Opposition MPs continue Majlis protests

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have continued protests at the People’s Majlis, disrupting proceedings for the fifth consecutive parliamentary sitting since the Majlis opened on March 2.

However, ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) accepted an amendment to the Prisons and Parole Act amidst opposition protests. The amendment, submitted by Gemanafushi MP Jameel Usman, bars individuals serving prison sentences from holding a leadership position within political parties or other associations.

MDP MPs have been protesting over the arrest and terrorism charges against opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

If the amendment is passed and if Nasheed is convicted, it could effectively strip Nasheed of his presidency with the MDP and his membership.

When Majlis began at 9am, MDP MPs gathered at the secretariat’s desk calling for the the immediate release of President Nasheed and other political prisoners including former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

Some MPs were blowing stadium horns while MDP MP Ali Azim was calling for Nasheed’s release through a megaphone.

Crossing the line

Speaking to Minivan News, PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said that he understands the opposition’s need to protest, however saying that they are “crossing the line.”

“Freedom of expression is granted to fullest extent on the People’s Majilis floor,” said the Vilimalé MP.

“Members are allowed to express themselves freely unless they contradict a tenet of Islam. However, that does not mean members are allowed to do whatever they want on the floor,” he continued.

Nihan said MPs should follow due procedure and lodge a complaint at the secretariat’s desk, saying that the floor will become a “battleground” if the opposition MPs keep on protesting every day.

“We understand their need to protest. Their leader is under arrest and standing trial so it is obvious that they would protest. But we want them to do it in a manner which does not prevent parliament proceedings,” Nihan said.

On March 2, ruling party Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs also protested, with several carrying placards which read: “Nasheed deserves to be in prison,” “Nasheed supports terrorism” and “MDP must learn democracy.”

MDP MP Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy said that the opposition would protest “indefinitely” until the state addresses the issues highlighted at the parliamentary protests.

“The current defense minister has been accused of being a terrorist. The most popular politician is being tried at a Kangaroo Court and is going to be put in jail. We will not stop the protests,” Fahmy said.

Fahmy accused PPM members of inciting violence within the parliament.

Meanwhile, PPM MP Ahmed Thoriq has written to the Parliament speaker Abdulla Maseeh alleging that former PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof hit PPM MP Riyaz Rasheed during the presidential address on March 2.

Nihan also accused MDP Medhuhenveiru MP Ali Azim of hitting Nihan with his elbow during yesterday’s parliamentary session. Fahmy has dismissed claims of assault as lies.

Related to this story

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Nasheed calls proposed changes to Supreme Court bench unconstitutional

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called the plans to reduce the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench from seven to five unconstitutional.

While speaking to the press before departing for a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rallys in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Nasheed accused President Abdulla Yameen of trying to stack the bench in his favor.

“The constitution states the required procedure to bring changes to the bench of the Supreme Court. After extensive legal council we have deliberated that the proposed changes would be unconstitutional,” said Nasheed.

The amendments brought to the parliament by MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef have been rejected by the party after the its national executive council convened and voted that the amendments were against its policies.

Speaking about the amendments, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said Shareef had not consulted the party before he submitted the changes.

However, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has signaled the party’s support for the amendments with parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said all ruling party MPs would support the proposal and that the PPM would welcome judicial reform.

Presenting the bill to the parliament Shareef said that he believed the number of judges on the apex court was too high for a country the size of the Maldives.

Nasheed had previously said that changing the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench would not amount to judicial reform.

Meanwhile, MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – who has announced intentions to contest in the MDP’s 2018 presidential primary – appealed for pro-government MPs to cooperate with the party’s efforts to reform the judiciary.

Moosa described the formation of the current Supreme Court bench as a “shameful” political bargain between the MDP and then–opposition parties in 2010.

Nihan praised both Shareef and Moosa and suggested that the number of judges on the apex court was worth considering.

Former President Nasheed also reiterated party concerns with the annual state budget for the upcoming year which the party has previously labelled as aimless and serving only for administrative purposes.

The Supreme Court has recently been involved in numerous controversies both in and out of the court room.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court used a ‘suo moto’ proceeding – allowing the Court to act as both the plaintiff and the judge – against the Elections Comission (EC).

EC president Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz were subsequently charged with contempt of court and disobedience to order, being sentenced to six months in jail after the court used testimony given in the People’s Majlis independent commission’s oversight committee.

