IPU to send ‘urgent’ mission over MP death threats, arrests

The Inter-Parliamentary Union will send an urgent mission to the Maldives during the upcoming months to investigate death threats, attacks and arrests of MPs in the country.

The union, which represents parliaments around the world, said they are investigating reports that 30 former and current MPs have been victims of human rights abuses, including one MP who was murdered and another who was stabbed.

After the 132nd Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly this week in Hanoi, the organization said political polarisation and heightened tensions in the Maldives “necessitated an urgent on-site mission” by the IPU’s human rights wing to gather first-hand information.

“The organisation is deeply concerned by the serious and repeated death threats allegedly made against opposition MPs in the Maldives since last year,” an IPU statement said.

Tensions are high across the country after the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges this month, with opposition parties holding daily protests.

IPU also called on law enforcement agencies to show restraint, and to abide by international and national human rights laws and standards when handling protests.

Meanwhile, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) complains that the speaker of parliament has been excluding the party from the Maldives’ delegations to IPU.

Mohamed Rasheed, secretary general of the MDP parliamentary group, said the delegation is selected in a “petty” manner without including the main opposition party.

One MDP MP was present in Hanoi, but fellow members of his party said that he was “hand-picked”, whereas in the past, the party has sent two MPs of its choice.

Eva Abdulla, an MDP parliamentarian, has been excluded from recent delegations despite being an elected representative for all female South Asian MPs at the IPU.


Eva told Minivan News that opposition lawmakers have been receiving death threats “every other day” since the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan last August. Rilwan has still not been found.

She said opposition MPs have been receiving phone calls and text messages, and sometimes stalked.

“We filed complaints at the police and with the Majlis itself. However the speaker has not even condemned the threats in public or privately,” she said.

Threats against opposition parliamentarians have caused the IPU to classify the Maldives as one of the most dangerous countries to be an MP, noted Eva.

Several opposition MPs have been arrested at anti-government protests.

Most recently, MP Ahmed Mahloof, formerly of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, was arrested at a protest last week and detained for five days.

When his detention ended, the criminal court placed him on further five days of house arrest after he refused the court’s condition to not participate in further protests for 60 days.

Similarly, MDP MP Ismail Fayyaz was given 15 days’ detention after he refused to accept release under the same conditions.

Eva said police had been slow to investigate a forced entry into Mahloof’s apartment last month, although they were handed CCTV footage of the incident.

The IPU’s list of Maldivian cases includes that of the late PPM MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, who was murdered outside of his home in October 2012, and the stabbing last year of MP Alhan Fahmy, who narrowly avoided paralysis as a result.

PPM MPs and the speaker of parliament had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.


35 percent of Asian MPs’ human rights cases from Maldives, says IPU

The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) has revealed that the Maldives accounts for 35 percent of all its human rights cases concerning Asian MPs.

“Maldives has a very high number of MPs (27) with cases before the Committee. Arbitrary detentions and violations of freedom of expression are the most common complaints reported, followed by torture, ill-treatment and other acts of violence,” said the IPU.

The union’s ‘Human Rights Abuses of MPs – 2014′ report – released to mark Human Rights Day (December 10) – shows that Africa and Asia are the most dangerous regions for parliamentarians.

Earlier this year, the union had suggested that the authorities’ response  to the growing number of threats against MPs would represent a test of the Maldives’ democracy.

The union emphasised the “high price parliamentarians are paying to defend fundamental human rights and exercise their right to freedom of expression”.

Despite being the smallest country in Asia, the Maldives made up 27 of 78 parliamentarians from 12 countries in Asia who have cases lodged with the IPU’s human rights committee.

Previous statistics from the IPU show that the global average number of inhabitants per parliamentarian is 146,000. With 85 MPs, the Maldives’ 2014 census shows the country has 1 MP for every 4,014 inhabitants.

In October, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla – the first Maldivian member of the IPU – met with the committee to raise concerns over the personal safety of parliamentarians and journalists in the Maldives.

