A well-known local football star has been sent to Sri Lanka for medical treatment after suffering serious injuries during a fifth night of protests in the Maldivian capital.
Media reported that Ahmed Assad ‘Adubarey’ was injured when he was caught and crushed between police riot shields.
Police had restricted protesters to the open area around the tsunami monument and the artificial beach area in the capital Male’ after complaints from business owners and residents around the Majeedhee Magu and Chandanee Magu intersection, a two-lane road the demonstrators have dubbed the Maldives’ “Tahrir Square.”
Protesters split up to try and reach the area, with 10 people including Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf arrested by police and released later in the evening.
Those that reached the intersection were immediately dispersed by police, with several injuries reported.
It is thought that 14 demonstrators arrested during the week’s protests currently remain in custody after the Criminal Court issued warrants extending their detention.
A pickup truck with loudspeakers used by the opposition was damaged and looted by a group of seven young men near the Heniveru police station, in front of 600 demonstrators.
‘’We are residents of this area and you have caused much disturbance to us,” one of the men said, facing down the protesters. “You cannot move even a step forward. If you have the guts, take one step forward and you will see what happens,’’ he said, as 600 people stood silent.
Police are trying to locate the driver of the pickup.
‘’We had a report that a pick-up used by the protesters was destroyed by a group of people and we are now investigating the case,’’ said Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam.”So far no one has been arrested in connection to the incident.’’
The opposition has maintained that the protests are ‘youth-led’ over concerns at the rising cost of living, despite the active leadership of MPs loyal to the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s faction of the opposition.
Certain activists said to belong to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are also said to have been involved in the protests, along with other political parties.
Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake has told a press conference in Colombo that the budget deficit was the Maldives’ most pressing issue, and the at the opposition was obliged to assist in resolving the matter.
“The government has laid out a series of steps with the advice of the International Monetary Fund,” Reuters reported Blake as saying. “If the opposition opposes those steps, then it’s incumbent on them to divulge what their own plan would be and then to engage in good-faith negotiations with the government.”
President Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, said in a statement that the country “should unite for the common good.”
“If the opposition Z-DRP faction does not like the government’s economic policies, we call on it to set out an alternative, credible economic plan to reduce the budget deficit.”
Tourism insiders also alleged yesterday that growing international coverage of the protests has negatively impacted tourist interest from certain travel markets at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
“Travel operators in Taiwan have said they are postponing and cancelling group bookings because of negative perceptions [of safety] in the Maldives,” a tourism source attending the expo told Minivan News yesterday.
“We just had another two confirmed bookings cancelled today because of reports of riots and instability. We worked hard to get these bookings and the potential domino effect is really worrying – people panic.”
In addition to these claims, the National Council of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) yesterday announced that it had approved a resolution to conduct “direct action to defend the government, the constitution of the Republic of the Maldives, the President of the Maldives and senior government officials” against an opposition-led protest planned for Friday afternoon.
The group claimed at the time that it was responding to threats by opposition figures to “torture and kill” the president and other ministers at Republic Square.