IPU requests parliament proceed without obstruction

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called on all political parties in the country to ensure that parliament is not impeded when the People’s Majlis reconvenes tomorrow.

Parliament is set to open  for the first time since members of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) obstructed the session from opening on March 1.

In a day of ongoing international developments regarding both the legitimacy of the government of Mohamed Waheed Hassan and the functioning of the People’s Majis, the IPU held a press conference today in Male’ calling for a peaceful resolution to the political stalemate resulting from a controversial transfer of power last month.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union is the world organisation of parliaments and was established in 1889. It works to foster coordination and exchange between representative institutions across the globe. The IPU also offers technical support to affiliated nations. The Maldives has been affiliated with the organisation since 2005.

Amidst ongoing allegations by the MDP that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has replaced Mohamed Nasheed through a “coup d’etat” assisted by a mutiny among sections of the police and military, the party’s leadership has said it is committed to continuing to obstruct the Majlis until early elections are first agreed upon.

The increasingly fractious and partisan atmosphere within Maldivian political circles led to MDP MPs on March 1 preventing President Waheed from performing his constitutional duty of opening parliament with a state of the nation speech.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has said that his party intends to continue efforts to block the Majlis from opening until President Waheed bows to international pressure from bodies such as the Commonwealth and the EU and sets a date for early elections to resolve the questions of his legitimacy democratically.

Amidst the stand off, Martin Chungong, Director of Programmes for the IPU, told the gathered media that it was vital for parliament to preserve its integrity by continuing to function correctly as well as calling on all parties to avoid inciting or committing acts of violence during the session.

The IPU delegation said that their remit within the Maldives remained to try and facilitate a peaceful resolution to the political upheaval faced by President Waheed since he controversially came to power on February 7.

To this end, Chungong said he believed that it was for the Maldivian people, and not an external party, to provide a solution to the current political stalemate.

Despite calling for a peaceful resolution, the IPU delegation stressed that it was ultimately down to the parliamentary speaker to enforce any decision to remove MPs who were openly trying to obstruct tomorrow’s session from taking place.

Meanwhile, newspaper Haveeru has reported that following fierce debate today amongst its leaders, the MDP had decided to prevent President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan from entering the chamber tomorrow, in fulfilment of his constitutional obligation to address the opening of the People’s Majlis.

The party’s democratic group has reportedly agreed to allow Speaker Adbullah Shaheed to enter the People’s Majlis after having barred his access on March 1. The group has also agreed to allow a minute’s silence in commemoration of the former Foreign Minister Fathullah Jameel who recently passed away.

After this point in tomorrow’s proceedings though, MDP MPs have pledged to begin their protests despite concerns also being raised by the the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) about obstructing parliament from functioning.

Speaking to Minivan News earlier today, MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that within the current climate, continuing to try and block the Majlis was a “thorny issue,” but that he believed that the party could viably continue its attempts to block parliament.

He added that from the MDP’s perspective, the party had little choice but to continue to try and prevent parliament from continuing in order to “protect” the integrity of the Majlis.

Despite CMAG’s criticism of efforts to block parliament from functioning, Ghafoor claimed that international calls from groups like the Commonwealth for early elections and constitutional reforms showed that there were questions to be answered over the legitimacy of the present government.

“We do not believe Dr Waheed to be a legitimate leader,” he said. “The MDP’s position is to try and find a political situation to agree on an election date and the corresponding constitutional reforms required to do this before opening parliament. This was highlighted and agreed by MDP members, but rejected by the opposition.”

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP has been working with the government and opposition politicians to try and secure an end to the current political deadlock.

Parliamentary Group leader Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih, has previously expressed concern that Dr Waheed was not open to finding a potential solution on a timetable for elections.

Nasheed on front lines

Former President Nasheed told his supporters that he himself planned to be on the front lines of the protests outside the reconvened Majlis session tomorrow and claimed that authorities “would have to shoot him” before they could proceed with the opening.

In responding to the MDP’s comments, President Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza called on former President Nasheed to “stop advocating violence” particularly among young people, in regards to blocking the Majlis and opposing the government.

“More than 200 youths currently face charges for torching public buildings since February 8,” he added.

Though Riza said that the public would be free to gather on some of the capital’s roads to protest, he added that inside the parliament chamber, it was for the Speaker of the Majlis and not the government to ensure parliament functioned correctly.

The government spokesperson added that just as under the government of Mohamed Nasheed, the speaker had control of 60 Majlis guards that had the power to remove disruptive elements from the parliamentary floor.


“No progress” in “disappointing” meeting with President Waheed, says MDP

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan this morning met with Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Parliamentary Group leader Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih, who has been representing the party at the India-sponsored all-party roadmap talks.

While a seven-point agenda – including the subject of early elections – was established during the roadmap talks, the order of preference was not, and the talks subsequently stalled with the withdrawal of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Jumhoree Party (JP), Adhaalath Party (AP), and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) following MDP’s disruption of Dr Waheed’s address to parliament.

The MDP has also been holding separate, closed-door talks with the DRP, after previously challenging the involvement of parties such as the PPM and AP, which it argued had no electoral mandate. Together the DRP and MDP control a two-thirds majority of parliament, capable of forcing through legislation, constitutional amendments and even impeachments.

In a statement to the media on Wednesday following his meeting with Dr Waheed, Solih said “I don’t believe the former Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed is willing to seek an agreement, that both parties can agree to through peaceful dialogue.”

