Opposition councillors denounce ‘intimidation’ by government

The home ministry is attempting to intimidate island councillors by requesting a list of councillors present in Malé during a mass anti-government protest on May Day, the opposition has said.

Home minister and head of the local government authority, Umar Naseer, last week also asked the anti corruption watchdog to penalise any councillors who may have traveled on state funds to the capital this weekend.

Councillors are required to inform the LGA or the island council before traveling out of their islands.

Nearly 200 people were arrested and scores were injured in violent clashes at the largest anti-government protest in a decade.

Meanwhile, several opposition dominated councils have passed resolutions to boycott the home ministry’s celebrations for the golden jubilee of independence this year. The ministry has threatened to dissolve such councils.

Speaking to the press outside the LGA today, council member for northern Haa Dhaal Neykurendhoo island Mohamed Ibrahim said: “We were elected by the people, we do what they want, nobody voted for Umar Naseer.”

The opposition is protesting over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. Despite a crackdown on and the dispersal of the May Day protest, the allied opposition parties say they will continue with daily protests.

Deputy chairperson of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, Ali Niyaz, said 300 of the party’s 450 councillors had taken part in the mass protest. There are over a 1,000 councillors for 188 islands and two cities in the Maldives.

“Most of the councillors travelled to the capital using their own funds while others passed resolutions and travelled using state funds,” Niyaz said.

President of Baa Atoll council, Adil Mohamed, has accused the government of attempting to destroy decentralisation in the country by its threat to dissolve councils.

“They could take any action against councillors, but that will fail to hide the suffering of the people,” he said. The MDP councillor also criticised the government’s decision to discontinue electricity subsidies to businesses in the islands saying many businesses were now heading into bankruptcy.

Condemning the home ministry order on the Alif Dhaal atoll council to withdraw a resolution to boycott independence day celebrations, one councillor said: “The country lacks its freedom now and it will be better to work to restore freedom rather than celebrate it.”

Hussein Shaamil, council member of Meemu Kolhufushi, said that councillors were elected for public service, and said he would participate in whatever political activity necessary, whenever required.

Shaamil also called upon the Alif Dhaal council to defend its motion and pledged to support the atoll council.