Police clash with protesters in crowded street injures “dozens”

A large crowd of mostly young people last night held a protest in Male’ against the rising cost of living, following a spike in import costs brought on by the government’s managed float of the rufiya – a decision which has led to a cost increase for dollar commodities of up to 20 percent.

Although the protest was led by opposition leaders, Minivan News observed many unfamiliar faces not identified as members of either major party.

The protest’s leadership consisted mostly of those from the ‘Z-DRP’ faction of the opposition loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, including MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ilham Ahmed and dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer, Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed, Jumhoory Party (JP) MP Ibrahim Muthalib and other opposition allies were also present at the protest.

The group gathered near the artificial beach last night around 9:00pm and marched towards the tourist street of Chandhanee Magu, occupying the intersection with the main road of Majeedhee Magu. Minivan News observed many protesters sitting or lying down in the intersection, some having coffee.

Riot police initially blocked off vehicle access to the area, and waited without taking any action.

However at around 3:30am early on Sunday morning, police advised protesters to leave the area or otherwise they would use force to disperse the crowd.

The protesters declined to leave the area and continued protesting, whereupon police issued several warnings before throwing tear gas canisters into the crowd camped in the narrow and congested intersection, and moving in with shields and batons.

Male and female protesters were injured in the incident after being attacked with batons, while police claimed officers were injured in the effort after bricks were thrown. Protesters also pelted police with empty water bottles, empty cans and other such materials.

“One female officer was hit in the chest with a pavement stone, she is still hospitalised,’’ said Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam.

While police were attempting to disperse the crowd, a motorbike in the area was destroyed by fire and the glass window of a nearby shop was broken.

After the violent attacks, police failed to completely disperse the crowd as the protesters continued to return to the area and gathering.

Local media SunFM and Haveeru News also reported that police used excessive force on their journalists taking coverage of the area.

Haveeru, which described the incident as a “deadly clash”, reported that its journalists were arrested after they refused to leave the area were told by a police spokesperson that even journalists wearing press identification could not stay in the area.

The protest lasted until 9:00am this morning, lasting a total of 12 hours.

Residents living in the densely-populated urban area surrounding the intersection have complained of women and children being affected by tear gas used by police used to control the riot.

News agency Associated Press reported Gayoom’s spokesperson, Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, as saying that dozens were hospitalised in the demonstration consisting of 5000 people rallying against “economic hardship, alleged government mismanagement and wasteful spending”, but was unable to raise a response from the Maldivian government. News of the incident quickly went international, appearing on the Washington Post and other major newspapers.

This afternoon the President’s Office released a statement condemning the violent protest as orchestrated by supporters of the former President.

“Scores of people were injured and shops and private property were damaged when protesters hurled bricks and other projectiles at the police. The police responded to the unprovoked assault with tear gas and made several arrests,” the statement said.

“The protest was orchestrated by the Z-DRP, a faction of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, which is under the control of former President Gayoom.”

President Mohamed Nasheed’s spokesperson, Mohamed Zuhair, added that “peaceful political activity, such as the right to protest, is legal – and indeed welcome – in the Maldives’ new democracy. But there can be no excuse for needlessly causing violence in the streets. We have numerous peaceful political rallies, protests, petitions and other forms of legitimate democratic activity throughout the year, which is a healthy part of our democracy. However, whenever Mr Gayoom’s supporters take to the streets, it always seems to end in violence and bloodshed,” Zuhair added.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that he believed the protests, which he described as a “youth movement” rather than an opposition political gathering, had been building for some time amidst concerns regarding the government’s commitment to democracy and increased living costs.

“We feel the protests are overdue, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is not championing democracy like it promised,” he said.

Mausoom claimed that the prime areas where he believed the government had failed to bring about democratic reforms – a key policy area for the governing MDP party – were in freedom of expression and allowing protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

Although opposition parties like the DRP and the recently formed spin-off faction the Z-DRP were present at the protest, Mausoom said that they had been invited by local young people to support their concerns.

“This has been organised by young people [of the Maldives]. Opposition parties joined in support only after being invited. This was not a political movement, but a youth movement,” he claimed. “The protests were in themselves largely peaceful and we feel the police response was inappropriate.”

Mausoom added that he believed that the protesters should have been given the right to air their concerns and called on the government to address areas such as spending on political advertising and cutting living costs.

The opposition DRP has recently been split by infighting and violence between supporters of Gayoom and those of the party’s leader, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, triggered by the expulsion last year of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer from the party for organising protests without sanction from the DRP Council.

