Western countries alarmed by closure of Maldives’ parliament

By P.K. Balachandran

The Embassies of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, are “alarmed” by the “forcible closure” of the country’s Majlis or parliament.

But the Deputy Speaker of the Maldivian parliament, Moosa Maniku, told newsin.asia that the military entered parliament only to clear some unruly legislators elements and that parliament would start functioning from July 31 after the holidays.

In a joint statement dated July 24, and released on Thursday, the Western embassies said that the action of the Maldives ‘government would “seriously damage and undermine democracy, and run counter to the Maldives’ Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations.”

“The forcible closure of the nation’s Majlis to its members; security forces surrounding and entering Parliament; and the harassment, intimidation and arrests of elected members of parliament are deeply troubling,” the statement said.

“Legitimate opposition remains a vital component of any healthy democracy, and it is essential that the freedoms of assembly and expression are upheld for all.”

“Opposition politicians and members of civil society must be able to conduct their rightful duties without fear of intimidation or arrest. It is critical for democracy in the Maldives that the Government respect fundamental freedoms,” it added.

The embassies called upon the Government of Maldives and other responsible authorities to take immediate steps to restore independence to the Majlis and other key institutions and commissions. Parliament should be enabled and allowed to act in accordance with the Constitution,they said.

Maldives Dy. Speaker Denies Closure

However, the Maldives’ Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Moosa Maniku, denied reports that the military had taken over the country’s parliament and said security had been called in only to clear a group of protesting legislators.

Maniku said Parliament was not in session on Monday due it being a holiday, but a group of opposition legislators had made their way into the parliament premises in order to call for a no confidence motion against the Speaker.

He alleged that in order to protect the parliament, security had been called in to remove these legislators and things had returned to normal.

“Parliament will resume on July 31 as right now we are on holiday. The military has not been called in to take over the parliament. The opposition legislators who broke in were removed from the premises and things are back to normal,” Maniku said.

The Deputy Speaker further condemned the alleged forceful entry of the opposition parliamentarians and said this was done by some to tarnish the image of the government and the country.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Police in a statement said it was investigating a case of obstruction of police duty against a group of parliamentarians who they alleged, broke into the restricted area around the Parliament building, which had been cordoned off by the police.

“The Parliament building was restricted access by the Government of Maldives as the parliament session for July 24 was cancelled,” the Police said.

The police added that the Maldives Police Service was requested by the Maldives National Defense Force to intervene in clearing out individuals who forcefully entered the Parliament building.

The opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) headed by former President Mohamed Nasheed on Monday alleged that several opposition parliamentarians broke through the military cordon only to be pepper sprayed and evicted.

On Monday morning the gates of the parliament were padlocked by members of the armed forces and MPs were forcibly prevented from entering the parliamentary compound,” the opposition party said in a statement.