Parliament passes slew of bills on sports, disasters, police oversight

Parliament passes slew of bills on sports, disasters, police oversight
August 27 18:49 2015

The parliament today broke for a one-month recess after passing three bills and amendments to the penal code at the last sitting of the second session of 2015.

Government-sponsored legislation on national disasters, sports, and establishing a national integrity commission, as well as changes to the new penal code were approved today.

At the end of today’s sitting, speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed said the parliament finished work on 26 bills during the second session. The Majlis’ productively was 96 percent, he said.

The ‘National Integrity Commission’ will replace the Police Integrity Commission and the Customs Integrity Commission as a single oversight body for law enforcement agencies.

Assistant attorney general Ismail Wisham told The Maldives Independent last month that the new five-member commission will “cure the current toothlessness of the integrity commissions”  as it will have a wider mandate and powers to impose punitive measures.

The police watchdog was only authorised to make recommendations to the home ministry after investigating allegations of misconduct, but “there appears to be no compliance with a single recommendation,” Wisham said.

National sports law

The sports bill proposes the formation of a national sports council headed by a ‘commissioner of sports’ as a parent institution for sports clubs and association. The president must appoint the commissioner for a four-year term in consultation with the council and the sports ministry within 90 days of ratifying the new law.

The commissioner’s powers and responsibilities include taking action against persons who violate laws and regulations in the sports sector, determining national sports policies, advising the sports minister, and regulating security measures at tournaments.

The 11-member sports council will function under the sports ministry. The council will comprise of two representatives from the sports minister, two female members appointed by the minister, a representative of the legal sector appointed by the minister, a representative from the education ministry, four members elected by national sports association to represent Olympic and non-Olympic sports, and a representative of the Maldives Olympic Committee.

The new law also specifies registration processes for clubs and associations and mandates the creation of a state-owned ‘Maldives Sports Corporation’ as well as a local sports channel operated jointly by the corporation and the state broadcaster.

Disasters

The legislation on national disasters meanwhile proposes a framework for protecting the country from natural and other large-scale disasters. The bill proposing replacing the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) with the ‘National Disaster Management Authority’ to be headed a chief executive appointed by the president.

The NDMC’s employees and resources will be transferred to the new institution. The new authority’s mandate includes formulating regulations on minimising disaster-related dangers, overseeing disaster management efforts, carrying out research and collecting information, and advising the government, independent bodies, and local councils.

A ‘National Disaster Management Council’ comprised of the president and cabinet members must also be created within 30 days of ratifying the bill.

The NDMC has previously said its operations were hindered by the lack of a law outlining its powers.

High Court branches

The parliament also approved funding for High Court regional branches to be established in northern Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi and southern Addu City.

Following consideration of a request by the chief justice, the parliament’s public accounts committee approved spending MVR105,000 (US$6,809) a month to rent homes for six High Court judges.

The committee’s decision was approved on the People’s Majlis floor today with 47 votes in favour, one against and one abstention.

Amendments brought to the Judicature Act in December 2014 divided the nine-member High Court bench into three branches with three judges each. The regional branches will only hear appeals of magistrate court verdicts while only the main branch in the capital can decide on challenges to laws and regulations.

In June, the Supreme Court transferred three judges to the southern branch.

The Addu City branch will be located in the Meedhoo ward.

Meanwhile, at yesterday’s sitting, the parliament passed legislation on health services. The bill requires relevant authorities to devise a national health service system, including both government and private facilities.

The health ministry is mandated to publicise a healthcare master-plan whilst the government must establish a basic healthcare centre in each inhabited island and a hospital in each atoll. Resorts and industrial islands must also set up healthcare facilities.

The bill also specifies safety and quality standards as well as processes for registering health service providers. An operating license will be issued for five years.

An amendment to the Elections Commission Act proposing that the national electoral body oversee presidential primaries, and amendments to the Land Act mandating helmets while driving did not pass today.

The People’s Majlis will reconvene for its third and final session of the year in October.

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