“Do we really need political parties?”: Dr Mausoom

A bill on political parties presented to the parliament by the government yesterday triggered debate over the merits of the political system in the Maldives.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Abdulla presented the bill to the parliament on behalf of the government, with the stated aim of strengthen the democracy of the country and to provide a peaceful way to participate in political activities.

The bill contained aspects such as what a political party should and should not do and how members should be disciplined, how political parties can legally earn money and how a person can resign and join another political party.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Mausoom said that the country was “now in chaos because of the invention of political parties.”

”The peacefulness and unity among us has changed,’ ‘Mausoom said. ”The question in our hearts is: ‘Do we really need political parties?’.”

He proposed to amend the article 18 of the bill in the committee stage.

Independent MP Ahmed Amir said that the question on his mind was why MPs were not included in the list of people “who cannot be a member of any political party.”

Amir claimed that the majority of the population “does not support political parties in the country.”

“More than 50 per-cent of the population of above the age of 18 is not involved in any political party,” he said.

DRP MP Rozaina Adam said that now it was too late to make bills governing the conduct of political parties.

Rozaina proposed to add a article whereby the Elections Commission (EC) was obligated to provide places for political parties to hold their meetings.

”When the opposition tries to hold a meeting we don’t usually get a place,” she claimed. ”So I suggest we design the bill in a way that political parties would have to get permission from the EC to hold meetings and they provides a place.”

She said that she had noticed that the screening of private phone calls was now very popular.

”I see they regularly screen our private phone calls – I wonder if this would not be spying, a power that the government has,” she said. ”I wish that when the bill gets passed there would be a solution for these types of things.”

MDP Chairperson and MP Mariya Ahmed Didi said she recalled a time when political parties were not registered, on the assumption that the invention of a political party system would disperse society.

”But people sought in their own ways to express their opinions and raised their voice for a political party system,” she said, ”and after listening to their voices parliament made a law permitting parties.”

She said that independent MPs also work together as a political party.

”They also holds meetings among them and speak one word,” she said.

DRP MP Ahmed Mohamed said he was against party system “now and then.”

”Forming a political party in a such small country is like playing with fire,” Mohamed said.

”I say, we hold a vote to see if people like or dislike having political parties,” he said. ”Like other MPs have said, the majority of the population does not belong to any political party.”

”In a family, Mum, Dad and their kids are in different parties, so the unity among them gets ruined,” he said.


MDP to take province issue to Supreme Court

Spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group MP Ahmed Shifaz has said the parliamentary group intends to take the dispute over the province section of the decentralisation bill to the supreme court.

Shifaz said according to the constitution, when the parliament disputes an issue by resolution it has the power to ask for advice from the supreme court.

”The opposition say it is unconstitutional to divide the country in to seven provinces,” Shifaz said, ”so we are going to present a resolution to the parliament, and see what the Supreme Court says,”

He said he hoped the opposition MPs would agree to pass a resolution to hear what the Supreme Court says.

”According to the constitution the Supreme Court is able to give the last word,” he said. ”I hope they agree and pass the resolution.”

MDP MP Ahmed Hamza said the MDP parliamentary group had decided to present a resolution according to the Article 95 of the constitution.

Aricle 95 of the constitution reads as follows: ”The People’s Majlis may by resolution refer to the Supreme Court for hearing and consideration important questions of law concerning any matter, including the interpretation of the Constitution and the constitutional validity of any statute. The Supreme Court shall answer the questions so referred and shall provide the answers to the People’s Majlis, giving reasons for its answers. The opinion shall be pronounced in like manner as in the case of a judgement on appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Hamza said that the opposition MPs claimed that dividing the country into seven provinces was against article 230 [b] of the constitution.

Article 230 [b] of the constitution reads as follows: ”In order to provide for decentralised administration, the President has the power, as provided in law, to create constituencies, posts, island councils, atoll councils and city councils.”

”This is not a constitutional issue, in fact, this is a political issue,” Hamza said, ”we want the Supreme Court to say whether dividing in to seven provinces is against 230 [b] of the constitution.”

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed said did not wish to comment on the issue yet.

