Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof has proposed conducting a public referendum on the death penalty to allow voters to decide whether to restore capital punishment.
Speaking at a press conference at the PPM office this morning, the MP for Galolhu South said he was planning to submit a resolution to parliament on conducting the referendum simultaneously with the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.
Mahloof accused all three branches of the state of “making excuses” to avoid enforcing the death penalty, claiming that 99 percent of the public supported its reintroduction.
“When this issue comes to the People’s Majlis, they say very easily that this has been determined by religion so we don’t have to make a decision here. When it goes to the judiciary, they say the People’s Majlis has to make a decision on implementing death sentences,” the PPM spokesperson said.
“When the home minister issues an order to implement [death sentences], the government is saying today that we have to make a decision at the cabinet.”
Referring to the recent stabbing of MP Alhan Fahmy at a restaurant, Mahloof contended that lack of enforcement had emboldened criminals “to the point where people in senior posts of the state are attacked in open spaces.”
“So they will not hesitate to [attack] an ordinary citizen. This is a very serious matter,” he said.
Mahloof added that his purpose was to “build pressure” on the government to enforce the death penalty.
While presidential candidates spoke in favour of the death penalty during last year’s campaign, Mahloof observed that implementation efforts remained “stalled”.
The government would be forced to enforce capital punishment if the issue was decided in a public referendum, he added.
Mahloof also said that he was seeking signatures from MPs to hold an extraordinary sitting of parliament during the ongoing recess to debate the resolution. A sitting can be held during recess upon request by 26 MPs.
The ruling party MP said he met Elections Commission Vice President Ahmed Fayaz yesterday and was assured that the commission would discuss the issue of the referendum.
Article 70 of the constitution states that the lawmaking powers of the People’s Majlis include “the holding of public referendums on issues of public importance.”
Mahloof’s resolution – shared on social media today – states that seeking public opinion on the death penalty would alleviate international pressure and rebut those who claim Maldivians did not favour it.
“Despite the death penalty being prescribed in Islam, sentences are not implemented because of foreign and domestic pressure,” he tweeted.
In January, Home Minister Umar Naseer issued an order to the Maldives Correctional Service to begin preparations for implementation of death sentences by lethal injection.
The order prompted Amnesty International to call on the government to halt any plans to end the current moratorium on the death penalty, describing such a move as “a retrograde step and a serious setback to human rights in the country.”
President Abdulla Yameen – on a state visit to Sri Lanka at the time of Naseer’s announcement – meanwhile told the press that the home minister’s order was not discussed at cabinet and promised “broad discussions” on the issue.