MMC postpones appointing president after internal election stalemate

The appointment of a new president for the Maldives Media Council (MMC) has been postponed after an election held yesterday (July 27) ended in a tie between two candidates competing for the position.

In a statement, the MMC said that a date for a second election would be announced at a later date.

The election was held to appoint a successor to former MMC President Ibrahim Khaleel, who resigned from his post earlier this year.

Local media reported that MMC current Vice President Husham Mohamed and council member Abdulla Shinaan had both received the same number of votes yesterday.


Presidential election regulations unveiled as rival parties slam state commitment to free and fair polls

The Elections Commission (EC) has unveiled new regulations  for the presidential election set for September 7 this year, claiming “comprehensive changes” have been made to the legal framework used five years ago.

EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz told Minivan News that the latest regulations were drawn up with consultation from political parties and NGOs – providing more than just a “cosmetic change” to the framework used for the country’s first ever multi-party democratic elections in 2008.

Both opposition and government-aligned parties competing directly against President Dr Mohamed Waheed in September have alleged that even with new regulations in place, there were concerns that the incumbent was using state resources unconstitutionally to unfairly influence voters.

The allegations have been denied by the President’s Office, which maintains that it has done nothing to try and unfairly influence voters.

EC optimism

EC Vice President Fayaz said that despite the allegations raised by various parties this week, the commission was “very optimistic” about its ability to ensure elections were free and fair in September with the new presidential election regulations – said to have undergone drastic changes since 2008.

“The 2008 regulation was actually formatted in a rush and the EC was given about 60 days to do its work,” he said of the legal outline used for the last presidential election. “From the feedback we have received [regarding the new election regulation] nobody has said that they were bad,” he claimed.

The Regulation on the Presidential Election was published online Monday (May 20) in the Government Gazette.

Fayaz added that the EC had so far received “no formal complaints” from political parties in the country regarding concerns that September’s elections would not be free and fair.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said he had not personally had chance to review the new regulations for September’s election at present.


Ghafoor said that despite concerns about the functioning of the country’s independent institutions, the MDP had been “comfortable” with the ongoing work of the EC.

Yet no matter how comprehensive the new elections regulation for September’s vote was, he said MDP continued to hold concerns that credible elections were being undermined by both the recent conduct of the government and the country’s police and security forces.

Ghafoor claimed that party fear’s were partly based around the recent conduct of police around the country, as well as ongoing concerns raised by both the party and independent experts over the independence of country’s judiciary, as well as its watchdog body, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

Meanwhile, the Maldives’ Police Service has previously denied arresting approximately 50 people – primarily MDP supporters – the night prior to President Mohamed Waheed’s arrival in Addu City on May 8.

Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig told Minivan News that before Waheed’s arrival, close to 50 people were arrested, “and about 90 percent of those taken in were MDP supporters”.

These arrests were made under the “’Our Peaceful Addu City” operation, which the police have said was established to make the atoll “crime free”.

Political ends

Ghafoor also leveled criticisms at President Waheed directly, accusing him of unconstitutionally spending state fund on his own campaigning, while also making development pledges not included within budgeted funds during recent tours of the country.

He also pointed the centralised utilities ‘Fenaka’ corporation that was formed last June as an example of President Waheed’s use of government-owned enterprise to provide his own supporters with jobs.

“We have seen this government rape institutions like the police and state companies for their own political ends,” Ghafoor claimed. “These are unconstitutional actions we are seeing by the state.”

PPM “concerns”

MP Abdulla Yameen, presidential candidate for the government-aligned PPM, this week told local media that he understood “concerns” raised by MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed regarding President Waheed’s use of state resources for campaigning.

“That is, the way [the government] is doing things, there are problems over whether we could reach free and fair elections. The Auditor General and ACC [Anti-Corruption Commission] have taken note of this,” Yameen told local media.

While accepting an incumbent would have advantages for campaigning while in power, Yameen called on the government to consult with the Auditor General’s Office and ACC to put rules in place for campaigning within legal bounds and in line with the principles of good governance.

The PPM parliamentary group leader also criticised the government’s decision to sack Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed from his position of home minister following his decision to stand against President Waheed as Yameen’s running mate.

The government at the time cited Dr Jameel’s decision to stand as Yameen’s running mate as representing a conflict of interest, claiming any other cabinet minister standing directly against Dr Waheed would also have to be dismissed ahead of September’s voting.

Cabinet ministers in a coalition government are not obliged to assist the president’s election campaign, Yameen added this week.