”This might even be a political issue,” he suggested.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said it was written in the constitution “in clear words” that the country’s administrative units cannot be divided into seven provinces.

Nihan said the party would not change its stand.

”I do not think the Supreme Court would say we are wrong either,” he said. ”I think our party will not change its mind.”

He said dividing the country into administrative units would make it more difficult for people to get services from the government.

Deputy Leader of DRP Umar Naseer said that presenting a resolution to the parliament to hear what the Supreme Court had to say on the matter “does not have any weight.”

”Although the Supreme Court can say whatever it likes, it’s in the hand of MPs to decide what to do with the provinces,” he said. ”They are just trying to delay this bill.”

He said that MDP MPs were already aware that people did not want to divide the country’s administrative units into seven provinces.


Islanders will “regret it” if DRP wins council elections, says MDP

Secretary General for the Maldivian Democratic Party(MDP) Hussein Shah said that if the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) wins the upcoming island and atoll council election, “islanders will regret it.”

Shah accused the DRP of not wanting to “bring powers close to the people”.

”They wish everyone to be crowded in Male,” Shah said. ”Their purpose is to try and stop the government from fulfilling its pledges.”

He said the party was trying to make people understand how things would be like if DRP won the election.

”In parliamentary elections we did not win the majority,” he said. ”Now people can witness the DRP MPs trying to [sabotage] the beneficial bills sent by the government.”

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom said people had “no confidence” in the current government “as they have feel that it is a dictatorship.”

Mausoom said that people knew now that “nobody in the MDP thinks about the nation and its people.”

”In all the islands of the country we see people against MDP,” he said. ”It’s up for them to make a good decision.”

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that a loss to DRP in the island and atoll council election would mean the government “will not be able to do anything for the people.”

Zuhair said after the council election there will be a direct link between the government and the islanders.

”Look at the parliament now – the situation is worse there than in countries that have civil wars,” he said.

He said the supposed date to hold the elections had now passed.

DRP Deputy Leader Umar Naseer claimed that the government had proved it could not run the country.

”Eighteen months have passed and they haven’t done anything,” Umar said. ”DRP would try to do everything it can to develop the islands.”

”Nothing will happen if MDP wins, ” he said. ”Things will be just same as they are.”


DRP claims MDP activists sending death threats and damaging property

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Vice President and spokesperson Ibahim Shareef has claimed that Maldivian Democratic Party senior activists are sending death threats and damaging the property of DRP senior leaders.

Shareef claimed MDP senior activists had broke the glasses of his shop near Ahmadiyya by throwing pavement bricks at it.

”I have been receiving many death threats via SMS,” Shareef said. ”They are saying things like they would kill me and cut me into pieces.”

Shareef said all the attacks were “due to the hatred MDP activists have towards the DRP leaders.”

”They have been throwing stones at my house for a week now,” he said. ”If these acts are continuing we might have to become strict.”

The MDP “has a responsibility for them to stop these violent acts of their activists” Shareef said.

DRP MP and Vice President Ali Waheed said he had been receiving threats for more than a year, and was “quite used to them by now. I don’t care about it much.”

Waheed said he received threats via SMS and in person.

”One day a group of people entered my house when I was not at home,” he said. ”They took a knife and threatened my Mum.”

Spokesperson for Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Ahmed Haleem said the claims from the DRP leaders “are lies”, and an attempt to attack the dignity of the MDP.

”I am sure than none of us would attack or threaten the DRP,” he said. ”They are just trying to gain political support bhy spreading rumours.”

Haleem said he had seen people “burn their own house and rebuild them just for political purposes.”

Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam from the Maldives Police Service (MPS) meanwhile confirmed that police had received “many reports from politicians saying they are being threatened.”

He added that police were currently collecting more information on the cases.


Police patrols now pedal powered

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) will begin using bicycles to conduct patrols, unveiling the new fleet yesterday on the 77th anniversary of the service.

The new bicycles were given a test run on the streets of Male’ during the inaugural ceremony by President Mohamed Nasheed, First Lady Laila Ali, Vice President Mohamed Waheed and Commissioner of Police Mohamed Faseeh.

Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the police bicycles would commence patrolling with the other police vehicles 24 hours a day.

