Deputy Speaker invokes authority to forcibly evict disruptive MPs

Four MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) breakaway Z-faction were forcibly removed from the chamber today after Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim invoked the Speaker’s authority to evict disruptive MPs by force from the parliament floor.

Z-DRP MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ilham Ahmed and Ali Arif were forcibly taken out of the chamber by MNDF officers while MP Ahmed Nihan left of his own accord.

All four MPs had been ordered to leave by the Deputy Speaker after repeatedly advising disruptive MPs to return to their seats.

“I believe we have to find a solution to Majlis sittings being stopped because of this issue,” Nazim said this morning when Mahlouf refused to leave after about 15 minutes. “I intend to go ahead with getting the MP out under article 54(g). I am adjourning the sitting to do this.”

MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) cheered and applauded the decision. The ruling party MPs had bolted the chamber doors and refused to let opposition MPs leave yesterday.

Article 54(g) of the parliamentary rules of procedure states that the Speaker has the authority to expel an MP who refuses to leave the chamber despite the Speaker’s ruling “in a way that does not undermine the sanctity of the People’s Majlis.”

Crowds of activists and supporters of both parties had gathered outside the parliament building to continue yesterday’s protest. However police had cordoned off the area and used pepper spray to control confrontations between rival supporters.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that while “a few people were temporarily detained,” the scuffles and disturbances were not serious and no one was arrested.

Today’s sitting was meanwhile adjourned a number of times to evict the Z-DRP MPs. However following the expulsion of Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan from the chamber, proceedings went ahead smoothly with the exception of disruptive points of order raised by some opposition MPs, notably People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed.

The Z-DRP MPs had contended that a sitting held last week to approve the composition of committees was “unlawful” as MPs were informed via text message just two hours before it began at 8.30pm.

The vote to approve a compromise reached by parliamentary group (PG) leaders over the committee composition was taken while Z-DRP MPs were protesting in front of the secretariat desk. Following the vote, Z-faction MPs vowed to disrupt future sittings in protest.

10.00am: MNDF officers have reportedly entered the chamber and are pleading with MP Mahlouf to leave the chamber.

10.30am: Police have used pepper spray to control protestors and arrested some activists. Male’ City Councillors are reportedly among the crowd.

10:40am: Nazim’s party, minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA), alleged yesterday that the Deputy Speaker suffered an injury in a scuffle with Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs yesterday. “We consider this a criminal offence carried out by some members belonging to MDP and we condemn the act in the strictest of terms. We call on the authorities to investigate the matter,” the party said in a statement. Haveeru published a photograph of a cut finger. Nazim’s explained that his finger was caught between his desk and a chair placed by an MDP MP to block him from leaving the Speaker’s chair.

10:57am: MP Mahlouf has been removed from the chamber by MNDF officers on orders from Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim.

11:50am: Majlis sitting has been adjourned again shortly after it began when MP Ahmed Ilham was ordered to leave the chamber but refused to comply with Deputy Speaker Nazim’s order.

12:10pm: Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf has told Minivan News that the Deputy Speaker called out his name and ordered him to leave the chamber when he raised a point of order to inquire about some documents missing from his desk.

”I left an agreement and some very important documents on my desk last night and when I came this morning it was missing, so I took point of order to ask about it,” he said.

Mahlouf said that Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers came inside the chamber and “dragged me outside using force.”

“Later while I was standing outside, MDP MP Ali Waheed (former DRP deputy leader) came at me, spit in my face and hit me on the face,” he claimed.

Newspaper Haveeru has reported that its journalists witnessed part of the altercation and saw Mahlouf strike Waheed in the back.

12:16pm: MNDF officers have reportedly removed Ilham from the chamber.

12:33pm: MP Ali Arif has also been removed by MNDF officers after he refused to leave the chamber when ordered by Deputy Speaker Nazim.

1:10pm: Majlis sitting has resumed at 1pm without the three evicted Z-DRP MPs. Deputy Speaker Nazim is proceeding with the agenda items. Debate on the government’s proposed amendment to the Import-Export Act of 1979 has begun. The amendment bill is being presented to the floor by MDP MP for Maafanu South Ibrahim Rasheed.

1:42pm: Deputy Speaker Nazim has repeatedly appealed for calm after Z-DRP MPs Ahmed Nihan, Abdul Muhsin Hameed and PA MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla raised points of order to protest the removal of opposition MPs by force. MP Ibrahim Muttalib resumed speaking in the debate but a number of opposition MPs are on their feet in protest. “I don’t believe I can continue speaking in this environment,” Muttalib has said.

1:45pm: Deputy Speaker Nazim has ordered Nihan to leave the chamber and adjourned the sitting.

2:00pm: The sitting has resumed after Nihan left the chamber without being escorted out by MNDF officers.

3:30pm: Today’s sitting of parliament has just concluded. Debate on the proposed amendment to the Import Export Act was completed while preliminary debate began on the Business Profit Tax Bill.


