Former President and Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed has said that the time has come to grant the people the opportunity to vote for their preferred system of government and transition the Maldives into a federal system.
Nasheed made this statement during his speech at the Thila Uthuru Award Ceremony held in Haa Alif Dhidhdhoo on Sunday, May 21. Nasheed is currently working to register members for his new political party "The Democrats" and has begun announcing some of its policies. Preparations are underway to nominate a presidential candidate from the party to participate in the upcoming election scheduled for September 9.
"It is our responsibility to bring this matter to the public and give them the chance to decide through a referendum. This is our right," said Nasheed, who has always advocated for a parliamentary system of government.
Nasheed highlighted the need for significant constitutional amendments, stating that a considerable number of Maldivians shared the belief in transitioning to a federal system.
Nasheed said that even though a constitutional referendum was held in the Maldives 15 years ago to decide on whether the country should have a presidential or a parliamentary system, there should be revote on the matter. The citizens had decided on the establishment of a Presidential system of government in the last referendum held in 2007.
Nasheed highlighted the historical conflicts and separatist sentiments in the Maldives, and emphasized the need for careful consideration to avoid potential disastrous consequences.
"I would say that if we do not decide to change to a federal system today, a very tragic scenario may emerge during our lifetime. Human experience and the lives of other nations have shown that youth will come forward seeking success once a philosophy backed by economic prosperity is accepted," said Nasheed.
In a Federal System, each region operates under a separate government, with power shared between the national government and regional governments. The regional government has authority over the affairs of its respective region. Taking the example of Thiladhummathi atoll, the system advocated by Nasheed would involve the local council, parliament, and even the Supreme Court operating within the region.
Nasheed said that decentralization was the most crucial aspect of democratic life in the Maldives, and the emergence of a federal Maldives would fully empower the people of the regions. According to Nasheed, the people of Thiladhummathi can effectively manage regional matters including governance, providing services to citizens, enhancing productivity, and foster business growth.
Nasheed acknowledged that decentralizing power had always been challenging for the government in Malé, even during his presidency. He emphasized that achieving the prosperity and development Maldivians truly deserve goes beyond mere infrastructure projects such as shoreline protection, multi-purpose halls, or road development.
“Power has to be given. Shackles that restrain people must be released. Opportunity to thrive and grow has to be provided,” Nasheed said.
According to Nasheed oppression and complacency are significant obstacles to development. Nasheed said that even though people believe that the development of the nation is linked with construction, this belief is like the reflection of light on glass or the sheen of plastic. He said people sometimes lose themselves in this mirage. Nasheed added that development should not exclude the people.
Nasheed said that during each term, two to four seats are added to the parliament when its composition is revised. He said that with the principle of allocating a seat for every 5,000 citizens and a number women advocate for seats reserved for them.
According to Nasheed, the composition of the parliament should not be limited to constituencies alone. He emphasized the need for extensive consideration of the future structure and composition of the parliament.
Nasheed also highlighted the importance of fulfilling the pledge to reform the Judicial Services Commission. He said that the number of judges in the Supreme Court must be set through constitutional means and that such measures are crucial for ensuring justice for the people.