Maldives

Maldives: Government misused Tsunami aid - Parliament report

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Zaheena Rasheed

Government's tsunami relief was excluded to those with a "particular political thinking," and priority was given to government supporters, a parliamentary committee report has found.

The report says distributers of aid took "undue advantage," while MPs in parliament said money had been embezzled, with penciled-in figures altered after obtaining recipients' signatures.

And a quarter of aid has not yet been distributed, despite a number of those who lost their houses in the tsunami remaining in temporary shelters.

However, several MPs criticised the report saying it lacked "concrete evidence" and "supporting documents."

Discrimination

"Instead of prioritising people who had lost houses in the tsunami, people with a particular political thinking were excluded even though they had suffered huge losses," the report reads.

"But some people who had the same thinking as the governing leaders were given homes," it adds.

Thaa Atoll MP Mohamed Shareef (Senco) said, "Houses that suffered damage most, households where trees damaged, they did not get any money... because they are not part of the government's party."

The report also says relief did not reach victims, while "people who had not suffered losses in the tsunami had obtained aid through false information". But reported cases have not been examined.

MDP parliamentarian Hassan Afeef, committee chair, said the government "did what they wished" in their methods of distribution.

"It is the people who did not suffer who were awarded aid and big amounts [of money]," he said in Wednesday's parliamentary session.

Embezzlement

"Some people involved in handing out aid took undue advantage," the report also says, while "practices in giving money for basic needs were unjust."

"Unjust" procedures in the transfer of aid such as "writing the amounts in pencil while signatures are taken in ink," had taken place, it notes.

Shareef called for an audit of the National Disaster Management Center saying, "In my atoll they have taken cash and written down Rf 500 with pencils".

"They made the people sign and gave them RF 500 and later erased it and wrote Rf 3000, Rf 3500 or Rf 4500," he said.

But DRP MP Ibrahim Shareef (Mavota) said: "It is noted that there has been embezzlement of money, but there is no supporting document."

"There must be evidence to prove points noted in the report have really happened. This report is written the way we speak at a political party's public meeting," he added.

Responsibility

According to the report, a cabinet committee formed to deal with tsunami relief had said, "the biggest obstruction to implementing the government's pledges was the actions of Minister of Planning Hamdhoon Hameed."

And Afeef in parliament on Wednesday said, "The process could not be conducted according to the people's wishes because of Hamdhoon Hameed's family interests."

Minivan News could not reach Hamdhoon at the time of going to press.

The government's Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) parliamentary leader Aneesa Ahmed said responsibility should fall on others too, if one was found to blame.

"It was not only one minister in charge of tsunami rehabilitation. If there was obstruction by one minister, then there is a responsibility of other ministers too."

Unused

The report found that US$14 million of a total of US$61 million allocated to the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) remains to be spent.

Meanwhile, work on government housing on Thaa Atoll Madifushi, completely destroyed in the Tsunami, has not started and residents continue to live in temporary shelters, the report says.

While households were given cash handouts for repair of houses "increase in prices of construction materials" has left many houses incomplete.

Several materials given for aid have not been distributed even though four years have passed and are slowly rotting, the committee also found.

The parliament's committee has called on the government to immediately implement promises and to share a timeline and work plan of government pledged relief activities with the people.

But Anwar Ali from a department under the National Disaster Management Centre dismissed the report, saying "it was not very responsible".

A recent investigation by Minivan News this month found that the government had distributed US$400,000 of tsunami relief to residents of one island a day before the first round of presidential elections.

President Elect Mohamed Nasheed promised tsunami victims would be provided housing within a year of his administration at a ceremony to unveil the Maldivian Democratic Party's (MDP) housing policy.

Maldives Independent
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