ACC to sue Maldives Media Council over illegal ‘living allowance’

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has said that it has decided to sue the Maldives Media Council (MMC) after the Auditor General’s report revealed that members took almost Rf 900,000 in additional allowances.

President of the ACC Hassan Luthfy confirmed to local media that suits will be filed against the MMC, one in the Civil Court and one in the Criminal Court for corruption.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has called on the members to resign following the publication of the audit report.

In a statement, the MJA said that “this raise questions about the integrity of MMC which was established by the Parliament to regulate media. The MMC Act which was passed by the parliament clearly stipulates that no additional money other than wages shall be given to the council members for their work, unless it is approved by the Parliament.”

The MJA said the MMC Act required the council to comprise of eight members from the media and seven members from the public, but questioned the legitimacy of the council after noting that member from the public had been employed by the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) after he was appointed as a member.

“This has dropped the number of members representing public to six, and increased the number of members representing the media to nine,” the MJA said, asking parliament to probe the issue.

The MJA said it was unacceptable for the NGO to see an institution assigned to regulate the media breaching the laws and democratic principles.

“This primitive action by the MMC has tarnished the trust and dignity of the local media in front of the citizens,” the MJA said. “We are very concerned, as this may also damage the reputation of the Maldives media in front of international organisations, and may raise questions about the integrity of the sole media regulatory body in the country.”

The opposition joint parliamentary group has meanwhile told the media that next week they will submit a bill to parliament to dissolve the council and transfer its mandate to parliament’s Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

Spokesperson for the opposition parliamentary group, MP Ahmed Nazim, told newspaper Haveeru that the council had not been fulfilling its responsibility and noted that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has accused the council of corruption.

He said that the MMC’s initial refusal to obey the direction of the ACC and repay the money was also an issue.

President of the Maldives Media Council (MMC) Mohamed Nazeef did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Deputy Speaker Nazim appointed Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader

A new coalition of opposition MPs from the Peoples Alliance (PA), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)’s Z-Faction, Jumhoory Party (JP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) last night appointed the new group’s leader, deputy leaders, spokesperson and whips.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament and PA MP Ahmed Nazim was chosen as the leader of the Opposition Parliamentary Group.

DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed and Z-DRP MP Ilham Ahmed were appointed as deputy leaders of the parliamentary group while Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf was appointed spokesperson.

Z-DRP MP Hamdhoo Hameed was appointed as the “government watch” and PA MP Abdula Azeez Jamal Abu Bakur, Z-Faction MP Ali Arif, MP Ahmed Nihan, MP Abdul Muhsin, MP Mohamed Rafeeq and independent MP Ibrahim Riza were appointed as whips.

Deputy Leader of DRP Ahmed ‘Mavota’ Shareef meanwhile told Minivan News that the current political situation of the Maldives was very fluid.

“Today everyone needs power and to get that power one might do anything, be it out of the law or within the law,” Shareef said.

Shareef predicted that according to the way things were going, DRP MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali “will not lose the position of minority leader in parliament.”

“We do not support the policy of the government, that is why DRP is here, and we will only support people that support the policy of DRP.”

Announcing the decision to create the new opposition parliamentary group, MP Mahlouf said Thasmeen was also welcome to join the opposition parliamentary group.

Thasmeen did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


DRP Leader Thasmeen “failed as majority leader”: MP Mahlouf

MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Z-faction are in the process of joining forces with minority opposition parties People’s Alliance (PA), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) to form a new “opposition parliamentary group.”

After months of internal strife within the DRP, coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) broke its agreement with the largest opposition party this week at the behest of the Z-faction, threatening DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s status as the minority leader of parliament.

Formerly the majority leader, Thasmeen became minority leader at the beginning of the current parliament session in June when the ruling party secured 34 seats, making the parliamentary group leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the new majority leader.

Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf told Minivan News that the new parliamentary group will consist of MPs from PA, JP, DQP and a few Independent MPs along with about 11 DRP MPs disaffected with Thasmeen’s leadership.

“We will appoint a leader and deputy leader for the new parliamentary group very soon,” he revealed.

The DRP MP for Galolhu South added that embattled DRP Leader Thasmeen was “welcome to join” the new group.

“But it was Thasmeen’s failure that led us to form this opposition parliamentary group, he failed us as the Majority Leader,” Mahlouf said.

Mahlouf told Minivan News yesterday that 11 of the party’s MPs met with MPs of the minority opposition parties and an independent MP Saturday night “to discuss how to move forward.”

Parliamentary procedure prevented the Z-DRP MPs from forming a new party, Mahlouf claimed, but he speculated that the MPs would potentially leave the main opposition and operate either as independents, or join one or other of the opposition aligned parties.

If that scenario were to happen, the DRP would be reduced to 13-15 MPs and Thasmeen would no longer be minority leader, as the the new opposition PA-JP-DQP alliance would number 21-22 MPs.

Thasmeen has meanwhile hit out at the PA’s decision this week to split with the DRP. The PA had claimed lack of cooperation and “initiative” by the DRP leadership in holding the government accountable as the main reason for the decision.

The DRP leader told local media this week that the PA had to “take responsibility for the weakening of the opposition” due to the dissolution of the coalition.

Appearing on private broadcaster DhiTV last night, PA Leader Abdulla Yameen however contended that the termination of the coalition agreement did not entail “any disadvantage or loss to opposition parties.”

Yameen, half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and potential presidential candidate for 2013, explained that the party would still vote with the DRP to hold the government accountable.

“PA did not break the coalition to support MDP,” he said. “PA parted ways [with the DRP] because we believe that under our new management we can improve efforts to hold the government accountable.”

The opposition MP for Mulaku noted that six months had passed since the PA announced its decision not to follow the DRP’s whip line.

He added that the PA had voted with the DRP “91 percent of the time.”

Yameen said that “any weakening of the opposition” occurred “when the DRP-PA coalition was at its strongest.”

“The opposition parties were weakened when the [concession agreement to hand over management of the Male’ International Airport to Indian infrastructure giant] GMR issue emerged,” he claimed. “I was arrested. [JP Leader] Gasim [Ibrahim] was arrested. Where was DRP then? What hardship did they have to bear? No DRP senior officials were arrested.”