Police seize ‘protest sound system’ from ex MDP president’s residence

Photo by Shaari

The police entered former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) president Ibrahim Ismail’s ‘Ibra’ and Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim’s residences with court warrants last night and seized sound systems used during the June 12 sit-in protest.

Police officers went into Machangoalhi Bouegainvillea and Henveiru Haali around 8:00pm and confiscated the loudspeakers, a police media official confirmed.

The court warrant – signed by chief judge Abdulla Mohamed and circulated on social media – stated that the MDP had refused to stop using loudspeakers after 11:00pm as ordered and had set up sound systems in various buildings in Malé.

The “public was facing difficulties” due to the speeches broadcast from the sound system, the police stated as the reason for requesting the search warrant.

The sit-in took place in the capital’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu with about 2,000 protesters.

Shortly after 11:00pm, Specialist Operations (SO) police officers confiscated hand-drawn carts used to carry the sound systems. But speeches from opposition politicians – delivered from an undisclosed location – continued and could be heard from the speakers set up at the residences.

An hour later, riot police chased protesters into side streets and cleared Majeedhee Magu, but protesters regrouped and continued protesting until 4:00am.

Loudspeakers were also set up on Manchangoalhi Maadheli and SO officers searched a security guard outside the residence for keys, but did not go into the building. The sound system was turned off when police attempted to enter.

Some 12 protesters, including former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof and AP deputy secretary general Ahmed Shareef were arrested during the police crackdown. The criminal court released all 12 last night after the police sought extension of remand detention.

The seizure of the sound system from Ibra’s home meanwhile comes after the government’s eviction of Mandhu College from its premises earlier this month. The former MP is the chairman of the college.

“Now they have entered my house. And randomly seized property. This time they had a piece of paper which stated it was a court order,” he wrote in a Facebook post today.

“But that piece of paper did not state what crime was being investigated, who the suspect was. And they conducted the search without the presence of any of the residents, and did not even inform me as to what they were taking with them.”

He added that the next search “will produce a submachine gun and a CD-ROM, which will be ample proof for me to be convicted for terrorism.”

“And it will be just an aside, that I will be tried by the same judge who issued the illegal ‘search warrant,'” he wrote.

Independence day

The MDP has meanwhile announced plans to stage a fourth mass anti-government demonstration to coincide with Independence Day on July 26. The government has planned numerous activities to celebrate the upcoming golden jubilee of independence.

Speaking at a rally in the opposition Haruge (meeting hall) last night, MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz called on supporters from across the country to travel to the capital for the mass protest.

“We want to show the level of independence in this country,” he said.

Shifaz told Minivan News yesterday that the opposition alliance – made up of the MDP, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, members of the JP, and defectors from the ruling party – will continue its protests until the government heeds its demands.

The demands include releasing imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests in February sparked the ongoing political arrest.

The opposition alliance is also demanding the withdrawal of terrorism charges against AP president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim, and JP council member Sobah Rasheed, as well as an end to alleged targeting of opposition-aligned businesses.

Two weeks after a 20,000-strong mass protest on May 1, President Abdulla Yameen called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties. The talks with the JP began last week, but the government has rejected former President Nasheed and AP president Sheikh Imran as the representatives of their respective parties.

The JP had proposed establishing a platform for all-party talks, discussing the release of jailed opposition politicians, ensuring judicial independence, and protecting investors.

A second meeting for between the government and the JP scheduled for this afternoon was cancelled. President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said the meeting was postponed because some of the government’s representatives were not in Malé.

Speaking at a ceremony in Thaa Thimafarushi last night, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb called on the opposition to stop its street protests and accept the government’s invitation for talks to resolve the political crisis.

He urged the MDP and AP to relent on its condition of joining the talks with its jailed leaders as representatives.

“If the [leaders] are to be freed, first the doctor’s board must decide it. How can we talk about it with the patient? That’s not how it’s done. Leave the patient as the patient and come discuss with the doctor. The operation can only be completed after that,” he was quoted as saying by local media.


