A bill to criminalize the opposition India Out campaign has been drafted by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The bill is currently titled “Bill to Terminate Activities that Negatively Impact Established Bilateral Relations with Other Countries”.

According to the bill, it is a punishable offense to target and criticize a specific country or institution while the Maldives has established ties with the government in accordance with international guidelines. It also states that it is an offense to regard the Maldives as being controlled and under the influence of another country and to carry out campaigns against said countries.

The bill states that if a person is found guilty of a related offence, they may be fined MVR 20,000, house arrest for a period not exceeding one year or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months. The bill is designed to come into force upon ratification. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was tasked with formulating the necessary regulations within three months.

Speaking to AVAS, some MDP members said they had received the draft law for comment. Some members said the bill would be Parliament’s first job when it resumes this year.

“I believe this bill is very crucial right now. This is a very irresponsible act in such a way that it negatively affects relations with another country. We need a legal solution to this problem,” said an MDP member who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The opposition is waging a campaign to oust Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives, a campaign that has gained momentum since former President Abdulla Yameen was acquitted of a money laundering conviction last year. The government said the campaign was harmful to India-Maldives relations and that the government would end the campaign. The opposition condemned the MDP’s efforts to criminalize its movement.