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President ratifies new Maldives heritage law

Changes to the tax administration law were also ratified.



President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday ratified a new heritage law that mandates the documentation, preservation and protection of Maldivian cultural heritage.

According to the president’s office, the Heritage Act specifies “procedures and jurisdictions” and criminalises “acts resulting in the loss of items or sites of historical significance.” The purpose of the new law is to “safeguard the perpetuation of items and sites of historical significance to future generations.”

The heritage ministry formed after the current administration took office in November is tasked with drafting regulations under the law and compiling a list of heritage items. The law also mandates the creation of a heritage protection agency with the authority to determine penalties for damage and vandalism. The export of heritage items is now prohibited.

The law covers craftwork, paintings,  archaeological discoveries, historical documents, and old buildings.

Amid a violent police and army mutiny that led to the resignation of the president on February 7, 2012, a group of men vandalised pre-Islamic artefacts at the national museum in Malé. Leaked security camera footage showed the men knocking over glass cases and smashing Buddhist-era statues. According to the museum director, they destroyed “99 percent” of the evidence of the Maldives’ pre-Islamic history prior to the 12th century, including a 1.5-foot-wide representation of the Buddha’s head.

President Solih also ratified amendments passed by parliament earlier this month to the tax administration law, which changed the composition of the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority’s seven-member governing board. The amendments pave the way to replace the current commissioner general of taxation. The revised law requires the president to appoint a new commissioner and deputy commissioner within 30 days.

A provision that required full payment before contesting decisions at the Tax Appeal Tribunal was also revised to allow appeals after paying 30 percent of the amount.