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Usham slams rejection of amendment assuring freedom of assembly

Mariyam Malsa
26 November 2020, MVT 11:21
Police crackdown on an opposition protest in the capital city of Male' on September 12. PHOTO: AHMED AWSHAN ILYAS/ MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
26 November 2020, MVT 11:21

Parliamentary representative of Greater Male' area's Vilimale' constituency, MP Ahmed Usham, on Wednesday, criticized the parliament's decision to reject the bill on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly.

The MP particularly highlighted that the decision was in contravention with the decision of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Foreign Relations in October to abolish the amendment to the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act, which granted powers for the state to impose limitations on assemblies.

Usham revealed that 13 parliamentarians voted in favour of nullifying the amendment while 25 voted against the move. Additionally, he revealed that a total of 56 members voted to send the bill on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly back to the Committee on National Security for further review.

Criticizing the decision, the Vilimale' MP and member of the National Security Committee highlighted that the abolishment of Section 24 (f) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2013 was an electoral pledge of the now incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

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 lambasted 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".

Following the announcement Maldives' Bar Council also called on the government to reverse the restrictions, declaring that the administrative order was in contravention of the Constitution and international obligations of Maldives.

In addition to the Bar Council, rights groups, activists, parliamentarians and other local entities, the international NGO Human Rights Watch has also slammed the government's decision as a violation of fundamental rights.

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