Parliament rejects resolutions on torture commission, committee allowance

Parliament yesterday (November 12) rejected resolutions proposing the formation of an inquiry commission to investigate torture in prisons and scrapping controversial MVR 20,000-a-month committee allowances.

resolution submitted by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Rasheed ‘Kubey’ to form an independent commission with foreign judges to investigate torture and custodial abuse during the 30-year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was rejected 40-28 with two abstentions.

MDP MPs voted in favour of the resolution while government coalition MPs and some independent MPs voted against the proposal.

A resolution submitted by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof to scrap committee allowances was meanwhile rejected 33-23 with 12 abstentions.

During preliminary debate on the resolution, MPs from both the MDP and government-aligned parties questioned MP Mahloof’s sincerity in submitting the allowance, with many alleging that the Galholhu South MP has one of the poorest attendance records in Majlis.


Resolution on fuel subsidies for fishermen sent to committee

A resolution (Dhivehi) submitted by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Rasheed ‘Kubey’ calling on the government to issue without delay MVR 100 million (US$6.4 million) allocated for fuel subsidies to fishermen from the 2012 state budget was sent to committee at yesterday’s sitting of parliament.

The resolution was accepted and sent to the Economic Affairs Committee for further review with 42 votes in favour and five abstentions.

On October 17, parliament’s Finance Committee approved guidelines for the Fisheries Ministry to issue the subsidy directly to fishing boat owners.

However, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim then questioned the legality of issuing the subsidy, suggesting that it could be in violation of the Public Finance Act.

Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shafeeu told Sun Online yesterday that legal issues remained to be resolved before releasing the funds.

“We requested the AG [Attorney General] for advice, because subsidies cannot be provided without a [specific] law. The AG said that if it’s identified as a basic right, it can be provided based on the former Supreme Court’s ruling. But it involves legal problems. We are prepared to provide subsidies, we just have to follow the legal procedures,” he was quoted as saying.

Shafeeu said that the subsidies could not be released until the legal issue was resolved but expressed hope that it could be done before November 15, leaving one and a half months for the ministry to release funds to 1,053 vessels registered for the subsidy.


Parliament sittings canceled indefinitely by Speaker

Speaker Abdulla Shahid has announced that parliament sittings will be cancelled indefinitely as “a peaceful atmosphere could not be assured” for sittings to proceed amidst rising political tension.

In a press statement today, Speaker Shahid said that MPs of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) confronted the Speaker in his private chambers after MDP MP Mohamed Rasheed ‘Kubey’ was forcibly removed at the beginning of today’s sitting.

“Moreover, confrontations occurred between MPs in the chamber to the point of becoming dangerous,” the statement read, adding that “an atmosphere of calm necessary to conduct sittings could not be assured” as all recent sittings had to be cancelled due to disorder.

Shahid explained that he decided to invoke the Speaker’s authority under section 213(e) of the rules of procedure to cancel sittings indefinitely as he believed a political solution had to be sought through dialogue among parliamentary group leaders.

Section 213(e) states that the Speaker has the discretion to not conduct sittings for a period “as a precautionary measure if there is fear of a certain type of danger facing the Majlis.”

Both today and yesterday’s sitting were cancelled after MDP MPs vociferously raised points of order to protest the arrest of MPs during the party’s ongoing street demonstrations and the government’s decision to alter the ‘Aasandha’ health insurance scheme to charge patients from private hospitals and clinics.

MDP MPs led by MP Ali Waheed also disrupted today’s meeting of the Finance Committee alleging that the committee had failed to investigate the government “illegally borrowing” MVR 300 million from the Bank of Maldives.


Speaking at a press conference yesterday, MDP MP Ali Waheed argued that parliament has been “paralysed” since the transfer of power on February 7 and that “nothing productive” had been done in the past six months.

MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’, parliamentary group leader of the MDP, contended that the government was violating the Public Finance Act by borrowing large sums of money without parliamentary approval.