Councilor suspended over tweet

The Local Government Authority (LGA) has suspended a fourth councilor for refusing to participate in the government-organized celebrations to mark fifty years of independence from the British

The president of the Baa Atoll Thulhaadho council, Ahmed Abdul Raheem, was suspended for one month without pay over a tweet in which he opposed the education ministry’s plans to hold a parade for students on May 30.

In a tweet on May 29, Ahmed said the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will start a door-to-door campaign to discourage students from participating in the parade.

The LGA, headed by home minister Umar Naseer, sent a letter to the council within hours asking why Ahmed had called for students to avoid the parade. The letter also warned the LGA will penalize any councilors who obstruct the parade.

In reply, the council said it was not aware of such a tweet.

The LGA then sent a second letter last week ordering the council to withhold Ahmed’s salary.

“This is a ridiculous move by the government aimed at destroying the decentralization system and this decision was made by Umar Naseer and his special committee,” Ahmed said.

He vowed to contest Naseer’s letter at the court. He also said he had not participated in the door-to-door campaign and was not aware if such a campaign had taken place.

All Thulhadhoo councilors are MDP members.

LGA spokesperson Mohamed Azmeen declined to comment and said that “the decision to suspend councilors are made at the top.”

Naseer was not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

On May 31, the LGA suspended three councilors of the Alif Alif atoll council over a resolution declaring that the council will not participate in the Independence Day activities. All six members of the atoll council belong to the MDP.

The Thulhadhoo council will meet on Wednesday to decide on Naseer’s letter, said vice president Ahmed Rasheed.

In late May, the LGA had asked the Thulhadhoo council to withhold pay of their councilor Ziyau Rasheed, who was suspended for 2 months following his arrest at the opposition’s mass anti-government protest on May 1.

The council had defied orders saying that the authority’s order was contrary to relevant laws and regulations. Unless a court of law rules otherwise, the Thulhaadhoo council said it would be following an “unconstitutional order” if it enforced the decision.

In a letter on June 1, the council told the LGA to stop threatening the council and said the only office authorized to penalize councilors were the police and the courts.

A total of seven councillors were suspended for two months without pay for participating in the May 1 protest. Nearly 20,000 people took to the streets of Malé on May Day demanding the release of Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

In early May, MDP island and atoll councillors in Noonu atoll decided to chip in to pay the salary of suspended Holhudhoo councillor Hussain Habeeb.


MNDF ‘withdrew’ former First Lady’s bodyguards

The military withdrew former first lady Laila Ali’s body guards at an anti-government protest on June 12, the office of the former president Mohamed Nasheed said in a statement today.

Noting that the constitution and the law on privileges and benefits for former presidents require the state to provide security services for the former first lady, the statement said that the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) had provided body guards for other former first ladies at political rallies.

Laila, too, had been provided security at other political events, the statement said.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year jail-term on terrorism charges. His arrest and imprisonment triggered the ongoing political crisis in the Maldives.

The ex-president’s office condemned the military’s withdrawal of security guards and said that the military needs to be “depoliticized.” The statement called on the government to refrain from any acts that may undermine public trust in the military.

An MNDF spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, but said: “If security is not being provided, we will provide a reason. We will also notify them if and when we resume security.”

The police broke up the 2,000 strong sit-in at midnight. But protests continued until 4am. Some 12 people, including MP Ahmed Mahloof were arrested, and released by the court the next day.


Resort workers dismissed on drug abuse charges were ‘key unionists’

Four resort workers were dismissed on June 6 from Alif Alif Atoll Kandholu resort on bogus drug abuse charges because of their work on a petition demanding a minimum wage, the Tourism Employees Association of the Madives (TEAM) has said.

“All four of the dismissed staff were key figures in gaining signatures for the TEAM petition. The resort wanted to dismiss them with any excuse they could find,” said the organization’s secretary general Mauroof Zaki.

The TEAM petition – signed by more than 5000 Maldivian resort workers – demands a US$600 minimum wage, the implementation of an eight percent quota for Maldivians in the resort sector and the equal distribution of service charge to all employees.

