Parliament was cancelled barely an hour into today’s sitting after MPs clashed over the committee report on the decentralisation bill proposed by the government, leading to pandemonium and disorder in the chamber.
MPs of the ruling Maldiivan Democratic Party (MDP) accused the opposition-dominated committee of coming under external influences and violating Majlis rules of procedure in completing its review, calling on the speaker to send the bill back to committee.
The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) majority on the committee passed an amendment to scrap provinces in the legislation.
DRP MPs accused the MDP of failing to respect democracy and the will of the majority and attempting to block local council elections, which could only take place when the legislation was passed.
“I would like to first inform the honourable members that the Majlis secretariat received 765 amendments for this agenda item at 2.30pm yesterday,” said Speaker Abdullah Shahid, beginning the third and final reading of the bill.
Shahid urged MPs to merge similar amendments to save time and have unofficial discussions among political parties to speed up the process.
Point of order
In a series of points of order that followed, Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed reminded MPs that the constitutional deadline for local elections had elapsed while the legislation was still pending.
Hulhu-Henveiru MP “Reeko” Moosa Manik, parliamentary group leader of the MDP, claimed the committee report “came from outside”.
“Proposing amendments to the decentralisation bill in the thousands shows they do not accept democracy,” responded Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed. “We have no problem spending the whole day here – we’ll be here.”
Dhidhoo MP Ahmed Sameer of the MDP argued the committee did not follow the rules of procedure as all of the amendments were made by the DRP.
Presenting the report, Hanimaadhoo MP Mohamed Mujthaz of the DRP, chairman of the committee, said the committee faced many obstacles in reviewing the legislation due to serious disagreements between MDP and DRP MPs.
The bill was submitted by the government in June.
“Among the views expressed by members at the Majlis, the most disputed issue was provinces or dividing administrative areas into provinces,” he said.
A vote at the committee to scrap provinces in the legislation was passed with 6 to 5 in favour, Mujthaz said.
Raising further points of order, MDP MPs attacked the committee for changing the “safari vessel” presented by the government into “a bokkura (dinghy)”.
Hulhumeedhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb said the report should be sent back as the chairman had admitted the amendments were made by DRP instead of reflecting the views of MPs as required by the rules.
Meanwhile, Sameer further argued the amendments were in violations of the rules as changes could not be made to negate the purpose of the legislation.
DRP MPs defended the report, attacking the MDP for “failing to digest” whenever things did not go their way.
Ali Waheed accused the MDP of blocking the legislation to prolong the tenure of its “unelected” councillors.
After 30 minutes of points of order, Shahid said he would not allow any more in the interest of speeding up the proceedings.
But, the first MP to present amendments, Maavashu MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakuru, was shouted down by MDP MPs insisting on points of order.
“I condemn these efforts against democracy at a time when we’re trying to consolidate it,” Abdul Azeez said over the din.
When Shahid relented and allowed points of order, Mid-Fuahmulah MP Shifaq Mufeed objected to the committee not including reservations of MDP MPs.
The sitting became heated when Mujthaz defended the committee report; MPs sprang out of their seats and acrimonious arguments broke out.
After his repeated appeals for MPs to take their seats went unheeded, the speaker canceled the sitting.
The sitting has been pushed back to 8.30pm tonight, when MPs will begin proposing the 765 amendments.
The 11-member ad hoc committee comprised of Moosa Manik, Bilendhoo MP Ahmed Hamza, Henveiru South MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor and Hithadhoo North MP Mohamed Aslam of the MDP; Mohamed Mujthaz, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim, Fonadhoo MP Ali Saleem, Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed and Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam from the DRP; and independents Eydhafushi MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem and Kudahuvadhoo MP Ahmed Amir.