A strong police presence is building around parts of Male’ as opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters gather at the Usfasgandu protest area and the nearby Dharubaaruge conference centre for a meeting of its national congress this afternoon.
Tension has risen over the last 24 hours in the build up to the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report investigating the controversial transfer of power on February 7. The events brought President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to power.
The findings, unveiled by President Waheed this morning, stated that the change of government was “legal and constitutional”, and the events of February 6 and 7 “were, in large measure, reactions to the actions of President Nasheed.”
The report has been “welcomed” by the Commonwealth, which has called for continued dialogue to find “consensus” on a way forward for the country’s political parties.
However, the MDP has maintained that the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed was removed from office illegitimately.
MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy today claimed that the people would forever remember that what happened on February 7 was “a coup” and that the party will not stop their calls for a legitimate government.
“Remember this, the Maldivian people will as long as they live will remember that what happened on February 7 was a coup d’etat. What the CNI did was legitimise the coup, but truth will prevail. We will remain determined in our calls for a legitimate government,” Fahmy said.
Former Minister of Environment Mohamed Aslam claimed that the actions of the CNI implied that anyone “who wished to become president or to come to power” can now become so “if they gather the support of the police and military”
“What we saw was a coup d’etat. If we let such an offence go by without justice, this is a very bad precedent we are setting here, and MDP will not let that happen. I ask all our members, among the islands to come to Male’ and join us in our cause,” he added.
Government-aligned politicians such as Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali have said that while not everyone will agree on the CNI findings, “finality” was now needed on the issue of the transfer of power in order to begin addressing wider political concerns in the country.
Meanwhile, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has issued a statement stating that the findings were a comfort to the institution’s officers and families.
The decision that the transfer of government went according to the constitution by an independent commission was seen as proving accusations against the MNDF were wrong, the military contended. The statement added the the findings brought courage and confidence to maintain its “important national service”.
Minivan News this morning observed police Special Operations (SO) officers stationed at the two ends of Ameenee Magu in front of Dharubaaruge. The gatherings have so far in general remained peaceful, with police not attempting to disperse the crowds.
Police today expressed concern that the MDP was deciding to take to the streets and announced that 21 persons had been arrested in the last 24 hours.
LIVE UPDATES – refresh this page:
16:52 – Local newspaper Haveeru has reported that the Maldives Police Service (MDP) has sent a summons to Former Defense Advisor Ameen Faisal.
17:00 – Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef has confirmed that a chit was sent to Ameen Faisal. According to Haneef, Faisal has been asked to present himself to the police headquarters at 9pm tommorow (August 31).
Haneef did specify on what grounds Faisal was being summoned.
17:04 – “People are losing their tempers and leaving the Dharubaaruge conference centre in droves,” reports Minivan News’ Daniel Bosley.
“If we are just going to talk, we should go home,” a male participant at the national congress is observed shouting.
17:14 – The Maldives Police Service website has claimed two suspects had been taken into custody at 16:30 this afternoon after reportedly being found attempting to set fire to a waste disposal site (Kunigondu). Items have been seized from the suspects. There was no confirmation if their alleged actions were politically motivated.
17:19 – The MDP national congress had ended without resolution. Former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam asked attendees inside shortly before the meeting’s end if they would prefer to go out into streets or continue the meeting, Minivan News observed.
17:24 – Former President Mohamed Nasheed has not been observed at the congress today. MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has said ahead of a proposed march later today: “Nasheed is always seen as a cult leader. This is a good opportunity to test the party’s strength without just following him.”
17:29 – Minivan News has observed between 200 to 300 MDP supporters setting out to reach Chaandhanee Magu junction. However their progress has been blocked by a truck carrying police officers. The supporters are now believed to be heading towards the parliament.
17:35 – Local newspaper Haveeru has reported that group of MDP protesters have been split into different groups after being blocked by police.
17:42 – Local media has said that protesters have now reached the Chaandhanee Magu junction.
17:59 – Local media has reported Police and MNDF officers are now chasing protesters at Chandhanee Magu. According to Haveeru, eight people have been arrested – six male, two female.
18:09 – Sun Online has reported police have confirmed the arrest of 10 people during ongoing protests. The demonstrators are said to have been charged for obstructing police in their duties.
18:24 – Speaking to Minivan News today, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali , Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has said he believes talks scheduled to take place at the Bandos Island Resort and Spa this evening are still happening.
“To the best of my knowledge the talks are still taking place. I plan to take part myself,” he said.