At the time, Eva highlighted the lack of thorough investigations in cases of threats and assault, perpetrators not facing trial, the failure of law enforcement, the failure of the parliament to look into cases, and the creation of a culture of intimidation in the Maldives.

In a year in which MDP MP Alhan Fahmy narrowly avoided paralysis following a stabbing, threats against MPs and their families have become commonplace.

In October, the Maldives National Defence Force temporarily offered MPs additional personal security as well as urging Majlis members not to go out at night time unless absolutely necessary.

The IPU’s list of Maldivian cases also included the late Progressive Party of Maldives MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, brutally murdered outside of his home in October 2012.

MDP MP Ali Azim was controversially removed from the Majlis over an issued of decreed debt last year

Cases from around the world

The IPU explained that 311 parliamentarians from 41 countries had cases referred to the IPU Committee in 2014 – a 13 per cent increase from 2013, which saw 270 parliamentarians lodge cases, from 40 countries.

The most common human rights complaints are arbitrary detention, lack of fair trial, violation of freedom of expression and unlawful suspension and loss of parliamentary mandate.

Other dangers faced by parliamentarians include death, torture, threats and arbitrary arrests, explained the IPU

As per the 2014 statistics, the highest number of parliamentarians who have lodged cases at the committee are from Africa with 38 per cent, followed by Asia with 25 per cent.

Middle East and North Africa have 18 percent, while the Americas have 14 percent, and Europe 5 percent.

71 percent of these parliamentarians are from opposition parties, and 89 percent are male.

“These figures are extremely worrying as they show that all over the world MPs face serious harassment and sometimes even death, in a clear attempt to intimidate and silence critical voices and dissent,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong.

“The figures we are presenting today are cases reported to IPU, but there are other abuses that remain beyond our scope, as the Committee can only intervene at the request of the MP concerned, family members, legal representatives, fellow MPs or human rights organisations,” he continued.

The statement reads that the majority of cases have been under the committee’s consideration for less than five years, while 10 percent of the cases are from more than 10 years ago, and another 5 percent date back to the 1990s.

It also notes that 101 new decisions were adopted by the IPU this year, calling on authorities of the relevant countries to “take effective steps towards a satisfactory settlement of the cases”.

Of the 314 cases, 71 are new cases involving parliamentarians from the Maldives, Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Iraq, Israel, Oman, Palestine, Venezuela and Zambia.

The Committee also closed cases involving 12 parliamentarians in 2014.

Related to this story

Government’s reaction to death threats is a test of democracy: IPU

Inter-Parliamentary Union requests urgent visit to Maldives

Opposition MP Alhan Fahmy stabbed

MPs urged to stay in at night as MNDF offers personal security


MDP condemns death threats received by Majlis members

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have condemned death threats received by six MDP MPs last night (August 2), and called on  the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) to desist in sheltering radical suspects.

“[T]he PPM government continues to shelter radical suspects and is yet to name or arrest a single suspect accused of having issued such threats in previous cases lodged by the MDP,” read an MDP statement.

The MDP confirmed that MPs Mariya Didi, Rozaina Adam, Eva Abdulla, Ali Azim, Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former Speaker Abdulla Shahid all received death threats.

Two threats were sent to each MP via text message. The first message read, “[We] will kill you if you behave inappropriately.” The party suggested that the police had the technical capability to identify unlisted numbers.

The second read, “It is not a sin to kill those who challenge Allah’s words and call for freedom of religion. Afrasheem Ali was an example.”

In June the party requested that police investigate a series of threats made via Twitter against its members, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The MDP statement went on to note the recent spate of murders taking place around the capital, as the number of violent attacks reported rises to nine.

“The Maldivian Democratic Party notes with concern that the present climate of fear in Male’ and several islands began to escalate following Home Minister Umar Naseer’s constitutional powers as the Minister in charge of Police being reduced on 24 July 2014 by his former political rival President Yaameen Abdul Gayoom.”

Writing on her Twitter account, Eva Abdulla challenged the Maldives Police Service to investigate the matter. “You have the means to investigate, if you have the will,” Eva stated.

