Majlis shutdown to ‘block changes to new penal code’

Sittings of the People’s Majlis were suspended this week to block MPs from submitting changes to the long awaited penal code, which is due to come into force at midnight tonight.

The Supreme Court has compiled a 150-page draft of a new bill to overhaul the modern penal code. Explaining the decision to suspend sittings, a senior ruling party MP said: “We will not allow the judiciary to dictate laws and overstep its mandate.”

Minivan News has obtained some excerpts of the judiciary proposed bill. The apex court wants to set the age of criminal responsibility to seven years and jail terms and hefty fines for defaming state employees.

The new penal code, passed by the Majlis in 2014, was due to come into force in April this year. But the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) delayed its enforcement until July 16, claiming more time is needed to raise public awareness.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil and Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin had opposed the delay. Judges have been working on a draft since then, multiple sources have told Minivan News.

The new penal code is to replace a law adopted in 1968. It sets the age of criminal responsibility at 15 years. Offenders between 15-18 years will be prosecuted by the Juvenile Court, and will receive lighter sentences.

While the draft proposed by the apex court also sets lighter terms for children between 7-18 years, it gives judges the discretion to mete out full punishments provided in the Islamic Shariah.

The apex court also wants to introduce hard labor in jail as a punishment.

Defamation of a state employee by using the media is punishable by up to eight months in jail or a MVR15,000 fine. Providing misleading statements about court proceedings is punishable by up to three years in jail and a maximum fine of MVR30,000.

Reporters will have to bear criminal responsibility for translating or reproducing statements issued by international bodies that defame state employees, the draft said. Meanwhile, courts can also shut down media outlets if defamatory statements are published.

If an unmarried man has extramarital intercourse, he will be sentenced to a year under house arrest and 100 lashes. An unmarried woman who simply invites extramarital sex is sentenced to 100 lashes and a year under house arrest.

The apex court’s draft also criminalizes abortion, unless it is carried out to save the mother’s life or for a reason stated in another law. The new penal code legalizes abortion up to three months after conception, and makes exemptions for cases of rape even after the three-month cut off.

Terrorism is loosely defined as committing murders, kidnappings, hijacking of vessels, damaging diplomatic missions with the intent of undermining the constitution or influence government policy. Offenders can be sentenced to 10-15 years in jail.

Other offences in the draft include leaving goods on the street or placing chimneys or drainage systems in a manner that disturbs others. The offence is punishable with up to three months under house arrest and a fine.

Meanwhile, if the guardian of a mentally challenged person “sets them loose in a public area and they go on to disturb or cause harm,” the guardian will be punished with three months of house arrest and a fine of up to MVR2,000.

A source familiar with the apex court’s draft said it will undo ten years of work put into modernizing the Maldives’ criminal laws.

The existing penal code of 1968 has been criticized as draconian, outdated and not in line with the Maldives’ obligations under international human rights conventions.

With the new penal, the Maldives will become the first Islamic country to adopt a criminal law compatible with both the Islamic Shariah and international human rights standards.

The Maldivian judiciary has been widely criticized over politicization and the lack of academic qualification of sitting judges. The new penal code will regulate judge’s discretion in meting out punishments.

The landmark law brings together provisions in some 90 laws that specify criminal offences under one law.


“I only fear Allah, not the People’s Majlis,” says vice president

Vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, in the first public response to his party’s attempt to impeach him, said he only fears Allah, and not the People’s Majlis or its MPs.

The no confidence motion submitted to the parliament today by 61 MPs is a motion submitted by MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and their associates, and not by the people, Jameel said in a statement publicized on Twitter.

“It is a violation of the people’s rights when a party or an organization, at their whim, without any legal basis, removes an officer directly elected by them,” he said.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty. The ruling party is seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Jameel, who has remained silent on the charges against him, today accused PPM MPs of greed. They have arbitrarily amended the constitution for their personal interests, he said.

The parliament last week passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set new age limits of 30 – 65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously said candidates must be 35 years of age.

The opposition’s backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived to be part of a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The parliament yesterday approved changed to its standing orders to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president. The new rules states the parliament can vote to remove the vice president without an investigation by a select committee.

Below is the full translation of Jameel’s statement:

“The no confidence motion submitted to the People’s Majlis against me today is a no confidence motion submitted by the PPM parliamentary group and their associates. I say this because Article 4 of the Constitution states that all the powers of the state of the Maldives are derived from, and remain with, the citizens. The vice president is elected through a direct vote of the Maldivian public. It is a violation of the people’s rights when a party or an organization, at their whim, without any legal basis, removes an officer directly elected by them.

