Among the three powers of the state, parliament has the singular role of representing the people. So if the parliament – or People’s Majlis in the Maldives context – does not enjoy the confidence of the people, its locus standi becomes shaky.
The role of People’s Majlis came to sharp focus when it recently decided to take a recess while important legislation was pending before it regarding the general elections slated for February. The Commissioner of Elections, among others, has deplored this move saying it could jeopardize holding the elections within the constitutional deadline, possibly throwing the country into a constitutional void.
People are also concerned at the composition of the current Majlis, with its disproportionately high representation of people with direct and indirect interests in the tourism industry. These concerns are particularly acute at this time because of another piece of legislation currently before the Majlis – that to extend resort release to 50 years. Perceiving a conflict of interest in this issue, some are of the opinion that an issue such as resort lease, which would affect even future generations, must be decided through a referendum rather than a simple majority vote in the Majlis.
A salary of 62,000 rufiyaa and a total take home package of about 100,000 rufiyaa may be quite reasonable from the point of view of the many business magnates in the Majlis. However, from the point of view of the average Maldivian whose take home pay averages less than 5000 per month, it may appear a bit excessive, particularly considering the working hours.
In a democracy, the parliament is supposed to act as a watchdog over the other two powers. Conversely those two are supposed to similarly keep an eye over the parliament. This is theory. The question is does this work in the Maldives context?