Majlis’ Ibthihaal investigation postponed until end of recess

The Majlis committee investigating the death of 3-year-old Mohamed Ibthihaal will wait until the house reconvenes in March before holding further meetings.

Chair of the Majlis government oversight committee Riyaz Rasheed told Haveeru that there was “no point” and that “nothing further that can be achieved”, accusing fellow committee member Rozaina Adam of releasing confidential documents.

“I specifically asked the members of the committee at its last meeting to not make any of these documents public,” said the Progressive Party of Maldives MP.

Since the committee’s first meeting was held on February 5 was adjourned to give members more time to study the case’s documents, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP Rozaina has accused Rasheed of slowing the committee’s work.

She has also told the media that the documents received from the police contained no details of the toddler’s case prior to his death, despite authorities acknowledging that they were previously aware of his abuse.

Last Thursday, she went on to say that the gender ministry’s report contained  questionable statements, alleging that both the ministry and police had acted in breach of the law.

Ibthihaal was found dead in his home with numerous wounds and bruises on the island of Vaavu Atoll Rakeedhoo on January 28. His mother is mother is charged with murder and is in police custody awaiting further investigation.

Riyaz reiterated that. while parliament’s involvement has been temporarily brought to a halt, the government is looking into the matter and taking necessary action to prevent further incidents of the kind.

Source: Haveeru


Opposition street demonstrations head into third consecutive night

Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih and Ismail Humaam Hamid

The opposition coalition will hold a third consecutive night of protest in the capital Malé tonight (February 14).

After hundreds gathered on the corner of Fareedhee Magu on Thursday and Friday nights, protesters and speakers called for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation.

Criticism of the recent arrest of defence minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim by speakers at this weekend’s protests was joined by further support for the minister from the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

Despite a strong police presence on both nights, there was little unrest and no arrests, with police spokesmen describing the demonstrations as peaceful.

After previous support from party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla following Nazim’s arrest on charges of plotting a coup last week, Imran yesterday suggested no one was safe from arbitrary arrest.

“It is very likely that in the near future many others like Nazim will be thrown into jail cells like him,” read a tweet from Imran yesterday, followed by the ‘justicefornazim’ hashtag.

While the party is not officially part of the ruling Progressive Coalition, the Islamic ministry is headed by party member Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, and has so far rejected overtures to join the opposition’s campaign to ‘defend the constitution’.

“By saying that Adhaalath Party supports the current government, we do not mean that we agree with all their actions,” read another tweet from the party president earlier this week.

Adhaalath spokesman Ali Zahir – who recently joined Nazim’s legal team – was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Speaking at Thursday night’s rally, MDP Chairman Ali Waheed suggested that the government was removing all internal opponents, one minister at a time.

“The day before yesterday the defense minister was hailed and deemed trustworthy. Now he is in a jail cell accused of crimes of a magnitude never seen before in Maldives,” said Waheed.

Nazim’s lawyers have suggested that weapons police claim to have found in his home on January 18 were planted. Police last week claimed to have found evidence the minister “was plotting to physically harm senior Maldivian state officials” on a pen-drive obtained during the search.

Waheed suggested on Thursday evening that dismissals from within the police were imminent, while JP leader Gasim told crowds that further splits within the ruling party would soon result in the defection of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs to the opposition.

During yesterday’s protest, MDP MP Rozaina Adam reportedly described the country as having “Stockholm syndrome”, referring to what she described as society’s apathy in the face of government oppression.

Maamigili MP Gasim also blamed the president for the current difficulties being faced by educational institutions involved in land disputes with the government, which has prompted fears that courses will be disrupted.

“We do not have to ask anybody to resign,” Gasim told the crowds. “According to the CoNI report this govt does not have legitimacy. I call on relevant institutions to assume the responsibilities of presidency accordingly”.

Opposition leaders have suggested the withdrawal of Gasim’s JP from the governing coalition mirrors the circumstances described in the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report into the controversial resignation of MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed from the presidency in 2012.

