Maldivian President Muizzu Reappoints Ministers Not Approved By Parliament

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Opposition mulls impeachment  

The Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu, who has been clashing with India, accusing it of trying to impose its will on the Maldives, is now on a collision course with the Maldivian parliament.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Democrats, which have the majority in parliament, are planning to an impeachment motion against the President. The motion could well be carried because they have the requisite numbers.  

Muizzu brazenly defied parliament when he reappointed two cabinet members, namely, Islamic Affairs Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, and Housing Minister Dr Ali Haidar Ahmed, even though their appointments had failed to secure parliamentary approval. 

Article 129 of the Maldivian Constitution stipulates that cabinet appointments must be sent for parliamentary confirmation within seven days of appointment.

However, neither the Constitution nor other laws detail what happens if approval is denied.

Earlier, when MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed was President of the Maldives, some of his appointments as cabinet ministers were not approved by parliament. This was challenged in the Supreme Court, and the court ruled that ministers could not remain in the cabinet without parliamentary consent. President Nasheed respected the court’s ruling.

Salafist Islamic Affairs Minister

The reason why parliament did not approve the appointment of Dr.Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as Islamic Affairs Minister is that he is a Salafist (or radical Islamist). 

President Muizzu has close family connections with an NGO called Jamiyyath Salaf, an Islamic radical organization. It is alleged that Jamiyyath Salaf is a recruiter in Maldives for the Lashkar-E-Toiba, Al Qaeda, and the ISIS. And the President of Jamiyyath Salaf, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Ibrahim, is the brother-in-law of President Muizzu.

In 2019, Dr Mohammed Shaheem Ali Saeed and the Jamiyyath Salaf were investigated by a Presidential Commission for an alleged role in the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali, a former Member of Parliament and Islamic scholar with moderate views in 2012. 

The Presidential Commission appointed by the Ibrahim Solih government stated that Dr. Afrasheem Ali was harassed and tormented on multiple occasions, and that some religious scholars had told him that “it would be desirable if he repented,” for his moderate or modern views.

The report said Dr. Shaheem Ali Saeed, who was the Islamic Affairs Minister in 2012, had acted as a mediator in the dispute between local religious scholars and Dr. Afrasheem Ali. 

The then Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed noted that Dr. Shaheem Ali Saeed left the country the morning after Dr. Afrasheem Ali’s murder leading to speculation of his role in the murder. 

Nasheed further said that the Presidential Commission showed how funds amounting to MVR 4 – 6 million were spent to arrange Dr.Afrasheem Ali’s murder. Nasheed warned that the Maldives would be ‘ruined’ if the actions of radical organizations like the Jamiyyathu Salaf were not put an end to, immediately. 

Impeachment Motion

The ruling coalition’s disruption of Sunday’s parliamentary sitting over cabinet appointments led to the opposition’s collecting signatures for an impeachment motion against President Muizzu. 

They collected 34 signatures—eight more than the required 26. With a majority in parliament, the MDP and The Democrats can impeach the President and Vice President using only their votes. 

They would require the votes of 54 MPs to pass the impeachment motion and they have 57 MPs. 

The ruling coalition has hit back stating it would stop any such attempt. 

The term of the incumbent parliament comprising 87 MPs is set to come to an end on 28 May 2024.

Boycott of Indian Function

Meanwhile, amidst high voltage tension with India, President Muizzu, Vice President Hussain Mohamd Latheef, and Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer, boycotted the Indian Republic Day function in Male on January 26. 

According to Ibrahim Khaleel, the Minister for Strategic Communications at the President’s Office, the dignitaries had “time constraints.”.

Sheryna Abdul Samad, the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, attended the reception as the Maldivian government’s representative. 

Earlier, after his return from a visit to China, President Muizzu stated that the Maldives is not in the backyard of any particular country, asserting the country’s independence in foreign relations.

His statements alluding to India triggered political reactions. Gasim Ibrahim, the leader of the Jumhooree Party (JP), on Sunday called for an apology from President Muizzu for these comments.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats condemned the President’s remarks, and expressed concern over the deteriorating relations between the Maldives and India. 

The Democrats led by former President Nasheed have issued a three-line-whip against the parliamentary confirmation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, citing issues in the relationship with India.

P. K. Balachandran

P. K. Balachandran is a senior Indian journalist working in Sri Lanka for local and international media and has been writing on South Asian issues for the past 21 years.

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