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Parliament passes bill protecting whistleblowers

Mariyam Malsa
09 October 2019, MVT 13:04
An ongoing parliamentary session. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED/ MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
09 October 2019, MVT 13:04

The parliament, on Tuesday, passed the bill granting protection to whistleblowers.

The act, submitted by Galolhu North MP Eva Abdulla, was unanimously paased by the 70 members in attendance following amendments by the parliamentary Committee on Independent Institutions.

While no framework protecting whistleblowers currently exists in Maldives, establishing such a system was included among President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's electoral pledges. The president also promised strong measures against acts of corruption.

As per the amendments, the bill will not apply to acts of whistleblowing prior to the bill's passing. However, it will be applicable to whistleblowing on events which occured prior to the bill's passing.

The parliamentary committee also proposed the formation of a Whistleblower Protection Unit to receive complaints as opposed to the initial proposal of submitting complaints to relevant independent institutions.

The unit will be formed as part of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) which is also tasked with appointing an individual to lead the unit within 21 days of the bill's ratification.

The Whistleblower Protection Unit is intended to work towards securing rights guaranteed to whistleblowers in the bill as well as ensure that relevant institutions are conveyed information divulged by whistleblowers.

The definition of whistleblowing as per the bill is reporting the possible existence of an activity which constitutes an act of corruption, negligence of legal obligations, violation of human rights, misuse of government authority, obstruction of justice, resource leaking, retaliation against whistleblowers, causing considerable damage to the environment, and endangering public health and safety.

The bill criminalises several forms of retaliation against whistleblowers including unfair dismissal or demotion, withholding work-related benefits and threats, intimidation or bodily harm.

The purpose of the bill is stamping out acts of corruption committed by both government institutions and private companies. It also aims to create a culture of transparency and accountability.

Previously, Gasim Abdul Kareem, the individual responsible for uncovering the MVR 1.3 billion corruption scandal of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company (MMPRC), faced backlash for his actions.

Gasim, a former assistant manager at Bank of Maldives’ Nilandhoo Branch, Faafu Atoll, received an eight-month and 12-day prison sentence for unlawfully disclosing private information, on November 15, 2016.

There was considerable public critisicm against the previous administration concerning the matter. Gasim was released after he completed his sentence.

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