Parties launch protests as foreign media descends on Male’

Police this morning dispersed a rally of several hundred anti-government demonstrators who gathered at Republican Square near the headquarters of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), amid a somewhat carnival atmosphere that settled over other parts of the city on Friday.

Dismissed Deputy Leader of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Umar Naseer, and MPs Ali Arif and Ahmed Mahlouf were detained for an hour after allegedly shoving police.

After a run of demonstrations across Male’ this week in protest against the government’s decision to implement a managed float of the rufiya, effectively devaluing the currency, police on Wednesday announced that any protests not held in the open artificial beach or tsunami monument areas would be immediately dispersed.

The DRP, which insists the protests are ‘youth-led’ despite the apparent leadership of its MPs, has tried to replicate the ‘Arab Spring’ protests across the Middle East, painting President Nasheed as a despot to the international media and dubbing a busy Male’ intersection ‘Youth Square’.

The DRP announced that the protest would continue this evening at the artificial beach from 8:45pm.

Meanwhile, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held a counter-protest this afternoon, with several thousand people gathering near the tsunami monument carrying banners and waving yellow flags.

Speaking at the rally, President Mohamed Nasheed stated that the government’s currency decision was backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and challenged the opposition to defeat him in an election rather than attempting to topple the government illegitimately.

Nasheed claimed that the budget deficit had improved since the government took power, and that it had also introduced state pensions, health insurance and benefits for single parents and the disabled.

A concert stage and a number of upturned and smashed vehicles in the area, part of a police ‘Speed Kills’ campaign, provided a surreal backdrop to the pro-government demonstration.

An upturned car near the MDP rally, part of a police road accident campaign.

A number of foreign media outlets, including Al-Jazeera, have arrived in Male’ to cover the demonstrations after violent protests last week were widely publicised internationally.

Passing the DRP headquarters this afternoon and assumed to be foreign media, Minivan News was approached by an opposition supporter who compared the pro-government demonstrators to “pro-Mubarak supporters” who “beat us at night.”

Former Egyptian President of 30 years Hosni Mubarak was deposed by a democratic uprising in Egypt, leading to a tide of similar pro-democracy rallies across the Middle East.

Maldivian tourism representatives attending the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, the region’s largest such expo, claimed this week to be receiving cancellations because of safety fears amid the ongoing demonstrations.

“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.

“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.”

Economic problems

An ongoing dollar shortage, reluctance of banks to exchange local currency, and a flourishing blackmarket that reached Rf 14.2-14.8 to the dollar, culminated in mid-April with the government finally acknowledging that the rufiya was overvalued – after a short-lived attempt to crack down on ‘illegal’ exchanges.

High demand immediately led to most banks and companies dealing in dollar commodities – such as airline ticketing agents – to immediately raise their rate of exchange to the maximum permitted rate Rf15.42.

With the Maldives almost totally reliant on outside imports, including fuel and basic staples such as rice, the government’s decision has effectively led to a 20 percent increase in the cost of living for most ordinary Maldivians.

In an article for Minivan News, Director of Structured Finance at the Royal Bank of Scotland Ali Imraan observed that ‘growth’ in the domestic economy had been driven by the public sector and “paid for by printing Maldivian rufiya and clever manoeuvres with T-Bills, which the government has used since 2009 to be able conveniently sidestep the charge of printing money. In simple terms: successive governments printed/created money to drive domestic economic growth.”

With the introduction this year of a 3.5 percent tourism goods and services tax, a business profit tax and a revision of the rents paid for resort islands, the government now has a number of economic levers it can pull to increase revenue in the future.

However, it has struggled to explain that to people now paying up to 20 percent extra for basic commodities – an affront to the MDP’s pledge to reduce the cost of living – and was caught unawares by this week’s populist protests.

Both factions of the opposition have seized the political opportunity to take the focus off the party’s internal troubles, but have offered few alternatives beyond demanding the government “reduce commodity prices”.

