This update looks at the developments concerning the Parliament in April 2015 and will focus on how political parties have opted to navigate the current political hurdles in the Parliament in legislating key amendments and bills.

It is important to note the political developments in the country have had a profound effect on the conduct of parliamentary sessions. With the arrest and conviction of former President Nasheed, sessions were marked by disorder that has resulted in the erosion of principles of good governance such as pluralistic debate and constructive contribution to legislation from all sides of the political divide, as well as limiting public scrutiny on parliamentary performance. With the opposition not participating in the proceedings, the government aligned parties have utilized these circumstances to pass a number of laws without proper consensus. It is also important to highlight that the Parliamentary leadership have also failed to instruct dialogue between the contending political parties, particularly at a time where such discourse and consultation are crucial to overcoming the obstacles facing democratic governance.

In its legislative agenda, twenty-nine bills and amendments were proposed by the government to be sent to the Parliament in the first session of 2015. These include several key legislation dealing with civil, socio-political and economic aspects. While some of these bills have been submitted, the majority of listed legislation in the agenda have not been forwarded. While the government has not provided an update on the status of these pending laws, it is important that a review of the existing legislative agenda be undertaken to take into account the ongoing developments in the Parliament that may have constrained the progress of much-needed legislation.

Parliament proceedings
As highlighted in our March update, the protests by opposition MDP MPs have continued since the opening of the Parliament and has resulted in disorderly sessions in April. These vociferous protests to disrupt sessions, often carried out with the help of megaphones and sports whistles, resulted from the arrest and incarceration of former President Nasheed for 13 years on terrorism charges in March. Former President Nasheed’s arrest, his trial, and sentencing have been contentious on many fronts, as noted by local and international commentators, including the UN Human Rights Commissioner, who have been following the trial proceeding.

While some sessions were adjourned or stopped as a result of the opposition protests, it is interesting to note that neither the Parliament’s speaker nor the Deputy Speaker had opted to eject any opposition MPs from the chamber. In some of the disorderly sessions ruling coalition MPs have continued with debates and voting was conducted even though the debating was inaudible over the sounds of megaphones and whistles. This was noted by opposition MPs who contended that sessions were being conducted in contravention to parliamentary procedural rules.

On 7 April, MDP MPs suspended their protests and did not attend the Parliament chamber in the build-up to a meeting with the Speaker to seek a negotiated settlement to the ongoing Parliament impasse. While this was a slight reprieve, disruptions have continued since. The Parliament also resumed broadcasting a live feed of sittings to television stations, which had been suspended since the start of the opposition protests.

The proposal, highlighted in our March update, to revoke allowances of MPs who approach the Speaker’s desk unsolicited to disrupt proceedings was bolstered by a proposal by MP Moosa Manik to ban sirens, megaphones and horns from parliamentary premises. Both proposals were voted on and passed by the Parliament in April with only government-aligned MPs participating in the vote. Following its passing, the 22 April Parliament session was conducted with the help of parliamentary security officials who prevented opposition MPs from approaching the Speaker’s desk. Since then, opposition MPs have also been summoned to the Parliament’s conduct committee – proceedings of this committee being carried out in secret with no access to media or observers – to answer charges of session disruption. These developments are largely seen as retributive measures against opposition as a means of intimidation and as incentives to discontinue protests in the chamber.

Key legislation
There were some new bills ushered into Parliament in April as well as updates to legislation introduced in March.

1. Unconstitutional parole amendment sent back to Parliament
The problematic amendment to the 2013 Prisons and Parole Act, which we noted in our March update, that was passed by Parliament and forwarded to the Executive for ratification was returned to the Parliament by the President for revision. The return follows the Attorney-General’s comments on the incompatibility of some provisions of the amendment with the constitution. As noted in our March update, this amendment contains problematic provisions such as the revoking of the freedom of association from incarcerated prisoners, which is guaranteed under the constitution, and places further restrictions on other rights which may flout the ambit of constitutional rights restriction limits. The President Office further specified the controversial parts of the amendment as contained in the advice from the Attorney-General.

On 28 April, the reworked amendment was passed by the Parliament by 40 votes – with just the government aligned parties voting in favour. While the new revised amendment does not bar prisoners from membership in political parties, it obstructs them from serving in leadership positions in political parties and other organizations. This provision, thus still potentially contravenes the reasonable rights restriction provisions in the amendment itself and in the constitution. In response, opposition MPs alleged that the government was specifically targeting former President Nasheed, as when President Yameen ratifies the amendment into law, Nasheed will lose his position as MDP President.

2. Tourism Ministry powers and resort leases to 99 years
In April, the government submitted a revenue raising bill proposing the increase of resort leases from the existing 50 year term to 99 years. The bill further proposes the increase in the authority of the Tourism Ministry by shifting the conduct of environmental impact assessments from existing semi-independent government bodies (the Environmental Protection Agency)  and also bestows the power to authorise infrastructure development on resort islands to the tourism portfolio. In response to this proposal, opposition politicians and commentators noted the reversal of the stance on this issue by the current government, who when in opposition during President Nasheed’s tenure, criticized the Nasheed administration decision to increase resort leases to 50 years in return for upfront fees. On 21 April, the bill was voted in Parliament and passed with 41 votes in favour with opposition members not taking part in debate or voting.

