Disagreement on house rules post-coup leaves parliament in limbo, claims MDP

The ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will reject amendments to house rules to allow the government to submit bills through any party, the party has said in a statement on Wednesday.

Article 71 of the parliamentary rules of procedure states the government can only submit bills, including tax bills, to the parliament through the party it represents.

However, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Ithihad (GI) does not have representation in the Majlis. Waheed, the former vice-president, took power after MDP’s President Mohamed Nasheed resigned on February 7. The MDP claims Nasheed was ousted in a coup d’état.

Nasheed’s deposition has raised questions over MDP’s status in parliament. According to MDP’s statement, parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih has written to Speaker Abdulla Shahid stressing that the MDP was elected for a five-year term and the administration continued to belong to the MDP, despite the transfer of power.

“The Majlis is in limbo,” MDP spokesperson and Malé MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor told Minivan News. “MDP has been elected for a five-year term. In the middle of the term Shahid is trying to make us out to be the opposition. He is attempting to bring about a coup within parliament.”

Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim had told local media Haveeru that house rules needed to be amended to allow Waheed’s administration to submit bills before Majlis reconvenes. He also said any bills submitted by Nasheed’s administration are now void and have to be submitted again.

“From the moment when President Waheed addressed the assembly, the new government has now been accepted by the Parliament. In my view, the bills submitted by the former government have now been rendered void. Hence the bills must be resubmitted,” Nazim said.

The MDP attempted to prevent Dr Waheed from delivering a constitutionally-mandated presidential address and obstruct the Majlis from reconvening on March 1 and March 19.

Waheed narrowly managed to deliver a shortened presidential address on March 19, over loud heckling from MDP MPs.

With MDP’s refusal to allow amendments to the house rules, the MDP and the coalition of parties backing Dr Waheed will now go “head to head” on the matter when Majlis reconvenes on Monday, Gafoor said.

Nazim also said the Majlis has to decide on opposition response to the president’s address. According to article 25 of the Majlis rules of procedure, the largest political party opposing the president’s party in Majlis must respond to the presidential address.

Ibu has said the MDP will not issue a rebuttal to Dr Waheed’s address as the party continues to question Waheed’s legitimacy and the constitutionality of the March 19 Majlis opening session.

“As long as the MDP continues to be the elected administration, the MDP parliamentary group does not have to respond to the presidential address,” the party’s statement read.


Waheed says he would resign and reinstate Nasheed if inquiry establishes coup

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan told local television station Villa TV (VTV) he would resign and reinstate ousted President Mohamed Nasheed if an independent inquiry established the February 7 transfer of power was illegitimate.

Nasheed has claimed he resigned under duress and was deposed in a coup d’état. Since then, thousands of people have demonstrated throughout the Maldives questioning Dr Waheed’s legitimacy and have called for early elections.

Speaking on Dhivehi Sakhshiyyath’s (Maldivian Personality) debut program, Dr Waheed said, “If it wasn’t a legitimate transfer of power, if it was unlawful, what should happen is the former president should be reinstated. If that is established, I will resign. If not, then this is a legitimate transfer of power.”

Although Dr Waheed’s government seemed amenable to early polls upon taking office, it now appears to be increasingly resistant to the call. The government now claims constitutional amendments are necessary for an early general election.

“I have already said I am ready to hold an election within the law, within the constitution, only in the country’s interest, since a major political party is creating unrest in the city,” Dr Waheed said.

Dr Waheed has instituted a three member Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) to look into the legality and legitimacy of the transfer of presidential power. However, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has questioned the committee’s independence as the committee is chaired by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s defence minister Ismail Shafeeu.

The MDP, international bodies and NGOs have urged the inclusion of international experts in the CNI. Presidential Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said the government would seek UN assistance rather than that of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group had supported MDP’s call for early elections.

Like furniture

In his interview, Dr Waheed also aired grievances against Nasheed dating from the MDP’s founding.

“I left MDP because Nasheed’s influence in MDP was such that he refused to give responsibility to anyone who is elected within the party. It was like that from first day, and I think continues to be that way,” he said.

