MP Nasheed to draft regulations for SEZ investment board

The investment board created under the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act has tasked ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed with providing legal advice and drafting regulations.

Local media reported last week that the Kulhudhufushi South MP was appointed for the task with unanimous consent of the investment board members at its first meeting on Thursday (September 18).

Nasheed – who was also involved in drafting the legislation – reportedly agreed to draft the regulations free of charge.

Earlier this month, President Abdulla Yameen appointed Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb chairman of the board of investment.

The five-member board is authorised to grant approval for applications by developers to establish a zone, issue permits and investment licenses, and formulate rules and policies for the operation of SEZs.

Additionally, the board would monitor and review progress of investments, assess risk damage and liability, determine rates of fees and charges, and sign investment agreements between the government and developers.

The board would be assisted by a 17-member technical committee comprised of government officials as well as representatives from the private sector.


Foreign investments pose no threat to Islam or sovereignty, insists President Yameen

Foreign investments pose no threat to either Islam or Maldivian independence and sovereignty, President Abdulla Yameen said last night, assuring that the creation of special economic zones (SEZs) was no cause for concern.

“It does not mean casinos will be operated in the Maldives, and it does not mean the president would have more power than he should,” Yameen said in a speech at a function held by the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) to celebrate its fourth anniversary.

Yameen insisted that foreign investments would be fully subject to Maldivian law while sovereignty would extend to the SEZs.

The government’s flagship SEZ legislation – which envisions free trade zones with relaxed regulations and tax incentives – has come under fire from the opposition with former President Mohamed Nasheed contending that the zones would be used for criminal enterprises, “irreligious” activities such as gambling, and money laundering.

The opposition leader had dubbed the legislation the ‘Artur Brothers bill’, referring to an infamous pair of Armenians linked with money laundering and drug trafficking who made headlines last year after they were photographed with cabinet ministers.

Nasheed had also argued that the government would have less authority in the SEZs than the authority it exercised in Addu Atoll Gan Island during British occupation.


Yameen and GasimBriefing MPs on parliament’s economic affairs committee yesterday – which is reviewing the SEZ bill – MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed reportedly sought to allay fears that SEZs would facilitate corruption.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP – who was involved in drafting the legislation – explained that the bill includes mechanisms to prevent corruption and take legal action in accordance with the UN  International Convention against Corruption.

Provisions were included for terminating agreements with investors if an act of corruption is proved, he added.

Nasheed also suggested that other issues such as a ceiling for investments and extending incentives to developers in addition to investors could be addressed at the committee stage.

Speaking at the committee, Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim expressed concern with the legislation conferring excessive authority to the president, which he warned could be used to favour or “destroy” businesses.

The absence of a ceiling limit for investments was a threat to existing enterprises, Gasim argued, as the president could “take some dollars and create economic zones to enrich three or four people.”

The business tycoon, however, said he supports passing the bill with revisions.

MP Ahmed Siyam Mohamed – owner of the ‘Sun Siyam Resorts’ and leader of the government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance – urged expediting the passage of the bill as an SEZ law would allow “stalled investments” to resume.

Foreign banks were not lending for investments in the country at present, Siyam said, but development banks would be established along with the SEZs.

The economic committee’s chair said last week that he expects the review process to be completed before the end of the month, after which the bill would be sent to the Majlis floor for a vote. 

New frontiers

Yameen meanwhile said last night that the Maldives should emerge from its “small crab hole” into the wider world.

The government’s efforts to generate income to create job opportunities and provide education and healthcare was “not a big ask,” he said.

The country should have the courage and capacity to forge ahead, he added, and “face new things.”

The government’s efforts were geared towards “economic transformation” through diversification and fostering a “business-friendly environment” for both domestic and foreign entrepreneurs.

While increasing tourist arrivals was “natural economic growth,” Yameen explained that the objective was to “transform” the economy from the present “production frontier” to a higher level.

The “main beneficiary” from economic diversification and ‘mega projects’ would be the state, Yameen added, as tax revenue would increase and job opportunities would be created.

