Parliament stalled by contradicting proposals to amend Armed Forces Act

Two contradicting amendments to the Armed Forces Act of Maldives were proposed at the People’s Majlis yesterday.

In May last year, Kulhudhufushi South MP Mohamed Nasheed submitted two bills to amend the Armed Forces Act and Police Act, respectively.

If passed, the president would need approval from the parliamentary committee on security services before appointing or dismissing the heads of both the army and police.

During the final reading of the bill yesterday, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP for Hanimaadhoo Ahmed Mujthaz proposed an amendment which would require parliamentary approval for the appointment of the army chief.

Currently, only President Mohamed Nasheed has the power to appoint or dismiss high-ranking military officials.

If the bill is passed with the amendment, a Majlis committee will review the president’s nominee, and he or she will be approved by a majority vote on the floor. If the president wants to dismiss the army chief, the same committee will evaluate the reasons and present a report to the floor before a vote.

After the vote on the amendment was tied at 35 on each side, Speaker Abdullah Shahid cast the tie-breaking vote, siding with DRP’s proposal to make parliamentary approval mandatory.

Another amendment to the bill was proposed by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Didi which would counteract the DRP amendment.

Didi proposed that the power to appoint and dismiss the army chief should remain solely under the president’s discretion. This amendment passed at 35-33 votes.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said “the president should have the discretion to choose the army chief”, adding that the bill was only passed because “the speaker took their side—he belongs to DRP.”

He said the president’s point of view was that “it is dangerous to politicise the defense forces,” and he hoped the “Majlis will come around to that [same] view.”

Zuhair noted that in a “worst-case scenario, the President will send [the bill] back for reconsideration.”

State Minister of Defense, Muiz Adnan, said “the president is the Commander-in-Chief and according to the Constitution he should have the power to make decisions.”

When asked why this amendment had been proposed in the first place, DRP MP Rozaina Adam said “if the president was treating everybody fairly, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

She said it became an issue “because we don’t trust the government to protect everyone’s rights.”

MDP MP Sameer said his party is not making any comments since the amendments are still being considered by the speaker. But in his own opinion, “the president should have the power.”

He said the speaker is “supporting the parliament having the power”, support he called “a conflict of interest” because “we know he is picking sides when he is meant to be impartial.”

The sitting was stopped when numerous MPs raised points of order after the conflicting amendments were passed.

Parliament will renew the issues on Monday, when the speaker will decide if there will be another vote or if he has made a decision on the issue.