Police and military are “ransacking Addu City”, former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed in a meeting with press today, in retaliation for the destruction of police and court buildings on the islands on Wednesday night.
Addu is a stronghold of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and is the second most populated area in the Maldives, after Male’. Together, both cities make up 50 percent of the country’s population, and councilors at both were unanimously voted in on MDP tickets in last year’s local council elections.
Today, Nasheed claimed members of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) are “dragging people out from their homes and asking them if they are MDP or PPM. If they say MDP, they are spraying them with pepper, beating them and arresting them.”
Nasheed claimed that individuals in Addu have been stripped and handcuffed. Other sources in Addu claimed said that those arrested were being on Coast Guard vessels following the destruction of police and court buildings in the wake of the police crackdown on Wednesday afternoon. Fishermen reportedly claimed to have heard the sound of weeping coming from the moored vessels.
Minivan News was contacted by a man, identifying himself as an MDP supporter, who claimed to have been “arrested and beaten” yesterday on Hithadhoo in Addu City, at 1:30pm. He said he was released on Thursday night at 7:30pm.
He believes he was targeted because the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) in Addu sent a list of people who had participated in protests to the police.
He was taken from his house with his family: “They threw my sister like a dog, and said all kinds of very bad words to my parents.”
He said he was dragged from his house and trodden on by the military, then cuffed and thrown into their pickup “like a dog.”
He was taken to Gan with 33 others where the station had been burned.
“They poured petrol around us and said: “We will burn you, we can do anything because no one knows where are you are and no one will come to save you.”
The military and police members allegedly removed some peoples’ clothes, sprayed them with pepper spray, and made them all “dance like dolls. They were doing it for their own entertainment, smiling and laughing.”
He was released at 7:30pm last night. “They said ‘Tell no one I’ve seen this kind of thing or you will never see your family again.'”
He reported that the military and police were still searching for people on Friday evening. Mayor Abdul Sodig was said to be in hiding.
Military and police officials are going around with members of the opposition, the MDP supporter claimed. He also said those who attacked him had told his family at his house: “Now this is our government. We can do anything we want.”
Similar events were occurring in Thinadhoo and Fuvahmulah, also in the country’s south, former President Nasheed said: “We are losing a country as we speak.”
Minivan News was today informed that Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail, former member of the Special Majlis and the committee responsible for drafting the new Constitution, had flown to Addu with several lawyers to assess the situation in the remote island. The team was reportedly attacked, beaten and had their phones taken.
Several media outlets, including some foreign outlets, were scheduled to fly to Addu this evening with MDP representatives, but the trip was called off after organisers claimed that the violence had spread and they were unable to guarantee reporters’ safety at night.
Police Spokesman Ahmed Shiyam said any arrests made by police would be conducted legally. Approximately 70 people were being questioned, he said, and noted that court warrants had been issued for the arrest of several others. He said he had no knowledge of people being held on boats.
Meanwhile new Commissioner of Police Abdhulla Riyaz has in a statement requested that the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and Human Rights Commission of the Maldives closely monitor the treatment of all those who are brought into police custody related to the investigation of disturbances on the evening of February 8, which he said had “caused severe damage and harm to government and public property and as well as police personnel.”
“During these disturbances that occured in Male as well as other regions of the Maldives, several police stations and the police traning school in Addu was torched and severely damaged,” the statement read.
“The Commissioner of Police has instructed all police officials who are involved in this investigation to protect the rights of the detainees including the right to an attorney, right to food and other entitled human rights. The police commssioner also assured that all individuals who will be arrested with regard to the above disturbances will only be arrested in accordance with the constitution, rules and regulations of Maldives.”
During his meeting today, former President Nasheed said “I believe that what the people of this country want is clear from what is happening on the streets. We can bring the government to our terms by demonstrating on the streets, but I fear it is not the best course of action.”
He noted that the opposition “was only able to gather 300 to 400 people” each night during three weeks of protests against the detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.
On Thursday morning the Criminal Court issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest, however police had not complied with it by Friday evening.
Nasheed said that his party was not depending on the international community to bring fresh elections to the Maldives, and was relying on the Maldivian people to make their feelings felt: “In the absence of international support, we will have to go back to the streets and demonstrate”, Nasheed said. “We cannot join this government as we believe it is illegal.”
A Vice President, Nasheed contended, was expected to carry out the policies of the government were he to replace the sitting President: “He is not supposed to find a new cabinet or new policies.”
Nasheed also commented that he had been “aware for some time” that Dr Waheed had met with opposition leaders in his home, and in the last month “it was obvious” that he had leanings towards the opposition. He added that Dr Waheed’s party “hasn’t a single seat” in Parliament, and said he could “not see how would get a cabinet approved. How can he have control? He would have to rely on his masters.”
A foreign journalist asked Nasheed as to the identity of those “masters”. Nasheed speculated that Gayoom’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim were involved “because I have seen them at it. I am very sure it is the old order.”
Nasheed had met with the Indian High Commissioner Dynaneshwar Mulay prior to the press conference. A journalist asked if he “felt India has let you down”.
“I’m sure India with its ideals and policies will find the most amicable set of policies in the Maldives,” Nasheed responded.
Addressing the matter of international influence in the Indian Ocean, Nasheed said his government had always been clear on its friendship with the neighboring country, however the “present government has not been clear on its stance with regards to India and China”, adding that “there’s always room for maneuvering.”
“My policy on international relations is very simple – find a friend and be good to that friend,” he said.
The United States today recognised the government of Dr Waheed, and expressed hope that the Maldives would resolve the current issue internally, according to media reports.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Washington “recognised the new government of President Mohammed Waheed Hassan as legitimate”, but clarified that it was collecting more information.
US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake is due to arrive in the Maldives tomorrow. High-level delegations from the UN and Commonwealth are currently active in the Maldives and meeting all parties.