MDP suspends MPs Zahir and Abdul Raheem

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has suspended MPs Zahir Adam and Abdulla Abdul Raheem’s from the party until the end of the parliamentary elections, scheduled for March.

The party’s disciplinary committee decided to suspend the two MPs for contravening a three-whip line on December 30 and voting for President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet.

Zahir and Abdul Raheem have been ordered to apologise to the party membership before January 30, and will not be allowed to contest any internal party elections – including primaries – for the next three years.

The two MPs did not stand in the MDP’s ongoing parliamentary primaries.

Chair of the disciplinary committee and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said Zahir and Abdul Raheem’s membership had been suspended to ensure the two MPs do not contest March’s parliamentary elections as independents while retaining MDP membership.

Speaking to Sun Online, Zahir said he did not accept the MDP’s disciplinary actions.

“I won this seat as an independent. I do not think there is any action that can be taken against me for any decision I make while in this seat,” he said.

In addition to Zahir and Abdul Raheem, MPs Mohamed Rasheed (Matrix Mode), Ahmed Rasheed, Abdulla Jabir, Ali Riza, and Ahmed Easa voted against the party’s whip line on December 30.

Mohamed Rasheed and Ahmed Rasheed have left the party and joined the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) respectively. If the two MPs intend to join MDP again, they must apologise to the party’s membership and 50 members each.

Jabir, Riza, and Easa stood uncontested for reselection, and had already been placed on the party ticket when they voted against the whip.

The MDP has stripped Jabir of his position as deputy leader of the parliamentary group, ordered him to issue an apology by January 30, and decided to hold a referendum in his Kaashidhoo constituency to determine whether the MDP membership approve of granting Jabir the party ticket.

Speaking to local media, Jabir has said he will stand for the referendum and said he had informed the party of his decision to vote for Yameen’s cabinet.

“The MDP had officially accepted the government. [We have to] keep the national interest in mind. I will not leave MDP. I will stay with the party,” he told Haveeru.

Riza has been reprimanded and asked to issue an apology by January 30.

Meanwhile, the party has decided not to take any action against Easa, stating that his actions on December 30 only constituted a first offense.


Committee rejects secret voting for parliamentary no confidence motions

Parliament’s General Purpose Committee has rejected procedural amendments to allow secret voting for no confidence motions, such as one presently scheduled against President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

Committee Chair MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem said the decision, which will now be forwarded to the parliament floor for approval, meant that the existing regulations outlining procedures for no confidence votes approved back in March 2010 would remain in place.

The issue had been sent to the committee by Speaker Abdulla Shahid to settle a “way forward” for no confidence motions after the Supreme Court last month struck down amendments allowing secret voting in parliament, Raheem said today.

The General Purpose Committee Committee voted four to three against the amendment proposed by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Nazim Rashaad to specify instances whereby parliament could use secret voting and hold sittings behind closed doors, Sun Online reported today.

MPs representing several coalition parties in the unity government of President Waheed, which make up the majority of the committee’s members, all voted against the amendments, with the deciding vote cast by Chairperson Raheem.

Raheem told Minivan News that amendments for secret voting had been rejected over concerns that voting behind closed doors was unconstitutional and may lead to further conflict with the Supreme Court.

Secret voting was the subject of one of two Supreme Court rulings this year to be previously criticised by opposition, government-aligned and independent MPs as an unconstitutional “challenge to the separation of powers.”

In its judgement (Dhivehi) on the constitutionality of secret ballots for no-confidence votes, the Supreme Court majority opinion contended that the rule contravened article 85 of the constitution as well as parliamentary principles and norms of free and democratic societies.

Raheem added that in line with this ruling, the committee had instead chosen to retain existing regulations on no confidence motions that had been in use since March 2010. He claimed these measures had been previously approved by bodies like the International-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Priority issue

Addressing today’s vote, government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Mausoom claimed that the rejection of the procedural issue of secret voting had not been a major concern for the party.

“We do not see this is a priority issue at the moment. We are brave enough as a party to vote transparently on these matters,” he said.

