State Minister for Finance Abbas Adil Riza labels parliament as “terrorist organization”

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.


DQP, PPM MPs defend government spokesperson in debate over Friday’s diplomatic incident

Members of parliament have expressed concern over recent remarks against Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, D M Mulay, by President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza.

MPs debated the matter on Tuesday after a motion submitted by MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Bondey’ Rasheed, condemning government’s failure to take action against the spokesperson’s remarks.

Following criticism from the High Commission and the Indian government, the President’s Office published a statement distancing the government from Riza’s remarks.

During a rally organised by parties of the ruling coalition calling for the seizure and nationalisation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) from Indian infrastructure giant GMR, Riza described Mulay as a “traitor and enemy of the Maldives and the Maldivian people”, accusing him of taking bribes and threatening the government.

During the debate, MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the remarks claiming they were made against diplomatic protocol and could affect bilateral relations with India.

Presenting the motion, MP Rasheed highlighted that GMR operates airports in New Delhi, Hyderabad and in Turkey.  He added that Turkey also has a strong Muslim majority but the people there do not go out on to the streets calling to take back the airport in the name of protecting Islam.

Rasheed added that tourists would obviously see protesters hollering around the airport on boats, and that this could potentially harm foreign investment in the country.

He also added that after talking “nonsense” in front of the general public, a president’s spokesperson cannot later claim that he was expressing his “personal opinions”, and that a repeat of such actions could inflict irreparable damage to the economy.

“Act of terrorism”

Speaking on the motion, Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader of MDP MP Ali Waheed described the anti-GMR armada as an “act of terrorism”.

“What we saw yesterday was an act of terrorism. If the government wishes to terminate the contract with GMR that was entered into during the former government, then do it, instead of nonsense like this,” Waheed said.

He further added that Spokesperson Riza had made a huge blunder by speaking “so lowly” of the high commissioner, and the best thing for him to do was apologise or resign from his position as spokesperson.

Deputy leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP)  MP Abdulla Jabir echoed similar sentiments during the debate.

“What I saw was a group of terrorists who went to stop the businesses of this country and to take over those businesses in the international airport illegitimately. I condemn these actions and this is not something that should be repeated in this country ever again,” said Jabir.

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that during the MDP’s three year democratic government, the country saw a large number of foreign investors investing in the Maldives because of the trust those investors had in the government.

He added that India alone had contributed nearly a billion dollars to the Maldivian economy, and that GMR was one of the many that came through a transparent international bidding process with the technical assistance of International Finance Corporation (IFC), a group under the World Bank.

He expressed concern that if similar blunders were seen from the government, the Maldives risked losing the investor confidence gained over the last three years.

Meanwhile, MDP MP Eva Abdulla alleged that the remarks made by Riza were not those of his own but were rather under “direct orders” from President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“Indian government is involved in this conspiracy”: DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed

During the debate, the majority of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs attempted to defend Riza, and tried to switch the focus on to High Commissioner Mulay.

In an apparent contradiction to its comments in parliament, the PPM on November 12 issued a statement dissociating the the party from the “slanderous” allegations made against Mulay.

Deputy leader and the only MP from the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), MP Riyaz Rasheed made strong allegations against the Indian government, repeating Riza’s allegations against Mulay.

“[Mulay] is trying to declare the airport a property of the Indian government or the GMR group, and it is a fact that the Indian government working on the agenda as well,” he claimed.

Riyaz alleged that GMR and the Indian government were “eyeing” the MPs who spoke against them and that if those MPs travelled to India, he had information that GMR was “intending to plant drugs in their baggage.”

He also said it was saddening to see that a High Commissioner from the world’s largest democracy could not digest remarks made by the spokesperson, and added that there was a great difference between speaking in an official capacity and in an individual capacity.

Meanwhile, PPM MP Abdul Azeez Jamaal Aboobakr defended Riza, stating that a person’s freedom cannot be limited because of his employment, and that Riza too had his freedom of speech.

Aboobakr also highlighted that Riza had at the beginning of Friday’s speech said that he was going to make the remarks not in his official capacity as the spokesperson, but in an individual capacity.

Another PPM MP, Ahmed Mahloof, said the current government of President Waheed had all the needed powers to terminate the GMR agreement.

“This is something that could be done even sitting inside a luxurious air-conditioned room. All President Waheed has to do is decide on the matter,” Mahloof said.

He added that it was unnecessary to make a fuss out of the issue, referring to the anti-GMR boat armada, and that those who really wanted to terminate the GMR contract should have protested in front of the president’s office.

He also admitted that he could be subjected to allegations of taking bribes from his fellow MPs after making a remark in favour of GMR.

