Comment: Clearly rejected

Among the wheeling and dealings we’ve seen in the Majlis, the issue of Cabinet Ministers has been one of the most convoluted and silly arguments we’ve seen.

Can the Cabinet Ministers be questioned? Can’t they be accepted or rejected together? Are they just nominated or actually appointed? And therefore once chosen by the President, are they Ministers or Ministers-in-waiting? And in what capacity are they beholden to the Majlis?

Within two days the Supreme Court will decide on these questions. In two days, hopefully the drama will end, rather than begin anew.

Why are they going to court?

The Majlis has rejected seven Cabinet Ministers. MDP does not like this and would like all of their Ministers to keep their portfolios. Was approval necessary? Yes. Can the Majlis reject a Cabinet member without a vote of no confidence? Yes, but only when the President asks for their approval and acceptance of that appointment.

Nowhere is it written in the constitution that there is only one way to remove a Cabinet Minister, as Reeko Moosa suggests.

Article 101 of the Constitution states that a vote of no confidence is possible, but it does not say that a vote of no confidence is the only way to remove a Minister. There are in fact two ways: 1) A vote of no confidence; or 2) A rejection when appointed.

Once appointed, s/he is a Minister

The opposition claims that individuals were nominated rather than appointed. They claim that the President can choose people, and that those people would only become Ministers once they have approval. This is false.

The President does not nominate, he appoints. The moment those individuals take their oath by either the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or his representative, those individuals become Ministers of the Cabinet of the Republic of the Maldives as per Article 131 of the Constitution.

Article 131 states: ‘A member of the cabinet shall assume office upon taking and subscribing, before the Chief Justice or his Designate, the oath of office.’

The only thing that might be left up to debate is whether the Chief Justice could choose to simply not provide himself or his representative to swear the appointees in, and refuse to do so until each individual had parliamentary approval.

But in this case, Abdullah Saeed (Chief Justice at the time) did not do so. If you think back, though, you will remember that the cabinet was re-sworn at the same time that the MNDF had locked up the Supreme/High Courts and taken away the key. Not surprisingly, after Abdullah Saeed had sent his representative to swear in the cabinet he was given back the key to his office.

Nonetheless, once these individuals were sworn in, they were fully fledged Ministers, with every power, right, authority, and responsibility afforded them. All talk claiming they were just acting as ministers is just silliness. But if these people are already Ministers, do they still need approval? Isn’t it just a formality?

Approval or rejection necessary

Article 129C and D of the Constitution state:

C. Except for the Vice President, the President must receive the approval of the People’s Majlis for all appointments to the cabinet.

D. The President shall submit to the People’s Majlis, within seven days of making appointments to the Cabinet, the names of the appointees to the Cabinet for approval to the People’s Majlis.

Article 129C clearly states that the President “must receive approval” of the Majlis. Therefore, if any Cabinet Minister is rejected, then they are no longer Ministers of the cabinet. The only way they can continue is if the President swears them in again, where they will then have seven days before the President is required to send their names to the Majlis for a second time.

I do not believe there is any impediment to repeating this as many times as the President wants. Though I’m sure rejection after rejection by the Majlis would appear a complete farce in the eyes of the public.

Together or one by one

As to the issue of whether the cabinet should be approved together or individually, that is completely up to the preference of the Majlis Members. It is a tiny insignificant point that the constitution makes no reference to.

MDP thought there would be a bigger chance to get everyone approved if they are lumped together, because then DRP could be made to look stubborn and completely against all betterment of the nation if all of the cabinet members were wholly rejected.

One usually expects the entire cabinet to come to approval only once in a presidential term. It was assumed that after the approval of the entire cabinet, if a minister was dismissed, it would be done on a case by case basis.

But alas, that was not how things went down in this scenario. In this case, there is another instance which was particularly odd as well in the issue around whether Minister’s couldn’t be questioned.

Questioning Ministers

So, can a Minister be questioned? Of course, but only about the job at hand.

The opposition wanted to evaluate and judge each Minister before giving their approval. They claimed that a summons for this purpose required Ministers to come.

This is false. Ministers are only required to attend the Majlis for questions regarding their duties and responsibilities – not their qualification. In fact, under Article 98 of the Constitution, they can question any head of any government office if they so chose to. To answer falsely, or withhold information would directly violate the constitution.