Following the findings of the CNI report this morning, Thasmeen contended that the focus of the talks, which had previously outlined an agenda including discussions on potentially scheduling early elections for this year “should now change”.
“There had previously been serious contention over the transfer of power. At this point we had been willing to discuss early elections. I think these questions have now been answered [with the CNI report]. It is now time for national reconciliation,” he said.
Thasmeen added that he believed the talks would no longer focus on agreeing a date for early elections, which President Waheed has previously said under the constitution can be scheduled for July 2013.
“I think it should be possible to move on and try finding common platforms for agreement,” he said.
Thasmeen pointed to issues of alleged politicisation within the police as a concern that could be discussed.
“During the previous government I had made allegations about [former President] Nasheed’s attempts to use the police force as a political tool,” he said. “If Nasheed is also making similar accusations now, then we can look at this issue before the next elections.”
18:33 – MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has said that party Chairperson Reeko Moosa is expected to be in attendance at the talks scheduled for Bandos Island Resort and Spa.
“He won’t have much to say as the MDP has decided to not accept the report released by CoNI,” Ghafoor contended.
The President’s Office had specifically invited the MDP chair, the party has claimed.
Ghafoor also questioned whether “constructive discussion” will be possible during the talks.
18:59 – The Maldives Police Service website has said that a group of people accused of creating unrest at today’s protests have been arrested in an raid at the Usfasgandu area.
19:08 – Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef, when asked for clarification on the activities of protesters charged with obstructing police duty today, has referred Minivan News to the live updates section of the Maldives Police Service website (English) (Dhivehi).
“It will be quite clear from there,” Haneef responded.
20:04 – According to official police figures, 50 people have been arrested this afternoon. All were arrested on the charge of obstructing officers in performing their duty. Of those arrested, seven are said to be females, with one suspect identified as a minor.
Police have also confirmed that a man was stabbed in Addu City at 17:00 this evening. He is currently being treated at Hithadhoo Regional Hospital – no political motivation was mentioned by authorities.
20:15 – Minister of State for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz has told Minivan News that fears of potential unrest occurring in the country’s prisons following the release of the CNI report has not been realised.
Fayaz, who also serves as Head of the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service (DPRS), alleged in local media earlier this week that communications between political figures and inmates had been facilitated through mobile phones smuggled into prisons to try and create unrest.
“Military fire capacity and police backup will be available on that day,” he was quoted as telling Sun Online at the time in the case of any incidents.
20:47 – Organisations including the Commonwealth, US, India, UN call for the CNI’s report outcome to be respected in light of its publication today, Minivan News has reported.
21:15 – The European Union has announced it has taken note of the release of the CNI report and the events surrounding the controversial transfer of power on February 7.
“[The EU] recalls that all political groupings had previously undertaken to respect the CNI’s findings, although the report would certainly have been controversial whatever the outcome,” said Michael Mann, Chief Spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
“It is now more than ever essential that genuine efforts be made by all political actors to work together in the interests of the country to ensure that the democratic system is upheld; to allow the normal business of government to continue; and to prepare for free and fair elections, which should be held as soon as possible.”
22:00 – Haveeru has reported that the government has called for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to remove the Maldives from it agenda.
The Maldives was placed on CMAG’s agenda back in February after the Commonwealth called called for a “formal” independent and impartial investigation, with the involvement of international partners, to ascertain the details behind the controversial transfer of power earlier in the month.
The decision meant the Maldives would no longer be able to participate in CMAG while it remained on the Commonwealth’s watch list.
However, with the publication of the CNI’s report today, State Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told local media that the government now called to be removed from the CMAG agenda immediately as a result of the findings.
“We believe that it was set on the agenda in an inappropriate manner. Several accusations and lies were directed towards the Maldives. The Maldives was included in the CMAG’s agenda through the influence of personal connections of certain individuals,” she was quoted as saying in Haveeru.
The report quoted Dunyaas saying that the CNI’s findings had backed the government’s claims that it had been brought to power under constitutional means.
“So now we know that this is a constitutional government. We don’t have to face any more accusations. It has all been cleared,” she said.
22:15 – Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef has said police are advising people not to walk the streets in groups of more than three people.
Haneef added that groups larger than three would face being stopped and questioned by officers as part of an ongoing special operation police have said was introduced to reduce the chances of violent unrest in the country around the CNI report release.
“We have continued to advise people not to go out and commit unlawful acts,” he said.
00:39 – Police claim 13 people have been taken into custody for creating unrest. A minor is said to be among the suspects.