Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed splashed water on chairs and tables inside the parliament chamber yesterday after Speaker Abdulla Shahid ordered Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) security personnel to remove the disruptive MP.
Yesterday’s sitting was adjourned 15 minutes after it began when MP Riyaz Rasheed raised points of order to object to changes made to the Security Services ‘241’ committee.
The reworked composition of the committee with the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) representation down from three seats to two after a number of MPs left the party was later approved in a vote yesterday.
After advising Riyaz to sit down four times, the Speaker adjourned the sitting until the MP was out the chamber. The Vilufushi MP left the chamber about 30 minutes later when MNDF officers were sent in.
When the sitting resumed after 12pm, Speaker Shahid explained that cleaning chairs and tables where MP Riyaz splashed water had delayed the restart. Further delays were caused by electricity problems caused by heavy rains the previous night, Shahid said.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom sent a two-page letter to President Mohamed Nasheed last week, complaining of “double standards” in dealing with disruptive MPs in the legislature.
Following the forced cancellation of three consecutive sittings of parliament last week, three MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) breakaway faction loyal to Gayoom were forcibly removed from the chamber on Wednesday on orders from Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim.
Nazim is the parliamentary group leader of the minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA), led by Gayoom’s half-brother MP Abdulla Yaameen.
According to Sun Online, in the letter Gayoom writes, “A while ago, members of parliament from MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party) continuously disrupted Majlis sessions, and you did not take any measures or actions to stop that. However, you are taking action against members of parliament who belong to DRP, PA, Jumhoory Party and [Dhivehi] Qaumee Party (DQP) when they do the same in protest. Why are you doing that?”
The former president continued, “I have told Mr. Ibrahim Hussein Zaki [Special Envoy of President Nasheed] that I do not interfere with anything that goes on in the People’s Majlis, and that I have not given any instructions or advice to any MP about anything that is happening there. This is the truth, and I have communicated this via Mr. Adam Naeem to your Cabinet Secretary.”
Four MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) breakaway Z-faction were forcibly removed from the chamber today after Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim invoked the Speaker’s authority to evict disruptive MPs by force from the parliament floor.
Z-DRP MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ilham Ahmed and Ali Arif were forcibly taken out of the chamber by MNDF officers while MP Ahmed Nihan left of his own accord.
All four MPs had been ordered to leave by the Deputy Speaker after repeatedly advising disruptive MPs to return to their seats.
“I believe we have to find a solution to Majlis sittings being stopped because of this issue,” Nazim said this morning when Mahlouf refused to leave after about 15 minutes. “I intend to go ahead with getting the MP out under article 54(g). I am adjourning the sitting to do this.”
MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) cheered and applauded the decision. The ruling party MPs had bolted the chamber doors and refused to let opposition MPs leave yesterday.
Article 54(g) of the parliamentary rules of procedure states that the Speaker has the authority to expel an MP who refuses to leave the chamber despite the Speaker’s ruling “in a way that does not undermine the sanctity of the People’s Majlis.”
Crowds of activists and supporters of both parties had gathered outside the parliament building to continue yesterday’s protest. However police had cordoned off the area and used pepper spray to control confrontations between rival supporters.
Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that while “a few people were temporarily detained,” the scuffles and disturbances were not serious and no one was arrested.
Today’s sitting was meanwhile adjourned a number of times to evict the Z-DRP MPs. However following the expulsion of Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan from the chamber, proceedings went ahead smoothly with the exception of disruptive points of order raised by some opposition MPs, notably People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed.
The Z-DRP MPs had contended that a sitting held last week to approve the composition of committees was “unlawful” as MPs were informed via text message just two hours before it began at 8.30pm.
10.00am: MNDF officers have reportedly entered the chamber and are pleading with MP Mahlouf to leave the chamber.
10.30am: Police have used pepper spray to control protestors and arrested some activists. Male’ City Councillors are reportedly among the crowd.
10:40am: Nazim’s party, minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA), alleged yesterday that the Deputy Speaker suffered an injury in a scuffle with Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs yesterday. “We consider this a criminal offence carried out by some members belonging to MDP and we condemn the act in the strictest of terms. We call on the authorities to investigate the matter,” the party said in a statement. Haveeru published a photograph of a cut finger. Nazim’s explained that his finger was caught between his desk and a chair placed by an MDP MP to block him from leaving the Speaker’s chair.
10:57am: MP Mahlouf has been removed from the chamber by MNDF officers on orders from Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim.
11:50am: Majlis sitting has been adjourned again shortly after it began when MP Ahmed Ilham was ordered to leave the chamber but refused to comply with Deputy Speaker Nazim’s order.
12:10pm: Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf has told Minivan News that the Deputy Speaker called out his name and ordered him to leave the chamber when he raised a point of order to inquire about some documents missing from his desk.
”I left an agreement and some very important documents on my desk last night and when I came this morning it was missing, so I took point of order to ask about it,” he said.
Mahlouf said that Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers came inside the chamber and “dragged me outside using force.”
“Later while I was standing outside, MDP MP Ali Waheed (former DRP deputy leader) came at me, spit in my face and hit me on the face,” he claimed.
12:16pm: MNDF officers have reportedly removed Ilham from the chamber.
12:33pm: MP Ali Arif has also been removed by MNDF officers after he refused to leave the chamber when ordered by Deputy Speaker Nazim.
1:10pm: Majlis sitting has resumed at 1pm without the three evicted Z-DRP MPs. Deputy Speaker Nazim is proceeding with the agenda items. Debate on the government’s proposed amendment to the Import-Export Act of 1979 has begun. The amendment bill is being presented to the floor by MDP MP for Maafanu South Ibrahim Rasheed.
1:42pm: Deputy Speaker Nazim has repeatedly appealed for calm after Z-DRP MPs Ahmed Nihan, Abdul Muhsin Hameed and PA MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla raised points of order to protest the removal of opposition MPs by force. MP Ibrahim Muttalib resumed speaking in the debate but a number of opposition MPs are on their feet in protest. “I don’t believe I can continue speaking in this environment,” Muttalib has said.
1:45pm: Deputy Speaker Nazim has ordered Nihan to leave the chamber and adjourned the sitting.
2:00pm: The sitting has resumed after Nihan left the chamber without being escorted out by MNDF officers.
3:30pm: Today’s sitting of parliament has just concluded. Debate on the proposed amendment to the Import Export Act was completed while preliminary debate began on the Business Profit Tax Bill.
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has expressed concern with the forced cancellations and disruptions to parliament proceedings in past weeks, urging MPs to resolve disputes through peaceful dialogue and discussion.
In a press release issued today the commission notes that the enactment of several crucial pieces of legislation was needed to ensure the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution.
“In addition, the commission calls on all parties not to disrupt parliament proceedings or gather outside the parliament building, cause unrest and create difficulties to the security forces as gatherings are prohibited in the area,” it reads.
The HRCM urged all MPs to choose dialogue and discussion over confrontational politics.