PPM MP Maseeh elected speaker, MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik deputy speaker

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik have been elected speaker and deputy speaker of the 18th People’s Majlis, respectively.

Fuvamulah South MP Maseeh was elected with a simple majority of 43 votes while Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim received 39 votes.

Hulhuhenveiru MP Moosa Manik was elected with 42 votes while PPM contender Abdul Raheem Abdulla received 41 votes.

Voting took place through secret ballot at the first sitting of the new parliament following a swearing-in ceremony in the morning, where the oath of office for the 85 MPs-elect was administered by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain.

The ballots were counted by a five-member committee chosen at the beginning of the sitting with unanimous consent of all MPs present.

In the vote to elect the speaker, two ballots were invalidated as they were not marked with the designated pen. One ballot was not counted in the vote to elect the deputy speaker as the MP had voted for both candidates.

JP MP Mohamed Hussain who chaired today’s sitting did not participate in the vote. The veteran MP presided over the first sitting in accordance with Article 82 of the constitution, which states, “Until such time as a speaker and a deputy Speaker is elected the People’s Majlis shall be presided over by the consecutively longest serving member from among those present.”

Coalition on the rocks

The ruling Progressive Coalition meanwhile appeared on the brink of collapse yesterday as the dispute over the speaker’s post saw the PPM threaten to sever its coalition agreement with the JP if Gasim Ibrahim did not withdraw his candidacy.

The business tycoon, however, refused and accused the PPM of breaching the coalition agreement by not providing 35 percent of political posts and failing to include the JP in decision-making.

After Gasim’s name was nominated at today’s sitting, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb told local media before the vote was taken that the JP was no longer part of the coalition.

The PPM deputy leader revealed that the decision was made last night by the ruling party’s council, adding that the council would ask President Abdulla Yameen to dismiss political appointees belonging to the JP.

The parties entered a formal coalition agreement ahead of last year’s presidential election run-off between former President Mohamed Nasheed and PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen after Gasim placed third.

Gasim’s endorsement of Yameen proved to be crucial in the PPM-led coalition’s narrow victory in the second round of November’s presidential polls.

After a joint campaign for the parliamentary polls in March, the Progressive Coalition secured 53 out of 85 seats. The PPM won 33 seats, followed by the MDP with 26 seats, JP with 15 seats, MDA with five seats, independent candidates with five seats and the Adhaalath Party with one seat.

Neither party won enough seats to reach the 43-vote simple majority.

Shortly after the polls, three out of the five independent candidates as well as MDP MP-elect Mohamed Musthafa signed for the ruling party, bringing the PPM’s numbers to 37 MPs.


The opposition MDP had decided to support Gasim after announcing eight conditions for supporting a candidate.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed – acting president of the main opposition party – meanwhile led a small group of MDP protesters outside the parliament house, calling on the government to fulfil campaign pledges.

Speaking to reporters, Nasheed accused President Abdulla Yameen and PPM Leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of attempting to control all powers of the state.

Contending that the PPM had no intention of honouring its coalition agreement with the JP, Nasheed said that the current administration was “based on a lie.”

“So I am hoping that the government will soon be changed. I don’t see how the government can be sustained with 25 percent support,” he said.


MDP sets eight conditions for backing candidate for Majlis speaker

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has set eight conditions for supporting a candidate for the Speaker of the 18th People’s Majlis.

Following a meeting of the party’s executive national council in Addu City, the MDP revealed in a statement yesterday (May 23) that the party’s 25 MPs-elect would back a candidate who supports eight main policy objectives:-

  • Removing obstacles for access to justice and reforming the judiciary
  • Empowering local councils and amending the Decentralisation Act to enable councils to generate income
  • Establishing a minimum wage
  • Strengthening social security and the ‘Aasandha’ health insurance scheme to ensure coverage for all citizens
  • Assuring investor confidence in business transactions with the state
  • Working with the MDP to “resolve the international problems that have arisen due to the cancellation of the contract to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.”
  • Introducing an income tax, maintaining the Tourism Goods and Services Tax at eight percent and eliminating import duties
  • Removing obstacles to expanding the guest house business, which is the “quickest route to eradicating poverty.”

