Parliament’s Special Committee for Penal Code Review has stated that the committee will complete work on revising the bill by early March.
The final draft of the penal code – which had taken seven years in the committee stage – was rejected in yesterday’s parliamentary sitting with 36 votes. MPs then voted to send the bill back to the drafting committee
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and chair of the committee Ahmed Hamza told Minivan News today that the committee will send letters today to every individual member of parliament, asking them to submit any desired amendments to the bill by January 20.
On receiving the amendments, the committee will review them and decide on those to be accepted by January 30, after which the revised bill will be sent to the parliament floor for voting on February 5.
The committee will work with a representative from the Attorney General’s Office when reviewing amendments submitted by parliament members, Hamza said.
“The committee has decided today to work by this plan. My hope is that both the government and other members will send in all the amendments they want within this period of time, and that we will be able to complete this work. Our aim is to table the report by the time parliament reconvenes on March 1,” Hamza said.
Bill rejected by a narrow margin
Hamza said he was “astounded” by the rejection, given that the review committee which had passed the draft was representative of all the political parties.
Members from the government coalition parties had voted against the bill, with Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof confirming to Minivan News yesterday that a coalition whip-line had been issued for the matter.
In addition to pro-government members, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdulla Jabir has also voted against passing the Penal Code.
Jabir was not responding to calls at the time of press. However, he is quoted in local media as saying he had voted against the bill as he found it to be “too harsh”.
Two members abstained from voting on whether to return the bill to the committee.
MP Ibrahim Muhthalib refrained from voting, stating that “no human being has the right to rephrase divine laws in Islamic Sharia into separate articles in a law” and that he would abstain from voting on the matter as some scholars believe that participation in such an act may be blasphemous.
While voting records are not yet published on the parliament’s official website, an official confirmed that independent MP Mohamed Nasheed was the second member to have refrained from voting.
MP Nasheed was also not responding to calls at the time of press.