Three councilors suspended for boycott of independence day activities

Three councillors of the Alif Alif atoll council have been suspended over a resolution declaring the council will not participate in activities organised by the government to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

The Local Government Authority (LGA) on Sunday suspended councilmen Hassan Shiyan, Moomin Rasheed Ahmed and Ali Sameer for one month without pay.

All six members of the atoll council belong to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The resolution passed on April 30 by three of the six councillors, and signed by the council president, said they do not believe Maldivians are independent and free as long as the first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed and other politicians remain in jail.

“[A]n environment conducive to celebrating Independence Day does not exist in this country at the moment. It will be very difficult to gain the support of the public for independence day activities. This council has decided not to participate in any activities organised by the government, until it grants all the powers enshrined in the Decentralisation Act to local councils and stops harassment of dissidents,” the resolution read.

The three suspended councillors are out of the country.

The council’s vice-president Moosa Naeem told Minivan News the council office is not functioning because of the suspension of half of its members.

The council’s president Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed may also face suspension, he said.

Naeem said he was not present at the emergency meeting called over the resolution, but explained the decision: “We had decided we are not going to participate in the ‘Independent 50’ activities, because the situation in the country, political leaders being imprisoned and many are being brutalised. The decision passed with a majority of three members out of the four that attended.”

The LGA, headed by home minister Umar Naseer, has also penalised several councillors for participating in mass protests organised by the opposition.

A total of seven councillors were suspended for two months without pay for participating in the May 1 protest. Nearly 20,000 people took to the streets of Malé on May Day demanding the release of Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The Thulhaadhoo island council has meanwhile defied orders from the LGA to withhold the monthly salary of a councillor suspended for attending the protest.

The council informed the LGA last week that the authority’s order was contrary to relevant laws and regulations. Unless a court of law rules otherwise, the Thulhaadhoo council said it would be following an “unconstitutional order” if it enforced the decision.

Earlier this month, MDP island and atoll councillors in Noonu atoll decided to chip in to pay the salary of suspended Holhudhoo councillor Hussain Habeeb.

The MDP said some 300 of its 450 island and atoll councillors had taken part in the May Day protest. A third mass protest is set for June 12.

MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz condemned the LGA’s decision: “The LGA is only there to monitor the system. Suspending councilmen is not even on their mandate. An unelected body cannot suspend councillors elected by the people.”

He urged the parliament to take action against state bodies that overstep their mandate.

“This is Naseer’s political schemes, the problem here is the parliament controlled by the ruling party never takes action against committees that go out of their mandate,” he said.


Defence minister Nazim faces no-confidence motion from LGA board

Local Government Authority (LGA) board members have tabled a no-confidence motion against Chairperson and Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim.

Board members Shamau Shareef and Shujau Hussein have told Minivan News that Nazim has refused to follow procedures in considering the motion.

“He should consider it immediately. He said he is president and he can do whatever he wants. He was very arrogant, and very childish,” said Shujau Hussein, the public’s representative on the board.

Following a proposal from another board member to postpone consideration of the motion today, four of the nine members signed a resolution to consider it on December 31. This resolution was rejected by Nazim, explained Shujau.

Formed under the 2010 Decentralisation Act, the LGA is tasked with overseeing and coordinating the work of the Maldives’ 199 city, atoll, and island-level councils.

Both Shujau and Malé City Councillor Shamau expressed concern that Nazim – also acting minister of health – was not working to protect decentralisation in the country.

“He is not standing up to protect the system,” suggested Shamau, who noted that the chair had failed to protect Malé City Council from persistent reduction of its powers.

“His answer was that, since he is sitting in the cabinet, he can’t speak against colleagues,” explained Shamau.

Shujau – who said he had presented 18 procedural issues to support today’s motion – pledged to take the matter to the Civil Court if it is not heard on December 31.

Removal of public lands from the purview of Malé City Council earlier this month left the opposition-dominated authority with next to no authority, after the gradual removal of powers since 2012.


The original Decentralisation Act assigns a number of services and lands to the councils, though failure to make amendments to relevant legislation – particularly the Land Act and the Finance Act – has led to contradiction in the current laws.

The LGA board is tasked under the act with ensuring that “the work and activities of the councils created under this Act is functioning in accordance with the Constitution, this Act, and other Laws”.

When asked to comment on today’s events Nazim told Minivan News that he would have a spokesman explain what had been discussed at today’s meeting, though no spokesman had called at the time of publication.