3. Party presidential primary elections update
In April, the amendment to the Elections Commission Act, submitted in March by former MDP MP Moosa Manik, to include administering party presidential primary elections under the purview of the Elections Commission was voted by the Parliament to be sent to committee for review. Opposition MPs did not participate in the vote. If this amendment is passed by the Parliament, it would put a substantial financial and administrative burden on the Elections Commission. Furthermore, it remains to be seen what the impact of this change will have on internal party mechanisms as well as the acceptance of Elections Commission oversight over party presidential primaries by the opposition parties in the current partisan climate. This impact is especially pronounced when there exists the opportunity to question the independence of the Commission following the dismissal of two Commission members, including the President Fuwad Thowfeeq, by the Supreme Court in 2014.

4. Penal code update
The Maldives’ Penal Code that was passed into law by the Parliament in 2014 and was due to come into force on 13 April was delayed by the Parliament. The amendment to delay its coming into force by three months was sponsored by the ruling PPM coalition. The PPM argued that more time was needed for preparing stakeholders on aspects of the new code. The opposition MDP alleged that the government was attempting to use the existing, outdated, penal code to intimidate critics. This postponement occurred amidst commentary by the Prosecutor-General and the Attorney-General stating there was no reason to delay enforcement. The voting for the amendment was surrounded by loud opposition protests against the tabling of the amendment and with MDP MPs taking over the Speaker’s desk and Parliament secretariat desks. Speaker Maseeh asked for votes utilizing a megaphone, which was carried out by a show of hands. MDP MPs contended that this voting violated parliamentary procedures.

In another development, as noted in our March update, Adhaalath party MP Anaaraa Naeem’s proposal to incorporate the “retaliation in kind” aspect or Qisas law in Islamic Shari’a in the penal code was rejected by the National Security Committee who scrutinized the bill. See our March update for details on this amendment. Following this, on 12 April, Naeem submitted her amendment to the Parliament floor for consideration again.
Parliamentary by-electionThe MP for Dhiggaru constituency, Ahmed Nazim, was sentenced to a 25 life sentence by the Supreme Court having being found guilty of corruption. With the conviction, Nazim’s seat became vacant and the Elections Commission has announced the by-election. Both major parties are fielding candidates.

In following the updates in the Parliament in April, the detrimental effect on democratic debate arising from the non-participation of key opposition is clear. The declining quality and integrity of legislation passed in this period, such as the problematic parole amendment and other proposals that limit independent oversight mechanisms such as the Tourism Ministry legislation, alludes to the unchecked dominance of government-aligned parties in the lawmaking process. To improve the status quo, the government must take steps to facilitate strategic implementation of much-needed legislation, as highlighted in its Legislative Agenda 2014-2018, and move away from reactive legislative objectives. Furthermore, the Parliament leadership should work to provide an impetus for a dialogue between the major parties to overcome the prevailing impasse and must exploit opportunities that exist for government-aligned parties to engage with the opposition to address their concerns.

