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Maldives opposition to defy law restricting protests

Mohamed Visham
18 August 2016, MVT 10:58
MDP PG group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (C) speaking to reporters outside the parliament building on Wednesday. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN
Mohamed Visham
18 August 2016, MVT 10:58

Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) would defy a law rubber stamped by the government controlled parliament to restrict protests in the capital, a top MDP lawmaker said Wednesday.

During Wednesday's sitting, the controversial amendment was passed with 37 lawmakers voting in favour out of the 65 present.

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.

Shortly after the amendment was passed, MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told reporters that his party would pay no heed to the new law and continue with anti-government rallies and protests.

Flanked by key members of the MDP PG group, Solih said the amendment was the latest move by the government to infringe a basic constitutional right.

Article 32 of the Maldives Constitution (Freedom of assembly): Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly without prior permission of the State.

He said the parliament had no authority to limit a basic right as per the constitution without a public referendum.

"That article has been specifically put in so that the parliament majority cannot be exploited to do that. The purpose of that article is to protect fundamental rights," the Hinnavaru MP added.

Referring to the recently ratified defamation Act, Solih expressed concern over the limitation of right to free speech and media which he pointed out were two rights that cannot be limited even under a state of emergency.

"We have really dark and difficult days ahead of us. I believe that it's high time we all unite to bring about much needed change," Solih said.

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