”It is a new method of police patrol, like foot patrol,” Shiyam said.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the new police bicycles would ease congestion on the streets and make it easier for police to patrol.

However, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP and former minister for environment, energy and water Abdulla Mausoom said the new initiative proved the Maldives was “going backwards day by day.”

“This will make it easy for people to attack police,” he said, noting that Male’ was a “risky environment” and there had been an attacks on police last year.

The Maldives ”does not have to go back to the stone age to be a carbon neutral country,” he said.

Zuhair said the DRP were stuck in the past “and do not understand the new political environment.”

As well as a gesture towards the country’s ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2020, the government hopes the sight of police riding bicycles on the streets will set a precedent and inspire others to follow.


Police send case against DRP MP Ali Waheed to Prosecutor General

Police have sent several cases involving  Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Vice President and MP Ali Waheed to the Prosecutor General’s office.

Deputy Prosecutor General Ahmed Shameem confirmed the office had received several criminal cases concerning Waheed, and would decide in a week whether to take the cases to court.

“There is a process in the Constitution [that if a MP is found guilty of a criminal offence] it is punishable by 12 months in prison. He would be automatically removed from Parliament,” Shameem said.

Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said one of the cases concerned Waheed’s claims that police helped protesters during a disturbance outside the president’s residence and MNDF headquarters in January.

He said other cases against Waheed would also be sent to the PG as soon as the police finished their investigations.

Meanwhile Waheed said he was “very confident” that he had not done anything against the law.

”It’s all President Mohamed Nasheed’s doings,” Waheed claimed. ”He is afraid of me.”

He added that he hoped the cases would be sent to the courts as soon as possible.

”They take me to police custody like a medicine they take twice daily,” he said, ”so its difficult to identify which cases they have sent to PG. Ask President Nasheed – I have no idea.”

He maintained that the police decision to detain DRP leaders in during last Thursday’s protests was “politically motivated.”

”That night when they took me Dhoonidhoo I was not doing anything,” he said. ”I was trying to protect our people from being attacked by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)  activists and I was standing in front of DRP office as I am a leader of the party.”


DRP to take no-confidence motion on Home Minister

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Waheed has said the party will put forward a no-confidence motion against Home Minister Mohamed Shihab, after police detained Waheed and several other senior party figures in an effort to defuse violent clashes between the supporters of both parties on Thursday night.

”We decided to take the no-confidence motion against Shihab because he used his powers and influence against the law,” Waheed said, adding that details would be provided tomorrow.

Waheed alleged that when the situation in Male’ broke the peace of the country on Thursday night, “Shihab was relaxing in a nearby resort.”

He said the party had received information “from a trusted source” that President Mohamed Nasheed gave the order to police that night to arrest the senior party leaders.

”The police have no powers, they only have to take orders from their leader,” he said.

However the President’s Office said yesterday that the government had full confidence in police and “absolutely no involvement” in the decision to remove the DRP leaders from the protest.

But Waheed claimed that the police “cannot arrest MPs while a no-confidence motion is ongoing inside parliament.”

”The police lied to us, saying that they were taking us to police head quarters to calm down the situation,” he said. ”Instead they took us to Dhoonidhu and took our mobile phones, and treated us just like the other criminals there.”

Vice president of DRP Umar Naseer said that there were “many things” the Home Minister had done, including “attacking peaceful protesters with tear gas.”

”He arrested MPs while there was a ongoing no-confidence motion in the parliament which is against the law, did not stopped MDP thugs attacking us, and did not enforce the law,” Naseer said.

He also claimed that President Mohamed Nasheed was “giving the orders to police that night”, claiming the party had obtained the information “because 90 per cent of the police and Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) support the DRP.”

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair confirmed that President Mohamed Nasheed went  to the police headquarters on Thursday night, “but not to give orders.”

”He went there because he is the owner of all the powers – police and MNDF,” Zuhair said, ”but the Commissioner of Police was the one giving the orders.”

Zuhair claimed that the opposition was trying to take no-confidence motion against ministers “one by one” to delay more productive bills sent to the parliament by the government.

”Countries with civil wars pass more bills in parliament than the Maldives does,” Zuhair said.