Opening of Parliament and disruptions
The opening of the Parliament on 2 March 2015 occurred amidst protestations inside the chamber from opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs calling for the release of former President Nasheed who was under arrest at the time, and counter-protests from government-aligned MPs voicing their support for Nasheed’s trial and sentencing.
In his opening address to the Parliament, President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom iterated the Government’s commitment to upholding laws and the tenets in the Constitution. His speech summarized the Government’s key achievements in 2014 in areas such as urban development, tourism, foreign relations, infrastructure, health and social welfare and highlighted several key legislation submitted to Parliament in 2014. Within this trajectory, what stands out in particular is the focus on developing the Maldivian economy and financial frameworks. He touched on the pledges to fulfil election pledges to empower youth, including the submission of a youth rights bill to Parliament in 2015, further develop tourism and complementary sectors, and speed up investments through the special economic zones.
Opposition MPs have been protesting at every sitting since Parliament returned from recess. Every sessional debate has been marked by confrontational protests over the arrest and conviction of former President Nasheed, resulting in a lack of earnest and thorough public debate on issues submitted to Parliament. Following the first session of the year, the Parliament administration terminated the live feed of sessions to television stations, barring the public of observing proceedings. Reporters were also barred from recording proceedings during sessions and now can only cover proceedings from a specific media gallery location within the Parliament building. The impact of such a restraining stance on media reporting is a question worth asking as the work of the Parliament, be it protestations against governmental policy, should be publicly available for public consumption.
During the 16 March session, former Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mahloof, with a printed sign board, requested from the Speaker to provide him with security as he feared for his life. This followed Mahloof’s expulsion from the PPM after his publicized comments on the corruption of current senior Government officials and connections between President Yameen and gang members.
Amendment to Political Parties’ Act and Elections Commission Act regarding party presidential nomination elections
This year’s first session has seen some key amendments and bills submitted to Parliament. This includes an amendment to the Political Parties’ Act, put forward by the PPM to amend clauses in the existing Act that the Supreme Court had ruled in 2013 were unconstitutional. The Maldives guarantees the right to establish and take part in political parties in Article 30 (a) of the Constitution.
Article 11 of the existing Act stated, arbitrarily, that 10,000 members as the minimum requirement to form a political party. The Supreme Court abrogated this article in September 2013 stating 3,000, again an arbitrary number, members as the minimum. The new amendments by the PPM propose to bring the existing law to conform to the Courts’ ruling.
It further stipulates that a political party must have 10,000 registered members to be eligible for state funding. This amendment is seen to restrict and limit the freedom of association in the Constitution.
On 30 March, an amendment to the Elections Commission Act was submitted by former MDP MP Moosa Manik to include administering party presidential primary elections under the purview of the Elections Commission. Currently, presidential primaries are undertaken internally by parties themselves and if this amendment is passed, it would put a substantial financial and administrative burden on the elections commission.
Amendment to the Penal Code
The Government has also proposed amendments to the Penal Code. These include technical amendments to definite clauses, gaps in the code, and address potential problematic issues in implementation. On 30 March, this amendment was accepted with 40 votes in favor.
Another development is the amendment submitted by the Adaalath Party’s sole MP Anaaraa Naeem to incorporate the “retaliation in kind” aspect or Qisas law in Islamic Shari’a into the code. While the Penal Code does state the applicability of Shari’a punishments to Hudud offenses, it does not currently do so for Qisas offenses.
In response to Anaaraa’s proposed amendment, the senior consultant for the penal code awareness programme, Hussain Shameem, stated that including the provision of Qisas without accompanying detailed requirements and classifications for Qisas offenses would not make Qisas offenses more amenable to adjudicate. On 30 March, the Parliament voted unanimously to consider the amendment and have been forwarded to the National Security Committee for review.
HRCM summoning
On 16 March, members of the Maldives Human Rights Commission (HRCM) were separately summoned to the Parliament and questioned at length in a closed-door meeting. Members were questioned on the commission’s statement regarding concerns about the lack of due process in the trial and sentencing of former President Nasheed in March 2015.
Following the publication of the HRCM’s 2014 annual report, in which the Commission highlighted the challenges it faced as a result of the turbulent relationship with the judiciary, the ruling PPM’s parliamentary group leader commented in a local newspaper that the Parliament must play an important mediatory role and to ensure the independence of the Commission. This claim was contended by both the Jumhooree Party and MDP MPs who highlighted the extraordinary levels of judicial activism emanating from Maldivian courts, including the apex court, and alleged the Government’s disregard for upholding the independence of the HRCM. This development further expands on the issue of the state undermining the autonomy of independent institutions and the weakening of the separation of powers that we have highlighted in our earlier parliamentary updates.
Changes to committee allowance
On 17 March, the General Committee of Parliament proposed an amendment to Parliamentary Committee allowances to revoke allowances of members who approach the Speaker’s desk unsolicited. This was proposed to the Committee by the Speaker, PPM MP Abdulla Maseeh, in response to MDP MPs continuous protesting since the opening of Parliament. The opposition has described this as a punitive measure by the Government and vowed to continue their objections during sessions. The change has been passed by the general parliamentary committee and is pending submission for vote during session.
Parole amendment
In March 2015, the Parliament accepted an amendment by the Government to the 2013 Prisons and Parole Act which includes an overhaul of some administrative aspects in the 2013 law as well as new provisions on the limitations of fundamental rights and freedoms. The amendment was first sent to the Parliament in December 2014.
This amendment contains several problematic and contentious provisions, including the exclusion of prisoners from a political party or other association membership or holding leadership positions. It is problematic in that it severely impedes the right of freedom of association which is guaranteed under the constitution and is also perceived to differ from the ambit of rights restrictions that exist in law. In light of its proposition, opposition members alleged the motives behind the submission was to strip former President Nasheed of his party membership and role as party president.
On 30 March, the amendment was tabled for voting following review by the National Security Committee. It was passed with 42 votes in favor and two against. MDP members, who have been in continuous protest since the opening of Parliament, did not take part in the vote and protested its tabling.
Changes to bill allowances and benefits of former presidents
In March 2015, the Parliament also accepted a bill, proposed by the Maldives Development Alliance—coalition partner with the current Government, that would discontinue benefits for former presidents convicted in Maldivian courts. This amendment follows similar proposals—all withdrawn—to the Parliament in 2014 by the Government coalition.
The amendment was accepted for consideration with 38 MPs voting in favor while 11 voted against it. MDP MPs did not participate in the vote and continued their protest calling for former President Nasheed’s release. The amendment if passed will revoke Nasheed’s benefits as he was convicted of terrorism charges in March 2015 and is currently serving his sentence. This amendment, as well as the changes to the committee allowance and the parole amendment are largely perceived as retributive, politically-motivated manoeuvres by the ruling coalition to undermine the opposition as well as former President Nasheed.

