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Maldives parliament resumes sittings

Opposition lawmakers ended their boycott of parliament.



Parliament resumed sittings on Sunday, ending a military lockdown of the premises and an opposition boycott of sessions.

The sitting saw the introduction of a bill to repeal the Anti-Defamation Act, a bill to repeal the Anti-Defection Act and a resolution calling on the prosecutor general and Supreme Court to review the terror conviction against former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Joint opposition lawmakers attended a parliament session for the first time since July 2017, when they launched a boycott following the removal of 12 ruling party lawmakers who had defected.

There had previously been a military presence at the parliament building. Uniformed troops blocked opposition MPs from entering, even dragging them out. In February, during a state of emergency, lawmakers were seen being manhandled and removed from the compound.

The Sunday session started with a quorum of 42 lawmakers, with more joining the session later. President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his deputy Faisal Naseem were also present.

Deputy Speaker Moosa Manik filled in for the ruling party-aligned speaker Abdulla Maseeh, who has stepped aside from the role after the opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against him for the third time.

– Save the date –

The main issue debated was a request from Solih’s transition team to decide when the next presidential term should begin.

Parliament voted to appoint a committee to deliberate on the matter.

The constitution does not specify a date for the swearing-in ceremony but states the presidential term is five years.

Maldivian presidents are traditionally sworn in on Republic Day, November 11. But President Abdulla Yameen took the oath of office on November 17 due to delays after the 2013 election.

The opposition wants Solih to take the oath of office on November 11 – which would be the 50th anniversary of the republic – but the ruling party says Yameen’s five-year term ends six days later.

The Elections Commission says there are “no legal barriers” for Solih to begin his term on November 11.

A majority of lawmakers, including prominent ruling party MPs, argued the date should be November 11.

“I don’t think there is much debate needed on this,” said Ibrahim Shareef from the Maldivian Democratic Party. “In 2013 the Supreme Court decided that, under the circumstances of the time, the new president should take oath of office on November 17. We don’t have to follow this now.”

Solih also spoke on the issue.

“I believe we should deliberate well and come to a consensus on this. I don’t want to act in violation of the constitution. I don’t want there to be any space, at any time after this, for me to be accused of taking the oath of office unconstitutionally,” he said.

Sunday’s agenda initially featured preliminary debates for the two controversial bills to be repealed. But it was revised that morning after lawmakers asked the speaker to follow procedure instead of rushing bills through parliament.

Parliament also voted to throw out three amendment bills, which were sent by the current ruling party, related to the Parliamentary Elections Act, the Penal Code and the Jails and Parole Act.

Photo shows president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at Majlis