Supporters and activists of both main parties surrounded the parliament building in protest today after a third consecutive sitting was disrupted by MPs of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) breakaway Z-faction.
In a protest of their own, MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) bolted the chamber doors and refused to let opposition MPs leave.
Maafanu North MP Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News that MDP MPs shut the chamber door at about 1pm when the sitting resumed after being adjourned in the morning.
“We said Majlis has to go ahead because it has been stopped everyday while there are important economic bills to pass,” he said. “Every day they bring the sitting to a halt and everybody just goes home. Today we said nobody can leave.”
He revealed that the MDP MPs opened the doors at 2.30pm when sittings usually come to an end.
Imthiyaz strongly criticised the Z-DRP MPs for disrupting three consecutive sittings “on orders from [former President] Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.”
“Every day it is just three or four people stopping Majlis,” he said. “These Z-faction MPs don’t even have any legal status. Because if they belonged to a party, they would recognise the party’s leader and accept his decisions.”
Shortly after today’s sitting began at 9.00am, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim adjourned it when Z-DRP MPs, Ahmed Mahlouf and Ahmed Ilham, refused to comply with an order to leave the chamber.
Both MPs were protesting in front of the secretariat desk when the Deputy Speaker ordered them out after repeatedly advising the MPs to return to their seat – the Z-DRP MPs have now disrupted three consecutive sittings after vowing to do so in protest of the recently approved committee composition.
Under article 54(f) of the parliamentary rules, sittings cannot continue if an MP ordered out remains in the chamber.
Minivan News will continue to cover the situation here as it develops.
2:38pm: MDP supporters have gathered near parliament and are attempting to climb inside. Police are in the area attempting to control the situation.
2:40pm: MDP activists told Minivan News they would “knock down” any opposition MP attempting to leave the parliament.
2:57pm: Activists outside are claiming: “You [MPs] have taken thousands from the state budget to pay your salaries, but have done nothing for the citizens.”
3:15pm: Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed said he left the building shortly before the incident began. MPs inside the building have so far not responded to calls.
3:16pm: Opposition MPs have left the building however MDP MPs remain in the chamber. Former Parliamentary Group Leader Reeko Moosa Manik told media that they would not leave until the sitting was resumed.
3:18pm: Opposition and ruling party supporters have gathered at the same gate and are trying to break the police line and enter parliament. Minivan News observed that the crowd includes supporters of both parties, one shouting about Gayoom (“Golhaabo”), the other about President Mohamed Nasheed (“Ganjabo”).
3.50pm: Scuffles have broken out between MDP and Z-DRP activists. Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that police are attempting to “bring the situation under control.” Police have formed lines to separate the two groups of supporters.
4.10pm: According to the MDP website, chamber doors were opened shortly before 3pm and some opposition MPs have left the building.
5.42pm: Police have used pepper spray on the protestors while opposition MPs are reportedly being escorted out of the building under guard. Police are warning that the crowd will be dispersed by force.
6.23pm: Crowd has begun to disperse and thin out.
6.55pm: The MDP’s National Council has passed a resolution calling its members in the atolls to come to Male’ to participate in “a large demonstration” in protest of “the Majlis being hijacked by a few members encouraged by former President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom].”
The resolution proposed by Madaveli MP Mohamed Nazim and seconded by Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed was passed with 58 votes in favour and two against.
6.57pm: A number of MDP activists are continuing the protest outside all three gates of parliament. The activists have issued a warning to police that they will storm the building between 8.00pm and 8.30pm. They continue to call for opposition MPs to come out.
8.45pm: MDP MP Ahmed Sameer has told protestors still outside parliament that the party is trying to hold a sitting tonight. Among the five MPs designated to preside over sittings in the absence of both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker include MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
10.40pm: Tomorrow’s agenda has been published on the Majlis website. Addressing protestors earlier tonight, MDP Chairperson “Reeko” Moosa Manik said that the rules of procedure allowed sittings to be held in the absence of either the Speaker or Deputy Speaker: “We don’t mind if it starts tomorrow morning or at 12 midnight, we are here to do this […] It is not the spirit of the constitution for two members to stop Majlis and bring it to a halt for weeks on end. We showed them today. We were able to bolt the doors and sit in front of the doors. We can do it again. They had to stay inside until we opened the door.”
Moosa alleged that the forced cancellations were “planned in advance at the Deputy Speaker’s office.” The former MDP parliamentary group leader said that the party was ready to pass all the taxation bills in one sitting if necessary.