MALE, July 7 (HNS) – The Elections Commission has announced the bi-elections of Baa Thulhaadhoo Council as Umaira Abu Bakr, earlier sacked from the council for absenteeism, continued dismissing her removal.
Umaira, the only councilor belonging to the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), was fired according to legal advice given by the Attorney General (AG) upon consultation by the Local Government Authority (LGA) last week, the council said.
But the LGA today denied Thulhaadhoo Council's claims saying that it "had not advised Umaira's dismissal from the council.”
LGA’s Senior Administrator Adam Shareef confirmed that the authority had forwarded legal advice received from the AG to the island council, but claimed that the advice was not a recommendation to sack Umaira.
Elections Commission announced the bi-elections last evening considering Umaira’s seat vacant on the request of the council now exclusively run by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) councilors.
Umaira was dismissed by the council on the claim that she had not attended seven council meetings in a row. But the ousted councilor maintains that she was absent because she was out of the island on an official trip.
Baa Atoll Council today said that the Elections Commission had announced the bi-election after the atoll council had declared the circumstances of Umaira’s dismissal “improper” and launched an investigation into the matter.
The council condemned Thulhaadhoo Council for sacking Umaira without a definitive decision on the matter by the LGA.
Atoll Councillor Moomin Adam told Haveeru that Thulhaadhoo Council informed the Elections Commission of Umaira’s dismissal after the atoll council had issued orders against further action.
He affirmed that the atoll council has requested the commission to delay the bi-elections and the LGA to bring an end to the dispute.
“We’ve decided to go to Thulhaadhoo to investigate the matter. Documents about the workshop Umaira attended were exchanged between the atoll council and Thulhaadhoo Council, and Umaira claims that she informed the President of Thulhaadhoo Council Ahmed Rasheed of her departure,” Moomin said.
A letter sent to the Elections Commission signed by the President of Baa Atoll Council Abu Bakr Abdu Rahman stated that the council saw “the dismissal of Umaira and the announcement of the bi-elections as irresponsible on the part of the commission.”
The letter claimed that Umaira was on an official trip and criticised the announcement of bi-elections saying that her case was being investigated by the LGA as well. The atoll council also urged the commission to reconsider the announcement as the issue was of "national interest."
A statement released by the atoll council urged the government and opposition to help stop the bi-elections.
If bi-elections were to take place under these circumstances it is highly possible that other councils might start treating its members in the same manner, Moomin said.
Umaira earlier rejected the dismissal and continued to go to work as former colleagues ordered her not to touch any official documents or the computer. She was seen at work yesterday but did not go to the office today.
The atoll council has issued orders to the island council to create a friendly work environment for Umaira and consider her still a member of the council.
Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq told Haveeru that bi-elections were announced on the request of Thulhaadhoo Council. The request letter confirmed that Umaira had been dismissed as she did not attend the required number of council sessions under the Decentralization Act, he added.
According to Fuad, Umaira wrote a letter to the commission claiming that her dismissal was a case of injustice, but it was not in the commission's mandate to investigate such matters.
“Thulhaadhoo Council informed us that Umaira had been dismissed and so bi-elections were announced on the council’s request. If we receive a court order against our decision we’ll delay the bi-elections. If not we cannot delay them as the law stipulates bi-elections must be conducted within 45 days of the vacancy,” he said.
Umaira, who is also the only female member of the council, is the first councilor to be sacked since the country's first ever local elections in February.