“[The] police have the means to look this up, if they have the will to do so. If they do not (as they did not with any of the complaints I lodged past two years) well at least I will know this is govt-approved. [sic]” Eva added on social media.

Police have confirmed with Minivan News that they are investigating the matter, but declined to give any more information on the details of the case.

Dr Afrasheem Ali’s murder in October 2012 was the most high profile attack on a member of parliament in the country’s history.

In the second death threat sent to MPs yesterday, the perpetrators referred to the attack on the former Ungoofaaru constituency MP and Islamic scholar.

The ensuing investigation found the crime to have been premeditated and politically motivated. On January 16 2014, the Criminal Court sentenced the prime suspect in the murder, Hussain Humam, to death.

Meanwhile, former MDP MP Alhan Fahmy was unable to walk for months after he was stabbed in the back in February.

The safety and rights of MPs have previously been a concern of organisations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), who in November 2013 called for an emergency visit to the Maldives.

The organisation’s request for an urgent visit was prompted by the growing list of cases – 24 in total – involving Maldivian MPs filed with the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.


Alhan may not be able to walk, say MP’s family

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Alhan Fahmy may not be able to walk due to injuries sustained to the spine in Saturday’s stab attack, his family have said.

“The spine was damaged quite a bit. The wound was very deep and 2 inches in length. Doctors say they are hopeless. He may improve with physiotherapy,” Alhan’s brother Azban Fahmy told local media.

The global organisation of parliaments, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), has meanwhile condemned the attack and called for an end to violence ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections.

“The attack is the latest act of violence against an MP in a country where many parliamentarians have been victim of arbitrary arrests, attacks and intimidation in recent years.  This includes the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in October 2012,” the IPU said.

Alhan’s condition is still serious and doctors have not detected any movement in Alhan’s right leg.

“Doctors have told us the knife attack on Alhan was a murder attempt. [They said] we have to be grateful he is alive,” Azbaan said.

Alhan was stabbed in public on Saturday night (February 1) while he was at a café in Malé. He was flown to Sri Lanka a few hours later before undergoing surgery on Sunday.

Alhan’s family intends to consult other doctors and hopes he will improve with physiotherapy, Azban said.

The Maldives National Defense Forces provides security to MPs on request. But Alhan had not asked for bodyguards as he had not received any threats in the past two weeks, his family has said, though they did note that Alhan had received death threats previously.

The IPU said the organisation’s committee on human rights is currently working on cases involving human rights violations of nearly 25 Maldivian MPs.

“The organization is also urging all political sides to remain calm and for full protection to be given to MPs to ensure the elections are conducted peacefully,” the IPU statement said.

The MDP has said they believe the attack on Alhan was premeditated and politically motivated.

Speaking on the issue in parliament yesterday, MPs blamed powerful individuals behind gangs for the stabbing and expressed concern over the apparent impunity enjoyed by criminal gangs responsible for such attacks.

The police initially arrested three men in relation to the attack, but have released Mohamed Kinanath Ahmed on Monday. The police have declined to provide details of the two men in custody.


IPU and UK foreign office add to growing criticism of regime

Criticism of the current regime continues, with both the UK Foreign Foreign Minister and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) expressing concern.

“It is clear that some political actors are not working in the interests of the Maldivian people,” said UK Foreign Minister William Hague.

Meanwhile, head of the recently concluded IPU delegation to the Maldives urged all sides to end the political impasse.

“There can be no place for a winner-takes-all mentality in the Maldives. The political polarization in the country has left the Maldives hamstrung, on the verge of bankruptcy and facing serious social problems,” said Paul East.

“The Maldives cannot afford to continue as it has been if there is a genuine desire and commitment to building a peaceful and democratic society,” he continued.

An urgent visit of the IPU followed a series of opposition MPs being prosecuted through the courts. The Supreme Court has removed two MPs from the Majlis, whilst a third MP is seeking refuge from arrest in parliamentary premises – and was later sentenced in absentia to six months for failure to attend court hearings.