The Ibrahim Nasir International Airport currently caters for about 1.5 million passengers, he continued, but the government’s target was developing the airport to serve “five to seven million passengers.”

Implementation of the mega projects – such as the ‘iHavan’ transhipment port – would “transform the economic landscape,” Yameen suggested.

The government was also reviewing framework agreements for “avoidance of double taxation” to ensure that “corporate leaders” from neighbouring countries with investments in the Maldives are not taxed twice, Yameen revealed.

While the government’s focus was on the economy instead of partisan politics, Yameen stressed that political stability and a low crime rate were among the “basic ingredients” for economic transformation.

Reiterating the government’s focus on youth development, Yameen said the Maldives needed to move away from a culture of “criminalisation” of trivial offences to encouraging youth and “giving them conviction” and employment opportunities.

The younger generation was “the energy of the economy,” he added.

In a speech earlier this month, Yameen point to the country’s “motivated”, “highly intelligent” and “easily trainable” youth as a key resource for economic growth.


MPs debate legislation on public referendums

Preliminary debate began at today’s sitting of parliament on legislation submitted by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Khaleel on legislation governing public referendums.

Presenting the bill (Dhivehi) on behalf of the government, the MP for Faafu Nilandhoo said the proposed law would specify circumstances whereby public referendums could be held as well as procedures to be followed by the Elections Commission (EC) in conducting polls.

Khaleel explained that the legislation stipulates that a public referendum must be held before approving an amendment either to chapter two of the constitution, which outlines fundamental rights and freedoms, or term limits of parliamentarians and the president and vice president.

The constitution authorises both the president and parliament to “hold public referendums on issues of national importance.” Parliament is also authorised to call for public referendums to override a presidential veto on a bill.

The bill defines matters of national importance as issues that parliament believes requires public approval before enactment as law, Khaleel noted.

The bill stipulates that parliament shall pass a resolution calling for a public referendum and provides details on how to conduct the poll, he continued, adding that the public must be informed of the pros and cons of the issue prior to voting.

The first public referendum following the adoption of the new constitution in August 2008 took place in October 2010, which saw small islands overwhelmingly reject a government proposal for administrative consolidation.

The bill on public referendums along with the special economic zones (SEZs) bill was accepted for consideration today and sent to committee for further review.

The SEZ bill was accepted with 46 votes in favour and 16 against.


Independent Institutions Committee votes to replace Fahmy in CSC

Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee voted yesterday to replace Mohamed Fahmy Hassan at the Civil Service Commission (CSC) following Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling reversing parliament’s removal of the CSC chair over allegations of sexual harassment.

The proposal to appoint a replacement for Fahmy by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer was passed with five votes in favour and none against.

Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed attempted to disrupt the committee meeting on Monday afternoon and did not participate in the vote. Other government-aligned MPs did not attend the meeting.

Riyaz contended that yesterday’s meeting was called in violation of parliamentary rules of procedure and insisted at length that parliament could not challenge Supreme Court rulings.

Monday’s sitting of parliament was meanwhile called off after MDP MPs objected to the Supreme Court ruling on the grounds that the apex court overstepped its constitutional authority.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor stated that the MDP did not believe Fahmy should hold his position in the CSC, accusing him of  having  an “issue of integrity”.

“The committee decided today that he [Fahmy] should go and we should continue looking for another person.

“Effectively we are ignoring the Supreme Court’s decision. The MDP will continue to raise this issue in parliament, it is a policy and it is legally non-negotiable. We cannot compromise on that.”

The sitting was first adjourned at 10:00am when MDP MPs raised points of order after Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim announced the Supreme Court’s decision.

In regard to the morning announcement, Ghafoor said Nazim did not make the “right call” when informing parliament of the court’s decision.

“He [Nazim] informed us of the three issues to do with the Supreme Court in a language that essentially showed an acceptance of those verdicts. We didn’t like this,” he said.

After the sitting resumed at 1:00pm, Nazim announced the cancellation as the issue was to be taken up at a meeting of the Independent Institutions Committee.

