Members of parliament have vote against the proposed amendment to parliamentary regulation that would have otherwise made impeachment votes secret.
The opposition-initiated proposition was defeated in Monday’s parliamentary vote with a narrow margin of 34 to 39 votes.
Members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who earlier issued a three-line-whip, all voted in favour of the proposed amendment, while government aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) MPs also voted in favour of the proposition.
The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Azim, whom the Civil Court had initially ordered police to produce in court, also voted with the opposition.
The amendment was proposed to the parliament by MDP MP Mohamed Shifaz and was approved by the parliament’s general affairs committee for the second time, after a previous decision by the committee was declared void by the Counsellor General Fathmath Filza on the grounds that the committee meeting on October 23 where it was voted through took place in violation of the rules.
The amendment was earlier proposed by Independent MP for Dhaalu Atoll Kudahuvadhoo, Ahmed Amir, who later withdrew the amendment claiming that his constituents did not “approve” of his decision.
During the parliamentary debate held prior to the vote, several MPs highlighted that it was important for such critical votes to be made a secret ballot since it directly related to the safety of the MPs themselves. Other MPs claimed that making such votes a secret ballot was “undemocratic” and conflicted with the constitution and its spirit.
Speaking in the debate, government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Shifaq Mufeed stated that there were “devious plans” behind making impeachment votes a secret and claimed that it was against the law.
“To establish a procedure to hide actions of the parliament is a clear violation of the constitution. A parliamentary session can only be held in closed doors only on matters that concerns the national security and public order,” Mufeed argued.
He added that in the case where a parliamentary vote goes to a stalemate the speaker should cast his vote and therefore it would not be a secret vote anyway, so it was “meaningless” to make parliamentary votes a secret ballot.
PPM MP Ali Arif also echoed similar remarks claiming that the current amendment excludes the impeachment votes taken against parliament speaker and deputy speaker so therefore it was very unjust.
He also added that the purpose of the amendment was “very cowardly” and affected the reputation of parliamentarians, and questioned the integrity of those MPs who had proposed such an amendment.
Meanwhile JP MP Alhan Fahmy speaking in the debate, suggested that it was not a wise decision to keep the vote open especially at a time the country was going through severe political turbulence and where there remained doubt over the security of MPs.
All the MDP MPs who spoke during today’s session supported the proposition arguing that members could be subjected to personal vendettas and hatred based on the way he or she voted.
Today’s parliamentary session had to be called off after the vote as the parliament order was lost. Several MDP MPs took point of orders claiming that the government had influenced the vote by threatening MPs.
Speaking to Minivan News, former MDP Chairperson and MP Mariya Ahmed Didi claimed that she believed today’s vote was influenced and that MPs were “being intimidated”.
“Many MPs who are afraid to say it openly claimed they had received all sorts of threats from the government,” she said.
She added that in the current political environment where the police and the military have “openly brutalised MPs” and no action been taken against them, MPs had hesitated in supporting the amendment.
This she said was particularly reflected in DRP’s stand towards the votes.
“After their MPs were served summons for arrest the DRP, whom many thought would collaborate with [MDP] on this, were scared and didn’t see these as idle threats,” she explained.
Didi added that she and her party would not give up despite their disappointment in parliament today.
Earlier, JP MP Abdulla Jabir and MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – also the party’s international spokesperson – were arrested along with several opposition figures including former SAARC Secretary General and Special Envoy to the former President, Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, former Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiz, while in an uninhabited island.
Police claimed that they found large amounts of “suspected” drugs and alcohol upon searching the island with a court warrant.
The arrests were made “based on information received by police intelligence,” police said. Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Haveeru that the suspects were arrested with alcohol and “hash oil”.
Following the arrests around midnight, the suspects were taken to Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal Atoll, and Zaki was hospitalised.
Despite a police attempt to extend the detention periods all suspects including the two MPs have now been released by the Kulhudhufushi Magistrate Court, with the exception of Hamdan Zaki.
The opposition MDP alleged that the arrests were a politically-motivated attempt to disrupt parliament ahead of a no confidence motion against President Mohamed Waheed, and the amendment to voting procedure to make such votes secret. A second no-confidence motion against Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel was withdrawn this week pending the outcome of the secret vote amendment.
Ahead of the vote, Civil Court also issued an order on Sunday to take DRP MPs Mohamed Nashiz and Ali Azim into custody and present them in court.
The order was cancelled later the same day, on the grounds that the judge presiding over the case was out of the country.
Meanwhile, Presidents Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza has earlier said that it would use all threatened legal action “using all the powers of the government” against the People’s Majlis to “bring parliament back to the right path”. He made the remarkin an appearance on government-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV on October 25.
“The constitution and parliamentary rules of procedure clearly state which votes are to be conducted through secret ballot. The rest of the votes should be open,” he said.
Riza heavily criticised the committee decision to approve the amendment, insisting that it violated the parliamentary rules on conducting committees meetings and votes.