Those who amended the constitution, in recent days, said the amendment was brought with the best of intentions and for the good of the nation. Their intent and motivation is now clear to the Maldivian people. The constitution, by the will of the people, dictates all the legal principles and the laws by which the Maldivian state must be governed. But, it is now very clear that all these principles, and the checks on power are being changed for a particular individual or in the interests of a certain group.

The premeditated manner and the motivation behind the undermining of the powers of the people and the changes to the governing structure are now apparent, the deception is clear. Although all the powers of the state are derived from the citizens, it is now clear to the Maldivian people that an individual or an organization will use their powers to abrogate a decision made through the direct vote of the people. There is no reason to think they will not do so again.

In this holy month of Ramadan, the Maldivian people and the nation are witnessing the greed of a few. The leaders of this attempt to undermine the people’s powers must remind themselves of the powers of the almighty and omnipotent Allah. I seek strength from Him. I only fear Him, not the People’s Majlis or the Members of Parliament.

I would like to remind the Maldivian people and myself of Verse 46 of Surah Al-Baqarah: “And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah].”

The constitution states that the vice president must be given a 14-day notice and the right to answer the charges before the resolution is put to a vote.

Minivan News was unable to contact Jameel at the time of going to press.

Jameel left to Sri Lanka after President Abdulla Yameen authorized a medical leave. A senior PPM MP told Minivan News yesterday that Jameel was due to return three days ago, but instead departed for the UK without informing the president’s office.

The MP said President Abdulla Yameen has asked the vice president to return to the Maldives and answer to the party’s parliamentary group about his impeachment.

“We have tried contacting him repeatedly to ask him to meet with the parliamentary group. But he has not responded. We are trying to bring our problems to him and trying to find a mutual solution,” said the PPM MP.

Some opposition politicians claim President Abdulla Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life threatening surgery. The government has denied rumours of the president’s health.


Comment: In Jameel’s defense

The vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed left the Maldives last week amid preparations by his Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) to impeach him. After two days in Sri Lanka, Jameel reportedly left to the UK on Saturday without President Abdulla Yameen’s permission.

Some ruling party MPs say Jameel has fled the country.

The PPM’s justifications for Jameel’s impeachment are vague. Some MPs have publicly accused him of disloyalty and incompetence. Others have said tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb is more suited for the job. “We do not want to hide what we want to do anymore. We are going to appoint tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb as the vice-president before July 26,” one PPM MP has declared.

Meanwhile, rumors that President Yameen is fatally ill continue to persist. Opposition politicians say Yameen is seeking a trusted deputy ahead of a major surgery.

What is going on?

Impeaching a state’s vice president is no small matter.

Jameel was elected. The election may not have been free or fair, but its outcome was largely accepted. By many accounts, Jameel was the face of the PPM’s presidential campaign. Yameen was rarely seen in public, but Jameel walked door-to-door. He visited all the islands of the Maldives. Removing a vice-president amounts to overturning an election. It should only be undertaken for serious dereliction of duty.

If we allow Jameel to be voted out without debate, without a transparent and fair review of the charges against him, we are acquiescing to the most obscure of dictatorships.

Call your MP. Write letters to President Yameen. Demand answers.


The Maldives constitution institutes several safeguards protecting the president and the vice-president from removal at the parliament’s whims. Article 100 lays three ground for impeachment: direct violation of a tenet of Islam or the law, misconduct unsuited to the executive or the inability to perform the responsibilities of office.

The constitution also says the Majlis may set up an investigative committee to review reasons for impeachment, and grants the accused the opportunity for defense. It further states that a two-third majority, or 57 votes of the current 85-member house, is required to remove the president or the vice-president.

The Majlis is expected to eliminate one of these safeguards today. PPM wants to amend the Majlis standing orders so that it will not be required to investigate charges against the vice president.

It is true that the constitution does leave the matter of setting up an investigative committee at the parliament’s discretion. However, even if an investigation does not take place, MPs must inform and convince us as to why Jameel must go.

Keep in mind, an impeachment is not the same as a vote of no confidence.

In parliamentary systems, prime ministers must enjoy the support of the majority to achieve office. The governments they head can fall if they lose a vote of no confidence, so they must preserve that support to stay in office.

But impeachment is a feature of presidential systems and requires a finding of extraordinary misconduct. As the separation of the executive and legislature is a fundamental aspect of the system, the impeachment process should never be used as a legislative vote of no confidence on the president or vice-president’s conduct or policies.

