People’s Alliance confirms “attempts” under way to reconvene Majlis next week

Senior representatives from the government-aligned People’s Alliance (PA) party have said attempts are under way to reconvene the People’s Majlis by next week.  Parliament was indefinitely suspended late last month by Speaker Abdulla Shahid over concerns about maintaining order in the Majlis chamber.

PA MP Moosa Zameer told Minivan News today that Majlis Deputy Speaker and fellow PA MP Ahmed Nazim had confirmed that the speaker was committed to restarting parliament by next week – despite no agenda yet being set.  Both Nazim and Speaker Shahid were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile said it had been aware of the speculation over reconvening parliament next week, but added that it was “impossible to say” ahead of an MDP National Executive Committee meeting today whether an agreement could be reached on the matter.

Just last week, informal parliament-initiated talks – running parallel to the formal All-Party talks – were deemed to have stalled after participants failed to reach a consensus on resolving wider ongoing political deadlock and the suspension of the Majlis.

Following last week’s meeting, resort tycoon and leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), Gasim Ibrahim, called for the resignation of the speaker after he did not appear at the high-level talks.

Shahid said he had decided to suspend Parliament indefinitely pending a resolution to the ongoing political turmoil.

Parliament temporarily reconvened for a one-off emergency session in early August as government-aligned and opposition MPs agreed to extend the General Regulations Act until April 2013.  The Majlis has not held a session since the vote was passed.

However, MP Zameer claimed today that ahead of a Majlis recess scheduled for next month, it was important to reopen discussions between elected MPs through parliamentary channels.  Zameer claimed reconvening parliament remained the most viable path to ensure a potential political breakthrough.

“I think we need to go back to the Majlis, once we have dialogue there, we can begin to discuss key issues,” he claimed. “We need to get back to the Majlis to see what can be done and at least talk about finding a solution.”

Quoting MDP MP Ali Waheed, who represented the opposition party at last week’s informal talks, Zameer said that it had been agreed that it was down to Speaker Shahid to decide on reconvening the Majlis.  He claimed therefore that the MDP was not taking responsibility for the suspension.

The MDP has itself been criticised in local media by the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) for its conduct and perceived role in having parliament suspended, which was claimed to be an “infringement” of democratic rights in the country.

DQP Vice President and Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed was at the time quoted by local newspaper Haveeru in calling for parliament to press ahead with its work to amend and enact national legislation such as through restarting various parliamentary committees.

However, despite the ongoing political stalemate, Zameer contended that it has been possible, despite the current highly partisan environment, to reach compromises in parliament; such as with the recent reconstitution of the Majlis’ committees.

“During the events of the last two months we have discussed and agreed to a compromise that I proposed for the MDP to have more members on the Government Oversight Committee,” he said.

The PA – led by Deputy Speaker Nazim – last month gave up its seat on the Government Oversight Committee to the former ruling party in exchange for one of the MDP’s four seats in the Finance Committee.

Zameer claimed that although there was still concerns amongst government-aligned parties about the MDP’s commitments to ceasing street protests, he believed the Majlis remained the only institution at present where an agreement had the potential to succeed.

“It is certainly a lot better than sitting at home doing nothing,” he said.

Should parliament reconvene next week as speculated by the PA, Zameer added that there were “a lot” of pending issues needing to be addressed, including a number of reports compiled by parliamentary committees that needed to be returned to the floor for debate.

“Had the Majlis convened one week earlier [than currently anticipated] you’d have seen a lot of work being done by MPs,” he claimed.  “There are issues lying there right now that have a wide consensus to be enacted ,” Zameer added, not providing specifics.

MP Ali Waheed, who represented the MDP during last week’s informal parliament-initiated talks designed, was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

However, MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the issue of resuming parliament would be discussed at a meeting of the MDP National Executive Committee today. Ghafoor claimed no agreement had yet been reached on setting a date for parliament to resume.

“My understanding is that we will give our cooperation to the Majlis for it to conduct meetings once we have seen how talks are progressing,” he claimed.

Ghafoor claimed that, with the MDP continuing to question the legitimacy of the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the party was waiting for progress in securing early elections through ongoing road-map talks before returning to the Majlis.

“It is impossible to say if an agreement will be reached on resuming parliament. I have been made aware of such suggestions, but there has been no public announcement on this matter,” he said. “Right now this talk [of reconvening the Majlis] is just speculation. There is no room for speculation in the current climate.”


