Protesters throw money, taunt police amid growing civil unrest

A protest against the arrest of Addu Atoll MP Mohamed ‘Mode’ Rasheed morphed into a face-off between civilians and police forces, who were mocked as the corrupt servants of Maamingili MP and opposition Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim and taunted by several hundred young men between Parliament and Sosun Magu on Sunday night.

“We are protesting this bad government, with these police, they hit head and they hit cock, ask them! They are coming drunk! We are saying this is not our police,” said one elderly man at the protest.

Another man jested, “You can buy one! Ten rufiya, one policeman!” as protesters chanted, “Lari Lari! Yes sir!” and “Villa police!”, a reference to Gasim’s lucrative Villa Hotels chain.

In a creative turn of events the young, mostly male gathering of “not MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party], just civilians” threw coins and cash, including valuable US dollars, at the approximately 10 police who had formed a human blockade with riot shields after pushing protesters away from parliament at around 8:30pm.

Dancing and chanting, the crowd asked people to make contributions while encouraging foreign media to take pictures of their antics. The police refused the bait for approximately 20 minutes before charging the crowd and pushing them towards busy Sosun Magu as civilians watched from nearby cafes and homes.

The baiting continued with protesters alternately insulting and running from the police until approximately 1:00am, when protesters were dispersed throughout Male.

Police officials report no arrests were made, however one officer in basic uniform was struck in the face with a stone outside of the MDP office while riding his bike on Sosun Magu at approximately 11:30pm. He is being treated at ADK hospital, police report.

It appears injuries were also sustained by demonstrators. One eyewitness reports crossing paths with a man near Parliament after 1:00am whose eyes were red and who was holding his head in pain. He claims he was walking along the street when police stopped and pepper sprayed him.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the protesters’ implications of corruption and abuse were baseless: “As you know if there are any allegations there’s the Police Integrity Commission, if there are any concerns of human rights violations there is the Human Rights Commission. We are sure there is nothing like that happening here at the moment,” he said.

A police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “not all police officers have taken money. Now everybody is being labelled. Those who are innocent should be cleared by holding those responsible accountable for their actions.”

Cloud of Doubt

Police are currently under scrutiny across the country. On Tuesday, February 7 a rogue faction assisted with the takeover of Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) and attacked an office of Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) on Male’. At 1:00pm that day, former president Mohamed Nasheed resigned under conditions he later described as a “coup d’état.”

Since Tuesday, reports of police and military brutality against civilians and politicians who support Nasheed’s party (MDP) have spread from the Maldives’ southernmost atolls up to Male.

Following riots which left all police facilities, court houses and the prosecutor general’s office in ashes last Wednesday, Addu citizens report that police and military forces have teamed up with supporters of opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in a witch hunt for MDP supporters. Opposition members claim the police have merely asked the public to assist in the arrest of those responsible for Wednesday night’s destruction, while police in Addu flatly deny any wrongdoing.

In a previous article Minivan News spoke with citizens on Addu who claim to have been beaten after police facilities were destroyed on Wednesday night; several said members of their family remain in detention without charges.

While public and police accounts fail to match up, one rumor could hold water: “Some police uniforms, shield and batons were stolen during the fires, and we’ve received reports that people who the community confirms are not policemen are going around in those outfits,” said Superintendent Yoosuf Sobah of Addu City Police, suggesting that any beatings may only appear to be done by police. Some Addu City citizens confirmed the report.

Sobah added that misinformation bolstered Wednesday’s riots. “Raajje TV reported that two MDP members had been killed in Male’, and that triggered a huge sentiment within the demonstrators,” he said.

“A clear attack on the justice system”

While Sobah recognises the emotional factor of Wednesday’s fires, he said the destruction of all police and court house documents related to ongoing cases, which were not backed up in a central database, made it “clear that this was an attack on the justice system.”

Explaining the logistics of the Wednesday night’s operation, Sobah said Addu’s roughly 70 officers, spread over four islands, had been outnumbered by the hundreds who turned out after reports of a brutal police crackdown on a MDP march in Male’ reached the islands.

Sobah added that police are currently hamstrung in their posts. “We don’t have computers, records, facilities, so processing paperwork has been difficult.”

While paperwork is a challenge, police appear undeterred in making arrests. However, the lack of infrastructure raises the question of how evidence is being collected.

Some citizens who claimed to have been beaten and detained said they were told they would be taken again if evidence against them was found on CCTV. Sobah stated that there are no CCTV records, and explained that evidence against those who have been arrested since Wednesday is taken from “mobile phone videos, eyewitness accounts, and the people who we know were causing the violence.”

Three Addu City councilors and one MP have been arrested. When asked how the evidence against those individuals was acquired, Sobah did not provide specifics, stating only that all 80 arrests in Addu have been evidence based, and made with only the minimum force necessary.

“Some people we’ve arrested are hardened criminals, many are under sentence and in rehabilitation programs. Those have given us a lot of resistance. But many are cooperating, coming in, giving their accounts. We are releasing those without evidence,” he added.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has released a report with footage of the 74 individuals who are still in detention in Gan’s semi-destroyed police station. The report shows the bruised legs of men who claim they’ve been tortured; several individuals interviewed by Minivan News reported being forced to kneel on the ground, which was coated in broken glass and debris, and being doused in petrol and threatened with burning.

Sobah and Superintendent Abdulla Navaz, Head of Investigations in Serious and Organised Crime Department in Male, both said, “We have invited the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) to come and see what we are doing. If they believe we have mistreated people, then they will take the necessary action.”

Sobah added that he hopes to find an alternative detention center, or perhaps to  release detainees to house arrest in the coming days.