Dr Waheed had campaigned to be the MDP’s first president. He alleges Nasheed ran MDP as “his property” and said Nasheed’s approach “has always been to settle problems through street action, rather than political dialogue.”

As Nasheed’s vice-president, Waheed claimed he was “sidelined and isolated”.

“Nasheed decided the vice-presidency was a symbolic position,” he said.

When asked if Nasheed ever pressured for his resignation, Waheed said, “I do not think Nasheed thought it too important for me to resign. As long as I stood aside, quietly, like the furniture at President’s Office, he did not think it to be an issue.”

He called on all political parties to work together to resolve the current political crisis: “The current unrest is because we haven’t been able to work together,” he said.

Waheed also said he believed only a candidate fronted by a coalition of parties would win the next presidential election.

“I do not believe now that any one party can win a presidential election. I am almost certain that only a coalition of two or more parties will win the next election again,” he said.


Deputy Speaker Nazim’s lawyer appointed to JSC

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has appointed Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim’s lawyer Mohamed Saleem (G. Raynis, Malé) to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) on Monday.

The JSC is the watchdog body entrusted with the power to appoint, promote and transfer judges, and to investigate complaints against the judiciary.

Ousted President Mohamed Nasheed’s former JSC appointee, Aishath Velezinee, said Saleem’s appointment constituted a “conflict of interest,” as he was a practicing lawyer defending high profile politicians.

Saleem had defended Nazim against charges of defrauding the now defunct Ministry of Atolls Development. The Criminal Court dismissed all four counts of fraud against Nazim in February shortly after Nasheed resigned “under duress” on February 7.

Saleem has denied conflict of interest allegations, saying he would no longer continue to practice as a lawyer, except to complete ongoing cases that do not involve any conflict of interest.

Saleem had previously served for eight years in the Police Courts, and seventeen years in the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) under former President Gayoom. He started off in the AGO as an assistant state attorney. When he resigned in 2008, he was the head of prosecution at the AGO.

He also served as North Huvadhoo atoll MP in the constitutional assembly from 2004- 2008.

Saleem is also prominent businessmen and Jumhooree Party (JP) Kaashidhoo MP Candidate Abdulla Jabir’s brother-in-law.

“It is public knowledge that Gasim (JP leader) and Jabir win by their pockets and what we are seeing is the judiciary going to the pockets of a few influential businessmen and politicians. We lost the independent judiciary to high treason of the JSC in 2010, and this move by Dr Waheed guarantees nothing but further degradation of the judiciary,” Velezinee told Minivan News.

Saleem refuted Velezinee’s allegations saying, “Even when I worked in the government, I was not one to favor friends or family members. I am certain I can be of honest service”.

Velezinee has alleged the JSC was complicit in protecting judges appointed during Gayoom’s regime, and was colluding with parliament to ensure legal impunity for senior then-opposition supporters.

In addition to Saleem, the JSC now consists of Speaker and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Shahid, Jumhooree Party leader and Gayoom’s Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim, Gayoom’s ex-lawyer and current Attorney General Azima Shukoor, Civil Service Commission President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed, Civil Court Judge Abdulla Didi, Lawyer Ahmed Rasheed, and public member Shuaib Abdulrahman.


Protesters call for boycott of “coup-financer’s businesses”

Hundreds of people marched in Malé on Monday calling for a boycott of businesses they claimed were owned by those responsible for financing the alleged coup d’état on February 7.

The march was organised by the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the NOON campaign (‘Noon’ means ‘no’ in Dhivehi). The campaign is the second boycott campaign targeting businessmen who support President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

UK-based NGO Friends of Maldives (FOM) has also revived a 2006 selective boycott of resorts.

Both campaigns primarily target resorts and businesses owned by local tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, and Vice-President nominee Mohamed Waheed Deen. The NOON campaign also calls for a boycott of the food importer Euro Store and businesses owned by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Vice President Umar Naseer, PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof, Defense Minister Ahmed Nazim and MP “Redwave” Ahmed Saleem.

“We have numbers, they have money. If we don’t buy from them, they won’t get the money,” said Shamau Shareef, a member of the NOON campaign. “We want to show this brutal regime and its business tycoons that we citizens are against the coup and police brutality in the Maldives.”