Impeachable offenses

Does the PPM’s charges against Jameel constitute impeachable offenses?

Speaking to Haveeru, one senior official accused Jameel of building an independent power-base by spending time with independent MPs. PPM parliamentary group leader MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that Jameel had failed to publicly defend the government ahead of an opposition’s protest on May 1. Still others have said he failed to show progress in the health and education sectors.

Meanwhile, Adeeb in a text message to PPM MPs this weekend, said that President Yameen needed to be given room “to rule this nation without internal resistance,” and said “I have witnessed how difficult it is for HEP Yameen to rule with many frictions.”

These charges fall far short of the standards prescribed in the constitution. Vague utterances on loyalty do not make a case for impeachment.

If MPs removed the president or the vice president, merely for conduct of which they disapprove of, it would violate their constitutional responsibilities.


Some justify the vote to impeach Jameel by arguing that the position of the vice-president is not important. It is true that the vice president is only given the responsibilities and powers delegated to him by the president.

But the constitution also states that the vice president shall perform the responsibilities of the president if he is absent or temporarily unable to perform the responsibilities of office.

Many US vice-presidents have lamented the lack of meaningful work in their role. During his tenure as the first vice- president, John Adams remarked: “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that even the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

But he also says that the vice president “is nothing, but may be everything.”

US constitutional historian Lucius Wilmerding, writing in 1947 noted that even if the office of the vice president is unimportant, the officer or the individual serving as the vice president is certainly important.

For if the president becomes unable to perform his duties, then the vice-president will assume the presidency.

If rumors over President Yameen’s health are true and if he is to undergo surgery, he will have to hand over the presidency to his deputy. This is precisely why Jameel was elected. In voting for Jameel, the public was in fact, choosing a possible president.

The Majlis must carefully consider the kind of misconduct that renders a president or vice president constitutionally unfit to remain in office. As several professors of law argued at the US House of Representatives ahead of a vote to impeach President Bill Clinton, the parliament’s power to impeach, like a prosecutor’s power to indict, is discretionary. Hence, this power must be exercised not for partisan advantage, but only when the circumstances genuinely justify the enormous price the country may have to pay in governance and stature.

Hawwa Kareem is a pseudonym. She holds a degree in political science

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Legal status of penal code thrown into doubt

The new penal code is now in force despite parliament delaying its enforcement to July 16, the state human rights watchdog and prominent lawyers have contended .

A provision for postponing implementation of the new penal code was included in an amendment bill passed on April 12, a day before the new law was due to come into force.

The new penal code was ratified on April 13, 2014 with a one-year period for preparation.

The bill changed the date of enforcement from April 13 this year to July 16.

However, the bill stated that the amendments – including the provision for postponement – “will come into force starting from July 16, 2015.”

The provision for postponement was therefore inconsequential as it has not become law, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and lawyers Maumoon Hameed and Shaheen Hameed argued.

By following the old penal code, Maumoon Hameed said the state is presently enforcing “a law that does not exist.”

The HRCM wrote to the attorney general and prosecutor general last week seeking clarification of the legal dispute, saying it is unclear which criminal law the police, prosecutors, and courts are presently following.

The commission said it was “extremely concerned” about resulting human rights violations in the investigative and judicial processes.

Prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin told Minivan News that “as a common rule the old penal code would be in force now”.

“I cannot say anything specifically about the issue until the office has responded to the HRCM’s letter. Also, it is not my role to criticise laws but rather uphold it,” he said.

Former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz meanwhile dismissed the legal questions surrounding the penal code as an unjustifiably narrow approach in interpreting the law.

He said the “amendment makes it clear that the new penal code will come into effect starting July 16.”

“The amendment will also become part of the law. So the penal code now states the date it would come in to effect. We cannot simply single out one article and interpret the whole law. I think it’s quite clear,” he told Minivan News.

However, lawyers Maumoon Hameed and Shaheen Hameed insisted that the new penal code has replaced the old law.

There are presently no obstacles to enforcing the new penal code, Maumoon Hameed told Minivan News today.

“The new penal code states the old law would be dissolved when the latter law comes into effect. So I believe that the state is implementing a law that does not exist,” Hameed said.

Shaheen Hameed, former deputy speaker of parliament, also said he believes “the new penal code is in effect now”.

