LGA board vote to remove Chairperson Nazim

The Local Government Authority has voted to remove Chairperson Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim and Vice President Moosa Naseer.

Five of the nine board members supported a no-confidence motion against Nazim, who is also minister of defence and acting health minister.

The five board members took the vote after having refused to leave today’s board meeting following Nazim’s failure to table a no-confidence motion against himself.

“We can conduct the meeting without the board president being there,” explained member Shujau Hassan. “It is allowed for in our rules of procedure.”

Malé City Councillor and LGA board member Shamau Shareef explained that Nazim had insisted the agenda for yesterday’s cancelled meeting be attended to before any other issues were addressed.

Shamau noted that Nazim had prevented the board taking a no-confidence vote against him in December. He had previously explained to Minivan News that a binding resolution to do so had been signed by four members on December 24.

He stated today that five board members, including himself and Hussain Naseer, Hussain Hilmy, Ibrahim Rasheed, and Shujau Hassan refused to adjourn the meeting, requesting LGA officials write to the attorney general for advice.

Shamau expressed concern that Nazim was not working to protect local government in the country while “the government is dismantling the whole system of decentralisation”.

Both Nazim – appointed to the board by President Abdulla Yameen, and Moosa Naseer will continue to hold positions on the LGA board. Nazim referred any media queries to LGA’s media coordinator Mohamed Azmeen.

Azmeen said that today’s meeting had been halted after disagreements between the chair and members over the agenda. He had confirmed that the board was to decide on how to proceed with the issue after the attorney general’s advice, but was not responding to calls following the board’s subsequent dismissal of Nazim this afternoon.

Formed under the 2010 Decentralisation Act, the LGA is tasked with overseeing and coordinating the work of the Maldives’ 199 city, atoll, and island-level councils.

The LGA board is required under the act with ensuring that “the work and activities of the councils created under this Act is functioning in accordance with the Constitution, this Act, and other Laws”.

The original Decentralisation Act assigns a number of services and lands to the councils, though failure to make amendments to relevant legislation – particularly the Land Act and the Finance Act – has led to contradiction in the current laws.

Concerns over the government’s plans for decentralisation prompted councils from the country’s southernmost atolls to sign a pact to defend the system last month.

The Medheaari Declaration – signed by the Gaaf Dhaalu, Gaaf Alifu, and Fuvahmulah atoll councils, and Addu City Council – called upon the government to protect decentralisation, as well as making plans to secure the fiscal autonomy of the signatories.

This article was updated shortly after its original publication to include the board’s decision to pass the no-confidence motion against Chairperson Nazim.



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Defence minister Nazim faces no-confidence motion from LGA board

Local Government Authority (LGA) board members have tabled a no-confidence motion against Chairperson and Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim.

Board members Shamau Shareef and Shujau Hussein have told Minivan News that Nazim has refused to follow procedures in considering the motion.

“He should consider it immediately. He said he is president and he can do whatever he wants. He was very arrogant, and very childish,” said Shujau Hussein, the public’s representative on the board.

Following a proposal from another board member to postpone consideration of the motion today, four of the nine members signed a resolution to consider it on December 31. This resolution was rejected by Nazim, explained Shujau.

Formed under the 2010 Decentralisation Act, the LGA is tasked with overseeing and coordinating the work of the Maldives’ 199 city, atoll, and island-level councils.

Both Shujau and Malé City Councillor Shamau expressed concern that Nazim – also acting minister of health – was not working to protect decentralisation in the country.

“He is not standing up to protect the system,” suggested Shamau, who noted that the chair had failed to protect Malé City Council from persistent reduction of its powers.

“His answer was that, since he is sitting in the cabinet, he can’t speak against colleagues,” explained Shamau.

Shujau – who said he had presented 18 procedural issues to support today’s motion – pledged to take the matter to the Civil Court if it is not heard on December 31.

Removal of public lands from the purview of Malé City Council earlier this month left the opposition-dominated authority with next to no authority, after the gradual removal of powers since 2012.