He also claimed that PPM has not been given the number of government posts promised by Dr Waheed more than a year ago with the formation of the coalition government.

Former Home Minister Dr Jameel, meanwhile said he believed that appointments to government posts and creation of government-owned companies ahead of the election was intended to influence the outcome.

Government response

The President’s Office has rejected allegations that the government was working to exert undue influence on voters through state resources or funds, accusing both the MDP and PPM of making allegations without any evidence.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said that politicians seeking to run for office should therefore act responsibly and avoid making baseless accusations against the government.

“I will say on the record that we are not engaged in any activity that would give us an unfair advantage [in September’s election],” he said.

Responding directly to the MDP’s allegations that the state were using government-owned bodies such as the Fenaka Corporation to gain political influence, Masood claimed that the company was presently headed by a PPM member, leaving president Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) with little influence to do so.

“Fenaka has much more PPM and MDP members working for it than it does GIP supporters,” he said. “Fenaka is headed up by a PPM member, so we do not have any control over this. We do already have difficulty with GIP members ringing us up and asking for jobs,” he said,

Masood concluded that President Waheed had done nothing to exert his influence on voters, claiming appointments made to state institutions following the controversial transfer of power remaining almost unchanged since they were formed under the present administration.


Jumhoree Party undecided over joining election coalition ahead of national conference

The government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) has said no decision has been made on whether to join a coalition backing President Dr Mohamed Waheed in September’s election, as it prepares to officially choose it presidential candidate and leader.

Vice-chair of the JP’s Congress Committee Mohamed Haleem has told Minivan News that the party’s candidate for this year’s presidential election will officially be announced in June during its national conference.

He said that the party’s leader chosen at the conference would then go on to become presidential candidate of the JP.  However, Haleem added that he was presently unaware if anyone would be contesting against current party leader and founder MP Gasim Ibrahim.

Earlier this month,  the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) announced it would be joining the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in a coalition backing President Waheed. The DRP is the largest party in terms of MP numbers to so far back President Waheed, whose own Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) party  has no political representation in either parliament or local councils.

Despite serving with the DQP, GIP, Adhaalath Party, DRP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in the present government, Haleem added that the JP was committed to unveiling its own presidential candidate, as well as preparing contests to appoint other senior leadership during its three day national conference.

The JP was founded by MP Gasim, a resort tycoon, business magnate and member of watchdog body the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), who is considered presidential candidate for the party having already stood during the country’s first multi-party democratic election in 2008.

However, Haleem told Minivan News that the party’s presidential candidate would only be known when announced next month during the three day congress scheduled to run from June 27 to June 29.

“The main aims of the conference will be to amend certain party regulations as well as host an election for the position of party leader and other appointees like deputy leader,” he said. “We will also look to appoint members to different wings of the party.”

Haleem claimed that no discussions would be held during the conference over the possibility of joining President Waheed’s coalition, adding that any agreement on power sharing was presently considered a separate matter from its internal elections.

Coalition consideration

MP Gasim was reported in local media last month as claiming he would be prepared to form a coalition with other parties ahead of September’s election, but would not stand as a running mate of another candidate.

Just a day earlier, JP Spokesman Moosa Ramiz said the party had ruled out the idea of forming a coalition with fellow government-aligned parties ahead of this year’s elections, despite its involvement in recent power sharing talks with President Waheed.

“National stability”

As rival candidates begin to position themselves ahead of elections, GIP spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza last week claimed voters would shun the country’s two largest political parties in favour of the “national stability” offered by a coalition representing the current government.

Meanwhile the fellow government-aligned PPM – the country’s second largest party in terms of number of MPs –back in March elected MP Abdulla Yameen to stand as its presidential candidate and has continued to reject calls to join a coalition against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ahead of elections.

Former Maldives President and founder of the PPM, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, previously told local media that Dr Waheed’s coalition presented no threat to the election bid of its own candidate MP Abdulla Yameen.

Meanwhile, MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed contended during an interview with state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on May 16 that President Waheed and the DRP has been forced to form a coalition out of necessity.

Nasheed questioned the coalition’s claims that it presented a “third way” for voters as opposed to the policies of the MDP and PPM and reiterated his belief that power-sharing coalitions were not compatible with a presidential system of government.

“I do not see a citizen who wants ‘another way.’ What is the path to deliver this way [to development]? We do not hear [political parties] talking about that,” he said. “We are presenting one path to that [development]. We believe MDP’s policies will bring prosperity to the people. I do not see this third way you referred to as ‘a way.’ I see it as two men with no other way. That is not a political philosophy,” he said.


