The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has claimed that “bullying” by front-line activists of its coalition partners has created a “climate of fear” not conducive to holding “free and fair” votes in the People’s Majlis on key upcoming matters.
Speaking to Minvain News, DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef stopped short of backing claims by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) concerning “threats of political violence against their lives and property by rivals”, believing the government was not directly involved in such acts.
However, Shareef claimed that rhetoric by front-line supporters of fellow government-aligned supporters like the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had affected its decision yesterday to support a secret vote for a no confidence motion against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.
Other senior government figures are also set to face no-confidence motions in the next few weeks, including present Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who today dismissed the MDP’s allegations as a politically motivated attempt to try and “paralyse” the running of the government.
“Such allegations are purely politically motivated and [serve] to cover up [the MDP’s] efforts to bring government to a halt. I do not believe that [the MP’s] allegation have anything to do with a threat of violence, rather, some members assert it as a cover up to hide their attempt to paralyse government,” he told Minivan News by SMS. “The state has already offered security to all members of the parliament.”
The MDP’s parliamentary group visited the Indian High Commission in Male’ yesterday to register concerns over alleged political violence facing MPs. The visit was made of ahead of its attempts to pursue no confidence motions against President Waheed and his deputy, Mohamed Waheed Deen.
Parliament voted yesterday 41-34 to approve amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach the President and remove cabinet members through secret ballot. The vote passed after a similar proposition was narrowly defeated 39-34 last month.
Meeting with Indian high Commissioner D M Mulay yesterday, the MDP said it had been given assurances that its concerns of MPs facing violence towards themselves and their property had been forwarded to the Indian government.
India is itself presently involved in a diplomatic dispute with the Maldives over the government’s decision to terminate an US$511m contract signed with India-based Infrastructure group and reclaim the site despite an injunction from the High Court of Singapore.
“Prior to the motion to make the ballot for confidence motions secret, leaders of alleged usurper President Waheed’s political supporters, including fundamentalist Islamists with extremist intentions, had made a number of threats against MPs who would dare vote against the alleged usurper government,” the MDP claimed in a statement.
“In this regard, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla threatened physical force against MPs publicly saying that they would ‘chase and pursue MPs on the roads’.“
Registering its concerns with the Indian High Commission, the party alleged that MPs had also been targeted with violent acts including “baton beatings” and “surprise raids of their privacy”.
The MDP also raised the issue of the murder of PPM MP Dr Afraasheem Ali, who it claimed had allegedly been murdered for his “moderate religious views” and been previously threatened the government-aligned Adhalaath Party.
However, investigations are continuing into Dr Afrasheems death, with police having not yet officially confirmed any motive behind the murder.
The Maldives Police Service today refused to comment on media reports concerning the arrest of Abdulla Jaavid, son in law of MDP Chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik, in connection with the investigations into Dr Afrasheem’s murder.
Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef said he had no comment on the matter, adding that police were holding a press conference this afternoon.
Responding to the MDP’s allegations about increased political violence against MPs, DRP Deputy Ibrahim Shareef said that there was a large amount of “confusion” within the political arena at the moment. However, Shareef said he did not believe the government of President Waheed was directly attempting to “bully” MPs over how they chose to vote on key issues.
“I do not believe President Waheed or his government has such a plan,” he claimed. “There are of course threats of violence taking place on the streets right now.”
Shareef criticised both the MDP and PPM – the majority and minority representatives in parliament – for what he alleged were their use of tactics such as “activist” methods and violence to try and influence MP voting.
“We are a new democracy and people seem to believe that violence is part of the democratic way, they simply don’t believe they are acting in an unusual way,” he claimed.
Shareef maintained that recent rhetoric from some government-aligned parties towards parliament was tantamount to bullying, which he said had been the reason behind the party’s decision to encourage its MP to back a secret ballot against removing the president from office.
“Right now, we are under tremendous pressure and have sacrificed a lot. Under this bullying, parliament cannot conduct a free and fair vote, “ he claimed, pointing to rhetoric from some members of the PPM and other parties regarding parliament’s conduct and voting.
Shareef also slammed the partisan nature of media in the Maldives for furthering to create distrust among the public over the work of MPs and “poisoning” the atmosphere in parliament.
Despite supporting the push for secret voting, Shareef said he hoped such votes would not become the normal course of procedure for parliament.
“[Secret ballots] should not be the norm, but in the current climate of fear we are seeing, this is an emergency situation,” he said. “We would of course prefer open votes, and I hope that [secret ballots] are only a temporary measure.”
Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid, PA MP Ahmed Nazim, and PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf were not responding to calls at time of press.