Horns and megaphones banned in parliament chamber

The People’s Majlis today banned the use of horns, sirens and megaphones in the parliament chamber following weeks of protests by opposition MPs.

MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party and Jumhooree Party have been protesting since March 2 over the arrest and imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

Opposition MPs continued protests with horns and megaphones today, but Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed called for a vote on the changes proposed to the parliamentary rules despite the disorder in the chamber.

The changes were proposed by the speaker and approved with 43 votes in favour at today’s sitting.

The debate on the bill was once again inaudible to the viewing gallery and the parliament secretariat ceased providing a live feed of the sittings to television stations this morning.

“Work on bringing an end to the MDP’s horns by amending article 51 of the parliament rules is on the agenda today,” tweeted majority leader Ahmed Nihan before today’s sitting.

Nihan was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News today that opposition MPs will continue the protests.

With daily anti-government demonstrations and heightened political tension, the state of the nation shall be reflected in the People’s Majlis, he said.

“While democratic principles are destroyed and political leaders are jailed, the Majlis is a place where such issues can be resolved,” he said.

The MPs are calling for a resolution to the political crisis, but the “current majority party does not want to listen,” he added.

Imthiyaz also questioned the need for the changes as the rules allow the speaker to order the sergeant-at-arms to expel MPs who disrupt sittings.

He contended that laws were passed in recent weeks in violation of parliamentary rules as voting took place with disorder in the chamber.

Constituencies represented by opposition MPs did not have a say either, he added.

Previous speakers resolved disputes through dialogue with political parties, but the current speaker “is too dictatorial and doesn’t even want to talk to the minority,” he said.

Maseeh is conducting sittings in violation of the rules while insisting that there was order in the chamber despite the protests, Imthiyaz said.

But neither the speaker nor MPs were able to hear debates, he noted.

Last week, a three-month delay for the implementation of the new penal code was approved with a show of hands amid protests by MDP MPs.

Rules of procedure

The new provisions state that cases of MPs who use horns or megaphones and approach the speaker’s desk will be investigated by the ethics committee.

The committee can cut 55 percent of an MPs’ monthly committee allowance and suspend participation in an official parliament trip for six months.

Imthiyaz said the proposed punishment was “ridiculous” as it amounted to undoing or erasing committee attendance.

MPs receive a monthly allowance of MVR20,000 for attending more than 50 percent of committee meeting.

The purpose of today’s changes to impose pay cuts on opposition MPs as the ruling coalition lacked two-third majority required by the constitution for non-payment of salaries and allowances, he said.

He also noted that the MDP parliamentary group leader sent a letter to Maseeh expressing concern with sittings taking place in violation of the rules.

However, in a meeting last week, Maseeh insisted that he was following the rules.

Imthiyaz also objected to the speaker refusing to allow MDP MPs to speak during debates and advocate on behalf of their constituents.

At a previous sitting, deputy speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik refused to allow MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi to speak.

Imthiyaz said Mariya was seated, but the deputy speaker said the MDP MP will not be allowed to speak while her fellow MPs were protesting.