Meanwhile, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that the opposition party would not back away from trying to vote out senior government figures include President Waheed, despite failing to secure a secret ballot.

“[President] Waheed’s no confidence motion still stands, whether the vote is secret or not is irrelevant,” he claimed.

Ghafoor alleged that the party had originally sought to have a no confidence motion behind closed doors over fears MPs would be too scared to vote in the current climate following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

The MDP has maintained that the transfer of power that saw former President Nasheed resign from office following a mutiny by sections of the military and police was a “coup d’etat”.

“This is not a normal situation at present, the Supreme Court itself is part of this coup government,” Ghafoor claimed.

He said that while that the MDP had withdrawn no-confidence votes against Home Minister Mohamed Jameel and Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim on April 8 this year due to a lack of confidence in the vote, the party did not rule out rescheduling at a later date.

MDP MPs claimed upon withdrawing the no confidence motions earlier this month that the government-aligned DRP had agreed to vote in favour of the motions before reversing the decision at the eleventh hour.

MPs of the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) and DRP had voted in favour of a secret ballot for no-confidence votes in December 2012.

Ghafoor claimed that with the recent defection of Speaker Shahid to the MDP and ongoing changes to the composition of parliament, the intention remained to try and remove the defence and home minsters as well as President Waheed.

“The [no confidence] strategy is not failed yet. Though the vote is not in our favour at the moment, things are always changing.”


Jumhooree Party gets two more MPs

MPs Hassan Adil and Abdulla Abdul Raheem, formerly of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), respectively, have signed for the Jumhooree Party (JP), reports Haveeru.

Adil, who will take his parliamentary seat to a third different party after originally being elected on a Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) ticket, told Haveeru: “I felt that I could best serve the nation through JP. The present strife in MDP leadership was a reason that prompted my decision.”

The former President and Vice President of the MDP left the party last month to join the JP which, after today’s moves, controls six seats in the Majlis.

Abdullah Raheem announced he was to leave the DRP for the second time, following a brief spell with the MDP, two weeks ago. It was suggested that he would join the JP although before today he had not made his intended destination clear.

The party, headed by MP and resort owner Ibrahim Gasim, currently has just over 6000 members. It hopes to have gained 30,000 members before the next elections. This would make it the second largest party in the country.


Abdul Raheem leaves DRP for the second time

Maafannu-West MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem has announced his decision to switch parties for a third time, reports Haveeru, although the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) member has not revealed which party he intends to join.

Raheem, who is currently in Sri Lanka, said that he had informed the party of his decision on May 31.

He claimed to have been restricted from speaking in the Majlis after going against the DRP’s official line when commenting on the recent media council.

Raheem had previously left the DRP for the then-ruling MDP before re-crossing the floor at the end of March.

Haveeru believes Raheem may join the Jumhooree Party (JP) which today announced that it expects its representation in the Majlis to have increased by the end of a special signing ceremony scheduled for this Saturday.

The party’s Registrar General Mohamed ‘Inthi’ Imthiyaz told Haveeru that many MPs would be signing, adding to the four seats they currently hold, as well as 1000 new members.

Inthi promised that the JP would hold an even larger ceremony at the artificial beach in July, adding that the only limit on the flood of new party members was the time the Elections Commission (EC) took to process the forms.


War of words escalate between rival opposition factions

Main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem has accused coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) Leader Abdulla Yameen of “trying to destroy the DRP”, claiming that his opposition to the government is motivated by a desire to conceal an alleged illegal oil trade worth US$800 million.

At a DRP Galolhu centre opening on Monday night that saw the war of words escalate between the rival opposition factions, the DRP MP for Maafanu West called on Yameen to swear off claiming to hold the government responsible, because “you are more ruthless and a much bigger thief than that.”

“I will dare to say this, you are a much more ruthless and Jewish person,” he continued. “Don’t come in front of us again and say ‘hold the government accountable,’ we know that behind those devious plans lies the matter of that illegal oil trade.”

DRP Deputy Leader Ali Waheed meanwhile told supporters that they “should not run around forever considering any of our political leaders a god.”

“We don’t believe in a tribe, we believe in principle,” said Waheed, adding that origins or family descent did not matter in “today’s political reality”.