Testy police, tense public

The attack has created a sharp divide between the people and the police. Many are cautious about driving into Gan, where individuals are asked to provide identification at a military checkpoint. One young man was nervous when he realised he was carrying MDP registration papers in his motorbike.

While the public is nervous, the police are frustrated. Without clothes, computers or beds, but still on-duty, police on Gan report spending the first few nights on the causeway outside the burned station.

“It’s a very emotional time,” Sobah said. “A bunch of guys aren’t from Addu, and all they had here, their memories, are gone.”

Minivan News asked if the personal damage was fueling revenge attacks. “I understand this is an emotional time, but we’ve instructed them very carefully to prosecute people within the law. They’re trained police officers,” Sobah claimed.

Superintendent Navaz later suggested that the situation in Male’ has exhausted and destablised security forces. “Since January 16 we have been engaged in so many protests. At the time we couldn’t think of anything else except suppress, tackle and neutralise the protests. We are hopeful everything will be better. I can’t say it will be normal in any period of time, but it will happen with the passage of time. Now, we are getting different news, we don’t know what will happen any day. We should be ready for anything.”

Policing north to south

“For police, I think this is just as big as the tsunami.”

Noting that the council and police had joint plans to “bring policing in Addu up to Male’ levels,” he observed “this has set us back to 2004, not just Addu police but the whole police service.”

Meanwhile, the Male’ standard itself is on faltering, according to both police and public.

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz yesterday stated that, “The police face big political challenges. In the face of those challenges it is very important that we regain the public’s confidence.”

Riyaz, whose appointment last week has been questioned as the law requires the police commissioner to come from a senior rank in the force, rather than a civilian – Riyaz was previously dismissed by Nasheed’s government – assured the police he would never issue an unlawful or illegal order.

Although policemen are instructed not to speak to the media, one spoke to Minivan News on condition of anonymity. “The public no longer trusts the police institution. We are receiving verbal attacks on the street and during protests,” he confided.

Sub-Inspector Shiyam denied receiving complaints from the public, and said the police forces are only being harassed at MDP gatherings.

While police are struggling to maintain unity and save face, they continue to deny the allegations of mistreatment which are piling up against them.

A report by MDP’s Parliamentary Group today provided pictures and statistics regarding attacks on MPs since February 7. According to the report, two MPs have been hospitalised due to beatings by police while Mariya Didi was twice targeted and beaten around her eyes. A total of 10 MPs are listed and photographed in the report.

Former Defense Minister Ahmed Faisal yesterday compared the Maldives’ current trajectory to Pakistan and Fiji. “I very much have the fear that the Maldives will turn into another Pakistan. Money has been paid to the police. The public has lost their trust and faith in the very people who are meant to protect them. How can they trust anyone, if with money they can make the police do this.”

A mother in Addu tells Minivan News how her sons were taken by police


The [children] came outside after having lunch and were playing here. My sister Aminath’s kid and a kid from a southern island was there too. While they were playing, the police barged in from that side [pointing to a direction behind her] and I don’t know exactly how many of them there were. I think there must be three to four hundred. I came out running when the police had entered our house and I said. ‘what happened. What happened. None of the kids here have gone out anywhere [during the protests]’.

Then someone grabbed the collar of one boy’s shirt and dragged him along with the other three boys out of the house and threw all of them into the police jeep.

I didn’t know what was happening to me and I have never seen such a thing in my life. I ran after them calling not to take them away. There were a lot of people. I ran after the police jeep when it took off. While I was chasing the jeep, someone stopped me and asked what happened. I said they have taken my boys.

I haven’t heard from the boys after they were taken into custody. The first day we kept calling [the police station] but they were not answering our calls. We kept repeatedly calling and they answered the call finally and I told them that we want to meet our kids. They replied that we can’t meet the boys today but we can on the next day.

We called them the following day and they were again not responding to our calls. But later they answered and said that now we cant meet the boys.

That night they [police] called us and told us to bring in some clothing for the boys, and look, they didn’t even give them clothing while they were arrested up until that night [woman starts crying].

Last night I couldn’t even sleep. Three out of the four boys were not wearing shirts when the police took them and they grabbed the collar of the one who was wearing a shirt.

I went to Gan [a ward of Addu city] on the bus to meet the police there and told them that I want to meet the boys. They simply handed me a form to fill in.

I haven’t seen police patrolling around here much after the arrest.

[Lady sitting in the joalifathi] I have seen them. When I went out to the shop there were police patrolling.

I hear from different people that the police were beating my boys to death. People who were released after the arrest say that the police had beaten them up. Even yesterday I met someone who was released and he said the names of the boys and said that the police were beating them.

Their ages were, the eldest was 27, two of them were 23 and the youngest was 21.

The opposition supporters must have directed the police to our house, otherwise why would they barge in like that . they came this way [pointing to her right]. Had they came from that way [pointing left] the boys would have been able to see them but they came the other way round.

[Man speaking] the boys don’t even live here, they come here on vacation and they all work in Male’. They work in government offices and resorts and yesterday they were supposed to leave back to work but now all of that is gone.

[When asked who were more dangerous, the police or the military or the opposition supporters]: from what we see everyone is equal and dangerous.

Mariyam Manike: If our kids are taken to custody, we have to know why they are being taken and the boys don’t even roam around the streets and they all stay at home.

Hassan Manik: the opposition supporters have some kind of a list which they think includes the people that has to be arrested [nasheed supporters] and they tell the police about the list and the police come to the houses of the people that were on the list and look for them.

Mariyam Manike: The whole street was flooded with people.

Hassan Manik: I was not even home. I was away on fishing.

Mariyam Manike: I have never seen such a thing ever in my life and even when I try to sleep or try to close my eyes, I see the same events again and again and I have not been able to sleep. [starts crying]

We don’t mind giving our names to the press, infact you should write down our names. Our kids were taken to custody without any charges and they didn’t do anything at all.