Decentralisation

The original Decentralisation Act assigns a number of services and lands to the councils, though failure to make amendments to relevant legislation – particularly the Land Act and the Finance Act – has led to contradiction in the current laws.

The LGA board is tasked under the act with ensuring that “the work and activities of the councils created under this Act is functioning in accordance with the Constitution, this Act, and other Laws”.

When asked to comment on today’s events Nazim told Minivan News that he would have a spokesman explain what had been discussed at today’s meeting, though no spokesman had called at the time of publication.

Concerns over the government’s plans for decentralisation prompted councils from the country’s southernmost atolls to sign a pact to defend the system earlier this week.

The Medheaari Declaration – signed by the Gaaf Dhaalu, Gaaf Alifu, and Fuvahmulah atoll councils, and Addu City Council – calls upon the government to protect decentralisation, as well as making plans to secure fiscal autonomy.

“What happened in Malé, will it be repeated in the atolls?” asked Addu City Council Mayor Abdulla Sodig.

“We always have the fear that the government will come after Addu City Council after it deals with Malé City Council,” he told Minivan News.

Shujau explained that the southern pact had not been discussed at today’s LGA meeting

Recently proposed amendments to decentralisation – from pro-government MP Riyaz Rasheed – called for a reduced number of local councils and to cut the salaries of all councillors except the council presidents.

The government proposed similar changes in March of this year to the previous Majlis, with Nazim stating that the changes would allow professionals to hold council positions without having to leave their jobs.

The government has also expressed a desire to cut down on the cost of decentralised governance.

The current model of more than 1,000 elected councillors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, which had originally proposed limiting the number of councillors to no more than 220.



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Kuda Bandos will be accessible to locals after resort development, says government

Malé area picnic island Kuda Bandos will remain accessible to the public even after its development as a tourist resort, Deputy Minister of Tourism Hussain Lirar has said today.

“The island was given for development as per regulations and laws to be developed as tourist resort. But the developer has decided to allow public access to the island for picnics,” Lirar said.

Malé City Council yesterday passed a resolution against the development of Kuda Bandos, with Mayor Mohamed Shihab arguing that the island ought to remain as a picnic island as there was no other nearby for the capital’s 100,000 plus citizens.

“[Kuda Bandos] has remained the only picnic island for a very long time. Now people of Malé are losing that as well,” he said. “All nearby islands are being given as resorts,” Councillor Shamau Shareef today told Minivan News today.

Members of the council yesterday met senior members of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) including its leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Gayoom yesterday expressed his concern over the matter through his official twitter account, saying that hoped the news was not true.

Councillor Shareef reported that the response from the PPM leadership was positive and that they had assured the matter would be discussed with the government.

Council members will also meet leaders of other political parties to discuss the issue.

Picnic islands

Traditionally, picnic islands were leased at a very cheap rate for ‘tourism-related purposes’ by the government without any regulation as to how they were valued. Over time, however, the islands came to be utilised as any other tourist location, without being subject to the same taxes.

One example of this is Kaafu Kudafinolhu picnic island which was leased for five years to the Villa Group for an annual fee of just US$1,500 in 1998.

In 2010, the government allowed picnic islands to extend their leases by fifty years and to re-develop the islands into resorts by giving an extra fee to the government – twenty percent initially, the rest within a three year period – without a bidding process.

By 2013, procedures created under the Tourism Act allowed a company with at least a 10 percent share held by the state to develop a resort from land set aside for tourism use, such as a picnic island.

This regulation was criticised as excluding small and medium businesses by requiring joint venture partners to have a minimum financial worth of US$300 million, and to make a minimum initial capital investment of at least US$100 million.

Kuda Bandos itself was initially leased to former Vice President Waheed Deen – also the owner of Bandos Island resort- for an annual fee of US$6,000. Under his stewardship, the island has been made available exclusively for locals on Fridays, Saturdays, and public holidays.

