The deputy speaker is seeking to ban horns, sirens and megaphones inside the parliament as opposition protests on the Majlis floor enters its eighth week.
MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik is proposing amendments to the Majlis standing orders banning horns, megaphones and other objects that may “mentally disturb” people, according to Haveeru.
The amendments also prohibit MPs going up to the Speaker’s desk to disrupt Majlis proceedings.
Moosa, formerly a member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said he will make “many amendments to keep order and discipline in the Majlis.”
MDP and Jumhooree Party MPs have been protesting since March 2 over the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed and ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives has continued with Majlis debates while Speaker Abdulla Maseeh has proceeded with several votes including a law to delay the new penal code amidst opposition protests.
However, the debates have been inaudible over the sound of sirens and horns, while some votes were counted with a show of hands.
Moosa told Haveeru the Speaker will not to allow an MP to speak if other MPs from their party are disrupting Majlis proceedings.
Most Maldivians are worried that MPs frequently switch parties in parliament because of corruption, a survey has found.
Eighty percent of people see party switching as connected to corruption, a report from Transparency Maldives indicates, showing that floor crossing is perceived to have a negative impact.
Another survey by Transparency last year showed that Maldivians had low levels of confidence in parliament.
In the latest survey, eighty-four percent of respondents said they believe floor crossing happens because money or some sort of gain is offered to parliamentarians in exchange for voting against their own party line or defecting.
Eighty-seven per cent of respondents believe there should be laws that prevent or restrict switching.
Transparency Maldives said that forcing MPs to reveal detailed financial holdings would help.
“The most necessary option is to implement a correct method of asset declaration, not just for the sake of it but in a manner involving detailed financial statements,” Thoriq Hamid, programme manager at Transparency, told reporters.
“There should also be vetting mechanisms for these statements. That is the role of Maldivian institutions like the anti-corruption commission and possibly the auditor general.”
Eighty-one percent said that floor crossing can undermine democracy and weaken the party system.
Transparency will share the report with parliamentarians and other institutions.
Floor crossing is a common occurrence in the Parliament of the Maldives.
The former MP for Feydhoo , Alhan Fahmy, was initially elected as a Dhivehi Rayyinthunge’ Party (DRP) candidate but he switched to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Later on he left them to join the Jumhooree Party (JP) and then again left the JP to rejoin the MDP.
Another such case is Abdulla Abdul Raheem. The MP who has changed parties the most, he was also elected as DRP candidate and left them to join the MDP. However, he again went back to the DRP within 24 hours. In 2012, he made another switch, this time to the JP, and then again signed to the MDP the very next year. He was expelled from the MDP in December 2013.
The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives came to power last year with 33 MPs but another 10 joined them from other parties within four months.
These individuals have not been specifically accused of corruption, but they are among many MPs to have switched parties.
Transparency Maldives interviewed 200 randomly selected Maldivians for the survey.
The Majlis committee investigating the death of 3-year-old Mohamed Ibthihaal will wait until the house reconvenes in March before holding further meetings.
Chair of the Majlis government oversight committee Riyaz Rasheed told Haveeru that there was “no point” and that “nothing further that can be achieved”, accusing fellow committee member Rozaina Adam of releasing confidential documents.
“I specifically asked the members of the committee at its last meeting to not make any of these documents public,” said the Progressive Party of Maldives MP.
Since the committee’s first meeting was held on February 5 was adjourned to give members more time to study the case’s documents, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP Rozaina has accused Rasheed of slowing the committee’s work.
She has also told the media that the documents received from the police contained no details of the toddler’s case prior to his death, despite authorities acknowledging that they were previously aware of his abuse.
Last Thursday, she went on to say that the gender ministry’s report contained questionable statements, alleging that both the ministry and police had acted in breach of the law.
Ibthihaal was found dead in his home with numerous wounds and bruises on the island of Vaavu Atoll Rakeedhoo on January 28. His mother is mother is charged with murder and is in police custody awaiting further investigation.
Riyaz reiterated that. while parliament’s involvement has been temporarily brought to a halt, the government is looking into the matter and taking necessary action to prevent further incidents of the kind.
Transparency Maldives has published its 2014 Majlis review, reporting that 10 bills were passed in 59 sittings of the 18th People’s Majlis.
Of the 85 members elected to the expanded parliament in March, only 16 have had a flawless attendance record since, with an overall attendance figure of 90 percent.
The members from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had the worst average attendance of the three main parties – 85 percent, compared with the Jumhooree Party’s (JP) 91 percent and the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) 93 percent.
