AGO drafts bill to criminalize ‘India Out’ campaign

Police and protestors clash during the opposition coalition's 'Neyva Holhiah' rally in Male' City on March 25, 2022. (Sun Photo)

Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has drafted a bill to amend the Penal Code in order to criminalize acts that damage Maldives’ diplomatic interests, including the ‘India Out’ campaign.

AGO announced in a statement on Thursday that the bill had been submitted to the President’s Office for review prior to submission to the Parliament.

AGO said the purpose of the bill was to codify acts that damage the Maldives’ diplomatic interests as a separate crime from crimes related to public order, security and discipline declared on the Penal Code, and to make the necessary legislative changes to detail acts that will be considered such a crime.

According to the bill, the acts that will be treated as a crime includes damaging or altering a national flag or national symbol of a foreign country, destroying or calling for the destruction of foreign institutions, harming or calling for harm against a foreigner for the purpose of harassing them based on their nationality, or demanding a foreigner to leave Maldives based on their nationality.

The ‘India Out’ movement is a campaign led by the opposition PPM-PNC coalition to protest against Indian military presence in Maldives

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih issued a decree banning the ‘India Out’ campaign on April 21, deeming it a threat to national security.

All state institutions have been instructed to enforce the decree.

However, the opposition continued to put up banners and graffiti the walls of buildings with slogans linked to the movement.

President Solih said in his decree that the ‘India Out’ movement was a deliberate attempt to hinder the longstanding relations between Maldives and India, and international efforts to maintain security in the region, and that incitement to hatred against a specific country put Maldives at risk of loss of peace and stability, huge economic and social burden, and isolation in the international arena.

PPM has filed a lawsuit over the decree, calling the move an infringement on the right to freedom of expression.