A Euro Store marketing official who identified himself as Fahmy said the boycott was “not based on truth or facts.”

“We don’t think Euro Store will be affected. Our sales have actually increased since all of this happened,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said he was “saddened” by FOM’s “irresponsible” resort boycott. “How did they derive these conclusions? What proof do they have?” he asked.

Consumer Boycott

Hundreds of protesters, waving yellow MDP flags, set out on foot and on motorbikes from Raalhugandu (surf point) at 5:00 pm calling on the public to boycott restaurants, shops and businesses that belong to “coup- financers.”

Products under boycott include Granini juice, popular Lavazza coffee, Red Bull energy drinks, Marlboro cigarettes and Lindt chocolate. These products are imported to the Maldives by Euro Store. Shops under boycott include MP Saleem’s ‘Redwave’ grocery chain and MP Mahloof’s clothing store ‘The Jeans’.

Protestors also called for a boycott of Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Gas and his airline Flyme. The campaigners alleged Gasim Ibrahim to be one of the main financiers of the coup.

Rasheed Carpentry and Construction Company, alleged to have ties to defense minister Ahmed Nazim, and PPM VP Umar Naseer’s security services Alarms and Whale Submarine tourist attraction are also included in the list.

“We have a long list of businesses, but we are still verifying most of them,” Shamau Shareef said. The campaign was only targeting businesses who have expressed outward support for the alleged coup d’état, Shamau said.

“For example the Euro Store supplied lavazza coffee and Red Bull to the 23 December alliance,” he claimed. The December 23 alliance is a group of political parties and NGOs that stood up against deposed President Mohamed Nasheed, claiming his administration was “irreligious”.

The NOON campaign had gathered over 1400 supporters within 24 hours of its launch on Facebook on Sunday. “It’s caught on very quickly. People support this campaign. If we can get mass public support, then we can be quite effective,” Shamau said.

The campaign intends to distribute leaflets on products under boycott to every household in Malé city, he added.

Responsible Traveler

The Friends of Maldives first called for a boycott of resorts owned and operated by supporters of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2006. The NGO relaunched the selective boycott under the name Maldives Travel Advisory in late February.

The NGO stressed the campaign was not a boycott of the Maldives, but rather a boycott of resorts “linked to individuals or groups who we suspect to be involved in the subversion of democracy and in human rights abuses in the Maldives.”

Resorts are classified into categories; “those we encourage you to visit, those under consideration and those which should be avoided.”

Seven resorts are currently on the avoid list; six belong to Gasim Ibrahim and one belongs to Mohamed Waheed Deen. Twelve resorts connected to businessmen Salah Shihab, Abdullah Jabir and Hussein “Champa” Afeef are under consideration.

“We also urge you to consider the idea of being a responsible traveler. Don’t let your pleasant holiday contribute to the suffering of others, whether it is to the Maldives or to any other place,” FOM said.

Ahmed Adeeb said he was “unsure” if the campaign would be effective as FOM is based in the UK, and because the UK market competes with the European and the Chinese markets. However, he said the government was working to counter FOM’s claims.

“From day one of my appointment, I have been trying to address cancellations,” he said. The UK and Germany issued travel advisories following the February 7 unrest, but revoked them in early March.


MDP detainees accuse police of sexual harassment: “What right do they have?”

Four female detainees arrested on March 19 have accused police of sexual harassment, in audio and written statements obtained by Minivan News. Police officers allegedly tore women’s clothes during arrest and ordered female detainees to strip and squat multiple times at Dhoonidhoo Island detention center, according to the statements.

“I was ordered to strip naked and then told to squat three times. I told them I don’t use drugs. But they told me to squat to see if there was a lighter or foil inside my anus,” Yusra Hussein, 22, said.

“Two policewomen held me by the neck of my dress. They tore my dress. They wanted to take it off me. They wanted to undress me. They told me ‘We will undress you. We will beat you up,’” Areesha Ali said, describing her arrest.

According to Article 33 of the Police Powers Act, police can only conduct intimate or strip searches if officers have reasonable grounds to believe a detainee may cause physical injury to themselves or others, or is concealing drugs.

