Police have arrested 12 persons on the island of Rasdhoo in Alif Alif Atoll late on Wednesday night, after a pair of large white underpants were hung outside the entrance to the island’s Magistrate Court.
According to a source on Rasdhoo, the white pair of underpants was hung on a rope strung across the street in front of the court offices at about 5:00pm on Wednesday, “barely three inches away from the entrance, but nevertheless not in the court’s premises itself”.
The white pants are a reference to recently-leaked videos of Supreme Court (SC) judge Ali Hameed apparently fornicating with unidentified foreign women in a Colombo hotel room, and have become a symbol of protests against the Supreme Court’s suspension of Saturday’s highly anticipated presidential election.
“Police from the Rasdhoo station started work to remove the underpants at around 7:00pm, prompting a immediate gathering of over a hundred people near the police office,” a source from the island told Minivan News on condition of anonymity.
He said that the gathered people shouted at the police for removing the underpants: “Is the underwear the only illegal thing you could find on the street?” shouted some.
“You can remove the underpants from this island’s court, but you do nothing about the ones sitting on the Supreme Court bench,” called others.
Eyewitnesses said the police resorted to the use of pepper spray and physical force to disperse the crowd.
Another pair of underpants was again hung in front of the Magistrate Court later the night.
Locals say that a back-up police team – nearly 30 officers in full riot gear – came to the island around midnight to remove the new pair of underpants.
Although no more confrontations occurred, 12 persons are now in police custody in Rasdhoo police station.
“Just after midnight, police summoned the magistrate himself and made him sign arrest warrants. First they arrested six people. They then spoke to a group of people from the island who are working with the PPM [Progressive Party of Maldives], and got their help to identify some of the most active MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] campaigners, and arrested them too. That isn’t a new tactic for them anyway,” the source alleged.
Police Media Official Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at the time of press.
Protesting with underpants
MDP members have begun using underpants in various rallies and protests following the Supreme Court’s ordering the Elections Commission to halt preparations for the presidential election run-offs, which were initially scheduled for this coming Saturday (September 28).
A pair of white underpants hung at the Raalhugandu area – the party’s rally grounds – has the words “Judiciary ‘happy, happy’. Where are the citizens’ rights?”, referring to phrases from the video clips allegedly showing Ali Hameed fornicating with multiple foreign women.
At Wednesday night’s rally, a cake decorated to look like a person wearing white underpants was also seen at the rally grounds, sporting the words “Happy Birthday, Fandiyaaru (Judge) Ali Hameed”.
During the first protests after the court issued the order on September 23, a group of protesters were observed hanging a large pair of white underpants on a police barricade placed across Chandhanee Magu in capital city Male’.
While the protests against the Supreme Court on September 23 prior to the issuance of the order showed people holding posters of still shots from the leaked videos, on Tuesday protesters carried cartoons depicting scenes from the film.
The placards and posters expressed the lack of respect the protesters have for the courts due to “disgraced judges accused of indecent behaviour and fornication sitting on the bench.”
Cartoons, images, and caricatures of Judge Ali Hameed and the white underpants are spreading around social media. One such image shows a Maldivian flag with a white pair of underpants replacing the white crescent in the centre.