SAARC to dark: Violent social divide in Addu as uncertainty grips southern-most atoll

One of society’s biggest fear factors is uncertainty, and in Addu it appears to be fueling a violent social divide in the isolated MDP stronghold – the second most heavily populated area in the Maldives after Male’ and the scene of the SAARC Summit in November 2011.

On Saturday several members of the international press flew to the southern-most atoll to investigate claims of firey protests, beatings and unjustified arrests. While the torched remains of every police building and most courts between Gan and hithadhoo are proof that destruction of public property – and many legal records – has taken place, the back-and-forth ‘whodunnit’ accusations color fears of revolution with a strong shade of small-town politics.

“The police’s personal property, their computers, was burned inside the stations,” observed Alif Fahumy Ahmed. “This isn’t necessarily political.”

On Wednesday night police stations and court houses in six southern atolls were torched after police violently cracked down on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) march in the capital Male, in which thousands marched in support of ousted president Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed’s decision to order the detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court on January 16, in an attempt to push forward judicial reform, prompted three weeks of opposition-led protests with a nightly attendance of 200-400 people, culminating on Tuesday in what many have called a military coup.

While the southern protests were said to be the work of MDP supporters, in Addu, which claims a majority MDP population, people have begun slicing and dicing the duty.

“Maldivians are a very innocent people, but this violence was brought by MDP,” said Ani Luthfy, who yesterday organised a ‘protest for safety’ in Addu, with the rapidly-formed and ‘non-political’ Addu Alliance.

The placards that greeted journalists included “Ex-President was not coerced into stepping down” and “Violence and conflicts won’t help resolve our ecomonic problems”.

“Addu MDP [Councillor] Hussein Shahid gave 30 young people alcohol and when they were drunk he led them out to do the burning,” he alleged, adding that MDP activists have acted like “hooligans”.

Police meanwhile yesterday reported the arrest of MP Moosa Rasheed, Addu City Hithadhoo Medhu Dhaairaa. His arrest reportedly followed an investigation into a spate of attacks in Addu City that occurred on February 8, following a brutal police crackdown on protesters in Male’. Police say that he was arrested lawfully, under a warrant issued by the court and in consideration of various evidence including video footage and eyewitness accounts that connected him to that night’s incidents.

According to police yesterday, tensions escalated in the islands after rumours of serious injury and the death of former President Mohamed Nasheed at the hands of security forces on Wednesday reached the islands.

Luthfy said, “we have a motto: live and let others live.” He said the alliance would continue to protest until Addu was “100 percent safe”, a point in time he defined as “When the police have taken all MDP who are in hiding.”

Meanwhile Muaz Saleem, a prominent MDP supporter on Hithadhoo, said the group “was just going in front of Gan police station to express our concerns” on Wednesday.

“Who knows if police may have started [the fire]? They left before people went in, where was the tear gas? We strongly believe the opposition encouraged people to start the violence, it was a plan. ”

A former member of Hithadhoo council, who requested anonymity and did not wish to discuss his resignation last year, suggested the opposite. “The funniest thing is that the mayor [MDP member abdullah sodig] hasn’t issued a statement about this,” he said, estimating the damage at Rf200-300 million (US$13-20 million).

Sodig has been in hiding since he was attacked Wednesday evening.

The former council member confirmed that many have followed Sodig’s lead. “Because of this protest most people are on a wanted list, ” he explained, suggesting that to some extent the list was justified: “There are CCTV camera tapes with evidence.”

Amid speculation, police have taken action. MDP supporters said they have been targeted by police and military forces, who were deployed to Addu after Wednesday. They claim the “hit list” has been drawn up by members of opposition parties Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Prty (DRP), and that those individuals are assisting security forces to beat and arrest MDP members – often without evidence.

One 22 yr old man, who claims not to have participated in any recent gathering, said he was handcuffed and pepper sprayed in his eyes and genital area along with 40 other people. ” because of the violence, they said, I was a terrorist. They said we had dstroyed everything.” he added that some members of the detained group were told to take off their shirts and were taken to a separate area of the burned Gan police station “to be beaten. I could hear the shouting, and cries.”

Minivan News received unconfirmed reports that the Elections Commission’s SMS service – which allows people to send their national ID number and find out what party they are registered to – was being abused by groups of police aided by opposition supporters, to ‘hunt down’ MDP members.

While sources claim the attacks are directed at MDP, their stories suggest that the security forces are not operating with a political-or evidence-based motive.

Two young men interviewed, one of whom sported a bruised right eye, denied being part of any political party. Another said he wasn’t even part of the protest. Yet none would give names “because it might not be good, they said if I talked about what I saw they would come back.”

Muaz Haleem’s wife said the violation of her right to privacy at home, and the lack of an explanation, are her biggest concerns.

She reports seeing several policemen run into her home with raised batons yelling an unfamiliar name. “I said it was the wrong house, wrong name. But they pushed me down and said, ‘now we want Muaz ‘ and began beating him and dragging him out of the house.”

“I asked about the court order, and they said, ‘What court order? You guys burned down the court house. What rights do you want?'”

She explained that her neighbors have been far from helpful – in fact, they were part of the problem.

“Most people on the other side of the road are PPM (Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives). Mr Hamid was out there directing the whole thing, pointing at the house and everything.”

The family of Mohamed Saeed, whose detention has been extended by 15 days, said they too had not been informed of Saeed’s arrest, and that their neighbors are only cautiously supportive.

“They ask for news, but they are afraid to help because they could also be taken,” his wife explained.

Saeed is one of approximately 80 men who are still being held in the remains of Gan police station, reportedly in terrible conditions.

“He has asked to go to the hospital but they say they have no vehicle,” his brother in law said.

Others, such as Haleem, appear to have been detained on an aggressive whim, in retaliation for the destruction of police property.

“They gave me a cup for tea and then struck it down. They just dumped people in the courtyard of the station amid the broken glass and burnt debris, and pushed me down to the ground for sleeping,” he said. Haleem currently has a swollen left wrist and cuts where he claims the handcuffs were squeezed closed.

While Haleem believes the security forces are targeting MDP members, he suggests that their motive is more personal than political.

“It looks like there is a massive financial factor,” he said. “We have had the trust of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) for ages in this country, but under Nasheed individual police have shown they are motivated by something. I don’t have proof, but that’s what I strongly believe.”

He further explained that “The opposition has fewer numbers, but now that they have the security forces with them, they can act.”

Meanwhile most who claim to support the current government are consistently saying “It’s not the opposition, and they’re not beating people. The police have just asked the public for assistance,” explained a former councillor.

No members of opposition parties have been reported beaten, arrested, or detained.

Meanwhile, the arrival of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has triggered some over-excitement. One MDP member yesterday informed the author that the police had lied to HRCM about the whereabouts of a detainee, and that HRCM was arguing with police over the matter.

HRCM’s delegation in Addu later stated that the detainee had been released from the hospital by the time HRCM had gone to look for him, and that he is now at home.

As high level delegations hold conference with President Dr Waheed and former president Nasheed, and HRCM surveys police operations in Addu along with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), police and military appear only watchful. Still, the tense mood is palpable.

“We are not safe because we don’t know when again it will start,” said one man outside Feydhoo’s smoldering court house.

Ahmed said he had no confidence that the political issues in Male will be quickly resolved: “Things in Addu have calmed at the moment, but they may continue once HRCM and the reporters leave.”

It remain to be seen whether similar violence and revenge attacks will grip Male’, once the international community departs and visiting foreign journalists run out of stories.

The 'Addu Alliance' greeted foreign journalists, in support of Dr Waheed's government.

Beatings and arrests of more than 100 MDP supporters in Addu: Mayor Abdulla Sodig

Amid the apparent stalemate in Male’ on Thursday as foreign diplomats and journalists flood the capital, hundreds of MDP supporters in the country’s second most populated area are reported to have been beaten and arrested in a police crackdown today.

Addu City makes up the southern-most tip of the Maldives and is the second most populated area in the Maldives after the capital Male’, with approximately 35,000 people. Like Male’, 100 percent of its councillors were elected on MDP tickets in the most recent local council elections. It was also the scene of the recent SAARC Summit.

Minivan News was informed just after 2:00am on Friday morning that arrest warrants had been issued by Meedhoo Court for the arrest of all Addu City Councilors. Two councilors are already in police custody, a source claimed.

Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig was attacked by approximately 10 individuals while taking a phone call outside the City Council on Wednesday night. He claimed his assailants were associated with opposition parties Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), and several other groups.

The attack on Sodig came as members of the public, allegedly supporting ousted president Mohamed Nasheed, burned and closed police stations and courts in islands across the Maldives’ south.

Sodig, who sustained injuries to his wrist, back and head, has said he is currently “hiding in a safe place” and has not seen his family, who are also “hiding in separate places.”

Sodig described the attack as an ambush. “They jumped over the wall and surrounded me before I could run, and began beating me to the ground, then jumping on me. If they had had knives, they would have killed me.”

“Two members of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were in the state house next to our office, and were notified. When they came the attackers began pulling me by one leg towards the road, but then they ran away,” he explained.

Sodig said his family has since received threats “that they would come for us, and torch our house.”

In what appears to be a retaliation for last night’s activities, members of opposition parties are now said to be assisting police to beat and arrest MDP members and activists in Addu.

Sodig reported that 100 people, including minors, had been arrested as of 7:00pm while an arrest warrant had been issued for council members.

Sodiq said he became aware of the situation when Deputy Mayor Hassan Shahid informed him that he was under police custody.

“Before the arrest, these people – no, thugs- lead the police to the homes of [MDP] members, beat them up while the police watch, and then the police arrest them,” Sodig explained. “One person has told me he was first pepper sprayed, then beaten, then arrested.”

Addu police had not responded to phone calls at time of press, however Police Media Official in Male’ Ahmed Shiyam said police operations are being carried out on all islands affected by last night’s violence.

Earlier today, police reported damage to public property on islands in Gaafu Dhaalu, Shaviyani, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu and Raa atolls.

“The police are now investigating the violence of last night and arresting those responsible,” Shiyam said, adding that those assisting the police are “not the opposition.”

“These are only members of the public from those islands who are helping the police, they are just local civilians,” he emphasised.

Shiyam said he had not received any reports of violence being used during the investigation.

An expatriate teacher working in Addu told Minivan News that while unrest continued until 12:00pm today, shops and offices had opened this afternoon and that the streets are currently quiet. “There was a lot of uproar yesterday but things seem all right now,” he observed.

However, speaking on the condition of anonymity an individual familiar with last night’s uprising reported that members of opposition PPM, DRP and the 23rd December coalition began assisting the police early this morning.

“Around 9:00am the police began going around with these opposition members and arresting people. They even walked into people’s homes when most people were sleeping, they beat them in their beds,” he said, adding that “most people they’ve arrested weren’t even involved in last night’s protest.”

The source said police, whose vehicles were destroyed last night, had patrolled Addu in MNDF vehicles until 6:00pm tonight. He said he had heard they would return to the streets around 10:00pm.

At the moment, streets appear dull. “MDP is afraid, they’re staying in. The police have gone rogue,” he said.

