The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), currently holding a parliamentary majority, has indicated potential opposition to the cabinet nomination of Adam Shareef Umar for the Ministry of Cities, Local Government, and Public Works. This development follows a wave of public dissent and criticism from rights groups and opposition parties in response to the government’s decision to block access to three anti-government news websites.

Among the blocked websites was the registered news outlet ‘Furathama’. The move sparked public outcry and drew condemnation from several organisations, including the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), Editors’ Guild of Maldives, Transparency Maldives, and the Maldives Media Council (MMC). The government has since lifted the block on ‘Furathama’ in response to the backlash.

The opposition MDP strongly criticised the decision and called on the government to lift these online restrictions to prevent democratic backsliding. Umar finds himself under scrutiny as the Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM), responsible for the website blocks, falls under his proposed ministry.

Fayyaz Ismail, the chairperson of the MDP, expressed his concerns on social media, stating, “As the defence minister under former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Umar presided over an unprecedented event in our history – the entry and assault of MPs by the army in parliament. Now, through CAM, he has begun to curtail freedom of expression. Given these actions, I see no justification for the MDP’s approval of his cabinet appointment.”

The Parliament Government Oversight Committee, currently reviewing the President Mohamed Muizzu’s cabinet nominations, had to cancel a meeting scheduled for Saturday due to a lack of quorum.

While the MDP holds a majority in parliament with 55 seats, the fate of Umar’s cabinet nomination lies in their hands. Umar served as the MP for Maduvvari in the 19th parliament until his appointment as a cabinet minister.

The parliament was set to vote on the new cabinet on 18 December, but the voting was postponed due to outstanding legal and procedural concerns. The government has since submitted the mandates of the ministries for parliamentary approval. The Government Oversight Committee is set to meet on Sunday to address the matter. While parliament has yet to vote on the new cabinet, it has extended its current session until 28 December to ensure the vote is held before it goes to recess.