Maldives' rubber-stamp parliament stoops to new low!

Farcical, comical, imprudent. There is no other way to describe our 'respected' legislative body and 'honorable' lawmakers. Maldives supposedly has a presidential system, clearly separating the three powers of the state. But in Maldives the lines have been blurry at best amid the incessant battle for absolute political supremacy.

The now embattled president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is a master at playing 'jump rope' with the lines of power. Yameen has rolled back many of the democratic gains seen in the archipelago since 2008, exploiting his majority in parliament and 'influence' over the judiciary to eliminate any who dared to oppose him.

But the parliament has been the vanguard of his ruthless juggernaut, rubber stamping his every whim. When he needed foreign investors to fund his ambitious infrastructure development plans, the parliament devised a foreign land ownership law. When Yameen needed absolute control of the country's apex court, the parliament obliged by reducing the bench from seven to five. When local media became too irksome for his liking, a new defamation law emerged with heavy fines imposed on journalists and social media users. When the opposition took to the streets, the parliament revised the law to quell protests in the capital. All without debate, argument or question.

Despite the farce the country's legislative body has become, one must be inclined to give credit where its due. Our parliament is reliably unreliable. When we believe that our lawmakers are at their despicable worst, they prove us wrong by stooping to an all new low.

On Tuesday, the parliament amid the continued boycott by opposition lawmakers rubber-stamped the latest government move tailor-made to quash what it continues to describe as a coup.

First, it signed off on the controversial anti-defection law. The mouthpiece lawmakers of president Yameen during the 'debate' said the law was necessary to protect the integrity of the parliament and end corruption. According to the draft law, lawmakers elected on party tickets would lose their respective seats if they quit, change or are dismissed from the party. However, the law would not apply to independent members if they sign for a particular party.

Truly honorable and a welcome move for the island nation where lawmakers are 'auctioned' off to the highest bidder. However, no law would make it as close as to the parliament steps without an ulterior motive.

The draft law was submitted in the wake of a top court stay order the relevant institutions to hold off on the reinstatement of a dozen opposition lawmakers disqualified over an earlier anti-defection ruling.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The court had also annulled its anti-defection ruling and ordered the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen rebel government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling. The Supreme Court said the anti-defection ruling was issued as a temporary solution to the constitutional dispute case filed by the state but insisted that the relevant authorities have failed to bring to effect an anti-defection law specified in the ruling.

After the government controlled parliament earlier Monday voted to accept the draft law, the parliamentary committee had revised it to make it effective from July 13, 2017 - the same day the top court had issued its original anti-defection ruling.

Problem solved. The dozen thorns in president Yameen's side removed. Parliament majority secured.

Next up on Tuesday was the conundrum of the two 'rouge' judges behind the February 1 order. The amendment to the Judges Act carefully scripted to remove the two Supreme Court judges arrested under the state of emergency over the alleged plot to overthrow the government.

According to the amendment, judges convicted of a criminal offence would be automatically removed from office.

The amendment said a judge convicted of a criminal offence would be removed with immediate effect after the sentence. The amendment was also designed to bypass the constitutional article on removal of judges arguing that it does not relate to the conduct of judges.

The amendment said the judicial service commission (JSC) must suspend the judge with pay following his or her arrest. However, once the judge is formally charged he or she would cease to receive pay while he or she would be immediately removed from office if convicted.

The ruling party in its amendment has also limited the time for appeal. A convicted judge must file the first appeal within 10 days while first appellate court is given 30 days to arrive at a sentence. The same time frame has been afforded to the Supreme Court as the last stage of appeal.

But again to give credit where it's due, the ruling party had not even made an attempt to hide its intentions.

"The reason for proposing such an amendment is to ensure such an incident does not occur and those responsible are held properly accountable for their actions," party's deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla said adding, "while the top court judges were in association of former presidents and others to overthrow the government we cannot take legal action against them under the current law."

As Tuesday so aptly gave testament, the incumbent government doesn't necessarily break laws. Or even bend them. It gets the parliament to make new ones even if the need is to address a single person or a particular situation. As long as its in the government's interest regardless of the consequences or reverberations it causes throughout the entire governing system.

These so-called new laws are truly laughable. So the government must expect and indeed forgive the people for laughing.