During the debate, MPs from the second largest political party Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) followed the opposition MDP in condemning the remarks made by Riza.

DRP MP Ahmed Mohamed during the debate stated that he condemned the remarks made by Riza and Deputy Home Minister Ahmed ‘Boafan’ Abdulla during Friday’s rally.

“I call upon the government to settle this issue as soon as possible. I urge the government to finish the this issue before the political figures of this country begin to take advantage and politicise it,” he warned.

DRP MP Hussain Mohamed stated that the local party to the agreement was a 100 percent government owned company and therefore it was up to the government to make a decision.

Hussain Mohamed added that it was “utter nonsense” for political parties in government to come out and protest against the government.

Indian High Commissioner “traitor and enemy of the Maldives and the Maldivian people”: Riza

The debate stirred up in parliament followed remarks made by Riza during an anti-GMR rally held on Friday, calling the government to terminate the agreement with GMR – a 25-year concession agreement to develop and manage the airport, and overhaul the existing terminal while a new one is constructed on the other side of the island. The agreement represents the largest case of foreign investment in the Maldives.

“Trade between the Maldives and India reaches billions. Indian tycoons have the biggest share in Maldives tourism.  Indian people are deepest in Maldivian business.  We have to protect the businesses of those who import and sell potatoes and onions from India. We also have to protect the businesses of those who import gravel and sand from India. It should not be GMR that [Mulay] should take into account,” Riza declared during the rally.

“Today, like someone who has chilli smoke on his eyes, like someone who has ants at his feet who is threatening us Maldivians, the Indian ambassador here has forgotten what his job here in Maldives is. We are not in the mood to allow him to commit the crimes he is committing in our country,” he told as the crowd roared in support.

“A diplomat’s job is to work for his country and people and not to protect the interests of one private company… He is a traitor and enemy of Maldives and Maldivian people. We don’t want these kind of diplomats on our soil,

“Today we are also calling on for something else. On the day when we get GMR out of the Maldives, Mulay must also get out of here!” Riza said.

Riza’s comments were widely reported in Indian media.

Television channel Times Now described the “vicious targeting of the Indian envoy as leaving “a bitter taste”, and sparking a “huge diplomatic row”. The story had also been picked up by the Hindu and the Indian Express.

The remarks were quickly met with concern and condemnation by the Indian High Commission, which issued a statement dismissing the Presidential spokesperson’s allegations as being “against the diplomatic protocol”.

“We have told the government of Maldives that settling issues of huge mutual interest cannot be done on public space or on stage. This has to be done through discussion,” the High Commission said in a statement.

The Indian High Commission also made it clear that India would safeguard its interests including the investments of Indian companies.

Anti-GMR armada

On Monday afternoon, three days following Riza’s remarks, the anti-GMR campaign took to the seas in an effort to increase pressure on the government to “reclaim” INIA from the Indian infrastructure giant.

A seaborne armada of about 15 dhonis carrying flags and banners circled the airport as part of an ongoing campaign to annul the contract signed between the former government and GMR to manage and develop a new terminal at INIA.

Deputy Home Minister Abdulla told Haveeru that 50,000 people have signed the petition put together by a group of NGOs seeking to annul the agreement and nationalise the airport.

In response to the large number of boats circling the airport, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) increased its seaborne presence to counter the rally, using coastguard vessels to block the entrance to the airport harbour.

MNDF Colonel Abdul Raheem told Minivan News: We had no major concern yesterday, we did not increase our military presence at the airport itself, instead we wanted to make sure that no one [from the protest] could enter the airport area from the sea.”

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla told Haveeru the protesters had no intention of disembarking at the airport and that the purpose of the rally was to “observe airport operations in the area”.

Last week Sheikh Imran gave the government a six-day ultimatum to annul the GMR agreement (by November 15).

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose government approved the deal in 2010, this month slammed statements over the “reclaiming” of the airport from GMR. Nasheed claimed such comments were “highly irresponsible”, stating that such words from the government could cause irreparable damage to the country.

The present government has continued to press to “re-nationalise” the airport, with the country’s Deputy Tourism Minister confirming to Indian media in September that the administration would not “rule out the possibility of cancelling the award [to GMR]”.


MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi calls for debate on sale of alcohol to tourists in local guest houses

Former Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, has called for debate over the sale of alcohol to tourists in local guest houses, in a bid to promote mid-market travel to local islands.

Didi made the remarks during the debate in parliament over the proposed bill calling for the blanket prohibition of pork and alcohol imports to the country, sponsored by fellow MDP MP Nazim Rashad.