The current penal code was adopted in the 1960s and has been widely criticised as outdated, draconian and unsuited to the 2008 constitution.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had said the postponement was a “politically motivated attempt to continue using the current penal code as a means to harass and intimidate the opposition.”

Under the new code, the punishment for protesters who do not have a criminal record will be less severe as judges are required to take mitigating factors into consideration under new sentencing procedures.

However, the ruling party said more time was needed to raise public awareness and address concerns of religious scholars.


PPM by-election campaign underway

The ruling coalition’s campaign for the upcoming parliamentary by-election for the Dhiggaru constituency is underway while the opposition alliance is yet to decide on fielding a single candidate.

A primary of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) among four candidates seeking the ruling party’s ticket is due to take place on Friday. Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s eldest son, Ahmed Faris Maumoon, is among the contenders.

The by-election, triggered by the 25-year jail sentence handed down to former ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim, is scheduled to take place on June 6.

All candidates must inform the Elections Commission of their intent to contest the by-elections by the end of April.

The by-election is expected to be hotly contested amid heightened political tension following the jailing of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim as well as the alleged unfair targeting of Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s business interests.

Faris is meanwhile in Dhiggaru on a campaign trip at present.

Other contenders in the PPM primary include Meemu atoll council president Moosa Naseer, deputy environment minister Mohamed Hanim and Dhiggaru island council president Imran Ismail.

The ‘Maldivians against brutality’ alliance, made up of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Adhaalath Party (AP) and senior members of the Jumhooree Party (JP), announced last week that discussions were underway on fielding a single candidate.

AP spokesperson Ali Zahir has since announced his intention of contesting in the by-election.

Meanwhile, former MDP chairperson MP Moosa Manik has criticised his old party for not holding a primary to select a candidate.

MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz told Minivan News today that the party has not yet decided whether to field a candidate.

But the MDP “will definitely hold primaries” if it chooses to contest the by-election.

“As a party we have to consider many factors including the independence of the independent institution and so on. The MDP has not yet decided to compete for the seat but if we do a candidate would be selected through primaries,” he said.

MP Moosa Manik, who was expelled from the MDP last year after repeatedly voting against the party’s whip-line, said the party must hold a primary if it is to respect its rules and founding principles.

“In the local council elections I decided not to hold primaries but the decision was opposed by a lot of members. So in the end we had to hold primaries,” he said.

“So if the MDP is not competing, not holding primaries in order to make way for the Adhaalath Party, it would be going against the party’s own norms as well as democratic values. Even though I have been removed from the party’s registry I have sacrificed a lot for MDP. I can’t let MDP drift away from democracy.”

In last year’s parliamentary polls, Nazim was elected with 60 percent of the vote from the Dhiggaru constituency after competing against an MDP candidate. The PPM also won a majority of the Meemu atoll council, which has four PPM members, one MDP member and one independent member.


Deputy speaker seeks to ban megaphones at Majlis

The deputy speaker is seeking to ban horns, sirens and megaphones inside the parliament as opposition protests on the Majlis floor enters its eighth week.

MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik is proposing amendments to the Majlis standing orders banning horns, megaphones and other objects that may “mentally disturb” people, according to Haveeru. 

The amendments also prohibit MPs going up to the Speaker’s desk to disrupt Majlis proceedings.

Moosa, formerly a member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said he will make “many amendments to keep order and discipline in the Majlis.”

MDP and Jumhooree Party MPs have been protesting since March 2 over the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed and ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives has continued with Majlis debates while Speaker Abdulla Maseeh has proceeded with several votes including a law to delay the new penal code amidst opposition protests.

However, the debates have been inaudible over the sound of sirens and horns, while some votes were counted with a show of hands.

Moosa told Haveeru the Speaker will not to allow an MP to speak if other MPs from their party are disrupting Majlis proceedings.


MDP MPs suspend protest for talks with speaker

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has suspended protests in the People’s Majlis (parliament) chamber as it meets with the speaker to seek a negotiated solution to a standoff with the government.

Parliament resumed providing a live feed of sittings to television stations, a popular service which had been suspended for over a month while the MDP parliamentarians protested with whistles, sirens and megaphones in the chamber.

MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said the minority parliamentary group was awaiting a response to a letter sent to Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed expressing concern over parliament sittings allegedly taking place in violation of procedural rules.

“And as a meeting has been arranged between MDP parliamentary group leader and the Majlis speaker, the MDP parliamentary group has decided to halt the protest to give room for discussions,” the MP for Maafanu North said.

