The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) expresses concern over the government’s deliberate move to silence dissenting political opinion, the refusal to investigate corruption allegations involving President Abdulla Yameen by criminalsing defamation, and the targeting of opposition leader President Mohamed Nasheed by withdrawing privileges and securities for former presidents and amendment to the Terrorism Act.
The leader of the ruling party’s Parliamentary Group, MP Ahmed Nihan, on Monday announced he would submit a bill to criminalise defamation. The announcement comes after intense pressure on the Maldives government by international organisations calling for democratic reform. President Yameen on Monday also publicly stated that action must be taken against individuals who defame the country and the institutions.
President Yameen is also under intense scrutiny following allegations of his involvement in laundering USD 1.5 billion through the Maldives’ banking system and the embezzlement of USD 79 million through government’s tourism promotion company, Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
Soon after the presidential election in 2008, President Nasheed proposed to the Maldives parliament to amend the penal code to abolish criminal defamation clauses. Defamation was made a civil, rather than a criminal, offense.
Political Leaders Persecuted
The MDP continues to express concern over President Yameen’s systematic prevention of the lawful functioning of the parliament. The ruling party’s overwhelming majority is used to rubberstamp unlawful and politically motivated laws to stifle the opposition.
The ruling party has for the fourth time submitted an amendment to withdraw the privileges and securities afforded to President Nasheed. The amendment was submitted by ruling party MP stating those serving a prison sentence should be excluded from the privileges afforded to past presidents under Law no. 9/2009. In March 2015, the parliament voted on an amendment to the prisons and parole act in order to strip President Nasheed of the MDP’s presidency.
The Government also continues to persecute opposition political leaders through politically motivated court proceedings. The leader of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for ‘terrorism’ on Tuesday. The charge relates to Imran’s participation in a peaceful MDP rally last May. During his trial, the judges refused to allow Sheikh Imran to present testimony from defence witnesses.
Supreme Council on Islamic Fatwa
On Monday, the ruling party also submitted an amendment to the Religious Unity Act proposing to establish a Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs.
The Council will be established by the President to “regularly issue Fatwa’s to ensure religious unity, create awareness on religious issues, conduct scholars forums, issue fatwas on issues of religious disputes.”
The MDP fears the council will enable President Yameen to use Islam as a political tool to demonise his opponents and create fear amongst the public.
Amendment to the Terrorism Act
On 15 February 2016, ruling party MP Saudh Hussain filed an amendment to the recently enacted Terrorism Act.
The amendment proposes to not publish a list of terrorist organisations (as advised by the National Security Council) on government gazette within 15 days of ratification of the act as per article 18 (a) and (b) of the Terrorism Act.
The MDP believes this will further give opportunity for growth of islamic radicalism in the Maldives.
Article 18 of the Terrorism Act: (Declaration of Terrorist Organisations)
(a) The president shall determine terrorist organizations under section 15 (b) (3) of this Act.
(b) The president should issue a list of terrorist organisations and publish it on the government gazette within 15 days of ratification of this Act.