4 MDP lawmakers defy three-line whip in protest against constitutional amendment

Combined file photos of (from L-R) North Maafannu MP Imthiyaz Fahmy , North Machangolhi MP Mohamed Rasheed, Madaveli MP Hussain Firushan, and Ungoofaaru MP Mohamed Waheed. (File Photos/People's Majlis)

Four parliamentarians from ruling MDP, on Wednesday, defied a three-line whip issued by the party to support a constitutional amendment submitted by the government to extend the term of incumbent councilors.

MDP parliamentary group had passed the three-line whip accept the bill into the parliament and pass it with free of any changes on Tuesday, with a majority vote of 41 parliamentarians.

However, when the time to take the vote to accept the bill into the Parliament came on Wednesday night, four MDP parliamentarians chose to abstain from the vote, defying the three-line whip.

The four who defied the three-line whip are; North Machangolhi MP Mohamed Rasheed, Madaveli MP Hussain Firushan, North Maafannu MP Imthiyaz Fahmy and Ungoofaaru MP Mohamed Waheed.

They had also been among the 10 MDP parliamentarians who had voted against issuing the three-line whip in the first place.

In addition to the four MDP parliamentarians, Naifaru MP Ahmed Shiyam, who serves as PPM’s deputy leader, also abstained from the vote.

The four MDP parliamentarians had been clear in their opposition to the constitutional amendment during the preliminary debate on the bill on Wednesday morning.

Imthiyaz Fahmy, one of MDP’s most prominent parliamentarians, stated that he would not vote against his convictions, even if he had to go against the party line.

A three-line whip is a strict instruction to attend and vote according to the party's position. MDP has taken action against parliamentarians who found in breach of three-line whips in the past.

In one such incident, MDP expelled one of its founding members Reeko Moosa, who had been serving as the chairperson of the party at the time, after he breached a three-line whip the party issued to vote against a bill to reduce Supreme Court justices from seven to five.

The term of incumbent councilors is set to expire on June 3 and will plunge the country into a legal vacuum.

The constitutional amendment to extend the term of incumbent councilors is designed to work alongside a sunset law to postpone the local council elections as late as January 6 next year which was passed in late April.

While MDP remains deeply divided over the constitutional amendment, the Attorney General and the Parliament’s Counsel General have made their legal opinions known regarding the subject.  They have stated that stated that a general law cannot be used to override a provision of the Constitution, and that the only solution was to amend the Constitution.

However, the Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed said on Wednesday parliamentarians found it difficult to accept the legal opinion of the Attorney General and the Counsel General, and suggested that the Parliament seek the opinion of the Supreme Court.

Soon after Nasheed made the suggestion, Hanimaadhoo MP Abdul Gafoor Moosa, another MDP parliamentarian, submitted a resolution seeking the Supreme Court’s opinion regarding the matter. The resolution was passed on Wednesday night.

A constitutional amendment requires a majority vote of three-fourth of the Parliament.

Those who oppose the amendment argue that the coronavirus outbreak in the country minimized the room for debate among the people regarding the people, and that making a constitutional amendment without providing room for debate went against the spirit of the Constitution.