Read more on the Maldivian economy


22 thoughts on “Parties launch protests as foreign media descends on Male’”

  1. The President needs to communicate better and avoid flip-flopping. If he is un-sure he should shut the F%^ck up! Having said that he still has the popular support. Nobody forced so many people to stand in the rain today.

    As for the opposition, a protest works when people truly are aggrieved enough to protest. Your lackeys can only get enough hired goons and mis-informed citizens for a while, until they get tired of it. So find another way to push your political agenda, like preparing for the 2013 elections. You have a good chance if you leave the old man behind and stop running around like crazies.

    Whenever DRP has done something to screw-up MDP it has always backfired.

    DRP campaigned for the Presidential System during the referendum and it was DRP parliament which put restrictions on protests. Both turned in favor for the ruling MDP. Goes to show fate never is kind to the unjust.

  2. Wow. Minivan has journalists that actually go out and about collecting news? Now that's a breaking news headline right there.

    Leaving that aside though, it's sad to see the President of the Republc on the street protesting, against the people one would have to assume. And when the president stands by and therefore condones (by his seeming assent) while the President-elect of MDP says he would speak to the Minister of Human Resources to find jobs for "MDP Zuvaanun" it just shows that our president really has his priorities wrong.

    Dear Mr. President,
    You were elected by the people, for the people. So when a former member of your cabinet and a high ranking politician states that jobs will be found (only) for MDP youth, it is your duty to stand up and say that the presidency will try and find employment for everyone, regardless of political affiliation. If you stand by and smile when something like this is being said, you are effectively losing your mandate as president of the nation.

    Dear Dr. Didi,
    You've been elected to represent your party, not just within it but to the rest of us as well. So don't alienate people by saying stuff like finding employment for MDP youth. Talk about the ways you are willing to work for the benefit of the nation as a whole, and whether you're willing to work with the opposition to foster a more nation building oriented political sphere.

    Dr Mr. Umar and Mr. Mahlouf,
    As the two most visible members of the opposition in regard to the demonstrations, please come up with a cohesive alternative proposal to the govt's economic policy. Don't just shout for the resignation of the president, show just cause beyond slogans.

    Last, but not least, Minivan.
    Sorry but I can't help it. You guys suck at reporting the news. I really can't imagine why you cannot compete with Haveeru or even Miadhu when it comes to reporting. Granted, your op-eds and investigative articles are good. But you've started repeating stuff so much that I wouldn't be surprised to see a mention of Imran's article on a news bit about say rape cases. Either get your act together, or find someone who can do it.


  3. agree with zayd. mdp leaders need to think a bit before they open their mouth. they have already said so much stupid stuff that if we had a capable opposition, they could have easily used it to destroy mdp. well, i guess even mdp's flaws keep reminding me of how pathetic drp still is...

  4. President Nasheed protesting on streets against him, what a joke.

  5. when i saw the headline I've decided to comment on it without going through its content. the fact what I beleive is that there wont be foreign media in a country you dont see in world weather map unless they feel that there is something worth reporting and the fact here is opposition could not have more than few hundreds mobilised on the streets by their week long effort but the ruling MDP have had perhaps the biggest crowd just in a 24hr notice.

  6. I will try to accept Umar as a polition soon as he justfies that did not have any role in the allegation against him for breaking the spine of young Mahir making him a lifetime disable person when Umar was allegedly a burutal ex cop while 30yr ruling dictator was in power and as of Mahloof he must must repay 40k dollars of public funds he has benefited by gayyoom from national welfare account just to apply some oil in singapore on possibly the smallest part of his body.

  7. Director of Structured Finance at the Royal Bank of Scotland Ali Imraan says the protesting is against Islam.

    There you go. Please stay at home and abstain from protests.

  8. On other news, Director of Structured Finance at the Royal Bank of Scotland Ali Imraan was found at a pub drinking beer.

    Anyway, back to topic. As predicted, the A-Z DRP led protests are collapsing. The 40 something youngsters protesting are perhaps getting tired.