During the debate, Didi raised several questions on the issue including whether alcohol should only be sold by wealthy business tycoons, such as leader of Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim and Hussain ‘Champa’ Afeef.

“When we travel to several islands to prepare our election manifesto, and when we discuss about opening guest houses, the subject of allowing sale of alcohol in guest houses with provisions excluding sale to locals has to be discussed,” she said.

She further stated that before giving such a permit, views of the religious scholars in the country must also be sought. Didi added that it was important to know from religious perspective whether such sale could be carried out in the Maldives or whether the Maldives could consume the profits made by through sale of alcohol while remaining an Islamic country.

Didi called on parliament to accept the bill proposed by MP Nazim Rashad and have it sent to a parliamentary committee, to then seek the views of religious scholars.

Unlike many other Islamic nations such as Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi where the sale of alcohol is licensed to hotels and foreign workers, the Maldives classifies alcohol as a restricted substance and bans its use and sale on ‘inhabited’ islands.

The resort islands are classified as ‘uninhabited’ under Maldivian law, although technically under the Constitution no law can be enacted against a tenet of Islam, which potentially affects those relevant to the import, sale and service of haram products such as pork and alcohol.

“Clarified and addressed”

Speaking to Minivan News, Didi said that the issue of alcohol needed to be “clarified” and “addressed”.

“If this is a religious issue, that is if Islam bans sale of alcohol, it should not be sold in the Maldives as we are a 100 percent Islamic nation. If the sale is allowed, then the question to ask is whether alcohol is needed for the tourist trade to flourish,” she said.

She added that if alcohol proved to be a vital element in the tourism sector, then the sale of alcohol should be allowed for “registered places” to which a permit is given to accommodate tourists including resorts, safari boats and guest houses.

“If the objection to the sale of alcohol is on [religious] grounds, it should not be sold in places where Maldivians reside. But Maldivians do reside on resorts as employees. If we deny Maldivians the employment opportunities in the resorts, then the income from resorts will be restricted to those who own resorts, that would give way to increase in expatriate workers and foreign currency drainage,” she explained.

Didi stressed that the bill must be admitted to a parliamentary committee and “clarify” from religious scholars the position of Islam that concerns the issue at hand.

“Every island I have travelled to, most locals who I come across want tourist guest houses on their islands and employment opportunities where they can work and still go back home to spend time with their families,” She added.

The bill calling to ban the sale of pork and alcohol was proposed in October.

Presenting the bill, Nazim argued that the import of these products violates article 10(b) of the constitution which states that “no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

“We often hear rumours that people have alcohol at home in their fridge, available any time. We’ve heard that kids take alcohol to school to drink during their break. The issue is more serious than we think, it should not be ignored,” Nazim told the house.

Consumption of intoxicants or pork products is prohibited under Islamic law.

Previous attempts

When in charge, the MDP government announced that it was considering banning pork and alcohol products in response to the December 23 coalition’s campaign to protect Islam.

Then Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair at the time said that trade of alcohol was not a business conducted by the government. He added that the government receives a relatively large amount of money through this trade from Goods and Services Tax (GST).

“The businessman running the trade of alcohol receives a huge amount of profit through this business as well,’’ he said. ‘’The government is now considering banning trade of alcohol and pork throughout the Maldives.’’

The decision was followed after a mass protest against the government held by the December 23 coalition, consisting of several religious NGOs and opposition political parties, called on the government to ban the sale of pork and alcohol among other demands.

After being asked in January for a consultative opinion over whether the Maldives could import pork and alcohol without violating the nation’s Shariah-based constitution, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the case on the grounds that the matter did not need to be addressed at the Supreme Court level.

The Court did note, however, that pork and alcohol have been imported under provisions of the Contraband Act and that there is a regulation in favor of the trade. As no law has declared the regulation unlawful, the import of pork and alcohol is indeed legal, the court claimed.

Meanwhile, Article 10 of the Constitution states that “No law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

The Constitution also states that any law not struck down by the courts is valid.

Since resorts first opened in the Maldives in the 1970s, tourism has been the core of the island nation’s economy. To accommodate the industry as well as the national Islamic faith, in 1975 the Ministry of Economic Development regulated the sale of pork and alcohol to tourist establishments (Act 4/75).

While there is no regulation or set of guidelines specific to spa operations in resorts, Article 15(a2) of the Goods and Services Tax Act stipulates that spas are legally accepted in the Maldives as tourism goods, and therefore may be operated in compliance with tourism regulations.

After its formation in 2009 the Parliament had nine months to reject any legislation which did not conform with the Constitution.

Parliament did not reject the regulation on the sale of pork and alcohol in 2009, thus allowing it to stand by default.


