The draft of a bill for decentralized administration in the Maldives has been compiled by well-known lawyer Husnu Suood and is now available for comments at www.local.gov.mv. As stated in the introductory articles the purpose of the proposed law is to facilitate people living in the islands to decide their affairs in a democratic and answerable way, and to enhance their quality of life socially, economically and culturally. While the bill is comprehensive, professional and sound, it may not be out of place to share one's opinion on it. So here are some random thoughts.
Chapter I: Dividing into provinces: Merging atolls into a few larger provinces is probably a good move, in view of the dwindling island population.
Chapter II: Atoll Councils: Some of the powers mentioned in article 9 are not actually powers, rather responsibilities or duties. For example, reporting and supporting. Yet others are actually services. For example, providing transport and maintaining food security.
Chapter III: Island Councils: Same comments as for Atoll councils.
Chapter IV: City Council: Same as for Atoll councils.
Chapter V: Provincial Minister: Article 64 requires the State Minister to be answerable to Majlis. However according to the Constitution, only a cabinet minister can do that. Article 65 says employees of government ministries are answerable to the provincial state minister. Thus such employees are answerable to two different ministers. Is this practical? Article 72 gives the Local Government Commission (a political body consisting of provincial ministers) the power to dissolve elected councils? How can one assure that this power is not misused against councils controlled by opposition parties?
Chapter X: Reporting: While councils implement activities delegated by central ministries, there is no provision in the bill for reporting back on those activities.