On November 20, 2012, parliament dismissed Fahmy in a 38-32 vote after the Independent Institutions Committee looked into a complaint of sexual harassment by a female employee of the CSC.

Fahmy however contested the dismissal at the Supreme Court, which ruled 6-1 on Thursday night that his removal was unconstitutional. The majority opinion contended that the Independent Institutions Committee violated due process and criminal justice procedures in its inquiry.

The majority opinion held that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was convicted at court following his dismissal by parliament (double jeopardy). The CSC chief returned to work on Sunday.

“Fundamental, revolutionary change”

Writing in his personal blog following the Supreme Court judgment, MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed – chair of the Independent Institutions Committee – argued that the Supreme Court judgment established a legal precedent that would bring “a fundamental, revolutionary change” to employment termination.

On the Supreme Court’s argument that Fahmy was accused of committing a criminal offence, Nasheed noted that sexual harassment at the workplace was not specified as a crime in Maldivian law. Legislation on sexual harassment is however currently before parliament.

In the absence of a law prohibiting the offence, Nasheed wrote, a person could not be prosecuted for sexual harassment.

Fahmy’s dismissal by parliament was therefore a disciplinary action taken by the institution with oversight powers over the CSC, Nasheed explained.

Under article 187(a) of the constitution, a member of the CSC can be removed “on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.”

Article 187(b) states, “a finding to that effect by a committee of the People’s Majlis pursuant to article (a), and upon the approval of such finding by the People’s Majlis by a majority of those present and voting, calling for the member’s removal from office, such member shall be deemed removed from office.”

As the process to be followed by parliament was clearly specified in the constitution and parliamentary rules of procedure, Nasheed argued that the Supreme Court could not require parliament to adhere to “new conditions and new procedures”.

“While parliament has the power to remove members of the Civil Service Commission and the process to exercise that power is specified in the constitution, the problem that has risen is that the [Supreme Court] has determined that Majlis cannot use that power even in accordance with the procedure laid out in the constitution and law,” Nasheed wrote.

Nasheed further argued that parliament’s removal of former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem in March 2010 has now been thrown into question in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. Naeem was dismissed after the Finance Committee investigated allegations that he used an office credit card for personal benefit.

The ruling has also raised doubts over the legal status of current Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, Nasheed wrote.

Nasheed also criticised the Supreme Court’s interpretation of “double jeopardy” in Fahmy’s case. According to the Supreme Court ruling, a person could not be removed from his or her post as a disciplinary action unless he or she was convicted of a crime.

If an employee is accused of a criminal offence, he added, employers would no longer have the right to fire the accused before he or she was found guilty.

“If that is the case, questions have been raised over the dismissal of all police officers, army officer, civil servants and employees of other institutions over cases of misconduct or breach of ethical rules that involves allegations of a criminal offence,” Nasheed explained.

Double jeopardy does not preclude civil, disciplinary or administrative action before or after criminal prosecution, he added.

However, Nasheed argued, the Supreme Court ruling has effectively prohibited employment termination as a disciplinary action as the judgment considered such action “a punishment.”

As a result of the legal precedent established by the Supreme Court, Nasheed wrote, it was “very likely” that most people dismissed from their posts since the adoption of the new constitution in August 2008 would have to be reinstated.

“That is, considering their cases individually, it is certain that no state institution would have adhered to the standard set in this Supreme Court judgment. The standards are that high,” he explained.

Nasheed however stressed at the beginning of his post that he was obliged to accept the Supreme Court ruling as it was the highest court of appeal.


Supreme Court rules secret ballot, dismissal of CSC chair unconstitutional

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that contested decisions by parliament to remove Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan and conduct no-confidence votes through secret ballot are unconstitutional.

On December 3, 2012, parliament voted 41-34 to approve amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach the President and remove cabinet members through secret ballot. The house rules were changed with pending no-confidence motions against President Dr Mohamed Waheed and Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed submitted by the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

In late November, parliament dismissed Fahmy in a 38-32 vote after the Independent Institutions Committee investigated a complaint of sexual harassment by a female employee of the CSC.

