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Emergency over as parliament decision was unlawful: lawyers

Fathmath Shaahunaz
21 February 2018, MVT 18:43
Lawyers at press conference regarding the parliament's decision to extend the state of emergency in the Maldives. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
21 February 2018, MVT 18:43

Several lawyers on Wednesday declared that the parliament had passed the resolution on the state of emergency unconstitutionally, and thus the emergency must be deemed over.

In an extraordinary sitting Tuesday night, the parliament had passed the government-lobbied resolution to extend the original 15-day emergency by another 30 days. It was passed unanimously with the votes of 38 lawmakers of the ruling coalition, while opposition MPs had boycotted the sitting.

With regards to the parliament’s decision, a panel of 12 legal representatives held a press conference Wednesday, proclaiming that the resolution was passed in violation of the Constitution and thus the state of emergency is not to be complied with.

Lawyer Hisaan Hussain and the former deputy prosecutor general, Hussain Shameem, explained that voting on the state of emergency falls under Article 87 (b) of the Constitution, which states that voting on any matter requiring compliance by citizens can only be undertaken when half of the total membership of the parliament is present at the voting. Hisaan and Shameem stated that this meant that at least 43 members were required to vote on extending the state of emergency, whereas only 38 lawmakers were present at the extraordinary sitting.

“Whether it be a resolution or a legislation or any other decision which requires compliance by citizens, the Constitution clearly says that [half of the total] members must be present,” said Shameem.

The former solicitor general, Ibrahim Riffath, also touched upon the resolution passed by the parliament to seek the Supreme Court’s counsel on approving the emergency extension despite lacking the constitutionally required number of lawmakers at the sitting.

Pointing out that the Constitution clearly specifies that half of the total membership is required for the vote, Riffath stated that there was no cause to seek legal advice from the top court.

Lawyer Mahfooz Saeed further elaborated on Riffath’s statement, pointing out that even should the Supreme Court’s advice be needed, it should have been sought prior to the parliament debate and vote.

The lawyers’ statements were preceded by objections from the opposition, which had also declared that the parliament had passed the resolution on extending the emergency to a duration of total 45 days in violation of the Constitution.

President Abdulla Yameen had declared the state of emergency soon after the Supreme Court issued a shock order February 1 to release political prisoners and reinstate unseated legislators. In his letter to the parliament, Yameen stated that the Supreme Court had overreached its judicial mandate despite the Separation of Powers, which would compromise the independence and sovereignty of the nation. The president said he believed that the top court’s actions had shaken up the constitutional framework of the Maldives.

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