President Waheed slams efforts to boycott Maldives tourism over nation’s “shortcomings”

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has criticised unspecified groups that are calling for a boycott of the Maldives’ tourism industry, expressing concern that it is the largest source of income for the nation.

According to the President’s Office website, his comments were made during a visit to the island of Neykurendhoo as part of a wider tour of  South Thiladhummathi Atoll ahead of elections scheduled for September this year.

The president raised the concern on the back of over two million people signing a petition on the Avaaz website pledging to target the Maldives’ lucrative tourism industry in order to pressure authorities to drop the charges against a 15 year-old convicted of fornication, and to pursue wider legal reforms to prevent similar cases.

Minivan News understands that officials from Avaaz had visited the Maldives last week to meet with government officials and research the case.

Meanwhile, NGO Amnesty International last month raised concerns that minor’s handling by authorities was the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the country’s treatment of victims of sexual offences

President Waheed told islanders on Neykurendhoo yesterday (May 3) that he didn’t believe “defaming” a country was the best way to ensure development of a nation, while also condemning the “efforts of a minority of people attempting to create animosity and hatred between families and societies”.

The president added that no matter how well developed any country was, all nations faced political and social problems that needed to be addressed, he therefore criticised any attempts to use such “shortcomings” as a means to back a boycott campaign.

President Waheed also used the visit to lay the foundation stone of the Neykurendhoo Friday Mosque on the island, while also promising wider infrastructural development to provide improved sewerage and water systems expected to be established in the near future.

The new mosque is being built with the assistance of Saudia Arabia, according to the President’s Office.


JP MP Jabir raises Maldives investment fears over lack of resolution in GMR dispute

Jumhoree Party (JP) Deputy Leader Abdulla Jabir has criticised attempts to “politicise” the dispute between the government and India-based GMR over an agreement to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) – fearing a negative impact on foreign investment.

The claims were made as the government-aligned Adhaalath Party (AP), which promotes religiously conservative values in the country, has continued to call on fellow coalition partners including the JP to take part in a series of “events” in the capital to protest against GMR’s development of the airport.

Speaking to Minivan News, Jabir, who is also a serving MP, highlighted the importance of maintaining an “investor friendly” atmosphere in the Maldives despite calls by some of the JP’s government coalition partners to re-nationalise the airport.

The MP said he instead advocated for sitting down and trying to find a compromise between the government and GMR, which is contracted to develop and run the airport for 25 years.

The dispute has centred, in part, over concerns like a disputed US$25 Airport Development Charge (ADC) that was to be levied on each passenger travelling through the site. GMR has maintained the the charge was contractually agreed, but later offered to exclude Maldivian nationals from paying it after the matter was contested in the country’s courts.

With the dispute unresolved, Jabir said he had sent a request to the Public Accounts Committee of the People’s Majlis for a review of the contract signed between GMR and the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed to “better understand” the agreement.

Several former opposition parties now serving in the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan have continued to raise allegations of possible corruption behind GMR’s bid to develop INIA – allegations refuted by the company and the former government.

Jabir maintained that discussion and analysis, rather than politicised rhetoric in the media and at public events, would be required to move forward with the issue in a manner that did not damage future investment opportunities.

“We need an investor friendly environment here. Politicians should be here to resolve issues not complicate them further,” he said. “Any allegations of misconduct should be investigated, but we should be able to sit down and discuss a resolution. Yet many people do not know about or even understand the deal that has been signed.”

Jabir claimed that the GMR contract should therefore be viewed as a business issue rather than a political problem, something that he claimed would require greater parliamentary understanding of the agreement signed by the former government.

Under the terms of the agreement – a US$511 million deal that represents the largest ever case of foreign investment in the Maldives – GMR agreed to a 25 year concession agreement to develop and manage the site, as well as to overhaul the existing terminal by the end of this year.

The document was overseen by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on private sector projects in developing countries.

However, the Maldives government earlier this month accused the IFC of negligence during the bidding process for INIA – allegations there were rejected by the organisation.

Both the government and GMR are presently involved in an arbitration case in Singapore over the airport development.

Coalition response

The coalition parties making up the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan have at times appeared divided over how to proceed in regards to GMR the contract.  Some parties like the Adhaalath Party have advocated to gather in Male’ as part of a rally next month calling for the airport to be “returned” to the Maldivian people.

