Opposition MPs in front of the Chair to disrupt the presidential speech. Photo/Majlis

No response to pres address; VP is lawful pres: Opposition

Refusing to acknowledge the presidential statement is going against the rules of Majlis.

6 February 2023

By Mariyam Umna Ismail

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's presidential statement to open the parliament for this year was illegal and the opposition will not respond to the statement, the coalition said on Monday.

While the parliament's rules state that the minority party of the parliament should be held accountable by the presidential statement, the opposition refused to respond to the presidential statement, saying it did not believe that Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was the president of the Maldives.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed called out the names of some lawmakers and removed them from the house when the opposition members started protesting on the floor of the house as President Solih was about to deliver the presidential address.

Removed from the floor after having their names announced:

  • 1-

    Naifaru MP Ahmed Shiyam

  • 2-

    MaavuHOO MP Mohamed Saeed

  • 3-

    Felidhoo MP Fazal Rasheed

When these MPs were evicted from the house, the remaining opposition members also walked out. Majlis Minority leader and Eydhafushi MP Ahmed Saleem was among the lawmakers who went out on their own.

Opposition MPs protested in parliament and disrupted the presidential speech, while the general public, who supported the opposition, continued to protest outside Majlis, in the area. While 17 people were arrested during the protest, those injured in clashes with police are being treated at  hospitals.

The opposition held a press conference this Monday afternoon to protest against the presidential speech. At the outset of the conference, MP Saleem expressed displeasure that he was not allowed to sit in the house at the time of the presidential address.

As a minority leader, he has to be answerable for the president's presidential statement and repeatedly requested the Speaker and members to allow him to enter, but Saleem said he was not given the opportunity.

"I pleaded with them, my name was not even announced inside, we went outside with those who had been called out to motivate them and when we returned, we couldn't enter the parliament," Saleem said.

"I wanted to tell the Speaker and various people in the parliament that I am a minority leader, so I have to hold [the President]’s words accountable. I'm going to listen to what's being said and what's not. That's when I'll know how to be accountable for that." 

He said it was against the constitution for unnamed MPs not to attend a sitting, especially a minority leader.

Another explanation for the opposition's claim that President Solih delivered the presidential address in violation of the constitution is that the coalition does not believe that he is the president. The opposition does not believe that President Solih is the President of the Maldives, according to MP Shiyam, when Vice President Faisal Naseem was sworn in as the President in February last year.

"The people of the Maldives do not know when [President Solih] took over as the President of the Maldives after (Faisal was sworn in). But first of all, the Constitution says that the presidential address has to be made by a person who is the president. Therefore, president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's presidential statement to the Majlis today is against the constitution," Shiyam said.

Vice President Faisal was sworn in as president shortly after President Solih underwent a surgery in Singapore. This is because the Constitution says that when the president is unable to perform his duties, the vice president has to shoulder those responsibilities.

Article 123 of the Constitution says that if the President is temporarily incapable to perform his duties, he should inform the Speaker of the Peoples’ Majlis and hand over the duties to the Vice President. However, it did not specify whether the vice president would have to take an oath to perform the president’s duties.

Responding to a question Atll Times repeatedly asked PNC President Abdul Raheem  on Shiyam's remarks, he said the opposition would not have an answer to the statement when they did not believe that President Solih is the president.

"I am making it very clear that the opposition only has to answer the presidential statement given by a person who is president," Abdul Raheem said.

When Saleem was questioned by Atoll Times, he also supported Abdul Raheem's statement. He said, "I don't believe that President Solih is the president, as Abdul Raheem said, and in that "situation I don't think we should be held accountable for that statement he gave."

Refusing to acknowledge the presidential statement is going against the rules of Majlis. Section 32 of the regulation states:

  • When the presidential speech is delivered, the minority leader of the house should prepare a response to the statement and deliver it in a sitting of the house

  • Minorities must respond within 14 days of the presidential address