The Maldvian Democratic Party (MDP) said it remains committed to ceasing street demonstrations in order to facilitate talks with government-aligned parties, playing down fears that protests by a number of “individuals” against the vice-president on Thursday could derail negotiations.
MDP spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed today that the party had not been behind demonstrations held Thursday (August 9) on the island of Hulhumale’ during a visit by Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen. Ghafoor added that there had been no official communication from the government so far following these demonstrations with regard to stopping talks between the country’s political leaders.
Since the controversial transfer of power that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan into office on February 7, former President Mohamed Nasheed has alleged he was removed from office in a “coup d’etat”. The allegations have lead to months of political uncertainty across the nation, resulting last month in the indefinite suspension of parliament.
Less then 24 hours after welcoming the MDP’s decision to suspend ongoing street protests against the government to “facilitate meaningful political dialogue” with the coalition government, the President’s Office yesterday told local media it might reconsider participation in talks following demonstrations held Thursday (August 9) in Hulhumale’.
President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was quoted by the Sun Online news service as saying that the government’s decision to participate in fresh talks had “to be reconsidered”, alleging the MDP had been directly involved in the protests that reportedly saw offensive language used against the vice president.
Both Abbas and President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad were not responding at time of press.
Thursday’s demonstrations were directly targeted at a visit by Vice President Deen, who was in Hulhumale’ to attend the opening ceremony of the State Trading Organisation (STO)’s new futsal field.
Police spokesman Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that eight people had been arrested in relation to the incident, with seven having been released at the time of press. Haneef said that the suspect’s had been arrested over charges including blocking the vice-president’s car, and “disobeying and disturbing” police as they performed their legal duties.
However, MDP MP Ghafoor claimed that the party had not been involved in organising demonstrations against the vice president, contending that the reaction of Abbas in local media had been a “knee-jerk response to a minor incident”.
“I have read comments about this in the media, but we have not heard anything official from the government on [stopping talks],” he said. “It appears that a sporadic incident has been used as an excuse by some to criticise us because of a couple of angry activists. We have stopped our street demonstrations as we promised, but individuals will still get upset in the current political environment.”
Ghafoor added that he believed it was unlikely that the actions of independent demonstrators would set back wider-efforts to attempt to find a resolution the present impasse between the MDP and government-aligned parties.
“This is not a culture we have had before 2008, but people are now free to come out and speak their mind about concerns they have,” he said. “This just appears to be people being over-sensitive regarding minor incidents.”
The unity government’s insistence on an end to the MDP’s continued demonstrations before discussions could resume had been outlined in the agenda of the all-party roadmap talks. Of a six point agenda agreed upon by participants, public order and stability were one of the first points to be addressed.
However, during the most recent round of all-party talks in June, the list of demands presented to the MDP by government-aligned groups were claimed to be lacking in seriousness. The 30-point list presented to the opposition party included demands to desist from using “black magic” and “erotic tools” as well as walking in groups of more than ten.
Since that time, the MDP has continued regular demonstrations, particularly in the capital Male’, where consecutive nights of protests in July resulted in violent clashes between protesters, security forces and journalists.
The immediate aim of inter-party discussions, however, would be to agree upon an arrangement which might allow the reopening of the People’s Majlis, which was suspended last month after angry confrontations between opposing MPs and the Speaker of the House.
The Speaker Abdulla Shahid invoked his authority to suspend sessions indefinitely if he felt dialogue between party leaders was necessary to restore calm to proceedings. Government-aligned parties have been critical of the role they allege MDP MPs played in stymieing the work of the People’s Majlis.