The anti-graft watchdog has thrown out a corruption complaint against the ruling party over the use of state resources for a rally celebrating President Abdulla Yameen’s third year in office.
The complaint claimed the Progressive Party of the Maldives had used public money for and forced civil servants and employees of state-owned enterprises to attend the ‘Habeys 3’ rally on November 28.
The Anti Corruption Commission, however, declared legal expenses from the state budget and the forced attendance stating that the rally was organised by the government and not the ruling party.
The complaint was lodged by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.
MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, a spokesman for the MDP, condemned the watchdog for what he called an “incomplete investigation”.
The rally had stirred controversy when civil servants complained to media over forced attendance. An employee at the utility company, Fenaka, told the Maldives Independent that they were threatened with pay cuts and demotions if they failed to turn up.
A memo sent to the staff of the immigration department meanwhile said their attendance at the rally was “absolute must” and that their presence would be monitored.
The Voice of Free Press also reported that state employees were made to prepare the rally grounds.
The ACC in a brief letter to the MDP on January 22 said: “This commission’s investigation revealed that the rally was not held by the PPM. This is evident from media reports that cited Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer saying the rally was organised by the government. Hence, we do not believe that it is an issue for the government to spend on the rally.
“With regards to your complaint that civil servants and employees of state-owned companies were forced to attend, we do not believe it is an issue for the government to order government employees to attend a rally it had organised.”
Fahmy however insisted that the rally could not be “seen as anything but a PPM campaign event”.
“The rally was held as a government event, under that name. But the event was a campaign event for President Yameen. The banners had the slogan “Yameen 2018” on it. Even the water bottles had the slogan. The songs that they played in the rally were all campaign songs. The speeches were all campaign speeches,” he said.
The ACC did not disclose how much the government had spent on the rally and whether the expenses were included in the state budget.
The PPM has also drawn similar criticism over rally held on November 5. State employees had complained of forced attendance, while people who travelled to Malé for the rally said they were given at least MVR500 (US$32.4). Some posted pictures of the cash envelopes on social media.
A minister said the handout was to ensure that “those who came from far-flung islands did not go needy”. The PPM’s secretary denied allegations of forced attendance.
The ACC could not confirm if a complaint had been filed over the November 5 rally.
The watchdog has meanwhile come under fire for dismissing corruption allegations against First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim for re-labelling packets of dates gifted by the Saudi Arabian king and distributing them in her charity organisation’s name.
The ACC also ruled out corruption in an Islamic ministry letter requesting that the finance ministry give the Sadagat Foundation some US$12,000 that was donated to the government by an unnamed organisation based in Abu Dhabi.