Parliament cancelled after MPs clash over Yameen detention

Today’s sitting of parliament was called off after opposition MPs vocally protested the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) refusal to allow detained MP and opposition People’s Alliance Leader Abdullah Yameen to attend sitting.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid revealed that neither MNDF nor the Defence Ministry had responded to his letters requesting an explanation or an arrangement for the Mulaku MP to attend today’s sitting, adding however that he was constitutionally obliged to ensure that sittings go ahead.

MPs of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) raised numerous points insisting that sittings could not be held while an MP was “unlawfully detained” by the military.

“Since the Majlis is not an enforcement agency I do not have a way to go and bring the honourable Mulaku member here,” Shahid responded.

A press release issued by parliament after today’s cancellation states that Majlis rules of procedure requires that MPs in detention over a criminal investigation must be allowed to attend sittings and committee meetings and “this is how it is in other democratic countries.”

It urges the MNDF to respect the constitution and the parliamentary rules of procedure, which was formulated under article 88(a) of the constitution.


Shortly after the sitting was canceled, a confrontation occurred between Hulhu-Henveiru MP “Reeko” Moosa Manik, parliamentary group leader of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Galolhu MP Ahmed Mahlouf of the DRP.

Moosa claims that Mahlouf struck him on his legs with his shoes.

“After the sitting ended, Ilham [Ahmed, DRP deputy leader] and another MP came at me,” he explained. “Ilham was shouting at me very rudely and the other MP was filming it with his mobile phone.

“He was holding the phone very close to my face, I told them to go away, but they did not. When the camera came close to me I pushed the camera away from my face.”

Mahlouf was waiting and watching, he added, and came towards him after a while.

“He came and hit me in the leg, [and then] he said I hit him,” Moosa claimed.”That was a drama they played. They have been creating a lot of different stories against me recently.”

However, Mahlouf told local daily Haveeru that Moosa hit him in the face while Nilandhoo MP Abdul Muhsin was filming Moosa and Ilham’s argument.

Mahlouf has not responded to Minivan News at time of press.

A similar confrontation between the MPs occurred during a sitting almost a year ago when both accused the other of threatening violence and using obscene language.

The sitting on July 15 2009 was eventually canceled after the main parties clashed over the cabinet’s decision to investigate Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdullah Mohamed.


Parliament cancelled when only 18 members show up

Parliament was cancelled today because only 18 MPs were present inside the parliament chamber.

MDP MPs had sent a letter to the speaker of the parliament asking him to ensure them that the chamber “was safe for MDP MPs”, after a brawl broke out yesterday between the two major parties.

According to the parliament’s regulations at least 20 MPs must be present inside the chamber to hold a meeting.

MDP MP Rugiyya Mohamed said 89 per cent of MDP MPs attended the parliament ”but did not enter inside the chamber due to what happened yesterday.”

Ruhiyya said that the MDP parliamentry group had sent a letter to the speaker of the parliament to ensure that the chamber would be safe for the MDP MPs, but had not responded.

”I believe that Abdulla Shahid is influenced by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP),” she claimed. ”He cannot even control the parliament.”

DRP Vice president Umar Naseer said MDP MPs were attempting to prevent a vote regarding the corruption allegations against the Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, as they “are afraid of democracy.”

”Shahid must stand on our side,” Naseer said. ” He was elected to the parliament by our ticket with the vote of our members.”

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom said he had no idea why the MDP MPs refused to enter the chamber.

”It was a waste of one day for me.” he said. ”I went to parliament with the hope of discussing a national issue.”

He said that it was fine “even if two [MPs] came.”

MDP MP Mohamed Shifaz said the MDP MPs “are not sure that the chamber is safe for them any more.”

Spokesperson for the President Mohamed Zuhair said it was up to the speaker to hold consultations with party leaders and get the MPs back into the chamber.

“The government believes politicans should only defeat their opponents through speech,” he noted.

During a meeting yesterday, DRP MP Ali Waheed said if the vote was not taken tomorrow, the party “will make sure no more votes are taken in this country.”

“It will be the biggest political mistake President Mohamed Nasheed makes,” he warned.

In response, Zuhair accused DRP MP Ali Waheed of pretending to injure himself in video footage of yesterday’s brawl.

“He was at the back of the chamber and clearly takes a dive. But then he is a former footballer so he would know all about that,” Zuhair said.