This report looks at the political developments surrounding the work of the Parliament in 2014, and highlights the contested nature of legislation during the period. The report addresses some noteworthy bills, key institutional appointments and dismissals, and issues surrounding urgent national issues submitted to Parliament.

Key legislation
The lack of bipartisan support on crucial governmental legislation was a recurring theme in parliamentary proceedings in 2014. In some cases support for government-sponsored legislation was tied to the political dynamics prevailing at the time. For example, at the start of the year, the government’s budget was passed with broad support from then-coalition partners the PPM and JP, while MDP’s amendments to the budget were dismissed. In others, as in the case of appointments to key institutions, the failure of political parties to whip votes along party lines led to inconsistent stances on various issues across all major parties.

This in turn adds to the precariousness of democratic consolidation where opposition members allege the Executive branch’s encroachment on the principle of separation of powers and eroding constitutional maxims. On the other hand, the government, including the current Attorney General, in an interview to DhiTV news on 25 February 2015, has categorically denied any undermining of the Constitution.

1. Special Economic Zone Act
The enactment of the Special Economic Zones Act (SEZ) in August 2014 highlighted one of the flagship economic drivers indicated in the new government’s budget. Our January parliamentary update summarizes the developments surrounding the passage of the bill in Parliament. The JP switching from its initial ambivalence to fully supporting the bill’s passage prompted opposition media to suggest that the government’s impeding of Gasim’s business interests lead to the change. Since its passing, the government has stated that it is reforming existing bureaucratic hurdles to incorporate the provisions in the SEZ Act; and government representatives have given media interviews, albeit without specificity, on potential mega-investments following-from the Act. Other than a few news articles such as the one by former MDP administration Minister Inaz in Haveeru newspaper, a point of note is the lack of public commentary on the socio-economic impacts of the Act by accredited independent sources such as civil society.

While the government has forecasted it would receive about 100 million US dollars as acquisition fees for the SEZs by August this year, the opposition has criticised the lack of significant foreign investments. Since then, the “Investment Board”(1) for the SEZs has been formulated by the President and in September 2014, the government assigned South Kulhudhuffushi MP Mohamed Nasheed, whose law firm(2) drafted the SEZ bill to outline additional regulations required by the Act.

The government may very well undertake to smoothly pass complementary regulation with its majority in Parliament, however, what is abundantly clear is that political consensus and cross-party support will be crucial to ensure an unhindered implementation programme. Attracting foreign investments under the Act is further complicated as it is closely tied to existing domestic political dynamics and fallout from political incidents(3) such as rights violations and suppression of dissent.

2. Penal code
The amended penal code will come into effect on 13 April 2015, and the Attorney General’s Office is carrying out training programmes and establishing resource office for stakeholders to improve competence in dealing with the new provisions in the code.

Whilst the government is seen to be speeding-up preparations for the advent of the new code, the opposition MDP has accused the government of “rushing the proceedings in order to convict former President Nasheed before the new penal code comes into effect in April” and has called on the Prosecutor General (PG) to cease his case against Nasheed. The PG has since withdrawn these charges, and has attempted to re-prosecute Nasheed, and others in his administration, under the 1990 Prevention of Terrorism Act. Nasheed was arrested by the Police on 22 February 2015 and his case is ongoing at the time of writing.

3. Amendment to eligible age for seeking presidential elections
The constitutional amendment submitted by the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA)—ruling party coalition partner—on 24 December 2014, which proposed to amend the eligible age for contesting in presidential elections to below 65 years faced widespread criticism from the opposition. The opposition, which included the JP after the dissolution of the coalition agreement with the ruling PPM, contended that the amendment was intended to bar JP leader Qasim Ibrahim from contesting. The legality of the amendment was questioned by prominent legal experts, including former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood, as being unconstitutional. Our October-December 2014 parliamentary update highlights issues surrounding this amendment.

The amendment was withdrawn on 3 March 2015 amidst media reports of a meeting between Gasim Ibrahim, prominent businessman Mohamed Moosa, and Tourism Minister Adeeb to discuss the current political situation and negotiate the withdrawal of this amendment.

Appointments and removal of members of key institutions

1.Removal of Elections Commission (EC) members
In February 2014, the Supreme Court (SC) initiated a contempt of court charge under its new “Suo Motu” regulation against EC members stating they violated the Court’s rulings on dissolving political parties(4). While there are problems associated with the “Suo Motu” regulation itself, the procedures undertaken in this instance against the Commission members heralded irregularities in the filing of charges and hearings. In March 2014, the Court ruled to remove the Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz Hassan and decreed Thowfeek serve a suspended prison sentence of six months.

Opposition parties and international civil society organizations have questioned the legitimacy of these expulsions as it was contrary to provisions on dismissal of EC members under the Constitution. This ruling also emphasizes the larger implications of the SC’s interpretations of contempt of court includes violating basic rights, principles of separation of powers and infringes on the autonomy of independent commissions. Building on the experience of the 2013 Presidential election where the independence of the EC was a dominant issue, there exists the possibility of negative impacts on future electoral environments.

