After three weeks of stalemate, parliament today voted to approve five out of a dozen cabinet ministers reappointed by President Mohamed Nasheed in July, while MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) boycotted the sitting before voting began.
Seven ministers – Finance Minister Ali Hashim, Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi, Home Minister Mohamed Shihab, Defence Minister Ameen Faisal and Attorney General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad – did not receive a majority of votes from the 42 MPs in attendance.
The five ministers who won approval were Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam, Health Minister Aminath Jameel, Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, Human Resources Minister Dr Hassan Latheef and Economic Development Minister Mahmoud Razee.
Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News today that the cabinet will remain in place as “the only way to remove a minister is with 39 votes” through a no-confidence motion, pointing out that none of the seven nominees who failed to win consent received 39 votes against.
“No consent does not amount to no-confidence,” he explained, adding that today’s votes showed that “overall the Majlis has confidence in the cabinet.”
Zuhair said that the opposition parties failure to secure 39 votes “demonstrates splits” in their ranks.
The cabinet resigned en masse in June protesting the “scorched-earth policies” of parliament, accusing the opposition majority of corrupt practices, deliberate obstruction and attempts to wrest executive control from the government.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, “Reeko” Moosa Manik, MDP parliamentary group leader revealed that he “asked the parliamentary group to remain silent even if the Speaker acts in violation of the rules and to leave the Majlis and step aside.”
Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy argued that after the Supreme Court ruled that article 171(e), which allows nominees to be interviewed by committee, could not be applied “the whole process has to be undone” since the invalidated provision was in place when the nominees were reviewed by the government oversight committee.
Appointing cabinet members was a “fundamental power” of the president under the constitution, said Alhan, adding that parliament had to pass no-confidence motions to dismiss the ministers who did not receive parliamentary consent.
“What we saw today in the Maldives parliament was a decision made in absence of the ruling party by the opposition party on their own,” he said. “I note that by this decision, instead of helping the administration govern, they have deliberately obstructed the government.”
Alhan condemned the opposition for “acting dictatorially” by “using parliamentary power irresponsibly” to dismiss ministers the DRP were unhappy with.
“I wonder if the DRP can give any justification as to why they did not give consent to [Attorney General] Dr Sawad,” he said. “For example, they can say something about not approving the Home Minister by talking about the police and what’s happening on the street. But why would they not give consent to Dr Sawad?”
Meanwhile, DRP MP for Galolhu South Ahmed Mahlouf dismissed the government’s as “the talk of madmen.”
Mahlouf argued that 39 votes were not needed to remove a minister as the constitution specifies that consent must be given by “MPs present and voting.”
“We voted for the people we believe are competent,” he said. “I do not believe the rest of them are ministers anymore. They should immediately give up their official cars and other state assets and they should not go to work tomorrow.”
While the MDP MPs maintain that Finance Minister Ali Hashim would still present the 2011 budget, Mahlouf claimed that he “certainly would not allow Ali Hashim to enter the Majlis.”
He further insisted that DRP’s voting reflected the will of the public and not personal prejudice: “[Defence Minister] Ameen Faisal was involved in the November 3rd coup and we tabled a no-confidence motion against [Education Minister] Luthfy when the cabinet resigned and Ali Hashim has sold our airport.”
He added that the opposition voted to approve ministers they believed were “competent and performing”, such as Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam and Islamic Minister Dr Bari.
“For example, we voted for Dr Bari because we believe that if we didn’t the President might appoint somebody like [Aishath] Velezinee (President’s member on the Judicial Services Commission) as Islamic Minister. We didn’t want to take that risk.”