He said the opposition “is  jealous and cannot accept their failure.”

”They are trying to show the people that they still have powers,” he suggested.

MDP’s parliamentary group spokesperson Mohamed Shifaz said the party would stand against the no-confidence motion on the home minister as ”we have not noticed home minister doing anything against the law.”

He said the party’s parliamentary group would continue to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) released a statement appealing to the police to respect laws and to treat everyone equally when they work to disperse crowds.

HRCM said that ”political parties meetings are interrupted due to differences among people on political issues.”

The commission said it had noticed that regulations governing the  dispersal of protests “are not being applied equally among everyone”, and that Article 32 of the Constitution guaranteed ”freedom to gather peacefully without prior permission  from the government.”

Home Minister Mohamed Shihab and State Minister for Home Affairs Ahmed Adil did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


MDP call for no confidence-motion against speaker

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will put forward a no-confidence motion against the speaker, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Shahid, spokesperson for MDP’s parliamentry group Mohamed Shifaz said today.

Parliament was cancelled again today because of chaos in the chamber. Police blockaded streets around the parliament and presidential palace in the wake of running protests, while a political gathering at the artificial beach this evening erupted into violence and was dispersed by police using tear gas.

”We do not believe that a man under such pressure can do anything correctly,” Shifaz said, accusing Shahid of siding with the opposition coalition ”most of the time”.

”He adds things to the agenda against the procedures of parliament,” Shifaz said. ”If there is a bill that makes things difficult for the government, that is the first thing he wants to discuss.”

Shifaz said the MDP MPs were “still unsure” about their security and safety inside the parliament chamber after yesterday’s brawl, and had sought reassurance from the speaker.

In a letter posted on parliament’s website, Shahid said he had requested that police investigate the incident, and adding that “what happened inside the chamber was not acceptable behaviour for a parliamentary debate”.

In addition, he said he had ”no pressure on me from any political party. I call on all the political parties to cooperate with each other.”

Shahid insisted he “had control of the parliament”, and said he did not wish to comment on the no-confidence motion reportedly being drafted against him. Instead, he called on MPs to cooperate and continue work.

DRP MP Ali Waheed, Ahmed Ilham, and Vice president Umar Naseer did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Police summon second DRP deputy leader for questioning

Police have summoned the Dhivehi Rayyihtunge Party’s (DRP) deputy leader MP Ali Waheed for questioning about his involvement in the protest outside the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) base and president’s residence on 28 January.

Umar Naseer, another deputy leader of the DRP, was summoned for questioning yesterday about his involvement in the protest.

Waheed notified the media he had been summoned shortly before 3pm, and said he would “face the press” afterwards.

He said he had remained silent during questions about his involvement, and about the comments he made to the media about police cooperating with the protesters.

When the police asked him whether he would like to investigate the incident in which he was hit by a stone during the protest, he replied ”no”.

After the questioning concluded Waheed said he had reported three cases to the police and asked them to investigate.

”The first thing I reported was that during the protest a person from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) – ranked higher than sergeant – used abusive language [against the protesters],” he said.

”Secondly, why that night when MPs asked for police protection were they ignored?”

Thirdly, Waheed said he asked police to investigate an MDP MP who allegedly demanded police stop handcuffing a protester outside parliament during a protest over the decentralisation bill.

Waheed added that it was “really dangerous” for armed police to use abusive language and “threaten people.” He did not mention what was said.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said the government did not believe that the MNDF used abusive language while controlling the protest.

”That was really a dangerous protest by DRP,” he added.

He said it was all right for Waheed to remain silent, but said that ”the police begin such a questioning session of an investigation only after they have collected evidence and proof.”

”As the police is investigating the case we better not comment,” he added.

Spokesperson for Maldivian Democratic Part MDP Ahmed Haleem said also did not believe the MNDF had used abusive language, and furthermore claimed that when MPs asked for police protection the police provided it.

”I was watching the protest very closely,” he said.

Sub Inspector of police Ahmed Shiyam said police were not commenting on whether they would investigate the three cases reported by Ali Waheed.

In a statement police issued on 2 February police said they would launch an investigation of the demonstration outside MDNF and the president’s residence.