Parliament schedules first parliamentary session of 2013 for March 4

Parliament has announced that it will hold the first parliamentary session of the year on March 4.

The session will commence with the annual presidential address as per article 84 of the Constitution, where the President will highlight the state of the country, as well as measures taken to resolve the country’s difficulties.

Last year, the first Majlis opening session ended in turmoil, following rigorous protests by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs.

A parliament spokesperson said parliament has made all the necessary preparations for the session.

Despite the chaos during the opening of last year’s session, the official said no additional security arrangements are being made.

MDP Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ali Waheed told local newspaper Haveeru that the parliamentary group had not decided on whether to allow or disallow President Waheed from giving his presidential address.

“We will hold a parliamentary group meeting on March. A decision on the matter will be made on that meeting,” he said.

Waheed was not responding to calls at time of press.

Last year in March, members of MDP parliamentary group sabotaged President Mohamed Waheed’s address, claiming his ascension to power was illegitimate.

The session had to be called off after MPs blocked Speaker of Parliament, Abdulla Shahid, from entering the parliament floor. MPs barricaded the doors and removed chairs intended for the Speaker and President Waheed.

In a press conference that followed, Speaker Shahid said he was unable enter the chamber despite several attempts, and on one occasion had fallen and injured himself.

Given the political tensions at the time, Shahid said he was unable to guarantee the safety of members and had decided to proceed through negotiation, rather than force.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed condemned the actions of MPs and described the event as a “dark day in constitutional and parliamentary history” of the Maldives, and acknowledged the patience and determination of the security forces in handling the situation.

“Security forces [police and MNDF] handled the situation with great patience and determination. Many officers sustained various degrees of injuries while controlling the protesters,” Jameel said at the time.

However on March 19, 2012 President Waheed gave a shortened speech after several unsuccessful attempts during a heated session. The MDP MPs continued their protests, heckling Waheed and labelling him a ‘traitor’ as he gave the speech.

Several MDP MPs were injured during minor scuffles that broke out in the Majlis chamber as protesters faced expulsion for continuing to block Waheed. MDP party members alleged that the MNDF was responsible, a claim refuted by military officials.

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News at the time that the party did not take pride in obstructing parliament, but had felt forced to do so due to its dissatisfaction with the nature of Waheed’s accession to the presidency.

According to parliamentary regulations, the inaugural meeting of parliament’s first session each year should be held either on the first Monday or Thursday of March.