Both moves were challenged at the Supreme Court, which issued injunctions or stay orders to parliament to halt both conducting no-confidence votes through secret ballot and appointing a replacement to the CSC, pending rulings on the legality of the decisions.

In its judgment (Dhivehi) on the constitutionality of secret ballots for no-confidence votes, the Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to strike down the amendment to parliament’s standing orders as unconstitutional. The majority opinion contended that the move contravened article 85 of the constitution as well as parliamentary principles and norms of free and democratic societies.

Article 85 stipulates that meetings of the People’s Majlis and its committees must be open to the public.

In the second judgment (Dhivehi) on Thursday night, the Supreme Court noted that Fahmy was alleged to have committed a criminal offence and contended that the Independent Institutions Committee violated due process and principles of criminal justice procedure in dealing with the accused.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was convicted at court following his dismissal by parliament (double jeopardy). Following the judgment, Fahmy would be reinstated and compensated for lost wages since December 2012.

Delivering the judgment, Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Saeed reportedly said that a person should be considered innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law and was entitled to protect his reputation and dignity.

Dissenting opinion

Meanwhile, Justice Ahmed Muthasim Adnan – the only Supreme Court justice with a background in common law – issued dissenting opinions in both cases.

On the constitutionality of the secret ballot, Justice Adnan noted that article 101(f) of the constitution states that “the regulations governing the functioning of the People’s Majlis shall specify the principles and procedures concerning a resolution to remove the President or Vice President from office as provided in this Constitution.”

Unless a clause added to the regulation was explicitly in violation of the constitution, Justice Adnan said that he believed it “could not be challenged in any court in the Maldives.”

He further noted that while article 85 of the constitution requires parliamentary proceedings to be open to the public, 85(b) states that a majority of MPs present and voting could decide to exclude the public or press “if there is a compelling need to do so in the interest of public order or national security.”

Moreover, article 85(c) states, “Article (b) does not prevent the People’s Majlis from specifying additional reasons for excluding the public from all or any part of a committee meeting of the People’s Majlis.”

He added that the secret ballot would be taken at a sitting open to the public.

In the case submitted by Fahmy contesting his dismissal, Justice Adnan’s dissenting opinion noted that article 187(a) of the constitution authorised parliament to remove members of the CSC “on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.”

Article 187(b) meanwhile states, “a finding to that effect by a committee of the People’s Majlis pursuant to article (a), and upon the approval of such finding by the People’s Majlis by a majority of those present and voting, calling for the member’s removal from office, such member shall be deemed removed from office.”

Justice Adnan argued that an inquiry by a parliamentary committee into alleged misconduct would not be a criminal investigation. Therefore, he added, the oversight committee would not be required to prove guilt to the extent required at trial before making a decision.

He further noted that parliament’s dismissal under the authority of article 187 and a possible conviction at a late date could not be considered meting out two punishments for the same offence.

Separation of powers

Following the injunctions issued by the Supreme Court in December 2012, MDP MP Eva Abdulla told Minivan News that the supremacy of parliament was at stake in the cases before the apex court.

“By its actions, the Supreme Court is challenging the separation of powers that underpins the constitutional basis of governance,” Eva said.

Meanwhile, Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, contended in his blog on December 12 that the Supreme Court did not have the legal or constitutional authority to issue the injunctive orders against parliament.

Moreover, the Supreme Court “does not have the power to even accept those cases,” he wrote.

Article 88(b) of the constitution states: “Unless otherwise specified in this constitution, the validity of any proceedings in the People’s Majlis shall not be questioned in any court of law.”

Nasheed argued that decisions made by parliament could not be challenged in court except in instances clearly specified in the constitution, which did not include dismissal of members of independent institutions and amendments to Majlis regulations.

The purpose of article 88 was to prevent parliament’s decisions being challenged or overturned, Nasheed said, as in the absence of such a clause the Supreme Court would become a “People’s Appeal Majlis” with supremacy over the house of elected representatives.

“If every decision of the People’s Majlis is appealed at the Supreme Court in the manner that any judgement by the High Court can be appealed at the Supreme Court, then there is no difference between the People’s Majlis and the High Court,” Nasheed wrote.

