'Minority leader of the parliament is MP Saleem'

Opposing Peoples' National Congress (PNC)'s Parliamentary Group leader Adam Shareef has stated that the minority leader of the Parliament is Eydhafushi MP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)'s Parliamentary Group leader Ahmed Saleem.

The Meedhoo MP made the remark in response to a statement made by Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed during the opening session of the parliament on Monday.

After president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih delivered his presidential address at the session, the Speaker noted that the responsibility of responding to the presidential address is usually taken up by the opposition leader at the parliament.

"When we are able to clarify who will respond to the statement, we will carry on with the work," Nasheed had said.

In addition to the president's MDP members, five members of opposing PPM, five members of Jumhooree Party, three members of PNC and two members of Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) are members of the Parliament.

While MDP and JP are ruling coalition partners, PPM and PNC are opposition parties. MDA has not taken any sides during the current parliament term.

According to the parliament rules, the members of the parliament have to respond to the presidential address delivered at the inaugural session. The rules state that the majority or minority leader of the party represented by the most number of MPs in the parliament, with the exemption of the party the president belongs to, has to respond to the address.

However, this has not been done since MDP refused to respond to the address delivered by former president Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik back in 2012.

While the rules state that the address must be responded to, it does not state what must be done in the event that the address does not receive a response.

Responding to Nasheed's statement that the current minority leader is unknown, Shareef said PNC has informed both the Elections Commission and the Parliament Secretariat that Fares Mathoda MP Hussain Mohamed Latheef had joined PPM. The MP himself has informed the matter to the Parliament, said Shareef.

"Six members representing PPM are in the parliament. [The parliament] being unaware that the minority leader is PPM's PG leader MP Saleem is not the opposition's problem," he said, directing criticism at Nasheed.

MP Hussain Mohamed Latheef joined PPM on November 22, 2019. MP Hussain was a PPM member during the preceding 18th Parliament and a close aide of former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. However, after PPM was defeated in the 2018 presidential election, he heavily criticized Yameen and stated that a change was necessary to the party's leadership and later joined JP.

MP Hussain contested for the 19th Parliament as an independent candidate, and was an independent member until joining PPM in November.