Only ruling party MPs can propose bills on taxes, state expenditure

Only ruling party MPs can propose bills on taxes, state expenditure
August 12 19:49 2015

The ruling party dominated People’s Majlis amended today its standing orders to prevent opposition MPs from submitting legislation relating to taxes and public finance.

The revisions to Article 71 state: “The government will propose legislation to impose or revoke taxes and legislation to make or cut expenses from the treasury.”

The amendment passed with 43 votes in favor, 19 against and three abstentions.

The standing orders previously only limited proposing tax bills to the government.

Opposition MPs contend the changes are aimed at throwing out a bill to hike disability benefits. The changes violate MPs’ rights and are aimed at silencing the opposition, some parliamentarians further argued.

Speaking to The Maldives Independent, MP of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Eva Abdulla said the changes will prevent opposition MPs from submitting any legislation as “all bills affect the budget.”

“Even bills such as the Domestic Violence Prevention Act have budgetary implications, because it establishes a new oversight body, the Family Protection Authority, which means the government will have to pay salaries, provide office space,” she said.

MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), however, argued the amendment was the norm in developed countries such as the US, UK, India and Australia. Speaker Abdulla Maseeh said that limiting the submission of public finance bills to the government is a common practice in legislative assemblies of “civilized societies.”

Ahmed Nihan, the majority leader, said the amendment was aimed at preventing the opposition from proposing bills that could obstruct the government’s economic agenda. He pledged to increase benefits to civil servants.

PM MP Ali Shah said: “We must accept that as we are part of a state, all changes and reforms must be brought through a system … procedures and systems must be in place for public expenditure.”

“It is not the bills that we propose that are responsible for this country’s development. [President Abdulla Yameen] is a visionary. He will bring progress and benefits to the people,” said Jameel Usman, the PPM MP who had proposed the changes.

Addressing the Speaker and ruling party MPs, MDP MP Rozaina Adam said: “Have you no shame? We were elected to this Majlis to make laws, to propose bills. But with this amendment, you and your party are preventing us from proposing any legislation.”

The PPM has consolidated all the powers of the state under President Yameen, she said. “This is not a People’s Majlis. This is the government’s Majlis.”

The changes will cancel proposed legislation that impose new expenses on the state, including a bill proposed by Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem to hike disability benefits from MVR2000 to MVR5000.

Ali Hussein, an MP with the Jumhooree Party (JP) also said that every piece of legislation would impose expenses on the state. The state treasury belongs to the people, and not to the government, he argued, therefore, opposition MPs must have a say in state expenditure.

“All 85 members here, no matter which party they belong to, must have the same rights,” argued Faisal Naseem, a JP MP.

Additional writing and reporting by Zaheena Rasheed