Top officials of the Local Governance Authority (LGA) have been called to appear before the Parliament Decentralisation Committee after the agency ordered the Kendhikulhudhoo Council to withdraw a statement characterising actions by President Mohamed Muizzu during his recent visit to Noonu (N) Atoll as an abuse of state resources.

According to the council, the president had asked residents to vote for administration aligned candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections during an event organised by the council as part of his official visit to the island.

The LGA, following the statement, sought to reprimand the council and asked them to retract the statement in a letter signed by the authority’s Chief Operating Officer (CEO) Mariyam Zulfa. However, members of the opposition-aligned council decided not to do so, stating that the LGA failed to provide a legal basis for why such an action was required — a position upheld by Attorney General (AG) Ahmed Usham in his eventual advice to the authority, with the president himself also advocating for the autonomy of councils by saying that he would not support LGA interference.

“Local councils are a layer of government and are empowered to provide and administer public services. Their activities and services should be in line with government policies,” the LGA said in the letter. Therefore, councils do not have within their scope to issue press releases against government policies and decisions made by state institutions, the LGA had said.

After the LGA ordered the retraction of the statement, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kendhikulhudhoo, Ahmed Easa, submitted a motion to the parliamentary committee, stating that the LGA’s demand for a retraction was illegal and unduly restrictive of the powers of the councils.

The Chairperson of the Decentralisation Committee, MP for Hulhumalé, Ali Niyaz, reacting to the LGA letter, said there was no law which defined councils as a layer of the government, adding that the 2022 Supreme Court judgement against the Fenfushi Council made this clear.

The judgment against the Fenfushi Council stated that administrative areas should be decentralised but separate from the government, while the law states that councils are legal entities created separate from the government.

MP Niyaz said hearings would proceed in the presence of the LGA, the Kendhikulhudhoo Council and the petitioner, MP Easa. The committee members said the LGA should be summoned to determine whether the authority is aware of the workings of the Decentralisation Act.

Meanwhile, LGA CEO Zulfa had earlier defended the authority’s order, saying that the authority’s swift action was not meant to restrict the decentralisation system.