More recently, the court employed a similar ‘suo moto’ proceeding against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) after it criticised the judiciary in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the UN Human Rights Council.

The court charged the HRCM with undermining the constitution and sovereignty of the Maldives by spreading lies about the judiciary.  It said that the UPR submission– based on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul – was “poorly researched”, “irresponsible” and “dangerous”.

Knaul’s report had detailed the pressing need for judicial reform, noting that the five-member transitional Supreme Court had been replaced by a seven-member permanent bench in 2010 with “no legal or constitutional basis”.

June this year also saw Judge Ali Hameed – a sitting judge at the Supreme Court – cleared of a sex tape scandal after three recordings surfaced allegedly showing Ali Hameed engaging in sexual acts with three different woman.


PPM and MDP elect parliamentary group leaders

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have elected leaders of their parliamentary groups.

Ruling PPM elected MP for Villimalé constituency Ahmed Nihan in an election held on Monday. MP for Vilifushi Riyaz Rasheed was elected as a deputy. Nihan is now the majority leader as PPM holds a majority in the parliament with 38 MPs.

MP for Hinnavaru constituency Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Solih was elected uncontested to head the opposition MDP’s parliamentary group in an election on Sunday. He is now the Majlis’ minority leader.

MP for Meedhoo constituency Rozaina Adam was elected deputy PG leader of the 25 member MDP group.

The 14 MP Jumhooree Party (JP) also elected their MP Gasim Ibrahim as parliamentary group last week.

The 18th People’s Majlis convened on May 28.


“I am a ‘gunda’. I will show that to you”: PPM councillor threatens deputy mayor

A recording understood to be of suspended Malé City Councillor Ahmed Mamnoon, reveals the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) member threatening Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed.

“What are you trying to do, filing my case with the Local Government Authority, what you all are trying to do is not very nice, you will not be able to anything,” a voice believed to be Mamnoon says in the tape.

“You can’t do whatever you want here, you see, I am not a politician, I am a ‘gunda’ [thug/gangster]. I will show that to you.’’

The recording aired on Raajje TV a day after the Local Government Authority (LGA) decided to suspend Mamnoon for five days following his alleged use of offensive language to address Shifa.

Minivan News understands that the recording relates to a second incident, after the initial complaint was filed.

“The incident is regrettable. Not only because this is the council, but this type of incidents should not occur at any working place,” said Mayor Mohamed Shihab today.

“We will keep informing the concerning government institutions about all these incident.”

In the video, the voice alleged to be Mamnoon can be heard saying that Shifa will not be able to take any action against “Hameed” and that, if any action was taken against “Hameed”, action would be taken against Shifa as well.

Controversial Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed has been in the headlines again this week, with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) releasing a statement criticising authorities’ failure to pursue the multiple crimes of which the judge is accused.

The 11-member Malé City Council is currently dominated by the MDP. Shifa was formerly the minister of education, while Mayor Shihab was home minister, during the administration of Mohamed Nasheed.

“Go and take action if you can,” continued the voice in the recording. “We took the Dharubaaruge chairs. In the future, if there is anything that belongs to Dharubaaruge, we’ll take it. We can’t be stopped.’’

The ruling PPM government has continued its predecessors moves to retrieve public areas granted to Malé City Council, with police moving in to assist the takeover of the Dharubaaruge convention center earlier this month.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said today that he was not aware of the incident.


Supreme Court orders Elections Commission to restart re-registration process

The Supreme Court opened at midnight on Thursday to issue a ruling ordering the Elections Commission (EC) to restart the entire elections re-registration process.

“[The Supreme Court] orders the Elections Commission to start anew the process of compiling the voter registry and abide by the Supreme Court guidelines in the re-registration process for those who individuals who wish to vote in a location other than their place of domicile, and start anew re-registration process according to new procedures, disregarding previous re-registration,” read a verdict posted on the Supreme Court’s website.

The court also ordered the Elections Commission to give candidates the choice whether to stay on the ballot paper or withdraw from the election, contrary to the EC’s previous announcement.

“Elections Commission’s announcements (A) EA-2013/539 and (A) EA-2013/540 [concerning the re-registration process] contravene the guidelines put forth in the Supreme Court Verdict no 2013/SC-C/42,” read the ruling, signed by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz.