Speaking to local media earlier this month, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla said that a ‘mass national gathering’ would be held at Male’s artificial beach area on November 3 at 4:00pm to coincide with Victory Day.  Victory Day is held in remembrance of a failed coup attempt that was thwarted in 1988.

Sheikh Imran told the Sun Online news service that the gathering was devised as part of ongoing attempts to try and “reclaim” the airport from GMR.  Imran was not responding to calls from Minivans News at the time of press.

Minivan News was also awaiting a response from Abdulla Ameen, Secretary General of the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) at the time of press concerning its response to the proposed gathering.  The DQP had previously published a 24-page book claiming that the former government’s lease of INIA to GMR was a threat to local industry that would serve to “enslave the nation and its economy”.

Meanwhile, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) claimed last month that while it held issues with the overall benefit to the Maldives from the GMR deal, “due process” had to be followed through proper legal channels in order to establish if any wrong doing had occurred with the airport contract.

Parliament review

JP Deputy Leader Jabir himself this week criticised certain high-profile political figures in the country over their response to the GMR contract.  He accused some of these figures of not “knowing what they are talking about” in regards to the deal, highlighting the need for a review of the agreement within the Public Accounts Committee.

Jabir was particularly critical of the Adhaalath Party’s response towards the GMR issue, which he claimed had complicated finding a resolution.

“Sometimes they are religious experts, sometimes they are financial experts. But everyone loves Islam here. Right now, foreign investors are finding it difficult to understand the climate here. This is not a perfect time for this issue to be happening with GMR,” he said. “I think these protests [against GMR] are unrealistic.”

Jabir claimed that from his experience as both a parliamentarian and business owner in the country, there was “no such thing” as a deal that cannot be renegotiated.

“However, if there is no talking then the country is only losing money whilst people take to the streets,” he added.

Earlier this month, INIA CEO Andrew Harrison told Indian media that the company had received no official word from the Maldivian government concerning a resolution to the dispute.

Yet despite MP Jabir’s concerns about the potential impacts the ongoing dispute over the airport development might have on future foreign investment, one national trade body recently played down fears that GMR’s case was proving to be economically detrimental to the Maldives.

The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) claimed last month that legal wrangling between the government and GMR over the multi-million dollar airport development was not adversely harming confidence in the country’s “challenging” investment climate.

MNCCI Vice President Ishmael Asif contended that ongoing legal disputes linked to both the GMR agreement and another high-profile contract to manage a border control system with Malaysia-based Nexbis were not among concerns foreign investors had raised with the chamber.

“GMR has nothing to do with the investment climate here, at the end of the day it is a personal concern for the company and more a matter of local politics,” he claimed.


Judge Abdulla’s human rights violated, no physical abuse: HRCM

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has told local media that while Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed had “not been subject to any form of physical abuse“ during his controversial 22 day detention, attempts had been made to violate his fundamental human rights.

Haveeru today reported that HRCM President Mariyam Azra had said that its investigation had uncovered evidence that the judge, who was detained during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed over allegations that he posed a threat to national security, had faced attempts to remove him from his post and send him abroad.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who had been in government during the time of Judge Abdulla’s detention, today raised concerns over what it claimed was the “complicit irresponsibility” of the HRCM – a body it alleged was biased towards the political interests of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Local media reports today claimed that HRCM President Azra had opted against giving the names of those involved in the alleged abuse of the judge’s human rights.  HRCM also declined to give any other details at present that could influence any potential trials after charges were filed against Nasheed and several senior figures in the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) this week.

Azra was not responding to calls when contacted by Minivan News at time of press.

The HRCM used today’s press briefing to publicise its concerns that “efforts” had been made to “coerce” the judge to commit unspecified actions that would have contravened his human rights.

“Serious concerns”

Responding to the press briefing, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – of which Nasheed is the current presidential candidate – said it held “serious concerns” in the selective nature of the HRCM’s investigations.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor today alleged that the HRCM’s investigation had now formed the basis of criminal charges filed against Nasheed.  The case was today returned to the Prosecutor General’s (PG’s) Office after the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court said it did not presently have jurisdiction to hear such a case.

In March, the Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz told Minivan News that the completion of the Nasheed cases was being delayed whilst police reviewed certain aspects of the investigation.

Ghafoor claimed that the decision to move ahead with the charges this week raised questions about allegations of political influence on the HRCM and the information it made available to the PG’s Office.

