Controversial petition stalls Constitutional Assembly
By Aishath Velezinee
Just days before the arrival of Commonwealth Special Envoy Tan Sri
Musa Hitam and constitutional expert Tan Sri Anver in the Maldives
to “expedite the process of formulating a new constitution,”
the People’s Special Majlis (Constitutional Assembly) was
once again ground to a halt.
all started when 61 members of President Gayoom’s Dhivehi
Rayyithunge Party (DRP) submitted a petition requesting a review
of the agenda for the 69th session, and failed to turn up for the
session. The lack of quorum has become an issue of much concern.
A number of meetings have been cancelled or adjourned due to lack
session was also cancelled as the president of the Special Majlis
was compelled to call in the Administrative Committee of the Special
Majlis to reconsider the agenda which included an amendment to change
the composition of the Special Majlis. The amendment seeks to remove
all 29 unelected members and bring the number of members to 84 from
the present 113.
of the 29 appointed members and 34 of the 84 elected members in
the Special Majlis had signed the petition asking to withdraw this
item from the agenda. A disgruntled Special Majlis member, who asked
not to be named for fear of reprisal, said the issue is not simply
about eliminating non-elected members from the Special Majlis.
real issue is fear of possible impeachment! The idea of that happening,
however far-fetched it is, is already giving President Gayoom the
goosebumps! He’s getting shivers up his spine! For an impeachment
motion to be brought in, it needs the support of a third of the
Majlis (parliament), that is the support of 17 members (in the 50-member
Majlis). If the eight presidential appointees to the Majlis are
removed, the votes required will fall to 14. A two-third majority
will still be necessary for an impeachment motion to be passed…
and that’s not very likely to happen. It’s simply fear
of such a motion even being initiated that has led to this petition,”
proposed amendment is one included in President Gayoom’s reform
agenda first unveiled on June 9, 2004, and later proposed by him
to the Peoples Special Majlis which he convened for Constitutional
reform. It calls for the removal of all 29 unelected members from
the 113-member Special Majlis, 16 Presidential appointees and 13
Cabinet Ministers; and the removal of 8 Presidential appointees
from the 50-member People’s Majlis (Parliament).
of the Administrative Committee, Aneesa Ahmed, who is an elected
MP and a Minister in President Gayoom’s government was among
the 61 petitioners. She says the main reason for objecting to the
agenda item is that “rules of procedure of the Special Majlis
do not permit individual articles to be addressed before the main
features of the Constitution are agreed upon”.
“President Gayoom convened this Special Majlis to amend the
Constitution… If the composition of the Majlis is changed
now, the mandate would change. A new Special Majlis would have to
be convened to amend the Constitution”, Ms Aneesa Ahmed added.
that 27 of the 61 members who signed the petition are directly affected
by this motion, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) President Mr. Ibrahim
Ismail who is also an elected MP says, “It is very obvious
that President Gayoom is trying to wield undue influence on the
Special Majlis through DRP members.”
the Special Majlis will resume next week, as rules do not permit
the Special Majlis to adjourn for more than 10 days. But, a meeting
of the Administrative Committee held on Monday night failed to reach
an agreement on the petition and a meeting of the Committee scheduled
for Thursday afternoon was cancelled for unknown reasons.
all the controversy, and the finger-pointing and mistrust, it’s
a tall task that awaits Special Envoy Tan Sri Musa Hitham, and Tan
Sri Anver when they fly in to the Maldives on Sunday.
(The writer is editor of Adduvas Weekly, a Maldivian publication)