Concerns over the government’s plans for decentralisation prompted councils from the country’s southernmost atolls to sign a pact to defend the system earlier this week.

The Medheaari Declaration – signed by the Gaaf Dhaalu, Gaaf Alifu, and Fuvahmulah atoll councils, and Addu City Council – calls upon the government to protect decentralisation, as well as making plans to secure fiscal autonomy.

“What happened in Malé, will it be repeated in the atolls?” asked Addu City Council Mayor Abdulla Sodig.

“We always have the fear that the government will come after Addu City Council after it deals with Malé City Council,” he told Minivan News.

Shujau explained that the southern pact had not been discussed at today’s LGA meeting

Recently proposed amendments to decentralisation – from pro-government MP Riyaz Rasheed – called for a reduced number of local councils and to cut the salaries of all councillors except the council presidents.

The government proposed similar changes in March of this year to the previous Majlis, with Nazim stating that the changes would allow professionals to hold council positions without having to leave their jobs.

The government has also expressed a desire to cut down on the cost of decentralised governance.

The current model of more than 1,000 elected councillors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, which had originally proposed limiting the number of councillors to no more than 220.

Related to this story

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Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?

Southern atolls sign pact to defend decentralisation


Local Government Authority conduct forums in the atolls

The Local Government Authority (LGA) has begun forums on decentralization and laws and regulations on local councils.

The main aim of the forum is to bring the local councils up to date with current laws and to ensure that different councils follow the same procedure, LGA officials told local media

The LGA also said that the forum will discuss ways to make the services provided by the councils more efficient and well structured.

The forums are open for councilors, women’s development committees, relevant government authorities and the public.


Hope for Women launch workshops for woman councilors and Island Women’s Development Committees.

Women’s rights advocacy group Hope for Women (HFW) has launched a new initiative focusing on woman councillors and members of Island Women’s Development Committees, (IWDC) aiming to “increase their involvement in decision and policy making processes.”

In a press statement on Sunday, (August 14) HFW stated it will “facilitate a three day training workshop in 11 targeted islands for representatives from the IWDCs and training in Malé for the 59 newly elected women councilors.”

“These workshops will focus on identifying challenges and solutions to improve the performance of IWDCs in assisting island councilors to develop and implement an effective strategic action plan.”

IWDCs are a subcommittee of the island council and are responsible for fund raising and activities to empower women. Only women are eligible to vote for IWDC members.

The majority of local councilors are men, with women having relatively few decision making powers at island level. The People’s Majlis in 2010 rejected a provision to include a quota for women in local councils.

Earlier this year, the government proposed abolishing the committees as part of a streamlining of local governance.

A recent publication by European Union Election Observation Mission for the Majlis elections in March noted that “women have traditionally been relegated to the private rather than the public sphere of life.”

HFW, one of the few NGOs working solely on the rights of women, conducts various programmes aimed at empowering women and supporting victims of gender discrimination. It recently launched an initiative to provide legal counseling on family law and prevention of domestic violence law.


Government proposes changes to local government model

The government has submitted amendments to the Decentralisation Act to make councillors part-time with the exception of the president and vice president of island, atoll, and city councils.

If the proposed changes are passed into law, councillors other than the president and vice president would not be involved in day-to-day activities after a president and vice president are elected through secret ballot.

While the president and vice president would be paid a monthly salary, other councillors are to be paid an allowance for attending council meetings – a move that would lead to substantial savings from the public sector wage bill.

The responsibilities of other councillors would be to “attend meetings of the council, participate in the council’s decision-making [process], and assist the council in ways determined by the council in achieving its objectives,” read the amendment.

The amendment bill (Dhivehi) was submitted on behalf of the administration of President Abdulla Yameen by outgoing Progressive Party of Maldives MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur.

The purpose of the bill is to strengthen decentralised administration in line with the unitary nature of the Maldivian state, stated the introduction of the legislation.

In January, the Local Government Authority (LGA) – the institution tasked with monitoring councils and coordinating with the central government – revealed that recommendations had been shared with parliament to make most councillors part-time.

Recurrent expenditure

Defence Minister and LGA Chair Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim told the press that the changes would allow professionals to contest the council elections, as their responsibilities would be offering advice and participating in decision-making.

“The president and vice president will operate the council. Instead, now they have to leave their profession – the teacher, headmaster or boat builder has to give up his job,” he explained.

As a consequence, Nazim contended, the councillors’ time was not put to productive use.

“The benefit of [the changes] is that the councillor has to work a very short amount of time and be free to work productively for the island’s development,” he added.

