Parliament on Tuesday approved changes to the house rules that would allow sittings to proceed even if the quorum of 20 MPs is lost.
Under the rules of procedure prior to the amendment passed yesterday (December 25), sittings must be immediately adjourned if the number of MPs in the chamber falls below 20, which is 25 percent of the 77 MPs in parliament.
The change was voted through with 69 MPs voting in favour, four MPs voting against and one abstaining.
A number of sittings of the People’s Majlis have been forced to a close due to loss of quorum. The amendment to the rules was reportedly proposed to address the recurring issue of loss of quorum.
Under the amended rules, the Speaker would be allowed to continue proceedings until a MP brings the loss of quorum to his or her attention.
However, a minimum of 20 MPs would still have to be in attendance to begin sittings while more than 39 MPs must be present for a vote to be called.
A second amendment to the rules of procedure was meanwhile passed 44-28 yesterday with two abstentions to allow sittings to be held during recess upon request by 26 MPs.
The amendment was proposed in a report by the General Affairs Committee.
MPs of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) voted against the report. While PPM MPs voted for a proposal by MP Ibrahim Muttalib stating that no-confidence motions could not be voted on during sittings held in recess, the amendment was defeated 43-27 with four abstentions.
Under the approved changes to the house rules, a request by one-third of parliament or 26 MPs to hold a sitting during recess must be accommodated within 14 days including weekends and public holidays.
Parliament was cancelled for a second consecutive day after the number of MPs required for quorum failed to attend the beginning of today’s sitting.
Speaker Abdulla Shahid announced the cancellation shortly after 9.10am this morning as not enough MPs were found to be present, despite ringing the quorum bell for five minutes.
Yesterday’s sitting was meanwhile called off to allow leaders of parliamentary group leaders and independent MPs to reach an agreement on reworking the composition of standing committees.
Shahid revealed today that discussions were ongoing but a compromise has not been reached so far.
Section 101(b) of the parliamentary rules of procedure stipulates proportional representation in the committees, stating that the number of MPs each party has should be taken as the basis for determining the composition of the 11-member standing committees.
Prior to the defection of three MPs in recent months and disqualification of MP Mohamed Musthafa, the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), with its 34 MPs, were entitled to five seats (45 percent) in each committee.
The present reconstitution of committees was triggered by Maradhoo MP Hassan Adhil leaving MDP to join the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP). Adhil was officially registered as a JP MP this week.
Meanwhile, on the recurring issue of loss of quorum halting parliament sittings, Speaker Shahid said today that he would consult parliamentary group leaders concerning amendments to regulations that would allow sittings to proceed with a lower quorum.
Today’s sitting of parliament was cancelled shortly after 1pm as enough MPs for a quorum were not in the chamber.
Announcing the cancellation, Speaker Abdulla Shahid said the quorum bell had been rung three times without any success.
The sitting was first adjourned at 9.33am after Minister’s Question Time when quorum was lost. The planned resumption at 10am was however delayed to 11am due to failure to meet a quorum.
After 11am restart, preliminary debate continued on amendments proposed by opposition MP Hassan Latheef to the Public Finance Act. MPs also debated a proposal by Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam to create a new standing committee for women and children’s affairs.
Meanwhile, five committee meetings took place today, including a sub-committee meeting to review legislation on corporate profit taxes.
According to Majlis attendance records, of the 77 MPs in parliament, 10 MPs did not come to work today while two were on holiday and two had called in sick. The number of MPs required for a quorum is 26.
Parliament today passed a bill on protection of trees and foliage to govern rules for quarantining and sent a bill on small and medium-sized businesses to committee for further review.
However a bill proposed by opposition MP Mohamed Mujthaz to extend the lease of resorts with stalled development by two years with suspended rent was rejected.
A proposal by Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam to form a new standing committee on women and children’s affairs was debated after the General Affairs Committee Chair MP Nazim Rashad presented the committee’s report on the proposal.
Preliminary debate also continued on an amendment proposed by MP Hassan Latheef to the Civil Service Act.
The beginning of today’s sitting was delayed until 11am due to power shortages in the building. Several committee meetings scheduled for the morning were also cancelled due to the problem.
Following voting at 1.30pm, the sitting had to be adjourned at 1.53pm due to loss of quorum.