The Supreme Court agreed with this evaluation in stating at the article in the Majlis rules of procedure that required their presence to judge their qualifications was outside of the constitution.

The bottom line and 2011 budget

The seven Ministers who were rejected by parliament remain rejected. However, until that rejection was decided by a vote of parliament, they were proper Ministers.

They were therefore required to answer summons that related to their job, but not to summons to simply scrutinize them on their qualifications.

The only way for the President to have Ali Hashim, former Finance Minister, present the budget is to reappoint him and swear him in. I believe Ali Hashim is one of our most capable Ministers, and if not for being caught in the crosshairs of political maneuvering, his position would not be in question.

It is a shame and a travesty that this issue is dominating so much of the public’s time and that these Ministers are losing their livelihoods over it. It is a shame that so many other bills that need passing, like those on drugs, evidence, and the penal code are left on the sidelines while we quibble about Ministerial portfolios.

While I have my own claim and object to GIP (Gaumee Itthihaad Party) not receiving its three cabinet portfolios in Economic Development, Education, and Fisheries as was understood in the MDP Itthihaad Coalition agreement, I still do not condone spending time on this issue when so many more desperate issues are waiting to be addressed.

There are procedures for cabinet appointments that should have been followed. There once was a clear understanding of how to go about all of this. But instead of it being a simple and day long matter, it has led our nation to constitutional crisis. Instead of following procedure we all now look at the constitution from a thousand different angles and wrest every type of meaning we can from every line before proceeding in the way most beneficial to us.

I am not a government apologist trying to hide constitutional violations, nor an opposition sympathizer trying to topple the government. I’m just trying to make sense of a now convoluted issue.

I pray that the Supreme Court protects the constitution and laws it was created to uphold and that their life time tenures ensures justice free of political sway and maneuvering.

I pray that we can move forward from this upcoming Supreme Court decision and find a way to create a whole government dedicated to the MDP Itthihaad manifesto confirmed two years ago.

I pray our conscience prevails and sanity finally reigns.

Note: Article 87 states:

A. Unless otherwise provided in this Constitution; all decisions made by the People’s Majlis shall be decided by a majority of the votes of members present and voting (Approval or rejection of Cabinet Ministers is done this way as it is not mentioned anywhere else.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: I’m not wearing white

Adhaalath and their NGO minions are asking all “those who love Islam” to wear white and meet up at the Artificial Beach today. By all means, go. Women and men, Maldivian citizens – go to this gathering, but do not wear white.

Do not support the degradation of our society, the proposed harm to our economy, and the manipulation of our religion for purely political purpose. Go to the rally, but do not wear white.

The Legislation Will Work

I have now met with over 100 current and recovering addicts in Maldives, and even over the course of this last year it was clear that the costs of alcohol was going through the roof as a result of effective police sweeps. This legislation gives the police the authority and means to ensure that resorts and hotel companies are held accountable for every single drop of alcohol that is brought into this country.

Daily logs, thorough accounting, security cameras and a whole host of other measures are made mandatory by this legislation. The Economic Development Ministry has found an ingenious compromise between progressive development – which will benefit our entire nation – and reinforcing stringent control over alcohol. The very notion that this legislation makes getting alcohol easier, just because it is now on the same island as many of us, is completely ludicrous and neglects every provision stipulated in the legislation.

Alcohol Based Economy

The Maldivian economy cannot be maintained without alcohol. This is the bottom line. Tourism is the largest sector of our economy, accounting for more than 28 per cent of our GDP. Without maintaining the strength of this industry, our nation will fail.

If we look into the industry itself, the three leading nationalities of tourists (Italians, Britons, and Germans) are all groups with traditionally high alcohol consumption rates. But if we go beyond that to look at marketing strategies, every single tour operator emphasizes the idyllic image of lying on a beach with a tropical alcoholic drink by one’s side. This is not unique to the Maldives, but inherent to every single tropical island paradise.

There is no difference between an island resort and a city hotel. The average resort will have around 150 staff members at any given time. 150 people are enough to call an island inhabited, and therefore if alcohol is banned because of Maldivians’ reside on the island, then they should be banned in resorts as well. But while we run around calling for bans on alcohol, we are simultaneously calling for more Maldivians to be employed by the tourism industry – instead of Bangladeshis, Indians, and Nepalis. We have soaring unemployment rates, and if we were to ban Maldivians from the largest economic provider in the country, how will we progress as a nation? How will we progress as a people, while destined to be eternally impoverished?