The report suggested that Nasheed’s government had lost legitimacy after coalition partners pulled out in the early stages of his administration.

Gasim himself was one of those who left the governing coalition in 2012, subsequently spearheading anti-government protests before rising tension led to a resignation Nasheed maintains was given under duress.

The CoNI report also pointed out that the MDP never enjoyed a clear majority in the 17th Majlis, a problem not currently shared by the Progressive Coalition, which has 49 seats in the house – with 11 members having switched to the PPM since last year’s polls.

Nasheed has argued that a succession of failed coalitions suggests the country should adopt a parliamentary system – previously rejected in a 2007 referendum.

While PPM spokesmen were not responding to calls at the time of publication, the President’s Office said it had no comments to make on the rise in street activity.

Related to this story

Are politics returning to the streets of Malé?

We will change the government according CoNI report, says Nasheed

Police accuse Nazim of plotting coup, planning to harm senior government officials


Teachers’ Black Sunday protest prompts government talks, strike decision pending

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

The Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) has completed a timeline with the government to meet the demands of teachers, ahead of a proposed strike this Tuesday

“The government’s decision to sit for talks and compile a timeline is a sign President Yameen himself attended to the teacher’s demands,” TAM President Athif Abdul Hakeem told Minivan News today.

“I am happy. We now have a way forward,” he added following association members again donning black today in what is being termed ‘Black Sunday’.

The Ministry of Education had earlier appeared unwilling to give in to teachers’ demands for higher pay and reform, while the Labor Relations Authority reportedly labelled the proposed strike as ‘not peaceful’.

“We will not increase salaries on request from certain groups. We are working on it not because teachers had demanded so. But teachers do request that it be expedited,” State Minister for Education Adam Shareef told local media.

TAM will now hold consultations with their committee and focal points in the atolls, Athif explained, before holding a meeting tomorrow night to decide whether they will continue or call off the strike.

A statement from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) noted that government was treating the potential strike as illegal.

“This commission has received information that the Labor Relations Authority has decided it cannot deem the strike planned by the Teacher’s Association of Maldives as one that is peaceful and within the parameters of laws and regulations,” said the government workers’ organisation

Black Sunday

Around ninety percent of teachers were reported to have demonstrated again today by wearing black to work after TAM members had pledged late last week to strike on September 23 should the longstanding grievances not be addressed.

A number of issues – which include revised pay, protection of teachers and students, and official recognition of TAM – have been raised repeatedly with the ministry claims the association, and are now said to be part of the agreed timeline.

Minister Shareef today acknowledged that poor communication was to blame for the current situation, but said he expected teachers to attend classes on Tuesday as discussions continued.

“O’ Level exams are to start soon. Parents and students are preparing for it. It will create huge concern if teachers decide to stop work during such a critical time,” he added.

The CSC noted today that the Constitution allowed for work stoppages as a form of protest, but that procedures outlined in the regulations on resolution of conflicts between employers and employees must be followed.

Speaking at a TAM meeting on Thursday evening, association president Athif pledged to strike indefinitely should the government not make adequate use of the talks.

“Once we strike, there is no turning back. The options are death or success. God willing, we will only stop once we have achieved success,” said Athif.

Opposition support

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has announced its support for the strikes should discussions with the government fail.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed told media today that, although the party did not want to see strikes, it would back a teacher strike should talks again prove fruitless.

“MDP very much wants for government to listen to their concerns and solve the issues through discussions, before this reaches a whole different level. MDP will stand behind all such protests,” said Waheed at a press conference today.

Meanwhile, MDP Parliamentary Group Deputy Leader and former teacher Rozaina Adam also announced her support for the proposed strikes.

“They have been asking for this raise from Maumoon’s administration, through Nasheed’s and Waheed’s administration and now into Yameen’s administration. It is with great sadness that we have to note that everyone has turned on a deaf ear to their pleas,” wrote Rozaina on her personal blog.

