"People's Majlis" or "Parties' Majlis"? - The great unknown!

The 2019 parliamentary elections is scheduled to be held in April.

With the elections looming up ahead and campaigns gaining momentum, let us take a look at possible scenarios that may play out in the next few weeks: While the some current political affairs of the country have already become an abyss of unknown, one thing we know for sure is that a dark and overpowering force is about to unleash its fury on the Maldivian people and divide the unity among us.

By now, the majority of candidates who will be contesting in the parliamentary polls have been almost finalized. While some political parties have already handed over their party tickets, the number of contestants announcing their candidacy keep increasing as time still remains until submission of candidacy papers is closed by the Elections Commission. Some have already started running their strategic campaigns in hopes that an early start may ensure them more popularity.- after all, it is said that the early bird takes the worm.

It is safe to say contestants will soon be at each other's throats, ready to rip up each other's reputation and shred every ounce of dignity in order to break down their opponent and their campaign. Politics is a dirty game. It gives birth to hatred and jealousy, its spawns are evil and cunning. Trying to simply "buy" the loyalty of supporters is no longer sufficient; the behavior of politicians attest that anti-campaigning to make yourself look good is apparently the best strategy to win an election.

While this is the case, it is at this point that we should ask ourselves just how much we know about the concept of a 'parliament'. The purpose of the parliament, how it works, the reason for electing representatives, the responsibilities of elected lawmakers - just how many people can correctly answer these questions, one would wonder. From what we have seen so far, and continue to witness, the concept behind a parliament is alien to the local people - or rather, it has been covered up so effectively that no one can really tell the facts from myths anymore!

Those elected as members of the parliament do not necessarily have to be hardcore loyalists of a political party. Concepts such as three-line whips and other whips are introduced by political parties in order to undermine the power and authority of the people, entrapping and enslaving the people's representatives. This is most definitely not part of the parliament concept. While a whole section of the constitution is dedicated to the People's Majlis (Maldivian parliament), it does not dictate lawmakers to do the bidding of their political parties and obeying their every order. Article 75 of the constitution clearly stipulates what needs to be considered and taken into account by lawmakers when they are doing their job.

Let us take a quick look at this "Article 75".

"Members of the People’s Majlis should be guided in their actions by considerations of national interest and public welfare foremost, and should not exploit their official positions in any way for their own benefit or for the benefit of those with whom they have special relations. They shall represent not only their constituencies but the country as a whole".

Do you see it?

The mandate of parliamentarians is as clear as day in the constitution! In no way does it dictate that lawmakers are to prioritize the ideologies of their political parties over the views of the people. History is witness to the fact that lawmakers have made decisions that do not benefit the welfare of the people, just because of the overbearing power and control their political parties hold over them. Some of these politicians have later admitted their oversight and apologized to the people. This is what we want to avoid!

Not surprisingly, the ever-eloquent lawmakers never seem to run short of excuses for their undesirable behavior. The make the feeble excuse that their campaigns were funded by their parties, claiming that going against the wishes of their parties would be a betrayal. However, the funds released to the political parties by the State are the PEOPLE's money. Therefore, is it appropriate that the parliamentarians are more loyal to their parties that the people they represent?

It is not an issue that political parties are represented in the parliament. In fact, representatives of the parties SHOULD be in the parliament. However, the all-important fact that these representatives should bear in mind is that it is the "People's" Majlis. It is not the "Party's" Majlis, as it currently seems to represent. Therefore, the interest of the people should always come first, period!

The authorization of the budget, projects being planned by the government should not be affected just because of disagreements to do with political and personal ideologies. If it benefits the people, it should be explored, by both the ruling parties and the opposition alike! THIS is the responsibility the people have laid on the shoulders of the parliamentarians. THIS is what they are paid to do. The boss of the parliamentarians are the people, whether they like it or not.

Another misconception of the people regarding the parliament is believing that the elected representatives of a constituency play a major part in achieving things for the particular constituency they represent.

On one hand, there are the pledges the candidates make during their campaign to weasel their way into the parliament. Promises are not the issue, if the person making the promise is aware that they do not represent the government, nor do they have any control over it. The person making the promise should be aware of their rightful place in the greater scheme of things. Promising that the government would make certain decisions ad get certain things done - now this is an issue! The most the representatives can do is "lobbying" certain causes with the government; certainly a promise cannot be guaranteed!

There are some more additions we need to make into this "parliament concept". If the trust placed in the representative chosen to speak on behalf of 5000 citizens is compromised, we need to have laws in place that would enable the citizens to denounce their support for the individual. The best way to achieve this would be to take a vote among the constituents to ensure if the representative is still accepted by the people. In the case that the outcome is negative, their membership at the parliament should be revoked. The people should be given the choice to elect another representative of their liking.

Dear candidates - here is one piece of advise. Know your place, know your rights. Do not let your loyalty be bought or be influenced. Remain an advocate of the people and stay the course. Hopefully, this is what would make you unique and liked by your people!