Majlis standing committees’ composition approved as parties reach compromise

A five-member select committee tasked with constituting parliament’s standing committees has finalised the composition of the 13 committees after political parties reached a compromise today.

Following weeks of disagreement, a proposal by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Shareef – seconded by MP Ahmed Amir from the government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – was passed with three votes in favour at the 12th meeting of the select committee.

In addition to Shareef and Amir, the select committee included MP Riyaz Rasheed as the chair from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), MP Gasim Ibrahim from the Jumhooree Party (JP), and MP Anara Naeem from the Adhaalath Party (AP).

JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim did not participate in the vote after objecting to a change in the number of seats in some committees.

The committee decided to increase the number of seats in the public accounts oversight committee to 13 and reduce the number of seats in the petition committee and ethics committee to 10.

A proposal by MDA MP Amir to constitute the ‘241’ security services committee with 14 seats was also approved with six seats for the PPM, three seats for the MDP, two seats for the JP, one seat each for the MDA and AP, and one seat for Independent MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed.

Article 241 of the constitution states, “A committee of the People’s Majlis shall be established to exercise continuing oversight of the operations of the security services. The committee shall include representation from all the different political parties within the People’s Majlis.”

Aside from the 241 committee, Muaz – the sole remaining independent – was assigned to the ethics committee.

Reflecting the ruling coalition’s majority with its 46 MPs in the 85-member parliament, the PPM-MDA secured a voting majority on all standing committees with the exception of the privileges committee.

Parliamentary rules dictate proportional representation on the standing committees based on the number of MPs in each party.

Concluding the select committee meeting today, Chair Riyaz Rasheed said the committee’s report will be submitted to the Majlis floor, where it would be put to a vote.

The PPM MP for Thaa Vilifushi expressed gratitude to political parties for agreeing to compromise.

The protracted dispute over the allocation of seats on standing committees has left parliament deadlocked since the first regular sitting on June 2.

Two consecutive sittings had been called off amid disorder in the chamber after MDP MPs insisted that preliminary debate on bills could not begin in the absence of standing committees to review legislation.

Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed adjourned yesterday’s sitting to hold discussions with political party leaders.

At last week’s sitting, pro-government MPs had accused the opposition of obstructing the Majlis to thwart the government’s legislative agenda, while MDP MPs accused the ruling coalition of attempting to create “a one-party state” without parliamentary oversight.

Today’s sitting was meanwhile adjourned to allow the select committee to conclude its work. Speaker Maseeh has since announced that the next sitting will take place at 10:30am on Monday (June 30).

The first piece of legislation up for debate is the bill on establishing special economic zones, the centrepiece of the government’s legislative agenda.

Majlis composition:-

PPM – 41 MPs (48.2%)

MDP –  24 MPs (28.2%)

JP – 13 MPs (15.3%)

MDA – 5 MPs (5.9%)

AP – 1 MP (1.2%)

Independents – 1 MP (1.2%)

Standing committees:-

Public Accounts Committee – six seats for PPM, four seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Government Oversight Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Independent Institutions Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

‘241’ Security Services Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP,  one seat for MDA, one seat for AP, and one seat for the Independent MP.

National Security Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Social Affairs Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for AP.

Economic Affairs Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

National Development Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, one seat for MDA, and one seat for AP.

Rules Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Ethics Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, and one seat for the Independent MP.

Privileges Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, and two seats for JP

Petition Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, and one seat for JP

General Affairs Committeefive seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

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Committee approves amendment for state to cover expenses of president’s and vice president’s private residences

A parliamentary committee has approved amendments proposed to the law governing remuneration and benefits for the president and vice president for the state to cover expenses of the pair’s private residences.

If the president and vice president choose not to live in the official residences, the amendments stipulate that the state should provide employees and cover other expenses out of the budget allocated for the official residence.

The amendments submitted by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed were sent to a select committee for review following preliminary debate on March 31.

The bill was sent to committee with 29 votes in favour and 17 against with no abstentions. While pro-government MPs voted in favour, MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) voted against the legislation.

After completing the review process in two meetings, the seven-member committee voted unanimously to send the bill (Dhivehi) without any changes to the People’s Majlis floor, where it will be put to a vote.

In addition to Riyaz Rasheed, the select committee comprised of government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs Ilham Ahmed, Hussain Mohamed, and Ahmed Sameer along with PPM MP Moosa Zameer, Maldives Development Alliance MP Ahmed Amir, and Adhaalath Party MP Ibrahim Muttalib.

The opposition MDP was not represented in the committee.

Immediately after being sworn in on November 17, President Abdulla Yameen announced he and his vice president – Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed –  would be fulfilling a campaign pledge of only taking half of the MVR100,000 (US$6500) salary afforded to the head of state.

“The reason behind this is that Dr Jameel and I both live a simple life. No matter what has been said about us we are not wealthy. We want to be an example to others and lead by example,” Yameen said.

After assuming office, President Yameen announced that he would continue to live in his private residence while Dr Jameel moved into the official vice presidential residence, Hilaaleege.

However, despite Yameen’s decision, the budget allocated for the official residence was increased by MVR2 million (US$130,208) in the state budget for 2014 – rising to MVR19.1 million (US$1.2 million).

In December last year, Parliament’s Budget Review Committee Chair Gasim Ibrahim – leader of the JP – said the increased budget was necessary in case the president decides to move to Muleeage.

Highlighting the increased budget for Muleeage at the time, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor described Yameen’s decision to live in his personal house as a “symbolic act.”

“Unlike in the past, even media points out inconsistencies in what leaders say and what reality presents these days. I do not believe the public will be deluded about any of this,” Hamid said.

“While Yameen might have thought his decision will get people thinking that he is a humble man, reality is that ultimately, the state is having to spend much more of its funds to maintain this decision of his. People are much more aware now than in previous PPM times. People can see he’s just trying to score political points.”

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