Parliament sitting cancelled after toilet fire

Parliament sitting cancelled after toilet fire
August 01 13:22 2017

Tuesday’s sitting of the People’s Majlis was cancelled after a fire broke out at a toilet inside the parliament building Monday night.

The parliament secretariat informed MPs that the sitting was cancelled because “time is needed to bring the place back to a normal state and to take other measures in connection with the [fire incident].”

Ibrahim Azim, the military’s fire and rescue team’s spokesman, told the press that no one was harmed as the fire was put out shortly after it was reported around 6 pm.

Opposition lawmakers alleged that the restroom was deliberately set on fire for a pretext to cancel the sitting.

After a three-week hiatus, the Majlis resumed Monday with soldiers surrounding Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed as opposition lawmakers protested in the chamber. Sittings were suspended on July 3 after the four-party opposition coalition secured a majority with the backing of ruling party defectors.

Four lawmakers have since been detained and three are standing trial.

Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, who recently joined the Progressive Party of Maldives, told state media that a tissue holder in the men’s room appeared to have caught on fire.

The State Electricity Company has ruled out an electrical short-circuit as the cause of the fire, he told the Public Service Media.

“The fire occurred in a way that raises questions. Smoke blew into the Majlis because of the fire and there’s black smoke here,” he said.

The police investigation will determine whether it was an act of arson, he added.

At Monday’s sitting, opposition lawmakers protested against the jailing of lawmakers, the unprecedented expulsion of lawmakers from the parliament by the police and military last week, and the contentious dismissal of a no-confidence motion submitted against Maseeh with the backing of 45 MPs from the 85-member house.

Opposition lawmakers say the motion must be put to a vote. A constitutionally-mandated deadline for the impeachment vote expired on July 24 but the deputy speaker had announced that the motion was rendered invalid by the disputed disqualification of four lawmakers.

Maseeh’s impeachment would have sealed the loss of President Abdulla Yameen’s previously unassailable majority in the 85-member house.

The Supreme Court has since decided to hear appeals from the four disqualified lawmakers, three of whom were expelled from the PPM long before the Attorney General sought the anti-defection ruling.