Expanding executive power on agenda as Majlis reconvenes

Expanding executive power on agenda as Majlis reconvenes
June 08 15:22 2016

The People’s Majlis returned from recess Tuesday for the second session of 2016 with bills on expanding executive powers as the first order of business.

Ruling party MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed proposed amending the 2007 civil service law to require the Civil Service Commission to consult ministers before appointing permanent secretaries, the highest-ranking civil servant at government offices.

The responsibilities of the permanent secretary presently involve managing the ministry and its employees as well as advising and assisting the minister on policies.

Latheef proposed revising the section to state that the permanent secretary must manage the ministry “in accordance with the minister’s advice and instructions”.

The 2007 Civil Service Act established an independent civil service in the Maldives for the first time. The commission was set up in 2008 and its members are appointed by the parliament rather than the executive to minimise the president’s influence over the bureaucracy.

Last December, Ismail Ali Manik, former permanent secretary of the finance ministry, had resigned when he was ordered by the president’s office to fire more than 70 staff.

President Abdulla Yameen had declared that the 24,000-strong civil service is “overstaffed” and stirred controversy after threatening to cut wages for striking staff.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party at the time urged Yameen not to overstep his mandate and dictate how the CSC must act.

“Our fear here is that we are reverting to the arbitrary processes that existed prior to the ratification of the 2008 constitution, where a department at the president’s office, as desired by the president, would hire and fire employees,” the party said.

Similar amendments were meanwhile proposed to the Financial Securities Act to grant sole authority to the president to appoint and dismiss board members of Capital Market Development Authority, a corporate body tasked with developing, regulating, and supervising the securities exchange market.

The bill submitted by MP Abdulla Rifau also proposed several administrative changes, including new regulations governing the licensing of financial security service providers and outlining various disciplinary actions.

Both pieces of legislation were introduced at yesterday’s sitting of parliament ahead of a preliminary debate to take place at a later date.

The bills are likely to pass as the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives controls a comfortable majority of seats in the 85-member house.

A resolution submitted by opposition MP Mohamed Abdul Kareem calling on the government to provide affordable housing to the public was also introduced at yesterday’s sitting.

It is unclear when Speaker Abdul Maseeh Mohammed will table the resolution for debate.

Tuesday’s sitting was adjourned shortly after it began at 10am due to the absence of other items of the day’s agenda.

Before the adjournment, Yameen’s nominees for several diplomatic postings were sent to the national security committee for evaluation.

Ahmed Shiaan, head of the diplomatic mission to the United Kingdom, was nominated as non-resident ambassador to Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Foreign Secretary Dr Ali Naseer was nominated to become the next permanent representative of the Maldives to the United Nations as well as the ambassador to the United States, and the non-resident High Commissioner to Canada.

Additional writing by Ahmed Naish