The amendment submitted to the parliament to give control of the Local Government Authority (LGA) solely to the president would eradicate the voices of the people, declared opposition lawmakers on Tuesday, describing the bill as another means of “slavery”.
The bill lobbied on behalf of the government by Ungoofaaru MP Jaufar Dawood proposes to give the president the sole authority to appoint members to LGA’s board. Should the amendment be passed, the current board of nine members that includes city and atoll councillors will be replaced with a board of five members, all of whom will be appointed by the president with the consent of Parliament.
During the parliamentary debate on the amendment, Alifushi MP Mohamed Rasheed Hussain of main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) declared that the bill was proposed to eradicate the voices and power of the people and constituencies in LGA, handing the president sole authority. He accused the government of intending to bring back the abolished Ministry of Atolls and appoint atoll chiefs again, saying that the current administration does not favour decentralisation and the council system.
Kaashidhoo MP Faisal Naseem of opposition Jumhoory Party also defended the current Decentralisation Act. He said it is unacceptable to remove elected leaders when decisions are not taken in accordance with the desires of a certain party.
Maduvvari MP Mohamed Ameeth of the opposition further proclaimed that the absence of councillors on LGA’s board will silence the voices of the people. “Our systems must be maintained. If the system is shattered, there will be no democracy in this country,” he said.
Lawmakers of the ruling coalition countered the opposition’s concerns. Bilehdhoo MP Ahmed Mubeen stressed the importance of making changes to LGA’s board and pointed out that since the amendment mandates that the president’s picks must be approved by the parliament, the voices of the people are thus included on LGA’s board.
MP Jaufar who submitted the bill also highlighted that LGA is the parent body that oversees the daily work of councils. He proclaimed that, thus, having councillors on LGA’s board creates conflict of interests.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers of the opposition also spoke in favour of certain aspects of the amendment. One such subject highlighted by opposition lawmakers is that the bill stipulates that all members of LGA’s board must be independent and free of political influence.
Moreover, MDP’s Addu Meedho MP Rozaina Adam supported the amendment’s directive to appoint a female veteran from the Gender Equality sector. She also called for more women to be appointed to other boards and councils.
Further stressing that the member from the Public Administration sector to be appointed to LGA’s board must have a suitable academic background and capability, MP Rozaina added that political activists or anyone that would work solely for the betterment of a certain party should not be appointed to the board.