Anti-graft NGO lambasts Speaker’s silence on corruption

Anti-graft NGO lambasts Speaker’s silence on corruption
February 29 18:00 2016

Anti-graft group Transparency Maldives has slammed Speaker Abdulla Maseeh for his silence and inaction over allegations of MPs’ involvement in Maldives’ biggest ever corruption scandal.

In an open letter on Thursday, Mariyam Shiuna, the executive director of Transparency Maldives, noted parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have been accused of illicit enrichment and taking bribes.

But the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives dominated parliament had refused to debate the issue, throwing out urgent motions proposed by opposition MPs, the letter noted.

“While investigations reveal that massive embezzlement from the state treasury have taken place, and while MPs and companies linked to them are rumored to have benefited, why hasn’t the Majlis investigated these allegations and taking action against all involved?” the letter asked.

According to a damning audit released earlier this month, at least US$80million was embezzled through the state-owned tourism promotion firm Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation over the past two years.

Former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, who lost his job when he flagged theft from MMPRC in a 2014 report, has alleged that stolen funds were used to influence the 2014 parliamentary elections.

“Halal, haram doesn’t matter, no matter where the money comes from, they use it to buy land, speedboats. I personally know MPs who, on signing with a particular party, suddenly get rich. All of a sudden, they own land and boats, big speedboats. What we are seeing are the results of MPs prioritizing their own interests over that of the public,” he said in a recent interview.

“The money was disbursed to MPs in amounts as big as $200,000 and $300,000. If a proper inquiry is undertaken, these allegations can be established as fact.”

Home Minister Umar Naseer has meanwhile claimed all but three MPs had taken bribes.

Transparency Maldives urged Maseeh to disclose whether he had investigated such claims.

“We did not elect you to cover up corruption… The People’s Majlis does not seem concerned when public funds have been embezzled by the billion. We do not see you looking into the allegations theft against MPs,” the letter said.

Shiuna also noted that various surveys show that public’s trust in the parliament is low.

A 2015 democracy survey revealed that over 62 percent of Maldivians have no confidence in the parliament.

A heated exchange over corruption allegations this week saw majority leader Ahmed Nihan spit out a large mouthful of water at a female opposition MP’s face.

President Abdulla Yameen, meanwhile, admitted to handing out cash to MPs, saying that his former deputy Ahmed Adeeb, who had managed gifts he had received from friendly businesses had helped MPs.

“What I want to say is, the corruption stops at Ahmed Adeeb. Other ministers are not complicit in this. And the President was not aware of it,” he said on the island of Thoddoo on Thursday.

“Ahmed Adeeb has helped MPs. And there are businessmen who support my political activities, who are giving me various amounts of money to work for 2018 elections. So far, this money has been managed for me by Adeeb. I don’t know the details of these funds…

“But what I want to say is, the receiver, whether be President, or an MP, they are unaware that the money has been obtained via MMPRC, or illegally from the state treasury.”