Following its mission to the country, an IPU press release has called for “calm and a serious national commitment to healing the political divide in a heavily polarized Maldives.”

Whilst welcoming the successful completion of the presidential election first round on November 9, the IPU has expressed concern regarding the Supreme Court’s “undermining of the parliamentary mandate”.

“This includes over-turning a parliamentary resolution on an interim head of state when President Waheed’s term expired on 10th November,” read the statement.

“Instead, the incumbent was kept in the post, contrary to the Constitution and in contradiction of President Waheed’s repeated and public statements that he would not continue as president beyond his exact term in office.”

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) earlier this week called for travel bans to be imposed upon those it deemed as responsible for a “judicial coup d’état” – including President Waheed in its list.

The IPU also expressed concerns that the interference in presidential elections could have further detrimental impacts on both future local and parliamentary elections.

Dismayed and disappointed

The UK Foreign Minister described himself as being “deeply dismayed” and “disappointed” at the decision to delay the presidential run-off and the subsequent decision of President Waheed to remain in office.

“Since the initial vote, now over two months ago, the democratic process has continually been subject to unreasonable demands and delays. Such delays only serve to increase the strain on democracy, as well as Maldives’ international reputation and already fragile economy.”

Hague went onto say that he would expect the interim arrangements to remain in place only until the completion of the second round of elections – re-scheduled for this coming Saturday (October 16).

He also noted that he would not expect the government to commit to any policy initiatives in the meantime.

“The Maldivian people must have the right to vote for their representative, whether or not the result of that vote is agreeable to losing candidates.”

“We urge all candidates to uphold the interests of the people and the country which they strive to represent and to act responsibly in helping to create conditions which are conducive to elections.”

Hague concluded by calling for the Elections Commissions guidelines to be followed, and urging calm in the run up to the elections.

After violent protests immediately following President Waheed’s decision to stay in office, Male’ has not seen further unrest this week.

The Foreign Minister has received a written question from UK MP Karen Lumley regarding his opinion on Waheed’s attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo this week.

Lumley is currently chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Maldives.


MDP submits case of police brutality against MPs to IPU

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has submitted a case alleging police brutality against their parliamentarians to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

The case has been filed with the IPU’s committee on the human rights of the parliamentarians, in the ongoing 126th IPU Assembly held at Kampala, Uganda.

MP Eva Abdullah, one of the delegates representing the Maldives in the conference earlier said that MDP would submit the case of police brutality that took place between February 7-8.

She had also said that apart from the police brutality that took place in February, she would also highlight ongoing police brutality against ordinary citizens in Male’.

The delegates participating in the IPU Assembly include Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Shahid, MDP MP Eva Abdullah, MDP MP and the party spokesperson Imtiyaz Fahmy, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Yusuf Naseem and MP Ali Arif from Progressive party of the Maldives (PPM).

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the MDP has been communicating with the IPU regarding the ongoing political situation.

“We have been regularly sending updates to the IPU. Eva and Imthiyaz who are the two delegates representing the MDP will speak on behalf of MDP.” Hamid said.

Local Newspaper Haveeru News reported that the case filed by MP Eva Abdullah has been scheduled for discussion on Sunday.

It also reported that IPU has invited the Maldivian government to participate in the discussions. Spokesperson of the President’s Office, Abbas Adil Riza, will set to represent the government in the discussions.

IPU delegates have visited the Maldives twice since the transfer of power that took place in the Maldives on February 7.

The organisation last visited the Maldives on March 17. MDP MPs prevented President Mohamed Waheed Hassan from giving his presidential address on the opening session of parliament on March 1.

During the visit, Martin Chungong, Director of Programmes for the IPU, told the gathered media that it was vital for parliament to preserve its integrity by continuing to function correctly as well as calling on all parties to avoid inciting or committing acts of violence during the session amidst the “political stand-off”.

The IPU is the world organisation of parliaments and was established in 1889. It works to foster coordination and exchange between representative institutions across the globe. The IPU also offers technical support to affiliated nations. The Maldives has been affiliated with the organization since 2005.

