The parliament descended into fresh chaos today with lawmakers from warring sides accusing one another of corruption, and a ruling coalition MP admitting that he handed over “sacks of money” as bribes.
MPs called each other thieves, robbers and traitors during a debate on a parliamentary inquiry into the theft of some US$80million from tourism leases, one branded as the biggest case of corruption in Maldivian history.
MP Rozaina Adam of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party was booed at when she read out the early day motion for a select inquiry committee.
The debate quickly descended into mud slinging, name-calling and shouting matches, with opposition MPs calling for President Abdulla Yameen’s arrest, and MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives accusing their opponents of having benefited from the scandal.
MP Ahmed Mahloof who left the PPM last year was accused of taking MVR13million (US$840,000), while MDP MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa alleged that the PPM used the millions stolen from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation to buy off some 15 MPs.
“President Yameen is a thief. 15 MPs signed on to PPM after they were paid from stolen MMPRC money,” he said, alleging that the MP presiding over today’s session, MP Ali Mohamed, had been paid to defect from the Jumhooree Party to the PPM.
MP for Hoarafushi, Mohamed Ismail, of the Maldives Development Alliance, retaliated by saying that the opposition should be ‘ashamed’ to talk of corruption.
“I carried that sack of money to them. I carried and distributed the money, and they all took it,” he said.
Since the scale of the theft was laid bare in a damning audit report in February, Yameen has insisted that corruption is common across the world, and that detained former Vice President Ahmed alone was responsible for the scandal.
Adeeb’s support for the opposition since his arrest in October has triggered accusations that MDP was “protecting the real thieves.”
One ruling party MP also noted today that former ministers of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s cabinet who had been implicated in past corruption scandals, including MP Abdulla Shahid and former MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, were now part of the opposition.
MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla meanwhile said he was disheartened that corruption during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s three-year rule had gone “un-investigated.” Nasheed is the president of the MDP.
Mahloof meanwhile responded to Ibrahim Waheed’s accusation that he had benefited from the MMPRC scam by saying that the PPM MP for Thulusdhoo was known for paying off judges.
The 90-minute debate ended with the PPM dominated parliament rejecting the motion with 39 votes against the opposition’s 22.
Anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives has expressed outrage over today’s Majlis sitting, saying the parliament’s stark admissions of bribery and corruption “shows the extent to which corruption permeates the Majlis and the state as a whole.”
Only a handful of MPs have publicly declared their financial and business interests so far, the group noted.
Meanwhile watchdog bodies have largely remained silent on the historic scandal, and public pressure remains muted because of government crackdowns on protests.
The PPM has stifled all attempts at action by the parliament. A heated exchange over corruption allegatipns last month saw majority leader Ahmed Nihan spit out a large mouthful of water at Rozaina’s face.
PPM MP Mohamed Musthafa, who had defected from the MDP soon after the parliamentary polls, appeared to break ranks this week, saying Yameen had admitted that he had received part of the money stolen from MMPRC.
“The president said very clearly, ‘I too received US$1million from SOF, the same accounts you received money from,’” Musthafa said in an interview with Raajje TV on Monday. Yameen had reportedly made the comments in a meeting with some 50 MPs.
SOF Pvt Ltd. is the company that was allegedly used as a ‘brokerage’ service to distribute money to government officials and MPs.