The Addu-Meedhoo MP expressed concern at the falling standards of the sector, noting that poor pay and working conditions were forcing good teachers away from the profession.

“I call upon the government as an MP, a parent and as a person who worked in the teaching profession, to hear out the teachers’ demands and find solutions for their problems,” said Rozaina


Government “indifference” to Addu ferry services discriminatory, says Meedhoo MP Rozaina

The government’s “indifference” to providing regular ferry services in Addu City has been described as discrimination towards smaller islands by Addu Meedhoo MP Rozaina Adam.

“If a ferry service in Malé is interrupted, the government rushes to reestablish it. But if it is the islands they it is allowed to go on for long periods. This is a huge discrimination,” she said.

There have been no regular ferries in Addu City for the past two years and the service is frequently on complete halt at times, said Addu City Mayor Mayor Abdulla ‘Soabe’ Sodiq.

Many are forced to take expensive private boats, while in medical emergencies people usually hire a speed boat for approximately MVR 2500 – double that rate at night.

Hulhumeedhoo, with an estimated population of over six thousand, is disconnected from the rest of the inhabited islands of the city which are joined by the 14km Addu Link Road causeway.

The Hulhumeedhoo-Feydhoo public ferry system had been established in 2009 as part of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government’s campaign to connect the Maldives through a public transport network.

The service is provided by MVK Maldives Pvt Ltd under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract. Many inhabitants of Hulhumeedhoo travel to Feydhoo for work and to visit Hithadhoo Regional Hospital.

Rozaina Adam also expressed concern that inconsistent services were damaging both the health and the finances of locals.

“It is very hard for them, sometimes appointments at the Hithadhoo hospital get cancelled because the ferry does not show up without any prior notice,” she said.

On 26 July, Rozaina held a press conference expressing concern over the failure to provide a sea ambulance for the area. She accused Minister of Health Mariyam Shakeela of reneging on a promise made before the Majlis to provide the service.

The Addu Meedhoo MP has described the speedboat allocated for Addu as unfit, noting that the cover is ripped, the floor cracked, and that the vessel is without GPS, and a compass, among other equipment.


Mayor Sodig noted that the government had awarded MVK the Dhoogas Guest House in Gan as an incentive for providing the ferry service.The guest house “which was functioning well when handed over”, said the mayor, is now mostly vacant and ignored.

“It was utilised to some extent during the SAARC Summit, but they are not running the place at all,” he said.

The handing of Dhoogas to MVK was investigated by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) in 2010 which found the guest house was awarded in contravention of relevant laws and regulations. The then-MDP government denied these allegations.

Management of the guest house, with approximately fifty rooms, was in handed over to former MP Abdulla Jabir’s ‘J Hotels’ in February this year, and was renamed ‘J Palace’.

While the city council is tasked with monitoring the service, mayor Sodig said today that they were unable to contact MVK to discuss the issues.

Addu council have been discussing the issue with the government since 2012 with no action being taken, the mayor said.

“We have brought this issue to the attention of all past transport ministers. And the Dhoogas guest house is given to MVK to provide public transport service here, but we are seeing that they are unable to do so,” he said.

MP Rozaina also said attempts to communicate the issue with the government have been in vain, mainly due to confusions regarding the institution responsible following the recent abolition of the Ministry of Transport.

“They told me I should contact home ministry, but they told the council to contact economic ministry. The parliament was not informed of these changes in the ministry, so it will be very difficult for MPs to inquire,” said Rozaina.

Minivan News was also unable to reach MVK, or the Ministry of Economic Development regarding the issue. The listed official numbers of MVK were out of service.

While the Addu city council is still working on resolving the issue, Rozaina has pledged to raise the issue in the Majlis if a solution is not found within a week.


Fisheries minister to appear before Majlis for questioning

The minister of fisheries and agriculture has been summoned to the People’s Majlis to answer questions regarding government policy in Addu City, local media has reported.