The IPU assembly is the principal statutory body that expresses the views of the IPU on political issues. It brings together parliamentarians to study international problems and make recommendations for action. The IPU assembly takes place once in every year.


Majlis to reconvene amidst ongoing stand-off

Parliament is scheduled to reconvene today for the first time since MDP members obstructed President Mohamed Waheed Hassan from opening the Majlis with his constitutionally-mandated state of the nation address earlier this month.

However, a resolution to the current political stand-off that has so far prevented parliament from functioning since President Waheed came to power appears unlikely .

Amidst calls from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) for all parties to ensure that the Majlis is not impeded upon opening today, President Waheed is scheduled to try and give his speech despite pledges by Mohamed Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to continue block him until a date for early elections is set.

MDP fears

In a statement issued by the MDP last night, the party claimed that “the consent of the governed is the basis of any legitimate government.”

With calls from the bodies like the EU and the Commonwealth calling for early elections to be held, the MDP has claimed that it has “indirect” international backing for its stance that the current government has “ no democratic legitimacy”, at least whilst question marks remain over the controversial transfer of power last month.

“MDP believes the current regime has no democratic legitimacy as it was instituted through the mutinous actions of the security forces, in effect overthrowing the first democratically elected president through a coup d’etat,” the party stated.

“It is paramount that a regime that lacks the consent of the governed and that has robbed the People of their fundamental right to choose those who would govern them, must not have legitimacy conferred upon it by opening the People’s Majlis.”

The MDP added that it has been working with rival political parties and President Waheed as part of ongoing talks to try and find a resolution to the current political upheaval – though it claims it has had limited success so far.

However, the MDP’s stance has led to a stalemate in the reform process with the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) withdrawing from all party roadmap talks due to its blocking of parliament.

Disruptive elements

Criticising the MDP’s ongoing attempts to block parliament, Dr Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that the Majlis operated as a separate entity from the president and therefore calls to hold fresh elections were not related to allowing parliament to function.

Riza added that the government was therefore calling on former President Nasheed to “stop advocating violence” particularly among young people, in regards to blocking the Majlis and opposing the government.

“More than 200 youths currently face charges for torching public buildings since February 8,” he added.

Though Riza said that the public would be free to gather on some of the capital’s roads to protest, he added that inside the parliament chamber, it was for the Speaker of the Majlis, Abdulla Shahid, and not the government to ensure parliament functioned correctly.

The presidential spokesperson added that just as under the government of Mohamed Nasheed, the speaker had control of 60 Majlis guards that had the power to remove disruptive elements from the parliamentary floor.

The live feed continues here.

13:34 – One female protester seems to have fainted , while another has been badly affected by gas. “Milk has been put all over her to treat it,” reports Daniel Bosley from between the police lines on Sosun Magu.

13:30 – President Waheed reportedly tells protesters in the chamber “I’ll be back” after having to walk out once again.

13:29 – President Waheed is forced to cut short his speech amongst ironic clapping. Shouts of “long live democracy” are heard as he leaves the floor again.

13:27 – President Waheed is having to shout out his speech as MDP protestors directly heckle him creating a noisy Majlis floor.

13:24 – Police on Sosun Magu have reportedly begun warning protesters they will use “force” to restore order, according to witnesses at the scene.

13:20 – Haveeru has reported that the police are now requesting protesters to being cooperating with them, whilst the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has strongly condemned the attack on the VTV building.

13:17 – Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sadiq has said there has been no reports of unrest in the country’s second city. He was unable to confirm if any events or demonstrations were currently being scheduled to occur in Addu.

13:13 – President Waheed has once again entered the parliamentary chamber only to leave again soon after.

13:05 – MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that 20 MNDF are now inside parliament in an attempt to remove Milandhoo constituency MP Riza, Machangoalhi South MP Mohamed Rasheed and Thinadhoo constituency Nazim. Ghafoor told Minivan News that MPs Shifaz and Riza had been injured, meanwhile international observers are said to be looking on at events from the public gallery.