    The Maldivian Spring has turned into a bit of Maldivian drizzle... As long as the government doesn't blink in the face of this blatant attempt to topple it, the rest of its term should be plain sailing.

    The failure of these "protests" will be a turning point and a bitter lesson for the likes of Umar Naseer and his followers. It's increasingly becoming obvious to everyone that these protests have very little to do with the economy.

  9. Zayd,

    The MDP protest was not against the people, but against the ex-dictator and his cronies.

    Like you I'm critical of the President where mistakes were made. However I recognize the stupidity of the demand to bring back the exchange rate to 12.85. You don't have to be an economist or rocket scientist to be smart enough to understand this is impossible. I always thought the MPs leading knew what was going on, until MP Riyaz Rasheed opened his mouth last night and proved to everyone what an idiot he is.

    Where is the Doomsday Prophet Adeeb? He was quick to criticize a devaluation without consulting him. What does he have to say about this demand to re-peg the Rufiya at 12.85? His silence on the issue now shows how disingenuous he is.

  10. DRP needs to gets it act togerther...2013 is fast approaching...Its time to form a Coalition of Willing to oust this yellow madman from power...Maumoon and Thasmeen need to behave like adults and talk this through...Maybe they should both agree to sacrifice Umar, hes just not worth all that fuss....Get Gasim, Munarwar, Hassan saeed, and try to get a fraction of Adhaalath on board as well...Give them ministries if you have to.....Beause if you lose 2013 general elections the chances are you would most probably lose the parliment to MDP as well...If that happens the citizens of this country will be back in squre one and we will have a dictatorship for another 500 years.

  11. Nars,

    DRP can't form a coalition of the willing because the have zero principles, but they do have the coalition of the unwilling.

    Thasmeen unwilling to stand for a primary. Zoo faction unwilling to accept him as their candidate.

  12. Dear Peasant...Come out and say it...What are you hiding? says you support no political party ....but your comments give you away just say belong to MDP and your madly in love with president Nasheed and his stupid policies...What this country desperately needs is a mature leader....I find it amazing when you claim MDP and president Nasheed to be a party of principles....what principles are you talking about? Presidnet is pathological liar..the party n high government positions are full of uneducated n inexperienced activists, druggies ? These ppl are eating the government and doing nothing in return.....You must be blind to all colors except yellow, or your deep seated and prolonged hatred for maumoon must be clouding your ability to think clearly ?...IF WE ABONDON THE OPPOSITION HOWEVER STPID THEY MAYBE WE RISK LOSING THE DEMOCRACY..A STRONG OPOSITION IS NEEDED FOR OUR DEMOCRACY

  13. @Nars

    "you says you support no political party …"

    Wrong, those are your words not mine. I am a member of a political party (guess which one!)

    It's typical of you DRP zombies who worship the Pharaoh to assume that support of a party means worshiping its leaders. I do not approve of President Nasheed's work so far, does not mean I think DRP is any better.

    What I do know is if Nasheed is brought down by revolution, the very same thieves who stole for 30 years will be back in power. We need to set a precedent no change of government through street protests or else, the protests will never end.

    Democratic principles of accepting an election result is what I'm talking about.

    I'm all for an opposition - but not for the sake of opposing. We do not have an opposition, all power hungry zealots.

    ALL CAPS does not make your statement any less ridiculous.

  14. @Peasant....aaah " we dont have a opposition" i am not surprised this coming from a MDP member.....of course of course...Its either a no opposition or an opposition that acts according to the wishes of the what your basically saying is that something like one party rule opposition only in name....SOrry buddy ..thats not going to happen.....MDP consists of power hungry zealots and corrupt people whos only aim right now is to win 2013 elections...They don't care about the common man..

  15. Peasant is right when he says we don't have an opposition in terms of a political opposition.

    What we do have are revolutionaries. As far as I can see, the whole ethos of the politicians out on the streets is to find a way to quickly topple the sitting government and take charge.

