Introduced by Vilifushi MP Riyaz Rasheed, the Privileges Bill was passed with 44 votes in the last sitting of the Majlis. If President Nasheed signs the Bill, it will become Law. There has been a huge public outcry on the excesses the members have taken for themselves. For the first time since the Reform Movement a bi partisan public demonstration was held in front of the Parliament. Voting details are in my earlier post.
There are a number of points in this bill which would cause alarm among the public. I will try to go through some of the points which I have noted so far. The actual bill can be viewed here.
IS THIS BILL UNCONSTITUTIONAL?
1 - Article 27 guarantees us Freedom of Expression and Article 28 guarantees us Freedom of the press. Article 16-a, clearly gives guidelines on how these rights can be limited and where any law limits these freedoms, Article 16 (c) gives guidelines for a court whether such limitations are within Article 16 (a) and (b) . Interestingly, the onus to prove that it is within the Constitution is on the person who limited such freedom, in this case the Legislative Authority (People’s Majlis).
The Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament shall be decided by the People’s Majlis. (There is no guideline, no limit nor index against any other arm of the State)
Any Member of Parliament who has served for one term (5years) is entitles to :
1- 30% of Salary (for 2 terms 45% and 3 terms 60%) of a Member of Parliament. This is written such that any future increase of MPs wages would automatically give ex members also a raise. In almost every other country it is a requirement to serve 2 terms before being entitled to a pension, and the pension is paid when the member reaches the age of Civil Service retirement age of the country. In short, as per the current bill all you need is to get elected, and whether you attend the sittings or not, whether not a single bill is submitted, a MP is entitled from the State for a minimum of Rf 12,500/- for life.
2- A Medical Insurance.
3- An Official Passport
4- A Title of State Honorary and to be addressed as MP for the Constituency served.
All Members are entitled to a duty free car every 5 years.
All Members are to be provided with a Diplomatic passport and VIP Lounge facilities at all airports in Maldives and abroad where available.
All Members, spouses and children under 18 years are to be provided Medical Insurance applicable in SAARC and ASEAN Countries.
Land Transportation for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker within Maldives shall be arranged by the State. (This need not be Official Majlis work, as the next line clearly shows). In addition to this the State shall arrange all forms of transportation within Maldives and abroad when they are of official work.
ARE THEY THINKING OF GOING ON A CRIME SPREE??
While almost every section of this law has a related punishment along with the threat of losing the person’s job, there is no consequence for not declaring Members assets.
MPs are exempted from Court Summons if they may not be able to attend a sitting. (It does not matter whether he attends the sitting or not).
A Member of Parliament cannot be arrested even for murder while inside the Majlis Chambers, or on the way or returning back to/from the Majlis.
No Court Summon can be handed over to a MP while within the Parliament Compound.
If a Member of Parliament is to be searched, the person doing so should have proof beyond doubt (not reasonable doubt), of a crime. Even in a Court of Law the requirement is beyond reasonable doubt.
(20-b) Even if a Member of Parliament is serving a sentence of a Civil or Criminal Court, the authority who enforces the sentence is required to ensure that the MP is able to attend the sittings of the Parliament and Committee Meetings.