Ibu claimed that the Finance Minister had written to parliament’s Finance Committee seeking MVR9 billion (US$583 million) for the budget as well as MVR 3 billion (US$194 million) in additional expenditure.

MP Ali Waheed meanwhile noted that MPs last month overwhelmingly rejected a Finance Committee recommendation to make changes to the Aasandha health insurance scheme.

Speaking to press after today’s sitting, MDP Chairperson and Hulhu-Henveiru MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said the party would not allow parliament to resume while the current government was altering the MDP’s flagship free universal health insurance scheme.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla claimed that the government was facing a shortfall in budgeted funds for the health insurance scheme due to increasing expenditure on the police and army.

“What we’re seeing is the result of a group of people assuming power without making any pledges to the public,” she said. “That is, they do not have to be accountable to the people. They do not have to let the people know what is going on.”


Parliament cancelled after MDP MPs protest non-inclusion of police brutality debate

Today’s sitting of parliament was cancelled after MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) vociferously protested the non-inclusion in the agenda of a motion without notice to debate police brutality.

Shortly after the sitting began, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim – presiding in the absence of Speaker Abdulla Shahid – declared that the counselor-general had advised, in reference to section 140(c) of the parliamentary rules of procedure, that MDP’s motion “by its nature was not one that must be debated after setting aside the Majlis’ work.”

Under the rules of procedure, acceptance of a motion without notice opens the parliament floor for a one-hour debate.

Counselor-General Fathmath Filza later posted a message on Facebook explaining  that, “The primary object of an urgent motion is to draw the attention of the Majlis to a recent matter of public importance having serious consequences and in regard to which a motion with proper notice will be too late.

“The Standing Orders of the Majlis require the matter proposed to be of such a character that something very grave which affects the whole country and its security has happened, and the Majlis is required to pay its attention immediately by interrupting its normal business. It is therefore, an extraordinary procedure which, if admitted leads to setting aside the normal business of the House for discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance.”

Following Nazim’s announcement, MDP MPs raised consecutive points of order objecting to the non-inclusion in the agenda. Nazim however ruled that points of order could not be raised on the issue, causing an uproar and forcing the Deputy Speaker to adjourn the sitting until 11:00am.

In his point of order, MDP MP Mohamed Riyaz argued that the issues raised in the motion were of urgent concern, as police in uniform were entering private residences to rob expatriates, and police as well as the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) had not investigated police brutality against MPs, councillors and civilians on February 7 and 8.

Soon after the sitting resumed, Nazim invoked his authority as the Majlis chair to evict MDP MPs Mohamed Rasheed and Ibrahim Rasheed from the chamber after both MPs continued angrily to raise clamorous points of order.

Nazim adjourned the sitting again at 12:00pm after the MDP MPs refused to leave the chamber.

The Deputy Speaker eventually announced the cancellation of today’s sitting at 1:00pm after only nine MPs were in attendance despite ringing the quorum bell for five minutes. Last week’s sittings were also adjourned numerous times over loss of quorum.

“I have to say with much regret that today’s sitting is over without getting any work done,” Nazim said, adding that “obstruction” of parliament sittings by one of the main parties was “very regrettable.”

Motion without notice

Following the second adjournment today, MDP MP Eva Abdulla tweeted: “Majlis refuses debate on MPS [Maldives Police Service] brutality but starts Freedom of Assembly Bill which ironically defines how much force police can use in a gathering.”

The motion without notice, submitted by MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’, states that police brutality against civilians since the contentious transfer of power on February 7 had become “systematic.”

Moreover, the motion referred to two police officers in uniform along with a group of plain-clothed police and army officers “intimidating and robbing” expatriates on June 8.

The motion noted that police officers in uniform forcibly entered the premises of the expatriate workers to rob them of their cash and mobile phones, adding that a member of the police investigation team and a Special Operations (S.O) officer were implicated in the robbery.

Inthi’s motion also expressed concern with the arrest of senior police officers on charges of contributing to a report released by two prominent MDP members on the alleged “coup d’etat” that forced the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed “under duress.”