Both sides claimed the animosity within the party was cause it to “disintegrate“, and there was speculation that Gayoom’s supporters would form a spin-off opposition party. However last Thursday, two days before the protest, Gayoom’s faction officially announced that it was “commencing work” as the Zaeem-DRP (Z-DRP), a separate branch of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

The Zaeem-DRP (Z-DRP) faction today announced that it has officially commenced its work as a separate branch of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

An earlier protest on April 12 against the government’s currency decision ended peacefully, with both factions conducting separate rallies around Male’.

A currency in crisis

The government has struggled to cope with an exacerbating dollar shortage brought on by a high budget deficit – triggered by a spiralling public sector expenditure – in comparison with the foreign currency flowing into the country. Civil service expenditure has increased in real terms by 400 percent since 2002.

Banks subsequently demonstrated reluctance to sell dollars at the pegged rate of Rf 12.85, and high demand for travel, commodities and overseas medical treatment forced most institutions to ration their supply or turn to the flourishing blackmarket.

After a short-lived attempt to crack down on the illegal exchange of dollars, the government floated the rufiya within a 20 percent band, effectively allowing it to be sold at up to Rf 15.42 to the dollar.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has been critical of the government’s growing expenditure despite a large budget deficit, praised the decision as a step towards a mature and sustainable economy.

“Today’s bold step by the authorities represents an important move toward restoring external sustainability,” the IMF said in a statement. “IMF staff support this decision made by the authorities. We remain in close contact and are ready to offer any technical assistance that they may request.”

However many companies dealing in dollar commodities immediately raised their exchange rates to Rf 15.42, along with the Bank of Maldives.

The government’s move, while broadly unpopular, acknowledges the devaluation of the rufiya in the wake of increased expenditure and its own inability to overcome the political obstacles inherent in reducing spending on the country’s bloated civil service.

Yet as Maldives relies almost entirely on imported goods and fuel, and many ordinary citizens have found themselves harshly affected by short-term spike in prices of up to 20 percent as the rufiya settles.

“We do not really know, based on the breadth of the domestic economy, what the value of the Maldivian rufiyaa is right now,” Economic Development Minister Mahmoud Razee admitted at a recent press conference.

The government has said it hopes the rufiya will stabilise within three months.


36 thoughts on “Police clash with protesters in crowded street injures “dozens””

  1. so this is what Z-DRP means by "commencing work" - violent protests disguised as a "youth movement"

  2. Really? A demonstration of this magnitude takes place and MINIVAN reports now?

  3. Why does it surprise you Zayd? MINIVAN maybe pro-government but not exactly like DhiTv in objectivity.

  4. under a veil of youth movement Z-DRP and PA try to bring down government. By destroying peoples property & stopping businesses they can't bring prices down. Destabilizing will increase price and a they don't have the support of enough people to topple the Government.

  5. @Zeen. And how much support does MDP has? Why so few voters in the internal election? Why they couldn't rally demonstrators after the en mass cabinet resignation?

  6. It was Z-DRP DRP and PA.. yaa

    But fact remains the prices are high enough for anyone to protest

  7. I am not a supporter of maumoon -but it is evident now that anni is a more cruel dictator than maumoon..welcome to aneh dhivehi rajje

  8. We could see the numbers in this demonstration is huge and this is evident that more people are getting frustrated over the inefficient policies of the current government. This country could get bankrupt if the government does not change what they are doing now.

  9. I am not MDP but I don't like to see Z-DRP/PA led by Mafia influence the politics of this country. When police start arresting these criminals these gangsters try to find some excuse to make the country instable. Why did prices go up in USA and in Europe? You people can't cheat us.

  10. The peaceful protest of last night reminded me of the lawyers' marches of Pakistan. The only difference to how it ended was that the police of Maldives acts only on instructions from the President and not by their own volition or by instructions from people who want to bring a change. So much for separation of powers.

    Last night proved that Maldivians are not blind anymore and now realise that President Nasheed's promises of roti, kapra aur makaan was just lines to get into power so that he and his cronies can line their pockets during their appointed term. His own followers (the ones that are not in political posts) were on the streets last night calling for his resignation; which further shows that the only people with him right now are people who have been given the 'gift' of a political position. A gift that amounts to as much as up to 20 times the salary of a service level staff of the civil service.

    The only hope for our beloved nation to attain any peace and for us civilians to have a peaceful life is for the police to stop following instructions from the government authorities and act to protect civilians and the nation of Maldives. As is their actual duty. As is humane. As it really should be.