Dr Mohamed Shainee is said to be appearing upon request of the Maldivian Democratic Party MP for Addu-Meedhoo Rozaina Adam, who also summoned the housing minister for similar questions last week.

The 2008 constitution empowers any member of the Majlis to summon any member of the government or cabinet to parliament for questioning, although the appearance of the Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz last week was the first such instance in more than two years.

The opposition expressed concern regarding the Majlis’ oversight capabilities after disputes over the composition of key standing committees, although a compromise was reached last week.


Week in review: January 18 – 24

The biggest headline of the week was captured by Home Minister Umar Naseer after he ordered correctional authorities to make preparations for the implementation of the death penalty – currently under a sixty year moratorium.

Speaking with the media upon his return from Sri Lanka – President Abdulla Yameen said that the home minister’s decision had not been discussed with the cabinet.

During his state visit Yameen was reported to be considering access through Maldivian waters for passing Sri Lankan fishing vessels. He is also said to have revealed his decision to reject the proposed status of forces agreement (SOFA) with the United States.

Opinions on the president’s fisheries policy – as well as the policies of Malé city council – were expressed this week as Minivan News visited the capital’s famous fish market to talk about the state of the industry.

The government’s plans to expand the tourism industry were discussed this week as Minivan News interviewed cabinet minister Ahmed Adeeb, while the Home Ministry’s focus on the illegal drugs trade continued as police seized MVR300,000 worth of drugs – along with an endangered primate – from a house in Malé.

The president’s foreign policy also took shape – with a clear emphasis on economic self-sufficiency to facilitate independence and protect sovereignty.

Whilst bilateral ties between India and the Maldives were celebrated with the launch of the Dosti-Ekuverikan week, opposition spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Indian media that the country had “failed” Maldivian democracy during recent political turmoils.

Local elections

The week began with the local council elections, and finished with the final results of the 1,100 contests still not yet known. What was clear was that turnout was low on the day – a report from Transparency Maldives suggested the system was failing up to one third of voters who live and work away from their registered island of residence.

The Elections Commission (EC) introduced the public displaying of ID card photographs to help prevent voter fraud, though the decision quickly brought complaints from religious leaders regarding the exposure of women who have since started wearing the veil.

November’s second-placed presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed subsequently suggested that the clear existence of voters without photographs in the presidential poll registry indicated “serious fraud in the presidential election”.

The Maldivian Democratic Party figurehead went on to suggest that victory for his party in March’s parliamentary elections would see impeachment proceedings initiated against President Yameen.

Minivan News’ series of MP interviews continued this week, with Rozaina Adam, Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed, and Ahmed Abdulla all taking their turns.

Despite his Progressive Party of Maldives expressing confidence that they would win the majority of council seats, Yameen noted that party members standing as independent candidates had cost seats.

Supreme Court

Never far from the headlines, the Supreme Court’s role in the recent presidential elections continued to make news. The EC suggested that the Police Integrity Commission had shied away from examining key evidence used to annul the first round for fear of casting doubt on the court’s verdict.

Criticism of the verdict broadcast on Raajje TV resulted in this week’s decision by the broadcasting commission to order an apology from the station. Villa TV was similarly ordered to offer apologies for comments said to have defamed MDP candidate Nasheed.

Former Attorney General Husnu Suood was suspended from all courts pending the police’s investigation into his alleged contempt of court during the annulment trial. Suood suggested the decision may be linked to his role in the investigation of Justice Ali Hameed’s role in a sex tape scandal.

The Judicial Services Commission – charged with investigating the Hameed case – revealed its new regulations which will involve the periodic review of judge’s performance.

Meanwhile, the deputy prosecutor general appealed to the Supreme Court after the Criminal Court failed to resume normal activities – having previously halted proceeding pending the confirmation of a new PG.


Elsewhere in the Maldives this week, the auditor general revealed that the Defence Ministry had illegally purchased nearly MVR7 million of goods during 2011. This week also saw the first case of unfair dismissal filed in relation to the nine senior military officers removed amid internal murmurings during the controversial presidential race.

