Seventeen councillors who called for the execution of a Supreme Court order to release political prisoners last month have been suspended.
They went “beyond the powers and discretion” granted by the decentralisation law by releasing statements in the wake of the February 1 ruling, the Local Government Authority informed the six island and city councils in letters sent out Sunday.
If “an offence of the same degree” is repeated, High Court orders will be sought to dissolve the opposition-dominated councils, warned the LGA, a supervisory body chaired by Home Minister Azleen Ahmed.
The 17 elected representatives were suspended without pay for one month and barred from entering the council office.
Mayor Abdulla Sodiq, Deputy Mayor Mohamed Yashrif along with council members Jamsheedha Mohamed and Ali Fahmy Mohamed were suspended from the seven-member Addu City Council.
The other three councillors, who have been temporarily put in charge, were reportedly out on official business on February 5 when the council passed a resolution backing the Supreme Court order.
The 13 island councillors suspended for signing similar resolutions or statements included Haa Dhaal Dhidhdhoo council president Ali Hashim, vice president Mohamed Hashim, along with councillors Ahmed Firaq and Aminath Zuhura; Baa Thulhadhoo council president Ahmed Rasheed and vice president Zaid Rasheed; Baa Kamadhoo council president Abdulla Rasheed and vice president Ahmed Sajid; Laamu Maamendhoo council vice president Hussain Habeel Ali and councillor Yousuf Irfan; and the three members of the Laamu Isdhoo island council.
In December, three Gaaf Alif atoll councillors were suspended for meeting the Indian ambassador to the Maldives without permission from the central government.
The opposition members returned to work last week.
The 2010 decentralisation law was amended in April last year to change the composition of the LGA’s executive board.
A member representing the public and six representatives from city and atoll councils were removed whilst the president was authorised to appoint the other five members – subject to parliamentary approval – including a cabinet member, a chief executive officer, a civil society member, and two experts in the fields of gender equality and public administration.
The changes came ahead of the Maldives’ third municipal elections in May, which saw the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party take 21 out of 23 seats from the Malé, Addu and Fuvahmulah city councils.