Protesters petition President not to ratify MP Privileges Bill

A group of “concerned citizens” today gathered outside the President’s office to present a letter to president Mohamed Nasheed requesting him not to ratify the recently-passed MPs Privilege Bill.

The protesters claimed that the bill was passed by the MPs for the sake of unfair personal gain, and should not be ratified.

”If the bill is to be passed, the salaries and allowances for the police and independent commissions should be increased,” said a protester, claiming that “we are not from any political party but we are representing the citizens.”

The letter stated that the Privileges Bill was against the Constitution and the objective of parliamentary privileges.

”[The Bill] allows [MPs] to import expensive assets (such as cars) duty free, receive pensions in a different manner to normal citizens, and benefit from an expensive insurance scheme, all of which are definitely against the purpose of MP privileges,” the letter said. ”The bill also obstructs the conduct of criminal justice proceedings in the Maldives, antd contains many other things that independent democratic countries do not accept.”

The letter noted that the bill stated that MPs were to be treated differently in criminal cases, and called on the president to reject the bill and to send it back to parliament.

Minivan News reported last week reported that should the bill be ratified, the salaries and allowances of Maldivian MPs would amount to thousands of dollars more than their counterparts in many developed countries.

In their defence of the bill some MPs have argued that an MP’s salary of Rf 62,500 a month includes allowances, while the cash component represents a “welfare fund” to be drawn on by their constituents.

Even before the proposed increases, every Maldivan indirectly spends approximately US$20.65 (Rf 265) a year (derived via ‘invisible’  taxes on goods such as import duties) supporting roughly 120 politicians across both parliament and the executive, assuming a population of 350,000, GDP of US$1.6 billion and a share of the country’s ‘cake’ equal to about US$5000 (ignoring income disparity).

In similar vein, Australians pay approximately US$7.40 (Rf 95) a year to support parliament and the executive across all states and territories – meaning that Maldivians not only individually pay three times more than Australians in dollar terms to support their politicians, but seven times more when this bill is expressed as part of each citizen’s share of total GDP.