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Parliamentary Committee abolishes Peaceful Assembly Act amendment

Shahudha Mohamed
23 October 2020, MVT 11:15
A Parliament sitting in progress. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Foreign Relations abolished former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's amendment to the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act on October 21. PHOTO: PARLIAMENT
Shahudha Mohamed
23 October 2020, MVT 11:15

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Foreign Relations, on Wednesday, voted on abolishing the amendment to the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act, which requires written approval from Maldives Police Service to hold protests and all forms of public gatherings.

After discussions on the amendments to the Act, members of the Parliament Committee decided on allowing the right to assembly as it is granted in the Maldivian constitution.

With the members' unanimous approval for Noonu Atoll's Kendhikulhudhoo constituency's Parliament representative, Ahmed Easa's suggestion to slash the amendment, the restrictions placed on public gatherings are now revoked.

The contentious first amendment to the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act, which placed restrictions on gatherings, was ratified on August 23, 2016, during former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's tenure.

At the time, the former opposition and current ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had slammed the amendment as unconstitutional and in violation of the fundamental right to assembly.

However, following the change in administration in late 2018, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's government did not repeal the prickly law, and instead, enforced it in July, after multiple protests, including marches by exploited expatriate workers demanding unpaid wages, child and women rights groups, as well as by the opposition coalition.

The Solih administration defended the decision following the strong backlash, with the Minister of Home Affairs Imran Abdulla suggesting that abolishing the amendment may "disrupt the system".

Minister Imran explained that the better way ahead would be to ensure there were no limitations to the people’s freedom to rally, securing their safety in doing so while circumventing any issues that may arise.

Commissioner of Police (CP) Mohamed Hameed had also noted that the current administration allows for assemblies with fewer restrictions than is written in the amendment.

Although both the Home Minister and CP spoke against slashing the amendment, the committee's unanimous vote decided otherwise.

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