    As Peasnt has said, this will set a very dangerous precedent. I'm not saying it's not doable, but it will be doing the country an unthinkable disservice. What I find astonishing is claims by Nars that there could be 500 years of "yellow" dictatorship. Nars, of course doesn't explain how this is possible apart from a handwaving to a lack of a disciplined opposition.

    Nars seem to have also forgotten the true meaning of the word "dictator". Don't reply back about how President Nasheed doesn't obey the law etc. That just doesn't wash anymore, since if he's not obeying the law, the opposition majority in Parliament would have already impeached him!

    Long gone are the days when we'll have a one man, one party rule. Never in our life, will we ever allow that to happen again.

    Nars also says, "Get Gasim, Munarwar, Hassan saeed,..."

    Just look at those names. Do you really think these guys can work together even for a single day? They have not shown that ability so far. All of them have tainted pasts directly and indirectly related to Gayyoom's 30 year dictatorship. A credible opposition will need better human resources than that! Z-DRP, P-DRP, or whatever else will come out of the death marches of DRP will need fresh blood. They don't revolutionaries without a brain like Umar Naseer. They need educated young and articulate people who can truly be leaders. We don't see any of that kind in their front line.

  16. @Nars

    "..MDP consists of power hungry zealots and corrupt people whos only aim right now is to win 2013 elections…"

    Alright some of them are, I agree so lets demonstrate and bring down the govt., then what? Bring in Yameen, is that what your saying?

    You must be the kind of guy who jumps of the mountain and then thinks about looking for a parachute.

  17. There's no point in bringing down the govt. President Nasheed is a duly elected official and the only way he should be "fired" from his job is through an election or through impeachment, which if done should be done on proper merits.

    Granted, the govt's economic policies are not exactly popular at the moment. But I agree with some of them, especially the fact that we had to float our currency against the dollar in order to properly value it. But what I couldn't agree on was how suddenly and swiftly it was done. Touchy subjects like this need time to be implemented, not least which requires some sort of forewarning. And I still think the govt could do a better job at handling the dollar black market. Cos it sure hasn't disappeared overnight as the govt would have us believe. If anything, the only people that really got any benefit from the revaluation of the currency was the banks and the same crooks in the black market that we wished to stop in the first place. Again, granted that certain people, especially those who earn in dollars, benefited as well.

    As for a real opposition, we're sadly lacking in that department, and have been so since 2008. DRP is in disarray; seems like Gayyoom&Co don't like not being at the center of things, and Thasmeen is busy denying allegations of debt. Gasim isn't sure what he's doing, and the good doctors Munawwar and (Hassan) Saeed are like petulant children who want the whole cake. And as one commented before me, they all have some link to the 30yr regime of Gayyoom who we still can't seem to be able to forget about.

    As for MDP, the party has sound principles, but ineffective implementation most of the time. I'm not saying the govt had failed; but it's not doing half as good a job as they could be.

    Maldives is in a bad state, whichever way you look at it. If we were to protest, perhaps it should be about the lack of real politicians who truly care about the nation and it's populance.

  18. Dear Ahmed Bin Addu Bin Suvadheeb,..So you believe MDP's got educated young people at the help...they have got uneducated inexperienced activists running the govt and parliament, revolutionaries like reecko are running our bational policies..aptly explains the economic vows we are in right now....In 2013 MDP alone cannot win the elections they will have to get more people on board and they will probably try to struck deals with the same people with the tainted past that you speak off..MDP is not rosy party of innocent angels that you make it seems like...wake up ....get that yellow paint out of your eyes so that you can see clearly..The big picture.

  19. @ABABS-

    Thanks for that explanation.

    Unfortunately this is very real. In Thailand there are no good guys left after populist protests brought down a democratically elected govt. It's the Reds or the Yellows on the streets.

    @Nars- If the majority votes for Yameen in 2013, you will read my curses against him but I won't be calling for protests to topple his govt.

    Don't remind me of Maumoon's era MDP protests, those were against a dictator who held all power and had time and again rigged elections. Peace?


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