Waheed did not to respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Parliament paralysed by punch-up pandemonium

Parliament was cancelled today by Speaker Abdulla Shahid, after DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf reportedly approached MDP MP Alhan Fahmy, tapped him on the shoulder and informed him he was sitting in a DRP seat.

MPs from the major parties leapt to the defence of their respective party members, and the chamber quickly degenerated into a brawl.

Fahmy recently switched to the MDP from the DRP after being suspended from the DRP for voting against the party on the issue of a no-confidence motion against foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed. Mahlouf was particularly vocal regarding Fahmy’s decision to cross the floor, at one stage describing the MP for Seenu Feydhoo as a “political prostitute”.

After the battle, MPs were displaying their injuries to journalists outside parliament.

“They tried to attack us by force, try to create fear in the chamber. We are not afraid of them,” said DRP MP Ali Waheed, sporting a bandaged wrist. He would not say who attacked him, but said “everyone came after me because I am the tallest MP around.”

Mahlouf, he claimed, was punched in the lips.

“We are ready to fight back. As deputy leader of the party, my duty is to defend my party members,” Waheed said.

Staff at ADK hospital confirmed that MDP MP Shifaq Mufeed had been discharged after he was allegedly punched in the eye. Waheed, however, maintained that Mufeed’s injury was the product of make-up applied by MDP parliamentary group leader ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, a former movie star.

“We have a video of him without any damage before he went into the office of the MDP parliamentary group leader,” Waheed said, “and with a lot of injuries to his face afterwards. Reeko is a former movie star, and I congratulate him on the high quality of his make-up skills.”

Neither Fahmy or Mahlouf were responding to calls at time of press.

Stop the session

The chamber erupted during a debate on the report submitted by parliamentary finance committee calling for the dismissal of the Auditor General over charges of corruption.

The charges were made in a letter sent to the committee by former Anti-Corruption Commission member Hassan Luthfy.

“[MDP] disrupts parliament if there is anything not to their pleasure,” said Ahmed Nazim, deputy speaker and chairman of the finance committee.

“This will bring parliament to a total standstill, because the DRP will not back down on this one, and we cannot submit another committee report until we have concluded this one because they go in sequence.”

Mahlouf’s behaviour towards Fahmy “was probably uncalled for”, he said, “but the MDP members were protesting and not allowing anyone to talk. Mahlouf went up and told him he was talking from ‘one of our seats’.”

Nazim is himself no stranger to charges of corruption, recently pleading not guilty when charged with conspiracy to defraud the former ministry of atolls development.

At a press conference in August last year, Chief Inspector Ismail Atheef said police had uncovered evidence implicated the former Atolls Minister Abdullah Hameed, Eydhafushi MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem, former director of finance at the ministry, and Nazim in fraudulent transactions worth over US$260,000 (Mf 3,446,950).

Meanwhile, Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem told the press on Sunday that the charges against him, which have now been forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s office, were “made by people attempting to harm [my] office because we are trying to bring all the [stolen] money back into the country.”

However Nazim said the committee’s four members were unanimous that the Auditor General was guilty and called for his dismissal.

MDP MP Ahmed Easa said the party’s concern was not the corruption case against the Auditor General, “but a procedural issue.”

“Nazim did not get the approval of the committee,” he said, claiming that key MDP members of the committee received text messages from parliamentary staff informing them that the meeting at which the findings of the sub-committee was discussed had been cancelled.

“Staff are informed by the chairman,” he said.

At today’s sitting, Hinnavaru MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said the committee had not “completed the process” in compiling its report.

Solih said the letter from Luthfy in June last year was never officially entered in the Majlis records and parts of its annex were missing when the committee first set down to deliberate.

Moreover, said Solih, when the committee later decided to summon the Auditor General and members of the Anti-Corruption Commission, DRP MP Abdullah Abdul Raheem withdrew his motion to recommend a no-confidence vote.

Nazim however claimed that the report had been submitted according to new rules of procedure, and that MDP’s response was a cynical attempt to disrupt the chamber so no vote could be taken.

The situation is unlikely to unravel soon, and already text messages calling for rallies and protests have begun circulating. Groups of MDP activists engaged in a running protest this afternoon around parliament, pursued by police, scenes likely to continue as parliament tries to resolve its deadlock tomorrow.

