Government withholding allowance, claims office of former President

The office of former President Mohamed Nasheed has accused the government of “negligence” in providing the legally-mandated monthly allowance to cover expenses of the former’s president’s office.

In a press release on Thursday, the former president’s office noted that article 8 of the Privileges and Protection for Former President’s Act (Dhivehi) states, “In the event that a former president wishes to conduct social work beneficial to the community, the state shall provide up to MVR175,000 (US$11,350) a month to arrange for an office, employees and other matters.”

The social work to be carried out by the former president’s office included “efforts to develop and strengthen democracy,” the press release explained.

Article 128 of the constitution states that a former president “serving his term of office lawfully without committing any offence, shall be entitled to the highest honour dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges entitled to a person who has served in the highest office of the land.”

The Privileges and Protection for former Presidents Act of 2009 was the first piece of legislation passed by the 17th parliament elected in May 2009.

The press release meanwhile revealed that the government first provided the state benefits due to the former president by law “four months after he left office” when a letter was sent to the Finance Ministry on April 30.

However, the financial benefits were discontinued four months later in August 2012.

Officials of various rank at the Finance Ministry as well as Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad were approached “repeatedly” regarding the benefits and all requested information was provided in a letter on August 27, 2012.

While Finance Minister Jihad had said that the ministry would send a letter seeking further information concerning the work of the former president’s office, the press release noted that the said letter had not been sent as of November.

On Jihad’s claim to local media that he was unaware of the location of the office and had sent a letter seeking clarification, the press release stated that “the minister should believe that a letter sent to an office whose address he did not know would not be delivered.”

“We note that this office has not been informed of the reasons for the sudden discontinuation of the benefits previously provided,” the former president’s office said, adding that a “verbal explanation” by ministry officials that the benefits were discontinued on orders from the Finance Committee of parliament was refuted by the committee.

While the amounts to be paid as benefits were specified in the law, the press release alleged that the Finance Ministry had not deposited the full amounts.

The law stipulates a monthly allowance of MVR 50,000 (US$3,243) for a president who has served one term.

The former president’s office expressed concern with the ministry’s failure to adhere to the law and called on the government to “respect the laws” and ensure “administrative fairness” by the state.

In October, local media gave conflicting statements regarding the reasons for the withholding of Nasheed’s office allowance.

Sun Online reported Jihad as saying that the issue was related to the unknown location of Nasheed’s office whereas Haveeru said that the suspension of privileges was related to a disagreement over whether former presidents were required to conduct charitable activities.

“In reality, the office should be involved in holding social activities. However, the concern of these members is that there is no social work to be seen by the (Nasheed’s) office,” Jihad was quoted by Haveeru.

“It has to be clarified. Hence the financial allowances have been halted for the time being. We still haven’t been provided with the information we sought in relation to the office,” Jihad told the paper.

Meanwhile, in March, the government had questioned Nasheed’s eligibility for state benefits on the grounds that he had not completed a full five-year term in office.

In June, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Hamza revealed that the state had spent MVR 1.3 million (US$84,300) on healthcare costs for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his wife from 2010 to April 2012.