The opposition has asked supporters to prepare for a prolonged sit-in on Malé’s thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu tomorrow (June 12), and have notified the police that the protest may last for three days.
“We will continue to protest as long as we can peacefully continue,” said Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, MP of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
The Maldivians Against Tyranny coalition – which consists of the MDP, the Adhaalath Party, members of the Jumhooree Party (JP) and family members of jailed politicians – is protesting over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, and the targeting of opposition businesses.
Supporters have been told to wear comfortable clothes and gather at the opposition’s campaign office near at the Artificial Beach area at 8:30pm.
Organizers stressed that the sit-in will be peaceful, but declined to reveal further details of plans for the protest.
The sit-in is the third mass protest called by the opposition. Some 10,000 protesters marched on February 27, while some 20,000 protested on May Day.
President Abdulla Yameen is in China, and due back on June 16.
MDP has set a hash tag for the sit-in, #BaaraHayeh15, reflecting the date of the protest. Supporters are also using #OccupyMajeedheeMagu and have set up a blog with news of the event.
Mohamed Shifaz, the MDP vice-president, said some 5,000 supporters from the Maldives’ remote atolls will converge on Malé for the protest. Some 2,000 have already arrived, he said.
“The largest groups are coming from the southern Addu atolls, central Laamu and Alif Atolls and northern Noonu and Haa Alif atolls,” Shifaz said.
He also assured supporters that the leadership will remain with protesters throughout the protest.
Key opposition figures are in prison or abroad. The JP’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed left the Maldives shortly before the Prosecutor General’s office pressed terrorism charges on a claim of inciting violence at the May Day protest.
Sobah has since said he is seeking political asylum abroad.
Adhaalath President Sheikh Imran Abdulla is in police custody, awaiting the conclusion of a terrorism trial, also on charges of inciting violence.
The MDP chairperson Ali Waheed, who was arrested on May 1 along with Imran and Ameen, is abroad in an unspecified country for medical treatment.
MP Ibu has denounced what he called the government’s attempts to disrupt the protest.
The biannual street market in Malé was due to end on June 8, but extended until June 13. The organizers said the extension was necessary due to heavy rain last week.
Ibu also said the government had pushed back a sermon by Islamic Scholar Mufti Menk from June 11 to the night of June 12. The coalition had chosen June 12 because the government had initially set the sermon for Thursday, he said.
The Elections Commission has meanwhile fined the MDP and the Adhaalath Party for “unlawful acts” during the May Day demonstration. The MDP is fined with MVR 53,000 (US$ 3,437) and the Adhaalath Party was handed a fine of MVR 69,000 (US$4,475).
The demonstration is taking place in a more conciliatory political environment than May 1.
President Abdulla Yameen called for separate talks with the allied opposition parties. He has, however, ruled out negotiations on Nasheed and Nazim’s release.
A police spokesperson said officers will cooperate with the protesters if the sit-in remains peaceful. While the opposition has criticized the police for requiring a notice before the protest, the police official said the notice did not amount to seeking permission, but only to allow police to make arrangements for public safety.
The police, however, have also announced that the military has guaranteed support for the June 12 protest.
JP representatives met with cabinet ministers yesterday, and asked the government to facilitate joint talks between all parties, freeing opposition politicians in jail or facing criminal prosecution, ensuring judicial independence and protecting investors.
JP leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim has been in Bangkok since late April. According to local media, the criminal court has issued an arrest warrant for Gasim on charges of financing the May Day protest.
Nearly 200 people were arrested on May Day.
Opposition MPs, meanwhile, are no longer protesting in the People’s Majlis.