The presidents of island councils currently receive a monthly salary and allowance of MVR15,000 (US$973) while council members receive MVR11,000 (US$713). The mayor of Malé is paid MVR45,000 (US$2,918) a month.

Under article 25 of the Decentralisation Act, a five-member council is elected in islands with a population of less than 3,000, a seven-member council for islands with a population between 3,000 and 10,000, and a nine-member council for islands with a population of more than 10,000.

City councils comprise of “an elected member from every electoral constituency of the city”, and atoll councils comprises of “elected members from the electoral constituencies within the administrative division.”

In December, the World Bank warned in a report that the Maldivian economy was at risk due to excessive government spending.

The current model of more than 1,000 elected councillors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, which had proposed limiting the number of councillors to “no more than 220.”

The new layer of government introduced with the first local council elections in February 2011 cost the state US$12 million a year with a wage bill of US$220,000 a month.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told parliament’s Budget Review Committee last year that President Yameen favoured revising the local government framework to reduce the number of island and atoll councillors.

In November 2013, the incoming administration proposed merging island and atoll councils, with the latter to be composed of a representative from each island of the atoll.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said at the time that “the president’s thinking is not to cut down on the number of councillors. But to elect councillors based on the population of the islands. This is a move to curb state expenditure.”

However, parliament did not move to amend the Decentralisation Act ahead of the local council elections on January 18, which saw 1,100 councillors elected for a three-year term.

While the proposals were intended to reduce the state’s recurrent expenditure – which accounts for over 70 percent of the budget – Nazim said the LGA does not support changing the council’s term from three to five years.

Contending that the legal responsibility of local councils was implementing the government’s policies, Nazim said voters should have the opportunity to change their elected representatives during an ongoing five-year presidential term.

“Citizens get an opportunity to see what kind of results the council produced and the extent to which they upheld the government’s policies,” he said.


Shamau to represent Malé City Council on LGA board

The newly-elected Malé City Council (MCC) has chosen Maafanu West Councillor Mohamed Shamau Shareef as its representative to the Local Government Authority’s board.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) councillor was elected with the unanimous consent of all councillors present at a meeting yesterday.

The opposition party controls a majority of the capital city’s council with eight seats. The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives has three seats.

Under the landmark Decentralisation Act, the LGA is tasked with monitoring councils, ensuring standards, improving technical capacity, and coordinating with the central government.

The LGA board consists of a cabinet minister appointed by the president, a member appointed from the MCC, four atoll councillors elected from among members of atoll councils, a representative from civil society appointed by parliament, a member of the general public appointed by parliament, and a member elected from the Addu and Malé city councils.

Elections to chose representatives from city councils and atoll councils are due to place on March 18.

The former civil society representative to the LGA, Ahmed Faisal, meanwhile resigned from his post last month.


EC to seek AG advice on following Supreme Court guidelines

The Elections Commission (EC) has decided to seek advice from the Attorney General on whether the commission must follow the Supreme Court’s 16 point electoral guideline in the upcoming local council and parliamentary elections.

The Supreme Court had issued the guidelines in October in its verdict annulling the first round of presidential polls held on September 7. EC President Fuwad Thowfeek has previously slammed the guidelines as “restrictions”

EC member Ali Mohamed Manik told local media the commission is abiding by the Supreme Court’s guidelines in preparations for the upcoming elections. However, the EC may face the same challenges if the commission were to follow the Supreme Court’s requirements, Manik said.

The guidelines effectively give candidates veto power over polls as they state the EC must obtain the signature of all candidates on the voter registry and mandates the commission ensure that reports on the voting process are compiled in the presence of candidates’ representatives.

The EC has previously said obtaining the signatures of the 4000 candidates contesting local council elections will be “impossible.”

“While some of the points in the guideline state it applies to all elections, we can see that the complete guideline is actually intended for presidential elections when we look at it in its entirety. Most of what is in the full verdict is also about the presidential election. Furthermore, it will be very difficult to follow some of the points in it in other elections,” Manik said.

The Supreme Court’s requirements caused major delays in this year’s presidential elections with three contestants. The parliamentary election will have hundreds of contestants for the 85 constituencies, while the local council election will have over 4000 of contestants running for 1118 seats in island, atoll and city councils in 20 atolls.

LGA and MMA call to merge elections

The Local Government Authority (LGA) – chaired by Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim – has on Thursday announced it will work with the government to organize simultaneous polls for the local council and parliament.

