The biggest hope of the Maldivian people when electing the incumbent government was the hope of catching the perpetrators behind murders and enforced disappearances and bringing them in front of justice. Catching the criminals behind the mass corruption and kleptocracy that exists within the government is another of the promises that the citizens look most forward to.
Just ahead of the presidential elections, party leaders issued statements from behind the bars, and made statements via Skype calls from countries they had sought asylum from, promising to reform the Maldives. Then a presidential candidate, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih promised to find a solution for these concerns of the Maldivian people.
As promised, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih established to presidential commissions on the first day of his administration: a commission on recovering state assets and investigating corruption and another commission to look into suspicious deaths and enforced disappearances. This is the most efficient and direct action a president can take, no doubt. Those involved in the task insists that this was the best course of action, as intelligence reports and accusations made suggest that the entities tasked with investigating these crimes were already compromised and under third-party influences. No doubt, compiling a commission with members trusted by the president himself, answering directly to the president is the best tactic to tackle the issues.
After establishing the commissions, the president then tasked the four party leaders of the ruling coalition and the parliamentarians representing these parties to continue the next steps. The president wished to grant powers to the two commissions through the joint effort of the coalition leaders and their representatives.
However, the bills granting authority to the two commissions have been "parked" at the parliament for over 91 days. The task handed over to the members by the people with so much hope and anticipation, and all doors that have been opened to address the major issues in the country keeps "getting slammed in their faces" by those entrusted to do the job.
It started when the bill was initially submitted at the parliament. In the committee review process, several powers that were originally to be granted to the commission were removed, based on concerns expressed by opposing Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The original bill had sought to grant the commissions the power to raid and search places of interest through Maldives Police Service, and requesting for court orders when necessary. According to the original bill, the commission would also possess the power to withhold evidence and seek financial details of bank accounts, in addition to possessing the power to freeze suspicious bank accounts. But alas, all these "powers" were obliterated during the committee process.
It doesn't stop there, no. Unfortunately, every time a vote on the matter is scheduled at a parliament sitting, the members who were elected to represent the people "flee", for the lack of a better word. After three failed attempts, the bills have now been removed from the agenda, and put on a temporary hold.
The first time a vote for the bills were scheduled to be taken, some members representing the ruling coalition were, ironically, at a protest organized by opposing PPM. This was during the previous term of the current parliament. During the current term, when the time for voting comes around, some of the members of the ruling coalition "mysteriously" disappear from the parliament floor, causing a loss of the required quorum for voting.
"This shows just how 'loyal' parliamentarians are to their people. These are the same parliamentarians who will go and beg for votes from the people for the next term. When the time for voting [at the parliament] comes, these members leave the floor in droves while others remain idly in the tea room. This is how these members are carrying out the responsibilities entrusted upon them by the people, and the people are witnessing these actions", a member of the joint parliamentary group who was present on the parliament floor on all three instances revealed.
The member further said if the bills granting powers to the commission are not being passed due to issues with the bill itself, any issued raised thus far has been addressed and resolved. Now that there are no more problems with the bills that can be raised further, it has now been claimed that there are issues in the report issued by the researching committee itself, and it has come to the point that the bills have been removed from the agenda, added the member. While the Committee on Independent Institutions have stated in their report that there are no more problems with the bills, the latest move claiming discrepancies between the report and the conclusion of the committee is a direct scheme to obstruct the passing of the bill, claimed the member.
"This is the third month since the bill was submitted at the parliament. This is not the time to bring up issues with the committee report. If there were no problems with the report all these days, why is there an issue now, all of a sudden? This is a question the public need to ask" he added.
The next question we should be asking is, why don't the parliament members want to grant authority to the presidential commissions? What are they afraid of? Didn't Jumhooree Party, along with main-ruling MDP advocate to investigate suspicious deaths out on the streets? Where are the 12 members who were raising their voices then? Why aren't the party leaders taking any action? Are they going to sit idly until it's too late?
When parliamentarians refuse to vote for a bill granting authority to a commission investigating corruption, one cannot help but wonder if the reason for their resistance is the fear of being implicated in a case of corruption themselves. After all, why would anyone set a fire if there is a high chance of getting burnt themselves?