It was the Maldivian Development Alliance leader, and Progressive Coalition member, Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam who had the worst attendance of any MP, appearing at less than half the sessions, reported Transparency.
Other than the Adhaalath Party, for whom Makunudhoo MP Anara Naeem is the only MP, Siyam’s MDA was the only party whose representation in the 18th Majlis has remained stable.
Despite winning 33 seats in the March polls, the PPM has now gained an additional 11 MPs, while its former ally the JP has a net loss of 2 seats.
After winning a disappointing 26 seats in the house, the MDP lost 4 MPs to opposition parties as well as expelling Majlis Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik from the party.
The most important legislative changes brought by the Majlis in 2014 were the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act, the new Penal Code, the Special Economic Zone Act, and amendments to the Judicature Act.
The report describes the benefit of the money-laundering bill as preventing terrorism financing, kleptocracy, narco-trafficking, human trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, counterfeiting currency, corruption, and transnational organised crimes.
“Money laundering has potentially destructive social and economic consequences. It allows criminals such as drug traffickers, corrupt officials, and transnational organised crime syndicates to introduce illicit proceeds or ‘dirty money’ into legitimate finance streams as legal funds,” explained the anti-corruption NGO.
The new penal code – to be introduced in April this year – represents the culmination of 10 years’ work and will replace an old code that has been described by legal experts as obstructing the course of justice due to its “outdated” nature, read the review.
“In April 2004, the new penal code was finally passed, making it the first modern, comprehensive penal code in the world to incorporate the major tenets and principles of Islamic law.”
The report described the government’s flagship Special Economic Zones Act as laying “an edifice for economic, industrial, social, financial and infrastructural development.”
“It allows economic activities to be carried out under a relatively liberal manner through tax exemptions to investors and developers.”
Despite the promise of major ‘transformative’ investment – yet to be realised, the opposition has argued that the bill will “allow the government to conduct transactions broadly with no transparency and no opportunity for oversight, as a result of which the possibility of losing the country’s independence and sovereignty would be high”.
Regarding the changes to the Judicature Act – which facilitated the removal of two Supreme Court judges – Transparency’s report pointed out its previous concerns over the “political influence on the judiciary in the Maldives”.
Amendments requiring the reduction of the bench from seven to five in December saw the JSC swiftly select Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan in a decision marked for its lack of transparency.
Finally, the review of the Majlis’ work for 2014 noted the appointment of a number of key figures, including Prosecutor General Muhuthaz Muhsin – appointed after political wrangling saw the constitutionally mandated deadline for filling the position missed by six months.
After the Supreme Court removed the Elections Commission’s senior leadership less than a month before the Majlis elections, MPs appointed Mohamed Shakeel and Ahmed Sulaiman to the commission in November. They were also joined by Ismail Habeeb Abdul Raheem and Amjad Musthafa in receiving Majlis approval.
The Majlis appointment of President Abdulla Yameen’s nomination of Hassan Ziyath as the new auditor general in November was also a source of controversy, with outgoing auditor general Niyaz Ibrahim arguing that his removal had been unconstitutional.
Niyaz was ousted as a result of last minute changes to the Auditor General’s Act, proposed to the the Majlis by the PPM on the same day the audit office published a report implicating tourism minister and deputy PPM leader Ahmed Adeeb in a US$6 million corruption scandal.
The Majlis national security committee has recommended the removal Shujau Hussain from the Local Government Authority (LGA) board, say media reports.
In a sitting held today, the committee decided to suspend Shujau from the board after reviewing complaints regarding disciplinary issues submitted by other board members against him, though further details have not been revealed.
Shujau says he has not been officially informed of the decision but suggested that the rules of procedure for his suspension could not have been followed as the full Majlis is not in session to approve the move.
“I believe I am still in charge of the LGA,” said Shujau – the public’s appointee to the board.
Shujau claimed to have become interim leader of the LGA late last week as he and four of the board’s nine members passed a no-confidence motion against association chair and Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim.
He had previously proposed the motion late last month, arguing that Nazim had refused to table the issue at the time.
Following the meeting on Thursday, however, Nazim was reported as saying that his removal had breached LGA procedures, telling media that an investigation into Shujau’s ethical conduct was under way.
Committee member General Ibrahim Didi told Minivan News that he did not believe the decision taken by the committee today was in line with the correct procedures, although he declined to discuss the details of the meeting itself.
“Whatever they do, they have to complete the full procedure – they have to question the person concerned. They did not do that today,” said Didi.
