The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives has been caught in a lie over an amendment to the penal code, a day after denying seeking to decriminalise bribery.
There was an uproar when the media discovered on Monday that a bill by PPM MP Ibrahim Didi would remove bribery from the penal code as a prosecutable offence.
But the PPM accused the media and opposition of levelling false allegations and flatly denied seeking to abolish the bribery provision, which was replaced in Didi’s bill with provisions detailing contempt of court offences.
MP Ahmed Nihan, the PPM’s parliamentary group leader, announced Tuesday that a new amendment to the penal code to add “a massive chapter” on corruption has been submitted by MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla.
He insisted that the bill was not proposed hastily in response to the public outcry. It was submitted last week and discussed among ruling coalition lawmakers along with the previous amendments.
The intention was to pass both amendments together but the introduction of Abdul Raheem’s bill was delayed, he said.
But the draft legislation published on the People’s Majlis website Wednesday shows the time of submission was 2 pm Tuesday.
Contrary to Nihan’s claim, some PPM MPs also told local media that Abdul Raheem’s bill was submitted Tuesday. The lawmakers revealed on the condition of anonymity that a meeting was held between PPM MPs and Attorney General Mohamed Anil at 2 pm that day.
The bill was introduced to the Majlis floor during a sitting Wednesday, debated and forwarded to the national security committee for review.
The previous amendments, which were approved by the committee on July 23, were also sent back for further consideration.
Earlier on Tuesday, the local chapter of Transparency International had called for the withdrawal of the amendments, warning that “decriminalising bribery of public officials facilitates corruption and allows for the impunity of corrupt public officials”.
A former deputy prosecutor general, Hussain Shameem, told the Maldives Independent that “the government was very obviously trying to decriminalise corruption”.
“If this is approved, charges can no longer be pressed for bribery and charges that were pressed earlier will also become invalid…For the first time in Maldives history, a government is trying to decriminalise a serious crime.”
After @TransparencyMV raised red flags, the #Maldives government now says it plans to re-introduce a clause in the country’s penal code to keep bribery of public officials a criminal offence. Questions remain over why it was ever being removed! >> https://t.co/5Y4F7jUPI0 pic.twitter.com/LXB7ea1PyN
— Transparency Int'l (@anticorruption) August 1, 2018