The Parliament has enacted an amendment to the Decentralisation Act, thereby facilitating the conferral of City Council status upon Thinadhoo Island Council in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. The bill was introduced by Hisaan Hussain, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Thulhaadhoo, representing the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The former administration conferred city status upon Thinadhoo Island on 30 August 2023. However, due to existing legislative hurdles, the Island Council of Thinadhoo was unable to attain City Council status. Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s declaration that Thinadhoo Island fulfilled the criteria necessary for city designation encountered legislative obstacles.

The Local Government Authority (LGA), the body responsible for supervising local councils, stated that despite Thinadhoo Island being accorded city status, the island council and its members would continue to function as an island council until the subsequent local council elections, as mandated by the Decentralisation Act. The MDP’s amendment bill was designed to overcome these challenges.

The amendment bill, which passed on Monday with the support of 42 lawmakers and faced no opposition in parliament, has been forwarded to President Mohamed Muizzu for ratification. Upon enactment, the Island Council of Thinadhoo Island will be accorded City Council status.

The bill stipulates that if the government confers city status upon an island and if less than one year remains in the incumbent island council’s term, they will continue serving as an island council until a new council is elected. However, if more than one year remains in the incumbent island council’s tenure, then that island council will be accorded city council status.

With two years remaining in their term, the incumbent Thinadhoo Island Council will be accorded City Council status upon ratification of the amendment bill, as per the amendment. According to Section 51(d) of the amendment bill, once ratified, the City Council President will assume the mayor’s role, and the Vice President will be declared the Deputy Mayor.

The Island Council members will also be designated as City Council members. However, the bill clarifies that the term of the island council will remain unchanged, even if an island council is designated as a city council.

The bill also stipulates that once an island council is designated as a city council, it will be granted the powers and responsibilities of a city council as outlined under the Decentralisation Act. This will also result in changes to the budget and salaries of the mayor, deputy mayor, and council members.