The police today confiscated a table set up by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party to gather signatures for a petition to free jailed former president Mohamed Nasheed, claiming the furniture obstructed pedestrians and traffic.
The move sparked outrage and a flood of mockery on social media, with some calling for a new petition to free the table, while others questioned the police response to rising violence in Malé City, which has seen four murders in two months and continued stabbings.
— Shauna Aminath (@anuahsa) April 6, 2015
Maldives today feels like an alternate universe story, where there is more hostility towards pen & petitions than towards knives & murder!
— Mickail Naseem (@MickailNaseem) April 6, 2015
A 32-year-old man was knifed in the capital last night, police said. Local media reported that he was not seriously injured.
How many Police did @HussainWaheed3 send to knifing last night? Did he send MNDF, blues, traffic police & those in operational uniforms?
— Sabra (@SabraNoordeen) April 6, 2015
The removal of the table comes as authorities crack down on opposition activities including anti-government protests. It also apparently fell foul of a power struggle between the housing ministry and opposition-dominated Malé City Council over who can grant permission for the use of public spaces.
One social media user, @sofwath, said: “Stop brutalizing the table. Free the table now!”
meyzah aniyaa kurun huhtaalaa. meyzu dhookohlaa #FreeTheMeyzu
— Sofwathullah Mohamed (@sofwath) April 6, 2015
Come on guys! cops ran out of people to arrest, so they’re arresting tables and shizz.
— Haman (@OfficialHaman) April 6, 2015
The MDP continued collecting signatures outside its offices on Malé’s Sosunmagu, despite the confiscation of the table. The petition urges President Abdulla Yameen to free Nasheed, who was sentenced last month to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges.
— Ahmed Azim (Anju) (@Aazim323) April 6, 2015
Translation: the collection of signatures on the petition has resumed at the MDP’s office.
— lady chatterley (@orgasticpotency) April 6, 2015
A police media official said that the MDP had not sought the required permission from the housing ministry to set up tables on the pavement.
The housing ministry last year announced that it had the power to approve use of public land and roads in the capital, in an apparent removal of these powers from Malé city council.
But Malé City councillor Shamau Shareef said he did not recognise the housing ministry’s authority in this area, as its regulations usurped the opposition-dominated city council’s powers under the Decentralisation Act.
Several prominent individuals, including former president of the Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek and former environment minister Ahmed Abdulla, have now signed the petition.
— MDP_Thilafaiy (@MDP_Thilafaiy) April 5, 2015
The opposition Alliance Against Brutality last week brought in a power generator for a mass gathering at the Artificial Beach when the state-run electricity company refused to allow them to pay for the use of power lines.
STELCO reportedly said it could only power housing ministry approved events.