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Maldives parliament accepts bill to restrict protests in capital

Mohamed Visham
15 August 2016, MVT 16:05
Protesters gathered outside the parliament as lawmakers voted to pass the defamation bill on Tuesday. MIHAARU PHOTO/NISHAN ALI
Mohamed Visham
15 August 2016, MVT 16:05

The government controlled parliament on Monday accepted a bill which looks to severely restrict protests in the capital Male despite heavy criticism from opposition lawmakers.

During the parliament sitting on Monday, the amendment to the assembly act was accepted with 39 lawmakers voting in favour out of the 61 present.

The bill will now be reviewed by the parliamentary national security committee.

According to the amendment submitted by ruling party lawmaker Abdulla Rifau, protests and marches of any kind without prior notice can only be held in places designated by the home ministry.

Home ministry is obligated to publicize a list of places within 30 days of the law coming into effect.

The amendment argues that street marches and protests prove a nuisance to the residents of the congested capital.

Opposition lawmakers during the parliamentary debate on Monday accused the government of using the police to crackdown on dissenters.

The amendment is further proof of the autocracy in the Maldives, main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) lawmakers said.

In response, pro-government lawmakers argued that the amendment was not designed to restrict the right to peaceful assembly as enshrined in the constitution.

A ban on street protests in the capital Male has been in force since a police crackdown on a three-day protest staged by MDP last November.

The police have since blocked the opposition’s anti-corruption walks as well as marches by the media and civil society.

The amendment is the latest move by the government to exploit its control in the parliament to crackdown on dissent.

Meanwhile, the Parliament last week passed the contentious defamation bill to deliver a major blow to media and free speech in the Maldives.

Despite heavy international criticism, president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had a day later signed the bill into law.

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