Budget awaits Supreme Court ruling on unpaid salaries and allowances

The proposed 2012 State Budget has been reviewed by a parliamentary committee and does not include unpaid civil servants’ salaries and allowances.

Committee Vice Chair Hinnavaru MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said inclusion of the unpaid salaries depends on a favorable Supreme Court ruling.

If the court rules in favor, a supplementary budget should be submitted for parliamentary approval within 30 days, Haveeru reports.

Inclusion prior to the ruling would render the current proposal “useless”, Solih said.

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) last month requested the committee to include the unpaid salaries and allowances (total value of Rf443,653,634.89) in the 2012 budget.

The Supreme Court is expected to publish its verdict soon.


Parliament should appoint a ‘Sergeant-at-Arms’ to enforce order, not the MNDF, says Independent MP

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed has called for parliament to appoint a ‘sergeant-at-arms’ to enforce discipline in the chamber, after weeks of disrupted sessions caused by rowdy MPs.

The situation came to a head today, with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) on standby to ensure the continued functioning of the legislature.

Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim terminated the session this morning after opposition MP Ali Arif refused to leave the chamber on instruction. The military was not deployed in the chamber.

Minivan News last week witnessed MPs from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s ‘Z-DRP’ faction of the opposition chasing Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid as he left the parliament chamber. Journalists and the public were subsequently removed from the gallery.

“I think that was a bit extreme. In my opinion it should not have got to that level,” said MP Nasheed today. “No one person or party within an institution should be capable of bringing it to a halt, be it a minister of cabinet, a judge on the bench or a member of a commission.”

At the same time, “parliament being parliament, the nature of the beast is that we allow a greater latitude for sentiment.”

The government’s decision to deploy the military to ensure order in the chamber was “not sensible”, he observed: “That is a shortcut.”

The key issue, he said, was that the new parliament had not yet applied rules in its regulation governing enforcement of discipline through the formal appointment of a Sergeant-at-Arms, as provided for.

“We have instead focused on the greater latitude and freedoms to say what we think,” he said.
“We have seen occasional sporadic disruption, and sometimes organised disruption – by both major parties.”

“That scenario has led to a cumulative ignoring of discipline. MPs used to stand in their chairs, then they went up to other members, now they go right up to the secretariat. That is a line that hasn’t been crossed yet, and discipline has deteriorated,” Nasheed said.

Despite last week’s pursuit of the Speaker, there was “no risk of physical harm”, he suggested. “I don’t think parliament has got to the level where MPs will personally inflict physical harm on the Speaker.”

Nasheed recommended the Majlis follow the example of other parliaments and allocate a force under the direction of a Sergeant-at-Arms, to enforce discipline.

“Some parliaments have a paramilitary force, while others have a unit of the army or police seconded to parliamentary security,” Nasheed explained. “They have a different uniform and answer to the speaker. Given our resources I think it is fine to take a police or military unit and second it to parliament, under a man we appoint as sergeant-at-arms.”

The disruption of parliament by the opposition MPs comes scarcely weeks after the publication a ‘Parliament Watch’ report by NGO Transparency Maldives, which noted that a quarter of all sittings held last year ended in disruption.

Parliament’s first votes of the June session saw MPs voting against a motion to cut a controversial Rf20,000 in committee allowances – an effective 33 percent salary increase that sees Maldivian MPs earning on par with those in Sweden. A quarter of the chamber was absent during the vote.

At the same time, Transparency Maldives noted that key bills of national interest, including bills vital to the state and preservation of justice, such as the evidence bill, right to information bill, political parties bill, penal code bill and drugs bill “remain stagnated at committee stage”.

MP Nasheed dismissed ruling party speculation that the present disruptions were an attempt by the opposition to delay the passing of such bills, although he acknowledged that “Yes, the agenda will suffer because of this.”

“Half the session has been consumed because of this delay over the constitution of committees, but I don’t think the opposition is deliberately trying to disrupt the agenda,” he said, suggesting that the political divide and sentiments remained deep.

The opposition MPs have complained of the manner in which the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last week gained control of parliament’s two most powerful committees, concerning finance and national security.

“Some people are objecting to the way the committees were constituted, others at the way it was endorsed in parliament,” Nasheed said.

“At 6:30pm MPs were sent an SMS message saying there would be a session at 8:30pm, lasting for five minutes, with one item on the agenda – the proposed parliamentary setup. Members did not take time look compositions, and there was no debate.”

Nasheed said that such an extraordinary vote was unnecessary, “as there was bipartisan support and it would most likely have been passed [anyway] during normal voting hours.”