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Maldives pres ratifies bill to restrict protests in capital

Mohamed Visham
24 August 2016, MVT 15:38
Protesters confront police as the parliament passed the contentious defamation bill on Tuesday. MIHAARU PHOTO/NISHAN ALI
Mohamed Visham
24 August 2016, MVT 15:38

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Tuesday signed a controversial government proposed amendment to the assembly Act, into law, effectively restricting protests in the capital Male.

The government controlled parliament had rubber stamped the amendment last week with 37 lawmakers voting in favour out of the 65 present.

According to the amendment submitted by ruling party lawmaker Abdulla Rifau, protests and marches of any kind without prior notice can only be held in places designated by the home ministry.

Home ministry is obligated to publicize a list of places within 30 days of the law coming into effect.

The amendment argues that street marches and protests prove a nuisance to the residents of the congested capital.

Opposition has accused the government of using the police to crackdown on dissenters.

The amendment is further proof of the autocracy in the Maldives, main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had lamented.

In response, government supporters argue that the amendment was not designed to restrict the right to peaceful assembly as enshrined in the constitution.

A ban on street protests in the capital Male has been in force since a police crackdown on a three-day protest staged by MDP last November.

The police have since blocked the opposition’s anti-corruption walks as well as marches by the media and civil society.

The amendment is the latest move by the government to exploit its control in the parliament to crackdown on dissent.

Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile has said it would pay no heed to the new law and continue with anti-government rallies and protests.

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