Government proposes amendments to old laws to ensure protection of rights

The Maldives government has proposed amending laws enacted under the country’s outdated constitution in order to ensure rights guaranteed by the current constitution are enshrined in old laws.

A bill has been introduced to amend the Immigration Act of 2007 to limit the period for which state institutions can withhold a individual’s passport without a court order to twenty four hours from the currently stated seven days.

Article 48 (d) of the current Constitution forbids detention of a person for more than twenty four hours without being brought before a judge who will decide if the detention could be extended.

It was also proposed that the Controller of Immigration and Emigration should be allowed to withhold passports based on orders from all investigative bodies of the state.

The current version of the Act states that the Controller can only withhold a passport based on court warrants, verdicts and orders from “government institutions authorized to make arrests under the General Laws Act.”

If passed, this amendment will allow independent state institutions such as the Anti Corruption Commission to ask the Controller to withhold passports.

Other major changes proposed to the Immigration Act include removing references to a 1968 law titled ‘Some General Laws’ (4/68) from the Immigration Act. The law allows detention of a person on suspicion of disobeying laws and for security and safety for any period of time by the Ministry of Defence and National Security and the Ministry of Home Affairs if in Malé area and (now abolished) Ministry of Atolls if on other islands.

The government states the law contradicts several articles of the Constitution, particularly those regarding the rights of the detained.

The 1978 “Procedure for detentions exceeding seven days act”  has been put up for annulment for the same reason, as it allows detaining people for periods exceeding seven or more days without authorization from a Judge.

The government has also proposed annulling the 1990 “Law on determining the salaries of the People’s Majlis and the People’s Special Majlis.” The one- line law is no longer of use as the Constitution already authorizes the Majlis to determine their own salary.

The government also proposed an amendment to the “Protection of Child Rights Act” of 1991 to include universal education up to middle school for all children.

The current Act only requires government to provide education “to the extent which the economy of Maldives and the resources of the government allows.” Further, instead of universal education without discrimination, it states that education must be provided for all “in a way that is relevant for each Island”.

Article 26 of the Constitution guarantees universal education for everyone without any discrimination and requires the state to provide free primary and secondary level education.

However, while the amendment to the act requires the state to teach obedience to Islam and instilling love for Islam as outlined in the constitution, it has excluded “fostering respect for human rights and promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people” mentioned in the same article of the constitution.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil yesterday said the government will be sending a total of 51 bills to the current session of the newly elected People’s Majlis where the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives holds a majority.

Speaking to Haveeru he said that 19 of these bills have already been forwarded to the Majlis, and said he hopes to send eleven more bills within the month.

The highest priorities of the legislative agenda will be formulating bills required for implementing the PPM manifesto, he has also said.

The scope of the government’s legislative agenda includes  207 bill comprising 98 new bills and 109 amendments to existing laws.

A bill on establishing special economic zones (SEZ) designed to attract foreign investments was recently proposed by the government.

Anil today revealed that  an interim Criminal Procedure will also be proposed shortly.

Speaking to Haveeru, Anil said it is very important to have an interim Criminal Procedure Act which could complement the recently ratified revised Penal Code which is to come in to force in April 2015.

Anil said he feared that the long-term Criminal Procedure bill may be delayed in the parliament as it “has many issues” and would generate a lot of debate in the parliament.