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.