President Mohamed Nasheed has said the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will not stand by while the opposition scuttles legislation intended to devolve decision-making powers to the people.
Addressing supporters last night at the MDP haruge (headquarters), Nasheed said the MDP did not contest the presidential election out of “greed for power” but to empower the people.
“We can only have good governance in this country when we devolve real powers of governance to the atolls,” he said. “We cannot achieve the development we want any other way. We cannot make the change we hoped for.”
MDP’s hopes for good governance rests upon its policy of creating “seven Males symbolised by the seven provinces”, he said, adding the government’s development projects were planned within the framework of the province model.
While the government began offering services available in the capital at the province offices, he continued, it has not been very efficient due to the lack of enabling legislation.
The president said he “knew very well” the efforts of a certain group to make sure that the powers of government remain concentrated in Male’.
“In my view, it would not be wise for our party to stand by while powers and benefits that are owed to the people are obstructed,” he said.
Since the legislation was formulated to hand over 40 per cent of an atoll’s resources to its people, he said, that was what the DRP was actually opposing.
Speaking at the rally, Attorney General Husnu Suood said DRP should not be allowed to adulterate or block an agenda the people had endorsed when they voted for the MDP and its manifesto.
Parliament remains deadlocked on the government’s bill on decentralised administration, with MDP MPs arguing the opposition dominated committee had amended the legislation so that it no longer resembles the original bill.
A total of 765 amendments have been tabled to reverse the changes made by the committee, most notably to scrap provinces.
Economies of scale would not be possible without grouping three or four atolls into provinces, MDP MPs have said, since an atoll was too small a unit to be decentralised.
The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) maintains dividing 21 administrative areas into seven provinces was unconstitutional, as the constitution requires devolving power to the existing 21 areas.
DRP also argued that the bill would have given undue powers to provincial state ministers and the local government authority (LGA) over elected councils, including powers to dismiss and dissolve island and atoll councils.
The 11-member ad hoc committee chosen to review the legislation voted 6 to 5 to remove provinces from the bill.
Parliament sittings have been cancelled over two consecutive days after MPs clashed and the third and final reading of the bill could not be continued.
MDP MPs accused the committee of violating Majlis rules of procedure in its review and negating the purpose of the legislation, calling on the speaker to send the amended bill back to committee.
Following last night’s cancellation, MDP supporters protested outside parliament as well as the residence of Speaker Abdullah Shahid.
After originally being pushed back to 4pm, today’s sitting has been rescheduled for tomorrow morning.
Negotiations are currently ongoing between the two main parties to reach a compromise on the issue.