The Maldives celebrated Fitr Eid on Thursday, August 8 with Eid prayers at the Maafannu stadium, state organised parades, music shows, traditional games and vehicle-free streets.
Several presidential candidates contesting in the September 7 presidential elections also organised separate events on the day.
In celebration of Fitr Eid Male’ City Council, the Transport Authority and the Maldives Police Service declared that motorised vehicles would not be allowed to drive on the streets of the capital city Male’ and Hulhumale’ between 4-10pm on Thursday.
A message tweeted by the official Twitter account of the police, which was later deleted, stated “Fitr Eid to be a day of no motorists so violators will be persecuted”, with an attached statement reading that any motorists driving without a special permit from the Transport Authority would be prosecuted under the Transport Act.
According to Transport Authority records by late 2011 the number of motorcycles alone in Male’ – an island with an area of 5.8 square kilometres and populated by over 103,000 people according to a 2006 census – will be 42,062.
Residents of the highly congested city anticipate the annual traffic-free event, and as a results the streets are filled with persons of all ages.
Despite the cautionary announcements, Minivan News spotted a number of motorcycles and a large number of private cars on the streets during the time allocated for the ‘no vehicle’ event.
In addition to this, Minivan News also observed three state vehicles accompanying President Mohamed Waheed’s coalition-organised walk with his political supporters.
One incident observed by Minivan News occurred at 6.15pm on Medhuziyaaraiy Magu.
In one instance, a white police van containing four male officers wearing the camouflage uniform of Special Operations forces drove down Medhuziyaaraiy Magu at 6:15pm at high speed without warning siren or flashing lights, swerving through about a dozen young children on toy vehicles and their families.
Parents pulled children out of the way of the police van with seconds to spare and turned around and stared at the police van in shock. A number of parents started making comments about the “reckless behaviour” of the police force.
The police van stopped about 12 feet away, and the four police officers stared back at the families. The officers spoke amongst themselves and seemed amused. When none of the gathered parents made any move towards the vehicle, the officers laughed loudly, waved and made gestures with their hands at the shocked pedestrians before speeding away in the same manner.
One of the parents present at the place told Minivan News, “I am shocked and outraged, but I shouldn’t be. I already knew we are in a police state, and what better can I expect when I am marking Eid in what is now their country.”
“Look at the state the security forces are in. This country needs a complete overhaul of its systems. Leave aside protecting us from petty criminals, we need to first think of how to protect ourselves and our kids from the police themselves,” said another young mother.
“Why bother having a traffic free Eid in name alone if the police are going to speed around crazily, if every government car is allowed on the street, not to mention half the private cars. This event is a farce, just like everything else in this country. Anyway, I spotted that police van’s license plate number, I’ll see if the Police Integrity Commission has anything to say about this,” another pedestrian added.
A police media official told Minivan News that “police will always keep foremost a concern for public safety, even if trying to reach a crime scene as quick and possible”, adding that such incidents would not occur.
Once the license plate number was shared, the official denied that the said police van had been on the streets at the time of the incident, adding that he would look into it.
According to police, 41 people were fined for unauthorised use of vehicles.
Campaigning on Eid
Following Eid prayers, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, former President Mohamed Nasheed and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom separately met with citizens to exchange Eid greetings.
President Waheed received people at the former Presidential Palace of Muleeaage, and was accompanied by First Lady Ilham Hussain.
Former President and Leader of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom held an Eid greetings event at Nasandhura Palace Hotel.
In addition to his wife, Nasreena Ibrahim, PPM’s Presidential Candidate and Gayyoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen and his running mate Mohamed Jameel Ahmed also joined him in greeting ministers, former state officials and members of the public.
Former President and Presidential Candidate Mohamed Nasheed conveyed Eid greetings outside Bandaara Mosque directly after joining Eid prayers.
During the allocated traffic free hours, both President Waheed and the Jumhooree Coalition’s Presidential Candidate Gasim Ibrahim held separate walks on the streets of Male’ with their supporters.
The Jumhoree Party also organised an “entertainment afternoon” for children as part of the party’s Eid celebrations.
Celebrations broken up by Police
While a large crowd gathered in Henveiru for a grand ‘Eid Show’ organised by local telecom operator Dhiraagu, a number of smaller celebrations were broken up by police.
An attendee at a show held on Fareedhee Magu told Minivan News that police had split up their show, with one officer stating that it was “un-Islamic” to enjoy music and dancing on Eid.
A traditional game on Eid is called ‘fenkulhi’ [watergame], where coloured water is thrown at each other by friends and neighbours.
The game was played at a number of locations around Male’, with one photo circulating on social media showing MDP candidate Nasheed joining a group of youngsters in the game.
An eyewitness told Minivan News that one such group playing in Maafannu ward of Male’ was ordered by police to stop playing the game. He also alleged police had “roughed up the boys unnecessarily”.
A police media official denied any such incidents.
“I don’t think anything like that happened. I mean, there are no records of such events,” he said.