President’s Office adviser Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq has alleged to local media that he was verbally and physically harassed by supporters of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) as he tried to travel to Hulhumale’ on a public ferry yesterday (July 19).
A reporter for Sun Online claimed to have personally witnessed Thaufeeq being forced to leave the ferry at about 12:30am on Friday before it embarked on its journey. Local media reported that a group, apparently supporters of the MDP, began pushing Thaufeeq as he tried to sit down, before using abusive language and threatening to “throw him off the boat”.
Police confirmed that a 28 year-old male had been arrested on charges of indecent assault over an incident involving Thaufeeq. Police said nobody was injured in the incident, while the individual arrested at the time was not believed to be linked to any particular party.
Thaufeeq was not responding when contacted today.
President’s Office “appalled”
President Office Media secretary Masood Imad, travelling outside of Male’ at time of press, said he had not been personally made aware of the alleged harassment of Thufeeq. Masood did however call on members of the public to exercise restraint no matter their political affiliation in the build up to this year’s presidential election.
“I am surprised and am appalled, this is just not acceptable,” he said of the reported harassment of a President’s Office official. “All parties must exercise restraint before the election and be conscious of the impression we give to the international community. Irrespective of political party, we all want a transparent election.”
Masood told Minivan News that he had not himself been personally confronted by individuals while out on the streets of the Maldives, though he accepted there had been occasions where he was verbally abused by groups, who allegedly called him a ‘baaghee’ (traitor).
“It is the people calling others ‘baaghee’ who are the baaghees,” he said.
Masood claimed that he was personally careful to “mind my own business” when he was out in Male’, limiting the possibility of confrontation. However, he said that Thaufeeq would have had very little option but to use the public ferry to travel to Hulhumale’.
“From our view, in the remaining days up to the election – presently scheduled for September 7, 2013 – people must exercise restraint with emotions and feelings running so high,” he said.
The MDP today distanced itself from the alleged harassment, while questioning whether those involved truly did belong to the party.
MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor instead accused of the government of wishing to create conditions where the upcoming election would not be held, adding therefore that the opposition party was wary of giving any reasons to create such a situation through violence.
“We do not believe that this is really involving our supporters or those belong to the party’s colours necessarily,” he claimed. “We believe that there are attempts to smear us as a party.”
However, Ghafoor claimed that considering the controversial nature of the transfer of power that brought the present government into office on February 7, 2012, there was significant public anger towards individuals affiliated with the state.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed – presently the MDP’s presidential candidate for this year’s election – resigned from office on February 7, 2012 after sections of the police and military mutinied against him. Both Nasheed and the MDP later alleged he was ousted in a “coup d’etat”, accusations later dismissed by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) that concluded there had been no coup, no duress and no mutiny.
With the MDP continuing to accuse police of violent conduct and politically-motivated arrests, Ghafoor said he had not been surprised that some government figures may face public anger in the current political climate.
“From my party’s view, they have brought this on themselves when they sided with mutineers,” he added.
Despite the claim, Ghafoor said he believed the MDP had been the most responsible party since the transfer of power by advocating for political rather than violent solutions, instead accusing government-aligned parties of turning to “thugs” to destabilise the election process.
“Things are simmering right no, so it is a major concern of the party that we do our campaigning peacefully,” he said.