Imthiyaz told Minivan News that the MPs were not boycotting the sittings, as reported in other media. The MPs were inside the parliament building, but were not entering the chamber, he said.

“Because if we go inside we will have to protest,” he said.

Since parliament returned from recess in March, MDP MPs have been protesting on the Majlis floor with sirens, whistles and megaphones, calling for the release of former president Mohamed Nasheed, who was jailed last month for 13 years on terrorism charges.

However, Speaker Maseeh continued proceedings despite the disorder in the chamber.

Parliament also ceased providing a live feed of the sittings to television stations while the debate on bills was inaudible to the viewing gallery.

The parliament secretariat told local media that the actions and words of the MPs during the protests were “against societal norms and unfit for public viewing”.


In the absence of the MDP MPs, debate and voting at today’s sitting proceeded without incident.

However, amendments submitted to the constitution by government-aligned MP Ahmed Amir were not put up for a vote at today’s sitting due to the lack of a quorum.

Amending the constitution requires the support of a three-quarters majority of the 85-member house.

A quorum of 64 MPs was needed to call the vote, but only 45 MPs were in attendance. The MDP has 21 MPs while at least 13 more are opposition-aligned.

Amir had proposed removing two clauses from article 231 of the constitution, clauses which specify that local councils shall be elected for a three-year term and that chairs and deputy chairs shall be elected through a secret ballot by councillors.

The Maldives Development Alliance MP for Dhaal Kudahuvadhoo proposed specifying both the terms and process of electing chairs and deputy chairs in the Decentralisation Act.

Earlier in the sitting, preliminary debate began on a public service media bill, during which several ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MPs expressed gratitude to the minority party MPs for ceasing their disruptive protests.

The government-sponsored legislation seeks to replace the current state broadcaster – the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), which operates a television station and radio channel – with a new public service media company.

The company is to be operated by a seven-member governing board appointed by the president and approved by parliament. If the law is passed, the MBC and its executive board would be dissolved.

During the debate, pro-government MPs criticised the state broadcaster for not providing enough coverage of the government’s services, programmes, and development projects.

Several MPs also accused the state broadcaster of focusing too heavily on the capital and ignoring events and developments in the atolls.

Following the debate, the bill was accepted for consideration with 43 votes in favour and one abstention, and was sent to committee for further review.

Debate also began on amendments submitted to the Elections Commission Act by Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, who proposed mandating the commission to oversee and conduct presidential primaries of political parties.

Separately, the former MDP chairperson – who was expelled from the party last year after repeatedly defying three-line whips – declared that he will be the main opposition party’s presidential candidate for 2018, although the party says its candidate is former president Nasheed.

The Independent MP for Hulhuhenveiru told parliament that he was ousted for announcing his intention to challenge Nasheed for the party’s ticket, claiming that that the opposition leader’s family controls the MDP.

He also criticised the MDP’s new alliance with the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Jumhooree Party. Both parties were responsible for the fall of the MDP government in February 2012, Moosa said.

Moosa’s bill was accepted with 44 votes in favour and sent to committee.


Government bars Nasheed from MDP

The government has barred ex-president Mohamed Nasheed from the Maldivian Democratic Party he co-founded by using its parliamentary majority to pass a law banning prisoners from political party membership.

Nasheed will lose his leadership and membership of the MDP because of a terrorism conviction this month relating to the detention of a judge during his period in power.

He was jailed for 13 years after being found guilty of terrorism in a case that his party says represented a politically-led campaign against him by the government of President Abdulla Yameen.

MDP MPs did not take part in the vote, but protested on the Majlis floor as deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik announced the vote, using megaphones and sirens to make his voice inaudible. The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives has a strong majority in any case.

The law was passed by 42 votes in favour, with just two against.

Speaking to the press, MDP chairperson Ali Waheed said the party would not accept the amendment and would choose its own leader. Nasheed remains the MDP’s presidential candidate, the party has said, despite his jail sentence.

“The government, because they have absolute power, is trying to wipe out all political rivals. Note this, they will eventually try to disband the MDP. But how can they get rid of what is in our hearts?” Waheed said.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla said the party would not accept the government using the Majlis as “an extension of its tyranny to strip us of our democratic rights.”

“No amount of backtracking can strip him of the fact he formed the first political party in the country and became its first democratically elected leader. Or the fact that those who vote for this amendment today would not be in a political party if not for the hard work of this man to win them that freedom,” she told Minivan News.

Eva said the Majlis was being conducted unconstitutionally as standing orders prohibit sittings from going ahead without order on the floor. The MDP has been protesting on the floor at every sitting since March 2, and has said it will not stop until the government releases Nasheed.

