The allied opposition parties have branded the mass protest of February 27 a success, claiming the demonstration was “the most well-attended peaceful political activity in Maldivian history.”
Estimating a turnout between 20,000 and 25,000, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Ali Waheed said the party had decided to end the demonstration at 6pm against many of its supporters’ wishes in order to honour an agreement signed with the Jumhooree Party (JP).
“The rally was organised jointly by the MDP and JP. Our joint commission had agreed to end by 6pm. We wanted to show MDP is a party that honours agreements and is a trusted ally,” Waheed told the press this afternoon.
In a recorded message before the rally began, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim announced the rally would end at 6pm and asked protesters to avoid any confrontations. Gasim is currently in Colombo, meeting with diplomatic missions.
Following the rally’s unexpected end, hundreds continued scattered protests in Malé calling for former President Mohamed Nasheed’s freedom. The opposition leader is in police custody until the end of a surprise terrorism trial.
According to the police, 28 were arrested from protests last night. Ten, including JP member and former Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi remain in custody.
Apologising for the leadership’s failure to communicate plans ahead of time, MDP Parliamentary Group leader, Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, said plans had been evolving throughout the week and were only finalised at 12am on Friday.
Ending the rally at 6pm “was not part of the initial plan,” he said. In the lead up to the February 27 rally, many opposition leaders had pledged to topple the government.
Waheed said MDP would not ignore its members’ wishes, but Nasheed had instructed the leadership to follow the JP’s lead in conducting the rally.
Reminding supporters that Nasheed had resigned on February 7 “to prevent bloodshed,” Waheed said the party would never resort to violence.
“Remember, President Nasheed is under police custody. We had received reports there were threats to his life. Considering the events of his arrest and subsequent trial, MDP will not take rumours lightly. And we had to take that into consideration when we made our decision, regardless of whether that decision may be popular or unpopular,” he explained.
Speaking alongside Waheed and Ibu, JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim said the opposition would scale up activities if the government failed to respond to their 13 demands.
The demands included calls for immediate release of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, repealing amendments to the Auditor General’s Act that saw the removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, empowering local councils, and investigating serious corruption allegations against senior government officials.
“If we do not see the results we want, we will once again restart and scale up our activities. I do not think we will have to wait long,” Ameen said.
He also welcomed former ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP for Nolhivaram constituency Hussain Areef to the opposition and said many more MPs had communicated their desire to join the opposition, but were scared due to intimidation.
“The most secure platform is that of the people. And we, MDP and JP, now hold that platform. The citizens will protect you.”
The numbers had captured the international community’s attention, Ameen continued, claiming new international organisations and foreign countries were reaching out to the members of the MDP, JP delegation who remain in Colombo.
The JP and MDP parliamentarians would decide a timeframe for government response, and how to proceed at a joint parliamentary group meeting tomorrow, Ibu said.
“We are united, we are working together. Our work is still ahead of us, we will achieve results,” he said.
Home Minister Umar Naseer in a tweet last night said the government had seen and heard the protesters. The former JP member said the government is responsive and responsible.
Speaking to Minivan News last night, PPM parliamentary group leader MP Ahmed Nihan said the opposition had done a “commendable job” in making their voices heard.
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