“The Elections Commission must without further justifications proceed according to the guidelines put forth in the Supreme Court Verdict no 2013/SC-C/42,” the ruling stated.

The PPM today sought an order at the Supreme Court blocking Nasheed’s legitimacy to contest the election on the grounds of his criticising the judiciary and being “irreligious”, although this appeared to split the party, with State Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon declaring it was “not the right time”.

According to local media, the PPM also requested the court order the annulment of the voters’ list used in the first round on September 7, threatening that the party would not accept the result if the existing list was used. Prior to the first round, the PPM had called on the Elections Commission to make the voter registration process “more lenient”, requesting the EC not to reject voter registration forms missing details such as the name of a voter’s parents or a phone number, that could not be verified during random checks.

The 17 member Commonwealth election observation team in particular praised the final voter registry, describing it as “accurate and robust”.

“Fears expressed by some political parties regarding possible large numbers of deceased voters and voters registered in the wrong geographic area seem to be unfounded, based on the low incidence of election day complaints,” said the group’s head, former Prime Minister of Malta Dr Lawrence Gonzi.

The verdict

In its verdict on the Jumhooree Party’s case annulling the first round of the election, the court ordered the EC to hold an election by October 20, requiring the commission to prepare for polls as the government shuts down for the Eid al-Adha break.

The EC scheduled the election for Saturday October 19, sending the ballots for printing on October 9 and opening the list on October 10 for re-registration.

In a statement on October 9, Transparency Maldives noted that the Elections Commission had yet to receive the details of the Supreme Court verdict regarding the supposed discrepancies noted in the secret police report, between the voter registry and voting records (such as the claimed ID card number mismatches, permanent address mismatches, and name mismatches).

The Supreme Court’s majority ruling this week to annul the first round contradicted the positive assessments of more than a thousand local and international election observers, and hinged on a confidential police report submitted to the court claiming that 5623 votes were ineligible.

The report has not been made public and the legal counsel of the Elections Commission was never given the opportunity to present a counter argument.

In the majority verdict, Supreme Court Judge Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi also declared that if a new president was unable to be sworn in on conclusion of the presidential term on November 11, the “principle of continuity of legitimate government would override any repercussions faced by failure to adhere to constitutional deadlines.”

The latest Supreme Court ruling follows a statement from UK Foreign Secretary William Hague stating that “It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections be free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited.”

“ It is important now that the democratic process proceeds in accordance with the Constitution,” Hague stated, calling on presidential candidates to respect the democratic process “and create conditions for free, fair elections.”

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that he believed the latest order would mean additional delays to the voting, currently scheduled for October 19.

With growing international pressure for voting to take place without further delay, Nihan claimed that the party believed that the 24 hours for re-registration provided by the EC would have been a “disaster” for the election.

“Even here in Male’ no one was aware of what was going on [regarding re-registration],” he said, adding that the occasion of the Eid holidays had meant voters were expected to be more likely to want to vote on different islands from where they were registered: “I am sure it is important to let everyone else have the right to vote in free and fair elections. The verdict clearly says the EC has to perform within guidelines,” he said.

Nihan claimed the views of various international groups such as the UN and Commonwealth reflected the MDP’s stronger connections with foreign governments, whom he accused of believing the views of the opposition party without listening to others.

“The international community are champions of democracy and we have to thank them for efforts to spread it throughout all corners of the globe,” he said. “However, the EU and Commonwealth must make sure they are getting the proper and full information from all sides including the government and opposition as well.”
Meanwhile earlier today Sun Online reported that one of the five EC members, Ogaru Ibrahim Waheed, had suddenly resigned.

According to Sun no reason was given, although ongoing death threats received by the Elections Commission (EC)’s permanent staff and polling station officials have prompted the commission to file a report with the Maldives Police Service (MPS).


Parliament cancelled over convicted MPs’ attendance

Parliament was adjourned 15 minutes into the sitting yesterday after opposition MPs protested the presence of Independent MP for Kaashidhoo Ismail Abdul Hameed, who was convicted of corruption on August 29 and sentenced to one year and six months banishment.

Hameed had since appealed the Criminal Court verdict at the High Court, which held a first hearing yesterday.

Responding to points of order raised by MPs Ilham Ahmed, Ali Arif and Ahmed Mahlouf objecting to his presence in the chamber, Hameed said he was “on holiday” from October 2 to November 22.

