The People’s Majlis is set to reconvene on Thursday at the Dharubaaruge multi purpose hall instead of the parliament house because of a minor fire that damaged its air conditioning system.
President Abdulla Yameen will deliver his annual presidential address at the opening.
Ahmed Mohamed, the secretary general of the People’s Majlis, said the January 28 fire had been caused by an electrical short in the deputy speaker’s office.
“We have brought in experts and they confirmed that we would not be able to use the chamber tomorrow,” he said.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has criticised the change of venue for this year’s address as “another example of President Yameen’s autocratic rule.”
“An electrical short should not affect parliament sittings. If things go on this way I fear the government may decide to hold parliament sessions at the official presidential retreat,” said MP Imthiyaz Fahmy.
Opposition MPs had disrupted Yameen’s address last year in protest over the jailing of opposition leaders including former President Mohamed Nasheed on a terrorism charge.
The MDP has not made a decision on allowing this year’s address to proceed, Fahmy said.
MDP MPs and Jumhooree Party MPs had gathered in front of Yameen’s podium, carrying placards and calling for Nasheed’s freedom. Yameen’s speech could not be heard over the din.
After concluding the speech, Yameen gave two thumbs up to MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives and made a thumb down gesture towards opposition MPs.
Nasheed is currently in the UK on a 30-day medical leave.
Yameen’s government is currently mired in a massive corruption scandal that only emerged after the arrest of former President Ahmed Adeeb on suspicion of links to a blast on the presidential speedboat in September.
Yameen escaped unhurt. The government insists that the blast was caused by a bomb targeting the president.
Since the blast, security measures have been tightened at the president’s events – soldiers carrying rifles guard the premises while those who attend the events are subject to enhanced security checks.