Brief on Maldives Government Using Parliament to Pass Draconian Measures, Violating Democratic Rights 31 March 2015

Yesterday, the ruling Party – Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) – used its Parliamentary majority to pass a draconian measure to remove President Mohamed Nasheed from the position of the Maldives Democratic Party’s (MDP) Presidency and membership in the party. President Nasheed is the co-founder of the MDP, the Maldives’ first and largest political party. He was elected to the position of Party President in 2014.

In a hastily submitted amendment to the Prisons and Parole Acts, a Government MP proposed that detainees and prisoners:

– Cannot be a member in a political party or an association
– Cannot hold office in a political party
– Cannot participate in any activities of a political party

This amendment was passed by the ruling Party majority yesterday.

• President Nasheed was arrested on charges of terrorism on 22 February 2015.
• The first hearing of his trial was held in the Criminal Court on 23 February 2015. He was denied legal representation and was manhandled by Police as he was dragged into the courthouse.
• The amendment to the Jails and Parole Act was introduced to Parliament by a Government MP on 3 March 2015.
• The Committee on National Security Affairs tabled the Bill on 10 March, and completed its discussion in four sittings. The MDP notes that 3 other Government sponsored Bills, and 4 other motions have been pending in this Committee since last year.
• President Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on trumped up terror charges on 13 March 2015.
• On 29 March 2015, the Committee on National Security Affairs approved the amendment and forwarded it to the Parliament floor for a vote.
• The vote on the amendment was placed on the agenda for 30 March 2015, where it was passed by the ruling Party’s majority.

The MDP condemns the Government’s use of their Parliament majority to persecute President Nasheed and other political opponents through the deliberate reversal of democratic rights. The MDP notes the Government’s disturbing lack of respect for due process and the manipulation of Parliamentary and Executive powers to silence their opponents.

• In contravention of the constitutionally stipulated right to association and the regulations outlined in the Political Parties Act, today’s amendment to the Jail and Parole Act strips prisoners of their right to political participation.
• The Government has also submitted an amendment to the Privileges and Security of Former Presidents Act, whereby if convicted of a crime; a Former President loses state provided financial allowances/pension and security. This amendment was introduced shortly after President Nasheed was arrested.
• The Minister of Home Affairs, Umar Naseer at ceremony celebrating the 87th anniversary of Policing in the Maldives, in his speech said, democratic rights need to be restricted to maintain security within society. He proposed for further amendments to be made. Such as not requiring detainees to be brought in front a judge within 24 hours of their arrest for a remand hearing. This would involve amending the Constitution.
• The Government has also called for amendments to Parliamentary Standing Orders to penalise MPs who disrupt Majlis by reducing MPs’ allowances.

Since 19 February 2015, the Government have arrested over 120 people including 4 MPs from peaceful political activity. Three media personnel have also been arrested for covering protests. In relation to these protests, the Police have forwarded over 90 cases for prosecution. Many of these cases are against members of the MDP’s leadership and ordinary Party members. The MDP condemns the collusion between the executive, legislature and the judiciary to violate the rights of the people of the Maldives.