Chaos in Maldives parliament, violence outside

Last Updated: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 21:10

Male: Maldivian parliament on Thursday witnessed
scuffles and angry exchanges as lawmakers of former president
Mohammed Nasheed`s party disrupted proceedings and prevented
the new President from delivering his maiden address, in what
was described as a "sad day" in the country`s history.

High drama was witnessed in the Majlis, even as protesters
hit the streets of the capital and clashed with police,
deepening the political crisis in the country.

The proceedings of the Majlis began on a stormy note and
even before President Mohammed Waheed came to parliament
chambers, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members removed
his chair as well as that of his cabinet ministers and shouted
slogans demanding his resignation.

Waheed, who was scheduled to deliver the Peoples` Majlis
opening address, was forced to retreat to the waiting room.

As per the constitution here, the President must address
the lawmakers and officially open a new parliamentary session
after a change in leadership.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid said he was mobbed to the ground by
the agitating lawmakers and sustained injuries, describing it
a "very sad day" in the history of the Majlis.

Opposition MPs also grabbed the Speaker`s chair during
angry scuffles and pictures released from inside showed MDP
MPs blocking the doors and sitting on the Speaker`s bench.

Opposition legislators carrying placards that called
Waheed a "traitor" also blocked the Speaker`s entrance to the
building.

With Nasheed loyalists showing no signs of relenting, some
of his party members were forcibly removed from the Majlis
Chamber.

However, chaos persisted and the Speaker postponed the
meeting indefinitely, criticising the unruly behaviour of the
MDP lawmakers at a press conference.

Some television channels telecast the unruly scenes in the
parliament and even the National Flag was shown dropping to
the ground in the melee.

The chaotic day ended without the President being able to
deliver the Presidential Address, even as MDP supporters
clashed with the police outside the parliament.

The protesters threw stones and wood bricks and petrol was
splashed on some police officials.

At least 34 protesters were arrested including, Nazim
Sattar, Nasheed`s younger brother while 14 police officers
were also injured in the clashes, including four seriously,
police said.

Some of the shops belonging to supporters of the current
government were vandalised.

A motorcycle being driven by two police officers was also
set ablaze after a group of protesters stopped the duo and
assaulted them, sources said.

The parliament session was scheduled to begin today, less
than a month after the then President Nasheed resigned paving
the way for his Vice President Waheed to be sworn in as the
new head of the government.

A day after his resignation on February 7, Nasheed alleged
he was forced to resign and claimed there was a coup, a charge
denied by the current regime.

The fresh protests erupted a day after Foreign Secretary
Ranjan Mathai ended his two-day visit during which he held
talks with various stakeholders to hammer out a solution to
the political crisis here.

India had helped broker a deal under which President
Waheed agreed to a roadmap for elections ahead of the
scheduled November 2013 date.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 21:10

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