13:01 – President Waheed on his Twitter feed has condemned MDP members and Mohamed Nasheed for blocking parliament. “Anni must take responsibility for the chaos as he is directing the chaos in Male’,” he wrote.

12:51 – MDP members inside the chamber have alleged that the Majlis secretary general has compiled a list of MPs that are required to be removed from parliament before the session can start. The MPs claim this goes against the Majlis rules of procedure as it is for the speaker to say who is to be removed by security officials.

12:45 – The MNDF has confirmed that about 60 per cent of the fire at Neelan Fihaara is under control. People are reportedly taking some items that weren’t burnt in the fire out of the premises.

12:39 – Police have now moved crowds outside of ADK Hospital to the other side of Sosun Magu. Minivan News understands that rubber bullets have been fired.

12:36 – Colonel Abdul Raheem of the MNDF has told Minivan News that security would not hesitate to use rubber bullets to disperse crowds, calling them a “non-lethal weapon” that does not constitute excessive force.

12:35 – Haveeru has reported that some protesters have allegedly harassed and threatened some reporters and media personnel.

12:32 – President Waheed has once again left the chamber after disruptions by MDP MPs who have continued to bang copies of the constitution on their desks.

12:28 – The Majlis session has restarted. President Waheed is now in the parliamentary chamber.

12:25 – Protesters around Sosun Magu have claimed that rubber bullets are being prepared for use by MNDF forces.

12:20 – Minivan News has witnessed that police have cleared protesters from Sosun Magu to the west of the junction by Majeedhee Magu.

12:15 – Maldives Police has announced on Twitter that the protests in Male’ are no longer being considered as peaceful – “necessary force” is now expected to be used.

12:07 – Sun Online has reported that MP Shifaz fell and injured himself during scuffles withi the Majlis chamber. “What happened exactly is not yet clear,” the news agency added.

12:03 – Police are reported to have temporarily cleared rioters away from VTV studios.

12:02 – Several physical confrontations have been reported from within the Majlis with the MDP alleging that MP Shifaz has been taken away by the MNDF suffering from a broken leg.

11:56 – An MDP supporter within the Majlis has alleged that Baarashu Dhaaira MP Shifaz has been beaten unconscious by MNDF forces.

11:52 – Outside ADK Hospital several men have been seen covered in blood. Minivan News has witnessed some figures attacking the VTV building with bricks. Soldiers are blocking the doors to VTV studios.

11:48 – “Police are continuing to deploy gas as protesters are being driven back down the street [Sosun Magu],” reports Daniel Bosley. “Some are attacking soldiers on their way past.”

11:45 – Soldiers in gas masks have been spotted outside the VTV building on Sosun Magu. Unconfirmed reports suggest four people have been arrested on the street so far.

11:40 – Fire-fighters are still having difficulty controlling the blaze in the Neelan Fihaara area.

11:36 – Under parliamentary rulings, the speaker must call the name of an MP three times to leave the chamber for contempt before they can be removed by Majlis security. Two MPs have been removed at present. “It could be a long day,” one observer with knowledge of parliamentary proceedings has noted.

11:33 – “The police and local people are now trying to escort police vehicles from the fire. Firemen are still working to put out the blaze,” Naahee adds.

11:29 – Meanwhile, a fire has continued to rage in the Neelan Fihaara. “The fire has even spread to the land in front of the nearby auctioning market,” reports Mohamed Naahee. “ The police garage is right next door.”

11:26 – “There are people now ferrying cases of water to the protest’s front lines in what appears to be a measure to counter the tear gas deployed by police,” reports Daniel Bosley on Sosun Magu. “People are dousing themselves in water.”

11:23 – Protesters on Sosun Magu are said to be cheering as a riot shield is taken from the police and held aloft. An ambulance has arrived on the scene.

11:20 – Confrontations appear to be escalating in the capital with local media reporting that police have now called for the protest on Sosun Magu to be broken up. Outside Majeediyya school, flags and pavement stones are reported to have been thrown at police.

