Work resumes on stalled bill to repeal restriction on freedom of assembly

Security Services Committee convenes for a meeting. (File Photo/People's Majlis)

The Parliament’s Security Services Committee decided on Wednesday to re-start work on a bill to repeal the restriction on freedom of assembly – which had remained stalled since it was submitted to the Parliament, four years back.

The committee’s chair, North Hithadhoo MP Mohamed Aslam, announced the decision to re-start work on the bill during a committee meeting Wednesday.

He asked other committee members for their opinion on how to proceed with the work.

Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Saleem said that if the committee does not carry out its work with proper planning, it might have work pending when the term of the current parliamentary assembly comes to an end next year.

Hulhumale’ MP Ali Niyaz suggested setting a November 30 deadline for the committee’s work on the bill.

Saleem said it was too long, and suggested setting the deadline to October 31.

“I do not support this deadline – the November 30 deadline. Why must be push it back to November 30. To the end of this month. I believe that if this committee fails to make a decision on the amendment, then the committee hasn’t accomplished anything here. I propose finishing the work by the end of this month,” he said.

Niyaz agreed, and withdrew his earlier suggestion.

Saleem’s proposed deadline passed with the majority vote of the committee.

Several MPs, as well as rights watchdogs including the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), have repeatedly expressed concern over the delay in the passage of the bill – which had been one of the outgoing MDP administration’s electoral pledges.

In 2016, during former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s administration, the Parliament amended the Freedom of Assembly Act to ban any political rallies in the capital city without prior written permission from the police.

It was also established that political rallies and gatherings may only be held in locations determined by the Home Ministry.

Home Ministry has designated only one location for assemblies in Male’; the Alimas Carnival area.