The main opposition party contested the parliamentary elections in March on a platform of judicial reform and empowerment of local councils.

With the next speaker due to be elected through secret ballot at the first sitting of the newly-elected parliament on Wednesday (May 28),  the question of which party should control the post of speaker has led to tension within the ruling coalition.

While Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim has announced his bid for the speaker’s post, President Abdulla Yameen has said repeatedly that the speaker should be a member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The Progressive Coalition – made up of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – secured 53 out of 85 seats in the March 22 parliamentary polls.

The MDP won 26 seats while independent candidates won five seats and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party won one seat.

Three independent candidates along with MDP MP-elect for the Thimarafushi constituency, Mohamed Musthafa, have since signed for the PPM, bringing the ruling party’s numbers up to 37 and securing a two-thirds majority for the coalition.

However, neither party on its own has enough MPs-elect to reach the 43-vote simple majority.

While the PPM and MDA is one vote short of the simple majority with 37 seats and five seats respectively, the JP and MDP falls three votes short with 40 seats.

Meanwhile, PPM MPs Ahmed Mahloof and Ahmed Nihan revealed in the wake of the parliamentary elections that the pair had pledged their support for Gasim’s bid to become speaker during negotiations for forming the Progressive Coalition ahead of last year’s presidential election runoff.

Moreover, former President Mohamed Nasheed – acting president of the MDP – signalled the opposition party’s support for Gasim following a meeting at the business tycoon’s residence last month.

The PPM has meanwhile yet to announce the party’s choice for the speaker’s post. However, PPM MPs-elect Ahmed Nazim – deputy speaker of the outgoing parliament – and Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed have expressed interest in becoming the next speaker.

The ruling party appears to be divided over which MP to nominate for the post with Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb – deputy leader of the PPM – claiming  that allegations of corruption that surfaced in the press last week were linked to his refusal to support certain individuals for the speaker’s post.

Speaking to Minivan News on Thursday, Adeeb dismissed the allegations as an unfair “defamation attempt.”

Adeeb later told newspaper Haveeru that PPM MP Nazim was behind the corruption allegations, which are currently under investigation by both the Anti-Corruption Commission and auditor general’s office.

Adeeb said he could not back Nazim’s bid to become speaker as he was suspected of “blackmail” and “corruption” and declared his support for Maseeh.

“This problem [corruption allegations] has come up because my stand is strong inside the PPM. I am accused of these things because I take the stand that is most beneficial to the country. And because I have influence within PPM,” he alleged.

“This is a political ploy to defame myself, PPM and the government. This has been done to blackmail me in order to politically twist the Majlis speaker issue a certain way.


Government coalition remains strong, insists President Yameen

The ruling Progressive Coalition remains strong and united despite minor problems in the coalition’s “internal dynamics”, President Abdulla Yameen told the press yesterday prior to departing on his official visit to Japan.

Asked about rumblings of discontent from coalition partners, President Yameen suggested that the main issue of contention was appointing members of coalition parties to political posts, which posed difficulties to the government.

“One thing is that I don’t want the government to be one with that many political posts. I wanted to keep political posts within some limit,” he said.

Yameen explained that he had decided that political appointees should not exceed the number of appointees under the previous administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

“However, the written agreement of our coalition had higher figures than before,” he conceded.

President Waheed’s administration comprised of the same parties in the current ruling coalition.

Members of coalition parties as well as the Adhaalath Party worked hard in the presidential campaign to secure the coalition’s victory, Yameen continued, and were “awaiting some kind of post” in the government.

A second issue was the preference for appointing educated youth to political posts with a first degree as a minimum requirement, Yameen said.

Parties sought to secure appointments for its members to the boards of government-owned corporations, though Yameen said the executive’s hands were tied by the new privatisation law.

The president’s nominees are evaluated by the privatisation committee and individuals who do not meet the criteria are rejected, he added.

Similarly, nominees for diplomatic posts such as high commissioners and ambassadors must have a background in foreign affairs, Yameen said.

Tension within the coalition was caused by the difficulties in appointing members of coalition parties to their desired posts, said Yameen, though he insisted that there were no problems at the leadership level.

While the problems related to appointments could persist, Yameen said he did not believe it could “affect the coalition too much”.