Following his attack and threats made to his house and family last night, Sodig said he requested police “to give protection to the public and the government buildings, hospital and power station. But the commander said he couldn’t do anything.” Sodig added that to his understanding there are enough police forces to protect the people of Addu and maintain law and order.

“But they have failed, I don’t know their motives,” he said, adding that MDP members “are very frightened, they are hiding.”

Sodig was unclear if tonight’s attacks are being carried out on the order of the current government, the newly appointed Police Commissioner Riyaz Rasheed, the local commander or no official commander at all.

“Security services should not allow people to come and beat other people. If there are problems in the city police should address those problems, but they should not involve other members of the public. This is against the law,” Sodig elaborated.


MPs released from Dhoonidhoo but party members remain in detention: Solih

Five Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs who were arrested during yesterday’s peaceful march around Male’, including Mariya Ahmed Didi, Alhan Fahmy and Imthyaz Fahmy, were released from Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre at midnight last night.

MDP MP and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said the MPs had been handcuffed since the time of their arrest between 4:00pm and 5:00pm yesterday, and their release at midnight. Didi has sustained injuries to her arms, back and face, he said.

Over 50 party members and citizens were admitted to the hospital yesterday with head injuries and bruises to their backs, arms and stomachs following yesterday’s march, which was reportedly attacked without provocation by police forces.

Party Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik was last evening reported to be in critical condition following the attack. In an interview given to local media Raaje TV from his hospital bed, where he was on a ventilator being treated for serious head injuries, Moosa claimed security forces “wanted to kill me.”

Speaking today to Minivan News, Solih said the doctor is examining Moosa’s injuries. “He is still in the same condition [as yesterday],” he said.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed also sustained injuries to his back, hands and head. He was kept in a safe house until some time last night, when he returned to his home in Male’.

MPs held in Dhoonidhoo have returned home, but more than 15 party members were believed to remain in Dhoonidhoo.

Solih said security forces have not been cooperative with providing information.

“They are not answering our calls, and didn’t even allow lawyers to go to Dhoonidhoo, saying their computer system was down. They continued to refuse lawyers access to the centre and later released the MPs,” he said.

Solih said the party is currently trying to get information about party members who may still be held in Dhoonidhoo.

Meanwhile, Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed has issued an arrest warrant for Nasheed and former Minister of Defense Tholhath Ibrahim.


Protests erupt after Nasheed claims resignation was ‘under duress’, and calls for Dr Waheed to step down

“I call upon Dr Waheed to immediately step down from the seat he is sitting in and call for immediate elections,” said former President Mohamed Nasheed during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) National Council meeting at Dharubaruge this afternoon.

The council further rejected the now-forming national unity government’s invitation to join forces, and declaring Nasheed’s former government the only “legitimate” government said it would not negotiate with the opposing ruling body.

Nasheed spoke to hundreds of party supporters packed into the entire top floor of Dharubaruge, along with the sitting members of the national council. MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik chaired the meeting.

Declaring that “I will never back down until a lawful legitimate government is sworn in,” Nasheed called upon the chief justice to investigate the yesterday’s coup “and bring those responsible to justice.”

“We will never allow the national defense forces and the police to be hijacked by the opposition,” he said. “We will assure our key pledges of affordable housing, transport networks, closure of the doors opened towards narcotics, and bringing down the commodity prices.”

According to MDP, Nasheed was yesterday forced to resign by the military, which forced the state broadcasting station MNBC to revert to its identity Television Maldives (TVM) and threatened “a bloodbath in the capital” if Nasheed did not step down from the presidency.

The alleged coup arose out of three weeks of opposition-led protests calling for the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed who was arrested on January 16 after attempting to block his own police summons. Protesters declared the arrest a violation of human rights while members of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) accused Nasheed of acting unlawfully.

Following an all-night protest on February 6, under 100 police officers defected from their position as state security and assisted protesters in an attack on the then-ruling MDP camp, triggering a larger clash between police and Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) last morning which left many injured.

Following Nasheed’s resignation at 1:00 pm, former Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan was sworn into office yesterday at 3:00pm with the support of several opposition parties. He said he intends to fulfill Nasheed’s term until the scheduled presidential elections in 2013.

Meanwhile, members of Nasheed’s government have said they did not attend work today and are awaiting political appointment.

Gathering for the council meeting today at Dharubaruge, throngs of MDP supporters and members of the former government chanted for Nasheed upon his arrival, filling the building’s top floor and screaming in support as sitting council members declared resistance to Dr Waheed’s national unity government.

MP Alhan Fahmy, former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem and several party MPs said MDP would not negotiate with Dr Waheed’s government and declared that Nasheed “is still the legitimate president.”

Party President Dr Ibrahim Didi, who last night said on television that he supported cooperation with the new government, told the council, “I was misinterpreted by the media stating that I was open to the idea of a unity government but I only stated that I would decide after consulting the party council.”

Speaking from atop her chair at the front of the council MP Mariya Ahmed Didi declared yesterday’s events a coup and called on the council to accept that Nasheed’s administration had been elected by popular vote, but was overturned by a minority of the nation’s security forces.

Former State Minister for Foreign Affairs Aslam Shakir next proposed a resolution that the MDP rally for judicial reform, which was earlier scheduled for February 17, would proceed as planned. Many party supporters are due to arrive from islands for the event.

The council unanimously voted in favor of both resolutions.

The council further asserted that it does not recognise yesterday’s change of government, and that Nasheed and his ministers are still the legitimate ruling body in the eyes of MDP.

As the meeting drew to a close Nasheed said, “I call upon all of us to march to ‘Haruge’ [MDP camp] after this meeting and open it for it was the place where freedom of speech and expression originated.” Supporters exited the building chanting “long live Nasheed!” and made their way to the party camp.

