President Mohamed Waheed has ratified the two controversial bills – the Parliament’s Privileges Bill and Political Parties Bill – despite previous claims that the two bills had several lapses and “unconstitutional” elements.
Following the President’s initial vetoing of the two bills, parliament last Tuesday by a house majority overruled the presidential veto and forced the bill into law, giving the president no option but to ratify the bills – one of which would see the dissolution of his own political party.
The bill took a week before it was ratified, with parliamentary group leaders of all major political parties condemning the government for “delaying the ratification of the bill”.
The leaders claimed that Waheed – whose party Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) is among the first few parties that would be dissolved under the Political Parties Act if it became law – had a personal interest in delaying the bills.
During a ceremony held in President’s office, President Mohamed Waheed after ratifying the bill stated that he did not believe the bill was delayed in ratifying.
According to the President, the bill had been delayed due to certain punctuation errors that needed to be rectified by the parliament before it was ratified.
He stated that the government received the bill on last Thursday but had sent it back as it contained “major punctuation errors”. This, Waheed said, was the cause of delay as the government had only received a ‘punctuation-error free’ version of the bill on Monday.
“I got the corrected bill yesterday after I had sent it to the parliament on Monday. I have to go through the changes before I sign it. Therefore, I do not believe that [the bills] have been delayed to the extent where some parties should go on strike,” he said.
“It is not that we are facing a huge crisis or a world ending. Neither are we facing a medical pandemic here. So I don’t see a reason for me to rush things,” he added.
Waheed contended that the passage of the bill did not concern a financial crisis or the destruction of a person, and argued that he was not purposely delaying the passage of the bills.
Responding to the concerns raised by political party leaders regarding the bill, President Waheed said he respected the parliament, unlike other political leaders, and claimed that on March 4 (Parliament Opening Day) people would know “who did not respect who”.
“I have been working to uphold the law and the constitution from day one. To uphold the rule of law. So what PPM MP Abdulla Yameen said was said very irresponsible,” he said referring specifically to the PPM’s presidential hopeful and half brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Waheed added that he was advised by Attorney General Azima Shukoor to ratify the bills despite the legal and constitutional inconsistencies.
In the meantime, Shukoor said that the government had withdrawn its previous case challenging the political parties’ bill, but stated that she would file the case again as soon as the bills are signed into law.
“We will seek a temporary stay order against the Elections Commission to withhold the immediate dissolution of political parties that failed to attain the required numbers in terms of membership,” she said.
Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham earlier told local media that ratification of the Political Parties Bill meant political parties that do not have the required number of members would be dissolved without any transitional period.
According to Usham, the state has requested the Supreme Court issue a writ that would prevent dissolution of the parties prior to a court decision or until a transitional mechanism is set up.
“Referring to the legal principles employed in other democratic societies, dissolution of a political party that is formed in accordance with the law is only given on very exceptional occasions,” he said at time.
Shukoor was on Tuesday quoted in the local media saying that the government had withdrawn a case it had filed challenging the Parliament’s Privileges Bill as well.
However, she did not give any detail as to what clauses in the bill did the government intend to challenge.
The Attorney General said that she had received concerns from Maldives Police Service regarding the privileges bill and would once again challenge the bill as soon as it is signed into law, and this time “include the concerns raised by police”.
Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz in an interview given to local media earlier expressed concern over the Parliament’s Privileges bill, claiming the MPs are now “technically immune from the law”
Commissioner Riyaz claimed that the act gives enormous privileges to parliamentarians – privileges that are not even given to former presidents, which he said was “very concerning” and meant there would be no equality before the law.
“The [act] says that no person should indulge in an act that obstructs the work of the parliament. I really don’t comprehend what it is trying to say. I don’t think anybody would know beforehand what the parliament may decide to do. I don’t believe that is possible,” he said
Earlier a joint press statement issued by parliamentary group leaders of all major political parties called on the president to respect the constitution and ratify the two bills without any further delay.
Parliamentary group leaders including Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)’s MP Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali had all expressed concern over the delaying of the ratification of the bill.