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.
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.
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.