Evidence presented to parliament by former security officials concerning February 2012’s controversial transfer of power has given renewed impetus to anti-government demonstrations in Male’ this week, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.
Minivan News yesterday (January 26) observed several thousand people taking part in an MDP demonstration around Male’, calling for a caretaker government to be installed ahead of fresh elections. The party continues to allege the transfer of power was a “coup”, with Nasheed being forced from office under duress.
The MDP claimed more than 4000 people took part in yesterday’s gathering as part of efforts to communicate its concerns about the legitimacy of the present government to both the local and international community.
MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor added a petition had also been presented at the People’s Majlis by the protesters, though only the party’s elected representatives were allowed admission to parliament.
“Protesters were not being allowed into the Majlis, so our MPs had to present the petition,” Ghafoor said.
The government-aligned Adhaalath Party alleged the MDP protesters verbally abused its supporters and vandalised promotional materials at a membership drive held at a school.
President Dr Mohamed Waheed has meanwhile called for government personnel and institutions “to be vigilant of a system that would ensure a just, fair and equitable governance in the Maldives.”
During his speech – made during a tour of Miladhummadulu Atoll – President Waheed claimed that good governance could only be achieved through listening to the demands of the public.
Ghafoor claimed the party’s protests had been given renewed impetus after senior military and police intelligence figures recently gave evidence to the Majlis’ Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) alleging that the transfer of power on February 7 “had all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat”.
“Several of these figures including chief of staff and military heads have confirmed what we all knew. They have all said [former President Nasheed] resigned under duress,” he added.
Ghafoor alleged this same information had purposefully not been included in the final report of the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) that last year concluded there was no mutiny by police or the military.
The CNI also ruled that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation was not made under duress, but did highlight a need for reforms in key institutions like the judiciary and security forces.
Protests by the party this week are the first large-scale demonstrations through the city since the Freedom of Assembly Bill was ratified by President Waheed earlier this month, imposing a stringent limitations on street protesting.
Adhaalath Party member drive
The government-aligned, religious conservative Adhaalath Party alleged that people participating in yesterday’s MDP protest yelled obscenities at its members during a membership drive being held at Ghiyasuddeen School in Male’.
The party also claimed MDP protesters ripped up the party’s banners at the school that were temporarily put up as part of the membership drive.
Responding to the allegations, MP Ghafoor claimed that while the MDP did not encourage such behaviour towards government-aligned parties, he said he would not be surprised if some supporters had ripped up banners during the protest.
“These allegations are beyond belief. [The Adhaalath Party] has blatantly been involved in a coup against a democratically elected government. There is no love lost between our parties and we do not believe they are even a religious party,” he claimed. “All we see from them is xenophobia and nothing else.”
Ghafoor contended that protesters tearing down a few posters should be seen as a very minor issue compared to wider issues taking place in the country.
“Ripping up a banner is nothing. People do not respect [the Adhaalath Party]. When our supporters walk past police headquarters and yell out ‘baagee’ (traitor) at them, the Adhaalath Party are no different as far as we are concerned,” he said.
Ghafoor added that after the MDP planned to hold demonstrations every Friday to try and ensure maximum turnout from its supporters in the capital.