11:16 – “The situation has really escalated on Sosun Magu with tear gas now being deployed. However, the MDP supporters appear to be regrouping,” reports Minivan News’ Daniel Bosley.

11:13 – A Minivan News reporter has witnessed police deploying tear gas on Sosun Magu.

11:08 – Tensions are escalating across the capital amidst claims that a police officer has been injured in scuffles with protesters. Sun online reports that tear gas has been used in response.

11:02 – Haveeru has reported that protesters gathered near the Health Ministry building have begun throwing bottles of water at police as well as trying to breach their lines. Military personal have also now removed MP Alhan Fahmy from the parliamentary chambers.

10:56 – Local media is reporting that military personnel have now been called to Sosun Magu to assist police with a large protest taking place on the street. A spokesperson for the police told Minivan news that they would be working in collaboration with military officials. “They [the MNDF] will be helping us where needed,” the spokesperson added, without elaborating on the nature of the assistance.

10:50 – Outside the chamber, police are said to have cordoned off more than 15 streets including those surrounding the President’s Office and the Majlis in a bid to try and control protests.

10:46 – Meanwhile, Sun Online has reported that President Waheed was not provided with a traditional “red carpet welcome” when entering the Majlis. He instead entered the parliament gate straight from his car.

10:36 – Haveeru has reported that police have been informing protesters gathered on Sosun Magu that peaceful protests will be allowed as part of their constitutional rights, but action will be taken against anyone found to “impede” police.

10:35 – MPs are drumming on tables with copies of the constitution. President Waheed is reportedly in the Majlis, though not yet in the parliamentary chamber, according to state media.

10:33 – Shahid has called for an intermission amidst continued disruption by MDP MPs.

10:27 – Speaker Shahid has asked MP Alhan Fahmy to leave the chamber due to ongoing disruptions as he tries to establish order to the football match-esque atmosphere. MDP MPs are shouting “Baagee Waheed” for their part.

10:23 – The Speaker has called for President Waheed to deliver his address. The MDP MPs have begun their protest.

10:20 – Parliamentary Speak Abdulla Shahid has just started the Majlis session. He has begun with a eulogy for the late Fathulla Jameel. The MDP have vowed to begin their protest after respecting the eulogy.

10:10 – A group of about 200 anti-government protesters replete with MDP and Maldivian national flags have been witnessed in a sit down demonstration outside Majeediyya school – one supporter has claimed it is the school midterm break at present.

09:55 – A Minivan News journalist in the area surrounding the Majlis says that the situation directly outside parliament remains quiet at present, with a somewhat noisy group of protesters currently having gathered at Sosun Magu as police work to enforce a designated route for demonstrators.

The reporter adds that police have blocked access to the Majlis via Fehimagu.

09:45 – A police spokesperson had told Minivan News that there has been no reports so far of conflicts with groups of protesters that are beginning to gather around Male’.

The spokesperson said that the police were hoping to use “minimum force” to keep the protests under control as the Majlis is set to reopen, but the situation would be reviewed as the day progresses.


IPU requests parliament proceed without obstruction

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called on all political parties in the country to ensure that parliament is not impeded when the People’s Majlis reconvenes tomorrow.

Parliament is set to open  for the first time since members of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) obstructed the session from opening on March 1.

In a day of ongoing international developments regarding both the legitimacy of the government of Mohamed Waheed Hassan and the functioning of the People’s Majis, the IPU held a press conference today in Male’ calling for a peaceful resolution to the political stalemate resulting from a controversial transfer of power last month.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union is the world organisation of parliaments and was established in 1889. It works to foster coordination and exchange between representative institutions across the globe. The IPU also offers technical support to affiliated nations. The Maldives has been affiliated with the organisation since 2005.

Amidst ongoing allegations by the MDP that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has replaced Mohamed Nasheed through a “coup d’etat” assisted by a mutiny among sections of the police and military, the party’s leadership has said it is committed to continuing to obstruct the Majlis until early elections are first agreed upon.

