Thousands rallied in Malé on Tuesday campaigning for equal treatment of workers and protesting against the alleged “coup d’état” of February 7 in a rally held to mark International Worker’s Day, ‘May Day’.
The rally, organised by the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and led by former President Mohamed Nasheed, set out from Usfasgandu on the southern ring road of Malé with campaigners waving red and yellow ribbons, balloons, pom poms and drumming on makeshift instruments. Trucks blaring loud music accompanied the rally.
Nasheed resigned following a police and military mutiny on February 7, but later said his resignation was under duress and that he was deposed in a coup d’état. The MDP has held frequent marches calling for early elections and continues to hold nightly meetings at its protest camp area, Usfasgandu, located behind Dharubaaruge.
MDP Youth Wing President Aminath Shauna said the MDP had always worked for labor rights and that although the Maldives had joined the ILO in 2009, she was concerned that the Maldives continued to abstain from important ILO conventions such as those regarding collective bargaining, minimum wage, forced labour and child labour.
Mickail Naseem, 18, said he was at the rally to protest unfair promotions to police and financial benefits to the military at a time of financial crisis. In March, over a third of the police force received promotions while the military received two years of suspended allowances in a lump sum in April.
“Where is the equality? Certain police officers and military have received pay hikes, promotions and flats for housing. But the government has said the Maldives is bankrupt. This also increases pay differences between ordinary civil servants and the security forces,” Mickail said.
Another MDP supporter, Ahmed Yasmin, 30, held up a placard with the words “S.O.S. Mayday! Mayday! We have a coup!”. He had attended the rally “to have fun with my friends since it’s a public holiday.”
The colorful, noisy and peaceful demonstration stalled near former presidential residence Muleeage after police and military in riot gear blocked roads leading to the Republican Square, the President’s Office and Police and military headquarters.
A few hundred campaigners sat down in front of the police lines and were still there as of 7:30pm, but most of the rally participants dispersed. Verbal confrontations took place between MDP supporters and police. Minivan News overhead one police officer from behind a barricade tell a young girl that she was “very pretty” and that he would “like to have sex with her”, which was met with a torrent of abuse.
As of 7:30 pm, the sit in led by President Nasheed continued in front of Muleeage.
The MDP also plans to organise a rally to mark International Press Freedom Day on May 3.