Parliament called off scheduled no-confidence votes set to be taken today (April 8 ) against Home Minister Mohamed Jameel and Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, after Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs objected to the vote not being made in secret despite a parliamentary decision otherwise.
The Supreme Court in March struck down the amendment to parliament’s standing orders that allowed no-confidence votes to be made through secret ballot, declaring the amendment unconstitutional. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court contended that the move contravened article 85 of the constitution as well as parliamentary principles and the norms of free and democratic societies.
During today’s parliament session, Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader of MDP, MP Ali Waheed, contended that the Supreme Court’s ruling itself had been unconstitutional as it had exceeded its own mandate as under the constitution parliament is deemed a separate power of the state – which the Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction to meddle with.
Waheed also warned that the MDP would not allow the speaker to go forward with the vote without making it a secret ballot.
Several other opposition MPs argued that government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) was prepared to vote with the opposition should the ballot be a secret ballot, giving the vote the 39 MP majority needed for it to pass.
However, Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader of DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom denied the claim stating that the party’s stand was to abstain from the vote.
Mausoom told local media outlet Sun Online that the party had come to the decision in an attempt to prioritise national interest ahead of party politics and to prevent chaos and confusion among the public.
During the debate on the vote, members of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) spoke in favour of both Jameel and Nazim claiming that the vote was a tactic employed by the opposition to intimidate and harass the ministers.
Speaking during the debate, former Interim Deputy Leader of PPM, MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla said that Jameel a remarkable background and was one of the most educated and able ministers in the current government.
He also said that PPM was defending the Minister not because the party felt that the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan was doing any good, but because PPM MPs loved the nation and its well being.
Raheem Abdulla also applauded the minister for his “remarkable reforms” brought to the police institution, claiming that the police force “was a mess” during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.
Speaking in the debate, MP Ali Waheed questioned the Home Minister as to why the police were excessively spending public funds on fireworks and celebrations when the country’s largest hospital IGMH did not even have enough doctors.
Meanwhile Independent MP Alhan Fahmy stated that although he did not question Jameel’s academic qualifications, he argued that the minister had failed in executing his duties and accused him of being negligent in looking into police misconduct.
Responding to the allegations levied against him, Jameel told parliament that the no-confidence motion filed against him by the MDP MPs lacked any basis.
Jameel, former Justice Minister during President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration, claimed that allegations against him were “misleading and politicised” and that the motion was put forth to achieve “political leverage”.
“When I took over as the Minister, the whole police institution was in a mess. I cannot fix everything in a year. Under my leadership, the role of the police has been expanded throughout the country. Demonstrations can now be held anywhere in the country peacefully,” he said.
Jameel also contended that police are now more professional and do not discriminate when executing their duties and responsibilities.
Order in the chamber was lost halfway through the morning session after Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim entered the parliament floor wearing his military colours.
Opposition MDP MP Mohamed ‘Kubey’ Rasheed took a point of order contending the parliamentary regulation did not allow Defense Minister – who was accompanied by his lawyer and the Deputy Attorney General – to enter the parliament floor with military colours.
Several other MPs also joined Rasheed in protest and the session had to be suspended for few hours.
Before the break, MPs decided to hold the debate on Defence Minister’s impeachment behind closed doors.
The parliament session reconvened at 1:00pm and when Speaker Abdulla Shahid called for the vote, MDP MPs began protesting, claiming that the vote should be a secret ballot.
After several failed attempts by the Speaker to calm the MPs, the session was cancelled. Speaker Shahid also announced that the matter raised by MDP MPs regarding Supreme Court’s decision had been sent to parliament’s General Affairs Committee.
Speaker Shahid stated that the committee with review the decision and will begin its work on Tuesday.
In October last year, the MDP submitted its first motion against Home Minister Jameel over concerns from the party of what it called an “unprecedented” increase in murders and assault in the Maldives since the transfer of power.
Despite the MDP withdrawing the no-confidence motion against the home minister a month later in November for an unexplained reason, a second no-confidence vote was submitted by the party in December.
A statement issued by the MDP accused Jameel of failing to control civil peace and order in the country, which it said had led to the loss of eight lives.
The MDP further referred to an incident in which a man on a motorcycle was killed after a police officer struck a second motorcyclist with his baton, causing him to collide with the first.
The MDP alleged that Home Minister Jameel had tried to cover up police involvement in the death.
A no-confidence vote was also due to be taken against Jumhoree Party MP and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s position on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), which has come under fire internationally amid questions over its conduct and impartiality.