The number of political appointees in the executive presently exceeds 100, with four deputy ministers on average for each ministry.

The president’s remarks came after Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim revealed at a rally on Saturday night that JP members have been appointed to only 29 political posts so far.

JP was promised 35 percent of all political appointees in the coalition agreement, Gasim noted.

For example, if the government is making 400 political appointments, 29 is not 35 percent of that amount. [If it is 35 percent] there would be more. But if 29 appointments is 35 percent [of political appointments] then we are content,” the business tycoon said.

“But if we consider this figure, it should definitely reach 100. If this is not the case [we have to] look in to this.”


The JP was meanwhile absent from the celebration rally held earlier this month by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance.

Several unsuccessful JP candidates have contended that they lost due to PPM members contesting as independents in constituencies reserved for the JP in the coalition seat allocation deal.

Explaining JP’s absence at the celebration rally, Gasim said that the event was organised by the PPM rather than the coalition.

Gasim claimed JP leaders were not given the opportunity to speak at the rally – “not even to give words of thanks”.

He further accused the PPM leadership of refusing to grant the JP’s request to alter the agenda to allow JP members to address coalition supporters.

Following the coalition’s victory in the March 22 parliamentary polls, the PPM and JP announced that the coalition partners would be fielding separate candidates to become the next speaker of parliament.

The speaker will be elected through secret ballot following the swearing-in ceremony for MPs-elect scheduled for May 28.

On the dispute over the speaker’s post, President Yameen told reporters yesterday that discussions on the issue have not taken place yet.

Yameen stressed the importance of parliament’s cooperation for the executive to implement policies, deliver services and fulfil campaign pledges, noting that parliamentary approval was needed for obtaining loans.

No one should be allowed to either obstruct the government from providing services to the public or “slow down” the legislative process, he added.

“So for that reason I want the speaker of parliament post for my party. I know Gasim is also interested. God willing, we will discuss it further with Gasim within the coalition,” he said.


Court extends detention of former Immigration Controller, three others

The Criminal Court has extended the detention period of Former Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid, brother of Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Shahid, and three others who were arrested in connection with an alleged fraud case concerning the Disaster Management Centre, worth MVR 24 million (US$1.57 million).

The five were taken to the Criminal Court last Friday, which extended their pretrial detention period to 15 days.

Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid tweeted that the police officers who went to arrest his brother violated the sanctity of his house and entered his parent’s bedroom.

‘’I strongly condemn the violation of the sanctity of my residence and my parent’s bedroom by Maldives Police SO (Special Operations) today,’’ Shahid tweeted on Thursday.

Following the speaker’s allegations, police held a press conference on Friday evening during which Police Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz denied allegations that police had violated the sanctity of Abdulla Shahid’s residence.

Nawaz told the press that the police officers went to Shahid’s house and first called his brother Mohamed Shahid. He came downstairs and told the police officers that he needed to see his parents before leaving.

According to Nawaz, police officers went inside with Shahid when he went to see his parents. He expressed concern that the media was misleading the public over the incident.

The case involving the Disaster Management Centre fraud concerns an audit report into the Centre produced by the Auditor General. In the report, the Auditor General alleged that the MVR 24 million was fraudulently obtained from the budget allocated for the Centre for the years 2009 and 2010.

The Auditor General’s special report into the case alleged that the Disaster Management Centre had photocopied, edited and reused ‘Credit Purchase Order Forms’ used in 2005, to withdraw the MVR 24 million from the Centre’s budget at the Finance Ministry.

The ‘Credit Purchase Order Forms’ were originally given to the Disaster Management Centre in 2005 to withdraw cash from the Tsunami Recovery Fund. The Auditor General’s report also suggested that the Finance Ministry was complicit in the alleged fraud.


Speaker Shahid denies asking Nazim to delay vote on secret no-confidence ballots

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim told local media on Sunday that although the amendment to allow secret ballots when taking no confidence votes had been passed in the General Affairs Committee, Speaker Abdulla Shahid had asked to delay placing the vote on the agenda.

However, Shahid has denied having asked for the delay, stating that Nazim had not brought up the matter for discussion. He stated that it was normal to table larger issues for voting after giving ample time to MPs to prepare, and that the same procedure would be followed in this issue.

