Today’s sitting of parliament was adjourned amid protests by main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer from house arrest to jail last night.
MDP MPs started protesting after a minute of silence was observed at the beginning of the sitting out of respect to former speaker of parliament Abdulla Hameed, who passed away last week.
Opposition MPs called for the resignation of President Abdulla Yameen, contending that Nasheed’s arrest was unlawful as the government had permanently commuted his 13-year jail sentence to house arrest.
Shortly thereafter, speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed adjourned proceedings, saying the sound system was malfunctioning.
— Abdulla Rifau Bochey (@RifauMP) August 24, 2015
Protest happening in majlis. pic.twitter.com/2RbZ0fMnwM
— MP Rozaina Adam (@Roxeyna) August 24, 2015
The sitting resumed after 11:00pm and proceeded without disruption.
Following Nasheed’s arrest on February 22, MDP MPs began protesting in the People’s Majlis floor with sirens, whistles and megaphones when the parliament returned from recess in March. The parliament secretariat cut off live feed of sittings to television stations, but Speaker Maseeh continued proceedings despite the disorder in the chamber.
The opposition MPs suspended their protest in April to seek a negotiated solution to a standoff with the government.
The MDP meanwhile released a press statement today condemning the “arbitrary arrest” of the opposition leader by Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) acting with the help of Specialist Operations (SO) police officers.
The MDP said police officers pepper sprayed Nasheed’s family members, MDP MPs, supporters and journalists gathered outside the former president’s residence in Malé.
“President Yameen has demonstrated that he is a man who will break his word and is not to be trusted. Yameen has deliberately plunged the country into political upheaval. We will do all we can to stop this country from sliding into a full dictatorship. We demand the immediate release of President Nasheed,” said MDP international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.
Four prison officers entered the former president’s residence around 8:45pm last night to take Nasheed back to jail. Nasheed’s lawyers showed the prison officers a copy of a document showing his prison sentence had been commuted to house arrest.
However, the MCS denied issuing a commutation, and said Nasheed had been taken back to prison when an eight-week period of house arrest expired on August 21.
“The transfer of President Nasheed back to jail is a blatant violation of the Constitution,” the MDP said.
Nasheed was first transferred to house arrest for three days on doctor’s recommendations for a stress free environment on June 19.
The house arrest was extended to eight weeks soon after the MDP announced it would back a constitutional amendment to set new age limits for the presidency.
The extension of Nasheed’s house arrest was widely seen as part of a deal with the government in exchange for the MDP’s backing for several crucial votes in parliament.
Shortly after the house arrest was extended to eight weeks, the MDP and the government officially began talks on clemency for Nasheed and other jailed politicians as well as the withdrawal of charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters.
“On 1 July, MDP entered talks with the government in good faith. In these talks, MDP demanded for the release and dropping of charges against over 1,700 democracy activists,” the party said today.
“MDP believed the platform would result in political reconciliation to end the current political crisis. MDP strongly reiterates its calls on the government to deliver on its side of the talks bargain and to immediately free President Nasheed and all other political prisoners.”