Ruling party submits fresh amendment to 're-criminalize' corruption

Amid intense criticism, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) on Tuesday said it has now submitted a fresh amendment to the country's penal code which would re-criminalize corruption.

The original amendment was proposed by ruling party lawmaker Ibrahim Didi seeking to remove section 510 in the penal code which declares offering and accepting bribery for government and state officials as a crime.

The amendment has since been reviewed by the parliamentary national security committee and is expected to be put a vote during the next sitting.

The proposed move to remove the bribery clause had sparked major concern from the country's opposition, religious scholars and legal experts saying the amendment would effectively legalize corruption.

A prominent lawyer on condition of anonymity had told AVAS that the amendment would effectively "legalize" corruption and prevent authorities from punishing corrupt government and state officials.

"I'm truly shocked by this amendment. We keep hearing rumours and accusations about judges, parliament members and top government officials being bribed. So this move prevents authorities from putting an end to it," the lawyer had explained.

In an impromptu press conference on Tuesday, chief government lawmaker Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik explained that though Didi's amendment removed the bribery clause, the "second part" of the proposed amendment which includes the clause more "widely" has already been submitted by Fonadhoo lawmaker and PPM deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla.

"They should've talked after the two amendments had been submitted. The opposition is continuing to make false claims designed to mislead the public," The Villi-Maafannu lawmaker said.