The government should initiate dialogue with the opposition or face the consequences, leaders of the “Maldivians against brutality” opposition alliance have warned.
The alliance – which was formed after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) accepted an invitation from religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) to form a united front against the government – officially launched activities last night with a 1,000-strong protest march in the capital Malé.
“It is the government that has to come to the discussion table now. When we previously showed a good example, the government did not accept it,” said MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed.
President Abdulla Yameen had previously denied requests by the MDP and Jumhooree Party (JP) alliance to hold discussions over 13 demands issued at a mass rally on February 27.
Last night’s march began near the artificial beach and ended shortly before midnight with protesters gathered at the Chandhanee Magu-Majeedhee Magu junction.
“If [President Yameen] does not come to the [negotation] table, I would say he won’t have any other choice but to go home,” said JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim.
The JP has not officially joined the new alliance, but its senior leaders are represented at the alliance’s steering committee and took part in last night’s protest march.
Ameen contended that the Maldives’ reputation has been tarnished and credibility lost after President Yameen gathered all powers of the state to himself.
Moreover, the public has lost confidence in both the judiciary and the security services following the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and the ongoing trial of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of weapons possession.
AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla meanwhile insisted that Nazim was framed by “high ranking officials by the government.”
“Even though it could not be proven at court, we told Yameen that we have enough evidence to prove that Nazim was being framed and that the president knew about this. However, he denied any knowledge of the case,” Imran said.
He further claimed that the pen drive found at Nazim’s house contained the names of 26 political opponents of President Yameen, whom the government was planning to prosecute and jail.
Former State Trading Organisation (STO) Managing Director Adam Azim – brother of the former defence minister – and former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof also took part in the protest march, with the latter acting as the flag bearer at the front.
Imran also declared that the opposition would no longer tolerate President Yameen’s “brutality,” Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb’s alleged rampant corruption, unfair prosecution of political rivals, and “destruction of public property”.
The opposition would endure and overcome the government’s “brutality,” he said, adding that the opposition alliance would “not step back once inch” before reaching its goal.