“I don’t believe there is any legal obstacle to my attending the Majlis,” he said.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid said parliament had not informed the Kaashidhoo MP that he could not attend sittings, noting that Hameed had the right to appeal the Criminal Court verdict.

After a series of consecutive points of order from both opposition and ruling party MPs, Shahid adjourned the sitting to discuss the issue with parliamentary group leaders.

Parliament Secretary General Ahmed Mohamed confirmed to Minivan News that MPs were informed that today’s sitting was cancelled to allow the Speaker to resolve the dispute through dialogue with the Majority Leader and Minority Leader.

A decision had not yet been made on going ahead with tomorrow’s sitting, he said.

Under article 73(c)(3) of the constitution, MPs found guilty of a criminal offence “and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months” would be stripped of their seat.

Article 78 of the constitution meanwhile states that “whenever there is a vacancy among the members of The People’s Majlis, an election shall be held within sixty days from the date of the vacancy. A by-election shall not be held within six months prior to a general election.”

Brawl in committee room

MP Ilham AhmedMeanwhile, a brawl broke out between MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs at an Economic Committee meeting yesterday.

PPM Media Coordinator and MP for Vili-Male’ Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that MDP MP Ibrahim Rasheed threw a glass at MP Ilham.

“Bonda hit Ilham with the glass when he said that the [committee] meeting will unlawful if it was continued with MP Abdul Hameed,” Nihan said. ”He was injured and was admitted to ADK hospital after his chest was continuously bleeding.”

MP for Maafanu South Ibrahim Rasheed however denied the allegations and accused Ilham of “misleading the public.”

”He made that up and it is a big lie,” Rasheed said. ”I did not hit him.”

Speaking to private broadcaster Villa TV from ADK hospital yesterday, Ilham said yesterday’s sitting became heated over the convicted MP’s presence and the matter of a motion without notice submitted by opposition MPs regarding the MDP protest outside the Supreme Court not being tabled in the agenda.

“After the sitting was adjourned, we went to the committee,” he explained. “Even though we’re not members of the Economic Committee, we do attend meetings and speak there. We can speak even though we’re not members. We just can’t participate in voting. I said this is unlawful [with Hameed in attendance] and committee meetings could only take place after this is solved.”

Ilham said his remarks led to acrimonious verbal sparring between MPs, during which Bonda got up and threw the glass at him.

Secretary General Ahmed Mohamed told Minivan News today that a police forensic team arrived at parliament shortly after the incident and commenced an investigation.


PPM Submits 3600 forms to Elections Commission

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has submitted 3600 forms to the Elections Commission, 600 more more than the amount required to register a political party.

Media Coordinator of PPM and MP Ahmed Nihan said there were many more party registration forms filled which had not been submitted today, so as to hasten the registration procedure.

“If too many registration forms are submitted at once it will take a long time for the Elections Commission to approve all the forms. We just want to hasten the registration procedure and finish it soon so we can get on with our next steps,’’ Nihan said.

Nihan claimed that “many Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members” and members from other parties have signed up for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s new party, PPM.

‘’The additional 600 forms were because sometimes due to information errors or other errors forms get rejected, so as a backup to replace any form that might get rejected,’’ Nihan said adding that he believes that “all forms are genuine”.

Nihan said today at the Elections Commission building none of the commission members showed up to meet the senior PPM figures, and said he regretted the incident.

‘’When some particular persons go to register a political party, the commission members take them to the hall and serves food and juice with a warm welcome. It is very unfair,’’ He said. ‘’It is we who appointed them for the commission and today the commission members were like a selfish soothsayer who pops his head out from the window when a normal person goes to see him.’’

He said that several parliamentarians and other senior figures in the PPM went today to the parliament to submit the relevant forms. Currently there were 14 MPs in the party and “very soon” the number would reach 20 or 21, he added.

President of the Elections Commisison Fuad Thaufeeq today told Minivan News that it was true that no commission member met with the PPM delegation.

‘’The commission has always treated all political parties equally and has applied the same procedure on all the parties, we always meet with senior officials of parties when the first 50 forms are submitted to the commission, and we met with senior officials from the PPM when they submitted the first 50 forms,’’ Fuad said.

Fuad explained that the forms will always be received by the staffs at the reception.

‘’The next time commission members meet with senior officials will be the day when the registration process is concluded and the 3000 forms are approved,’’ he said. ‘’That is the procedure we apply for all the political parties.’’

