Parliament is to resume tomorrow after being stalled due to ongoing political turmoil in the Maldives.
Votes scheduled include approval for the appointments of President Dr Waheed’s Vice President and cabinet ministers.
On February 16, Dr Waheed appointed Dr Waheedudeen, a local business tycoon who was also an Atolls Minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as the Vice President.
According to the constitution of the Maldives, cabinet members require the consent of the parliament.
Dr Waheed also appointed Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Jihad as Minister of Finance and Treasury, Dr Mohamed Jameel – Vice President of the then-opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP)as the Home Minister, Dr Asim Mohamed as the Minister of Education, Dr Ahmed Jamsheed as the Minister for Health and Ahmed Shafeeu as the Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture.
Prominent lawyer Azima Shukoor, who helped the former opposition win many court cases against Nasheed’s government, was appointed Attorney General. Dr Ahmed Shamheed was appointed Minister for Transport and Communication, Ahmed Adheed as Tourism Minster, Ahmed Mohamed as the Minister for Economic Development, Dr Ahmed Muiz as the Minister for Housing and Environment, Gayoom’s Spokesperson Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef as the Minister for Human Resources Youth and Sports, Mohamed Nazim as Defence Minister, and Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as Islamic Minister.
Shaheem had resigned as State Minister for Islamic Affairs under Nasheed’s government following the burning of the Israeli flag in Republic Square over opposition to a visiting delegation of Israeli eye surgeons, whom Islamic NGOs had accused of coming to the Maldivies to illegally harvest organs. Shaheem was one of the speakers at the event, along with current Vice President of Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer, voicing anger at the acceptance of aid from Israel.
Current Health Minister Jamsheed was the Head of the Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) during Nasheed’s administration, but later resigned saying he had no work to do in the CCHDC and that there no purpose in such a position.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile alleged that the new Vice President was one of the powerful businessmen who assisted the coup financially.
MDP obstructed the first attempt made by the Speaker to hold the first parliament sitting of the year, during which Dr Waheed was supposed to deliver his presidential speech. The sitting was eventually called off.
The second attempt was made to hold the sitting on March 19, in which Dr Waheed managed to delivered a truncated version amid MDP MPs heckling him and calling him “traitor”. Police meanwhile clashed with protesters outside the parliament.
Speaking to Minivan News, MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the Speaker would ask for a vote to send the issue to the committee, and then MDP MPs would object to it because the party did not recognise the legitimacy of Dr Waheed’s government, and therefore the ministers and Vice President in it.
”Our stand is that we represent the government, so we will not give a response to the Presidential Speech given by the traitor,” he said. ”We believe that Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) is the main opposition party and they have to respond to the speech.”
Further complicating matters is that Dr Waheed’s party has no MPs in the parliament, a unforeseen circumstance unforeseen in the parliamentary regulations which requires an MP of the ruling party to present bills on behalf of the government.
”We will be actively involved in all the parliament’s work, but we will object to issues we find unacceptable,” Ghafoor said.
In the early hours of February 7, police and military officers defied orders of the then-President Nasheed and joined opposition in a protest held in Republican Square, demanding the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
At first a squad of police joined the protesters, confrontation between the police and army officers sparked the arrival of more police and eventually an attack on military headquarters.
Police officers demanded to see the then-police commissioner Ahmed Faseeh, who resigned hours later.
Former senior officers under Gayoom’s government then took over the police and started giving orders, which were obeyed.
Police and army officers then began calling for the resignation of the president, who remained inside the defence force headquarters with a handful of army officers still loyal to him.
Several attempts were made by Nasheed to control the situations, but the military and police split int two groups and spread throughout the city, joined by opposition supporters.
A large group carrying weapons such as iron bars, knives, machetes and other such items entered the state broadcaster in Galolhu and brought the station under their control.
Protesters in police vehicles and army trucks were deployed near the MDP Office in Galolhu and the office was vandalised.
Nasheed subsequently resigned, allegedly “under duress”, and Dr Waheed took over the position.
There was a spike in lawlessness in Male’ City that day, as young people took advantage of the police being busy with politics, riding motorbikes in breach of almost all the road safety regulations, while others were seen rolling joints on the streets and carrying sharp weapons.
On January 28, newspaper Miadhu reported that Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Deputy Leader Umar Naseer had told private TV channel VTV that Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan would constitutionally become the next President of the Maldives after President Nasheed resigned from the post at the climax of the judicial crisis.
The paper at the time reported Naseer as saying that ‘’very soon the army and police will give up and leave the President because they know he is being trapped by increasing abuses of power and violation of the Constitution.’’’
‘’It may be tonight, tomorrow or a month from now when the defence forces and police decide to leave the President – and that is the deciding moment,’’ Naseer said. “At that time, Vice President Waheed will take over according to the Constitution. We do not have any wish to get positions of the new Government, but we expect the new government will be a national government.’’
MDP Parliamentary Group Media Coordinator and MP Mohamed Shifaz, MP Mariya Didi, MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa and MDP Spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’ did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.