President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday ratified the bill granting protection to whistleblowers.
The parliament approved the 'Bill on Protection of Whistleblowers', which was lobbied by Galolhu North MP Eva Abdulla, on October 8. All 70 lawmakers present at the sitting voted unanimously in favour of the bill.
The new legislation does not apply to acts of whistleblowing prior to its ratification. However, it is applicable to whistleblowing on events which occurred prior to the bill's passing.
The definition of whistleblowing as per the new Act 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 new bill criminalises several forms of retaliation against whistleblowers, including unfair dismissal or demotion, withholding work-related benefits and threats, intimidation or bodily harm.
Its purpose was stated as stamping out acts of corruption committed by both government institutions and private companies. The bill also aims to create a culture of transparency and accountability.
Moreover, the parliamentary committee which initially reviewed the bill 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.
Upon ratification, the Act has been published in the Government Gazette.
The President's Office further noted that granting protection to whistleblowers was an electoral pledge of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the bill was one of the first efforts of his administration.