    As always, I doubt that my comment meets the approval of minivannews officials, the independent news of the Maldives.

  11. So called MINIVAN NEWS, independent news for Maldives. You guys should have waited till next week to report this news.

  12. to the minivan news editor.

    i heard the protest will continue tonite also. pls wake your lazy a** journalists to cover up the story for the sake of ur readers. if not just cut the c**p using the slogan "independent news for Maldives".

  13. "Like US President [Barack] Obama, President Nasheed inherited a terrible economic situation, with huge bills and debts," said Paul Roberts, the president's communication adviser. "You have to sometimes make difficult decisions to improve the situation."

    "But [Sunday's protest] isn't a huge outpouring of anger and neither like an Arab Spring," he said. "There weren't thousands pouring out onto the streets."

    Paul Roberts- Communications Advisor to US President Obama

    If Z-DRP were hoping for International support it didn't work.

    Do not equate a 30 year tyranny with 2 years of economic hardship which is being experienced in the whole world.

  14. It's a shame I'm abroad at the moment. I would have happily used grenade launchers with shrapnel and napalm to disperse the DRP protests.

    To all DRP supporters... How do you enjoy the taste of persecution you've meted out against Maldivians for two decades? I'm sure you enjoy it.

    We never forgive. We never forget. Expect us.

  15. Zeen,

    u dont let up huh,u cant say it can you ,jus say it, ur beloved Anni and MDP are gettin dirt throwm on their faces, by who not the DRP u hate soo much, but the people, the ordinary people, ahhhh I love a good rodgering, karma, bliss.

  16. The police are to blame ...they should not have broken the protest violently, they should not have used tear gas and electric batons...Don't u remember wen the Dracula President of ours protested just like this against the then govt..Streets are narrow and crowded in Male'..imagine it was 3.30 am..some old people..small kids were sleeping..why did the police use tear gas so brutally against the protesters..The police alibi is that protesters block traffic but i think the traffic is not important what is important to end the protest carefully that is by mutual dialogue and protesters probably would no budge in that case they should have cleared the protesters in day time..old ppl and small kids , babies should have been given time to leave the area, if police by protection....Violence breeds violence..the police should have risen above this and not act like thugs..I call President Nasheed and Police chief not to use violence against protesters..this is not Egypt, this is not thahrir...We are taking about a very small intersection..Things should be more civilized than this..and today police also said they knew before hand that the protesters would turn violent...if they knew than why did they play this sadistic game?

  17. I will urge the government to remain steadfast with their current austerity programme. As President Nasheed has been warning for a long time, there will be bitter medicine. You are all paying for decades of extravagant spending sprees. All those millions of dollars spent on building Zaeem's Palace, shopping trips to Dubai and Singapore had to be paid at some point.

    I'm amazed by the blindness of the Maldivian public. They are, of course, being manipulated by selfish politicians. They claim to be "invited" by the youth. However, they "invited" themselves; an opportunity to create trouble will never be forgone by politicians.

    Guys, look around the world. Almost every country from rich to poor are having to take stock of excess spending and take control of their finances. Now is the time for people to sit down and work out a way to bolster the economy. Time to get off your lazy arses and do something for the country.

    Look at countries like Singapore and Japan. People faced enormous hardships in those countries in the past, but they all worked their butts off to shape their countries.

    No amount of protesting in the streets is going to rain dollars! The Maldivian Rufiyaa isn't going to appreciate just because people shout and scream for it. You can bring down the government, but that's not going to change anything as far as the Maldivian economy is concerned. In fact, that will make things worse as an unstable political climate will frighten away tourists and other investors.

    I'll urge the government to clamp down on unscrupulous traders who are raising prices just because it's an opportune time for them to do so. Raise import duties on luxury goods to stop further foreign currency leakage on needless luxury imports.

  18. Maldivians seem to have gotten used to a lifestyle way beyond their means. Decades of borrowing have fuelled this lifestyle where everyone crazes after the latest luxury goods.

    It's time for a reality check. You're not going to like it, but there is no other choice! Wake up to the facts.

    No one seems to be bothered about the fact that the last 5 years of Gayyoom's government essentially bankrupted the country. Those 5 years were simply financed by priting Rufiyaa and borrowed money. Do people think, that can go on forever?

  19. Thank you JJ and Ahmed Nazeer for posting the 'Darcula' pictures. 🙂

  20. "“Today’s bold step by the authorities represents an important move toward restoring external sustainability,” the IMF said in a statement."