The island was opened for bids in November 2012, with Waheed Deen – the sole bidder – winning the lease again for an annual fee of US$180,582, reported local media.

At the time, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said that a joint venture company would be established with the government to develop the island, though it is yet unclear if Waheed Deen is developing the resort with the government.

A wider issue

The response to the potential development of Kuda Bandos can be compared to reaction that met the decision to lease Kaafu Thanburudhoo for resort development in 2012.

Local surfers soon started a campaign to end exclusivity, and to allow free access to the island’s unique surf breaks.

After the campaign gained international support, the government last month amended the regulation on determining the borders of islands leased for tourism. Surfing areas and other tourist attractions near such islands are no longer considered part of it, even if they fall within the given borders.

One surfer who led the campaign as then president of the Maldivian Surf Association told Minivan News that the Thanburudhoo and Kuda Bandos cases were part of a bigger problem.

“This really should not be about just Kuda Bandos. That island is not enough to cater for the huge population in Malé,” said Ahmed Fauzan

“It is part a bigger problem – the same thing is going on with public spaces like parks being leased for businesses, even within Malé.”

He said that the issue is already spreading to other central atolls, with the majority of the islands being given away for tourism.

“It is part of our culture to go on picnic to the nearby island – we still have that right. There should be proper planning and consultation with locals. Just giving away every single bit of island and reef just like that is unsustainable and wrong,” said Fauzan.

More than sixty islands in Kaafu atoll are developed – or under development – with no uninhabited islands excluded.

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Malé City Council to bring back 24 hour shops and cafes

Malé City Council has decided to bring back the 24 hour service at cafes and shops, seventeen months after it was banned by Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government.

The proposition was passed unanimously by nine members present at yesterday’s council meeting (March 18), though the government has suggested that it does not have the authority to make such decisions.

Councilman Shamau Shareef said that the council decision came in response to a number of request from Malé City residents.

“This is what the people want. The former government discontinued the permissions to operate such places citing criminal activity and instability in the city. But now we have an elected government, and we think it should be reconsidered now,” said Shamau.

He noted that council have now been tasked with issuing trade permits for the city and it is in the council’s mandate under the Decentralisation Act to address this issue.

But the Ministry of Economic Development has today said that the issuing of trade permits was delegated to the council under a memorandum of understand with the ministry, which does not allow issuing 24 hour license.

“The government decided to end the running of 24 hour businesses. From that point the procedure for issuing trade permits were changed. City council have been tasked with issuing permits under those procedures,” the ministry’s Director General Usman Shakir was quoted as saying in Haveeru.

Shakir said that the government has not yet changed it’s position on allowing 24 hour businesses, and warned that the ministry will take action if any such permission is issued.

Responding to the ministry’s statement Councilman Shamau said that there are “some barriers” in implementing the decision, but the council is willing to overcome these issues by discussing it with the ministry.

“We will do whatever it takes. This is the capital city, and there are 24 hours ferries operating, people coming from other islands, people are working round the clock. There should be some way for them to eat or buy things they need. We are talking about basic necessities of the people,” he said.

President Mohamed Nasheed’s government decided to issue permits for 24 hour businesses in December 2010. After the change in government, Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration in October 2012 decided to put an end to these opening hours.

The ministry’s official reason for decision was national security concerns. There was a high level of concern about increasing rates at the time, particularly with political instability and the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali within the same month.

While it is not known whether the decision had any positive impact in reducing crime rates, the parliamentary national security committee at the time suggested impact it had was negative.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party at the time described the decision as an attack against small and medium businesses which ‘left thousands of people unemployed’. Resuming the permits was an election pledge of the party’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed in 2013.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives was at the time a coalition member of the government, and President Abdulla Yameen was elected as president, the party has maintained support for the ban on 24 hours businesses.

When the permits were revoked in 2012 there were forty four businesses with permit in Malé city, now all shops have to be closed at 11pm and all cafes at 1am.

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