New Maldives govt set to repeal anti-defection, defamation law

The now coalition government is set to submit a motion to the parliament in a bid to repeal the contentious anti-defection and defamation law, coalition lawmakers announced Wednesday.

The outgoing government controlled parliament in March had passed the anti-defection law largely devised to disqualify a dozen former government lawmakers.

The contentious defamation law meanwhile was passed in 2016 by the parliament despite widespread criticism, criminalises speech deemed to be defamatory, to comment against “any tenet of Islam”, to “threaten national security” or to “contradict general social norms”.

Those committing an offence under the bill can face fines and failure to pay the fine will result in jail sentence of three to six months.

During a joint parliamentary group press conference, deputy Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Abdulla Riyaz said the motion seeking to repeal the two laws would be submitted to the parliament on Thursday.

The announcement came moments after the country's electoral body annulled the disqualifications of a dozen former government lawmakers who had been disqualified over the contentious anti-defection ruling.

Righting wrongs?

Elections Commission on Sunday announced the official results which confirmed opposition alliance presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as the seventh president of the archipelago with a staggering 58.4 percent of the votes.

Solih had been backed by incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's main political rivals including the now jailed former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Nasheed along with Jumhoory Party leader and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

The coalition had banked its entire campaign on pledges of reform promising the people to right the wrongs of the incumbent government.

Though Solih would officially be sworn in next month, the country has already witnessed the release of several jailed leaders including Gayoom and former government lawmakers.