US concerned over Maldives parliament debacle

US government on Tuesday expressed concern over the irregularities ‎which it said impeded a free and fair vote in the Maldives Parliament during the no-confidence motion against speaker Abdulla Maseeh.

Before the historic vote, lawmakers voted in favour of taking an individual roll-call vote proposed by majority leader Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik. With 45 lawmakers voting in favour for the roll call vote, it served as a clear marker for the censure vote against the speaker.

Opposition lawmakers had protested the move but the motion was put to vote despite angry opposition lawmakers surrounding the deputy speaker in an attempt to block the vote.

The protests prompted the deputy speaker to delay the vote by nearly an hour. Attempts to resume the sitting was again blocked which resulted in the naming of as many as 13 opposition lawmakers. Some of the lawmakers had to be removed forcibly by soldiers entrusted with parliament security.

After removing the named lawmakers, when it was finally put to the roll-call vote, the remaining opposition MPs had walked out and the motion was defeated comfortably with 48 government lawmakers voting against the motion.

Opposition lawmakers had later refused to accept the result claiming that the government had influenced parliament proceedings to change the vote.

Opposition had also claimed that the electronic voting system had been rigged after it emerged that opposition aligned lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof who is in prison was recorded as having voted along with deputy speaker Moosa Manik.

"We call on the Government to restore faith in democratic processes by ensuring free and impartial proceedings in Parliament, free and fair local elections, and basic freedoms of press, assembly, and speech," US embassy to Sri Lanka and Maldives said in a brief press statement.