MPs clash over amendments to Human Rights Commission Act

Pro-government MPs clashed with MPs of former coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today over amendments proposed to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) Act of 2006.

During debate on the government-sponsored amendments, JP MP for Dhagethi, Ilham Ahmed, objected to giving powers to the HRCM to suspend employees of state institutions for two weeks for not complying with the commission’s orders.

The proposed amendment to Article 26(b) of the HRCM Act also confers the authority to impose a fine of between MVR3,000 (US$195) and MVR25,000 (US$1,621) for non-compliance.

The JP deputy leader contended that the powers could be misused to either arbitrarily fine or “bring into disrepute” a state employee over “simple matters,” adding that HRCM members would be “under the control” of the majority party in parliament.

Some members of independent commissions have “for sale boards on them,” he alleged, and could be bribed to issue reports.

Responding to the criticism, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan noted that the existing law empowers the HRCM to place individuals under house arrest for three months over non-compliance with orders.

Moreover, the commission has the authority to dismiss employees of state institutions for non-compliance.

Attempts to mislead the public were “regrettable” as the government’s intention was to “provide relief”, said the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group leader.

The amendments (Dhivehi) were submitted on behalf of the government at today’s sitting of parliament by PPM MP Jaufar Daood.

The purpose of the legislation was to bring the HRCM law in line with the new constitution adopted in August 2008, he said.

Some provisions in the HRCM law – enacted two years before the ratification of the new constitution – conflicted with articles 189 through 198 of the constitution, which specifies the responsibilities and powers of the commission, Daood said.

During the debate, PPM MP Saud Hussain argued that the current administration inherited the task of amending laws for adherence to the new constitution as the previous parliament failed to do so during the past five years.

Opposition MPs, however, contended that the then-opposition parties used their provisional majority in parliament to obstruct the MDP government.

The amendments to the HRCM Act are among a number of bills drafted by the Attorney General’s Office to bring outdated laws in line with the new constitution.

The current administration’s the legislative agenda is comprised of  207 bills, including 98 new bills and 109 amendments to existing laws.

During today’s debate, JP MP for Kendhoo, Ali Hussain, meanwhile contended that parliament and not the executive should decide among candidates who apply for HRCM membership.

The president should not have “all the powers” to decide whom to appoint as members of the HRCM, he added.

PPM MP Ali Shah noted, however, that the Majlis had the authority to reject nominees forwarded by the president for parliamentary consent.


MDP, JP candidates contesting together in Gemanafushi

Government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates are campaigning together on the island of Gemanafushi in Gaaf Alif atoll for its five-member local council.

Three MDP candidates and two JP candidates have been campaigning on a joint platform ahead of next Saturday’s election.

JP Deputy Leader and Gemanafushi MP Ilham Ahmed claimed at a campaign rally last week that coalition partner Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) decided to field five candidates from the party despite an agreement within the ruling coalition for three PPM candidates and two JP candidates to contest.

He added that the JP was unable to resolve the issue through discussions with the PPM.

PPM MP Moosa Zameer meanwhile told local media yesterday (January 13) that the coalition partners were working on finding a solution to the impasse, which he stressed was a dispute between the candidates from Gemanafushi rather than the parties.


MBC audio cable severed during parliament committee meeting

An audio cable of the Maldives Broadcasting Company (MBC) was severed during a meeting of parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee yesterday (November 4).

The meeting held to hear Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz’s response to a no-confidence motion was disrupted by MPs of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives, Jumhooree Party (JP), and Dhivehi Qaumee Party.

According to a statement by the parliament secretariat, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has been asked to investigate the incident.

Following the cancellation of a parliament sitting on September 23 amidst chaos in the chamber, opposition-aligned Raajje TV showed video footage of JP MP Ilham Ahmed, also the party’s deputy leader, take out what appeared to be a plier from his pocket and cut a cable.

A cable of the state broadcaster was also severed during a live telecast of a committee meeting in January 2012, briefly interrupting the live coverage.

Following the incident, MP Ilham was accused of cutting the cable by MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party.


Supreme Court concludes hearing concerning MP Abdul Hameed’s disqualification from public office

The Supreme Court has concluded hearings of a suit filed by Presidential Commission member Abdulla Haseen, to determine whether independent MP Abdul Hameed’s seat in the parliament is vacant.

The Criminal Court has previously ruled that MP Abdul Hameed was guilty of corruption, a verdict that disqualifies him from holding public office as an MP.

According to the constitution, any MP sentenced to a term longer than one year will be disqualified and his seat will be vacant. Hameed was sentenced to 18 months banishment.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ilham Ahmed, Jumhoory Party (JP) Youth Wing Leader Moosa Anwar, Adam Asif of Laamu Atoll Gan, and Hameed requested the court authorise them to speak in the hearing and were granted permission.

Speaking in the court, Hameed’s lawyer said that he still had a right to appeal any decision, and requested the Supreme Court declare that such a suit could be conducted.

Ilham’s lawyer said that following the ruling of Criminal Court, Hameed’s seat was vacant, and claimed that the parliament was deadlocked because of Hameed’s attempt to sit and take part in the parliament sessions.

He also requested the Supreme Court declare that Hameed could not attend parliament sittings prior to the conclusion of the case.

Asif’s lawyer also contested  that Hameed’s seat was now vacant, adding that after the Criminal Court’s ruling, Hameed did not qualify to be an MP.

Concluding the hearing, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz said that there will no more hearings of the suit and that the court will now conclude the case.