The parliament is seeking public opinion on the Police Bill which seeks to reform Maldives Polices Services.
The bill proposed by the main-ruling party Maldives Democratic Party (MDP)'s Chairperson MP Hassan Latheef is being evaluated by the parliament committee on National Security (241 Committee).
An announcement publicised by the People’s Majlis instructs those who wish to comment on the Police Bill to send their comments and suggestions to the parliament office by 1400 hrs on Tuesday.
The Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed has previously stated that the bill must be discussed extensively and that different opinions must be sought on the bill. In addition to holding discussions at the parliament house, he would try to make arrangements to have discussions in the atolls, said the speaker.
Responsibilities of Home Minister and Commissioner of Police
The newly proposed Police bill explains the responsibilities and mandate of the Home Minister and the Commissioner of Police and the police in more detail than the existing Police Act. According to the new bill, the Home Minister will not have the authority to give orders to individual police officers. The current Police Act grants the authority to the Home Minister as the Chief of Police.
The bill also proposes to further enhance the procedural steps in appointing a Commissioner and a Deputy Commissioner of Police, and lists in detail the requirements and criteria to qualify for the post. It also suggests the formation of an advisory committee to give recommendations regarding the police service.
The bill provides details on how public rallies or protests should be dispersed and the situations in which force shall be used and when it should not be used. Additionally, it outlines the role of the police in crime prevention and maintaining peace and order.
More authority to the 241 Committee
The newly proposed bill on the Police Act includes the policies under which the administrative divisions may provide policing services under a decentralized system. It also stipulates the role of the 241 committee and its responsibilities in holding Maldives Police Service accountable, and grants more authority to the committee.
In this regard, the 241 Committee may bring structural changes to the policing service and instruct the Home Minister and the Police Commissioner to bring changes to salary and allowances given to the police officers. The committee may also instruct to bring changes to the procedures followed in detaining people for investigation.
In the case a complaint is submitted to parliament regarding the police, and if the complaint is admissible, the committee may also instruct the Home Minister and the Police Commission to take appropriate measures to prevent the same issue from being repeated.
Heavy criticism has been aimed at the bill due to the bill proposing to vest more authority to 214 Committee. The opposition say the bill is structured in a way that the parliament members of the main-ruling MDP and the present administration can exert political influence over the police.