The DRP MP for Thoddoo went on to say that people came out to vote in appreciation of Gayoom’s contribution to the nation, “but it does not mean that [Gayoom] should come back, or that you should endorse your brother [Abdulla Yameen].”

In an appearance on private broadcaster Villa TV this week, Yameen defended his party against complaints of PA using the DRP’s name to organise rallies to promote his bid for the presidency.

“If by holding rallies there, Yameen is being promoted, if they accept that reality, then Thasmeen is free to hold rallies every night,” he suggested.

DRP Secretary General Abdul Rasheed Nafiz told press on Monday that the party has officially requested the Maldives Police Service, Male’ City Council and the Elections Commission (EC) to disallow activities held without official approval.

The move comes after the Gayoom faction organised a rally Saturday night in defiance of a council resolution requiring authorisation before using the party’s logo or seal.

Nafiz warned that the party would have to take the matter to court if the authorities proved unable to resolve the dispute.

In a statement from ‘Honorary Leader’ Maumoon Abdul Gayoom read out at the rally, the former President called on the DRP council – which the ‘Gayoom faction’ has boycotted in protest of Thasmeen’s “dictatorial” leadership – to retract its decision to recommend MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ahmed Ilham and Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed for disciplinary action.

Faced with similar charges that saw Deputy Leader Umar Naseer dismissed in December, Ilham however contends that “a Deputy Leader can be dismissed only if a third of the party’s congress votes to dismiss him.”

At the ‘Thasmeen faction’ rally, Waheed, one of four Deputy Leaders elected at DRP’s third congress last year, derided his former colleagues claiming that “not even ten people in our rival faction’s front rank possess A’ Level certificates, how can they run the country?”

Spilling over

Meanwhile at Monday’s parliament sitting, MPs of the rival factions exchanged heated words and accusations during the debate on an amendment to the Clemency Act.

DRP MP for Mid-Henveiru Ali Azim accused PA MPs of “using another party’s name and its flag” to hold rallies to attack and undermine the DRP leadership.

Azim was cut off by Deputy Speaker Nazim – presiding over the sitting in the absence of Speaker Abdulla Shahid – who advised the MP to stick to the topic.

Picking up where Azim left off, Ali Waheed raised the issue of appointing a new Auditor General, a post that has remained vacant for a year.

“Are you afraid [to appoint an Auditor General]? What are you afraid of?” Waheed asked the PA Deputy Leader. “Shouldn’t you appoint one [by now] if you’re not afraid of the US$800 million oil and the flags?”

In March 2010, Nazim pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the former Ministry of Atolls Development.

Waheed went on to criticise opposition leaders for being “obsessed with winning power” and “completely lacking sincerity” for solving national problems.

“Opposition parties are attacking Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed. But matters amongst us are worse than Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed, Honourable Speaker,” he said.

Echoing Waheed’s sentiments, Abdulla Abdul Raheem asserted that “you can’t do things in this country anymore the way US$800 million of oil was illegally traded using STO.”


Public Accounts Committee “destroying” economy: DRP MP

An amendment proposed by minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim to the Pension Act of 2009 allowing MPs to opt out of the retirement pension scheme is intended to “destroy the economy”, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdullah Abdul Raheem claimed at parliament yesterday.

“At a juncture when the country is facing an economic tsunami and we’re trying to save ourselves [from it] this amendment has been proposed here today, by those in the Public Accounts Committee who know very well what the economy is, with the intention of destroying the economy,” said Abdul Raheem (pg 83).

Raheem added that MPs’ participation was needed to ensure the success of the fledgling pension system.

Deputy Speaker Nazim’s amendment, backed by most MPs of the ruling and opposition parties, would also allow the President, Vice-President and Justices of the Supreme Court to opt out of the retirement pension scheme.

Concluding the debate, Nazim, who also chairs the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), revealed that 34,000 government employees had already joined the pension scheme while an additional 25,000 private sector employees had submitted applications.

Nazim argued that exempting 86 persons would not affect the success of the scheme. The amendment will be put to a vote at the next sitting on Monday.