Parliament briefly reconvened today despite its ongoing suspension, as both government-aligned and opposition MPs agreed on extending the General Regulations Act until April 2013.
The General Regulations Act – parent legislation for 47 regulations governing a number of government and party political functions – was due to elapse at midnight today creating fears of a potential “legal void”. This was avoided after the act was renewed with cross party support in a brief Majlis session held following discussions between the country’s key political parties in recent days.
However, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayythithunge Party (DRP) has said that “no party in the country” stood to gain from the continued political deadlock that saw parliament suspended indefinitely last week amidst forced cancellations.
Despite the Majlis suspension, 48 MPs out of 51 present in the chamber voted in favour of extending the regulations contained in the General Regulations Act during this morning’s session. The session was concluded with a vote 15 minutes after commencing.
Both Parliamentary Speaker Adbulla Shahid and his deputy, Ahmed Nazim, were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press following today’s vote.
The General Regulations Act was passed prior to the adoption of the new constitution on August 7, 2008 as a parent legislation for over 80 regulations without a statutory basis, or were not formulated under an Act of parliament. These included regulations for political parties, freedom of assembly, criminal justice procedures, companies and finance leasing transactions, insurance, jails and parole, freedom of information and building codes.
Article 271 of the constitution states, “Regulations derive their authority from laws passed by the People’s Majlis pursuant to which they are enacted, and are enforceable pursuant to such lawful authority. Any regulations requiring compliance by citizens must only be enacted pursuant to authority granted by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis.”
The parent act prolonged the lifespan of the regulations for a one year period until new legislation, such as a Criminal Procedures Act, Evidence Act, Freedom of Information Act and Political Parties Act, could be enacted.
The act provided for further extensions based on recommendations by parliament’s Rules Committee. The last extension was approved in December 2011.
Addressing today’s vote, DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef said that the parent act has been renewed every year since the new constitution came into affect to ensure government was able to function correctly – with parliament failing to have to passed certain key legislative requirements.
Despite the approval, Sharref claimed that “any political party” seeking to stall the Majlis from functioning had nothing to gain beyond adding to current public disillusion with the current democratic process in the nation.
“It is not for the good of the nation for any one political party to stall parliament. The parliament must work efficiently, as it is the only place where we as politicians can debate,” he said. “I believe that parliament must find a solution quickly [to the current Majlis deadlock] as there is much disillusion among the public who had believed democracy was designed to solve problems.”
Shareef contended that in the current environment, “many people” in the country appeared to be questioning the direction of democracy in the Maldives.
“I am not sure whether people may have been expecting too much? I wouldn’t like to say. But right now what has democracy brought us? The nation is polarised as it never has been before, where even some families are not speaking due to political divides,” he said.
“Something somewhere appears to have gone terribly wrong with democracy. It is not enhancing welfare or development here.”
When questioned as to the possible solutions to apparent public apathy regarding parliament’s work, Shareef claimed it was the duty of all parties to return to negotiating through the Majlis to try and settle political differences without hindering legislative process.
“All the main parties need to understand that the country is going down the drain right now,” he said. “No one party to stands to gain in the present environment and they need to help find a solution and stop inciting violence, by putting forward an agenda.”
While not naming a specific party, Shareef’s calls to stop “inciting violence”, were made as President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government – with whom the DRP serves as part of a coalition government – said is would not not consider reconvening talks with opposition leader, former President Mohamed Nasheed until threats of violence ceased.
Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which represents country’s only elected opposition, said last week it would not rule out halting ongoing protests to facilitate fresh “high-level talks” with its political rivals. However, the party said it would only do so if it obtained “substantial” commitments from government-aligned parties.
Proposed “Roadmap” talks were launched in February with the stated aim of overcoming the political deadlock resulting from the controversial transfer of power that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan into office. Former President Nasheed and his party continue to allege that Waheed came to power in a “coup d’etat” – and that the government is illegitimate.
MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News last week that while the party’s protests which it maintains are “largely peaceful”, were “totally within” the law, it would not be a “big deal” to stop the street demonstrations if it would help secure meaningful talks.
However, Ghafoor claimed that the party was ultimately sceptical over the commitment of government-aligned parties to ensure “substantial” and “worthwhile” dialogue.
“We have always maintained dialogue is the best way to proceed in the current situation,” he claimed. “What we have seen in the last party talks has just been ridiculous demands such as the issues about keeping crows and using black magic. We found out as a party that we are not dealing with serious people.”
The last round of the UN-mediated talks, held at Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort and Spa in early June, collapsed after parties aligned with the government presented the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with a list of 30 demands.
The list included calls that the MDP “stop practising black magic and sorcery”, “stop the use of sexual and erotic tools”, and “not walk in groups of more than 10”.