The answer to these problems is not greater exclusion, but rather inclusion of the Maldivian people in our largest and fastest growing industry. The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade is taking the first steps to ensure that all Maldivians can benefit from tourism. Imagine entire islands whose local economies are vibrant and sustained by a perpetual inflow of tourists. Imagine a nation where 40% poverty rates were a thing of the past and everyone has equal access to education and adequate healthcare. The answer is not more separatism, but rather integration.

Disunity in Government

The best way to develop is through promoting tourism and integrating it with our communities, and this piece of legislation is the first step. However, it has led to great disunity in the government. We have Adhaalath breaking away and GIP (Gaumee Itthihaad Party) being hung out to dry.

In the past few months, Mohamed Rasheed – Minister for Economic Development (and a GIP member) – has come under significant pressure to put forward this legislation. Unlike myself, the GIP general membership’s will is firmly against legalizing these restricted alcohol sales in inhabited islands. However, because GIP has an active policy of supporting the government and being a “good coalition member,” Rasheed was determined on working within the current development framework for the overall betterment of this nation.

If the President’s Office decides to do a turn around, and hang him out to dry – the Government’s most steadfast coalition supporter will be slighted. Though the party has only 4,000 people in its membership – GIP has remained unwavering in its support of the government, even while its center left policy was neglected and its Island and Atoll councilors were sacked for supporting two GIP candidates during the Majlis election. At every step GIP has defended government policy and will continue to do so till the 2013 election.

Adhaalath, on the other hand, is already maneuvering for the Presidential election in 2013. That is what this demonstration is about. It is not about religion, it is not about alcohol. It is only about political gain. While State Minister of Islamic Affairs – Shaheem has said he will not call for anyone’s resignation, Adhaalath has said explicitly that any government that allows for economic growth through alcohol on inhabited islands needs to be removed. As State Minister, Shaheem is actively organizing dissent and a fully fledged demonstration against the government he is supposed to represent.

In spite of the government reaching out to Adhaalath, giving them autonomy, allowing them to lead in all Islamic affairs, and placating conservative trends, Adhaalath is not satisfied. They are not willing to meet the government half way, and are now actively working to destabilize it and flex their political power. This gathering is about both flexing that power and measuring it. It is a traitorous action, and against the developmental framework of this government.

New Islamic Leadership

They have drawn the battle lines, taken action against their coalition partner, and now Adhaalath needs to be expelled from this government. We need new Islamic leadership in the country. One that is moderate, willing to promote dialogue and not repress anyone (yes, even the conservatives). We need to promote balanced view points.

All of our new media regulations require fair and balanced coverage. This principle needs to extend to religion as well so that it is not only the radical conservatives who gain the airwaves.

What do I mean by moderate? Well, someone like President Gayoom. Now, I believe Gayoom’s administration to be responsible for the arrest and torture of eight of my thirteen uncles (as well as countless others), but there is no denying that his version of Islam is far more moderate than the conservatives we have running around.

It is time we stop skirting around the issue of religion. Stop living in fear of speaking our minds. We need to revolutionize the Ministry for Islamic Affairs with moderate sheikhs who will promote greater religious understanding, instead of only Salafi based conservative dogmatism.

As the result of a policy of appeasement during the First and Second World Wars, action came too late for many and millions died. For us, it’s not too late. We need to protect the security and economic prosperity of our nation. We need to save its soul from losing that which makes us inherently Maldivian.

Defiance of Tyranny

It is time to expel them from this government as one would poison from fatal wound. They have shown themselves to be uncompromising, unyielding, and unwilling to work with this government. Adhaalath is using these events and Islamic preaching to try and gain momentum that will bring them a 2013 Presidential victory, or at the very least, a Parliamentary one.

As they strut today, to and fro, albino peacocks on the stage of public Islamic opinion, remember their political motive. Go witness the spectacle, and do not wear white. If you must have white in your clothing, wear another color as well. Wear blue or turquoise. Pink or magenta. Wear green for Islam (though green and white is GIP’s colors). Wear yellow for our government. Black for the death of freedom and justice. Just do not wear white alone.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: A New Era of Maldivian Politics

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, for good or ill, will probably be remembered as one of the most dominant figures of our modern history. With his withdrawal from active political involvement, he has given rise to new fractions, new political players, and a completely new dynamic. Yesterday we entered a new era of Maldivian Politics.