Finally, the Maldives was selected for a US$6million concessionary loan from Abu Dhabi for assistance with clean energy projects.


Q&A: MP Rozaina Adam – Thulusdhoo constituency

In a series of interviews to lead into the the 2014 parliamentary elections – scheduled for March 22nd – Minivan News will be conducting interviews with incumbent MPs.

All 77 sitting members have been contacted, from across the political spectrum, to be asked a standardised set of questions with additional topicals. The interviews will be published as and when they are received.

As part of the series, Minivan News interviewed MP Rozaina Adam,

MP Rozaina represents the Thulusdhoo constituency of Kaafu Atoll and was elected on a Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) ticket, she joined opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in November 2013.

Ahmed Rilwan: What made you enter the political arena and how?

Rozaina Adam: My family was involved in politics – my father was an MP and my mother served in the Special Majlis. So I have been interested in politics since childhood. But the system back then didn’t make it easy for anyone new to enter politics, but the introduction of party system provided many with this opportunity. So in 2008 I decided to run for People’s Majlis the following year.

AR: Based on your attendance and work in this ending term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?

RA: I am very satisfied with the work I did.

AR: What are the main committees you worked on? What particular bills did you focus on?

RA: I am currently in the Committee on Independent Institutions, National Security Committee, and the 241 [security services oversight] Committee. I am serving as the vice chair in all three committees now and the Chair of Sexual Harassment Bill Review Committee.

Earlier I was in the National Development Committee, and was the Chair of Domestic Violence Bill Review Committee as well as the subcommittee that reviewed the Anti-Torture Bill.

As for bills, I introduced the Domestic Violence Bill and proposed an amendment to the Majlis regulation to create a dedicated committee for women and children’s issues. I was working on the Sexual Harassment Bill when I discovered that the government is also preparing one, so I introduced the bill on behalf of the government.

I have also drafted a bill on medical negligence, it has been sent to the Ministry of Health for comments. It is still pending as I had to send it to each new minister with the government changing thrice recently.

I proposed an amendment to the Maldives Family Regulation to increase the child support payments, another amendment for the Decentralization Act to reserve a seat for women in the local councils and to arrange allowances for women’s committees. And the [second] amendment to the Public Finance Act requiring [the government] to send the budget to People’s Majlis earlier. These are the main bills that I worked on.

AR: What would you say are the biggest achievements within your term – in terms of what you have accomplished for your constituency and the country as a whole?

RA: I was able to include all major needs of my constituency in the budget, but there is not much I could do about the government halting some of these projects.

During my term in Majlis, harbors of K.Huraa and K.Dhiffushi were completed. Thuslusdhoo land reclamation and harbor projects were included in the budget, water and sewage system of Himmafushi and Thulusdhoo were completed. A set of classrooms were constructed in Huraa, work is in progress for classrooms in Thulusdhoo and Dhiffushi.

One major issue that my constituency faced was the controversy that followed the changing of Atoll Council from Thulusdhoo [when the Atoll Council decided to move the office from Maafushi to Thulusdhoo the government fought against it]

I see that as a major achievement. Even as an opposition member I worked against the government – with DRP members – to find a solution to that problem within the Majlis.

My main focus in Majlis was mostly women’s development issues. I focused more on such issues because only five out of 77 MPs are women. There are plenty of people to focus on other issues, but only a few people focus on women’s issues. So I chose to give more attention to that area.

For instance I put a lot of  pressure to fast-track the Sexual Harassment Bill, especially during the Fahmy controversy [when President of the Civil Service Commission Mohamed Fahmy was accused of sexually harassing one of his staff].

I was in DRP back then, however I supported that [of removing Fahmy for sexual harassment] even though it was MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] that proposed it. It was because of my vote in the committee [ Committee on Independent Institutions ] that it was passed [to remove Fahmy]. And due to this the issue of sexual harassment came to national attention, I see that as a huge achievement.

