Parliament cancelled over convicted MPs’ attendance

Parliament was adjourned 15 minutes into the sitting yesterday after opposition MPs protested the presence of Independent MP for Kaashidhoo Ismail Abdul Hameed, who was convicted of corruption on August 29 and sentenced to one year and six months banishment.

Hameed had since appealed the Criminal Court verdict at the High Court, which held a first hearing yesterday.

Responding to points of order raised by MPs Ilham Ahmed, Ali Arif and Ahmed Mahlouf objecting to his presence in the chamber, Hameed said he was “on holiday” from October 2 to November 22.

“I don’t believe there is any legal obstacle to my attending the Majlis,” he said.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid said parliament had not informed the Kaashidhoo MP that he could not attend sittings, noting that Hameed had the right to appeal the Criminal Court verdict.

After a series of consecutive points of order from both opposition and ruling party MPs, Shahid adjourned the sitting to discuss the issue with parliamentary group leaders.

Parliament Secretary General Ahmed Mohamed confirmed to Minivan News that MPs were informed that today’s sitting was cancelled to allow the Speaker to resolve the dispute through dialogue with the Majority Leader and Minority Leader.

A decision had not yet been made on going ahead with tomorrow’s sitting, he said.

Under article 73(c)(3) of the constitution, MPs found guilty of a criminal offence “and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months” would be stripped of their seat.

Article 78 of the constitution meanwhile states that “whenever there is a vacancy among the members of The People’s Majlis, an election shall be held within sixty days from the date of the vacancy. A by-election shall not be held within six months prior to a general election.”

Brawl in committee room

MP Ilham AhmedMeanwhile, a brawl broke out between MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs at an Economic Committee meeting yesterday.

PPM Media Coordinator and MP for Vili-Male’ Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that MDP MP Ibrahim Rasheed threw a glass at MP Ilham.

“Bonda hit Ilham with the glass when he said that the [committee] meeting will unlawful if it was continued with MP Abdul Hameed,” Nihan said. ”He was injured and was admitted to ADK hospital after his chest was continuously bleeding.”

MP for Maafanu South Ibrahim Rasheed however denied the allegations and accused Ilham of “misleading the public.”

”He made that up and it is a big lie,” Rasheed said. ”I did not hit him.”

Speaking to private broadcaster Villa TV from ADK hospital yesterday, Ilham said yesterday’s sitting became heated over the convicted MP’s presence and the matter of a motion without notice submitted by opposition MPs regarding the MDP protest outside the Supreme Court not being tabled in the agenda.

“After the sitting was adjourned, we went to the committee,” he explained. “Even though we’re not members of the Economic Committee, we do attend meetings and speak there. We can speak even though we’re not members. We just can’t participate in voting. I said this is unlawful [with Hameed in attendance] and committee meetings could only take place after this is solved.”

Ilham said his remarks led to acrimonious verbal sparring between MPs, during which Bonda got up and threw the glass at him.

Secretary General Ahmed Mohamed told Minivan News today that a police forensic team arrived at parliament shortly after the incident and commenced an investigation.


DRP plans ”Crafty Government” protest

The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) will be holding a “Crafty Government” protest at the Artificial Beach tonight, after two protests were cancelled over the weekend due to rain.

Deputy leader and spokesperson of DRP Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef said the protest will begin at 9pm.

“The objective of this gathering is to protest against the government for misleading and deceiving the people,’’ Shareef said.

The ‘Crafty Government’ protest tonight is sanctioned by the party’s council, unlike the ‘Government for Sale’ protest announced last week by Deputy Leaders Umar Naseer and Ahmed Ilham and MP Ahmed Mahrouf that last week led to speculation that the party was facing internal factional difficulties.

The issue was taken to the party’s council, which voted in favour of placing Umar Naseer before the party’s disciplinary committee. In a subsequent press conference, Naseer predicted this would lead to his dismissal from the party’s leadership.

Mahlouf and Ilham questioned at the time why they had not also been asked to appear before the disciplinary committee. Naseer’s rescheduled protest was to clash with the council-sanctioned protest on Saturday, but both were ultimately postponed because of the rain.

Shareef said today that Ilham, Naseer and Mahrouf would be allowed to join the protest.

“It is open to everyone, all our supporters can join,’’ he said.

Ilham told Minivan News today that all three would join the “Crafty Government” protest this evening.

“We fully support the event and we will be present there,’’ Ilham said. “But we might not be delivering a speech at the event as the microphones are reserved.’’

Miadhu meanwhile reported DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen as accusing the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of trying to split the ranks of the DRP.

“MDP is attempting to divide DRP’s leadership as the ruling party stands to benefit from a weakened opposition,” he claimed.

Umar Naseer meanwhile last week questioned Thasmeen’s “sincerity”, alleging that “some of our senior officials are known to be involved in secret deals with the government.’’


Protests planned as Umar Naseer called to face DRP disciplinary committee

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Umar Naseer accused the party’s Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali of attempting to dismiss him from the party today, after the DRP council voted narrowly to recommend Umar to the disciplinary committee.

With five absentees, the 33-member DRP council voted 16-11 against the former presidential candidate of the Islamic Democratic Party.

“I know that the disciplinary committee will decide to oust me from the party, that is very clear to me,’’ Umar told press after the council meeting, adding that the committee was “full of Thasmeen’s people who would do whatever he says”.