This was against the separation of powers envisioned in the constitution, Nasheed said, which vested legislative powers in parliament and clearly specified instances where its decisions could be challenged at court.

Former legal reform minister Nasheed is chair of the Independent Institutions Committee. Asked by the Supreme Court to hand over minutes of the committee inquiry, Nasheed had refused.


Political parties bill passed with 10,000 member prerequisite

Parliament today passed the long-awaited political parties bill with a clause requiring a minimum of 10,000 members for registration.

Upon ratification, the bill will provide a three month period for any political party with fewer than 10,000 members to reach the required amount or face being dissolved.

The legislation was passed with 64 votes in favour and four against.

Article 11 of the bill states that at least 10,000 signatures would be needed to register a party at the Elections Commission (EC), which would be mandated to ensure that membership does not fall below the figure.

Parties unable to sign 10,000 members would be dissolved.

An amendment proposed by MP Ibrahim Muttalib to lower the figure to 5,000 was defeated 59-6 at today’s sitting of parliament.

Of the 16 parties currently in existence, only three have more than 10,000 registered members, including the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) as well as the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

According to the latest figures from the EC, the MDP currently has 47,192 members, DRP has 25,190 members and PPM has 17,900 members.

Business magnate MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party (JP) has 8,931 members with 5,149 pending membership forms.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) has 5,708 members, down from over 6,000 in February this year.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP) has 3,427 members while the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) led by Dr Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed has 2,125 members.

Meanwhile, the legislation passed today also stipulates that the Male’ City Council (MCC) must provide a 1,000 square feet plot in the capital for parties with membership exceeding 20,000.  The plot would be used as an administrative office or meeting hall, for which the party would be required to pay rent.

Political parties were first authorised in the Maldives in May 2005 following an executive decree by then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Prior to the passage of the landmark legislation today, political parties were governed by a regulation.

The regulation required 3,000 members for registration and did not stipulate that parties whose membership falls below the figure would be dissolved.

In March, EC Chair Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News that these regulations were “vague” as parties were not required to maintain 3,000 members.

The review of the political parties bill (Dhivehi) was meanwhile completed by the Independent Institutions Committee on December 10. Following a preliminary debate, it was sent to the committee on April 19, 2010.

Writing in his personal blog (Dhivehi) in October, the committee’s chair MP Nasheed revealed that “a clear majority” voted in favour of requiring parties to gain 5000 members before it can be officially registered, and 10,000 members before becoming eligible for state funds.

At the time, Nasheed expressed confidence that the committee’s decision would not be overturned on the Majlis floor when the bill was put up for a vote. He noted that the clauses for membership numbers were backed by the main political parties in parliament.

“When the law is passed, the current registered parties with less than 5,000 members would be given a six month period to reach the figure. If a party fails to reach that figure by the end of the period, the particular party would be dissolved,” Nasheed explained.

The minimum number of membership was later raised to 10,000 and the period shortened to three months before the draft legislation was presented to the Majlis floor for today’s vote.


Parliament passes bill on state wage policy to create Pay Commission

Parliament yesterday passed a bill on the state wage policy to create a National Pay Commission tasked with determining salaries and allowances for the public sector.

The wage policy legislation was passed with 46 votes in favour, two against and two absentions. The bill was submitted by Independent MP for Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed and sent to committee for further review on March 30, 2011.

If ratified, a five-member National Pay Commission will be instituted within 60 days with part-time members appointed by the president for a five-year term.

The commission would be chaired by the Finance Minister and would determine salaries and allowances for state employees and authorise pay raises.

The commission would also formulate standards and rules for determining the state’s pay scale or appropriate salaries based on qualifications and nature of employment.

The bill stipulates that the commission must consider the cost of living, inflation and the consumer price index in determining wages.

Moreover, salaries should incentivise government employees to work in islands with small populations.

The commission would also have to consider the state’s resources, public debt and social justice in approving salaries and allowances.