2. Removal of Auditor-General
The government has continued in this trend of undermining the autonomy of independent, oversight institutions and in October 2014, the PPM proposed an amendment to the Audit Act, and removed the Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim on a technical triviality, before the expiration of the constitutionally mandated term of his office. The amendment is problematic in that it bypasses existing provisions in the Constitution that clearly prescribe the sole grounds for removal of the Auditor General – misconduct, incapacity or incompetence. It must also be noted that the passing of the amendment and the consequent removal of the Auditor General coincided with the release of an incriminating audit report implicating the current Tourism Minister. The opposition MDP protested the amendment as unconstitutional, nevertheless, it passed with 36 votes in favour and 22 against.

Ibrahim’s appointment as Auditor General was approved by Parliament in 2011 as President Nasheed’s nominee. During his tenure, Ibrahim presided over a spate of audit assessments into allegations of corruption under President Nasheed’s presidency, that were widely welcomed by the PPM at the time, as well as appraisals on corruption in the term of the current administration.

3. Removal of SC judges
In December 2014, a controversial amendment was submitted by an MDP MP to the Judicature Act to reduce the number of SC judges from seven to five. Following the amendment to the Act on 10 December 2014, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended the removal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Justice Muthasim Adnan citing “gross misconduct” as basis. This decision by the JSC to remove these judges without publicising the criteria against which they were evaluated raised questions about the transparency and fairness of the process.

On 15 December 2014, the Parliament approved the JSC’s recommendation by a two-thirds majority with 53 votes in favour and 21 against. Six of the JP members voted in favour as well as MDP MP Reeko Moosa Manik. Some MDP members did not attend the parliament session and allegations that opposition MDP MPs were offered bribes to stay out of the session ensured. The MDP has even followed-up with disciplinary proceedings against some MPs, including the expulsion of Manik.

This contentious removal of SC judges severely undermines the independence and integrity of the judiciary and exacerbates the allegations of political interference with the judicial system. The removal of both judges were heavily criticized by the opposition MDP, independent lawyers, the international community – including the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and civil society groups. These actors highlighted the fact that upholding judicial integrity requires a concerted effort to reform the broader aspects of the judicial sector, especially the oversight mechanisms in place such as the JSC.

‘Kulli massalathah’ or national issues

1. Malé water crisis
A few “kulli massala” or urgent national issue cases were submitted to the Parliament in 2014. One of the most critical was following the Malé city water crisis, submitted by PPM. It called on the state to fully investigate of the causes of the crisis, and to undertake expedient efforts to solve the water shortage.

The crisis started with a fire at Malé’s only water purification plant, cutting off supply to every household. The government immediately formed a taskforce, headed by then Defence Minister Nazim. Drinking water supplies were quickly airlifted into Maldives by India and other friendly states including China and the US, somewhat alleviating the immediate crisis. Political rhetoric was brought into furore when the government’s response in the aftermath of the crisis was to ask for public donations of US$ 20 million to help fully normalize the situation.

The opposition MDP and civil society groups countered stating the lack of detailed information on the part of government authorities on the investigation into the issue, the arbitrary nature of the aid amount as well as need for soliciting aid from the public citing the government-owned Malé Water and Sewerage Company’s apparent lack of contingency plans. In the midst of the crisis, the MDP also passed a resolution to handover the presidency to JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, in an act largely viewed as an attempt to destabilise the government. Civil society groups responded to the resolution alluding that it inferred overruling constitutional electoral processes and called on all political parties to operate within the boundaries set in the Constitution.

2. Disappearance of journalist Rilwan
In August 2014, Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, a journalist working for local newspaper Minivan News, disappeared and was allegedly abducted, and has been missing since. While the Maldives Police Service maintain they are investigating the disappearance, they have not been forthcoming with information or updates to either the public or Abdulla’s family. His family have since taken up a public campaign calling for state authorities to expedite the search and investigation efforts. The opposition and some civil society organizations have alleged state involvement invoking Abdulla’s prominence as a strong critic of the government on social media.

The Human Rights Commission has stated that state authorities are dragging their feet to address this matter and local and international actors have echoed similar concerns. A local NGO has, with the help of a UK-based investigator, undertaken an investigation into Abdulla’s disappearance, alleging involvement of gangs and have shared these findings with the police. The Home Minister has since acknowledged gang connections to the incident, but denied any state involvement in Abdulla’s disappearance and responded that the opposition were hindering investigations with such speculation.

The initial “kulli massala” issue submitted by MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy on Abdulla’s disappearance was accepted with bipartisan support on 19 August, eleven days after his alleged abduction. Since then, a 5,055 signature petition calling on parliamentary committees to investigate the disappearance and address police laxity in conducting the investigation was rejected by the Parliament. The Parliament’s Secretary-General stated the petition was rejected on an administrative technicality, which was contended by Fahmy, who argued he fulfilled all submission procedures.

