The involvement of a ruling party MP in distributing disaster relief funds for victims of flooding in Addu City has sparked controversy with an opposition MP alleging discrimination between pro-government and opposition-supporting constituencies.
Twelve hours of heavy rainfall inundated large parts of the southernmost atoll on November 24, causing damages to more than 300 households. In response, the government formed a committee to provide aid to victims, comprising of the National Disaster Management Centre and the Maldives Road Development Corporation as well as the military and police.
Photos meanwhile began circulating on social media this week showing MP Ibrahim Didi of the Progressive Party of Maldives handing envelops of cash to his constituents in the Feydhoo ward.
Appearing on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV last night, MP Rozaina Adam from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party objected to Didi “distributing the state’s aid money,” which she said could be construed as “undue influence” and “corruption.”
Speaking to The Maldives Independent today, MP Didi, however, denied distributing the relief funds, saying he had merely helped elderly constituents “count the money.”
Didi said he visited constituents in need as their elected representative, adding that accusations of corruption were unfair.
“If this is corruption, helping anyone in need anywhere in the world would be corruption. I believe it is my duty as their elected representative to check on the state of the people,” he said.
Hassan Luthfy, the president of the state anti-corruption watchdog, also dismissed the allegations of corruption. Didi’s involvement in distributing cash was not a problem as it was not done during an election cycle, he said, adding that his presence had validated the process.
“I have cleared the issue with finance ministry and they have confirmed that Ibrahim Didi was indeed present. If it had been only a team from the finance ministry distributing aid, there would be complaints later,” he said.
Rozaina, who represents the Maradhoo constituency of Addu City, meanwhile told The Maldives Independent that neither MPs nor the public have been properly informed about the allocation of funds for disaster relief.
“There is no transparency on how it is regulated,” she said.
“I have received complaints from houses in Maradhoo-Feydhoo that had received just MVR17,000 while houses from Feydhoo had gotten up to MVR 75,000.”
However, Rozaina did not provide details on specific cases of discrimination.
An official from the disaster management centre explained that funds are allocated based on a predetermined criteria.
“Houses that had suffered losses not exceeding MVR20,000 is set to receive 50 percent of costs as compensation and those exceeding MVR20,000 is set to receive 75 percent of the losses,” the official said.
Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodiq meanwhile told The Maldives Independent that the council has received two complaints related to relief funds.
“We have received complaints about a house that had not suffered any loss but had gotten aid. Another complaint is about an owner receiving aid instead of the people currently renting the place,” he said.
Sodiq also expressed concerns over the aid distribution process, in particular the finance ministry’s lack of coordination with the opposition-dominated council.