The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has voiced serious concerns about the government’s refusal to disclose the number of its political appointees, accusing President Muizzu of failing to fulfill his legal obligations. The allegation was made during a press conference held by the MDP parliamentary group on Wednesday.

The news conference follows the rejection of an emergency motion submitted by South Galolhu MP Meekail Ahmed Naseem on behalf of the MDP, calling on the government to disclose the number of political appointees. Only 11 MDP members voted in favour of the motion, while 56 government-aligned members voted against it.

The secrecy surrounding the Muizzu administration’s political appointments has become contentious, particularly given the the country’s current economic difficulties and debt servicing challenges.

During the press conference, Kendhoo MP Mauroof Zakir said that President Muizzu will face legal consequences for refusing to disclose the number of political appointees as mandated by law.

In response to a journalist’s question, Mauroof stated that withholding any information required to be disclosed by law is illegal and constitutes a crime.

“It is illegal not to disclose what the law strictly requires; therefore, it constitutes a crime. President Muizzu is currently in violation of the law and will be punished accordingly. Failing to disclose it is a crime,” he stated.

The President’s Office has repeatedly denied Right to Information (RTI) requests from the media seeking information on political appointees. Even during questioning by the Parliament Public Accounts Committee, Finance Minister Mohamed Shafeeq refused to disclose this information.

Disconnect Between Rhetoric and Action

The MDP parliamentary group also raised alarm about the Muizzu administration’s handling of the worsening economic situation and its commitment to reducing political appointees. Despite assurances that the government is taking appropriate action to address the situation, MP Naseem stated that evidence suggests it continues to hire additional political appointees.

While the MDP has expressed support for some of the government’s proposed economic reform bills, Naseem stated that the administration’s actions do not align with its stated objectives. He pointed to the recent addition of a new political position to the Environment Ministry, despite claims to the contrary. The Muizzu administration appears to prioritise its political agenda over the country’s economic and financial well-being, he said.

MP Naseem also recalled the economic measures implemented by the previous MDP-led administration during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Ibrahim Mohamed Solih administration reduced salaries for senior political appointees, including cabinet ministers, lawmakers, and heads of state-owned companies, he said.

He further alleged that the Muizzu administration made new political appointments on the same day it reduced stipends for Maldivian students studying abroad.

Transparency Concerns

The Muizzu administration’s refusal to disclose the number of political appointees is in direct contradiction to President Muizzu’s election promises. During his campaign, President Muizzu assured the public that his government would prioritise transparency, promptly disseminate information, and eliminate the need for media to submit RTI requests.

 “If no information is forthcoming, I myself will address the matter,” President Muizzu said at a press conference on 5 December.

“There will be nothing hidden and unaccountable. Information will be shared. If you encounter such a situation, just give me a hint. I am sure such a situation will not happen,” he said. “You will not have to resort to submitting RTI requests. I don’t think you should. You will receive all the information. There will be no restrictions on anything.”

Meanwhile, the government has decided to introduce a bill to amend the RTI Act while refusing to disclose information on political positions. However, the government has not yet revealed details of the amendments to the law.