Friday, November 05, 2004

Disillusioned by the parliament

I ask them
Or members elected
Are you here for us
Or for your salary
If so my dear elected
We can't afford you here
For this isn't business
We are reforming
The country is reforming
And it starts with you

After a controversial meeting the Present set of MP's left their electorate in a shock with their utterly reprehensible behaviour. After almost more then 4 years in the parliament with no credible result to show for that, they showed their true colours in the eve of their departure from the parliament. No wonder many of them has decided not to stand in this fresh election because they know that they don't stand a chance.

Perhaps it is a reflection of how much the Maldivian Democracy depends on the Parliament that they are allowed to decide their own salary. But the fiasco that happened in the last meeting when they were asked to fix their own salary is proof of their selfish nature.

While some of them suggested a salary as exorbitant as ten Thousand rufiyaa, saner thoughts prevailed. Nevertheless they end up getting Seven Thousand Rufiyaa as salary, a 55% increase from the old one. Still others put forward a motion which was seconded suggesting an allowance of Seven Thousand more on that to cater for their office, living, telephone and staff. Thank god they didn't ask another allowance for their wives. Anyway, again saner thoughts prevailed and they could not get this passed. They also fixed the salary of the Special Majlis members at the same rate. I wonder, isn't it a ridiculous idea in the fist place for members to fix their own salary?

Please don't be fooled by this simple mathematics. This effectively means that a Parliament member will be getting a salary of fourteen Thousand Rufiyaa for their efforts. That is Seven Thousand Rufiyaa from the Parliament and Seven Thousand Rufiyaa from the Special Majlis. Lets also put in the other benefits like Immunity form arrest unless under normal
circumstances, priority in facilities giving public service like IGMH and a diplomatic passport to go with. Wow! isn't that something? Being an MP is sure going to be fashionable and with this trend we can hope to see many faces this coming election.

After Ramadan the meetings will be held during morning working hours where by those members in Government jobs would be absent form their normal regular jobs. So a member working in the Government would be in fact getting three salaries. His regular salary, the Parliament salary and the Special Majlis salary which could amount to a total of anything up to twenty thousand rufiyaa while they do all these work concurrently at the same time. And since most of these members are quite senior in the government a lot of work is suspended pending their signature while they earn their salary in the Majlis.

Now the larger question here is not how much they are being paid. But what is more important is whether their pay commensurate the amount of work they do. Normally there is no set schedule for the Special Majlis to meet. It is convened at the will of the President of the Special Majlis. And normally now they are expected to meet not more then twice a week. I wonder when they are being paid anything up to twenty thousand rufiyaa why can't they meet daily to accelerate the reform process.

I know that in great democracies like America the legislature is paid a modest salary with some allowances. Citing these some members have demanded office allowance worth three thousand rufiyaa, staff allowance worth thousand five hundred rufiyaa and living allowance worth thousand five hundred rufiyaa and a telephone allowance worth thousand five hundred rufiyaa. And I don't mean to imply that we should not follow the examples of great countries.

But if you take a look at the larger picture, the legislature in those countries is employed full time in their job.

They don't treat their parliamentary posts as Part time jobs like they do here. Come to think of it, the Parliamentary posts in Maldives has become a highly paid, highly lucrative Part Time job with a lot of added perks, only they do their part time job on their regular job's time.

Under those circumstances, when the members have set for themselves a ridiculously exorbitant salary we cannot expect them to speed up the reform process. It will be to their advantage to delay the process and enjoy the perks of the job. For once the reforms will be complete they will be jobless. And more over the last time the Special Majlis was convened it took them more then 17 years to write a piece of paper which had become outdated even before it was complete.

With this scenario I wonder whether it wouldn't be wise for us to have a Special Majlis which works full time to complete reform process. Those same members can be urged to take this as a full time job and either resign or take a no pay leave form their present regular job so that the Majlis can meet daily. God knows that that they have demanded and are getting a salary worthy of that. For that matter it would be wise also for the electorate to vote for those who can commit them selves to the legislative process in the upcoming election. Let's not let the democratic reform process get bogged down.


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