The entire cabinet of the Maldives has resigned in protest against “scorched earth politics” of the opposition-majority parliament, leaving only President Mohamed Nasheed and Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan in charge of the country.
Cabinet members handed Nasheed their letters of resignation this afternoon at 5:00pm in front of assembled press at the President’s Office, shortly after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Unusually, the four hour meeting was adjourned at two hours and reconvened in the President’s residence, Muleeage.
“The Majlis (parliament) is preventing the cabinet ministers from performing their legal obligations. Majlis members are behaving against the spirit and the letter of the Constitution,” the President told the media after the meeting.
“So I appeal with the honorable members of the Majlis not to muddy the waters for governance in this country and to lend us their cooperation.”
Attorney General Husnu Suood said parliament was making the country “ungovernable”.
“Every passing week, there is another attempt by opposition MPs to wrestle more control from the executive,” Suood said.
“The opposition MPs are operating a ‘scorched earth’ policy, trying to stop the government from doing any work to help the people. We have told the President that we cannot continue to work like this,” said Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, in a press statement.
Finance Minister Ali Hashim accused opposition MPs of “obstructing the business of government” by “awarding themselves powers to appoint members to independent institutions”, when this was “clearly a prerogative of the President.”
“They have declared that the government cannot raise any loans from abroad or rent any government or state asset without their say-so. And they are threatening Ministers with no confidence motions on spurious grounds,” he added.
In addition to revisions of the financial regulations, last week, parliament voted through amendments to the Civil Service Act to transfer powers of appointing members to the independent commission to a parliamentary committee.
Opposition MPs arrested
Shortly after the press conference concluded, Minivan News learned that the police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) had arrested the leaders of several opposition parties, including Jumhooree Party (JP) leader MP Gasim Ibrahim and People’s Alliance (PA) leader MP Abdulla Yameen (DRP), who have reportedly been taken to the prison on Dhoonidhoo island.
Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said “police are not saying anything officially at the moment,” but suggested Minivan News could “probably report what people are saying.”
Police and MNDF are meanwhile on high alert, while DRP supporters gathered at the artifical beach area outside the party’s headquarters. Reports around 9:00pm suggested rocks had been thrown, while sensitive areas around the President’s residence and the Majlis were sealed off by police and army roadblocks.
Meanwhile, the MDP National Council adopt a resolution to terminate its coalition agreement with Gasim’s Republican Party and recommend the dismissal of the party’s political appointees to President Nasheed.
The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News that a police and MNDF investigation of corruption in the Majlis (parliament) would likely lead to “seven or eight parliamentary by-elections.”
“There have been allegations of corruption and attempted bribery, and allegations of certain threats against the state made by ministers,” Zuhair said.
He added that the government had “full confidence” in the state and deputy ministers, civil service and the permanent secretaries to keep the country running following the resignation of the ministers.
“Their resignation forces me to investigate using the police and the Maldives National Defence Force,” the President said, noting “I am Chief of the Armed Forces.”
Nasheed said amendments to the state finance laws passed by parliament yesterday, which requires any decisions relating to the leasing of state assets to be sent to parliament for approval, “was done in the self-interest of certain MPs. You cannot run the government like that.”
The President acknowledged that there would be “difficulties” faced by the people in the absence of cabinet ministers, “but it is the parliament who brought us to this situation.”
After the press conference, President Nasheed walked to police headquarters and requested police investigate the case.
Umar Naseer, Deputy Leader of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) which has the most number of seats in parliament in conjunction with its coalition partner the People’s Alliance (PA), said it was “really good that the cabinet ministers finally realised they were incapable.”
”The government along with the cabinet ministers was unable to govern the country,” Umar Naseer said. ”Now it is only the president and vice president [in charge], and how can they both do something they were unable to do with ministers.”
“Tomorrow President Nasheed will resign,” Umar Naseer predicted. ”Now it is the time to hold mid-term elections.”
He said this afternoon’s decision brought the current government to the brink of becoming a dictatorship.
”The President said he would launch an investigation using Police and the MNDF. That means he will probably arrest senior opposition leaders – I am not afraid of it.”
Umar added that however much he wished otherwise, “according to the constitution the president cannot dissolve parliament.”
DRP MP Ahmed Nihan described the incident as “an international joke” that “proved the government has failed.”
”For instance: three boats are competing in a race, and one of the boat’s crew abandons their vessel leaving only the captain and his first mate,” said Nihan. ”The current government does not have the majority support of the people.”
The arrest of Yameen and Gasim was “autocratic” and “a very ugly act”, Nihan said, adding that “President Mohamed Nasheed is worse than Adolf Hitler.”
Appearing before press at an impromptu press conference this evening, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali denied that the parliament had acted unconstitutionally.
The MP for Kendhoo argued that the government could have filed cases at the Supreme Court to decide on constitutional matters submit issues of in lieu of the mass resignations.
Thasmeen said the sudden arrests of MPs was not in the public interest, adding that the resignations showed that the government had ‘failed.’
Parliament voted 47-11 yesterday in favour of an amendment bill that would allow them to veto every lease or loan agreement made between the government and an overseas party, allowing them to effectively prevent the government from privatising assets such as Male’ International Airport.
On Sunday a signing agreement between the government and GMR Infrastructure-Malaysia Airport Holdings to manage Male’ International Airport was scuttled in front of the waiting media, after a reported dispute among board members of the incumbent Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) over who would sign the document.
That evening, four opposition parties including the DRP, PA, JP and DQP signed an agreement to oppose the airport deal on nationalistic grounds, and the following day parliament passed the amendment bill allowing the Majlis to veto any such project.
The government nonetheless reshuffled the MACL board members and proceeded with the signing ceremony on Monday evening. However today it was reported that the opposition parties had filed a civil court action seeking an injunction to block the deal going ahead.
Sources in the President’s Office suggested “this was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back” and led to this evening’s Executive outburst against the Majlis.
Other possible causes include a recent no-confidence motion levelled at Education Minister Dr Mustafa Luthfy by Independent MP Ibrahim Muttalib, after the Ministry’s steering committee proposed make the Islam and Dhivehi subjects optional at A-Level.
Former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, who had previously released audit reports alleging rampant corruption in the former government, was also dismissed by parliament shortly after announcing a financial audit of current and former government ministers, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. However the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) reported to parliament that Naeem had misused a government credit card to purchase transport and a tie, and he was removed from office.
Last year a no-confidence motion against the Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed was narrowly defeated, after the government sought to renewed diplomatic relations with Israel.
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