Bill submitted to criminalize ‘India Out’ campaign

Police and protestors clash during the opposition coalition's 'Neyva Holhiah' rally in Male' City on March 25, 2022. (Sun Photo)

A bill has been submitted to the Parliament to amend the Penal Code in order to criminalize acts damaging to Maldives’ diplomatic interests, such as the ‘India Out’ campaign.

The bill was submitted to the Parliament on behalf of the government by Feydhoo MP Mohamed Nihad on Wednesday.

According to the government, the purpose of the bill is to codify acts that damage the Maldives’ diplomatic interests as a separate crime from crimes related to public order, security and discipline declared on the Penal Code, and to make the necessary legislative changes to detail acts that will be considered such a crime.

The bill lists seven acts against a country or people from a country Maldives has established diplomatic ties with that will be treated as crimes. They are:

  • Damaging or altering a national flag or national symbol of a foreign country
  • Damaging institutions that belong to a foreign country
  • Harassing a foreigner based on their nationality
  • Harming or calling for harm against a foreigner living in Maldives
  • Demanding a foreigner to leave Maldives based on their nationality
  • Committing or attempting to commit an act that could incite hate against Maldivians among foreigners, and endanger or cause difficulties to Maldivians residing in foreign countries
  • Releasing documents, photos, videos or audio that could incite displeasure, hate or anger towards foreigners

The ‘India Out’ movement is a campaign led by the opposition PPM-PNC coalition to protest against Indian military presence in Maldives

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih issued a decree banning the ‘India Out’ campaign on April 21, deeming it a threat to national security.

All state institutions have been instructed to enforce the decree.

However, the opposition continued to put up banners and graffiti the walls of buildings with slogans linked to the movement.

President Solih said in his decree that the ‘India Out’ movement was a deliberate attempt to hinder the longstanding relations between Maldives and India, and international efforts to maintain security in the region, and that incitement to hatred against a specific country put Maldives at risk of loss of peace and stability, huge economic and social burden, and isolation in the international arena.

PPM has filed a lawsuit over the decree, calling the move an infringement on the right to freedom of expression.