IPU requests parliament proceed without obstruction

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called on all political parties in the country to ensure that parliament is not impeded when the People’s Majlis reconvenes tomorrow.

Parliament is set to open  for the first time since members of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) obstructed the session from opening on March 1.

In a day of ongoing international developments regarding both the legitimacy of the government of Mohamed Waheed Hassan and the functioning of the People’s Majis, the IPU held a press conference today in Male’ calling for a peaceful resolution to the political stalemate resulting from a controversial transfer of power last month.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union is the world organisation of parliaments and was established in 1889. It works to foster coordination and exchange between representative institutions across the globe. The IPU also offers technical support to affiliated nations. The Maldives has been affiliated with the organisation since 2005.

Amidst ongoing allegations by the MDP that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has replaced Mohamed Nasheed through a “coup d’etat” assisted by a mutiny among sections of the police and military, the party’s leadership has said it is committed to continuing to obstruct the Majlis until early elections are first agreed upon.

The increasingly fractious and partisan atmosphere within Maldivian political circles led to MDP MPs on March 1 preventing President Waheed from performing his constitutional duty of opening parliament with a state of the nation speech.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has said that his party intends to continue efforts to block the Majlis from opening until President Waheed bows to international pressure from bodies such as the Commonwealth and the EU and sets a date for early elections to resolve the questions of his legitimacy democratically.

Amidst the stand off, Martin Chungong, Director of Programmes for the IPU, told the gathered media that it was vital for parliament to preserve its integrity by continuing to function correctly as well as calling on all parties to avoid inciting or committing acts of violence during the session.

The IPU delegation said that their remit within the Maldives remained to try and facilitate a peaceful resolution to the political upheaval faced by President Waheed since he controversially came to power on February 7.

To this end, Chungong said he believed that it was for the Maldivian people, and not an external party, to provide a solution to the current political stalemate.

Despite calling for a peaceful resolution, the IPU delegation stressed that it was ultimately down to the parliamentary speaker to enforce any decision to remove MPs who were openly trying to obstruct tomorrow’s session from taking place.

Meanwhile, newspaper Haveeru has reported that following fierce debate today amongst its leaders, the MDP had decided to prevent President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan from entering the chamber tomorrow, in fulfilment of his constitutional obligation to address the opening of the People’s Majlis.

The party’s democratic group has reportedly agreed to allow Speaker Adbullah Shaheed to enter the People’s Majlis after having barred his access on March 1. The group has also agreed to allow a minute’s silence in commemoration of the former Foreign Minister Fathullah Jameel who recently passed away.

After this point in tomorrow’s proceedings though, MDP MPs have pledged to begin their protests despite concerns also being raised by the the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) about obstructing parliament from functioning.

Speaking to Minivan News earlier today, MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that within the current climate, continuing to try and block the Majlis was a “thorny issue,” but that he believed that the party could viably continue its attempts to block parliament.

He added that from the MDP’s perspective, the party had little choice but to continue to try and prevent parliament from continuing in order to “protect” the integrity of the Majlis.

Despite CMAG’s criticism of efforts to block parliament from functioning, Ghafoor claimed that international calls from groups like the Commonwealth for early elections and constitutional reforms showed that there were questions to be answered over the legitimacy of the present government.

“We do not believe Dr Waheed to be a legitimate leader,” he said. “The MDP’s position is to try and find a political situation to agree on an election date and the corresponding constitutional reforms required to do this before opening parliament. This was highlighted and agreed by MDP members, but rejected by the opposition.”

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP has been working with the government and opposition politicians to try and secure an end to the current political deadlock.

Parliamentary Group leader Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih, has previously expressed concern that Dr Waheed was not open to finding a potential solution on a timetable for elections.

Nasheed on front lines

Former President Nasheed told his supporters that he himself planned to be on the front lines of the protests outside the reconvened Majlis session tomorrow and claimed that authorities “would have to shoot him” before they could proceed with the opening.

In responding to the MDP’s comments, President Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza called on former President Nasheed to “stop advocating violence” particularly among young people, in regards to blocking the Majlis and opposing the government.

“More than 200 youths currently face charges for torching public buildings since February 8,” he added.

Though Riza said that the public would be free to gather on some of the capital’s roads to protest, he added that inside the parliament chamber, it was for the Speaker of the Majlis and not the government to ensure parliament functioned correctly.

The government spokesperson added that just as under the government of Mohamed Nasheed, the speaker had control of 60 Majlis guards that had the power to remove disruptive elements from the parliamentary floor.