Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih and Ismail Humaam Hamid
The opposition coalition will hold a third consecutive night of protest in the capital Malé tonight (February 14).
After hundreds gathered on the corner of Fareedhee Magu on Thursday and Friday nights, protesters and speakers called for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation.
Criticism of the recent arrest of defence minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim by speakers at this weekend’s protests was joined by further support for the minister from the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.
Despite a strong police presence on both nights, there was little unrest and no arrests, with police spokesmen describing the demonstrations as peaceful.
After previous support from party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla following Nazim’s arrest on charges of plotting a coup last week, Imran yesterday suggested no one was safe from arbitrary arrest.
“It is very likely that in the near future many others like Nazim will be thrown into jail cells like him,” read a tweet from Imran yesterday, followed by the ‘justicefornazim’ hashtag.
While the party is not officially part of the ruling Progressive Coalition, the Islamic ministry is headed by party member Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, and has so far rejected overtures to join the opposition’s campaign to ‘defend the constitution’.
“By saying that Adhaalath Party supports the current government, we do not mean that we agree with all their actions,” read another tweet from the party president earlier this week.
Adhaalath spokesman Ali Zahir – who recently joined Nazim’s legal team – was not responding to calls at the time of publication.
Speaking at Thursday night’s rally, MDP Chairman Ali Waheed suggested that the government was removing all internal opponents, one minister at a time.
“The day before yesterday the defense minister was hailed and deemed trustworthy. Now he is in a jail cell accused of crimes of a magnitude never seen before in Maldives,” said Waheed.
Nazim’s lawyers have suggested that weapons police claim to have found in his home on January 18 were planted. Police last week claimed to have found evidence the minister “was plotting to physically harm senior Maldivian state officials” on a pen-drive obtained during the search.
Waheed suggested on Thursday evening that dismissals from within the police were imminent, while JP leader Gasim told crowds that further splits within the ruling party would soon result in the defection of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs to the opposition.
During yesterday’s protest, MDP MP Rozaina Adam reportedly described the country as having “Stockholm syndrome”, referring to what she described as society’s apathy in the face of government oppression.
Maamigili MP Gasim also blamed the president for the current difficulties being faced by educational institutions involved in land disputes with the government, which has prompted fears that courses will be disrupted.
“We do not have to ask anybody to resign,” Gasim told the crowds. “According to the CoNI report this govt does not have legitimacy. I call on relevant institutions to assume the responsibilities of presidency accordingly”.
Opposition leaders have suggested the withdrawal of Gasim’s JP from the governing coalition mirrors the circumstances described in the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report into the controversial resignation of MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed from the presidency in 2012.
The report suggested that Nasheed’s government had lost legitimacy after coalition partners pulled out in the early stages of his administration.
Gasim himself was one of those who left the governing coalition in 2012, subsequently spearheading anti-government protests before rising tension led to a resignation Nasheed maintains was given under duress.
The CoNI report also pointed out that the MDP never enjoyed a clear majority in the 17th Majlis, a problem not currently shared by the Progressive Coalition, which has 49 seats in the house – with 11 members having switched to the PPM since last year’s polls.
Nasheed has argued that a succession of failed coalitions suggests the country should adopt a parliamentary system – previously rejected in a 2007 referendum.
While PPM spokesmen were not responding to calls at the time of publication, the President’s Office said it had no comments to make on the rise in street activity.
Related to this story