Article 30 of the Maldives Constitution (Freedom to form political parties, associations and societies) states,
(a) Every citizen has the right to establish and to particpate in the activities of political parties.
(b) Eveyone has the freedom to form associations and societies including the following:
1. the right to establish and participate in any association or society for economic, social, educational or cultural purposes;
2. the right to form trade unions, to participate or not to participate in their activities. END QOUTE
However, in the current debate on the Political Parties Bill in the Maldives parliament, major political parties seem to have assumed a double standard for section (a) and section (b) of the article.
In the extensions of law to article 30 section (b) the parliament did not interpret that it was necessary or within the greater interest of the nation to limit the possible number of trader unions, associations or societies in respect to the population of the country or other factors of national interest. However in the interpretation of the phrase “right to establish and to participate”, in relation to section (a) of the same – article 30, the parliament seems to be taking a stand to limit the right to freedom of thought and association in political parties, to those powerful enough to create cult followings, from my understanding of what has been reported in the media today.
The day this bill is enacted into law which limits the right to association in political parties to blocks of 5000 or whatever-thousand of poplulation, in gross violation of the Constitution will be a dark day in the history of the struggle for democracy and good governance in the Maldives. Icons of political reform in the country would perhaps keep quiet on this violation, as it is in their favor.