Parliament Updates – The year 2014 in review

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.
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The chart below shows a party-level breakdown of the attendance.

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