“I believe there is a very strong link between the HRCM holding this media briefing today and Islamist factions linked to [former President] Gayoom,” he added. “This week this faction has been very active in lobbying the HRCM, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and even the president himself.”

Just last month, Deputy leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer has expressed his confidence that the Prosecutor General’s (PG) investigation into charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed will see his imprisonment before the scheduled elections in July 2013.

“We will make sure that the Maldivian state does this. We will not let him go; the leader who unlawfully ordered the police and military to kidnap a judge and detain him for 22 days will be brought to justice,” local paper Haveeru reported Naseer as having said.

The PPM was formed by former President Gayoom, who also serves as head of the party.

HRCM investigation

Former President Nasheed became the first Maldivian president to be summoned before the HRCM in March this year in connection to his alleged role in the controversial detention of Judge Abdulla.

Nasheed had been requested to attend a HRCM hearing filed to try and understand who was responsible for taking the decision to arrest the judge. The former president attributed the initial arrest call to his Defence Ministry, on the grounds of “protecting” national security relating to alleged ethical concerns about the judge.

The summons of the former president was the first of three cases filed at the HRCM involving Nasheed. These cases all relate to potential human rights abuses allegedly carried out both by and against Nasheed during the lead up and aftermath of a controversial transfer of power that saw President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan installed as his successor.

Representatives of Nasheed’s legal counsel at the time claimed Nasheed has used his testimony to claim that he had been informed by the Home Ministry that the judge had allegedly posed a “national threat” – prompting his eventual detention.

The MDP MP added that Nasheed then claimed that the Home Ministry had communicated with the Defence Ministry on the situation, which in turn led to the decision to arrest the judge after bodies like the Judicial Service Commission has raised alleged concerns over his ethical conduct.

“I was told Abdulla Mohamed would not comply with the police’s summons to investigate allegations [against him],” Nasheed later stated at a press conference following the meeting with the HRCM.

“The Home Minister wrote to the Defense Minister that Abdulla Mohamed’s presence in the courts was a threat to national security. And to take necessary steps. And that step, the isolation of Abdulla Mohamed, was what the [Defense] Ministry deemed necessary.”

Nasheed claimed additionally that he had sent representatives to Girifushi to check on Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s well-being during his detention, alongside allowing the HRCM to visit the judge.

The MDP has also alleged that the decision to arrest the judge was related to a number of possible misdemeanour’s that had been attributed to him dating back several years.

In November, the national court watchdog, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), was ordered to cease an investigation into Judge Abdulla Mohamed by the Civil Court under an action the judge himself instigated.

MDP spokesperson and MP  Imthiyaz Fahmy contended following Nasheed’s first HRCM summons on March 21 that it was ironic that a leader he claimed who had openly discouraged the use of torture and actively campaigned against human rights abuses, had become the country’s first former leader to have been called in front of the HRCM.


Deadlock deepens as Supreme Court grants government injunction over ministerial reappointments

Parliament has deadlocked after the Supreme Court granted the government a temporary injunction last night, blocking the endorsing of cabinet ministers until a ruling on the process can be issued.

The injunction derailed parliament on Tuesday morning, after opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs raised points of order claiming that the sittings could not continue until the cabinet appointments were resolved.

The sitting was called off this morning by Speaker Abdulla Shahid.

In June this year, the entire cabinet of the Maldives resigned in protest against “scorched earth politics” of the opposition-majority parliament, leaving only President Mohamed Nasheed and Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan in charge of the country.

The cabinet ministers complained that parliament was blocking them from performing their constitutional duties, leading to protests and deadlock.

Nasheed reappointed the ministers several weeks later, however parliament has yet to formally endorse their appointments due to a disagreement between the government and the opposition and over whether ministers will be endorsed individually or collectively.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that endorsing ministers individually would amount to a series of no-confidence motions.

Last week there were unconfirmed reports that the DRP has a list of six members of the 14 member cabinet that it does not intend to approve.

“There is already a process in place for a no-confidence motion when a minister is deemed untrustworthy,” Zuhair said, arguing that individual appointments would bypass this procedure and allow the opposition to use its “brute-force parliamentary majority” to pick off ministers who had displeased it.

Parliament’s endorsement of cabinet was intended “to be ceremonial”, he stated.

“There is precedent. When the laws were being enacted by the Special Majlis drafting the current constitution, if you look at the debate, [former] Attorney General Husnu Suood proposes two ways of approving ministers, both of which are defeated in favour of asking for approval collectively.”