1. Chaired by current Tourism Minister Adeeb. Board members are not reimbursed for their service, and thus, as claimed by the government, the appointments are not in contravention to restrictions placed on cabinet ministers in the Maldives Constitution, or the SEZ Act itself. The Constitution restricts members of the Cabinet from holding any other public office or office of profit, actively engage in a business or in the practice of any profession, or any other income generating employment, be employed by any person, buy or lease any property belonging to the State, or have a financial interest in any transaction between the State and another party. The government stated that the Board would not gain any financial profit, and would only act in the capacity of a governing body.
2. The current Attorney General is MP Nasheed’s partner at his law firm, “Nasheed Anil & Co.”
3.  Including the ongoing trial of former President Nasheed.

4. The procedure regarding the filing of charges and subsequent hearings were irregular:

– The Elections Commission did not receive a formal charge sheet until the defense team attended the SC for the second hearing on 18 February.
– The case was presided over by 5 out the 7 SC Justices. The Suo Motu Regulations specify that cases under it should be presided over by the full bench unless decided otherwise by the SC.
– The SC had not provided to the defense team the specific statements that allegedly involved contempt. The SC also had not clarified the exact manner EC violated SC’s ruling and order on political parties. In addition, the SC brought up charges on alleged violation of orders and ruling during the Presidential Elections.


This review looks into the work of the 18th Parliament. A total of ten bills and several amendments were passed in 2014. A number of appointments to key institutions and controversial removals were debated on the Parliament floor.
Important bills and amendments passed
1. Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act
The legislation on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) was submitted to the Parliament in October 2013 and passed on 1 April 2014. The legislation, which complies with the United Nations Convention against Corruption standards, plays an important role in exposing and preventing criminal and illicit activities such as terrorism financing, kleptocracy, narco-trafficking, human trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, counterfeiting currency, corruption, and transnational organised crimes.
Money laundering has potentially destructive social and economic consequences. It allows criminals such as drug traffickers, corrupt officials, and transnational organised crime syndicates to introduce illicit proceeds or “dirty money” into legitimate finance streams as legal funds. This not only erodes the integrity of the international financial system, but it also impacts economic development at the domestic level. Therefore, one of the major benefits of the AML/CTF Act is that it helps fight crime and corruption. Those who commit criminal acts and those who assist in laundering are criminalised and prosecuted under the Act. Punitive measures include confiscation and forfeiture of money laundering proceeds.
According to a report in 2011 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), prior to the AML/CTF Act, only the proceeds of drug crimes were criminalised in the Maldives under money laundering. The IMF report also highlighted that local radicalised groups are involved in financing terrorism abroad rather than in the Maldives. Similarly, according to the US State Department’s 2013 country report on terrorism, local radicalised groups use informal money transfer networks instead of more formal systems, which makes exposing a conspiracy to commit terror acts more difficult in countries with non-existent or weak national anti-money laundering systems. Therefore, AML/CTF Act provides Maldives with a strong framework to extend beyond criminalising only the proceeds of drug trafficking to expose and prevent a wide range of criminal activities, including the financing of terrorism.

2. Penal Code
The new penal code is the result of efforts that began around 2004 to reform and modernise the criminal justice system in the Maldives. Political opposition groups, governmental bodies, and civil society actors argued that the old penal code was outdated and ill-equipped to dispense appropriate punishments to offences.
Consequently, in 2004, owing to the demand for legal reforms, the Maldivian government with support from the United Nations Development Programme sought the consultancy of Professor Paul H. Robinson of University of Pennsylvania and his PhD students in drafting a new penal code. The final draft of the legislation was submitted to the Parliament in 2006, where it spent seven years under deliberations.
In the meantime, the ceaseless support for a new penal code continued. For example, in 2009, the Attorney General at the time, Husnu Suood, argued that the prosecutorial guidelines for offences were not appropriate and actually obstructed justice. Similarly, the parliamentary member at the time for Kulhudhufushi constituency, Mohamed Nasheed, pointed out that Maldivians faced “bitter experiences” under the criminal system because an outdated penal code was its essential pillar. These sentiments and the urgent need for legal reforms were also captured in a 2011 report by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, which stated that criminalising offences such as rape has been difficult precisely because the old penal code did not classify rape as a specific offence. The report also noted that the outdated legislation was inadequate to deal with grave crimes such as murder—including murder stemming from gang violence—and infanticide, thereby further crippling the criminal justice system.
In April 2004, the new penal code was finally passed, making it the first modern, comprehensive penal code in the world to incorporate the major tenets and principles of Islamic law. After having been given a year to design an effective implementation plan, the penal code is scheduled to be enforced after April 2015.
3. Special Economic Zone Act
The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act was passed in August 2014. The Act states guidelines and procedural aspects of investing, establishing and managing special zones at various areas of the country. It lays an edifice for economic, industrial, social, financial and infrastructural development. It allows economic activities to be carried out under a relatively liberal manner through tax exemptions to investors and developers. Free Trade Zones, Export Processing Zones, Zones reserved for offshore-financial services and high-tech parks can be established within the ambit of the Act.
The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the major proponent of the SEZ bill, claimed that the Act will offer a more liberal investment climate and thereby bring mega-projects into the country.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), on the other hand, proposed over 180 amendments to the bill and argued that it encourages money laundering activities and undermines the decentralisation system. However, none of the amendments proposed by MDP was passed. Both MDP and Jumhooree Party (JP) also argued that the law will result in “openly selling off the country” without parliamentary oversight.
4. Amendments to the the Judicature Act
In December the Judicature Act was amended, which included decreasing the number of judges of the Supreme Court bench from seven to five. This—as highlighted in the December edition of the Parliament Update—raised concerns about the political influence on the judiciary in the Maldives. 
Key appointments

