Speaker conducts chaotic Majlis sitting under heavy military guard

Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed presided over Wednesday’s sitting of parliament under heavy military guard amid clashes between opposition and pro-government lawmakers.

Walled off from protesting MPs by soldiers in plainclothes, Maseeh adjourned the sitting after calling a vote on the president’s nominee for ambassador to Sri Lanka.

Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu,’ a former minister at the president’s office, was approved with 28 votes in favour – a record low for the ruling coalition – while opposition lawmakers were on their feet in front of the speaker’s desk.

The opposition says the People’s Majlis has been under “military siege” since the unprecedented expulsion of opposition lawmakers from the parliament house on July 24, the day a constitutionally-mandated deadline for voting on a no-confidence motion against Maseeh expired.

The motion was deemed invalid by the disputed disqualification of four lawmakers who backed Maseeh’s impeachment. But the opposition insists that it must be put to a vote and questions the legitimacy of decisions made while the Majlis remains “hijacked” by the military.

Opposition MPs continued to protest in the chamber when Majlis resumed after a three-week hiatus on Tuesday. Sittings were suspended after a fire broke out in a toilet.

Shortly before Wednesday’s sitting was due to begin, opposition lawmakers gathered outside Maseeh’s office, which was blocked by military security personnel, prompting senior MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives to line up outside Maseeh’s door with their arms linked and clash with their opposition counterparts.

Live-streamed videos from MPs Ahmed Mahloof and Rozaina Adam showed verbal sparring and heated exchanges escalate into a scuffle between ruling party and opposition lawmakers.

After MP Ali Azim from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party shoved MP Hussain Mohamed Latheef on the face, MP Ali Arif kicked the door of the minority leader’s office and barged in with other PPM MPs.

Lawmakers also hurled profanity-laden insults and allegations of corruption at each other.

The Majlis will resume Thursday with voting on the president’s nominee for central bank governor the only item on the agenda.

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