The Local Government Authority on Monday suspended eight island councillors and reiterated threats to dissolve opposition-majority local councils.
Opposition-majority councils that released statements backing the February 1 ruling went “beyond the powers and discretion” granted by the decentralisation law, contended the LGA, a supervisory body chaired by Home Minister Azleen Ahmed.
The 25 opposition members were suspended without pay for one month and barred from entering the council offices.
The eight councillors suspended Monday were Shaviyani Milandhoo council president Abdulla Faiz and vice president Ahmed Siyam; Gaaf Dhaal Gahdhoo council president Rayyan Jamal, vice president Aminath Faruzyna, and council member Amir Abdulla; and all three members of the Baa Hithaadhoo island council.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party condemned the suspensions as the actions of “a politically weak, law-breaking, dictatorial government without public support.”
The LGA was posting the suspension letters on social media to “intimidate councils,” Ameen Mohamed, president of the Kumundhoo island council, wrote on Facebook, calling LGA members “puppets” of the president.
Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodiq told the press that the opposition councillors would not be deterred by threats or punishment, criticising the LGA for taking disciplinary action without offering any opportunity to defend themselves.
“This is not how things work in a democratic society,” the three-term mayor said.
The suspension of four out of seven councillors from the southernmost atoll would bring administrative functions of the Addu City Council to a halt, he warned. A quorum of four is required for council meetings.
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.
Ahead of the Maldives’ third municipal elections in May, which saw MDP take 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.