Shortly after, MDP members clashed with some opposition supporters near the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA). MNDF forces were on their way to the scene at time of press, after the crowd had been four times pepper sprayed.

Nasheed was reported to be on the protest’s front lines.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0) petitions for security of “friend and ally” Nasheed

Environmental NGO has joined international organisations and foreign powers in expressing their concerns over Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation from the presidency yesterday in what Nasheed’s government has called a military coup.

The organisation is founded by American author Bill McKibben, author of one of the first books on global warming for the general public. was also a key player at the 2009 Climate Conference at Copenhagen.

As of 2:00pm on February 7, the organisation had issued the petition “350 Friend and Ally Removed from Office in a Coup”, requesting world leaders to protect former president Mohamed Nasheed.

“President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives has been one of’s strongest allies, and friends, for many years. As the first democratically elected leader of the small island nation, he has been a tireless voice for climate action and strong advocate for getting us back to 350 ppm. ‘For us, this is a matter of life and death,’ Nasheed has said. Now it is he specifically who is at risk,” reads the statement.

The organisation urges world citizens to tell its leaders “that they must use diplomatic means to keep [Nasheed] safe in this time of turmoil. Assuring his, and his people’s, safety is crucial.”

In its first four hours the petition has received 21, 894 signatures. “This is an amazing response- it shows that environmental activists in every corner of the planet think of Nasheed as one of the most prominent leaders we have,” wrote McKibben in an email exchange with Minivan News. “People all over the world know the story of the bravery of the Maldives in this fight.”

Stating that perceives Nasheed’s resignation as the in-name only result of a coup, McKibben said “the international environmental community is deeply deeply worried first and foremost about Nasheed’s safety, and the safety of his associates.”

In 2011 the documentary film “The Island President” featuring then President Mohamed Nasheed drew global attention to the Maldives, and its role in the climate change movement.

At the time of the film’s Maldives debut producer Richard Berge identified Nasheed as the key to the documentary’s success. “If Nasheed hadn’t been charismatic, if we couldn’t see that there would be something interesting happening, we wouldn’t have invested the time and energy in the project. But he seemed like the guy who was going to put a face on climate change.”

“The Island President” received the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

According to McKibben, the Maldives’ current place on the climate change platform is a product of Nasheed’s distinct sense of leadership.

“Nasheed is the most forthright, honest, and engaged head of state on the climate issue–the most important issue facing the planet,” he said. “His predecessor [former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] had very little profile on these issues. Certainly he did not create the kind of movement towards carbon neutrality, or the level of global political engagement, that captured the world’s attention.”

McKibben added that youth were a critical aspect the climate change movement–and a telling feature of Nasheed’s government. “Of course it wasn’t just Nasheed–it was so many of the (especially young) people who got involved in politics because of him. I remember the level of engagement I found during my last visit to Male–and how it contrasted with the silence and apathy when I’d visited during the Gayoom era,” he said.

Noting’s impression that “good policies of all kinds tend to wither in autocracies,” McKibben said he was unaware of any existing relationship with members of the current national unity government under former Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Western followers and Maldivian nationals appear to be engaging in a dialogue over the matter in the petition’s comment section.

While one woman states “This is a situation that should not be allowed to exist in the 21st century,” a commentator with a plausibly Maldivian name retorted “[Nasheed] may be a hero or a champion for the West but he is a stupid zero in his own country,” offering his own summary of the events which have led to Nasheed’s resignation.

Another commenter with a Western name observed, “Maldives deserve democracy free of corruption and military takeover. They continue to be in a precarious environmental situation, not one of their making and are likely to be flooded over by rising water levels as a result of climate change. President Nasheed needs to be freed to complete his term of office.”

An Ahmed Hameed retorted, “hmmm.. thats your view… but we elected him to serve us maldivians… and it for us to decide who will govern our nation for us in that office… there is no need for him to complete his term in office because we dont want him or anyone like him to be our president… so please dont talk about him completing a term in office… but yes as a citizen of this country he needs to be freed if he is in any kind of detention which he is not…”

One self-identified Hulhumale’ Councillor wrote simply, “He will come back.”

Meanwhile, McKibben notes that some commentators and members have asked what they can do to help. “Some are even asking: ‘should I cancel my trip to the Maldives to show support for President Nasheed?’”


MDP condemns “coup d’etat”, Nasheed released by Maldives security forces

Police with the Maldives’ Drug Enforcement Department (DED) this evening removed alcohol bottles and what they claimed was evidence of other illicit substances from the home of former President Mohamed Nasheed, shortly after his resignation in dramatic circumstances today.

Elements of the police joined opposition protests last night and this morning attacked the headquarters of the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) this morning in Republic Square. A further 60-70 MNDF soldiers joined the protesters. Shortly afterwards, the state broadcaster MNBC was taken over by police and opposition protesters, and rebranded Television Maldives (TVM), the name of the institution under Gayoom’s government.

A spokesperson for Nasheed said earlier this evening that the former President is currently being detained against his will, and dismissed the discovery of the bottles and illicit substances as an attempt to discredit Nasheed and gain popular support for what he described as “a coup d’etat”.

As of 11:00pm, the spokesperson said Nasheed has been allowed to return home.

“Gayoom controls the judiciary, now the executive, the media, and in couple of weeks probably the parliament. One thing he cannot control is popular support for President Nasheed, so he needs to find a way to jail or discredit him ahead of the 2013 election,” the spokesperson said.

Several individuals connected with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were seriously injured during the unrest, while two sources told Minivan News that a party activist was killed today after a metal pole rammed upwards through his jaw. Minivan News is seeking confirmation.

At 3:00pm Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan was sworn in as President. As per the constitution, Dr Waheed must now appoint a vice president to be approved by the Parliament. He may also reform the Cabinet.