Solih said the MDP was “concerned” about the current state of political affairs in the Maldives, and contended that despite criticism to the contary, had attended all meetings requested by the current administration “and worked hard to find a peaceful solution [to the current political crisis].”

“No progress” was made in the meeting with Waheed, the party stated.

“It is disappointing that former Vice President, Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik does not seem prepared to find a peaceful means to achieve a solution that is acceptable to all,” said Solih.

Dr Waheed’s Press Secretary Masood Imad referred Minivan News to Dr Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, who was not responding at time of press.

Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid meanwhile declared that parliament would reconvene on Monday March 19, despite the failure to reach an agreement with the MDP. The party’s MPs barricaded themselves inside the chamber on March 1, preventing Shahid from entering and Dr Waheed from giving the presidential address.

That evening, Shahid held a press conference and announced he had cancelled the session because he was unable enter the chamber despite several attempts, and on one occasion had fallen and injured himself. Given the current political tensions, Shahid said he was unable to guarantee the safety of members and had decided to proceed through negotiation, rather than force.

MDP has not made any official announcements on what it plans to do, however one grassroots MDP supporter said following the failure of negotiations, the party would continue to block “the coup leader” from addressing parliament.


MPs released from Dhoonidhoo but party members remain in detention: Solih

Five Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs who were arrested during yesterday’s peaceful march around Male’, including Mariya Ahmed Didi, Alhan Fahmy and Imthyaz Fahmy, were released from Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre at midnight last night.

MDP MP and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said the MPs had been handcuffed since the time of their arrest between 4:00pm and 5:00pm yesterday, and their release at midnight. Didi has sustained injuries to her arms, back and face, he said.

Over 50 party members and citizens were admitted to the hospital yesterday with head injuries and bruises to their backs, arms and stomachs following yesterday’s march, which was reportedly attacked without provocation by police forces.

Party Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik was last evening reported to be in critical condition following the attack. In an interview given to local media Raaje TV from his hospital bed, where he was on a ventilator being treated for serious head injuries, Moosa claimed security forces “wanted to kill me.”

Speaking today to Minivan News, Solih said the doctor is examining Moosa’s injuries. “He is still in the same condition [as yesterday],” he said.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed also sustained injuries to his back, hands and head. He was kept in a safe house until some time last night, when he returned to his home in Male’.

MPs held in Dhoonidhoo have returned home, but more than 15 party members were believed to remain in Dhoonidhoo.

Solih said security forces have not been cooperative with providing information.

“They are not answering our calls, and didn’t even allow lawyers to go to Dhoonidhoo, saying their computer system was down. They continued to refuse lawyers access to the centre and later released the MPs,” he said.

Solih said the party is currently trying to get information about party members who may still be held in Dhoonidhoo.

Meanwhile, Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed has issued an arrest warrant for Nasheed and former Minister of Defense Tholhath Ibrahim.


GMR case ruling due next week

The Civil Court has addressed the case filed by Opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Vice President Imad Solih against GMR and will deliver the results next week.

Solih claimed that the Airport Development Charge (ADC, US$25) and Insurance Charge (US$2) to be collected from international passengers at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) is unconstitutional.

At yesterday’s hearing, Solih said that since the Insurance Charge is considered a tax the ADC should be treated as such, reports Haveeru.

The government has claimed that the ADC is not a tax.

State attorney Aishath Shyza said the ADC did not qualify as a tax because it was not a compulsory contribution by the people to the government.

ADC is to be collected by GMR and put towards the current airport development project.

GMR plans to begin collecting the charges from passengers on all international flights departing after midnight on 1 January 2012.


Fuel sellers cheating customers, says Fuel Association

“Almost every” fuel seller in the Maldives is taking advantage of lax certification to cheat their customers by using inaccurate meters, the President of the Fuel Association of the Maldives has claimed.

Mohamed Rasheed accused the trade ministry of failing to certify petrol station meters and allowing the industry to take advantage of consumers for more than 30 years.

The trade ministry retaliated by saying it was impossible for them to check every fuel meter in the Maldives, and blamed the fuel suppliers for failing to inform the trade ministry the meters were uncertified.

Rasheed criticised the trade ministry for being “irresponsible”, claiming that the problem was a big drain on money for both consumers and the Maldivian government.

Chairman of Fisherman Union Ibrahim Umar said the organisations had received many complaint from fishermen that the fuel sellers are “cheating” them by showing them inaccurate measurements from uncertified meters.

Umar claimed that sometimes the fuel sellers “take half a barrel by showing the consumers the wrong meter.”

At a press confernce today, Rasheed called on the trade ministry to approve a law that every fuel station in the Maldives must be certified by the ministry.

Director of the Trade Ministry Solih Hussein said “if the fuel sellers inform us today [they have an uncertified meter] we will put on the seal by tomorrow morning.”

Furthermore, Solih accused the Fuel Association Of Maldives of contradicting its own rules and regulations by exposing its own members to accusations of impropriety by their consumers.

“The Fishermens’ Union can now file a lawsuit against the Fuel Association of Maldives, as they have been selling fuel without certifying their meters, while many of consumers remain unaware of this certification,’ Solih said.

He calls on every consumer in the Maldives not to buy anything measured using a uncertified meter “whether it’s fuel, rice or vegetables.”