The decision to suspend Shujau was reportedly taken with a majority of six votes from the ruling coalition. Two members, one from opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) voted against his suspension and removal, said
The composition of the committee is five seats for ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for Maldivian Development Alliance.
Formed under the 2010 Decentralisation Act, the LGA is tasked with overseeing and coordinating the work of the Maldives’ 199 city, atoll, and island-level councils.
Both Shujau and Malé City Councillor Shamau Shareef have expressed concern that Nazim – also acting minister of health – was not working to protect decentralisation in the country.
“He is not standing up to protect the system,” Shamau told Minivan News last month, arguing that Nazim had failed to protect Malé City Council from persistent reduction of its powers.
Transparency Maldives (TM) has launched a Dialogue Group between members of parliament and civil society organisations, aimed at increasing public participation in decision making.
In a press release to mark the first meeting today, TM noted that the group has been established “to foster a culture of openness and transparency in the Parliament”.
Recent decisions in the Majlis regarding the reappointment of the prosecutor general and the removal of two Supreme Court judges this week prompted the anti-corruption NGO to express “grave concerns” about undemocratic trends in the country.
The Dialogue Group – which comprised three Majlis members and seven civil society groups – also discussed signing an MoU to clarify the group’s mandate and show commitment to further engagement.
Representing the Majlis in today’s meeting were Maldivian Democratic Party MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, Adhaalath MP Anara Naeem, and Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussain.
Civil society was meanwhile represented by TM, the Society for Health Education (SHE), the Care Society, the Islamic Foundation, Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC), and Hope for Women, as well as a group from Hirilandhoo in Thaa Atoll.
The People’s Majlis has today approved amendments to the Tourism Act, introducing a ‘Green Tax’ on all tourists.
The US$6 per person levy – part of the government’s plans to raise MVR3.4 billion (US$220 million) in new revenue next year – will be introduced in November.
Tabled last month by Progressive Party of Maldives MP Abdulla Khaleel, MP for Nilandhoo, the bill was passed with the support of 52 of the 68 MPs present during the today’s vote.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb has previously said that the cabinet does not believe the green tax will hinder the demand from tourists, who will become “champions” of the Maldivian environment by paying the tax. He added that revenue generated would be spent on resolving the waste management issues in the greater Malé region.
The introduction of the new tax is to come 11 months after the abolition of the bed-tax, which will continue to be charged at US$8 a night until the end of this month.
President Abdulla Yameen has appointed Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Saeed as the Maldives’ new Chief Justice within an hour of Majlis unanimously approving him for the position.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs staged a walk out prior to the vote, accusing the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) of burying the country’s 2008 democratic constitution.
MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy described the PPM and its coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) as “enemies of democracy bent on taking revenge on the people after having assumed power through brute force.”
Speaking to local media today, Faiz condemned the Majlis vote as unconstitutional, and said the move raises doubts over the separation of powers and the continuation of judicial independence in the Maldives
“Today will be written down as a black day in the constitutional history of the Maldives. I state this is a black day for the constitution. Taking such a vote against the constitution is, I believe, disrespectful to the constitution,” he said.
Faiz and Muthasim were voted out after the Majlis amended the Judicature Act to reduce the seven-member Supreme Court bench to five judges.
The ruling coalition maintains the move will strengthen the judiciary and facilitate judicial reform.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed had appointed Faiz as the country’s first Chief Justice in 2010, days after he ordered the army to lock up the Supreme Court premises when the interim Supreme Court bench illegally declared themselves judges for life.
Faiz and Muthasim have formed the dissenting opinion in several controversial cases, including the decision to annul the first round of presidential polls in September 2010.
“Dismissal of a country’s Chief Justice against the constitution is no small matter,” Faiz told CNM today, adding “MPs are mandated to uphold democracy. But today there are doubts over how they perceive democracy.”
Faiz said he had decided not to speak in his defense prior to the vote due to conflict of interest and because he did not want politicians to benefit from any of his statements.
Muthasim was the only Supreme Court Judge with a background in common law.
New Chief Justice
Saeed, who served as the Chief Justice of the Maldives’ first interim Supreme Court from 2008 – 2010, was voted in with 55 votes.
Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs Gasim Ibrahim and Hussain Mohamed voted for Saeed despite having opposed Faiz and Adnan’s removal this afternoon. JP MPs Ali Hussein and Abdulla Riyaz, who had voted against the two judges’ dismissal, did not participate in the vote.
The watchdog Judicial Services Commission (JSC) had recommended that the two judges be dismissed for gross misconduct and incompetence on Thursday. But details of the ruling or evaluation criteria have not been made available to MPs or the public yet.