Police raided Kandholhu resort – owned by Universal Enterprises – after the management complained of staff using drugs on the island.

A police spokesperson said the four were taken to Rasdhoo Island for a urine test. Two of the staff tested positive on a drug screening. But the police said they were released the next day because the substance they had used was not illegal.

The dismissed staff told Minivan News they were using medication.

Speaking to Minivan News, 21-year-old Ibrahim Sameen said he was “targeted by the management for working with TEAM to gain signatures for the petition.”

“The police started checking our belongings and doing body checks of the people singled out by the management. They checked me and said I was clear of any problems,” he said.

Resident manager Ahmed Jaleel told Sameen to accompany the police to Rasdhoo.

“I immediately asked Jaleel whether he would re-instate my position at the resort if I was did not test positive and he promised me and gave his word.”

When the drug test came out negative, Sameen said he was taken to Kuramathi resort, also owned by Universal Enterprises, and informed of his dismissal.

The letter of termination obtained by Minivan News, accused Sameen of gross misconduct for appearing as if he was not his “full senses” and “disrupting the peave in the resort.”

The letter was signed by Jaleel.

Jaleel told Minivan News that he had did not made any promises to reinstate staff and said he was not aware of their work gaining signatures for the petition.

Meanwhile, a staff at the human resources department refused to comment and said: “the decision to terminate the staff came from the top management.”

Jaleel and the Kandholhu general manager were not responding to further calls despite repeated attempts.

Over the past few years, resort workers have occasionally tried to launch protests.

Workers who had been fired from Sheraton’s Maldives luxury resort for allegedly demanding union recognition protested near the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa in February, according to the website of the International Union Federation.

Carrying banners with slogans such as “Sheraton fully booked — no room for human rights”, the dismissed workers carried out a boat picket around the resort, while employees came to the beach and waved in support.

Three staff at Palm Beach were dismissed in July 2014 after 50 staff staged a strike over alleged discriminatory polices at the resort.

In February 2013, an employee strike in Vaavu Atoll Alimathaa resort resulted in 27 employees being fired by management.


Adeeb will be new vice president on July 26, says PPM MP

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Musthafa has claimed that tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb will become the new vice president on Independence Day, July 26.

The ruling party MP tweeted today: “Bro is now a brand. Independence day will dawn with the new term of the new vice president. The nation is with bro.”

Opposition supporters refer to Adeeb as “bro” over his alleged links with criminal gangs.

Musthafa’s tweet follows parliament last week accepting for consideration a constitutional amendment proposing an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the president and vice president.

The proposed amendment has fuelled speculation of President Abdulla Yameen planning to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with Adeeb, who is now 33 and ineligible for the position.

The constitution states that presidential candidates must be at least 35 years of age.

Dismissing the “rumours” last month, Adeeb told Minivan News that he has “no interest at this stage.”

In a tweet last night, PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan also referred to Adeeb as “our vice president”. Adeeb is also the vice president or deputy leader of the PPM.

“Our vice president is the hope of this country’s youth,” the majority leader tweeted.

Adeeb is currently in Thaa atoll with several PPM MPs, including Musthafa and Nihan. The tourism minister attended the opening ceremony of a futsal pitch in Thimarafushi last night.

Last month, newspaper Haveeru suggested that the ruling coalition might also amend the constitution to authorise the president to appoint or dismiss his deputy. Alternately, the pro-government majority could remove Jameel with a no-confidence motion.

The relationship between President Yameen and Dr Jameel is reportedly under strain. His cousin, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was dismissed from the cabinet last month. The government did not provide a reason for the dismissal.

A three-quarters majority or 64 votes will be needed to amend the constitution. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance controls 48 seats in the 85-member house.

The ruling coalition will need the backing of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) or Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs to pass the amendment.

Several JP MPs were among the 44 lawmakers who voted in favour of accepting the constitutional amendment last week. The bill is currently at committee stage for review.

If passed, the amendment will bar JP leader Gasim Ibrahim from contesting the next presidential election. The business tycoon will be 66 in 2018.

