (US$9,000) as committee allowance back pay for January through July this year.

Article 102 of the constitution states that parliament shall determine the salaries and allowances of the President, Vice President, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, members of the Judiciary, and members of the independent institutions.

The Rf20,000 allowance was initially approved on December 28, 2010 as part of a revised pay scheme recommended by the PAC.

During yesterday’s debate on a privileges motion regarding the anti-committee allowance campaign, MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed, a member of the PAC, explained that the committee felt that MPs should earn a higher salary than High Court judges.

“But even then the honourable members of the Public Accounts Committee believed that MPs were receiving a sufficiently large salary in relation to the country’s economic situation,” he said, adding that a decision was made to institute a “symbolic” committee allowance.

“The thinking at the time was to give it to MPs who attend committee meetings as a very symbolic thing, for example one laari or 15 laari. But to ensure that take-home pay for MPs would be Rf82,500,” he said.

However, he continued, this “noble effort” became politicised and the subject of “an anti-campaign programme.”

Colonel called for legal action against the activists “when they go beyond the boundaries of free expression” and the right to protest, claiming that MPs’ families and children had been targeted.

Echoing a claim made by a number of MPs yesterday, Colonel said none of his constituents had asked him to decline the allowance.

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