With additional reporting by Ismail Humam Hamid and Mohamed Saif Fathih
Hundreds of young men marched in support of President Abdulla Yameen in Malé today.
The approximately 400-strong march consisted mostly of young men wearing pink headbands and carrying placards praising President Yameen and ridiculing opposition leaders Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party (JP).
Supporters carried placards alleging Gasim and Nasheed had “gone mad with the desire for power,” that Gasim “had destroyed the economy” during his tenure as finance minister, and that Nasheed had called on youth to “remain intoxicated” during his three year presidential term.
Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) Deputy Leader and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb organised the rally after nightly opposition protests in which the MDP and JP alleged the ruling party had repeatedly breached the constitution.
Adeeb, PPM Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ahmed Nihan, MPs Yamin Rasheed, Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed, Abdulla ‘Bochey’ Rifau and Ahmed Ameeth led the walk from Artificial Beach through Malé’s main thoroughfare, Majeedhee Magu.
The walk comes ahead of two major events due to take place tonight, a PPM rally at Alimas Carnival and an opposition walk starting from Usfasgandu in Malé at 8:30 pm.
“President for youth”
Speaking to Minivan News, Youth Ministry Coordinator Ali Shahid ‘Steps Ayya’ said he had always supported President Yameen both during his parliamentary career and as president.
“The Maldivian youth are with President Yameen. He has always shown the way for the youth. The youth do not want to go to jail. They want hope and stability,” he said.
Ihusaan Hussein, 27, said Yameen’s government is a government for the youth, and he had come to the march to stand against the opposition’s attempts to create political unrest. He called on the opposition to “come to the table and talk.”
One of the few women at the rally, Madheeha, 29, said President Yameen offers development and progress for all youth.
MP Nihan said the opposition were fooling the Maldives’ youth, pointing to Nasheed’s alliance with Gasim, the same man he had called a traitor for playing a key role in his ouster in February 2012.
Yameen had promised to focus on the youth during his campaign, pledging to build a youth city with state-of-the-art sports facilities in Hulhumalé. On assuming office, Yameen erased over 2,000 criminal records of young people to allegedly facilitate employment for youth hindered by police records.
Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Services this morning arrested two men aboard a pickup allegedly advertising the opposition rally tonight. They were Ahmed ‘Eagle’ Shareef and Abdulla ‘Tintin’ Rasheed. The police also confiscated the pickup and its speaker system.
The allied opposition parties subsequently held a press conference at JP headquarters, Maafanu Kunooz, where MDP MP Ahmed Falah accused the government of obstructing the right to free speech and assembly.
However, a police spokesperson told Minivan News the two men had been calling for protestors to gather near the High Court, an area in which protests are prohibited.
JP Council Member Ali Hameed said the opposition was not seeking a confrontation with the government.
“The JP and MDP represent 75 percent of the Maldivian population. If the government is thinking of going into a confrontation, please think again. We do not seek a confrontation,” he said.
MDP Malé City Councillor Shamau Shareef claimed the government was using gangs to intimidate political opponents while Falah accused Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports Naif Shaukath of assaulting a JP supporter.
Minivan News was unable to reach Shaukath at the time of press, while Youth Ministry’s Coordinator Ali Shahid said the opposition was linking the government to gangsters “because they cannot stomach the work President Yameen is doing for the youth and the development of the Maldives.”
Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Services held a press conference at noon urging all parties to exercise the freedom to assemble within the bounds of the Freedom of Assembly Act, and warned police would not hesitate to “take appropriate measures to ensure public peace, safety and harmony.”
Two men were arrested from opposition protests at the junction of Chaandhanee and Fareedhee Magu last night.
Related to this story