Once the law comes into force, articles in the Human Rights Commission Act, Civil Service Commission Act, Defence Forces Act, Police Act, Elections Commission Act, Prosecutor General’s Act, Anti-Corruption Commission Act, Judicial Service Commission Act, Broadcasting Act, Customs Act and the Civil Aviation Authority Act that allows the institutions to determine wages for officials and staff would be abolished.

IMF recommendation

At a press conference held upon conclusion of a visit by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission last month, head of the mission Koshy Mathai stressed the importance of instituting a Pay Commission to streamline the pay structure for government employees.

“We have a lot of independent institutions in this country and they are all on different pay scales,” he observed.

“There’s no harmonisation within the public service. There are radically different pay scales. And that has problems in terms of incentivising staff to belong to one institution versus the other. And it also implies a lot of cost for the government. So establishing a Pay Commission that can set up a rational system of compensation for the entire public service seems like a priority.”

According to a report by the World Bank in May 2010 which identified the dramatic growth of the public sector wage bill as the origin of the Maldives’ ongoing fiscal imbalances, increases to the salaries and allowances of government employees between 2006 and 2008 reached 66 percent, which was “by far the highest increase in compensation over a three year period to government employees of any country in the world.”

“Between 2004 and 2009, the average monthly salary of a government sector worker increased from MVR 3,223 (US$250) to MVR 11, 136 (US$866),” explained a UNDP paper on achieving debt sustainability in the Maldives published in December 2010.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom responded to growing calls for democratisation with “a substantial fiscal stimulus programme” of increased government spending, “much of which was not related to post-tsunami reconstruction efforts.”

“This strategy led to a large increase in the number of civil servants from around 26,000 in 2004 to around 34,000 by 2008 or 11 percent of the total population. Thus the government simultaneously increased the number of public sector workers as well as their salaries,” the paper noted.

Consequently, recurrent expenditure – wage bill and administrative costs – exceeded 82 percent of total government spending in 2010.

However, the new government’s efforts to enforce pay cuts of up to 20 percent and downsize the civil service – which employs a third of the country’s workforce – were met with “a severe political backlash from parliament,” the UNDP paper observed.

Recurrent expenditure

Presenting the 2013 budget to parliament earlier this month, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad noted that of the proposed MVR 16.9 billion (US$1 billion) of government spending, more than 70 percent was recurrent expenditure.

“As in other years, the highest portion of recurrent expenditure is expenditure on [salaries and allowances for government] employees,” Jihad explained. “That is 48 percent of total recurrent expenditure.”

During the budget debate in parliament, Majority Leader MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ criticised Finance Minister Jihad for failing to mention budgeted salary increases for military and police officers as well as plans to hire 800 new officers for the security services.

Combined with the transfer of about 5,400 employees in the health sector to the civil service, Ibu explained that the wage bill would shoot up by 37 percent.

Echoing the concerns of the parliamentary group leader, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla revealed that MVR 6 million (US$ 389105) was added to the budget of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) following the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7.

Since the MDP government was ousted in the wake of a police mutiny on February 7, Eva said that the police and army have hired 250 and 350 new staff respectively.

Consequently, the institutions spent more than MVR 75 million (US$4.8 million) in addition to the approved budgets for 2012, she claimed.

The proposed budget of MVR 930.9 million (US$60.3 million) for defence expenditure in 2013 was meanwhile 14 percent higher than 2012.

Eva observed that the increase in the government’s wage bill of 37 percent was approximately MVR1.7 billion (US$110 million), which was also the amount allocated for harbour construction in the 2013 budget.

These funds should instead be spent for “harbours, education, sewerage and housing,” she argued.


Parliament passes public health bill

Parliament on Wednesday passed 40-1 a public health bill submitted by Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed Nasheed, more than two years ago.

The legislation (Dhivehi) specifies guidelines for protection of public health and includes penalties for violations.

While the Health Minister would be responsible for public health matters, the law proposes the formation of a Health Protection Agency with powers to appoint officials to various posts in the health sector, quarantining and carrying out inspections.

If the bill is ratified by the President, a public health fund would be established with proceeds from licensing fees, payments from services, fines and a portion of import duties from cigarettes and tobacco.


