Attorney General refuses to attend parliament committee regarding revenue bills

Attorney General Mohamed Anil has refused to attend the parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing revenue bills after being summoned to a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

The rejection letter sent to the parliament secretariat argued that the bill of amendments to the Tourism Act and T-GST [Tourism Goods and Services Tax] bills include policies compiled by the Economic and Youth Council of the cabinet.

Anil stated that the only role played by the Attorney General’s Office had been to draft the bills as directed by the council.

“As this office has no comments to make on the content of these bills at this moment, I respectfully inform you that I excuse my office from sending staff to attend the meeting we have been invited to,” a parliament official quoted the letter as saying.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Hamza has suggested that the absence of the Attorney General (AG) suggests disapproval of government policies.

Upon forming a government late last year, President Abdulla Yameen divided his cabinet into two sub-divisions – a social council and an economic council.

Government aligned parties have initiated special sessions of the parliament in order to extend the duration in which bed taxes can be charged, and also to increase T-GST. The government has also proposed to take full payments as lease from resorts that have extended their contracts.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali stated that, while the attorney general’s reasons for refusal are “absolutely clear”, the cabinet has thus far not decided whether it will hold discussions on the relevant policies with the parliament committee.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ali Arif – who sits in the committee tasked with reviewing the revenue bills – stated that he would be able to further comment on the matter after deliberations with the attorney general.

“What the AG has actually said is that he has already provided his views on the matter to the cabinet’s Economic Council, and therefore he declines from attending the committee to present the same views,” Arif stated.

Opposing view

An opposition MDP member in the same committee has interpreted the AG’s refusal to attend the committee meeting in a different light.

“Reading between the lines, MDP feels that the AG refused to attend as he does not agree with some of the things proposed by the government,” MDP MP Ahmed Hamza told Minivan News today.

“One of the things we feel he disagrees on is the government’s proposal to change the payment terms for resorts, to cancel the extentions granted to payments in breach of what the government has previously agreed with resort owners,” he continued.

“The other thing is the bed tax. The law says bed tax charges are to be ceased from December 31, 2013. The government is now proposing to continue taking it from January 1, 2014, but there is no law to support this. We feel the AG does not support taking this in retrospect after a law is formed now,” Hamza stated.

The AG, Mohamed Anil, was not responding to calls at the time of press.