Maldive’s Parliament holds first sitting under “new normal” of COVID-19

Maldive’s Parliament holds first sitting under “new normal” of COVID-19

Maldive’s Parliament holds first sitting under “new normal” of COVID-19

Written by Pavani Hapuarachchi

26 May, 2020 | 9:54 pm

Male, Maldives: Maldivian Parliament, convened on Tuesday (May 26) morning; its first sitting under a “new normal” with the Maldivian capital Male is under lockdown amid an outbreak of the new coronavirus, local media reported on Tuesday.

In late March, Maldive’s parliament switched to virtual sittings, but in an unprecedented move, decided to discontinue its virtual sittings and gather in the legislative house to deliberate on a constitutional amendment to extend the term of incumbent councillors.

Maldivian government presented the amendment following the decision to postpone the local council elections – as a remedy to the legal vacuum, which the Maldives will face once the term of incumbent councillors expires on June 3.

Parliamentarians attended the Tuesday’s sitting wearing masks and they were seated with at least one empty seat between them. There were some extra seats inside the chambers, and the Parliament Speaker, Former President Mohamed Nasheed announced that those seated in the extra seats must wait 30 minutes before returning to their assigned seats.

The parliamentarians found it difficult to speak wearing masks, the local media reported.

Once the sitting began, Hulhumale’ MP Ali Niyaz said he found it extremely difficult to speak with his mask on. He readjusted his mask several times as he made the complaint.

Nasheed responded that face masks were necessary given the situation.

In the meantime, Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Saleem interjected that he too had noticed masks were slowing down the speed of speech.

To this, Nasheed responded that he too found it difficult to speak with the mask on and that he was, therefore, granting extra debate time to make up for the lag.

He suggested the parliamentarians just needed time to adjust to the change.

“We shall gain expertise in speaking with our masks on in no time. I expect we will be very prepared for this by the end of today. Now I’m looking to see if there’s a specific technique. I will share it with honourable parliamentarians as soon as I learn of such a technique,” said Nasheed.

Central Henveyru MP Ali Azim raised a point of order and said that that he found it impossible to speak with his mask on. He said that with the mask on, his breath was fogging up his prescription glasses, compromising his vision.

He said that the Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) latest guidelines did not say masks were compulsory.

Nasheed, when he provided instructions to the parliamentarians regarding the new changes, asked that they use their common sense.

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