Military ordered to ensure order in chamber as disruptive MPs force Majlis cancellation

Parliament entered its third week of deadlock with the imposed cancellation of today’s sitting by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim after opposition MP Ali Arif refused to comply with an order to leave the chamber.

Arif and his fellow MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) breakaway Z-faction had vowed to disrupt future sittings in protest of the “unlawful sitting” last week where a compromise to revise the composition of committees was approved by a 36-1 vote.

Shortly after today’s sitting began at 9.00am, the DRP MP for Vaikaradhoo was protesting in front of the secretariat desk when Nazim – presiding in the absence of Speaker Abdulla Shahid – ordered the MP out after repeatedly advising Arif to return to his seat.

“Article 54 of the rules of procedure states that an MP [ordered to leave the chamber] cannot participate in the remainder of the sitting,” said Nazim, announcing the cancellation after resuming the sitting around 11.15am. “Therefore, I cannot continue today’s sitting with the MP participating.”

At last week’s sitting on Tuesday (July 5), which took place at 8.30pm following repeated cancellations, Z-DRP MPs contended that the committee issue was tabled in the agenda in violation of parliamentary rules. In addition, the MPs claimed that the sitting was not legitimate as they were were informed on very short notice via text messages.

However Speaker Abdulla Shahid pushed ahead with the vote while MPs of the Z-faction along with minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MPs were out of their seats protesting in front of the secretariat desk.

After the result was announced, MPs of the rival opposition faction chased Speaker Shahid, loudly berating him as he left the chamber.

The announcement was met with cheers and applause from MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

While journalists at the public viewing gallery were hurriedly ushered out, Minivan News understands that security personnel and some MDP MPs stepped in between the Speaker and his former colleagues.

Calling in the MNDF

Meanwhile in the wake of the Z-DRP MPs’ threats to disrupt future sittings, Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel met with opposition MPs yesterday. The army chief reportedly informed them that the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) would escort MPs out of the chamber should they refuse to comply with orders from the Speaker.

Following the meeting, Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf told press that Jaleel discussed with them the legal obligation of the MNDF to uphold the Speaker’s authority and to ensure the safety of all MPs.

Article 105 of the constitution tasks the army with maintaining “the security of the House of the People’s Majlis, all property attached thereto and all offices and facilities where its work is conducted” as well as “ensuring the protection and safety of all members of the People’s Majlis.”

Moreover, the Defence Forces Act empowers the army to enforce the Speaker’s rulings to maintain order in the chamber.

Mahlouf claimed that the involvement of the MNDF signified “a deal made between President [Mohamed] Nasheed, Speaker Abdulla Shahid and DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to destroy us.”

Speaking in his weekly radio address on Friday, President Nasheed made an appeal to the Z-DRP MPs to let parliament resume its legislative responsibilities as “such attempts [to disrupt sittings] are in truth attempts to bring the state to a halt.”

“For three or four people to come out and try to bring the state to a halt is surely not wise,” he said. “If the Speaker wished to do something special in a particular way, I do not doubt that he has the means to do it. The state has means that can be used to speed things up.”

“Military rule”

Speaking to Minivan News today, Z-DRP MP Ahmed Nihan explained that the MPs were mainly objecting to last week’s “unlawful sitting.”

“If the Speaker accepts that the sitting was unlawful and considers having another sitting to appoint MPs to the parliament committees, the major issue will be solved,” he said.

He added that it was “a big joke” that the MNDF’s legal department was offering legal advice to parliament: “They have said it is their duty to protect the parliament and to maintain the rule of law.”

Nihan suggested that MPs “felt intimidated” following the MNDF’s legal advice to the Speaker.

“The Speaker has the authority to take other actions against MPs who do not follow the regulations, such as cutting an amount from their salary,” he said. “Now this country is becoming like Myanmar [Burma] has been in the past years – the Maldives is bit by bit turning to a military rule.”

Nihan added that he would also like to clarify “whether it was the President or Speaker Abdulla Shahid that asked MNDF to [intervene in parliament].”

MNDF Spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem confirmed that the Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel met yesterday with both the Speaker “and some MPs.”

“They discussed the issues occurring inside parliament and said it was the legal duty of the MNDF to protect the parliament and other state institutions,” he said. “We will maintain the rules and laws in whatever action we take and we will not hesitate to take any action required to take to fulfill our legal duty.”

At the beginning of today’s sitting, DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed raised a point of order demanding to know which law authorised MNDF officers to enter the chamber and “drag MPs away.”

Addressing the concerns, Deputy Speaker Nazim replied that he was aware of the meeting between the Speaker and the Chief of Defence Forces.

“MNDF [officers] will not enter the Majlis chamber without the permission of the Speaker,” he said. “The Speaker does not intend to give permission and I will not do it either.”