The four women were arrested on Malé’s Sosun Magu during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) organised demonstration to obstruct Majlis’ opening session on March 19. Police arrested 99 people during the protests. The women claimed to be peaceful protestors, but said they were charged with breaking through police barricades. There was no mention of drug offences or concealed weaponry.

Aishath Aniya of the MDP’s Women’s Spirit, who was also arrested on the same day, told Minivan News that strip searches were only conducted on women detainees. The MDP estimates 17 women were arrested on March 19. MDP women have been at the forefront of several protests in the past month.

“These women came out to protest. They have no police records. They were not intoxicated. There is no connection between strip searches and protesting. There is no other name for this but sexual harassment,” Aniya told Minivan News.

Police Spokesperson Hassan Haneef denied sexual harassment claims and said all search procedures were conducted according to the law. He said the women had been arrested for inciting violence, and advised detainees to lodge grievances with the police, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).

Harassment, verbal abuse and strip search

Women were exposed and clothes were torn off to varying degrees during arrest, the four women claimed. At Dhoonidhoo detention centre, women were asked to strip and squat. In some cases, the police are said to have checked under breasts and touched genitalia. At 2:00am on March 20, police officers wanted to conduct a second strip search, but stopped only when Aniya told the police they had no authority to conduct a second search, the statements claim.

MDP activist Yusra Hussein said police officers approached her as she stood outside the MDP office on Sosun Magu.

“Three police officers held me from behind under my arm pits. I told them they were hurting me and that I would go peacefully with them. I did not resist arrest. I only resisted when they started hurting me. My dress had lifted in the process, I was uncovered. I was very embarrassed,” she said.

Two boys passing by called on the police to cover Yusra, but they were arrested as well, she said. “When I started to resist, the police pepper-sprayed me, dragged me on the ground, and twisted one of my breasts,” she said.

“I don’t know what happened after the pepper-spray. I woke up in the police ambulance. A police officer was pressing hard on my chest. I found it very hard to breathe. I was hand-cuffed. I started thrashing, my leg hit a policeman. They cuffed my legs as well. I told them I was in pain. But they said ‘You dog, we will kill you today.’ They were very verbally abusive. They insulted my mother and father,” Yusra said.

Areesha Ali also alleged physical and verbal abuse during arrest. In addition to having her dress torn, she said her two daughters were also exposed and arrested when they tried to intervene.

“They [police] dragged my children on the street, their clothes were in disarray, they were exposed. The police hit us with batons, with their shields, with their boots,” she said.  “They pepper-sprayed me. My eyes were shut. But I could hear what they said to my daughter. They said, ‘We don’t know if this is a man or a woman. Let’s get her onto the black bus and undress her to see if she’s a man or not.’ This is the kind of abuse they said. What right do they have?”

“I will never forgive them. They are inhuman, they are traitors. I would take them to court, but who is at the court? They are traitors as well. How can we get justice? If they keep beating people, more and more will come out with us,” she added.

Once at Dhoonidhoo, third detainee Fathimath Minna* said the police “told me they were going to do a body check. They asked me to take off my top and bra, which they inspected. They then asked me to take of my jeans and underwear, and I did so. They asked me to do three sit ups.”

Strip searches were conducted by female police officers. All women were also asked for a urine sample.

Aishath Aniya said, “The police officers were standing in front of the toilet. They did not allow any privacy. Afterwards, police officers told me to take off my shirt and bra. And then asked me to take my jeans off.  Strip searches were done on all women. One woman detained with me said police checked under her breasts and touched her genitalia while she was squatting.”

The MDP will lodge complaints with the HRCM and PIC, Aniya said. The party is now collecting statements from all female detainees.

“We were exercising out right to peaceful protest,” Aniya said. “But we were treated like criminals. I think the point of strip-searching to that extent was to demean us, to lower our morale to make sure we don’t come out on the streets again.”

Women at the forefront

Women have been on the front line in MDP’s political movement to bring early elections, since the party’s candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed was deposed in what the party calls a bloodless coup.

Amnesty International on March 1 condemned attacks on a group of women in Addu Atoll by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). The human rights organization said 20 women were charged by soldiers who wielded batons and used pepper spray, pushed them around, and kicked them on their legs and ribs.

