Maldives parliament strips ex-presidential benefits for opposition leader

Maldives parliament strips ex-presidential benefits for opposition leader
April 06 18:57 2016

Former President Mohamed Nasheed hit back at a law stripping him of state benefits and privileges, saying: “I have always believed that respect and privilege come from the people. It is not something that can be created or abolished by a law.”

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives-dominated parliament approved today amendments to the 2009 Privileges and Protection for Former Presidents Act to withdraw state benefits for ex-presidents convicted and sentenced to jail for a criminal offence committed during his presidency.

Nasheed was was found guilty of terrorism in March 2015 over the military’s detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

The amendments proposed by PPM MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed was passed with 43 votes in favour. Some 23 opposition MPs voted against the bill.

The rushed trial against Nasheed drew widespread condemnation over apparent lack of due process.

The UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention in September declared Nasheed’s imprisonment illegal and politically motivated. The specialised UN agency also rejected the government’s appeal “without comment,” according to Nasheed’s lawyers.

In the face of mounting diplomatic pressure and the threat of sanctions, the government in January authorised a 30-day medical leave for Nasheed in a deal brokered by Sri Lanka, India, the UK and US.

The opposition leader has since sought a 60-day extension and remains in London with his wife and children.

With the amendments approved today, Nasheed will no longer be entitled to security and protection from military bodyguards as well as medical insurance, a monthly pension, and funds to manage the former president’s office.

Speaking during the preliminary debate on the bill last week, MDP MP Eva Abdulla said the move demonstrates President Abdulla Yameen’s jealousy of Nasheed’s popularity as the leader of the largest political party in the Maldives.

The pro-government majority had passed last year a similar law that stripped Nasheed of the MDP presidency on account of his terror conviction.

PPM MPs however said during the debate that Nasheed does not qualify for state benefits because of his alleged efforts to defame the Maldives. Nasheed has called for targeted international sanctions on officials responsible for human rights abuses.

Government officials had previously questioned Nasheed’s eligibility for state benefits claiming he had not completed a full five-year term in office. The former president was ousted three years into his presidency.