Nation and parties divided

Whether it happens in days or months, President Gayoom rescinding his candidature for DRP leadership will exacerbate the latent divisions within the party. Over time we have seen these divisions take form.

Mohamed “Kutti” Nasheed’s conflict with elements of DRP showed us our first glimpse of their division. After DRP lost the 2008 election Presidential election, Kutti Nasheed called for Gayoom to resign from politics. Because of this he was ostracised, excluded, and eventually driven away from the party. President Gayoom, even today, has a group of supporters who would give their last breath for the will of the man they see as having developed our country, and who they see as being the father of a modern Maldives. In those couple of weeks, this division was clear.

Since then we have seen Abdullah Yameen return to DRP as the leader of the People’s Alliance with a strong, well financed and capable group of people supporting him. Yameen along with Abdullah Shahid and Ahmed Thasmeen Ali are among the most active, respected and credible people within the older generation of DRP leaders. They are both the stronghold and the powerhouse of the party today, though with clear divisions between Yameen and the other two.

There is also the new, more dynamic, group of young leaders who are emerging within the party. While careful not to make the same mistake Kutti Nasheed made in alienating the hardcore Gayoomists, they have been rising in popularity and influence, and have shown a clear desire to break away from the previous era of political policy.

A clear example of this could be seen in Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef’s comments on Gayoom’s role in the ruling party’s philosophies. He stated that the only reason MDP is able to hold support is because of them vilifying President Gayoom. This emphasis on how Gayoom’s continued involvement in DRP may be detrimental to the party’s appeal, growth, and support was – in retrospect – clearly easing the idea of Gayoom withdrawing from politics into the consciousness of his most adamant supporters.

While the young and old group of DRP leaders are likely to work together for the good of the party, if Thasmeen wins the party’s leadership – as he is expected to – PA may withdraw from the coalition and become the deciding middle party. Though while division may be rife, Mundhu’s comments are based in a very real problem for the MDP leadership.

The wicked witch is dead

At least when it comes to politics, Gayoom is no longer the driving force of the opposition DRP. The one issue upon which the ruling coalition was built no longer exists. And while the coalition may no longer be important, this one philosophy has always been one of the driving forces behind MDP’s policies and youth appeal.

President Gayoom’s administration’s abuses and mistakes have provided the ruling party with momentum and a drive which has kept them united and very public. It galvanised a traditionally apathetic people into action and is a fundamental basis for the legitimacy of this government. Because MDP made the issue about President Gayoom, DRP made the issue about President Nasheed. Our politics has been based on the dynamics between these two personalities and as a result we rarely care about issues which affect our daily lives. Yesterday, the nation took the first step towards shifting this dynamic.

A moderate party overnight

This dynamic, which we are going to watch emerge, will be decided by the direction DRP takes.

But even without concrete policy shifts, it seems as though DRP has overnight gone from being a radical and confrontational party to one that is almost moderate.

Speculation is abound that Thasmeen will take leadership of the party. With both the explicit support of President Gayoom and Abdullah Shahid, as well as the majority of DRP’s members of parliament, it looks likely that the older generation will be the first to guide policy in the post-Gayoom era. Unlike the younger group who are confrontational and quick to providing harsh words against the ruling party, Thasmeen is seen as a calm and tempered businessman who gained influence within the party through consistent and ready support. Some of the older members would even say that he has deserved his turn to attempt leadership.

Shahid, while also mild mannered, is one of the most capable, organised and conciliatory leaders within the opposition. With these two at the helm, one can only hope that a more moderate stance will be taken towards implementing polices that will actually provide fruits for the Maldivian people – instead of the constant stonewalling which has been so prevalent.

Moving forward

Though I am a member of GIP (Gaumee Ihthihaad Party), I fully acknowledge that we are operating in a two party system. Losing President Gayoom’s direct influence will not change that (at least not overnight). With over a year under our belts, the government has not been able to produce the kind of results needed to bring our nation out of its current economic recession. And government does not mean just MDP – it is DRP as well.
DRP holds the majority in the Majlis (parliament), and as a result the Majlis’ failures are DRP’s as well.