During last week’s parliamentary debate, PPM MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla said amending the constitution might be necessary “under some circumstances” to allow the president to replace a “disloyal” vice president.

“I’m not saying at all that we are trying to bring a particular person to the vice presidency. But if it has to be done, the PPM parliamentary is ready,” he said.


Tourism minister pledges to open third resort in Thaa Atoll

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb has pledged to lease a third island in Thaa Atoll for resort development.

Only one resort is operating in the south-central atoll at present.

Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate a futsal field in Thimarafushi last night, Adeeb said the government plans to lease Kanimeedhoo for tourism. The island is located next to Thimarafushi, where the atoll airport is located.

The government in May leased Thaa Atoll Kalhufahalafushi for tourism development to a Chinese company.

Some 8,945 people live in Thaa Atoll.

President Abdulla Yameen had pledged to bring ten resorts into operation every year.

According to the central bank, three resorts were opened in 2014, which increased the total registered number of resorts to 112 in the Maldives.

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) said the Maldives earned US$2.6billion in tourism revenue in 2014.


Comment: What went wrong on June 12?

When ex-president Mohamed Nasheed was arrested on February 22, we protested every night, for three months. We signed petitions. We took to the streets in the tens of thousands on February 27 and May 1. Our MPs disrupted parliament. Our former rivals, the Adhaalath Party and the Jumhooree Party, allied with us. The international community denounced President Abdulla Yameen’s increasingly authoritarian tactics to remain in power.

But on June 12, only some 2,000 people took to the streets for the planned sit-in. What went wrong?

The June 12 protest was aimless. In the weeks leading up to June 12, opposition leaders were preparing for talks with the government, not for a mass protest. The MDP had even come up with a draft position paper outlining a roadmap for political reconciliation. Opposition MPs had ended their parliamentary siege. Why stage a sit-in to reiterate the same demands? Why protest when we had forced President Yameen to capitulate and call for talks after the May Day protest?

On February 27, the Jumhooree Party let us down. But we scared the government by our numbers. On May 1, despite all the intimidation and threats by the government, we turned up again with twice the number of people. We did not manage to enter Malé’s Republic Square or topple President Yameen’s government as hoped. Instead, nearly 200 people were arrested. The police could not cope with the large number of detainees at Dhoonidhoo.

But a president who had refused to sit for talks before, relented.

True, President Yameen continues to rule out negotiations on Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s release. But the gesture for talks, regardless of how insincere it may be, is a win for us. The government’s lack of sincerity is not surprising. They were forced to call for talks.

Our leaders were not prepared for June 12 or a prolonged sit-in. Their demands were not clear. There was no hype in the lead-up either. Bad weather in the first week of June, the Dhiraagu Road Race which was scheduled for the same day and the approaching month of Ramadan had cast doubt on whether the protest would even take place. The government, meanwhile, dismissed dozens of employees, and threatened many with charges that carry a prison term. But the poor turnout was because the protest was not organized well and its purpose was not clear.

We are still angry. We do not give up. We will turn up to protest again. But first, we must allow the government time to respond to our demands.

If they do not accept all-party talks and release all political prisoners, then we must prepare to shut Malé City down.

A march through the streets of Malé will not do. We must stand our ground, and we must fill the prisons. There is discontent among the security forces. But they will only splinter if we hold the streets for days.

June 12 was a minor setback, but one to learn lessons from. The international community is watching. US Senators John Mc Cain and Jack Reed’s letter calling for Nasheed’s release is not an isolated event. It shows international pressure is growing. The European Union parliament is with us. We must continue our protests. The Maldives is not Myanmar, Zimbabwe or Egypt. We cannot afford to isolate ourselves from the world when our economy depends on tourism.

Photo by Shaari

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


June 12: Back to the streets

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Photos by Shaari

Maldivians took to the streets for a third mass protest on June 12 calling for the release of “political prisoners.” Turnout was much lower than expected at just more than 2,000 people. Thousands staged a sit-in at Malé’s central junction, but police used pepper-spray to disperse the protesters at midnight. The police also confiscated sound systems and podiums used at the sit-in.