The Maldivian Democratic Party held a several thousand strong rally on Wednesday night despite a police takeover of Usfasgandu, the party’s rally ground in Male’, and a warning from Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel that the police would not allow the rally to be held in the area.
Police cordoned off the main rally ground and surrounding streets, with MDP members and supporters standing just beyond police lines. The rally was held adjacent to the protest site.
Crowds gathered an hour before the scheduled start of the rally and heated verbal exchanges took place between the protestors and approximately thirty police officers at the location. Minivan News observed two protesters being led away by police. However Police Media Official Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef said that no arrests were made in the area.
First a Maldivian, then a police officer
Many speakers at Wednesday night’s rally called on the police to step down and cooperate with the citizens, saying they were “first a Maldivian and then a police officer”.
Former MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi called on police to back down, saying the party members would not step back until they had guaranteed their freedoms and rights.
“We don’t care how big a power tries to tell us this is not a coup, whether it be the Commonwealth or the UN. We have no doubts about what we saw with our own eyes. We have no doubts about which shoes, which batons have been beating us,” Mariya said.
“No member of MDP will go back to their homes before we rid this country of this culture of violence.”
Both Mariya and Nasheed stated that the party’s intention was not to protect the rally grounds, but rather the rights of the citizens.
“It is not Usfasgandu that we are trying to defend, nor any other land either. We are here to protect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the right to peaceful political activity. We will do this until our last breath,” Nasheed said.
“Take down these police lines,” Nasheed addressed the police. “There is no one in this country who can come out against the citizens of this country, to hold them back or restrict them. I call on the police and soldiers to step back now.”
“Maumoon is deceiving Yameen and Ilyas again”: Nasheed
Nasheed once again accused current President Mohamed Waheed Hassan of participating in planning a coup with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
“If you think that by taking the lead to plan a coup with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom you people will succeed in getting this country back in your clutches, then you are very much mistaken. We will not let that happen.”
Speaking of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Nasheed said the party was absorbed in in-fighting while MDP was conducting its door-to-door campaign. He alleged that Gayoom was “once again deceiving his brother Abdulla Yameen and brother-in-law Ilyas Ibrahim” by feigning refusal to run in the presidential elections.
“Maumoon has been pulling the wool over Abdulla Yameen’s eyes for a good 15 years now, telling him he won’t be running for president,” Nasheed said.
“He creates rifts between Yameen and Ilyas, and then, in the name of peace making, takes the reigns himself. He has been doing this for ages, and will do so again. Come and contest. We will defeat you again. This time, we will defeat you in a single round,” Nasheed said.
At the end of his speech, Nasheed made reference to the recent allegations plans of assassination plots against him.
“You can plan to poison me, you can plan to shoot me, you can conspire to do anything at all. But the final will is not that of Jameel, Waheed or Saeed. Accept it, the final will is that of Almighty God,” Nasheed said.
“None of you must be mistaken, be it the judges or the police and army. I am repeatedly saying that on the 11th of November 2013, it will once again be me who is sworn in as President of this nation.”
Police have closed off the MDP rally grounds following an order from High Court released Wednesday, stating the area shall be kept under the care of the police and not used for any purpose until the court reaches a verdict on the matter.