Opposition MPs forced out after soldiers and police storm parliament

Opposition MPs forced out after soldiers and police storm parliament
July 24 17:15 2017

Police officers and soldiers in riot gear forcibly dragged out opposition lawmakers from the parliament building and arrested two in dramatic scenes Monday afternoon as protests raged in Malé.

The police spokesman said Specialist Operations officers entered the Majlis compound after the military, which maintains security at parliament, formally sought assistance to remove MPs deemed to have lost their seats.

MPs Mohamed Ameeth and Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim were taken into custody outside the parliament building after dozens of riot police officers and soldiers expelled all the opposition lawmakers.

A sitting was due to take place Monday for a no-confidence vote against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, a key ally of embattled President Abdulla Yameen.

But the opposition-led motion was thrown out after four ex-ruling party lawmakers who backed the impeachment were disqualified in light of a controversial anti-defection ruling from the Supreme Court.

Disputing their disqualification and insisting that the motion must be put to a vote Monday after the constitutionally-mandated 14-day notice period, the four-party opposition alliance called on supporters to gather near the Maldivian Democratic Party office to accompany MPs to the Majlis.

The opposition’s call for supporters from across the country to join the protest prompted the police to warn of a crackdown on any “unlawful gathering.”

Riot police used pepper spray to push back about 300 opposition supporters gathered outside the MDP office, a short distance from the parliament building, periodically charging the crowd with shields and issuing stern warnings to disperse.

Soldiers meanwhile padlocked the gates to the parliament building earlier on Monday morning.

MP Ahmed Mahloof said on Twitter that he had asked Chief of Defence Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam to “withdraw his illegal order” but was told that there were no Majlis sittings or committee meetings.

Majlis Secretary-General Ahmed Mohamed told the Maldives Independent that the MNDF informed the parliament secretariat that only employees would be allowed to enter.

The MNDF spokesman was not responding to calls.

The police spokesman had indicated at a press briefing Sunday that opposition lawmakers would not be allowed to enter as the speaker has announced that Majlis will remain closed until July 31, citing security arrangements ahead of activities planned to mark Independence Day on July 26.

Opposition lawmakers had marched to the Majlis after a meeting of the joint parliamentary group at the Jumhooree Party headquarters.

Riot police initially set up barricades and blocked the 41 MPs from leaving the JP headquarters. But after about 20 minutes, the MPs were allowed to march through Malé’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu.

All but four opposition lawmakers pushed through police lines amid heavy pepper spray and entered the Majlis compound. Some climbed over the short wall.

MPs Faisal Naseem and Abdul Bari Abdulla along with several protesters were treated at the nearby ADK private hospital after being pepper sprayed at close range.

The lawmakers were forcibly dragged out by soldiers and SO police officers from inside the MDP parliamentary group’s meeting room.

“There is no better symbol of Yameen’s dictatorship than the image of his security forces barring elected MPs from parliament. This president has lost all legitimacy and credibility,” said MDP MP Eva Abdulla.