The year 2014 saw key appointments to various state institutions.
The new Prosecutor General Muhuthaz Muhsin was appointed in July 2014. The position was vacant since the former Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu resigned in November 2013. Although the Prosecutor General’s Act states that the position must be filled within 30 days of vacancy, more than seven months passed before Muhsin was appointed.
Two new members Amjad Musthafa and Ahmed Sulaiman were elected to the Elections Commission in November 2014. The position became vacant upon the removal of the former President of the Commission, Fuad Thaufeeq, and a Commission member, Ahmed Fayaz, by a suo moto case by the Supreme Court.
The current Auditor General Hassan Ziyath was appointed on 24 November 2014. The removal of the former Auditor General—as highlighted in the October edition of the Parliament Update—raised concerns among opposition MPs.
Moreover, the former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Justice Muthasim Adnan were removed subsequent to amendments to the Judicature Act. On 14 December 2014 Abdulla Saeed was appointed as the new Chief Justice.
Attendance of MPs during the year
A total of 59 sittings were conducted by the 18th Parliament in 2014. It is worth noting that out of 85 MPs, only 16 MPs attended all sittings held during the year. The only MP who attended less than 50 percent of the sittings was Ahmed Siyam Mohamed of Meedhoo Constituency.
The following pie-chart depicts the attendance of MPs in 2014.
new chartpng
The chart below shows a party-level breakdown of the attendance.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 123159 PMpng


The key political event in December was the removal of two judges from the Supreme Court bench after bringing amendments to the Judicature Act. In addition to this, several key legislatures were passed by the Parliament during the final sitting for this year 2014.

(1) Removal of two sitting judges from the Supreme Court

During the month of November a bill to amend the Judicature Act was submitted. The  amendment proposed to decrease the number of judges at Supreme Court from seven to five. The voting was held on 10 December 2014, and 46 MPs voted in favour of passing the amendment while 21 voted against it. The amended Judicature Act provided for the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to forward to the Parliament the names of two Supreme Court judges that the Commission deem as incompetent. On an emergency meeting held on 11 December 2014, JSC decided both Justice Muthasim Adnan and Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain as incompetent. During the extraordinary sitting of the Parliament held on 14 December 2014, MPs from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) condemned the Speaker of the Parliament and secretariat for failing  to provide details of the JSC report which recommended removal of the two judges. MDP  issued a three-line whip against the amendment , whereas JP issued a free whip. A total of 53 MPs voted in favour of the removal of the two judges while 21 MPs voted against the removal. Despite issuance of a three-line whip, six MPs from MDP did not attend the session, which helped the ruling coalition get the two-third majority vote required to remove the two judges. Five MPs from JP voted in favour of removal and four MPs from JP voted against the removal of two judges. A total of two MPs opted to choose neither sides and one MP abstained.

The  US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal and international agencies such as International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) expressed serious concerns and disapproval citing the removal as arbitrary, unfair and unconstitutional. According to The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, not publicizing the grounds for removal of the two judges is not acceptable. She also added that it violates Article 154 of the Constitution which states that a judge may be removed from office only if JSC  finds the person grossly incompetent, or guilty of misconduct.

A joint statement released by Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA), Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA), and Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA)  also condemned removal of the two judges as  unconstitutional and a breach  of Commonwealth standards.

(2) Newly passed Acts

During the month of December, several important Acts were passed.  These include the Extradition Act, the Mutual Legal Assistance Act, and the Transfer of Prisoners Act. These Acts contain provisions that brought Maldives inline with various areas of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption to which Maldives had acceded to in 2007.

  • The Extradition Act: The Act provides for the situations and procedures where people accused or convicted of crimes can be extradited to and from the Maldives. The Act classifies the types of offences for which individuals can be extradited and regulates the procedures to be followed in extraditing individuals.
  • The Mutual Legal Assistance Act: The main objective of the Act  is to mutually provide and get assistance pertaining to criminal proceedings, through establishing necessary relationships  and procedures. Such assistance include the provision of evidence and arrangements for travelling of persons who provide testimonials against transnational crimes. In addition to this, asset and financial statements from banks and freezing of assets are also covered under this Act.
  • Transfer of Prisoners Act: This Act provides for inter-state transfer of prisoners and allows them to serve whole or part of their sentence in their home country. According to the Act, the remainder of the sentence must be less than a six months and only the most recent sentence is considered.