“Detailed testimonies from the [group of 20 women] revealed no evidence of the [female] protesters being involved in any act of violence,” the statement read.

The MNDF and police used salt water cannons to break up a gathering of nearly 100 female supporters of MDP on March 6, outside President Office. They were delivering letters requesting the resignation of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan. HRCM said the police and MNDF had used more force than necessary.

* Name changed on request


MDP condemns attacks on police

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned attacks on police officers and called for peaceful protest, in a statement released on Friday.

According to the police, four uniformed officers have been attacked in the past week, sustaining injuries that required hospital treatment.

The most recent attack took place on Thursday night near Malé city’s carnival area. A police officer on traffic patrol was stabbed in the back of his neck, and has now been flown abroad for treatment, police have reported.

Three men armed with knives entered another police officer’s house on Wednesday, but the police officer was unharmed, police said. A total of 16 have been arrested over these attacks.

The MDP said it recognizes “high levels of public animosity towards police officers with regards to their involvement in the February 7 coup, overthrowing the first democratically elected Government in the Maldives, and their subsequent brutal crackdown on unarmed civilians”.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned on February 7 after the army joined a police mutiny. Nasheed later claimed he was forced to resign under duress. He led a march through Malé city on February 8, which MDP claims was dispersed with brutal force.

However, the MDP urged the public to express themselves through peaceful protest. Further, the party expressed concern over police’s alleged attempts to frame the MDP in relation to attacks on police.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has accused Nasheed’s supporters of attacks on police officers on Twitter. A President’s Office statement on 19 March also accused “sympathisers of MDP” of torching the Auction Shop in Malé.

The MDP claimed women detained on 19 March were sexually harassed. “This includes demanding some women detained on Monday, 19 March, to strip and squat a number of times while under police custody, and the use of inappropriate language,” the statement read.

“The MDP would like to remind the Police of their responsibility in upholding the law, and respecting the fundamental rights of all those detained,” the statement said.

The party noted an increase in the use of Stop and Search powers and condemned it as “a form of intimidation against MDP activists,” and called on the police to follow “appropriate behavior” as outlined in the Police Powers Act.

Police spokesperson Hassan Haneef said all search procedures were conducted according to the law, and denied sexual harassment claims. He also said the public can lodge complaints with the Human Rights Commission and Police Integrity Commission if they had been mistreated.


Government questions Nasheed’s eligibility for former president privileges

The President’s Office has raised questions over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s eligibility for constitutionally-provided immunity and privileges.

Article 128 guarantees “the highest honour, dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges” to any person who has served in the office of the president and stepped down without committing any offenses.

However, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said Nasheed’s eligibility was in question since he had not completed a full-five year term. Nasheed resigned in his fourth year of office, an act he later claimed was “under duress”.

Riza pointed to Article 3 (a) of the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act, which affords a monthly allowance of RF 50,000 (USD 3243) for a president who has served one term, and Rf 75,000 for a president who has served two terms (USD 4864).

Riza said the clause specifies that a president has to complete a five-year term in order to be eligible for financial benefits.

But Nasheed’s former Legal Affairs Secretary Hisaan Hussein said the constitution overrides the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act, and said Nasheed had a “right” to immunity and privileges.

Further, Article 12 of the Immunity and Privileges Act, interprets former president to be one “who stepped down after completion of term or resigned from office” without committing an unlawful act, she noted.

Even if the government’s concerns were valid, a full term is specified only with regards to financial benefits, and not in clauses relating to accommodation allowances, health care coverage, security, and travel arrangements, she said. Yet, except for the provision of security, the government had refused to extend any privileges to Nasheed, Hisaan said.

Riza said President Waheed had only arranged for Nasheed’s security “through special privileges afforded to the President.”

International bodies have expressed concerns over Nasheed’s safety, after Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed issued a court order for Nasheed’s arrest following Nasheed’s resignation on February 7.

The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) had held Judge Abdulla in military detention for three weeks prior to Nasheed’s resignation. The order was never acted upon.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) summoned Nasheed on Wednesday for questioning regarding his role in Judge Abdulla’s detention.

