Opinion Politics

Report: After the huge blunder, MDP reverses course

The original Dhivehi article, by reporter Fazeena Ahmed, was published on the Mihaaru.com website on 28 February, 2017.

The following is a loose translation:

The public was shown a different picture. The Government and the MDP made a “secret deal” behind the curtains. The “undisclosed” agenda by the government was to allow foreign investors to own land in the Maldives. What MDP wanted was to free their leader, former President Mohamed Nasheed, from his 13 year jail sentence.

The amendment to the constitution to allow foreigners to own land in the Maldives was tabled on 22nd July 2015, with the MDP’s participation in this deal. Like a “string of firecrackers,” the Parliament continued their session and adopted the amendment to the constitution with 70 votes. The following day, President Abdullah Yameen ratified the amendment in a special ceremony.

This is the biggest amendment yet to the Constitution which took about 5 years to draft, pass and ratify. For a major national issue such as foreigners owning land in the Maldives, the Parliament can expedite it only to this extent, wouldn’t you say?

However, today, the loudest voice against this amendment is the MDP. They have started a “useless” work to overturn this amendment and keep the Constitution as before. The reason being that this is to prevent the government from selling the entire Faafu Atoll to the Saudi Royal family as rumoured.

When we look at the present composition of the Parliament, it is impossible for MDP to achieve this. That is why MDP’s talk that they are going to overturn the amendment is baseless and pointless now.

If the MDP and JP had rejected the amendment then, no foreigner could ever own even the width of the palm of Maldives’ land. However, from the total of 85 members, 70 members voted for the amendment, which includes 17 members of the MDP.

On that voting day, MDP had a free whip which allowed members to vote as they felt. Some members have revealed that the free whip was issued when some members showed their dissatisfaction to vote for the amendment during the MDP Parliamentary Group’s meeting to discuss the amendment.

If any thought was given in a nationalistic sense towards this small nation, MDP’s whip line should have been against the amendment. Many people feel that MDP members should have pressed the Red [No] Button.

Amongst the few MDP members who voted against the amendment is MDP’s  Parliamentary Group’s Deputy Leader Rozaina Adam. She opposes to give or sell land to own, even to Maldivians other than land given for housing needs. She said that she opposed the amendment with this line of thinking and even today she is with the same view.

She refused to comment as to why a free whip was given then by the party on the vote for that amendment. However, MDP’s Parliamentary Group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Iboo) has publicly said that voting for this amendment was the biggest blunder in the lifetime of the MDP.

Rozaina says that members did not get sufficient time to think about the dire consequences of allowing foreigners to own land, as the amendment was tabled and voted on so swiftly.

“The reality is that this was carried out without giving the public as well as the Parliament members sufficient time to think about it. The bill was tabled in the morning and by night it was open to vote. Both the public and the members of Parliament did not get an opportunity to discuss about the dire consequences of the issue. Each one voted on their own thinking,” said.

“However, after the amendment was passed, and by now, its is very clear to all the members  what the public sentiment is owards this amendment.”

According to Rozaina, the MDP were forced to come forward about this matter now because of this overwhelming public sentiment.
Can the MDP get 64 votes?

The national council of the MDP has resolved to do whatever is possible to overturn this amendment. A special committee has been formed to oversee this and has commenced their work. The party’s thinking is to overturn this amendment and include strict clauses to prevent sale of land in the Constitution. The MDP has announced that this new amendment will be submitted to the Parliament very soon.

However, considering the number of Parliament members supporting the government, it will be a very difficult task today.

An amendment to the Constitution can be passed with a 3/4 majority of votes. That is, 64 votes from the current 85 members. When you look at the composition of the Parliament, along with the government coalition partner MDA’s 6 members, the PPM has a total of 54 members.

With members supporting PPM President Maumoon, JP members, Adhaalath and independent members to pass this amendment, the MDP still needs more than 30 additional votes.

Rozaina says that even though the party is without the majority of the Parliament, the party is ready to do all it can to change the amendment to land ownership. She sees that, again, the responsibility lies with the members of Parliament.

Rozaina says “Members’ sincerity is what matters here.”

MDP parliamentary group spokesperson and member of parliament for Maafannu North constituency, Imthiyaz Fahmee, who also voted against the amendment, says “Even though there is no majority in the Parliament, we will win this amendment (to overturn land ownership to foreigners)”. And MDP will not cease its efforts to achieve this.
Composition of the members of the Parliament
Progressive People’s Party (PPM) – 48

Maldives Democratic party (MDP) – 21

Jumhooree party (JP) – 7

Maldives Democratic Alliance (MDA) – 6

Adhaalath Party (AP) – 1

Independent members – 2
According to Roazaina, when MDP submits to overturn the land ownership amendment, members who vote against the motion will have to vote against the wishes of the people of their constituency.

“We are getting a chance to overturn the land ownership amendment. Members should also think about it and change it. Even if they did not get an opportunity at the time when the amendment came, now the road is paved for it,” said Roazaina.

Rozaina sees that the moment this amendment is submitted to the Parliament, members of the public should also speak to their respective member of their constituency to vote for this change.

Some MDP members say that they are trying to rectify and remedy the blunder with sincere intentions. And that is why those members request members of the public to participate with them on this issue.

Original Dhivehi Source: Mihaaru


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