In ancient Greece, the Titans fought for control of the heavens, nearly to the point of utter destruction. Without compromise between these two Titans, the people of our nation will continue to suffer. Our nation will continue to become more illiberal, and democracy’s very existence may come into question. We have entered a new era of Maldivian politics. Whether it will see the prosperity of our people or our social, economic and political degradation is yet to be decided. You Titans – decide well.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: We are criminals

The Maldives has the 10th highest prison population rate in the world and our society is set up to perpetuate this rate.

The victory in 2008 ushering in democracy has barely lessened the number of people incarcerated. It has not changed how we treat people who have gone to jail, nor the causes for which so many of our people lose their freedom. It has not made us reflect on the effect this is having on our society. And as a nation we will suffer for this together.

Culture promoting criminality

Before we won the election, politicians on my side of the divide could have claimed that many of the prisoners in jail were the result of political repression.

But the problem goes beyond politics. The problem is societal and the responsibility now falls on each and every one of us to change the direction we’ve been heading in.

The vast majority of those arrested have been sentenced on drug related charges. We have 30% of our youth falling into drugs like heroin, and we are surprised that crime is soaring. We are surprised when gang related violence escalates, and we are surprised that Male’ and islands around the country are no longer safe.

Male’ is now split up by the gangs controlling strictly monitored lines. They hijack each other’s cars and motorcycles and go after one another with whatever weapon they can get their hands on.

For all of us who have nothing to do with these gangs, we just ignore it. We turn a blind eye because that’s what we’ve been taught to do for 30 years.

But political commentary aside, we each let this happen. We live in a small community where everyone knows everything about everyone else. We know when our neighbor is arrested. We know why the boy down the street was taken to jail and why the police kicked down his friend’s door the week before.

But instead of helping them recover and reintegrate, we shun them. We ostracize them and say they are not worth our time. Instead of offering a helping hand, we kick them to the curb as the wasted undesirable elements of our society. But with the prison population so high, it is a large part of our society.

Our prison population rate is the 10th largest in the world, and this is without all the people who have not yet been sentenced. We need to help these people join the working ranks and support our nation to grow. We need to stop abusing them with our indifference, and we have to make it clear to our government institutions and those who work for them, that we will not tolerate abuse against inmates and promote true rehabilitation instead.


We as a society have to help with rehabilitation. I don’t mean drug rehabilitation. I mean we have to teach inmates how to function in society and how to be productive members of it. But the truth is that rehabilitation was never a part of our penitentiary services. In the past, the entire prison institution was based around repression, fear, and control of the unruly elements of our society. The new government is trying to change that and I’ve seen more change in the DPRS (Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services) than in many of the other institutions, though even the DPRS has been subject to politically based manipulation by jailers, and not just by government sympathizers. However, what about all those people who have not yet been convicted?

These people are kept in police detention facilities. The same kind of facilities which have been responsible for custodial abuse reported recently. In addition to the kinds of abuse described by the inmates on DhiTV, there is a culture of brutality amongst the armed forces which needs to be addressed. Prisoners are constantly manhandled by their guards, whether they behave or not.

Further methods are used to ensure compliance and deal with unruly behavior. Amongst these methods are handcuffing inmates in difficult positions and leaving them for hours at a time under the hot sun, or if it is raining, leaving them out in the cold.

These are people who have not even been sentenced yet! Guilt has not been established. Due process has not been executed. And even if these people had been sentenced, they are still human beings and thereby extended inalienable rights; especially from torture. We suffered these kinds of abuses under the previous administration; it cannot be allowed to continue.


The attitudes within both the Police Service as well as the general populous need to be reformed. The Maldivian Police Service has made phenomenal improvement in how the deal with the citizenry, so there should be no reason why this cannot extend towards those members of society who are placed in their care.

We as society need to care about what happens to inmates. Without reform and true rehabilitation, we will never be able to progress as a nation.

We may have had a democratic election, but we still do not have a free society. The democracy monitoring international NGO, Freedom House, still ranks us as only partly free because of our apathy towards the prison population. We are such a small community.

We are all brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, and friends. We have no excuse to allow things to continue as they are. The shackles of tyranny still bind us. It’s time we start chipping away at these bindings, so that one day we will enjoy a free and stable society.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]