“As a rule, I have always tabled larger issues in parliament in such a way which gives ample time to members. Otherwise, if such a huge issue is put on agenda suddenly, it is the Parliament Speaker who will get blamed,” Shahid was quoted as saying, adding, “Had the deputy speaker discussed the matter with me, the answer would still be that the members must be given enough time.”

Shahid confirmed that the report of the General Affairs Committee would be sent to the MPs once work resumes on Monday, stating that the voting would then be duly put on agenda.

To be deemed official, amendments to parliament’s regulations and procedures have to be approved through a vote at the parliament floor even though they are passed at committee stage.

No confidence vote on Home Minister

Meanwhile, a no confidence vote against the Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has been scheduled for next Tuesday.

“It was my understanding that we needed to come to a decision on the matter of secret ballots before the no confidence vote [against Jameel] is taken. But the Speaker who is in Islamabad asked for the vote to be delayed. Thus no decision will be made on the secret ballots before the no confidence vote,” Nazim said.

Shahid, however, said that he sees no reason why the matter of allowing secret ballots needed to be settled before the taking of the no confidence vote against Jameel, stating he saw no relation between the two issues.

“The matter of allowing secret ballots was raised in majlis after I had already scheduled the no confidence vote on Jameel. Now, the issue which was first placed on agenda must be carried forward, shouldn’t it?”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has also proposed a no confidence vote against President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Minivan News tried contacting Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim but he was not responding to calls at the time of press.


Transparency Maldives conducts RTI Symposium with state stakeholders

At a symposium on promoting right to information(RTI) organised by local anti-corruption NGO, Transparency Maldives, discussions were held on the importance of establishing a strong RTI regime in the country.

A variety of sessions, including RTI and democracy, administering an RTI regime, local governance and RTI, and proactive disclosure by the state were discussed at this symposium which aimed to create awareness among policy makers, public officials, civil society and media.

“We invited high level officials from relevant state institutions to the symposium. Our hope is that we can form partnerships to further promote RTI and advocate for passing the RTI bill currently in parliament with the best practices included in it,” Transparency Maldives Advocacy Manager Aiman Rasheed told Minivan News.

The NGO further said that they had invited experts from around the world to impart information about the importance of establishing a robust RTI law.

Speakers at the event included Senior Legal Officer for Freedom of Information and Expression at the Open Society Justice Initiative Sandra Coliver, Deputy Executive Director of the Open Democracy Advice Centre Mukelani Dimba, Legal Officer for the Centre for Law and Democracy Michael Karanicolas, Programme Coordinator of Access to Information Programme at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Venkatesh Nayak, former Information Commissioner at the Indian Central Information Commission Shailesh Gandhi and Chairperson of local NGO Democracy House Mohamed Anil.

Speaker of Parliament, Abdulla Shahid, chief guest at the symposium, said in his speech that freedom of information is a concept alien to the local society. He said that it had traditionally been reserved for the privileged and powerful classes.

“Our society tended to make very deliberate demarcations between those who need to know, who should know and those who need not know,” he said, further adding, “I strongly believe access of information must be an indispensable part of any true democracy.”

Right to Information has been regulated in the Maldives from January 2009 under a presidential decree, following the failure to pass a similar bill in parliament in 2007. The current regulation covers only the ministries under the executive.

“In addition to the executive, the RTI Act should also cover the parliament, the judiciary, the independent institutions, the state companies, NGOs and utility companies,” said Rasheed in his speech.

He also added that there should not be “unnecessary obstacles” for information seekers, and that there should not be “blanket secrecy” granted to any institution.

A new RTI Bill was submitted to parliament in November 2009, which has since been pending at the Social Affairs Committee. Speaking at Monday’s symposium, Shahid said that Chair of the Social Affairs Committee had assured him that he was “very hopeful” the bill would be adopted before the end of the year.

In addition to conducting the symposium, Transparency Maldives has previously coordinated trainings on RTI for civil society and media, produced a critique of the RTI Bill at the Parliament’s Social Affairs Committee and received endorsements for their position on RTI from the Anti Corruption Commission, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, the Auditor General and the Ministry of Human Rights and Gender.

