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Councillors suspended en masse over MDP primary

The suspended councillors include president of the Ukulhas council with the MDP congress due to place on the island on June 30.



The Local Government Authority has suspended 26 councillors for participating in the Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential primary.

The 21 island councillors and five atoll councillors have been suspended without pay for three months, the pro-government Sun Online reported Thursday.

The LGA, a supervisory body chaired by the home minister, informed them there was evidence to prove they helped conduct the primary despite a civil court order to stop the polls.

Voting took place nationwide despite police snatching ballot boxes after the Elections Commission declared the referendum unlawful over former president Mohamed Nasheed’s ineligibility to run for office with a 13-year prison sentence.

The suspended councillors reportedly include Shaukath Ibrahim, president of the Ukulhas island council. The MDP’s national congress is due to place on Ukulhas on June 30.

The LGA has been under fire over the latest round of suspensions with MDP supporters and lawmakers contesting its authority to take disciplinary action against elected representatives.

MP Mariya Ahmed Didi stressed that “councillors participated in their individual capacity” and challenged the LGA to take action against 43,000 MDP members who voted in the primary.

Dozens of opposition councillors were suspended in March for calling on authorities to implement a Supreme Court order to release political prisoners. More recently, all five councillors of the Gaaf Alif Villingili island council were suspended for issuing a statement condemning alleged police brutality towards a journalist.

Earlier this month, all five members of the Ihavandhoo island council were suspended without pay for three months over alleged obstruction of housing ministry staff.

Ahead of the country’s third municipal elections last year – which the opposition won handily with the MDP taking 21 out of 23 seats from the Malé, Addu and Fuvahmulah city councils – the 2010 decentralisation law was amended to change the composition of the LGA’s 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.

In December, the reconstituted LGA suspended three Gaaf Alif atoll councillors for meeting the Indian ambassador to the Maldives without permission from the central government.