Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena this morning to discuss the ongoing political crisis in the Maldives.
JP Spokesperson Ali Solih told Minivan News that former Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, deputy leader of the JP parliamentary group, and JP Deputy Leader Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan also took part in the meeting at the President’s Office in Colombo.
The JP leaders briefed President Sirisena about the current political situation in the Maldives, he said.
— Hussain R. Hassan (@DrHussainHassan) February 28, 2015
Former Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem – a senior member of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – revealed in a tweet following the meeting that Sri Lanka “is sending a high level delegation to Malé to express deep concern on the arrest and harassment of political leaders.”
While the MDP-JP alliance launched nightly protests against alleged breaches of the constitution by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration in the wake of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s arrest on charges of possessing illegal weapons, tensions escalated further with the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday (February 22) on charges of terrorism.
Solih meanwhile revealed that the JP leaders are scheduled to meet a United Nations delegation today whilst further meetings with foreign diplomats could also take place.
A time or date for Gasim’s return to the Maldives is yet to be determined, he added.
Asked if the JP believed the government was planning to arrest the party’s leader upon his arrival, Solih said the party “would not be surprised” if Gasim was taken into custody.
“Our leaders have undertaken these efforts expecting that anything could happen at any time,” he said.
At the first hearing of Nazim’s trial last week, State Prosecutor Adam Arif said documents on a pen drive confiscated from the then-defence minister’s apartment showed he was planning individual and joint operations, financed by the Villa group, to cause bodily harm to “senior honourable state officials.”
However, speaking to journalists prior to departing to Colombo, Gasim dismissed allegations of a conspiracy between his Villa Group and Nazim as “a deliberate fabrication” intended to “frame” political opponents.
MDP-JP protest march
Gasim departed to Colombo with a joint MDP-JP delegation on Wednesday night (February 25) to meet diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka.
The delegation met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and European Union delegations and provided information on the state’s prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim.
While MDP MP Abdulla Shahid, International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor and Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab returned on Thursday night (February 26) ahead of the MDP-JP mass rally yesterday, Gasim stayed behind with the JP leaders, ostensibly to meet President Sirisena today.
In a recorded message from Gasim played out at yesterday’s 10,000-strong protest march in Malé, the JP leader called on the government to immediately release opposition leader Nasheed as well as retired colonel Nazim and withdraw terrorism charges against current Defence Minister Major General (Retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel and former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfan.
Gasim also issued several demands to the government, which were later reiterated during the protest march across the capital’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu.
In addition to withdrawing charges against “political prisoners,” the demands included 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.
Gasim said he could not participate in the rally due to important appointments the next day and insisted that toppling the government was not the purpose of the protest as alleged by the government.
While the JP had declared that the rally would end at 6:00pm, Gasim appealed to participants not to carry out any illegal activities or incite violence or unrest.
However, despite MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed announcing the end of the protest march shortly after 6:00pm, opposition supporters continued the protest in the absence of MDP and JP leaders near the Malé City Council Hall, and the Alikilegefaanu and Majeedjee Magu junction near President Abdulla Yameen’s house.
At least 31 protesters were arrested before riot police dispersed the crowd around 1:00am.
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