    Dear IMF, this might be a bold step towards restoring EXTERNAL sustainability.
    But there seems to be nothing INTERNAL that can be sustained with this move. Last night's demonstrations displayed the degree of frustration people have.

  21. JJ and Ahmed Nazeer, you have tried your best to tell the readers of 'Minivan' that this protest was organised by 'Dead DRP'. But you are utterly mistaken.

    This protest was organised by the youth of the country. I have heard the announcements of last night's protest at least a week earlier. DRP (I mean the main DRP) announced their joining only day before yesteray. And the 'Dead DRP' faction announced their joining much later.

    In last night's protest, there were MPs from DRP (both 'Dead DRP' and main DRP factions), Qaumee Party, Jumhoory Party, PA, and independent MPs.

    I also heard one journalist reporting that there were activists from MDP amongst the protesters.

    Please do not try to downplay the significance of this protest by saying that this was organised by the hooligans that support Gayyoom. I am yet to see a larger crowd of Maldivian youth united in a common cause.

    Yes, Gayyoom supporters were there. But so were so many others. It is a known fact that the few supporters of Gayoon from DRP (now rebranded as 'Dead DRP') are the ACTIVISTS of DRP before it was split into ('dead' and 'alive'?) factions. So they were prominent even in last night's rally. But they were NOT the organisers nor were they the force behind the protesting. So pease don't give Gayyoom the credit of all this. He does not have that many supporters.

    The protesters sat at the junction of Majeedhee Magu and Chaandhanee Magu. they have labelled this junction the "Tahrir Maidan" of Maldives. I heard that this is the beginning of a series of protests. So they will protest tonight too.

    Apparently the organisers said that they will continue the protests UNTIL the prices are reduced. I don't know how that is going to happen. But this makes me think that this protesting is more seious than what I understand after reading this article.

    These protests disply the outpour of the sheer frustration an average Maldivian on the street has. When the dollar rates were raised, the prices of the goods, already made more expensive in the last couple of years, just sky-rocketted. So did the blood pressure of most Maldivians. This is the reason why we see such a large crowd. From what I am predicting, tonight's crowd will be even larger.

  22. For those who asked: My estimate of the number of people present at any given time in last night's protest is 3500 - 4000 people.

    I notice that Mundu has said that it is 5,000 people. This may be true because people were mostly based on the 'Tahrir Maidan' during which time some were joining and leaving constantly.

  23. Dear Ahmed Bin Addu Bin Suvadheeb..I see that you're suffering from the "30 year syndrome" now that is a dangerous disease the prognosis is very poor and mortality is very high..or worse it could leave you mentally unstable and it will take away you're ability to think objectively..Now you want us to believe President Nasheed is doing his best to restore the economy..maybe he thinks hes doing the best but hes not..we don't see any concrete actions on the ground..Don't it just scares the hell out of you that this man doesn't have a plan abt our economy..24 hrs before devaluation he announced hes keeping a policemen behind every dollar...if hes was thinking about devaluation why didn't he say so..simple bcs he wasn't..he doesn't have a plan...We need a capable president, not a child..we need some one like Pres.Lula of Brazil or Pres.Abdulla Gul of turkey...During the past 30 years , our small economy has been growing steady..Through the Iran-Iraq war, The Gulf war, The terrorist attack of 1983, The Asian economic crisis of 1997, and recently The Indian ocean Tsunamis of 2003....But never in the past 30 years have the Maldivian people suffered this much in such a short period of time..so don't blame the incompetence of the current leadership on the past 30 years, remember that the honorable citizens of this country elected Pres.Nasheed not to talk non stop about the past 30 years..Seek help before 30 year disease eat your brains out..Thank you

  24. @ ABABS

    "I’m amazed by the blindness of the Maldivian public."
    And I am amazed by your blindness, ABABS.
    I am no Gayyoom fan and I believe that Gayyoom did what was required for him to remain in power.
    But truth is truth.
    We have never faced such a hardship in our recent history. And why do we have to face it now? Because our economy has been MISMANAGED by the present government.
    This is invariably what will happen when people run a government by trial and error.
    This is invariably what will happen when people who have not a clue of what they are supposed to do are given huge responisbilities and power.
    This is invariably what will happen when people who are inexperienced, unqualified and uneducated are in the frontline of this government.
    This is invariably what will happen when people with power will do whatever they want regardless of the consequences.

  25. @Nars

    For arguments sake let's agree that the current President is incompetent but who do you suggest to replace him with?