(3) Constitutional amendments submitted

A constitutional amendment was submitted on 24 December 2014, which proposes to amend the Article 109 of the Constitution to bar the eligible age for contesting in the presidential race to 65 years. MPs from JP condemned such an amendment  is a  violation of a basic constitutional right. According to the prominent lawyer and former Attorney General Sood, a referendum is necessary before the Parliament decides to bring such an amendment. Amendments to the bill on security and benefits of ex-presidents was also sent to the Parliament on 25 December 2014. The amendments include various benefits entitled to ex-presidents and provisions for deprivation of security and benefits of the same.


The Parliament has concluded the final term of the year 2014 and the Parliament sessions for the year 2015 will commence during the first week of March. During the upcoming period, it is expected the Parliament will pass the amendments to the Prohibiting Threatening and Possession of Dangerous Weapons and Sharp Objects Act 2010. This Act comprehensively provides penalties against use of threatening and possession of dangerous weapons and sharp objects. Such penalties include capital punishment and life-time imprisonment.

Transparency Maldives intends to increase accountability of the Parliament and enhance public trust in the institution. The organization is currently identifying and covering important developments so as to disclose the recent parliamentary matters to the general public. In this regard, a series of updates will be published on the website in the upcoming months.

This particular report highlights the important events and discussions that took place in the Parliament from October to December 2014. These include important matters related to the budget 2015, decentralization, health sector reform, and key institutional appointments.
Budget 2015

The Parliament has finalized a budget of 24.3 billion for 2015, on 10th December 2014. While concluding committee discussion sessions on the budget for 2015, the Budget Committee had proposed eleven recommendations, which included controversial amendments to existing laws.

One of the recommendations is merging independent institutions, which were formed to enhance democratic governance in the country. The new Constitution was ratified in 2008, and it provided for the establishment of constitutionally-mandated independent institutions. To establish a modern democracy with accountability mechanisms, the ‘Roadmap for Reform’ advocated for independent state institutions.

The budget was finalized without considering the opposition party’s recommendations and opposition MPs abstained from voting. A green tax initiative, an acquisition fee on Special Economic Zones and leasing of ten resorts include some measures to increase government revenue in 2015. The finalized budget is relatively high compared to the current year’s budget. To minimize government expenditure, the government has already announced 2015 as a “job freeze” year. This means the government has to resort to private sector to create jobs for youth.

Decentralization and health sector reform

The Budget Committee has also proposed to bring changes to the Decentralization Act. Maldives, with many dispersed islands over a relatively large area where transport networks are still inefficient and disconnected, requires a more decentralized approach in providing resources and services. The proposed changes include making the council members part-time, except the President of the Councils. The part-time councillors, however, will be entitled a commission based on the number of meetings they attend.

The Committee has also recommended measures to increase the quality of health services provided by IGMH, decrease the number of expatriates in tourism sector, and establish a local development bank.
The Government is formed by a dominant ruling coalition with a clear majority in the Parliament. The opposition MPs accused the coalition of taking unfair advantage of having a majority.

Key institutional appointments
Also, on 24th November 2014 , the Parliament has approved Hassan Ziyath as the new Auditor General. The Auditor General’s position became vacant as the ruling coalition made amendments to the Auditor General’s Act. According to the MPs of the opposition, the amendment was against the Constitution. Article 268 clearly states that all laws of the Maldives must be enacted in accordance with the Constitution and any law or part of any law inconsistent with the Constitution is, to the extent of  its inconsistency, void and of no force and effect. Also, according to the Article 218  (a) of the Constitution, the Auditor General shall only be removed from office on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
On 4th December 2014, the Parliament approved the members nominated by the President for the Elections Commission. The opposition MPs highlighted that the removal of former President of the Commission and a Commission member was unconstitutional. The Article 177  (a) of the Constitution, states that a member of Elections Commission shall only be removed from office on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
The past month has been a busy month for the Parliament where important discussions were held. This included budget finalization, key appointments to important institutions and amendments to existing laws. Moreover, the amendment to the Decentralization is also a key amendment.

Transparency Maldives conducted the Parliament Watch project from March 2010 to March 2011 in partnership with local NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN). Though the Parliament Watch project is jointly implemented, this report is produced solely by Transparency Maldives.

The aim of the Parliament Watch project is to make the Parliament accountable through increased and effective monitoring of the legislative processes and routine workings of the Parliament as well as to lobby for specific changes in bills relating to governance and human rights. Though advocacy to amend bills was a joint effort of both Transparency Maldives and MDN, Transparency Maldives focused mostly on governance related bills whereas MDN focused on bills relating to human rights.

Transparency Maldives advocated for changes to most of the 32 bills passed by Parliament in the year 2010, focusing extensively on Decentralization Act, Local Council Elections Act, Right to Information Bill, Political Party Bill and Maldives Broadcasting Corporation Act.

Parliament Watch: An Evaluation of the Parliament of Maldives report is produced by Transparency Maldives under the Parliament Watch project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Read the full report here: Parliament Watch: An Evaluation of the Parliament of Maldives 2010