President Mohamed Nasheed has vetoed the bill on protecting the rights of and providing financial assistance to people with special needs following an appeal from NGOs and advice from the attorney general that it would conflict with UN conventions.
Article 91(a) of the constitution states the president shall either assent to a bill within 15 days or return it for reconsideration.
The bill was passed on 21 December and would have automatically become law if the president did not ratify it today.
Mohamed Zuhair, president’s office press secretary, said the legislation was returned as the president believed it could lead to “social, economical and legal problems” if it was enacted.
Zuhair said Attorney General Husnu Suood advised the president that many provisions in the bill conflicted with international standards and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the Maldives has acceded to.
Suood told the president that the bill would create obstacles for persons with special needs making decisions on their own and participating in society.
Zuhair added the ministry of health and family informed the president that social and economic difficulties could arise if the provisions in the legislation were implemented.
Moreover, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives as well as NGOs Care Society, Handicap International and Association for Disabilities and Development had urged the president to ask parliament to ensure that the law would protect the rights of people with special needs as required by the UN convention.
Care Society, the Maldivian Deaf Association and the Association for Disabilities and Development were joined by parents of persons with special needs at a gathering outside the president’s office this morning.
The NGOs and parents held up placards urging the president not to ratify the bill.
Speaking to Minivan News, Sidaatha Shareef from Care Society said the NGOs wanted a law to protect the rights of the special needs.
“But we had to gather today after working through a lot of different stages. When the bill was at parliament, we met parliament members and met members of the social affairs committee separately and made recommendations in writing and gave them a presentation,” she said.
The bill was passed without considering any of the recommendations, she continued, and the NGOs met with the president’s office, the HRCM and the health ministry to raise their concerns.
“But, since we have not got an adequate response, we are here today to see what decision is made,” she said, adding if the president ratified the bill it would be a “big failure”.
Among the main concerns with the bill was lack of health rehabilitation. “That is one difficulty that the parents here endure every day. It is a basic right that they should be getting,” she said.
She added the language of some provisions the “spirit of the bill” would “segregate” people with special needs or provide assistance as “charity”.
The NGOs wanted the bill to be “more inclusive, rights-based and in line with the UNCPWD”.
Shortly after Sidaatha went into the president’s office and was told to wait until the end of lunch hour, Hassan Afeef, political advisor to the president, came out and addressed the group.
Asked how the president would make his decision, Afeef said, “The president is considering doing it in line with your thinking.”