Speaker Abdulla Shahid has announced that parliament sittings will be cancelled indefinitely as “a peaceful atmosphere could not be assured” for sittings to proceed amidst rising political tension.
In a press statement today, Speaker Shahid said that MPs of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) confronted the Speaker in his private chambers after MDP MP Mohamed Rasheed ‘Kubey’ was forcibly removed at the beginning of today’s sitting.
“Moreover, confrontations occurred between MPs in the chamber to the point of becoming dangerous,” the statement read, adding that “an atmosphere of calm necessary to conduct sittings could not be assured” as all recent sittings had to be cancelled due to disorder.
Shahid explained that he decided to invoke the Speaker’s authority under section 213(e) of the rules of procedure to cancel sittings indefinitely as he believed a political solution had to be sought through dialogue among parliamentary group leaders.
Section 213(e) states that the Speaker has the discretion to not conduct sittings for a period “as a precautionary measure if there is fear of a certain type of danger facing the Majlis.”
Both today and yesterday’s sitting were cancelled after MDP MPs vociferously raised points of order to protest the arrest of MPs during the party’s ongoing street demonstrations and the government’s decision to alter the ‘Aasandha’ health insurance scheme to charge patients from private hospitals and clinics.
MDP MPs led by MP Ali Waheed also disrupted today’s meeting of the Finance Committee alleging that the committee had failed to investigate the government “illegally borrowing” MVR 300 million from the Bank of Maldives.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, MDP MP Ali Waheed argued that parliament has been “paralysed” since the transfer of power on February 7 and that “nothing productive” had been done in the past six months.
MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’, parliamentary group leader of the MDP, contended that the government was violating the Public Finance Act by borrowing large sums of money without parliamentary approval.
Ibu claimed that the Finance Minister had written to parliament’s Finance Committee seeking MVR9 billion (US$583 million) for the budget as well as MVR 3 billion (US$194 million) in additional expenditure.
MP Ali Waheed meanwhile noted that MPs last month overwhelmingly rejected a Finance Committee recommendation to make changes to the Aasandha health insurance scheme.
Speaking to press after today’s sitting, MDP Chairperson and Hulhu-Henveiru MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said the party would not allow parliament to resume while the current government was altering the MDP’s flagship free universal health insurance scheme.
MDP MP Eva Abdulla claimed that the government was facing a shortfall in budgeted funds for the health insurance scheme due to increasing expenditure on the police and army.
“What we’re seeing is the result of a group of people assuming power without making any pledges to the public,” she said. “That is, they do not have to be accountable to the people. They do not have to let the people know what is going on.”