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Legal status of Thinadhoo City Council questioned, case to committee

Mohamed Rehan
06 December 2023, MVT 11:36
Thinadhoo Council's President Saud Ali expresses concerns at the meeting of Parliament Committee on Decentralization-- Photo: Mihaaru
Mohamed Rehan
06 December 2023, MVT 11:36

Questions regarding the legal status and authority of Gaafu Dhaalu atoll Thinadhoo City Council have been raised, and the issue has been submitted to the relevant parliamentary committee for consideration.

Amid the presidential election, the outgoing government led by former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih elevated the island to the status of a city. Although islands typically receive official 'city' status after the population exceeds 10,000, the population capacity of the island has not yet surpassed this limit.

The parliament's Committee on Decentralization has initiated an investigation into the case to clarify the legal issues and authority of Thinadhoo City Council.

Thinadhoo City Council's President Saud Ali, while addressing the committee, stated that the island was elevated to city status through the discretionary powers vested in the President, as outlined in Article 51 of the Maldives Constitution.

Saud said that questions about the legal authority of the City Council arose concerning the constitutional provision, particularly regarding when the island council transitioned into a city council. He further added that different agencies identified its legal status differently, with some referring to them as a city council, while others continued to address them as GDh. Thinadhoo Council.

As the legal status of the council remains unclear, the majority of letters have been addressed to the council's president, although the law does not permit the existence of a council president in a city.

"The decision to change Thinadhoo into a city would be fully realized when the legal authority aligns with the appointment of those legally bound with the responsibility of fulfilling said obligations, in my opinion," Saud said.

"Our agency has become a city council automatically, and if we are to provide services in that scale, we need more manpower and budget, as well as a change in the legal status."

Addressing the concerns, Minister of Local Government Adam Shareef said that the island would be legally recognized as a city, and the budget for the authority would be allocated in the Council's Block Grant.

The minister further emphasized a fast-track approach to finding a solution to the matter and added that the issue has been brought to the attention of the Attorney General's Office for legal counsel.

"We believe that a legal remedy for this would be a revision to the law through the parliament," Adam Shareef said.

Local Government Authority's (LGA) Director General Shammoon Adam, who endorsed the minister's statements, said that an island can be legally identified as a city after a new council election. Had it been elevated to city status before the government's transition, then the authority would have been operated within the discretion of an island council.

Shammoon suggested expediting efforts for a council election to reach a prompt remedy.

Thulhaadhoo MP Hisan Hassan, who played an integral part in formulating the Decentralization Act, said that the law interprets that the elected council body can transition as a city council without the requirement for a new election.

She further argued that the matter was clear, while adding that the remuneration and allowances of the council members should be decided by the parliament.

Shareef, in response to this, stated that there was no apparent negligence or challenge for LGA on the case and admitted that they would comply with the parliament committee's decision.

The Committee on Decentralization is expected to reach a conclusion on the matter sometime on Tuesday, December 5.