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Speaker accused of subverting parliamentary rules

Speaker Abdulla Maseeh was once again accused of subverting parliamentary rules to favour the ruling party after he called off votes on key government-sponsored bills on Sunday.



Speaker Abdulla Maseeh was once again accused of subverting parliamentary rules to favour the ruling party after he called off votes on several government-sponsored bills on Sunday.

Maseeh had cited technical problems in postponing the vote on a bill granting the president the power to appoint members to the Fatwa Majlis, a religious advisory body, and a bill to delay the enforcement of the Criminal Procedures Code.

The opposition, however, said it was because not enough ruling party MPs were present for the vote.

When MPs gathered for the votes at 1:30pm, Maseeh had declared: “We are working on fixing some technical problems. It is estimated to take more than an hour, meaning that the problem is unlikely to be fixed by 2:30pm. I am now adjourning today’s session.”

MP Imthiyaz Fahmy of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said the votes were cancelled because “a number of government MPs were not present.”

Maseeh also came under fire when he only gave 30 seconds of debate time to MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, a lawmaker who is part of a breakaway faction of the ruling party led by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The MPs are seeking a no-confidence vote against Maseeh.

“You are destroying this whole parliament,” Waheed said raising a point of order when he was cut off after 30 seconds for a second time on Sunday.

Maseeh overruled the point of order, claiming he was following instructions from the parliamentary group leaders whose responsibility he said it was to allocate debate time for individual MPs.

MP Ali Azim of the MDP promptly refuted Maseeh’s claim, alleging that the speaker lets MP Reeko Moosa Manik – who remains an MDP MP on the Majlis roster despite being expelled from the party – speak during the time allocated to the MDP, against the instructions of the minority leader.

Imthiyaz meanwhile said: “Under your speakership, the people’s rights are being violated every day. Unconstitutional bills are being passed. Debate time has been shortened, committee meetings are scheduled for the middle of the night. And sudden changes are made to the ruled, eroding democracy in this country.”

Another opposition MP added: “You are running the parliament against the rules. You’re giving the chance to speak as you please. Waheed should get the chance too. Mohamed should get the chance. Ibrahim should get the chance. What do you think you are going to do? Is this your own house?”

Ruling party MPs rushed to Maseeh’s defence, describing him as the “most capable and wise speaker the Majlis has seen in recent history.”

“I want to tell my fellow members that our speaker is the best, kindest and wisest speaker in the history of this parliament. Just look at his history in this parliament,” said Ibrahim Didi, a PPM MP.

The PPM insists that the no-confidence motion against Maseeh will fail as it controls some 47 seats in the 85-member house. The breakaway faction was launched with eight MPs, but is now down to five.

The PPM has been accused of using its parliamentary majority to restrict the opposition.

Amendments brought to the standing orders allow the government to submit, debate, review and vote on bills overnight, while debate time for bills was shortened from three hours to an hour, meaning that the MDP gets a total of 14 minutes to debate bills.

Only ruling party MPs can submit bills on taxation and the budget.

Maseeh has also refused to entertain a majority of questions submitted for ministers by the opposition.