AR: What would you say is the biggest mistake or worst step you have taken in your political career? Why?

RA: I can’t say it was completely wrong, but in hindsight, I am not entirely happy that I supported President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom]. When I look back now it seems so, but my decision was based on the information I received at the time.

Later I found from President Maumoon’s words and actions, especially what he said when Theemuge [Presidential Residence] audit report was published and how he justified it. It was all very different from the reality which was revealed when the original bills and documents were sent to the Majlis.

There is nothing else that I see as mistake. I was in DRP because I accepted the party policies. But with the presidential elections we realized that DRP’s goals cannot be achieved as it still remains a party created by Maumoon. I decided to change to MDP because I believe the political sphere will actually have [just] MDP and PPM. And I don’t believe PMM was established to serve the people.  We know exactly why they left us [DRP], it was to sustain President Maumoon’s family rule. So I believe a lot of good can be achieved for the people through MDP. If we look in to the background of MDP we can see there are opportunities for everyone in this party.

AR: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR20,000? Why or why not?

RA: I have no personal feelings towards it, neither for nor against it. But I do take it. For the most part of my term I served as an opposition MP, so it was tough to manage problems faced by my constituents.

MP s don’t have to provide financial assistance to their constituents, but we should understand that it still is the established culture in Maldives, it doesn’t seem to be changing. It is hard to ignore when someone approach for assistance especially for medical purposes. The common mindset is that MPs are supposed to provide this assistance, so we have to.

AR: What is your view about parliamentarians and other public servants declaring their financial assets publicly for the electorate to be able to refer to?

RA: I don’t have any problem with that.

AR: Are you re-contesting in the next elections? Why? What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected for a new term?

RA: For the next Majlis I am running for Addu City’s Meedhoo constituency seat. I chose that constituency because my mother is from Addu City, and as a person who fights for gender equality I don’t believe that people only belong to their father’s island. So I believe I belong Addu City as much as I belong to Malé City.

We can see that instead of developing, Addu City is going backwards. It used to be one of the most developed regions in Maldives even during the early days of President [Ibrahim] Nasir. But day after day more people had to migrate to Malé City for various reasons and the place now seems abandoned. It is because there are no basic services. Even now, while we call it a city,  there are no water and sewage services, roads are not repaired, electricity services is weak. If we take a look at education and health we don’t see services adequate for a city. I am going face the challenging task of develop Addu City as a city, doing whatever could be done within the Majlis.

If I am elected, my vision is to propose a bill to Majlis that would set standards and detail the services that should be available in a city. I wish to state in the bill that basic services – such as water, sewerage, repairing of roads – should be provided within a certain period of being declared as a city. Addu City should have university campuses, have services such as renewal of ID cards, paying migrant worker visa fees if it is city. Actually the services provided in Malé City is also not that good. So all cities will benefit from this bill.

AR: What improvements do you feel the 18th Majlis will need to make to improve as an institution?

RA: I think MPs should work more responsibly in serving the people through the Majlis. Speed up the committee stage of bills.

And we see that it is the government, and not MPs, who propose most bills to the Majlis. There are some difficulties in doing this. We don’t get the necessary legal assistance from our Majlis, in other countries there are legal assistants to help MPs draft bills. We as MPs discuss the issues and how those issues have to be dealt with, but drafting a bill is a technical work. Currently we have to pay private firms to draft bills, and it is costly.

I think this is something the secretariat should work on, there should be a drafting department capable of providing this assistance.

AR: What are your thoughts on party switching? Do you think it undermines the party system?

RA: It does not undermine party system. Party is actually a political ideology, so if a person’s thinking changes and that the current party does not follow the same line of thinking, one has to go where that thinking exists.

I don’t believe in changing party for money. But changing to a party that fit’s one’s political thinking and ideology is a right, and it is a right guaranteed by the constitution for every citizen.

When the general thinking of majority membership of the party varies from mine, if I stay in that party I will always have to work against the common members of the party.