He said that the commission was free from influence and pressure and could not be pressured or influenced.


PPM to submit more than 3000 forms to EC in next two days

“Surprisingly more people than expected” have signed up to the former President’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), the party’s spokesperson and MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News today, adding that the required number of 3000 had been reached.

The PPM has been conducted a recruitment drive to obtain the 3000 signatures needed to officially form the party before the Elections Commission. Signatories are legally required to withdraw their membership from other political parties, such as the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), for the new membership to be valid.

“Currently we are doing the work of arranging the forms in order, re-checking the filled forms to see whether all the forms are filled correctly and entering the data and filing the forms in our office,’’ Nihan said. ‘’It will not take long before we submit the forms to the Elections Commission (EC), but because the commission will dismiss any form filled incorrectly or forms with missing information, we are just double checking and preparing them for submission.”

Nihan said the party expected to submit the forms tomorrow or Tuesday.

“On the 8th of this month the commission authorised us to commence work to find the 3000 signatures, and the next day was supposed to be the day we officially began recruitment,” he explained, “but then the Hiriya incident occurred and we took four days to mourn and postponed all the work.’’

Nihan said the number of people signing up for the PPM was so many “because there are figures in the party who have gained the confidence of citizens.”

“We have former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and other senior figures of the former government who have served the nation for 30 years, and they have brought much development to the country and there are many people who love them,” he said, adding that all such people were joining PPM.

Nihan said that PPM’s policy was to allow youth to progress, and to “always give high priority to the voice of the citizens.”

“In this battle we will bring forward the citizens and all we will give opportunities for the young persons in our party to progress,’’ he said. ‘’We are knocking on the doors of people who think it is time to bring a change in their lives.’’

When former President Gayoom announced that he was about to register a new party in the name of Progressive Party of the Maldives, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that he would doubted whether Gayoom’s party would attracted enough people form a Friday prayer group – minimum of 40.

Seven MPs in the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) resigned to form the new party after claiming disillusionment with the party’s leadership.


MDP MP presents resolution demanding investigation into blackmarket sale of oil to Burma

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa today presented a resolution to the parliament demanding the investigation of Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his half-brother Abdulla Yameen, for allegedly buying subsidied oil from OPEC and selling it on the international blackmarket to Burma.

The previously-aired allegations date from Yameen’s time as Trade Minister and head of State Trading Organisation (STO). Yameen is now an MP and leader of the opposition-aligned People’s Alliance (PA) party, and has insisted that any such trading was legal and that allegations of impropriety were politically-motivated.

In the motion, Musthafa claimed that Chief National Correspondent of CNN-IBN Sumon Chakrabarti had outlined how the fraud was conducted to local media, and provided evidence.

His resolution requests an investigation into what it describes as “the biggest corruption case in the history of the Maldives”.

Issues relating to the Singapore-based joint venture that allegedly carried out the deal, Mocom Trading Pvt Ltd, which was used established to carry out this fraud, were first raised by audit firm KPMG, Musthafa noted in the resolution.

The resolution states that later in 2004, audit firm Price Water House Coopers also audited the STO.

“This year the government handed the auditing to [forensic accountancy firm] Grant Thornton which found that the two audit reports contained legitimate concerns in their reports,’’ the resolution said.

If passed, the resolution would oblige parliament to investigate the matter. It states that it is the legal duty of the parliament to look in to that matter as the allegations concern commercial crime as high-level corruption.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said he fully supported such an investigation as it would “reveal the truth of it to the people.”

‘’There have been so many accusations against Gayoom and so far none of them have been proven,’’ Nihan said. ‘’This government has already spent US$2 million on bribing the journalist Chakrabarti and investigating the matter using other methods,” he alleged.

Nihan said Musthafa was “the black sheep” of the MDP Parliamentary Group, and accused the party of “often using him to present such resolutions and bills.”

‘’He always tell us outside the parliament that his policy is ‘no money, no talk,’’ he said. ‘’He must have been given some amount of money and if someone else gave more he will withdraw it, that is how he works.’’

Nihan said that similar allegations had been made by the current Home Minister Hassan Afeef that Gayoom took US $80 million dollars in tsunami aid given by the Qatari government.

‘’The court found Afeef guilty of defamation,’’ Nihan said. ‘’There are many such accusations against Gayoom.’’