LGA has also requested the government to include the proposal in the planned amendments to the Decentralisation Act.

“When all the elections are held together, it will decrease the economical cost caused by holding separate elections, while also lessening the tearing up of the national social fabric, which happens as a result of elections”, a statement from the LGA reads, as reported by local media Haveeru.

The statement further said that the funds spent on councils cannot be used productively unless the councils are developed and strengthened. The authority said the proposed amendments to the Decentralisation Act  will assist in cutting costs.

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has meanwhile recommended combining presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in order to reduce state expenditure and improve governance.


President Waheed obstructing decentralisation, failing to deliver pledged concessions: LGA

Local Government Authority (LGA) Vice President Sujau Hussain has claimed that President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s government has failed to extend any of the concessions previously pledged and is obstructing decentralisation, reports local media.

Waheed promised atoll and city councils 50 percent of the leases from atoll stores as well as 50 percent of the leases given under ‘varuvaa’ (islands given to individuals for caretaking) to increase the income of councils.

“While Waheed claims he wants to implement decentralisation, the only thing he does is to further obstruct those activities which the councils are already in a position to carry out,” Hussain said during a conference held to mark two years of decentralisation.

Waheed noted in February that the government had used a “major amount of income from the public accounts”, so he would arrange for next year’s government budget to address the issue and recover the funds, according to local media.


Government undermining decentralised administration, claims LGA vice chair

Vice Chair of the Local Government Authority (LGA) Shujau Hussain has warned that the government’s alleged non-cooperation and failure to provide funds for local councils could “bring the system of decentralised administration to a halt.”

Speaking at a press conference yesterday (April 17), Shujau claimed that the Finance Ministry was withholding funds to atoll and island councils.

“The system coming to a halt will have a big impact on the country’s stability. Politicians should know this. It is not just squabbling among political parties that threatens stability. The day this system comes to a halt is the day this country is plunged into a deep pit,” he said.

Shujau claimed that employees of pre-schools in certain atolls have not been paid salaries for past three months, adding that a solution had not been found after months of meetings with the Finance Ministry and an exchange of official letters.

“The government says they want the system of decentralised administration to function very well. [But] what the finance minister is doing is withholding everything owed to councils,” he claimed.

“This government wants to keep the centralised system in place to govern. So I do not believe that President Waheed’s government is providing any cooperation at all for the system to function.”

Moreover, said Shujau, a number of island council offices have been closed due to lack of funds in the budget to pay utility bills.

Minivan News was awaiting a response from Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad at time of press.

Shujau meanwhile went on to question the government’s “sincerity” in providing support for local government.

The LGA was set up by the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010 as a parent body tasked with overseeing local councils and coordinating with the government.

Last week, Shujau criticised the Attorney General’s Office for failing to approve 2,000 LGA municipal regulations. He suggested that the lack of approvals demonstrated an unwillingness among the government and President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s cabinet to allow local government mechanisms to function.

In January this year, the government asked the LGA to dissolve the Male’ City Council (MCC), which has an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) majority.

The MCC has been involved in a number of disputes with the government during 2012 following February’s controversial transfer of power.

LGA member Ahmed Faisal told local media at the time that the Home Ministry requested the MCC be dissolved following deliberations by the cabinet.

“We have received a letter signed by the Home Minister. But we have not tabled the issue in the agenda yet. And I don’t even believe that the Home Minister could order a council to be dissolved like that. Because there are a lot of things the LGA has to complete before that,” Faisal was quoted as saying.

Faisal accused Home Minister Jameel of requesting the city council be dissolved for “political purposes.”

Faisal also criticised Jameel for allegedly being unaware of the difficulties faced by councils in his role as chair of the LGA. The LGA member stressed that dissolving councils was a long process and that the LGA has not made any decision yet, adding that dissolving the council without addressing difficulties it faced would be “unjust.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a rally last week, former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed that a host of public services has been either disrupted or discontinued following the transfer of presidential power last year.

“Every island that I go to, I see commenced projects unfinished. Harbours have come to stop. Sewerage systems have come to a stop. The change of school sessions to a single session have come to a stop. Aasandha [health insurance] has become a Baisandha [halved]. Transport [networks] have come to halt, everything has stopped. So I think Waheed’s campaign slogan is ‘halted’,” he was quoted as saying.

“President Waheed has neglected the most prosperous one and a half years of this nation. Since my government was changed through a coup, I can only perceive this coup [government] as something that has come to halt.”