The NGO has also stated that it further intends to conduct workshops on RTI in 13 atolls and to assist in the establishment of a system through information technology which aims to increase convenience for the public in obtaining information from the state.

Minivan News tried contacting Chair of the Social Affairs Committee PPM MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed and Co-Chair DRP MP Hassan Latheef, but neither was responding to calls at the time of press.


Parliament “working to resolve instability”: Speaker

Parliament is working to resolve the political instability currently at play in the capital Male’, Speaker Abdulla Shahid has said.

In a response to the accusations that Parliament was not addressing the matter of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s arrest by the military last week, or the detention of opposition party members, the body stated that it had the authority to monitor and hold the government accountable for its actions when necessary, local media reports.

The statement added that parliamentary committees are important for enforcement purposes.

Speaking to local media, Shahid attempted to discredit the general accusation that Parliament has not done anything to resolve the situation and explained that the independent body was trying to address the matter in a responsible fashion.

Shahid emphasised that Parliament does not belong to any individual, and that its decisions are made collectively. He said the final results indicate the level of work done by Parliament members.

Relevant parliamentary committees are evaluating the political situation, he added.


President forms committee to control gang violence in the Maldives

President Mohamed Nasheed has formed a special committee to curb gang violence and gang related crimes in the Maldives.

The committee consists of National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal, Home Minister Hassan Afeef, Attorney General Abdulla Muiz, State Defence Minister Mohamed Muiz Adnan and Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz.

The President’s Office said that the committee had their first meetings yesterday afternoon and had decided to establish a special task force to curb serious and organised crime.

The task force will be led by Maldives Police Service and will consist of officials from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS), Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Education, Courts of law, Prosecutor General’s Office, Maldives Customs Service, Ministry of Health and Family, Ministry of Human Resources Youth and Sports, Immigration Department and officials from the Local Government Authority.

The work of the special task force will be to secure the citizens of the country, isolate and arrest those who commit offences that disrupt the peace and harmony, to rehabilitate criminals and to offer opportunities for them to be back in society after they are reformed.

‘’This committee assures the citizens that we will constantly work to reinstate the peace in this country in national level,’’ the committee said in a statement via the president’s office. ‘’We will continuously try to gain attention and cooperation from the implementing agencies, businessman, NGOs, political parties and the public.’’

The committee said that in order to achieve its goal, all the institutions should corporate and work together.

This week the committee will meet the Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, National Security Committee [241 committee] of the parliament, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and other judges at the Supreme Court.

Recently a ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed presented an amendment to the Clemency Act which requires upholding death sentences if upheld by the Supreme Court and later withdrew it for the Penal Code and Evidence Bill was not yet passed.

In 2008 Rasheed said 104 cases of assault were sent to Prosecutor General, increasing to 454 in 2009 and 423 cases in 2010.

More recently 21 year-old Ahusan Basheer was stabbed to death on Alikileygefaanu Magu.

On June 2008, the major gangs in Male’ gave a press conference at Dharubaaruge and declared ‘’peace’’ and vowed to work together.


Adhaalath party congratulates parties for ending Supreme Court deadlocks

The Adhaalath Party has congratulated the parliament and the government for coming to an understanding over the controversial issue of establishing the Supreme Court and appointing a Chief Justice, on conclusion of the interim period of the constitution.

“We praise and thank the speaker of the parliament and the government for the sacrifices they made and for the unity they showed for the first time, to establish the Supreme Court and to appoint the Chief Justice,’’ said the party in a statement.

“We also congratulate the new Chief justice and the Supreme Court judges who have been appointed permanently.’’

The party said they hoped the Supreme Court would bring balance and justice to the country and that the unity parliament had showed would be continued..

Earlier this week a surge in political partisanship, caused by disagreement over the interim period set out in the Constitution and the locking of the Supreme Court by the military, had threatened to derail the appointment process and leave the Maldives without its highest judicial authority.

However on Tuesday morning parliament approved the amended judge’s bill with 71 in favor, out of 73 members present. It was quickly ratified by President Nasheed shortly after lunchtime.

The new Judges Act enshrines judicial independence, governing ethical standards and rules on appointment and dismissal, as well as powers, responsibilities and practicalities such as salaries and allowances. The law also requires serving judges to meet a certain standards within seven years, or face dismissal.