The People’s Majlis reconvened today with both opposition and government-aligned parties claiming elections and legislative reforms were among the key focuses of their respective parliamentary agendas following an extended break.
According to the Majlis’ Counsel General Fathmath Filza, today’s opening session saw debates take place on two declarations and eight bills, including the repeal of a motion to remove the Maldives’ membership within the Commonwealth.
The session was also said by the official to include the distribution of the Commonwealth-backed Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) report to all MPs and the respective parliamentary committees dealing with security services, independent institutions and national security.
“These committees will review the report and report to the Majlis on the actions that then need to be taken,” added Filza.
Despite reconvening temporarily for an emergency session to pass the General Regulations Act in August, the Majlis has not reconvened since July after Speaker Abdulla Shahid suspended the institution, deciding a safe environment could not be ensured in the chamber after heated exchanges on the floor.
This suspension led straight into the Majlis traditional recess period, although parliamentary committees have resumed their work as of last month.
Parliamentary Speaker Shahid told Minivan News today that the recess period had provided sufficient time for tensions between leaders on both sides of the country’s political divide to “calm”.
“This has allowed for dialogue between party leaders and for me to set up agreement to have the current third parliamentary session begin on time,” he claimed. “This is important to ensure parliamentarians were part of the process to address their respective agendas.”
The speaker said that in line with a number of reports from independent institutions, the decision had been taken – in line with parliament’s minority and majority leaderships – to pass the findings of the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) onto the relevant regulatory committees.
Abdulla Yameen, Parliamentary Group Leader of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) told Minivan News by SMS that with parliament resuming today, he expected the Majlis to function undisturbed despite ongoing tensions relating to February’s controversial power transfer.
From the perspective of the PPM, which presently holds minority leadership in the Majlis with the second largest number of MPs after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Yameen said he believed passing pending legislation was his party’s foremost concern.
“[The PPM] hopes to see all pending legislative agenda addressed in order to ensure free and fair presidential elections,” said Yameen, who is the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Having met personally with former President Mohamed Nasheed late last month – without providing direct details of their discussions – Yameen said there had been agreement that the Majlis should function “smoothly”.
Meanwhile, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that in order to try and facilitate early elections, the party’s national council had asked for the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report to be distributed in the Majlis in attempts at having its recommendations implemented.
These recommendations, according to the MDP, include the need for reforms to strengthen the country’s independent institutions like the judiciary, as well as bringing senior defence force figures accused of mutinying against the former government to justice.
According to Ghafoor, the speaker has sent the CNI report to the relevant parliamentary committees to review recommendations made.
He claimed the request was part of a wider process to enact early elections within the Maldives – a key focus of the MDP since former President Mohamed Nasheed’s controversial resignation back in February.
Nasheed, who is presently the MDP’s presidential candidate, has continued to claim he was forced to resign under duress.
However, the party’s claims that the former government was removed from office in a “coup d’etat” were dismissed by the CNI report published in August. The report was later accepted by the MDP, albeit “with reservations”.
These reservations were first raised by Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, former President Nasheed’s appointee on the CNI panel, who alleged there had been a failure to take into account certain key evidence and witness accounts compiled by the panel regarding the transfer of power.
The MDP has claimed that despite its reservations, the CNI report has provided the party with a “way forward” to push for institutional reform.
Just last month, the MDP’s national council had called on the party’s parliamentary group to back a boycott of the Majlis over allegations that working within the present political process was failing to secure reforms highlighted in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report.
The proposed boycott was criticised strongly at the time by parties serving within the coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.