    Please forgive us for the 30 year syndrome. The only cure for this disease is assurance that the very same people who drove the car into the ditch are not given the keys again. We will have this assurance once a credible opposition emerges. An opposition which is clean enough from corruption that they don't feel the need to boot out an Auditor General over a $2 tie.

    I can understand the ordinary guy on the street wanting to protest the price of living. What I don't understand is your narrow world view. I'm assuming that with an internet connection and fairly good English skills you are able to discern what is happening in the world economy. The crisis' you speak of did not affect the rich world as profoundly as the 2008-09 economic crisis. This is epochal and hasn't happened since the 1930's. Whole countries (Iceland), dependent on the economic health of Euro zone and the US have either gone bankrupt or are being bailed out (Ireland, Greece and Portugal possibly Spain now). We do not have the economic independence like India, China, Turkey etc. Long story short we'd be in the same shit with anybody at the helm.

    Where I do agree with you is our President has follyed more than most of his supporters would care to admit. Over promising and under delivering. The Rf 10 per dollar fiasco to the hundreds of flats etc. We do not owe him that much to keep him in power despite incompetence perceived or otherwise, people have that right; so he as politician must know that he will be held up to his word - literally.

    So the conundrum is give the incompetent a chance to make amends or bring in the looters.

  26. Despite the fact that Zed-R-P was leading the protests, a LOT of people unaffiliated with any political parties were involved in this protest. When it comes to certain things, gaining a political advantage is not the only thing on an ordinary person's mind. Not every one is rich like the Maldivian elites.

  27. this has nothing to do with price hike. everybody knows that this is DRP playing dirty politics.. yes prices are hiking but DRP is and will never care about prices. their first and foremost concern is coming to power. I am by no means a supporter of MDP but my sympathies are with the government now. Its disgusting how DRP is taking advantage of the common man’s misery..

  28. The only way for political appointees to function with honesty and loyalty to the citizens will be when their salaries is brought down to max rf 20,000 per month.

    The president can have rf 25,000 per month max. Everyone else should have something between rf 15,000 to rf 20,000 per month. When their salaries are brought down, we will see people taking up these posts out of loyalty to the citizens and the nation rather than out of greed for money.

    The huge gap in salary between political appointees and the average person in the country has created a situation akin to 'let them eat cake' (what Marie-Antoinette is supposed to have said when told that the people had no bread to eat).

  29. @Nars on Sun

    You seem to have a very short memory. This is a common syndrome in the Maldives. Have you forgotten Gasim Ibrahim (as Finance Minister) delivering the biggest budget in the history of the country? How did he finance that? Do you know? Do you know the status of the country's budgets since 2004? I bet you can't remember any of this.

    However, I as well as a lot of other people DO remember these. I am not defening the present government. I don't like some of their stupid plans to build bridges around Male Atoll, floating golf courses in the Male Atoll Lagoon etc. I also despise their political games with the electorate promising vapour ware projects wherever President Nasheed goes.

    My point is (and others have made a similar point), shouting and screaming on the streets isn't going to bring in dollars or bring down the prices of goods! On the one hand, it'd be very easy for President Nasheed to peg the Rufiyaa to 10 per USD. However, the whole country and generations to come will face such hardships as a result of that. He will be long gone. If he didn't care about the future of the country, he could just spend, spend and print money.

    As "peasant" says, I don't believe there's an alternative group of people that can lead this country out of this hole. DRP can't even decide who the real DRP are!

  30. Dear peasant..The people who drove the car to the ditch are the current leadership and their inept economic policies...talking about corruption even high MDP officials like Male' mayor just recently said " MDP was a poor party but some people are now getting very rich" what does that mean?..just as a small example a 21 million dollars for a Thilafushi reclainmant project..This government is not clean more and more corruption cases will come to the light...Most of the top people and officials never had any experience in running a government and lacks the education and the skills needed for a good sound economic policies..I do agree that Iceland, Portugal and Greece needed to be bailed out and now Spain almost hanging by a thread..But their direct effect to the Maldivian economy is minimal..China and India and the SE Asian economies are growing at breakneck speed..The number of tourists arriving in the Maldives actually increased..The value of the dollar in the international marked weakened..The solution would be not to give another 5 year term to the current leadership...or else he would stay for a third term and for another 500 years..We have a ruthless dictator in the making.

  31. MDP and it's brainless cowards. Nothing more to say. And minivan news, does Anni still hold a share there at minivan news? YES HE DOES! So you're covering up his a**!

  32. Ahh, Maldivians never cease to amaze me despite the fact that they are incompetent simpletons.

  33. Anni should step down.. until he step down we will not rest.

    Anni Isthufaa..


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