State Minister for Finance and steering committee member of the self-titled “National Movement” Abbas Adil Riza has labelled parliament as a “terrorist organization”, claiming the Maldives’ legislature has failed to work in the best interest of country.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Riza claimed that parliament was continuously failing to respect the sentiments of the public and that the “National Movement” sought to hold a referendum on the institution.
“The Maldives constitution clearly states that the power of the state is derived from the people and would remain with the people, so the National Movement representing the people are using our right to express our concerns over the parliament,” he said.
The National Movement announced earlier this week that a planned public referendum on parliament would be used to assess the public view towards the country’s legislature. During a press conference held Tuesday (December 25), senior figures of the movement claimed that they planned to hold the public ballot on January 25, 2013.
Riza clarified today that the vote would be carried out by the members of the National Movement, confirming that it would not be a public referendum taken by the government or any other state institution.
“Our members will conduct the ballot. We are formulating committees that would coordinate the vote in the islands. This referendum has no connection with the government or any other state institution,” he explained.
Riza added that the National Movement, led by the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) and senior government officials, did not wish to dissolve parliament, but instead try to show the world a true reflection of the public’s attitude towards parliament.
“After voting, if the vote shows that people do not have confidence in the parliament someone may take the issue to the Supreme Court. But we are not planning to do that. We only want the world to know the truth,” he said.
According to fellow “National Movement” member Sobah Rasheed, a decision was yet to be taken on how the proposed referendum would be conducted, with further announcements expected at a later date.
The vote would help reveal whether the public had the confidence in their parliamentarians or not, Sobah claimed at the time.
“We are trying to conduct the vote in the most cost efficient, but yet transparent manner that would increase the public confidence on the fairness of the vote,” he told the press.
“National Movement” Vice President and State Minister for Home Affairs Abdulla Mohamed has previously claimed that its campaign to “reform Majlis (Parliament)” was not targeted at the entire 77 sitting MPs. He also dismissed accusations that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was behind the movement.
According to Abdulla, the campaign was carried out to urge the authorities to take actions against MPs found not to pay tax, as well as those who have committed several criminal offences.
“The movement is run for the benefit of this country. While this movement is in the best interest of the nation, it may perhaps be detrimental to the president. But if the damage incurred by the president is lesser than the benefit that the country gets, then our purpose is served. Similarly if this movement benefits the whole nation more than the damage to parliament, our purpose is served,” Abdulla said.
The “National Movement” has continued of late to criticise parliament, claiming it was not working in the best interest of the people.
Earlier in November, Abbas Adil Riza – then serving as a President’s Office spokesperson – warned that the “National Movement” would “break up” the parliament, should it go forward with no-confidence motion against President Waheed and his Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim. The Supreme Court had at the time issued an injunction against parliament holding such votes.
Riza also directed harsh criticism towards Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid, dismissing his decision to “challenge” the Supreme Court’s ruling as a “cowardly act”.
“Unless Shahid immediately ceases his efforts to violate the constitution while holding the post of Speaker of Parliament, the National Movement will ensure that this comes to a stop,” he said at the time.
Parliament officials had earlier stated that Defence Minister Nazim had been given the required 14-day notice by Speaker Abdulla Shahid.
Responding to Riza’s comments at the time, Majlis Deputy Speaker and People’s Alliance (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim rejected claims parliament had challenged the Supreme Court’s injunction. Nazim noted that parliament had given all those facing no confidence votes a full 14 days notice as stated by the law.
“We believe there is still time for Supreme Court to lift the temporary injunction, and I believe they will not see this as the parliament challenging the court. After 14 days, the motion will be put up on the agenda for discussion by party leaders. If the injunction remains then there is a possibility for party leaders to challenge the court,” Nazim told Minivan News at the time.
“A rather irrelevant group” – MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor
Responding to Riza’s remarks, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that he did not believe that the “National Movement” was a force of the people, but rather an irrelevant group craving media attention.
“I don’t think any MP would wish to even comment on the remarks made by these people. We are ashamed of them. These people do not represent the people. Look at the number of people attending their rallies,” he said.
Ghafoor claimed that even though parliament did not generally take into account the remarks made during the rallies held by the movement, they may consider action at a later date on the grounds of national security.
“If they are planning to attack the parliament or threaten the national security, then perhaps the parliament may look into it, but other than that they are not much of a force. I believe if there happens to be a time where they attempt to attack parliament, then the police and military would obviously not let that happen,” he added.
Ghafoor also accused the “National Movement” of not being a registered organization, alleging a possible conflict of interest in the Registrar of Clubs and Societies Abdulla Mohamed speaking as one of its members..
“The whole outfit is void ab initio,” he said
PPM discontinues its support
Meanwhile, the government-aligned former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), a key supporter of the movement, has decided to part ways with the National Movement claiming that it was “moving in another direction”.
“I question today whether this campaign under the name of national movement is sincere or not,” PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof said in parliament.
“I’m saying this because during the GMR issue, we said repeatedly that after that we should raise the issue of Nexbis [border control project]. But after that we saw them raise the issue of the People’s Majlis.”
Mahloof added that a speaker at a national movement rally on Sunday night “used obscene language” to attack PPM Parliamentary Group Leader MP Abdulla Yameen.
The speaker in question accused MP Yameen of “threatening” the Adhaalath Party, during a rally held Sunday (December 23) to celebrate the first anniversary of the December 23 “mega-protest.”
Local media reported that the remarks led to heated exchanges between the speaker and PPM supporters, a number of whom left the area in protest.
In his speech following the incident, Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, a senior leader of the Adhaalath Party, spoke in defence of MP Yameen and urged speakers to respect political leaders.
The National Movement was formed by several government aligned political parties and a coalition of NGOs to oppose the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) development being run by GMR.
The movement initially began as 23 December alliance, which held an enmasse demonstration to oppose certain policies of the President Mohamed Nasheed. The protest was held just months before Nasheed resigned from office, later alleging he had been made to do so under “duress”.
The movement is headed by the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP). AP Leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla is portrayed as the figure head of the movement.