The Ministry of Defense and National Security has slammed the People’s Majlis decision to establish an independent security unit to oversee the safety of MPs and Majlis premises.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the Defense Ministry said Article 105 (a) and (b) of the constitution mandated the security forces to oversee security of the People’s Majlis offices, facilities and protection of all members, and hence the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) is currently in charge of the task.
“When the constitution has set out specific responsibilities and roles for the Maldives security forces, the Ministry of Defense and National Security, as the most important institution mandated to ensure security of the Maldives, does not believe that the People’s Majlis secretariat can hand over this task to any body that is not part of the security forces.
And this ministry does not believe that the protection of the People’s Majlis, and ensuring the security of the Majlis can be handed over [to another party] in violation of the constitution,” the Defense Ministry said.
The statement follows the Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid’s appointment of former MNDF officer Mohamed Haleem to the position of Sergeant at Arms and announcement to recruit an additional 104 security officers.
Majlis secretariat announced for a Sergeant at Arms after MNDF officers stormed the People’s Majlis to remove Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Azim from its premises. Shahid condemned the move stating that under parliamentary regulations, the MNDF are to operate under instructions from the Speaker inside the Majlis premises.
Soldiers clad in combat fatigues removed Azim from the Majlis building on October 26 after the Supreme Court stripped Azim and MDP aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Mohamed Nashiz of their seats over decreed debt. The Parliamentary Privileges Committee said it does not accept the “politically motivated” ruling.
The MDP and DRP currently control a simple majority in parliament. The DRP decided to back the MDP after its candidate Mohamed Nasheed gained 45.45 percent of the vote in the annulled first round of presidential elections on September 7.
Defending the Majlis
MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor is currently taking refuge inside the Majlis following several attempts by police to arrest him and present him at the Criminal Court for a trial on alleged refusal to provide a urine sample. Hamid said the Criminal Court had fast tracked his case unlawfully and without due process to “purge” MDP MPs from parliament.
Refusal to provide urine can result in a one year jail sentence. If Hamid is found guilty, he may lose his parliament seat.
The Criminal Court on October 31 sentenced Hamid to six months in jail for disobedience to orders when he refused to comply with several criminal court summons.
However, Hamid will still be able to attend Majlis hearings after amendments to the Parliamentary Procedures the day before his sentencing permitting MPs to attend Majlis even if convicted of criminal offenses.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Hamid said: “I think it is very normal for a parliament to have its own security within its premises.”
DRP MP Rozaina also supported the move, saying: “In the system we have now, where courts, police and MNDF are politicized by the people leading these institutions, the Majlis definitely needs its own.”
The Inter-Parliamentary Union is currently in the Maldives to “to help find ways to improve trust and confidence between State institutions.” The IPU has expressed concern “the frequent intimidation, harassment and attack of MPs as they go about their work.”
The MDP led parliament also voted out Attorney General Azima Shakoor and has submitted no confidence motions against Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz and deputy speaker and PPM MP Mohamed Nazim.
Three MDP MPs are currently on trial, while police have asked the PG to prosecute four additional MDP MPs.
MP Ali Waheed is on trial for disobedience to order for crossing a police barricade, while Hamid and Abdulla Jabir are on trial for alleged alcohol and drug abuse.
Police are charging MPs Alhan Fahmy, Imthiyaz Fahmy, and Mohamed Rasheed with contempt of court for criticizing the Supreme Court, and MP Ibrahim Rasheed with assaulting a police officer.
The MDP notes corruption charges against several government aligned MPs have been dropped since the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.