MDP MPs bolt chamber doors, demand sittings go ahead

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.


Gayoom reprimands DRP council for decision to discipline Mahlouf, Illham and Waheed

Honorary Leader of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom called on party’s council last night to take back its decision to recommend MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ahmed Ilham and Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed for disciplinary action.

In a statement read out by daughter Yumna Maumoon at the ‘Gayoom faction’ rally at artificial beach, Gayoom warned that taking disciplinary action against the three council members would lead to further weakening of a party already riven by internal conflict.

“At such a critical moment, with party unity severely shaken and members despairing as a result of the decisions taken by the party’s council and the disciplinary committee, in violation of the party’s charter and democratic principles and with total disregard to the feelings of the party’s members, ever since Ahmed Thasmeen Ali assumed leadership, I deeply regret [the council’s decision] as it goes completely against the wishes of most common members and would only split the party even further,” Gayoom’s statement read.

Advising the council to retract the decision, Gayoom noted that “taking action against those you disagree with is not done anywhere that is run along democratic principles.”

“And [disciplinary action] is not allowed either by the Maldivian constitution or Islamic principles,” he said.

Deputy Leader Ilham and MP Mahlouf stands accused by the council of misleading the public about Thasmeen, disregarding the best interests of the party and violating the party’s charter.

Ilham however told Minivan News last week that “a Deputy Leader can be dismissed only if a third of the party’s congress votes to dismiss him.”

The DRP MP for Gemanafushi argued that any decision by the disciplinary committee to dismiss him would therefore be invalid.

Beginning with rumblings of discontent at the third DRP congress in March 2010 over disagreement regarding a presidential primary, the worsening factional split within the main opposition erupted in December that year following the dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

After condemning Thasmeen of “running the party dictatorially”, Gayoom has since withdrawn his support for Thasmeen as DRP’s presidential candidate for 2013.


DRP MPs Ilham, Mahlouf and Gayoom’s lawyer Waheed to face disciplinary committee

The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)’s Council has decided to send DRP MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, DRP Deputy leader MP Ilham Ahmed and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed to the party’s disciplinary committee.

The Council made its decision after accusing Ilham, Mahlouf and Waheed of misleading the public over the work of party’s leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and disregarding the party’s interest and attempting to create internal splits in the party.

DRP Deputy leader MP Ilham said that the party’s charter did not allow party’s leader to dismiss anyone who criticises the party leader.

”The charter states that a deputy leader can be dismissed only if a third of the party’s congress votes to dismiss him,” Ilham said. ”There will be internal disputes in political parties, but this is not how to solve it.”

The disciplinary committee may decide to dismiss those Thasmeen wants to be removed from the party because Thasmeen controls the majority in the committee, said Ilham.

”But that would be a void decision,” he added.

Furthermore, Ilham said the case of former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer, who was also dismissed by the Disciplinary Committee, was now in court.

Umar faced the disciplinary committee and was dismissed after he conducted a protest which unauthorised by the party’s leadership. His dismissal over the matter has led to a hostile split in the party between factions loyal to former President Gayoom – the party’s ‘honorary leader’ – and its leader Thasmeen.

”We will respect the decision of the court, I do not believe that the court will rule against the party’s charter,” Ilham said.

Ilham, Waheed and Mahlouf are supporters of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Z-DRP faction.

Thasmeen did not respond to Minivan News while Mahlouf was unavailable at time of press.


DRP announces new vice presidents

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has elected four vice presidents during the its third annual congress, which concluded today.

The new vice presidents are the party’s spokesman Ibrahim Shareef (642 votes), MP Ali Waheed (645 votes), MP Ahmed Ilham (593 votes) and Umar Naseer, former president of the Islamic Democratic Party (502 votes).

Eight people stood for election to the post. The other candidates were Abdullah Mausoom (383 votes), Afrashim Ali (288 votes), Mohamed Saleem (239 votes) and Fathin Hameed (210 votes).

The party’s new leader is Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, who was was elected leader by default as no candidate stood against him, and will become the party’s presidential candidate. During the congress the party’s former leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was also given the title of ‘Honorary leader’.

Ibrahim Shareef said the party was now looking forward to strengthening the relationship between the new leadership and its members.

”This is a very dynamic leadership,” he said. ”During this leadership many changes will be brought to our party.”

He said the party’s new leader Thasmeen was a “very intelligent and capable person.”

”The other three vice presidents are also very capable and won the election because of the popularity they have among the people,” he said.

DRP MP and new vice president Ali Waheed said he was pleased to work with the new leadership, describing the others as “very capable and experienced people.”

Waheed said with its new leadership the party would get stronger “day by day”. His next target, he said, was to “strengthen the relationship between the DRP supporters around the atolls.”

DRP MP and new vice president Ahmed Ilham said the public would see a difference in the party within six months.

Umar Naseer said the party would be “very active” during his leadership, and said his aim was to “bring the government’s administration to an end.”

Spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Ahmed Haleem said he “regretted that the party’s educated people were not elected as vice presidents.”

”With this leadership I do not think they will achieve anything,” Haleem said.

”These new vice presidents will drop the party back 20 years. They are still at early 90s, we are at 2010.”


MPs planning no-confidence motion against finance minister

A group of MPs have announced they intend to put a no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Ali Hashim before parliament.

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed claimed Hashim’s conduct in his role as minister had on several occasions been “against the law.”

”It’s not only the issue of civil servants salary, he has done many things against the law,” he claimed.

Nasheed has previously said he would pursue a no-confidence motion against Hashim after the finance minister failed to appear before a parliamentary committee investigating the ministry’s treatment of the independent commissions.

“He left the country,” noted Nasheed at the time, adding when the committee requested State Finance Minister Ahmed Assad appear in Hashim’s stead, the ministry sent two junior officers.

“If he doesn’t appear, we’ll make a report to parliament questioning his confidence,” Nasheed warned. “He’s being irresponsible and it’s so unnecessary and uncalled for.”

Today, Nasheed said that the group of MPs had almost finished the necessary documentation “and I will be the first to sign the petition.”

He said he did not yet want to reveal the details of what the petition contains.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party DRP MP Ahmed Ilham said he supported the no-confidence motion against the finance minister.

”He bought shares in the Maldives Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) [without the knowledge of parliament], he is paying salaries to province councillor when they have yet to be approved – these things are against the law,” Ilham claimed.

Former president of Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) Umar Naseer and candidate for the vice-presidency of the DRP said motion was overdue, and accused Hashim “of being unable to read and write.”

MDP MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik said he preferred not comment on the issue before the petition was presented to the parliament.

MDP Spokesman Ahmed Haleem said parliament had failed the last time it tried to press a no-confidence vote (against Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed), “and I do not think they can do it this time either.”

He accused Nasheed of trying to make the no-confidence vote to gain support from DRP.

”At first we hoped Nasheed would be a very beneficial man for the country and would do a lot of good, but now I see he does so many things against democracy,” Haleem said.

Minivan News sought response from the finance ministry on several occasions but received no response at time of press.