Umar told the press this evening that he was unfairly targeted as MPs Ilham Ahmed, Ahmed Mahlouf and Ali Arif were also involved in announcing a protest for Friday night, which the party’s secretariat claimed had not been approved.

“The sincerity of our leader Thasmeen is questionable,” Umar said. “Some of our senior officials are known to be involved in secret deals with the government.’’

Umar declined to go into any further detail on the alleged deals.

Flanking Umar at the press conference, MPs Ilham Ahmed and Ahmed Mahlouf condemned the council’s decision as characteristic of a “dictatorship.”

Ilham said the council’s decision was “regrettable” as he and Umar were “guilty of the same crime.”

“I signed the same letterhead sent out to the media announcing the protest, but the decision was made to take action only against Umar,” he said.

According to the party’s charter, said Ilham, the only measure that could be taken against deputy leaders was a vote on a no-confidence motion.

Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahlouf said tomorrow night’s protest, which the DRP Deputies plans to go ahead with in defiance of Thasmeen, will prove that the party’s 40,000 members were with them.

Mahlouf revealed that the children of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Dhunya and Gassan Maumoon, as well as MPs Ahmed Nihan, Ali Arif, Abdul Muhsin Hameed, Abdulla Maseeh and former Attorney General Azima Shukoor voted against the motion.

“We are happy that they were with us,” he said. “Gassan himself will take part in tomorrow night’s demonstration.”

He further revealed that council members voted unanimously in favour on a motion by Azima Shukoor on whether members had confidence in Thasmeen’s leadership.

Shortly after the Deputy Leaders met the press, Thasmeen called a press conference to defend the council’s decision.

Thasmeen stressed that the issue was not holding demonstrations, insisting that Umar had defied and ignored a directive from the party’s secretariat.

“I welcome the council’s decision,” he said. “What I want to say is that the council’s decision today was not based on whether to protest or not to protest.

While it was important to plan protests to hold the government accountable, said Thasmeen, DRP should ensure that its activities are disciplined and organised and mindful of “the big picture.”

Meanwhile, Umar and Ilham signed and issued a press release late afternoon announcing that the postponed protest will take place at 9pm tomorrow night.

Thasmeen however denied that the party had planned a protest.

“I do not have to comment on a protest that anyone conducts,” he said.


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.


Police summon DRP MPs for questioning over parliamentary brawl

Police yesterday summoned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Vice president and MP Ali Waheed, DRP Vice president and MP Ahmed Ilham and DRP MP Ahmed Mahloof to police headquarters for questioning regarding last week’s brawl in parliament.

Waheed told the press that he assumed the police had summoned him in order to congratulate him on the no-confidence vote against Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem.

He said that the police questioned him about several cases, ”including a gathering near the president’s official residence, Muleeage, and about the brawl in parliament. They put the blame on us for everything happening in Male’,” Waheed said.

He claimed the questioning was a result of President Mohamed Nasheed “trying to stop us from making the government more responsible.”

”He thinks we will be afraid and back off,” he said, ”but that encourages us more.”

He said it was the DRP MPs who should have summoned the police, and questioned why they were taken into police custody on Thursday night.

”The government is planning to stop our activities and threaten us,” he said.

Ilham and Mahlouf told the press they chose to remain silent.

Press secretary for the president Mohamed Zuhair said the government had no role in the police questioning or arrest of DRP MPs, and that anyone disturbing the peace of country could expect to be arrested.

”Police will arrest them if they see them indulging in violent activity,” Zuhair said. “They were throwing rocks and chairs at a peaceful religious gathering. It’s like throwing stones at a mosque – police can’t simply ignore the matter because the throwers are MPs.”

Zuhair said he wished to repeat a quote made by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom: ”No one is above the law”, and noted that the MPs were not arrested by ”temporarily kept in police custody.”

”The police will forward all the cases to the Prosecutor General when they have enough evidence,” he said.

”They are blaming president Nasheed just to gain political support, but the public won’t be fooled.”

Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the police was not just summoning the DRP MPs.

”We are investigating a case presented to us by the parliament,” Shiyam said. ”There are many independent MPs and MDP MPs to be brought for questioning.”

He said the details could not be given as police were currently investigating the case.


DRP’s leader will be party’s presidential candidate

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has decided that their candidate for presidential election will be the party’s leader, a decision made during the first day of the party’s third annual congress.

DRP spokesman Ali Solih said the party decided during today’s meeting that it would not hold primaries to elect the party’s presidential candidate, with “only a few of our supporters calling for primaries.”

DRP’s national congress meeting started at 3pm in Dharubaaruge, with former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom speaking at the opening ceremony.

DRP MP Ahmed Ilham said more than 900 DRP supporters attended the national congress.

He also said that former president Gayoom was given the special title of DRP’s ”Zaeem” (leader).

Former president of Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) and candidate for the DRP’s vice presidency Umar Naseer, who had called for primaries, said he respected the decision of the party.

”An amendment was approved concerning the party’s leadership, including a provision for the party’s leader to become the presidential candidate, which meant the amendment I presented was cancelled,” Umar said.

Spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Ahmed Haleem said that DRP’s decision not to hold primaries showed that the party’s members had confidence in current leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Haleem said he did not want to comment on whether he considered the decision to be democratic.