DRP celebrates “beginning of the end” for government

The main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) hosted a rally last night to celebrate its victory in parliament on the decentralisation bill, which was passed yesterday without the model of provinces proposed by the government.

The rally at artificial beach was attended by Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim, leader of the Republican Party, as well as MPs of the People’s Alliance.

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said the passage of the bill with 42 votes in favour was “a very good and important signal” as 39 votes would be needed to override a possible presidential veto.

If the bill becomes law, said Thasmeen, elected island and atoll councils will have decision-making powers on resource allocation and development projects.

“The way the bill has been drafted gives no room for provinces,” he said, claiming there was no public support for the model.

The bill on decentralised administration proposed by the government early last year had been delayed due to an intractable dispute over creating seven provincial councils instead of 20 atoll councils.

Thasmeen denied claims by MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that the wholesale changes made to the bill by the opposition would hinder the development of the atolls.

The leader of the opposition called on DRP supporters to “roll their sleeves” to defeat the government’s candidates for the upcoming local councils.

The Republican Benefactor

Speaking at the rally, Gasim addressed speculation that he was disbanding the Republican Party, declaring that he was there to express gratitude for DRP MPs and celebrate “a victory for the Maldivian people”.

Gasim said he believed the support for creating seven provinces was driven by “self-interest” as it was intended to “shape things to the advantage of one party”.

He added the bill passed yesterday would pave the way for “unimaginable levels of development” for the atolls.

Grinding henna

Ali Waheed, DRP vice-president, said it takes “a lot of effort and grinding to bring out colour from henna leaves”.

Although the party “made a blunder” on the motion of no-confidence against Foreign Minister Dr Shaheed last year, said Ali Waheed, “yesterday we brought out colour from henna leaves”.

The MP for Thohdhoo went through the list of MPs who voted in favour of the bill, praising each individually.

“Today what we played was a national team match,” he said. “It wasn’t a New Radiant match today. It wasn’t a Victory match today. We have seen that if you play for the national team in the political arena, Gasim Ibrahim will be there. We have seen that today that when the national team plays, Kulhudhufushi South MP Mohamed Nasheed will be there as well.”

Ali Waheed invited the former legal reform minister to come back to the DRP and relayed a message of congratulations from Nasheed.

The real “mid-term election” would be the upcoming local council elections, said Ali Waheed, calling on all opposition parties to band together to defeat the MDP.

He concluded the speech by praising DRP’s honorary leader: “I would say our Zaeem, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is with us here tonight. The reason is that there’s a full moon tonight and Maumoon is this party’s full moon.”

“Beginning of the end”

Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam said the behaviour of the party that claimed to have ushered in democracy “whenever there’s a democratic vote” had become “a big joke”.

MDP MPs walked out of yesterday’s sitting in protest when none of the party’s amendments won bipartisan support.

Rozaina joined other DRP MPs to thank Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed “in the name of democracy” for staying behind “even if he just kept pressing red”.

If the DRP win the local council elections, said Rozaina, the government would be left with “a hollow shell”.

Umar Naseer, DRP vice-president, said the victory in parliament would mark “the beginning of the end for the government” as it was now “on life support”.

He added the law would also spell the end for “the ganja smoking councillors” and state ministers appointed by the president who have been “terrorising” the islands.

“Today we saw the MDP walk out of Majlis,” he said. “Before too late now, we will see the president walk out of the government.”


Parliament accepts Decentralisation Bill

Parliament has unanimously accepted the Decentralisation Bill in yesterday’s sitting, reports Miadhu.

MPs voted to send the bill to be reviewed by an eleven-member committee, which was proposed by DRP MP Mohamed Mujthaz.

The committee members includes Rozaina Adam, Mohamed Mujaathaz, Abdulraheem Abdulla, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, Ahmed Sameer, Rugiyya Mohamed, Gasim Ibrahim, Hassan Adhil and Ibrahim Riza.

The Majlis also approved the drug bill. Some MPs said they did not want to establish an independent Drug Court, and the Vice President should be included in the National Drug Council.

The bill has been sent to Social Affairs Committee for further deliberation and revision.


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.


Parliament cancelled after MPs clash on decentralisation bill

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.