Several general regulations without parent legislation, including rules governing political parties and freedom of assembly, will cease to have legal force if an extension is not approved at a parliament sitting before midnight on Sunday, August 5.
Parliament however remains deadlocked and sittings have been suspended indefinitely amidst forced cancellations and escalating political tension.
Prior to the ratification of the new constitution on August 7, 2008, parliament passed a General Regulations Act as parent legislation for over 80 regulations without a statutory basis, or were not formulated under an Act of parliament. These include regulations for criminal justice procedures, companies and finance leasing transactions, insurance, jails and parole, freedom of information and building codes.
Article 271 of the constitution states, “Regulations derive their authority from laws passed by the People’s Majlis pursuant to which they are enacted, and are enforceable pursuant to such lawful authority. Any regulations requiring compliance by citizens must only be enacted pursuant to authority granted by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis.”
The parent act prolonged the lifespan of the regulations – deemed necessary for administrative functions and service provision – for a one year period until new legislation, such as a Criminal Procedures Act, Evidence Act, Freedom of Information Act and Political Parties Act could be enacted.
The act provided for further extensions based on recommendations by parliament’s Rules Committee. The last extension was approved in December 2011 and is set to elapse on August 5, after which the regulations would become null and void.
With the People’s Majlis at a standstill and the outcome of talks between parliamentary group leaders unclear, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim yesterday warned of an impending “legal void” should the parent act be allowed to expire.
Nazim told newspaper Haveeru that the Act included “two very important regulations” for the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).
“This problem will become a huge issue,” the People’s Alliance (PA) leader was quoted as saying. “It is therefore of utmost importance that a Majlis sitting is held before Sunday to find a solution. If not, the country will face a big constitutional problem.”
Parliament’s Rules Committee meanwhile met last week and decided to remove six regulations from the General Regulations Act.
According to the Majlis secretariat, the committee also decided to extend the deadline for the remaining regulations to April 2013, following “consideration of legal opinion by the Attorney General’s Office.”
However, article 5(b) of the Act states that extensions must be approved by the Majlis and previous extensions were put for a vote on the floor.
Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, told the local daily today that failure to approve a further extension could disrupt services and raise questions of the legality of government functions.
As the regulations concerned a number of areas and would “directly affect” people from “various fields and arenas”, Nasheed said a sitting of parliament had to be held before Sunday “even for five minutes” to vote to approve an extension.
The formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile called for President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and leaders of political parties represented in parliament to come to the negotiating table to resolve the ongoing political dispute.
A statement released by the MDP parliamentary group yesterday contended that in the wake of the “coup d’etat” on February 7, the Maldivian state, constitution, democracy and economy had “come to a halt.”
The party would cooperate with resuming parliament sittings after a compromise agreement is reached through dialogue, the statement said.