Rules on removal and appointment of vice president changed

A committee has approved changes to the People’s Majlis standing orders to offer the vice president just 30 minutes to respond to an impeachment motion, and proposed changes to fast-track the process of voting on a new vice presidential nominee.

The standing orders did not previously specify a time period for the impeachment debate.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) is seeking to remove vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and replace him with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

A motion to impeach Jameel is likely to be included in the agenda for Monday’s sitting of the People’s Majlis. Jameel is currently in London. He is yet to respond to PPM MPs’ charges of incompetency and disloyalty.

Explaining the change to the response period for impeachment, PPM MP Ali Arif, who chairs the general affairs committee, told CNM that the vice president will now have 10 minutes to make an opening statement, 10 minutes to respond during the debate, and 10 minutes to make a closing statement.

MPs will have an hour and half to debate the motion.

Arif said the changes were approved today with the backing of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs on the committee.

Since the committee has the authority to determine time periods for agenda items, the changes will not have to be put to a vote on the floor.

The general affairs committee also approved changes to the rules today to fast-track the process of voting on a president’s nominee to fill a vacancy in the vice president’s post. PPM MPs have said Adeeb will be sworn in as the new vice president by July 26, the golden jubilee of independence from the British.

The rules were changed to allow the speaker to call for a vote on the day a committee’s evaluation report is sent to MPs. Items are normally tabled in the agenda three days after the committee report is sent out.

The changes will have to be put to a vote on the Majlis floor.

In June, the parliament also amended its standing orders to fast-track the vice president’s impeachment process. Under the new rules, the parliament can vote on an impeachment motion in the vice president without an investigation.

A two-third majority or 57 votes will be needed to remove the vice president. The ruling coalition has 48 seats in the 85-member house, but appears to have secured the backing of opposition MPs to pass the motion, which was submitted with 61 signatures.

Jameel has labeled his imminent impeachment a “constitutional coup” and called for the international community to intervene.

In response, Adeeb accused Jameel of plotting a coup d’etat with the opposition.

“A lot of people are accusing him of leaving with a lot of money and a lot of things. He is even now accused of dereliction of duty and fleeing the country. He has left the country because the coup he had planned has failed,” he said.

President Yameen is meanwhile yet to publicly comment either on the vice president’s impeachment or a favoured candidate for the post.

In a meeting with the PPM parliamentary group last week, Yameen reportedly showed MPs proof of Jameel’s correspondence with opposition politicians ahead of a mass anti-government protest on May 1.

In the messages, Jameel reportedly asked if the opposition will let him assume the presidency if Yameen is ousted.

The opposition says Yameen wants to replace Jameel because he is fatally ill and is seeking a more loyal deputy ahead of a major surgery.

A constitutional amendment was also passed 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 stated that candidates must be 35 years of age.

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

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party are currently engaged in talks to resolve a six-month long political crisis.


18th Majlis prepares to review procedures and form standing committees

Parliament began regular sittings today, with reviewing the rules of procedure and constituting standing committees the first orders of business.

“This will be a Majlis that produces results. We will debate and discuss. But it will be done to produce results,” said newly elected Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.

A proposal by Maseeh to form a five-member select committee to draft standing orders, and to follow the rules used by the outgoing parliament in the interim, was approved with unanimous consent of 72 MPs.

Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Amir from the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), Anara Naeem from the Adhaalath Party (AP), Hussain Mohamed from the Jumhooree Party (JP), and Mariya Ahmed Didi from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were chosen for the select committee.

Article 88(a) of the constitution states that parliament shall “determine and control its administrative arrangements, hiring and firing of employees, determination of salaries of employees, and manage all matters concerning the sittings of the People’s Majlis. The People’s Majlis shall make regulations concerning these matters.”

The article also requires parliament to “make regulations and principles concerning its business, with due regard to representative and participatory democracy, accountability, transparency and public involvement. Such regulations may include rules of decorum and attendance requirements, and, subject to the consent of two-thirds of the members, may provide for non-payment of salary and allowances.”

A second five-member select committee – consisting of Riyaz Rasheed from the PPM, Gasim Ibrahim from the JP, Ali Mauroof from the MDA, Anara Naeem from the AP and Ali Azim from the MDP – was meanwhile formed to constitute the 13 standing committees of parliament.

Parliamentary rules dictate proportional representation for political parties in the standing committees based on the number of MPs in each party. The rules stipulate that the committees must be constituted within two weeks of the session beginning.

The 13 standing committees includes four committees dealing with affairs of parliament in addition to nine oversight committees.

Both select committees formed at today’s sitting held their first meetings today, electing chairs and deputy chairs.

Mohamed Nasheed and Anara Naeem were elected chair and deputy chair, respectively, of the committee selected to review the regulations. Riyaz Rasheed was elected chair of the select committee formed to constitute standing committees while Anara Naeem was elected deputy chair.

After adopting committee rules, Chair Riyaz Rasheed requested that political parties notify the committee of the number of its MPs as well as any changes to party affiliation.

The ruling PPM is the majority party in the 18th People’s Majlis with 38 MPs while the opposition MDP is the minority party with 25 MPs.

The PPM-MDA coalition has 43 MPs while former coalition partner JP has 15 MPs. The religious conservative AP has one MP while Madaveli MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed remains the sole independent.

Speaker Maseeh meanwhile commenced his first sitting in the speaker’s chair with an appeal for all MPs to provide assistance and cooperate for fulfilling parliament’s constitutional responsibilities.

The veteran PPM MP said he was mindful of the challenges parliament would face as well as the considerable amount of work to be done, adding that the current parliament had the “capacity” to fulfil its duties.


Amendments approved to parliamentary rules of procedure

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.


Speaker cancels parliament after MPs continue dispute over cabinet endorsement

The parliament sitting today was again cancelled after the opposition and ruling party MPs clashed over the issue of cabinet endorsement.

Newly-appointed spokesperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Alhan Fahmy told Minivan News that the parliament sitting became heated after the MDP parliamentary group leader MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik took a point of order saying that the cabinet endorsement should only be included in the agenda after amending parliament’s rules of procedure.

“Moosa said that parliament should only proceed with the issue after amending the rules of procedure,’’ said Alhan. ‘’He said that there was no procedure to follow when endorsing the cabinet ministers.’’

The opposition MPs disagreed and the sitting was concluded.

The Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that while article 171(i) of the parliament’s rules of procedure does not contradict with constitution, it cannot be used in endorsing cabinet ministers.

Attorney General Dr Amhed Ali Sawad said the ruling “clearly establishes that even if the Majlis does something outside its stated precinct in the constitution, such an act will be ultra vires (beyond its powers)”.

“In terms of legal precedent it has established a Supreme Court endorsement of separation of powers theory in the constitution, and identifies the separate legal precincts of the executive, legislature and judiciary,” he added.

However he noted that the Supreme Court decision left it open to the parties to resolve the deadlock – which currently shows no sign of happening.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan claimed that “once again MDP MPs deliberately forced the speaker to cancel the parliament after making disruptive remarks.’’

Nihan claimed that MDP wanted to “use their power inside the parliament rather than following the rules of procedure.”

‘’If the parliament sitting is to  proceeded, than the ruling party must keep aside their stubbornness and let the sittings proceed according to the rules of procedure,’’ Nihan said.

Niahan said DRP parliamentarians have decided not to endorse ministers  “including Foreign minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed and Defence minister Ameen Faisal, for they have conducted actions against the constitution.”

He also said that DRP’s planned protests will be ongoing and it were delayed out of consideration for students’ exams.