Following his appointment Dr Waheed addressed the nation on TVM, and said he was grateful to the police and MNDF who had made “great sacrifices” to defend constitution.

“Today is the day the rule of law has been established in the country perfectly,” Dr Waheed said.

“I will not order the police, military or any person to do anything against the law – I promise it to the public. Everyone will have the protection of constitution and laws.”

According to Police Media Official Ahmed Shiyam, the DED investigation of the historical President’s Residence was prompted when a lorry emerged from the residence with “bags of trash”.

“Security stopped the vehicle and found a number of alcohol bottles in the bags. The police were notified of the situation and an investigation is underway,” Shiyam said.

While “there were many bottles,” Shiyam said the “investigation is ongoing.”

At 6:00pm this evening Minivan News observed Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) and police forces jointly guarding the left entrance to the residence from a crowd of approximately 500 members of the public, most of whom are affiliated with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), according to onlookers. A police van was parked near the official entrance around the corner amidst throngs of people standing on the low walls to observe the event.

Minority opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed and PPM MP Ilham Ahmed were also present at the scene, speaking with security forces and directing the crowds to clear the road and stay on the sidewalks.

From the upper level of a nearby building bags and boxes could be seen moved into a security van parked within the residence. While bottles were not clearly visible, the scent of alcohol could be detected when the lorry was moved closer to the residence gate.

When asked whether further demonstrations were planned for this evening, onlookers said they believed the biggest ordeal was over.

“It’s done now, tonight we are celebrating,” one of the people outside the President’s residence claimed.

When asked whether Nasheed had been arrested, Shiyam reported that he has been taken to a secure location by security services.

“[Nasheed] is being kept for his own safety now under the surveillance of Maldives National Security Forces, which includes police and MNDF,” Shiyam said. “He is the main concern, as is anything that might happen to his family. Police will take anything related to the family seriously.”

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which was brought to power in the country’s first democratic elections in 2008, appeared subdued today following clashes with police last night, injuries to key members, and the torching of the party’s headquarters this afternoon.

The party issued the following statement this evening:

“We strongly condemn the coup d’etat that has been brought against the constitutionally elected government of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. Last night rogue elements from the Maldives Police Service in conjunction with the supporters of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom overthrew the democratically elected government of President Nasheed.

“The overthrow occurred after small numbers of police and army personal, in response to a call from leading opposition figures, Abdulla Yameen (former President Gayoom’s half brother) and Umar Naseer (former security officer in the regime of President Gayoom), joined with a group of protesters in the centre of Male, protesting against the arrest and detention of a judge accused of corruption.

“These police and army personnel, especially those from the notorious Star Force established by former President Gayoom then, ignoring the chain of command, moved around the capital in full riot gear, attacking MDP headquarters and the houses of MDP MPs and government officials.
“Many MDP members and government officials were badly hurt. Some are unaccounted for. MDP-associated property continues to be attacked. In this climate of chaos and fear, the rogue elements of the police and army helped to take over the main national TV channel, MNBC, replacing it with President Gayoom’s old TV Maldives (TVM), and also moved to take control of key installations.
“During this time, ex President Gayoom’s allies moved to retake control of the army and police. The opposition, supported by the army and police, then offered an ultimatum to President Nasheed: step down or be faced with a bloodbath in the capital.
“President Nasheed thus resigned in order to protect the public from further violence. His resignation was involuntary in that he had no choice.”

“President Nasheed was taken to the President’s Office under the custody of the security forces and subsequently resigned.

“We also condemn the violent attacks carried out against our members by the Maldives Police Service including Member of Parliament and our former chairperson Mariya Didi and other MPs from the party.

“We call upon the international community to assist us in establishing democracy in the Maldives and protect the officials of the government of President Nasheed. We fear for the safety of President Nasheed and senior members of his government.”


INIA remains cheapest airport in region “by half”: Transport Minister

GMR will lower fuel charges by US$0.05 a litre on all domestic flights and raise it the same amount for international flights at Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Several airlines, including Qatar Airways and Sri Lankan Airlines, have meanwhile voiced concerns over the recent hike in set airport fees including landing and ground handling charges.

In response, the Transport Ministry has said that even with price changes INIA remains the cheapest airport in the region “by 60 to 80 percent” – and claims that some airlines have not been paying their dues.

“Doha, Dubai, Tivandrum – while they all charge US$3,000 turn-around fees, Maldives’ INIA was only charging US$1,080,” Transport Minister Adhil Saleem told Minivan News. “Even with a fifty percent increase in fees the total charge of US$1,500 is still half of what is being charged everywhere else in the region.”

Saleem noted that INIA’s rates had not changed since 1994, however in that time salaries had increased four times and development projects had been contracted. He added that the price changes – initiated by Maldives Airlines Companies Limited (MACL) and not GMR – should not have come as a surprise.

“In February 2011 MACL informed all airlines that the rates would increase in November, effectively giving them nine months’ notice. There has been no price change by GMR,” he said.

Yet several carriers including Qatar Airways and Sri Lankan Airlines have expressed concerns over the price changes and suggested they would make changes to their routes, reducing services to the Maldives.

Qatar CEO Akbar Al Bakr last week told Reuters News Agency that the airline was “dismayed” over what it understood to be GMR’s plan to increase the handling fee by 51 percent at some future date, and suggested such a move would “threaten Qatar Airways’ continued presence in the Maldives.”

GMR officials are reportedly meeting with CEOs of airlines serving the Maldives. Two airlines contacted by Minivan News did not wish to comment, including Qatar.

“The issue,” Saleem told Minivan News, “is that some airlines have not paid their dues to GMR in nine months. No airport can go on without payment.”

