Maldives 2nd largest party withdraws from talks

Male: Angry over the disruption of parliament by lawmakers of Mohamed Nasheed`s party, Maldives` second largest political bloc DRP has withdrawn from the all-party talks, dealing a blow to efforts to reconcile the country`s fractured political atmosphere.

The parliament witnessed unruly scenes on Thursday as lawmakers of former president Nasheed`s MDP blocked Speaker Abdulla Shahid from entering the chamber and prevented President Mohamed Waheed from delivering the opening address.

Ahmed Mohamed, the present Minister of Economic Development, and deputy leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), who is representing the party in the all-party parleys told reporters last night that they are withdrawing from the reconciliation talks.

He said the party, which has the second largest number of MPs in the Majlis after the MDP, will not join the talks until the Majlis is allowed to function.

Pro-government political parties blamed the Speaker for not acting tough on the agitating lawmakers, and not using his powers to order the removal of the unruly members.

After a chaotic day at the parliament during which the President kept waiting for the opportunity to deliver his maiden address, the Speaker cancelled the session last night.

Reacting to calls for the use of force to remove the disruption-causing lawmakers, he said the existence of military troops in the Parliament chamber was "not favourable for this infant democracy", and cited this as a reason for postponing the day`s session.

The Maldives has witnessed much upheaval since last month when Nasheed, the country`s first democratically elected leader, was ousted in what he claimed was a coup.

Under an India-brokered deal, the new President agreed to hold early elections, and all parties agreed to enter talks to chart out a roadmap for the future.

As the Majlis witnessed much acrimony, protests and violent clashes also erupted on the streets yesterday. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai was in the Maldives till Wednesday to facilitate the talks.