There are not much of difference ideological between MDP and DRP, especially DRP leadership. The split up came during the presidential elections when it came down to MDP versus PPM – DRP had to take a side. We found that common members wanted to side with PPM, but most people in DRP leadership has a thinking similar to MDP.

I assure to all members of MDP that I came to MDP because I wanted to. And despite what some anti-campaigners say, I did not change party for the seat and I will never change to PPM.

AR: What do you see as major challenges for political participation of women in the Maldives?

RA: There should be equal rights, and you could say women can run for parliament and they can also get elected even without reserving seats. But we can see the results, that it is not the reality. If that was the case people would be elected equally [from both genders].

Another issue is financing campaigns, most cannot fund campaigns by themselves. We need to find ways to provide funding for women who compete in elections. The government also need to create awareness and encourage women to get into politics.
But we can’t reserve seats without amending the constitution. Another way to deal with this is for parties to encourage women to compete in their strongholds. If I’m elected I will do whatever is necessary for the empowerment of women.


Loans and guarantees pass as opposition walks out

Parliament today approved the government’s borrowing summary totaling Rf5.5 billion (US$358 million) proposed by the government for 2012 amidst political disturbances within the Majlis.

Minivan staff observed opposition party members leaving the Majlis as ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members remained inside to approve the supplement to the 2012 State Budget.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam said the party walked out “because we believe PPM [Progressive Party of Maldives] sold out the vote to MDP.”

According to Adam, suspicions were raised when the chair of the Public Accounts Committee attempted to vote with the opposition. She said eight PPM members created a disturbance when the vote was presented, and were forcefully removed by the military.

She suspected the scuffle had been planned.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor confirmed that damage was done to the Majlis chamber, and noted that MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik’s seat name tag was “crushed”.

Ghafoor also believes that the display was calculated.

“Why would some people walk out and accept the decision, while others make a show of it?” he asked, noting that the Majlis has a precedent of requesting the removal of those who disturb proceedings.

However, Ghafoor believed the episode was understandable “in the context of a transitional democracy, in which the previous regime is allowed to be politically active.”

According to law, the Majlis must approve all foreign loans separately from the budget, which was approved earlier this week with 70 votes in favor, two against and one abstention.

The Rf14.6 billion (US$946.8 million) budget was passed with Rf3.5 million (US$226,977) added through amendments proposed by opposition MPs.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) proposed shifting Rf300 million (US$19 million) from other items to local councils, increasing funds for political parties from Rf11 million (US$713,000) to Rf14.5 million (US$940,337) and raising state benefits to the elderly from Rf2,000 (US$130) to Rf2,300 (US$148) to adjust for inflation.

Foreign loans will be allocated for budget support, construction of Addu Hospital and support for middle-income businesses, fishing and agriculture.

The highest loan is valued at US$150 million, to be borrowed from China’s Exim Bank.

Although the Finance Committee approved the borrowing summary it nevertheless highlighted important missing information. According to MP Adam, committee members today found discrepancies between the document approved yesterday and the version submitted to Parliament today.

When asked about the discrepancies Ghafoor identified them as “speculative–conspiracy oriented” and asserted that “all possible details were submitted, but the opposition said it did not confine to the strict guidelines of the law. Of course there are some points and details which can only come after the it is approved.”

“It’s a foregone conclusion, the budget was passed and you assume that to cover the deficit, you have to take loans,” he said.

Parliament is now in recess until March.


Parliament rejects formation of Women and Children’s Affairs committee

A resolution to create a parliamentary committee on Women and Children’s Affairs was voted down in today’s session.

The resolution, submitted by Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam, was approved by 26 of 55 MPs and rejected by 29. There was one absention.

According to Haveeru, some members justified their rejection on a lack of precedent–Parliament does not have permanent committees for specialised groups–and said that admitting one such group plans would require plans be made for fishermen and farmers.

Others pointed out that the government does not have a specific ministry for women and children.

A few MPs said one more permanent committee would hinder Parliament’s work.