INIA CEO Andrew Harrison later clarified through GMR’s spokesperson that Qatar has an outstanding debt due to its refusal to pay the higher rates. Minivan News understands that GMR has requested Qatar pay cash for today’s flights, while other airlines are in the process of settling their payments with the airport.

Some have suggested that concerns raised by groups such as Qatar also stem from a drop in demand as the low season approaches. Saleem said that Sri Lankan’s strategy had always been to boost tourism numbers in its own turf.

“We believe the London flights were operated for Sri Lanka to achieve its tourism target. They’ve changed their summer schedule to this effect,” he said, explaining that the airline may cut down on direct flights to Maldives as a result, but that this was rather a matter of scheduling.

Responding to  concern that reductions in carrier services would damage the tourism industry, Saleem pointed out that airline changes are a reflection of the already-changing tourism demographic.

Last year Chinese arrivals trumped all other tourist groups to the Maldives, while the Maldives’ traditional European market continued to slump under the West’s ongoing economic pressures.

“It’s a changing world,” Saleem said, noting that local airline Mega Maldives has expressed interest in expanding east to Japan. “The numbers from the East are rising, so it’s possible that the major Western carriers don’t have the demand to continue the same flight frequency that they did before. Singapore will be doubling its flights by 50 percent to 14 flights a week in March,” he said.

GMR spokesman Amir Ali reinforced that concerns over the price hike are misinformed. “There are concerns, but some people are using it in a political game,” he said.

Late in 2011 GMR’s intention to implement a US$25 (Rf385.5) Airport Development Charge (ADC) was blocked by the Civil Court, while minority opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) campaigned against the industrial giant with a booklet titled “Handing the Airport to GMR: The Beginning of Slavery.” The government has since appealed the court’s decision, stating that it is obliged to honor its contractual relationship with GMR.

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) Secretary General ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim agrees that INIA’s rates have been remarkably cheap for the region, but believes that the price hike – and ensuing negotiations with airlines – are a delicate business.

Although GMR “inherited” the current change in prices from MACL, “GMR’s strategy is to make as much money as possible any way they can – that’s business. But if it’s not done right then it’s not going to work. This has been too much, too fast,” Sim claimed.

According to Sim, the two overarching issues are the pace and method of the price hike. Rather than raising set fees dramatically during the high season, Sim suggests introducing the change in phases. He also recommends requesting payment post-service.

“In Singapore people are charged after they’ve seen the development and its benefits. People want to see what they are paying for, and it seems to be working alright,” he observed.

Pointing to the Maldives’ limited economy, Sim said airport development and fees “have to be weighed with the reality that the Maldives is totally dependent on tourism.”

Minister Saleem offered assurances that the Maldives’ appeal would continue to draw customers. “I’m sure there will be other airlines wanting to come in, especially as the demographic shifts,” he said.


UN sends delegation as UK urges judicial reform

A political delegation from the United Nations’ (UN) Department of Political Affairs (DPA) will arrive in Male’ next week to discuss the Maldives’ current efforts at judicial reform as part of its ongoing democratic transition.

The delegation, headed by UN Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, will meet with government officials, opposition leaders and civil society representatives. Revolving around the current situation the Maldives, discussions aim to identify opportunities to support democratic growth.

In November last year UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay visited the Maldives and said the country had made “significant advances” during the first few years of its transition, but a gap still existed between the rhetoric and the reality on the ground.

The Commonwealth has also pledged to assist the island nation in its efforts towards judicial reform, while British Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Alistair Burt, is holding discussions with President Mohamed Nasheed to resolve the current stalemate.

“Although the [Maldives’] judiciary is constitutionally independent, the sitting judges are under qualified, often corrupt and hostile to the democratically elected regime,” said MP John Glen of Prime Minister David Cameron’s ruling Conservative party.

Glen further called on the House Leader to “urgently make time for a debate on judicial reform in the Maldives,” reads a press statement.

Leader of the House of Commons and Conservative Party MP George Young pointed out that the British High Commission in Colombo is involved. “We want to help Maldives to make progress towards democratic reform in the direction that my friend John Glen outlines,” he said.

The Maldives formally requested international legal assistance from the UN Human Rights Commission on January 22. Last year, ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also appealed for international intervention in what it considered an “increasingly blatant collusion between politicians loyal to the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and senior members of the judiciary.”

The Maldives government initiated a judicial standoff on January 16 when it ordered the military to arrest Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed after he filed a High Court injunction against his police summons.

Allegations against Judge Mohamed date back to 2005 and include misogyny, sexual deviancy, throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused, political bias, obstruction of police duty, disregarding decisions of high courts, deliberately holding up cases involving opposition figures, barring media from corruption trials, ordering the release of suspects detained for serious crimes without a single hearing, maintaining “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes, and releasing a murder suspect “in the name of holding ministers accountable” who went on to kill another victim.

In one instance Abdulla Mohamed was accused of requesting that two underage victims of sexual assault act out their attack in court, in front of the perpetrator.

The judge had previously been under investigation by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), but had successfully sought an injunction from the Civil Court against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog.

The JSC itself has itself been accused of perjury, embezzlement and corruption – by one of its own members.

The ongoing detention of the judge has polarised public opinion in the Maldives, resulting in three weeks of opposition-led protests which draw crowds of 200 to 400 nightly on Male’ calling for the judge’s freedom and the downfall of the government. Several police officers and protesters have been injured during the protests and a number of journalists have been the victims of targeted attacks.

In addition, a few government buildings and private property belonging to government officials have been damaged.

Protest leaders have pledged to continue the demonstrations until an “even stronger” protest on February 24. Meanwhile, MDP has gathered regularly at its party camp where activists have occasionally urged party members to “go out and confront the opposition”. No such order has officially been given, however MDP has asked party supporters to come to Male’ from surrounding islands for a demonstration on February 17.