Commissioner of Police (CP) Ali Shujau, pointing to protests and clashes near Parliament in January, has said that future gatherings will no longer be allowed in what are considered to be the high-security zones, or ‘Green Zones’, for any reason or purpose.

Senior officials, as well as party members, of the ruling coalition had gathered near Parliament on 28 January, protesting the legislature’s decision to refuse consent to a few cabinet appointees, leading some of those gathered outside to climb the parliament wall and throw objects into the compound.

Defence Minister Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon and CP Shujau were summoned to the Parliament’s Security Services Committee, or 241 Committee, on Wednesday, where Shujau pointed out that under the letter of the law as stated in the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act (Act No. 1/2013), no rally, without exception, can be held within the Green Zone. Under the act, gatherings can take place without prior authorisation only at the Carnival area. Permits are required to hold such activities in any other area, the Police Commissioner highlighted.

Although the law does not allow for gatherings, and institutions had not issued permission in writing, peaceful gatherings, including in areas where Parliament, the President’s Office and the Supreme Court are located, have not been disrupted in the recent past, Shujau said.

“The Maldives is also operating in accordance with democratic principles, and the same is true in civilised countries of the world. Therefore, the opportunity had been given where it was done peacefully without any violence or without any harm,” the police commissioner said.

However, due to the clashes last month, Shujau said he had now decided to implement the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act to the letter.

“Therefore, in the future, we will not allow any gatherings in these areas, whether peaceful or for any other purpose,” he said.

According to Shujau, people were allowed to gather near the parliament on 28 January because the initial gathering did not cause any noise or disturbances. However, as the day’s sessions became heated, more people gathered toward the afternoon, and actions began to escalate, leading the police to disperse the crowd in the area, Shujau said.

Under the act, gatherings are strictly prohibited in Green Zones, which include the areas in and around the President’s Office, Parliament, the courts, diplomatic missions, police headquarters and stations, hospitals, schools, and mosques.

The act was amended during the Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom administration to prohibit rallies from being held at places other than the Carnival area without special permission from the police.

In 2019, Abdulla Jabir, Member of Parliament (MP) for Kaashidhoo, moved to repeal the article restricting public gatherings. The repeal was a pledge by former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, but the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) dominated parliament parked the bill at committee stage.

Earlier this month, President Mohamed Muizzu asked Parliament to expedite Jabir’s bill to repeal the article.