Main-ruling party drafts bill seeking to criminalize 'India Out' movement

A bill seeking to criminalize the opposition's 'India Out' campaign has been drafted by the main-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The bill is currently titled 'bill seeking to stop activities that negatively impact bilateral relations established with other countries'.

According to the bill, it is a punishable offense to target and criticize a specific country or institution while the Maldives has established ties with the government as per international guidelines. It also states that it is an offense to deem the Maldives as being controlled and under the influence of another country and carrying out campaigns against said countries.

The bill states that if any person is found guilty of any related offense, they can be fined MVR 20,000, sentenced to house arrest for a period not exceeding one year, or jailed for a period not exceeding six months. The bill is designed to come into effect upon ratification. The Foreign Ministry has been tasked with formulating the necessary regulations within three months.

Speaking to AVAS, some MDP members said they had received the draft bill for comments. Some members said the bill would be the parliament's first work on when it reconvenes this year.

'I believe this bill is very crucial at this time. It is a very irresponsible act in such a way that it negatively affects relations with another country. We need a legal solution to this issue,' an MDP member who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.

The opposition is carrying out a campaign to drive out Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives, a campaign that has been gaining momentum since former President Abdulla Yameen was acquitted from a money laundering conviction last year. The government has said the campaign is detrimental to the relationship between India and Maldives and that the government would put a stop to the campaign. The opposition has condemned MDP's efforts to criminalize their movement.