“It was sad to see such pictures in parliament,” noted Ali Waheed. “But we are ready to get dirty if that is what it takes to clear this mess.”

Web of corruption: the story so far

At a DRP rally last night, MP Ahmed Nihan pledged that the Auditor General would be removed from his post and would have to “pack his belongings” before 2.30pm.

Meanwhile, at an MDP rally, ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik called on party members to protest outside independent commissions to demand action against senior officials of the former regime accused of corruption, gross misappropriation and embezzlement.

He added it would take months to summon all complicit to court as they included the former president’s family, in-laws and associates.

“It would take more than 48 hours to read the verdict against even one of them because of all their theft,” he said.

The debate over the past two sittings proceeded intermittently as MDP MPs continually raised points of order claiming procedural violations and irregularities in the compilation of the report.

However, the Speaker ruled that as the case had not yet reached court, he had to table the report in the agenda.

Maafanu West MP Abdullah Abdul Raheem, who originally proposed the motion of no-confidence, accused MDP MPs of trying to “sabotage” the sitting and prevent the vote.

Presenting the report yesterday, Nazim said a sub-committee was formed to investigate the allegations against the Auditor General in a letter sent by former ACC member Hassan Luthfy.

The committee confirmed that the allegations in the letter were based on a report compiled by the ACC in June 2009 after reviewing financial records and documents at the Auditor General’s Office, he said.

There were four main allegations against Naeem: forging receipts to show that he paid for a trip to Baa atoll Thulhaadhoo; using office credit cards for personal purchases; purchasing health insurance through the office although it was included in his salary; and creating a “slush fund” of Rf6 million from the office budget for personal expenses.

After the subcommittee submitted its findings, Nazim continued, two motions were forwarded.

While MDP MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih proposed summoning the auditor general, DRP MP Abdullah Abdul Raheem proposed a motion that the committee should recommend a vote of no-confidence.

Article 218 of the constitution states the Auditor General can be removed on the grounds of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence if “a finding to that effect by a committee of the People’s Majlis […] and upon the approval of such finding by the People’s Majlis by a majority of those present and voting.”

Although Raheem later withdrew his motion, Nazim said it was done after the committee voted to pass it.

“Therefore, Abdullah Abdul Raheem’s claim that he took it back is a definite falsehood. It is misleading. It is being done by people who don’t want this to go ahead and wants to keep the auditor general in his post,” said Nazim.

Nazim was shouted down by MDP MPs who raised points of order, left their seats and engaged in acrimonious arguments with opposition MPs.

Nazim said Naeem wrote to the Bank of Maldives himself to get a Visa Credit Card and an American Express Credit Card, both with credit limits of US$10,000.

Although Naeem himself wrote the offices’ operating manual, said Nazim, the auditor general used both cards for personal use without reimbursing the office 14 months after the expenses.

The subcommittee found that Naeem spent Rf91,000 from the Visa Card and Rf422,000 from the American Express Card.

Further, Nazim said Naeem transferred Rf6 million from the office account at the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) to a BML account for personal use.

But, he added, the finance committee had ordered the account to be closed when it finalized the state budget for 2010.

Naeem’s actions were in violation of several provisions of the state’s finance and asset regulations, he said.

Further, the ACC had noted that a Sony VIAO laptop Naeem purchased in Singapore was paid for by the office and import duties were not paid.

Nazim concluded by proposing the motion approved by the committee to call a vote of no-confidence.

In the ensuing debate, MDP MPs said the report was intended to discredit Naeem and the audit reports he issued that alleged rampant corruption under the former government.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan meanwhile observed that Naeem showed up first in Google searches for “corrupt auditor general”.

Naeem was nominated by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and approved by a DRP-dominated Majlis.


Six men attacked in Faumulaku, one killed

Six men have been injured in a fight between two groups in Gnaviyanni Faumulaku.

According to police, at around 9.30pm last night, six men standing by a house in the Dhoondigam ward were attacked by another group.

The six men were attacked with sharp objects, and after the altercation the group fled the scene.

The six are being treated at Faumulaku Atoll Hospital, and two have been transfered to the intensive care unit.

Haveeru has since reported that one of the injured men died while receiving treatment.

The Faumulaku police are now investigating the case to arrest posible suspects.