Fisheries Minister Zaha Waheed has responded to a parliamentary committee finding that she has been neglectful of her duties and responsibilities as a government minister with a letter to the Parliament.
Parliament’s Regulations Committee found Zaha neglectful of her duties following its review of the failure of the Fisheries Ministry to create many of the regulations required under the Fisheries Act - regulations which must be established within 90 days of the legislature’s enactment.
The debate on the committee report was held at the parliamentary sitting on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking during the debate, Fonadhoo MP Moosa Siraj said that the Fisheries Minister had sent a letter to the Parliament in response to the committee report soon after the committee had completed its review.
“I don’t believe this is how this should be done. We invited the Fisheries Minister to present herself before the committee to provide her response. And everything I read on the letter is just wrong,” he said.
Siraj said that Zaha, in her letter to the Parliament, said the Fisheries Ministry would create the regulations within an appropriate period of time, and would expedite the regulations deemed to be required immediately.
“This is just wrong. When a law is drafted by this Parliament, declares specific time frames, and is ratified by the President – this means that an appropriate period of time has already been awarded. The regulations are compulsory. The Minister cannot later claim an appropriate period time is as she sees fit,” he said.
Several parliamentarians called for Zaha’s resignation, and threatened to force her out of office with a no-confidence vote if she refused to resign.
Makunudhoo MP Mohamed Raee said the government had failed to deliver any of its promises related to the fisheries industry.
“I call to Minister Zaha. We will summon you here and take a no-confidence vote, within the month. We shall get this done shortly. Otherwise, render your immediate resignation,” he said.
North Kulhudhuffushi MP Yasir Abdul Latheef said that every government in the history of the country had come to power by promising positive changes for fishermen, but that governments, specially MDP governments, failed to deliver their promises every time.
Yasir said that it was clear from the committee review that Zaha had been found grossly negligent in creating necessary regulations, a responsibility she had been entrusted with under the very first Fisheries Act to be enacted in the country’s history.
He also that Zaha had not even come up with any excuses for the failure.
“I note with sadness that nothing has been done for the fishermen under the law this government passed. We need to have ministers capable of delivering our electoral pledges,” said Yasir.
He said that the country had no need of ministers who were incapable of implementing the government’s pledges or the laws passed by the Parliament.
The committee report on the review states that the Fisheries Ministry had failed to create the regulations it was required to under the Fisheries Act.
The committee said that the Interpretations Act established that where an Act prescribed a specific course of action, the fulfillment of the said course of action must be treated as an unavoidable duty or obligation.
“With this being the case, the committee finds that the Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture has violated the Fisheries Act by failing to uphold the duty it had been clearly charged with under the Act within the mandated time, and by continuing to fail in fulfilling said duty even after the mandated time expired and to this day. And the committee members are in unanimous agreement that the Minister herself has been neglectful of her duties,” reads the committee’s report.