The increasingly fractious and partisan atmosphere within Maldivian political circles led to MDP MPs on March 1 preventing President Waheed from performing his constitutional duty of opening parliament with a state of the nation speech.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has said that his party intends to continue efforts to block the Majlis from opening until President Waheed bows to international pressure from bodies such as the Commonwealth and the EU and sets a date for early elections to resolve the questions of his legitimacy democratically.

Amidst the stand off, Martin Chungong, Director of Programmes for the IPU, told the gathered media that it was vital for parliament to preserve its integrity by continuing to function correctly as well as calling on all parties to avoid inciting or committing acts of violence during the session.

The IPU delegation said that their remit within the Maldives remained to try and facilitate a peaceful resolution to the political upheaval faced by President Waheed since he controversially came to power on February 7.

To this end, Chungong said he believed that it was for the Maldivian people, and not an external party, to provide a solution to the current political stalemate.

Despite calling for a peaceful resolution, the IPU delegation stressed that it was ultimately down to the parliamentary speaker to enforce any decision to remove MPs who were openly trying to obstruct tomorrow’s session from taking place.

Meanwhile, newspaper Haveeru has reported that following fierce debate today amongst its leaders, the MDP had decided to prevent President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan from entering the chamber tomorrow, in fulfilment of his constitutional obligation to address the opening of the People’s Majlis.

The party’s democratic group has reportedly agreed to allow Speaker Adbullah Shaheed to enter the People’s Majlis after having barred his access on March 1. The group has also agreed to allow a minute’s silence in commemoration of the former Foreign Minister Fathullah Jameel who recently passed away.

After this point in tomorrow’s proceedings though, MDP MPs have pledged to begin their protests despite concerns also being raised by the the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) about obstructing parliament from functioning.

Speaking to Minivan News earlier today, MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that within the current climate, continuing to try and block the Majlis was a “thorny issue,” but that he believed that the party could viably continue its attempts to block parliament.

He added that from the MDP’s perspective, the party had little choice but to continue to try and prevent parliament from continuing in order to “protect” the integrity of the Majlis.

Despite CMAG’s criticism of efforts to block parliament from functioning, Ghafoor claimed that international calls from groups like the Commonwealth for early elections and constitutional reforms showed that there were questions to be answered over the legitimacy of the present government.

“We do not believe Dr Waheed to be a legitimate leader,” he said. “The MDP’s position is to try and find a political situation to agree on an election date and the corresponding constitutional reforms required to do this before opening parliament. This was highlighted and agreed by MDP members, but rejected by the opposition.”

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP has been working with the government and opposition politicians to try and secure an end to the current political deadlock.

Parliamentary Group leader Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih, has previously expressed concern that Dr Waheed was not open to finding a potential solution on a timetable for elections.

Nasheed on front lines

Former President Nasheed told his supporters that he himself planned to be on the front lines of the protests outside the reconvened Majlis session tomorrow and claimed that authorities “would have to shoot him” before they could proceed with the opening.

In responding to the MDP’s comments, President Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza called on former President Nasheed to “stop advocating violence” particularly among young people, in regards to blocking the Majlis and opposing the government.

“More than 200 youths currently face charges for torching public buildings since February 8,” he added.

Though Riza said that the public would be free to gather on some of the capital’s roads to protest, he added that inside the parliament chamber, it was for the Speaker of the Majlis and not the government to ensure parliament functioned correctly.

The government spokesperson added that just as under the government of Mohamed Nasheed, the speaker had control of 60 Majlis guards that had the power to remove disruptive elements from the parliamentary floor.


IPU investigating police action against MPs

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has requested information on alleged mistreatment of opposition MPs by police during protests this year, according to Voice of Maldives.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim said the organisation requested an official account of the incidents from parliament.

The IPU informed parliament that it has received credible information and video footage, Nazim said, adding that the letter will be presented to the Privileges Committee in the next session of parliament.

The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) lodged a complaint with the IPU following police use of water canons and tear gas to disperse an opposition protest on May 13 over hiked electricity tariffs.