Public opinion sought on Police Service Bill

Police officers maintain security at an anti-rape rally held in Male' City on January 24, 2020. (File Photo/Sun/Ahmed Awshan Ilyas)

The Parliament, on Sunday, announced it is open for public opinion regarding the Police Service Bill.

The Police Service Bill was submitted to the Parliament on behalf of the government by West Henveyru MP Hassan Latheef, the chairperson of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The bill is currently under evaluation by the Parliament’s Security Services Committee.

The Parliament has announced that members of the public have the opportunity to share their views regarding the bill by emailing the committee at [email protected] by June 30.

 The Parliament held the preliminary debate over the bill last week, during which several MDP lawmakers criticized Maldives Police Service.

North Machangolhi MP Mohamed Rasheed said the police had a long history of brutality, but continued to be allowed to roam freely with impunity.

He alleged that the Special Operations department was launched for the specific purpose harassing and brutalizing members of the general public.

“To brutalize the people, to harass the people, to pester the people and to threaten them,” he said.

Mohamed Rasheed said the police should not be allowed any more powers and did not deserve to appear presentable in their uniforms.

He said the police should be made to wear shorts and armed with small batons.

“I call on the committee to make changes to their uniforms. They should be made to roam around Male’ wearing khaki shorts, long socks and skin-tight boots,” he said.

The remarks led to individual police officers expressing their displeasure over social media.

The next day, Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed wrote on Twitter that the Maldives Police Service was committed to reform.

“Police reform is doable, it’s in everyone’s interest, can be approached with civility. Ridiculing is unnecessary,” he said.

The Police Service Bill was drafted by the Attorney General’s Office, which said the purpose of the bill is to ensure that all aspects of police work are conducted within the constitution and legal limits in a manner that respects human rights and rule of law.

Some of the amendments proposed in the bill include:

  • Formulating a policy of a police service based on the philosophy of community policing that can operate in a decentralized manner.
  • Formulating policies to ensure that the powers granted to police as part of the legal responsibilities are used in accordance with the policies stipulated in the law regarding the circumstances or instances.
  • Enhancing the procedure of appointment for Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police in addition to stipulating clear requirements to be fulfilled in order to be appointed for the position.
  • The formation of advisory figures to the Commissioner regarding advisory matters and discussions to ensure that the operations of the police service are run in accordance with the law.
  • Prohibition of Ministers from ordering specific police officers as well as clearly stipulating the responsibilities of the Ministers regarding matters involving the police.
  • The clear stipulation of the Prosecutor General’s role in investigations.
  • The clear stipulation of the role of Parliament’s Committee on National Security Services in holding the police service accountable.
  • Clearly defining the powers of the police granted to protect public peace and prevent criminal activity.
  • The clear stipulation that the police are to operate in the lawfully prescribed manner to disperse gatherings and in no other manner, as well as the stipulation that force must not be used unless as a last resort, and must be proportionate to the danger.