Minister of Science, Communication, and Technology, Maleeh Jamaal has struck up an act of defiance in the face of a motion of no confidence against him in the parliament today.
The Minister, speaking in today’s session said that he would give leeway in exercising Article 27 (Freedom of Expression) of the Constitution even if he was hung upside down.
Debates on the motion of no confidence are currently underway, with an overwhelming number of parliamentarians stating that they would vote for the removal of Maleeh.
However, Minister Maleeh, speaking before the debate time allocated for MPs, said that the motion was backed by only a few parliamentarians and was fueled by statements he made on a TV program, rather than for failure to perform his duties.
Minister Maleeh had faced a backlash from parliamentarians after saying on a TV program last November that parliamentarians were under the impression that the government was run by the legislative branch of the state. The Minister had stated that the parliament could not determine the policies of the government and was not within the responsibilities of the legislative branch.
The Minister, today, said that all relevant regulations he was tasked with as the Minister of Science, Communication and Technology were completed. He said that this was not something achieved by three Ministers who had served in the same post previously.
“Am I being punished because I managed to achieve something three other ministers failed to do so? The law was passed in 2015. The regulation is to be made within three to six months. The law does not say what is to happen if the regulation is not made. If the Minister is to take the blame, how did this motion of no confidence that should have gone to Minister Umar Naseer ricochet off to me? Where is Zuhoor who came to the post later on? Where is Azleen who came to the post afterward?” said Minister Maleeh.
The Minister said that there was no basis for the motion against him and denied that he had fired employees of the ministry for attempting to form the regulation. The Minister clarified that he had taken action against three political appointees of the Ministry under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s “Zero Tolerance to Corruption” policy.
Minister Maleeh said that he will not remain silent for fear of losing his job.
“The nation is bigger than my job. I am more than ready if I have to lose my job in order to get the rights granted by the Constitution,” said Minister Maleeh.
Minister Maleeh also challenged parliamentarians of the governing MDP why they could not disclose the real reason behind the motion. Opposition political parties have also stated that they will vote for the removal of Maleeh.
“It is very clear, This is a very degraded attempt by a few parliamentarians to cut down the rights granted under Article 27. This is an attack on the freedom of the press of the Maldives,” said Maleeh vehemently defending himself in the parliament.
The Minister also quoted former President of the United States Barack Obama regarding justice. He also indicated that he was opposed towards a parliamentary system of the government, something immensely supported by parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed. Maleeh then called on the parliament against choosing the authoritative way before alleging that the parliament was obstructing the freedom of expression and violating the Constitution.
“That is why I am saying, even if I am hung upside down from the fender of Hakuraage, I will keep on exercising Article 27.” Said Maleeh.
Maleeh’s speech was met with criticism by many parliamentarians who noted that Maleeh had failed to form the regulations and even failed to fulfill pledges of the government related to his Ministry, such as the pledge to reduce internet prices.
MP for South Galolhu Mickail Naseem questioned the Minister whether the decision of 65 MPs (MDP parliamentarians) was the decision of few before criticizing the Minister for failing to achieve anything or fulfill any pledges. He was followed by other MPS who said that the Minister had failed to achieve anything in his two years in office.
Maleeh was also accused by some MDP parliamentarians of having close relations with figures who they accused of harassing the government. Some parliamentarians even alleged that Maleeh allowed these people to use the government car he was granted as a Minister.
As for the freedom of expression right, many MPs said that the motion of no confidence against Maleeh did not hinder his right to express and was not fueled by anything other than failure to perform his duties. Several MPs also noted parliamentarians of the Jumhooree Party to which Maleeh belonged to were not rising in his defense.
Madaveli MP Hussain Firushaan also notably criticized the Minister for blocking him on social media for criticism and scornfully questioned whether that was the Minister exercising Article 27.
MPs went on to state that no discussions or debates were needed in the motion, as many MPs had lost their confidence in Maleeh, which meant that Maleeh had to go.
During the heated debate regarding Maleeh's removal, opposition MPs however, struck a notably different tone. Opposition parties have stated that they will vote for Maleeh’s removal. However, opposing party MPs stated that it was not only the failure of Maleeh which led to the situation but also the government and the President himself for failing to take action.
MPs representing opposing parties went on to criticize the government for leaving the country in the hands of the Health Protection Agency and its Director-General, before highlighting scandals such as the ventilator scandal of the Health Ministry. They also criticized the government for the departure of former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed before describing the current events as the erosion of the governing coalition of parties.
MDP which enjoys a supermajority in the parliament has issued a three-line whip for the removal of Maleeh. The vote of 43 MPs is needed for the removal of Maleeh, and the whip issued by MDP which has 65 seats, means that Maleeh’s removal from the post is a very real prospect.