A resolution to delay parliament’s upcoming recess at the end of the month, until crucial bills to reform the criminal justice system could be passed, was narrowly defeated today.
Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf had proposed extending the ongoing session until belated bills on evidence law, criminal justice procedure and special measures to combat crime along with amendments to the gang crimes legislation and Children’s Act, could be enacted into law.
Of the 70 MPs in attendance, 34 voted against the resolution while 30 voted in favour and six abstained.
During yesterday’s debate, MPs of both the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition parties argued that parliament’s perceived failure to pass necessary laws was not to blame for the shortcomings of the criminal justice system, particularly the authorities’ collective failure to secure convictions against “dangerous criminals” and enforce jail sentences.
Home Minister Hassan Afeef revealed on Monday that there were “about 300 people” sentenced in absentia that were yet to be taken to jail.
Closing the debate at the penultimate sitting of this year’s first session of parliament, Mahlouf argued that MPs should hasten to pass the legislation if only because “there will no longer be any person or institution that could point the finger at us and say ‘it’s because the People’s Majlis hasn’t completed [necessary laws].'”
Despite the 17th parliament having passed more legislation than any of its predecessors, Mahlouf urged MPs to “accept the reality” that the public did not believe parliament was doing enough.
“[They say] the number of days we work in the Majlis is low,” he said. “I accept this today. We take a holiday for four months of the year. We work about 12 days a month. For a year, it’s about 96 days. We don’t work for about 260 days of the year.”
The DRP MP for Galolhu South noted that none of the MPs opposed to postponing the recess had claimed there was no urgent need for the criminal justice legislation.
After voting on the resolution ended, Speaker Abdulla Shahid informed MPs that completed legislation on special measures to combat crime has been sent for their perusal.
The bill was amended in consultation with law enforcement authorities to include essential provisions from all three belated bills to serve as a stop-gap measure until parliament returned from recess.
Shahid explained that a proposal for a special sitting to be held during the recess in May would be put forward at tomorrow’s final sitting.
MDP MP “Reeko” Moosa Manik raised a point of order to suggest a sitting to be held tomorrow night to pass the crime legislation, but Shahid replied that a decision would be made after discussion with party leaders.
Mahouf – who has sided with “Zaeem DRP” against DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali in the ongoing factional strife within the main opposition party – was attacked yesterday by MPs of the rival opposition faction for taking a holiday after submitting the resolution.
While DRP MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem accused Mahlouf of attempting “to pin a medal on himself and claim to be the best,” DRP MP for Mid-Henveiru Ali Azim claimed Mahlouf had taken the most leaves of absence during the past Majlis session.
Mahlouf hit back at Raheem today, claiming that he saw a form the Maafanu West MP had allegedly signed to defect to the MDP before changing his mind in 24 hours.
Moreover, he added, MPs Rozaina Adam and her husband Mohamed Nashiz were yet to return from an official trip to Panama despite MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, Speaker Shahid and Secretary General Ahmed Mohamed having arrived back in the country three days ago.
After attacking Thasmeen and Football Association Chairman Ali Azim for alleged poor attendance and lack of participation in important committee tasks, Mahlouf also exchanged heated words with DRP MP for Mathiveri Hussein Mohamed, who told him “to shut up and sit down.”
Hussein Mohamed argued that since Mahlouf’s resolution stated that a one month holiday should be granted once the “complex and technical” bills were passed, “what if we are only able to go to recess in November, how do we pass the state budget then?”