Writing in his personal blog, Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed, former legal reform minister, characterised the government’s appeal to the Supreme Court as “very harsh” and “pointless”.

The Attorney General’s (AG’s) office has contested the constitutionality of article 171(i) of the parliamentary rules of procedure, which states that presidential nominees must be questioned by a parliamentary committee to determine qualification, educational background and competence.

However, as ministers refused to appear before committee and the issue has now been proposed to the parliament floor, MP Nasheed argues that the Supreme Court ruling would not have any bearing on the matter.

“At most, wouldn’t the Supreme Court rule that article 171(i) is null and void?” he writes. “The Supreme Court would not instruct Majlis how to proceed with the approval issue. Wouldn’t that be determined by the Majlis?”

Article 98(a) of the constitution requires cabinet ministers to attend proceedings of parliament when requested, answer any questions put to them by parliament, and produce relevant documentation.

However the government has been reluctant to allow ministers to attend committee meetings ever since the head of the national security committee, leader of DRP coalition partner the People’s Alliance MP Abdulla Yameen, was released from detention pending an investigation into charges of treason and bribery.

Upon release, the committee promptly summoned the Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh and Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel for questioning in committee hearing, outraging many MDP MPs.

In August, the cabinet approved new regulations limiting ministers’ interactions with parliament to the chamber itself, and then only with 14 days prior notice.

DRP Deputy Leader and MP Ali Waheed claimed the approved procedures were “against the spirit of the constitution” and would be void.

‘’Actually, parliament has yet to approve a cabinet. When a cabinet is established we will summon them to committee meetings as well – ministers must appear before committees in the interest of the people – the constitution is very clear. Without doubt these new procedures are void – nobody can narrow the summoning of cabinet ministers to parliament.’’

Writing on his website, leader of the opposition DRP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said that the failure of ministers to attend committee meetings meant that “parliament is unable to effectively provide the checks and balances necessary for the system to work democratically and ensure that the executive branch is accountable for the exercise of its powers.”

On many occasions, “repeated calls from the parliament to these officials have gone unanswered,” Thasmeen said.

“In a democracy, it is through effective oversight that the parliament can ensure a balance of power and assert its role as the defender of the people’s interests. The government’s action is disrupting the functioning of the parliament.”

Zuhair today claimed that the government’s interpretation of the law was that ministers could only be summoned and questioned on the floor of parliament “before all members.”

“Nowhere does it say ministers must attend committee meetings, unless the whole house is a committee,” Zuhair said. “[The opposition] points to another clause that requires any Maldivian citizen to attend summons to respond to questions in committee hearings, but cabinet ministers do not attend in their capacity as private individuals.”

Meanwhile at yesterday’s sitting, DRP MP Mohamed Mujthaz proposed a resolution to seek the Supreme Court’s legal counsel on the refusal of the Chief of Defence Forces and the Commissioner of Police to appear before the national security committee.

Mujthaz proposed the resolution during a debate on a report by the committee, which was presented to the Majlis floor by the committee chair, DRP Deputy Leader Ali Waheed.

The report states that the committee has been unable to conduct any inquiries due to the refusal of the security chiefs to appear before the committee.

Both officials have argued that the committee should summon either the Defence Minister or Home Minister, as the army and police answer to the cabinet.

Hulhu-Henveiru MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, MDP parliamentary group leader, accused opposition MPs of attempting to summon the police and army chiefs for politically-motivated reasons.

He added that the report did not specify which issue of national importance had been left unattended by the committee due to the refusal of the chiefs to appear.

Referring to the practice in the United States, Yameen said that senior pentagon officials were routinely summoned before senate committees.


Police recover Rf500,000 stolen from Galaxy Enterprises

The Maldives Police Service has recovered more than Rf500,000 (US$39,000) suspected stolen from Galaxy Enterprises, report police.

Police said two men were arrested with the money, believed to have been stolen from Galaxy Enterprises. Police said they discovered money, bank cheques and a destroyed safe near where the men were arrested.

The police property and commercial crime department is investigating the case.


Maldivian art displayed in UK

The first Maldivian art exhibition has been held in the UK.

According to Miadhu, the exhibition titled ‘A piece of darkness’ was held by the high commission of the Maldives in UK in collaboration with the Royal Commonwealth Society.

The exhibition which has been running since 15 December, was formally innaugrated by Lord Bilimoria, reports Miadhu.

The exhibition is set to run till the end of January, and is being held at the Royal Commonwealth Society.