Parliament has announced its intention to increase the height of the building’s boundary wall to 12 feet to increase the security of the building.
Secretary General of the Parliament Secretariat Ahmed Mohamed told local media earlier that the decision was made on the advice of security services “to prevent people from climbing the wall or throwing things.” The Secretariat is currently searching for a contractor to do the work.
Parliament has been subjected to recurrent protests outside its gates, most recently by demonstrators against the MP Privileges Bill and new pay structure, which would have seen the salaries of Maldivian MPs increased to a level on par with those in Sweden, as well as introduced a plethora of benefits ranging from tax-free cars to certain immunities from the criminal justice system.
President Mohamed Nasheed refused to ratify the bill yesterday, after consulting the Attorney General, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and receiving 289 letters of concern from the public.
Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed said that he did not think the solution to public concern regarding MPs and their work was “to turn parliament into a fortress.”
“I believe parliament should be seen to be accessible, open and transparent – a symbol of open democracy,” he said.
“There have been quite a lot of disturbances outside, and odd comments towards parliamentarians sitting having coffees, and a lot of unruly elements in the area, but I don’t believe this justifies raising the wall,” he said.
“I’m not sure how this came about – I just heard they were looking for a contractor to raise the wall. I don’t see it as a solution – it sends a message of defiance, which is not the right message to send to the public.”
MP Nasheed, who abstained from the vote over the controversial MP Privileges bill, said he believed the President was justified in refusing to ratify it.
“I didn’t want to express an opinion on it. There are issues I like, but there are things in it I don’t like. I believe it exceeds the ambit of priviledges and guarantees that parliamentarians need to carry out their work.”
Nasheed said he felt the term ‘priviliege’ could be misleading and said he understood it in a techincal sense as distinct from ‘benefits’, in that ‘privileges’ provided that which MPs required to function free of interference.
“[Things like] elevating status in society, seating orders, use of the [airport] VIP lounge on departure, special treatment at the places MPs visit – I don’t believe these are necessary for an MP to function,” he said. “These are not privileges, they are benefits.”
“As for the criminal [immunities], I don’t believe any parliamentarian should be exempt or receive special treatment from criminal proceedings. There are concerns about the surveillance of MPs and advantages taken of this monitoring, but I believe the criminal justice system must come into action, even against an MP. But there should be a parliamentary mechanism in parallel to check on the process.”