Chaos in Maldives parliament, violence outside



Chaos in Maldives parliament, violence outside 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