MPs oppose limiting presidential prerogative on appointing Police Commissioner

Several MPs yesterday objected to a clause in proposed legislation for a new Maldives Police Service Act limiting presidential prerogative to appoint the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, during preliminary debate on the bill (Dhivehi) submitted by Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed.

While all MPs supported the 137-page legislation as a whole, most MPs insisted that the presidential prerogative to appoint the Commissioner of Police should remain unchanged and that the head of police should answer to the commander-in-chief.

The bill

Presenting the draft legislation to parliament, MP Nasheed said he sought to “restrict the role of the Home Minister over police” by limiting the minister’s powers.

The Home Minister’s role would be limited to entrusting responsibilities to police for achieving “strategic requirements” or objectives pledged by the ruling party’s manifesto, as well as providing necessary resources and monitoring the implementation of “instructions concerning the main policies and objectives for developing and strengthening the institution”.

“The minister should not state how particular investigations should proceed and interfere in such matters,” he said. “Police should be provided the operational independence or operational autonomy to do police work.”

The bill would also provide new powers over police to the parliament’s Security Services Committee (241 committee) and the Prosecutor General, he added.

Under the proposed procedure for appointing a Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, senior officers from the executive command would themselves apply for the post or propose colleagues, after which the Home Minister would submit their names for evaluation by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the police professional command unit.

Based on the reports by the PIC and professional command, the minister would then take a vote on the chosen candidate among senior officers of the executive command through secret ballot.

The Home Minister could only propose a nominee to the President if he or she is approved by “a majority of the total number of members of the police executive service.”

Moreover, the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner would be appointed for a four-year term.

“Revolutionary change”

As all powers currently exercised by police were derived from a regulation formed under one article of the existing Police Act, Nasheed said one of the purposes of the new law was to ensure that all powers vested in police were derived from specific articles in the law.

“These are not just one or two amendments to the Police Act currently in force. These are basic changes to everything in the Police Act from cover to cover,” MP Nasheed said.

Nasheed said MPs and the major political parties had the choice to leave the police service in its current form or “modernise” the institution in light of past experiences.

Police was the one institution that came under the fiercest criticism during the reigns of Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Mohamed Nasheed and Dr Mohamed Waheed, the MP said.

He added that the new law was intended to “bring fundamental, revolutionary change” to the institution.

If passed, the new law would come into effect on November 11, 2013, which would be the end of the five-year presidential term that began on November 11, 2008 and the ostensible date for the swearing-in of a newly-elected president.


During yesterday’s debate, MPs from both the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and parties in the ruling coalition objected to the proposed procedure for appointing the head of police.

Jumhooree Party (JP) MP for Kaafu Atoll Kaashidhoo, Abdulla Jabir, warned that the police service could become “a small government” if the president could not directly appoint and dismiss the Commissioner of Police.

“If not, wouldn’t that be like riding a horse without a saddle?” he asked.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP for Thaa Atoll Thimararushi, Adam Ahmed Shareef, concurred that the executive or parliament should have the power to appoint the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner

“My proposal is that the highest authority in the police, that is the Commissioner of Police, should be appointed, in my view, with parliamentary approval after a nomination by the President,” he said, adding that the President should have to seek parliamentary approval for removing the commissioner.

MDP MP for Faafu Bilehdhoo Ahmed Hamza meanwhile objected to the procedure specified in the bill for dismissing a Police Commissioner – which was in effect a no-confidence vote by senior officers.

Hamza contended that the bill “mixes up the three powers” as it was unclear whether the President, parliament or Prosecutor General would answer on behalf of police.

He added that turning the Home Minister into a “symbolic” official was “unacceptable” as ministers in the executive should be accountable to the public.

Contrary to most MPs’ belief that the proposed reforms would free police from undue political influence, Hamza argued that the institution would become more politicised when its chief could be removed through “an election.”

“The Commissioner of Police should be answerable to the Home Minister and the Home Minister should be answerable to the President,” he said.

However, Hamza said the bill should be accepted and amended during the committee stage.