The parliament on Monday approved the signing of the treaty between Maldives and India designed to provide aid in criminal cases.
The motion to sign the 'Treaty between the Republic of Maldives and the Republic of India on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters' was passed with the vote of 65 members out of the 75 that participated in the parliament session.
The members in favour of signing the treaty represented Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the main ruling coalition party which secured the super majority in the April parliamentary elections.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's cabinet and the Parliament Committee on National Security and Foreign Relations, after scrutinizing the agreement, had approved the outlines of the treaty before it was presented to the parliament floor.
The treaty aims to maintain the long lasting diplomatic relations between the two countries and provide mutual assistance on criminal matters, such as implementing court orders, other judicial matters, and encouraging both countries to aid the other in criminal investigations by urging relevant authorities to investigate such issues.
As per the agreement, suspects' residences and belongings may be inspected while the criminal investigation is underway. Moreover, their bank details, and financial and business records must be handed over to the authorities if requested.
The treaty highlights that a suspect in custody must be given the opportunity to cooperate with the investigation.
The treaty also grants authorities to freeze the accounts of those suspected with carrying out acts of terror.
Additionally, the agreement stated that information, documents and records kept by the government must be provided to law enforcement institutions and courts, should either country make a request.
Although attempts were made 10 years ago to sign the treaty, various reasons had delayed the process.
This is the first time that a treaty is being signed with a foreign country to prevent criminal acts.
Despite the overwhelming support for the treaty by the ruling party MDP, the opposition rejected the agreement claiming that the treaty will weaken the sovereignty of Maldives.
They expressed concern that the treaty allows probing into the businesses, banking and investments of suspects implicated in any of the investigations carried out under the agreement.
Member of People's National Congress (PNC) and MP of Maavah constituency, Mohamed Saeed, requested to delay the signing of the treaty. As per the former Minister of Economic Development, the economy of the country will be indirectly enslaved if the treaty allowed such details about business transactions to be exposed.
Therefore, he urged the agreement to be reviewed carefully before signing.
"If we sign this agreement, there will be repercussions. We should not believe that India will not take advantage", agreed the leader of Jumhooree Party (JP) and Maamigili MP Qasim Ibrahim.
Amidst the opposition's concerns, Attorney General (AG) Ibrahim Riffath affirmed on Monday that the treaty will not jeopardise the rights and safety of Maldivians.
Guaranteeing that the scope of the treaty did not include exchanging suspects between the two countries, AG Office assured that any Maldivian will only be allowed out of the country to provide testimonies after the legal procedures outlined in the constitution are completed.
Moreover, AG Office revealed that discussions are underway with other countries such as Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia to sign similar treaties.