Riza said the President’s Office has now requested legal advice from the Attorney General Azima Shukoor on providing immunity and privileges to Nasheed. “As soon as we get legal advice, we will proceed,” he said.

Minivan News was unable to contact Shukoor at time of press.

In addition to monthly financial allowances, the Former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act provides for a monthly accommodation allowance up to Rf 50,000 (US$3243). The President and his/her spouse are also entitled health care coverage, security and travel assistance.

Further, if a former president wishes to conduct charitable work, the act allows for an allowance of Rf 175,000 (US$11,349) to cover overhead costs.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who served as president from 1979- 2008, set up the nonprofit Maumoon Foundation in 2010. The organisation’s stated aims are to assist the poor and needy. It awarded nine scholarships for higher education abroad in 2011.


“No Freedom! No Expression”: artists hijack art gallery

A group of artists hijacked a joint National Art Gallery and Japan Foundation exhibition on Tuesday, to call attention to alleged abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms since the controversial transfer of power on February 7

The exhibition, titled “Breathing Atolls: Japan-Maldives Contemporary Art Exhibition 2012,” celebrates 45 years of friendship between Japan and the Maldives and highlights the impact of climate change in small island nations.

The campaigners, who call themselves the ‘Suntzu Platoon’, silently tailed the Tourism and Foreign ministers holding placards depicting scenes of police brutality.

“We hoped to gain empathy from Japan for Maldivian artists,” a spokesperson from Suntzu said. “Japan is still recovering from a national scale disaster [2011 earthquake]. We are in the midst of one. We live in a police state. They are beating up people. We wanted Japan to extend us that cultural sensitivity.”

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb told Minivan News he did not agree with the campaigners’ calls. “They were saying we do not have freedom of expression. I do not agree. Their claims have no basis,” he said.

“No Freedom! No Expression!”

Suntzu’s spokesperson, who wished to remain anonymous, told Minivan News that the group wanted to reveal the interconnection between politics and art. “No Freedom! No Expression!” read the group’s flyer distributed at the exhibition.

“We were just four people,” she said. “We went there with 12 placards and 50 flyers. Many visitors to the gallery agreed with our message and took up the placards. It was very spontaneous.”

The Suntzu platoon alleges the February 7 transfer of power was a coup d’état. “Maldivian Artists suppressed under illegitimate government protests for the freedom to express,” Suntzu’s flyer read.

Under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom local artists had not been able to utilize the gallery to exhibit local work, Suntzu claimed. Under recently ousted President Mohamed Nasheed, very slight improvements had been made, with a few selected local artists’ work exhibited and an elementary system that allowed artists to request the space set in place.

“We wanted to tell Maldivian visitors that art is not just an oil painting hanging on a gallery wall or a commodity for tourists. Politics and art are not separate segments. Politics allows you to tweet or watch TV series at home in comfort,” Suntzu spokesperson added.

Photos and videos show campaigners tailing ministers, at times cornering them with brutality placards. The placards also called for early general elections to restore order. Police initially expelled one campaigner tailing Adeeb only to let him into the gallery a few minutes later.

“We did not organize this exhibition. It was organized by the Japan Foundation,” Adeeb said. “These types of actions taint Maldives’ name. Artists have freedom. They have the freedom to protest as well.”

Urban Art Intervention

Despite Adeeb’s assurances of freedom of expression, Suntzu pointed to the security forces’ dismantling of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest camp at Raalhugandu (Surf Point) in Malé on Monday.

The site, known to MDP supporters as Insaafuge Maidhaan, was an “urban artistic intervention,” a Suntzu spokesperson said. “We saw types of art never seen before in the Maldives.”

Police dismantled the camp after violent confrontations between security forces and protestors on Monday. Protestors sought to obstruct President Mohamed Waheed Hassan from delivering a constitutionally-mandated address at the Majlis’ opening session for the second time, claiming his presidency was illegitimate.

Police said violence and unlawful acts were planned at the camp. Alcohol and condoms were also found at the site, police said.

Suntzu said the police also took down an exhibition against police brutality and wiped out political graffiti drawn on the sea wall. Insaafuge Maidhan was also home to unconventional art, such as performance artists, Suntzu said.