Protests outside parliament as parties face off

Supporters of both the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) protested outside parliament today while MPs remained deadlocked over the decentralisation bill.

Protesters from the two rival parties gathered behind police lines on opposite ends of the road with megaphones and loudspeakers, responding to each other’s taunts.

Like the four previous sittings, today’s sitting was also called off, making it the third consecutive day of cancellation following heated rows between MPs.

Competing protests

The DRP side of the road
The DRP side of the road

“Abdullah Shahid – resign! The corrupt deputy speaker – resign,” chanted the large group of MDP activists behind police barricades.

They called on MPs to pass the legislation with the government’s proposed model of dividing the country into seven provinces.

The opposition dominated committee selected to review the bill voted to scrap provinces, prompting MDP to propose over 700 amendments to reverse the changes.

A DRP protest led by a small group of supporters outside the president’s office was disrupted by police.

But the DRP activists gathered outside parliament to continue the protest.

“Ganjabo [pothead] – resign! Beer drinker – resign! Kenereege [President Mohamed] Nasheed who has hijacked the People’s Majlis – resign!” they hollered.

MDP side of the road
MDP side of the road

Meanwhile, on the other side, MDP supporters accused the former government of ignoring the atolls in favour of concentrating development in Male’.

“Give us 40 per cent of the resources in our area and we won’t come here to beg for healthcare, for a harbour, for housing,” yelled the activist with the megaphone.

Ahmed Shareef, 36, a senior DRP activist, told Minivan News opposition supporters were protesting because the government’s division of the country into seven provinces was unconstitutional and intended to weaken the people.

“The MDP members in Majlis have been working to rob the people of their rights,” he said. “I condemn it strongly. The people’s representatives should not be acting that way.”

MPs watch on
MPs watch on

During the parliamentary debate, opposition MPs argued grouping three or four atoll into a province was unconstitutional as 21 administrative areas were clearly defined in the appendix.

While the constitution required atoll councils to be elected from within the atoll, they said, the government’s bill would elect a province council with unequal representation.

But, MDP MPs argued the constitution left the model of decentralisation up to legislation to be passed by parliament, while economies of scale would not be possible if decision-making powers were devolved to single atolls.


Shareef said the police employed force and used pepper spray to disrupt the DRP protest outside the president’s office.

All three activists who were taken into custody have since been released.

MDP parliamentary group leader
MDP parliamentary group leader

“They took us by force without any warning, used pepper spray on us and put us in handcuffs,” he said, showing bruises on his body.

He added the current government was “dictatorial” and needed to be changed.

Shareef said the protest will continue tonight when parliament is scheduled to restart at 8.30pm.

‘Malini’ Ibrahim Ahmed, 41, an MDP activist, said he was disappointed with the way police handled the protest.

“They used force, they used pepper spray and cuffed people’s hands behind them,” he said.

But, he added, all MDP activists taken into custody were shortly released.

Police Sergeant Ahmed Shiyam said a number of people who refused to comply with orders were taken into custody, but no one was arrested.

In the early stages of the protest, when MDP supporters sat down in front of parliament, police forcibly moved them back, picking off a number of activists in the process.

Resisting arrest
Resisting arrest

One man was taken into custody after he accused an officer of using pepper spray without provocation. “You watch out, I’ll beat you up,” he said.

The riot police immediately jumped on the man, citing regulations which empower police to arrest anyone who threatens an officer of the law.


Starting off today’s sitting, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim said MPs could either vote on the amendments or the government could withdraw the legislation.

While MDP had requested negotiations and submitted proposals, he continued, the DRP has refused to engage in discussions.

Negotiations were ongoing between the MDP and the Speaker, he said.

Some MPs have recommended calling a public referendum to decide the issue of provinces.

After numerous points of order, Nazim called out the names of five MDP MPs who refused to sit down, invoking the power of the chair to remove them from the chamber.

But, all MDP MPs were on their feet and protesting loudly, leading Nazim to cancel the sitting.

Mid-Fuahmulah MP Shifaq Mufeed, Baarah MP Mohamed Shifaz, Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed, Machangoalhi South MP Mohamed Rasheed and Ihavandhoo MP Ahmed Abdullah were ordered to leave the chamber.