The People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid has today sworn in former Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) officer Mohamed Haleem to the newly announced position of sergeant at arms.
The sergeant at arms is to oversee security of the Majlis premises – a task currently carried out by the MNDF.
The Majlis is also looking to hire two deputies and four assistants to the sergeant at arms and 100 security officers. Once the new security unit is established the MNDF will no longer oversee the security of the legislature.
The appointment of an independent Sergeant at Arms comes at a time when several MPs belonging to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are being tried for criminal charges.
The Criminal Court today sentenced MDP MP Hamid Abdul GHafoor to six months in jail for failure to attend a trial over an alleged refusal to provide urine.
The court has issued several arrest warrants, ordering the police to arrest Hamid and present him at court. The police were unable to do so, however, after Hamid took refuge inside the Majlis premises.
Hamid claims the trial is “politically motivated” and contends the Criminal Court scheduled hearings during Majlis work hours.
Article 11 of the Parliamentary Privileges and Powers Act says an MP cannot be summoned to court during Majlis sittings or parliamentary committee hearings.
The MDP and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) currently control a simple majority in parliament. The DRP decided to back the MDP after MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed gained 45.45 percent of the vote in the annulled first round of presidential elections on September 7.
The MDP has condemned the judiciary’s attempts to “purge” its MPs.
On October 24, the Supreme Court stripped MDP MP Ali Azim and DRP MP Mohamed Nashiz of their seats over decreed debt. However, the Parliamentary Privileges Committee said they do not accept the Supreme Court’s “politically motivated” verdict and said Azim and Nashiz’s parliamentary membership continues.
When Azim attempted to attend a Majlis sitting on October 26, the MNDF blocked entry. Shortly afterwards, officers clad in combat fatigues stormed the Majlis and removed Azim from its premises, and handed him over to police officers waiting outside.
Azim is currently in police custody on charges of assaulting a police officer.
Speaker Shahid has condemned the MNDF’s actions stating that the MNDF are to follow his orders within the Majlis premises.
Article 4 of parliamentary regulations read: “Unless otherwise explicitly stated in the Constitution or laws, the Majlis building, hall, the pathways and corridors leading to the hall within the Majlis premises and the Majlis courtyard is under the control and orders of the Majlis Speaker.”
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.