A man, who had come to Malé after February 7, had waved the MDP flag every night from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am in protest. “He may not see himself as an artist. But to us, he is one,” Suntzu spokesperson said.

“After they destroyed art at Insaaf, the next day they hold a gallery opening. Such acts are a smokescreen masking reality,” she said.

The police “want to wipe out the entire yellow spectrum [MDP]. But they are fighting against an ideology. They may destroy Haruge [MDP camp], but they cannot wipe out an idea.”

Suntzu Platoon’s flyer also said: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental right, yet, a space for creative and artistic flourishing has been denied to us violently and brutally by this police state.”

Breathing Atolls exhibits the work of eight artists, of which two are Maldivian and six are Japanese. Artists took inspiration from the geographically and culturally distinct atolls of the Maldives to highlight the risk of submersion due to rising sea levels.

The exhibition will be showing from March 20 through April 19 at the National Art Gallery.


Three police officers attacked, Chief Justice’s car damaged

Three police officers were attacked on Tuesday night and Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hassan’s car was damaged, police have reported.

The three separate incidents took place within hours of each other around Nalahiya Hotel in Malé’s Maafannu ward. The three policemen sustained severe injuries which required hospital treatment, while the tail lights of Faiz’s car were smashed, according to police. Three men are also alleged to have entered a policeman’s house with knives on Wednesday.

Police spokesperson Hassan Haneef said 13 people have now been arrested over attacks on the police, but no arrests have been made so far regarding the vandalism of Faiz’s car.

The attack on Faiz’s car is the second attack on a Supreme Court judge’s car this week. Judicial Services Commission (JSC) chair and Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla’s car was attacked on Friday.

The situation remains tense between opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters and the security forces, as well as the judiciary. The February 7 transfer of power, which MDP alleges was a coup d’état, took place after security forces mutinied following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s military detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January.

President Waheed alleged on Twitter that Nasheed’s supporters were behind the violence: “Violence by Nasheed’s supporters keeps increasing,” he wrote.

Violence Against Police

The attacks on the police and chief justice’s car follow Monday’s violent confrontations between security forces and protestors who sought to obstruct Waheed from delivering a constitutionally-mandated address at the Majlis’ opening session – a second attempt after the first failed on March 1. Protestors claimed Waheed’s presence in the Majlis violates the institution’s integrity.

Police arrested 99 and said eight law enforcement officers were injured in Monday’s clashes. Police subsequently cleared out MDP’s protest camp at Raalhugandu (Surf Point) on the same day.

Superintendent Ahmed Mohamed said Tuesday’s assault on police took place while police were patrolling the streets of Malé. Two police officers were stopped by a crowd near Nalahiya Hotel at 11:30 pm, he said. One sustained injuries to the head while the other policewoman was hit on her chest and sexually harassed, claimed Mohamed.

The third police officer was also attacked near Nalahiya Hotel at 12:40 am. Mohamed appealed to the public to stop inciting violence against police at a press conference on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, posts on social media Twitter reveal a more complex picture of violence at Nalahiya Hotel. One photo shows a man with head injuries allegedly cause by police, and the other shows a man with extensive bruising on his upper arm. The third photo shows a policeman wielding a baton holding a crouching young man. The young man’s shirt is pulled over his face.

Superintendent Ahmed Mohamed said youth were involved in violence, and appealed to them to “take up responsible jobs instead of taking part in atrocities.”


Faiz’s car was damaged on Tuesday night by protestors gathered at the Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim’s house at 11:45 pm. Faiz was not in the car at the time.

Adam Mohamed’s car was also attacked by protestors after Friday prayers. Adam Mohamed and his child were in the car, but were not injured, reported local media.

The Supreme Court released a statement on Monday condemning attacks on judges and court buildings. It highlighted three separate attacks on judges, including that on Adam Mohamed, since January.

The other two incidents include a physical assault on Fuvahmula magistrate Ahmed Latheef in Fuvahmulah Island on March 8 and an attack on an unnamed judge on January 20.

The statement also condemned the torching of court buildings during the February 8 unrest in the atolls following police attack on MDP protesters in Malé.

“These attacks are aimed to cause irretrievable loss to justice system and to intimidate all working within the justice system,” the statement read.