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Parliament approves cabinet with overwhelming majority

Both opposition and ruling coalition lawmakers voted to approve the 19 ministers and attorney general.



President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s appointment of 19 ministers and the attorney general were approved by parliament Tuesday with the support of both opposition and ruling coalition lawmakers.

With 73 out of 79 MPs present, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath, Fisheries Minister Zaha Waheed, Housing Minister Aishath Athifa Shukoor, Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof and Environment Minister Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan were approved unanimously with 72 votes.

Economic Development Minister Fayyaz Ismail got 71 votes in favour and none against. Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Zahid also received 71 votes, but one MP voted No.

Two MPs voted against Gender Minister Shidhatha Shareef, who was approved with 67 votes and one abstention.

Heritage Minister Yumna Maumoon and Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla were approved with 68 votes and none against. Tourism Minister Ali Waheed received 69 votes.

Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, National Planning and Infrastructure Minister Mohamed Aslam, Higher Education Minister Dr Ibrahim Hassan, Science and Technology Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, Health Minister Abdulla Ameen, Education Minister Aishath Ali and Transport Minister Aishath Nahula were all approved unanimously with 70 votes.

The ministerial appointees were put to a vote individually following an evaluation by the government oversight committee.

During the vetting process, the committee sought information about the ministers from the Anti-Corruption Commission. According to newspaper Mihaaru, the watchdog informed MPs that there were unresolved cases involving Tourism Minister Ali Waheed, a former lawmaker, and Housing Minister Aishath Athifa.

Ali Waheed was accused of accepting millions of dollars to defect to the then-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party in 2011, an allegation he denies.

The former MDP chairman joined the Jumhooree Party earlier this year. He was nominated to the cabinet by the JP, one of four parties in the ruling coalition.

The new housing minister was accused of a conflict of interest when she served as a project manager at the housing ministry after previously working as a consultant.

Despite the pending cases, the committee decided to approve both ministers as neither was charged or convicted of a crime.

A corruption case involving Health Minister Abdulla Ameen, who was a president’s office minister during the former administration, was forwarded for prosecution, the ACC reportedly informed the committee. However, the Prosecutor General had declined to press charges.

Home Minister Imran Abdulla was meanwhile reappointed on Sunday, hours after he resigned from the post. The Adhaalath Party leader resigned to remove doubts about his legitimacy, the president’s spokesman told the press.

Imran’s eligibility was questioned as a criminal conviction bars appointment to the cabinet. His appointment came after the Supreme Court suspended a 12-year jail sentence to review his terrorism conviction.

Opposition lawmakers and some legal experts contended Imran remained ineligible until the Supreme Court quashed his conviction a week after the cabinet was appointed.

Imran’s appointment was resubmitted for parliamentary approval on Monday.

When the cabinet was announced shortly after President Solih took the oath of office, some ministers drew criticism on social media over their qualifications, allegations of corruption and potential conflicts of interest.

The most controversial appointments appeared to be Aishath Nahula, the wife of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, as minister of transport and civil aviation, and JP president Ali Waheed as minister of tourism.

Questions were raised over conflicts of interest as Gasim’s Villa empire operates several resorts and an airline.

The cabinet was divided among the coalition partners with 40 percent for the Maldivian Democratic Party, 25 percent for the JP, 20 percent for former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and 15 percent for the Adhaalath Party.