The bill was never debated in parliament due to opposition protests, while PPM MPs were not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

The two MPs who voted against the amendment to the 2013 Prisons and Parole Act are Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem and Nolhivaram MP Hussein Areef, who recently resigned from the PPM.

The Adhaalath Party this month withdrew support for President Yameen’s administration, saying he was acting to eliminate political rivals, and instead formed an alliance with the MDP.

The amendment also bars prisoners from holding membership or leadership in non-governmental organizations for the duration of their prison term.

At an MDP protest outside the Majlis, Aminath Rasheedha, 47, said: “Yameen’s corrupt and unlawful government cannot decide who our presidential candidate is. That is for us to decide. Our president and leader will always be Mohamed Nasheed.”

MDP parliament protest

Separately, the ruling PPM has also submitted an amendment to the law on privileges for former presidents stripping any president who resigned – as Nasheed did, although he said it was under duress – from army protection and financial privileges.

Tensions are high in Malé, with the opposition’s daily protests now entering their seventh consecutive week. The police last week threatened to crackdown on protesters, claiming they were inciting violence and assaulting police officers.

Observers including the UN and Amnesty International have condemned Nasheed’s trial. Amnesty called it a travesty of justice, while the UN said it made a mockery of the constitution and international treaties.


President Yameen should apologise for thumbs down gesture, says MDP chairperson

President Abdulla Yameen should formally apologise for his thumbs down gesture at opposition MPs during today’s opening of the People’s Majlis, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Ali Waheed has said.

At a press conference this afternoon, Waheed contended that the gesture was intended to “mock” the opposition alliance, adding that it would not be acceptable to the public.

Waheed said the gesture showed Yameen’s loss of control over his emotions and that the government was “upside down.”

“I do not believe what we saw today should have been the message given to the people after delivering an address by a head of state,” said MDP parliamentary group leader, Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih.

After delivering his presidential address today amidst chants from opposition MPs calling for the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, President Yameen gave two thumbs up to pro-government MPs and made a thumbs down gesture towards MDP and Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has since defended the gesture, tweeting that it was “an advisory gesture” against obstructing constitutionally mandated duties.

“Today we saw [opposition MPs] attempting to obstruct the president’s from fulfilling his responsibility under Article 84 of [the constitution],”he tweeted.

Opposition MPs gathered in front of the secretariat desk carrying posters depicting police manhandling and dragging the opposition leader into court and called for Yameen’s resignation.

Nasheed was arrested last week and remains in police custody pending the outcome of a trial on charges of terrorism.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs responded to the opposition MPs’ protest by chanting “Ganjabo” and Theyobidbo,” epithets referring to the former president’s alleged encouragement of drug use, and held up placards that read: “You cant hide from the law Nasheed” and “Nasheed deserves to be in prison.”

Several PPM MPs also snatched posters from MDP MPs and ripped some posters to pieces.

Opposition’s demands

Last night, the MDP and JP coalition revealed that the two parties have agreed to request a meeting with President Yameen to discuss 13 demands issued at last Friday’s mass demonstration.

At a joint press conference, Ali Waheed said the parties would request an appointment today, adding that the 13 demands would be formally submitted in writing.

The 13 demands are:

  1. Stop restricting fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms through amendments to either the constitution or laws.
  2. Release former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, MDP MP Ali Azim and others arrested during anti-government protests.
  3. Repeal amendments brought to the Auditor General’s Act that saw the removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim
  4. Withdraw political charges pressed against opposition politicians.
  5. Investigate alleged large scale corruption within the government.
  6. Continue providing the electricity subsidy and make electricity cheaper in Malé and other islands.
  7. Fulfil campaign pledges to provide subsidies to fishermen and farmers.
  8. Give back powers taken from local council, empower the councils, and enforce the Decentralisation Act.
  9. Enforce the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
  10. Increase wages for teachers, health workers and civil servants, ensuring equal pay to state employees.
  11. Reverse decision to impose import duty on fuel.
  12. Legally empowering independent institutions.
  13. Fulfil government pledges of providing unlimited health insurance.

Ali Waheed added that the alliance would meet relevant state institutions to discuss specific demands.

“Some of the demands are not just made to the President’s Office,” Waheed said.

“Some of the demands are made to specific institutions. We have agreed to hold meetings with all related institutions.”

Related to this story

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Police arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed ahead of terrorism trial

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials