A lack of quorum at Tuesday’s sitting of parliament prevented voting on a bill proposed by the government to grant legal powers to commissions formed by the president to recover stolen assets and investigate unresolved murders.
The number of lawmakers present at voting time was six short of the 43 MPs needed to pass laws.
Lawmakers from the four-party ruling coalition were accused of sabotaging the bill after a lack of quorum also prevented voting at Monday’s sitting.
MP Eva Abdulla from the Maldivian Democratic Party called their absence “an act of deliberate sabotage, by those with something to hide and a vested interest in covering up those past crimes.”
On Monday, Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz, leader of the joint parliamentary group, accused several colleagues of refusing to come inside the chamber at voting time.
Some former ruling party lawmakers who joined the JP after September’s presidential election were opposed to empowering the presidential commissions due to their vested interests, he alleged.
The constitution requires more than half the 85-member house to be present for voting on “any matter requiring compliance by citizens.” MPs aligned with the ruling coalition make up a simple majority.
Opposition lawmakers have been boycotting votes in protest against “unconstitutional” powers proposed for the commissions, which they contend undermine the authority of existing law enforcement agencies.
Along with the presidential commissions bill, a vote on amendments proposed by the government to allow utilisation of retirement pension scheme savings to finance first-time Hajj pilgrimages was also in the agenda for Tuesday’s sitting.
It was the third time the votes were cancelled.
Nine coalition lawmakers were also absent when the bills were up for a vote before parliament broke for recess in December.
After Monday’s sitting, Husnu Suood, chair of the commission on deaths and disappearances, told the Maldives Independent that failure to pass the enabling legislation has “hampered our efforts and not allowed us to work effectively.”
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih formed the two inquiry commissions on his first day in office to fulfil campaign pledges to recover missing funds and find the truth behind high-profile murders and the abduction of a journalist.
According to the proposed law, the commissions would become investigative agencies with powers to obtain search warrants, collect evidence, summon suspects, freeze bank accounts, and to seek assistance from police as well as foreign investigators.
In December, after the parliament’s counsel-general raised concerns, the draft legislation was revised at the committee stage to remove provisions on seeking search warrants, freezing bank accounts and imposing travel bans.
A section that proposed the formation of a special department under the assistant prosecutor general to expedite cases forwarded by the commissions was also scrapped along with time limits for pressing charges and concluding trials.