Nasheed’s party successfully gets amendments to Parliamentary rules cleared to impeach the President

As the December 7 deadline that the Maldivian government set for throwing out the Male airport operator, the India-based multinational GMR, nears, two developments have forced the government on the back-foot : One, a piece of legislation that has been passed in the Majlis (Parliament), and two, the main opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s reformed ways.

Parliament on December 3 voted 41-34 to approve amendments to parliamentary rules to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach President and members of his Cabinet by a secret ballot. The success of the vote was the first MDP victory in several months. It was an MDP initiative, and this time, it had the support of two parties that had earlier thrown its lot with the government. Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s party, the MDP, finding allies is the second development.

“We have submitted a petition to move a no-confidence motion to remove the Defence Minister [Mohamed Nazim] and the Home Minister [Mohamed Jameel] just a short while ago,” MDP’s International spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor told The Hindu over phone from Male on Tuesday evening. “With the JP and DRP supporting us in the vote [on December 3], we are sure we will have the numbers when the motion is taken up for voting,” he added.

Street protests

Not satisfied with the parliamentary attack on the government, the MDP also organised street protests on Tuesday to “protest the manner in which the government was treating foreign investments.”

At the heart of the tussle is the modernisation of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, which was handed over to GMR after a process of competitive international bidding overseen by a World Bank body. Last year, GMR decided to levy a user development free of $25, which led to widespread protests. Later, a court order stayed the charge.

After Mr. Nasheed resigned as President on February 7, 2012, the new government, led by Dr. Mohamed Waheed wanted to review the terms of agreement granted to GMR. A few members of the Waheed government were openly against the airport operator and had been demanding that GMR leave the country. The GMR investment is the largest FDI in Maldives.

Status quo

Status quo was ordered on Monday, on a Singapore-based arbitration. The news delighted the MDP, and made some elements of the Waheed government defiant. “I am delighted to hear that the Singapore courts have intervened in this dispute and upheld the rule of law. I look forward to GMR continuing its operations and completing the construction of a new, world-class airport terminal,” Mr. Nasheed said after the verdict.

Ministers Mr. Nazim and Mr. Jameel refused to back off and GMR was given seven days to clear out. As a first step to hindering operations, Maldives Immigration refused to renew the work visas of the foreign staffers whose visa was due for renewal.

Double-speak

Dr. Waheed has employed a double-speak that is central to the problems that India, and Indian firms have faced in Maldives since the transition since February this year. For instance, speaking at a function to mark the 47th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Male and New Delhi, Dr. Waheed said that Maldives would always welcome Indian investments. “International businesses that have done well are those that are built on mutual trust and respect… small countries are very conscious of their national pride and sovereignty… It is not a secret that we are currently facing some difficulty with some Indian companies, we must overcome these difficulties and adamantly resist such difficulties from affecting our very close and brotherly relationship.”

Dr. Waheed has repeatedly made such commitments, and said that he believed in solving issues through negotiations. Despite the assurances, Maldives is now forcing India’s hand on the GMR issue.

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