Politicians and public figures linked to both government-aligned parties and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have raised concerns about a spate of potentially politically motivated crimes, though police urge caution in drawing early conclusions.
Early this morning, the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed that its fire team put out a blaze that badly damaged a dhoni based in the waters around Hulhumale’. The vessel has since been confirmed to belong to high-profile Jumhooee Party (JP) member Mohamed ‘Inthi’ Imthiyaz, who recently left the MDP.
Both the MNDF and the Maldives Police Service confirmed to Minivan News that they were currently investigating the cause of the blaze, stressing it was too early to tell if the incident was being treated as arson or an accident.
The fire, which saw a man hospitalised with severe burns, is the third incident involving prominent political figures to be investigated by police during the last three days.
Police have confirmed they are also looking into break-ins that occurred Saturday morning at offices belonging to Vice-President designate Waheed Deen and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Interim Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik. Both offices are based in the same building in the capital of Male’.
Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that forensic analysis of both these crime scenes and the dhoni fire were under way, but said that it was not yet possible to ascertain if there was any link between the incidents. Sub-Inspector Haneef added that findings from the cases would be cross referenced, but he did not wish to speculate if a common motivation existed between the incidents before ongoing investigations were concluded.
Addressing the dhoni fire today, vessel owner Mohamed Imthiyaz said that he was also unsure if his boat was destroyed intentionally or by an accidental fire.
However, Imthiyaz claimed that the blaze occurred after he had received threatening messages from alleged MDP supporters after making a public speech two days ago criticising the party. Imthiyaz was himself previously a member of the MDP before joining the JP, which is part of the coalition government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.
“I have received [SMS] threats from people I know are MDP supporters and I have passed on their numbers to police,” he added.
Imthiyaz said he believed that public figures needed to be “careful” about their security in the current political climate, particularly considering the potential involvement of organised crime in attacks and vandalism.
A spokesperson for MDP MP Reeko Moosa Manik’s Heavy Load company was in no doubt that the enterprise had itself been the target of a political attack over the weekend.
The company’s headquarters, based in Male’s Jazeera building, was broken into early Saturday morning along with the offices of the Six Senses resort group and Vice President Deen’s Bandos Island Resort – all situated at the same address.
“[The break in] was definitely politically motivated. The intruders broke in to damage and vandalise equipment like computers that could have been taken for profit. They also wrote threats all over the walls of the office,” the Heavy Duty spokesperson said.
Following the break in at Heavy Load, local media reported yesterday that several messages were left for Moosa Manik across the office. These messages reportedly read, “Moosa, you may have escaped this time but you will be killed,” and “We will vote for you next time if you put some cash next time”.
A number of attacks and cases of vandalism against political figures has been making headlines recently.
Late last month, three former ministers who served in the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed were reportedly attacked along with their wives on the street’s of Male’, leading to condemnation of the crime by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.
The president has also criticised MDP supporters on his Twitter account following reports of attacks on police officers and the car of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hassan’s during the same month.
“Violence by Nasheed’s supporters keeps increasing,” the president wrote at the time.
The MDP itself moved to issue a statement following these incidents condemning attacks on police officers and calling for supporters to mantain peaceful protests against the government it alleges has come to power in a “coup d’etat” In February.
The offices of broadcaster Villa TV (VTV) were also heavily damaged in March during clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces .
VTV is owned by MP ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim, the leader of the Jumhoory Party (JP) – part of Dr Waheed’s government coalition.