Freedom of Assembly Bill
The Maldivian Democratic Party is deeply concerned, and condemns the series of swift actions taken the by the Government- controlled Parliament restricting freedom of assembly.
The Bill passed today restricts protests and gatherings to areas designated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and requires protestors to obtain written permission from the Police. This clearly violates the Constitutional Article 32, which stipulates that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly without prior permission of the State.’
The Yameen Government had been faced with regular street protests and mass rallies ever since the former president, and Leader of this Party, President Mohamed Nasheed was arrested in February last year, and following the ensuing crackdown on human rights and erosion of democracy. These protests have been met with disproportionate brutality from the forces and resulted in the jailing of over a 1000 activists and journalists over the year.
Yesterday’s Bill was preceded last week by the Defamation Act, which imposed severe limitations on Freedom of Speech.
As a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and as these rights are enshrined in our own Constitution, the Yameen regime must ensure its citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and express themselves. The MDP calls upon the Maldivian authorities and state institutions such as the Courts, the Police, and the Prosecutor General to respect these obligations, and to distance themselves from these unconstitutional actions.
Amendment to the Political Parties Act; Retroactive Application
The MDP also condemns the amendment brought to the Political Parties Act, imposing mandatory re- registration of over half the Party’s membership.
The Bill, passed yesterday, requires all existing and new political party members to submit fingerprints for registering with a political party. The MDP, as the oldest and largest political party in the country is faced with the sudden disenfranchisement of over half its membership. The Bill is to be applied retroactively so that all members are forced to re register.
All the opposition parties have argued that the requirement for fingerprints cannot be applied retroactively. All the opposition parties were formed in 2005, while the new condition was first introduced in a regulation in 2010, and later by law in the 2013 Political Parties Act. Therefore, with this amendment, MDP, as the oldest party in the country, is impacted the most, followed by all the other opposition parties. Only the ruling party, the PPM, formed after the regulation, is untouched by this amendment.
Making the Government’s intentions very clear, during the preliminary debate, ruling party MPs argued that this would make the PPM the largest party in the country.” Speaking at a party rally, following the submission of the Bill, Government MP Abduall Rifau said, “the entire MDP will be wiped out.”
Political parties also receive state funds depending on the size of the party membership. This Bill is clearly designed to reduce MDP’s numbers and cut off its state funding.
Previously, the Attorney General has also advised against de-registration as the Political Party Act does not require fingerprint from members prior to the enactment of the law.
“The Government is cracking down on people’s fundamental rights. This is repression from all fronts. The ugly truth is there is clear disdain for human rights and rule of law, by the Yameen regime. The MDP is faced with no choice but to challenge these undemocratic and unjust laws,” said MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.