President Abdulla Yameen should formally apologise for his thumbs down gesture at opposition MPs during today’s opening of the People’s Majlis, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Ali Waheed has said.
At a press conference this afternoon, Waheed contended that the gesture was intended to “mock” the opposition alliance, adding that it would not be acceptable to the public.
Waheed said the gesture showed Yameen’s loss of control over his emotions and that the government was “upside down.”
“I do not believe what we saw today should have been the message given to the people after delivering an address by a head of state,” said MDP parliamentary group leader, Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih.
After delivering his presidential address today amidst chants from opposition MPs calling for the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, President Yameen gave two thumbs up to pro-government MPs and made a thumbs down gesture towards MDP and Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs.
President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has since defended the gesture, tweeting that it was “an advisory gesture” against obstructing constitutionally mandated duties.
“Today we saw [opposition MPs] attempting to obstruct the president’s from fulfilling his responsibility under Article 84 of [the constitution],”he tweeted.
Opposition MPs gathered in front of the secretariat desk carrying posters depicting police manhandling and dragging the opposition leader into court and called for Yameen’s resignation.
Nasheed was arrested last week and remains in police custody pending the outcome of a trial on charges of terrorism.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs responded to the opposition MPs’ protest by chanting “Ganjabo” and Theyobidbo,” epithets referring to the former president’s alleged encouragement of drug use, and held up placards that read: “You cant hide from the law Nasheed” and “Nasheed deserves to be in prison.”
Several PPM MPs also snatched posters from MDP MPs and ripped some posters to pieces.
Last night, the MDP and JP coalition revealed that the two parties have agreed to request a meeting with President Yameen to discuss 13 demands issued at last Friday’s mass demonstration.
At a joint press conference, Ali Waheed said the parties would request an appointment today, adding that the 13 demands would be formally submitted in writing.
The 13 demands are:
- Stop restricting fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms through amendments to either the constitution or laws.
- Release former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, MDP MP Ali Azim and others arrested during anti-government protests.
- Repeal amendments brought to the Auditor General’s Act that saw the removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim
- Withdraw political charges pressed against opposition politicians.
- Investigate alleged large scale corruption within the government.
- Continue providing the electricity subsidy and make electricity cheaper in Malé and other islands.
- Fulfil campaign pledges to provide subsidies to fishermen and farmers.
- Give back powers taken from local council, empower the councils, and enforce the Decentralisation Act.
- Enforce the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
- Increase wages for teachers, health workers and civil servants, ensuring equal pay to state employees.
- Reverse decision to impose import duty on fuel.
- Legally empowering independent institutions.
- Fulfil government pledges of providing unlimited health insurance.
Ali Waheed added that the alliance would meet relevant state institutions to discuss specific demands.
“Some of the demands are not just made to the President’s Office,” Waheed said.
“Some of the demands are made to specific institutions. We have agreed to hold meetings with all related institutions.”
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