Majlis resumes with five-foot wall around embattled speaker

Parliament reconvened after a one-month recess Monday morning with opposition lawmakers protesting behind a new five-foot wall built in front of the speaker’s well.

In the face of vociferous chants for his resignation, Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed concluded the sitting in less than 15 minutes after calling a vote on minor changes to the Majlis standing orders.

Before the sitting began around 9 am, military security personnel guarded the doors to the chamber and barred opposition MPs from entering until Maseeh was escorted to his chair. A Facebook live-stream from MP Rozaina Adam showed some opposition MPs protesting atop a chair in front of the protective wall.

The speaker’s desk was also elevated during the recess. During the previous session that ended in August, Maseeh conducted the Majlis under military guard after the opposition coalition secured the backing of a majority of MPs to impeach him in early July.

But the no-confidence motion was deemed invalid by the disqualification of four lawmakers. On July 24, the day when the constitutionally-mandated deadline for voting on the motion expired, opposition lawmakers were manhandled and dragged out of the parliament house by police officers and soldiers in riot gear, drawing widespread international condemnation.

Seven former ruling party lawmakers have since been contentiously unseated, a dozen opposition lawmakers put on trial, and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim sentenced in absentia to more than three years in prison.

Opposition lawmakers say the Majlis cannot proceed without a vote on the no-confidence motion, questioning the legitimacy of sittings presided over by the embattled speaker.

The only item on the agenda today was changes proposed by Maseeh to the parliamentary rules of procedure concerning friendship groups with international bodies and other parliaments.

It was approved with 28 votes in favour from ruling coalition lawmakers. Opposition MPs were on their feet protesting when the vote called.

The state budget for 2018 is expected to be submitted for parliamentary approval later this month. The parliament’s third and final session of the year will end in late November.

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