Another probable scenario is that there are powerful, influential people who wish to hide their crimes at play behind the scenes, controlling the moves of their "puppets" in the parliament to block the bill. While there are several high profile business men who owe millions to the state, as well as police and defence personnel caught in webs of corruption and deceit, it is entirely possible that the obstructions to the bill are a result of their involvement.
Let's now take a look at political motives, shall we?
Main ruling MDP and partner Jumhooree Party have remained at loggerheads since the very beginning of the coalition. It now seems as if Jumhooree Party is taking advantage of their power in the parliament by effectively using it to sabotage the pledges of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Jumhooree Party seems to be siding with opposing Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) to obstruct the bills on the presidential commissions from passing.
These are all pondering questions and concerns. Subjects to muse over and contemplate. From any point of view, it can be concluded that the moves made by the parliamentarians obstructing the bills are in no way acting in favor of the people's betterment, the people's behalf. It is safe to say they are hindering the bills on the presidential commissions in a bid to achieve either a personal or a political goal.
Again, I am forced to remind you - are these not the same members who will come to our doorsteps begging for votes? What face will they show when asked if they advocated to address the corruption and bring about justice for those who have been wronged? What new story will they weave to sell to the people?
Government majority, opposition in power?
The people's Majlis or the parliament is the most powerful authority in the governance system practiced in the Maldives. What occurred during former president Mohamed Nasheed's regime will attest to the power of the parliament. The reality is, as the parliament is the authority that appoints members to all independent entities, these appointed individuals are somewhat answerable to a powerful parliamentarian or two.
Currently, the most number of parliamentarians belong to Jumhooree Party. With the appointment of some MDP parliamentarians as cabinet ministers and the president, MDP no longer holds the majority leader title of the parliament. MDP comes second to Jumhooree Party, while the remaining seats are scattered among members representing PPM, PNC, religiously conservative Adhaalath who is also a coalition member, and Maldives Democratic Alliance (MDA).
In this regard, if all members representing the coalition sided together, more than 60 votes are assured in favor of the government. Obviously, a huge majority. However, the parliament is not currently working in the expected order. Although the government holds parliament majority, the opposing progressive coalition between PPM and PNC are still more powerful in the parliament.
Deputy Speaker of the parliament, Moosa Manik, an independent member who has previously been a member of both MDP and PPM revealed to AVAS that it is no longer an easy feat to distinguish between MPs who represent the opposition and the ruling coalition - Jumhooree Party is playing for both teams by working with opposing PPM while also being a member of the ruling coalition.
"It is the responsibility of all coalition partners to endorse and vote in favor of the bills constructed and presented by the government through it's policies. Voting for these bills is vital for all partners. When PPM and MDA were in a coalition, they worked according to this system. However, what we are witnessing today is some members who support the coalition also playing the role of the opposition", said Moosa.
Moosa said the main reason that pushed Jumhooree Party to assist the opposition was the hostility and disagreements within MDP. The party charter of MDP states that if a member of MDP is elected as the President of the Maldives, said member will be considered the highest figure of the party. However, the party is being run by the former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed. This is where the conflicts originate.
Lengthy agreements were made between the coalition parties ahead of the presidential election. Much as president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih wishes to honor these agreements, President Nasheed is adamant in his resolve not to stick to the original agreements. As a subsequent result, the coalition partners have also started to act on their own decisions. The reason that the parliament is unsuccessful in passing MDP-led bills is this, explained Moosa.
"If one closely researches the Agenda 19 by President Nasheed, it will become clear that it is not just a bid to secure a parliament seat. It seems more like a calculated manifesto orchestrated to once again elect [Nasheed] as president. This is the way it is, and this is exactly what is ruining MDP. If this issue is not resolved, there is no solution for the issues with coalition parties", added Moosa.
Granting authorities to the presidential commissions is the most anticipated action by the people of Maldives- the most attractive promise made by the leaders and members to the people. Members will be soon flocking over to the people with more promises, without having fulfilled this huge pledge. The true face of these parliamentarians will soon manifest itself and become clear to the people of Maldives.