Police to break up “unauthorised” protests

Police have announced they will break up protests which have not received authorisation in advance, in an apparent attempt to clamp down on daily demonstrations over the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

The opposition said its daily protests would continue, while decrying the move as a violation of the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed in the constitution. A member of the human rights commission also said the police plan was unconstitutional.

Police said last night that regular protests using “unusually loud” sound systems have been disrupting schools, businesses and are not in the public interest.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and allied parties have been holding daily protests throughout the country to demand the release of Nasheed, who was sentenced last month to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges. Protesters in the capital Malé have been marching through the streets every night, often through its main thoroughfare Majedhee Magu and through its narrow alleys.

Police said that demonstrators must apply for authorisation in advance for any “pre-planned” protests , as required by article 13 of the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act.

The act was passed in 2013 but police have not so far enforced the authorisation requirement, although hundreds of protesters have been arrested on other charges.

Police last night warned they will break up any unauthorized protests after one warning, and will confiscate loud sound systems.

The police announcement was deemed “unconstitutional” by Human Rights Commission member Ahmed Tholal.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Tholal said that freedom to assemble peacefully without permission from the state is a fundamental right granted by article 32 of the constitution.

“They [police] cannot withhold constitutional rights by referring to a provision in the [assembly] act. If there are problems with regards to the provisions in the act, they should address it without limiting constitutional rights,” said Tholal.

Police have arrested over 100 people at recent opposition protests. While some of them have been released without detention, several were barred by the criminal court from going to further protests for 60 days.

Elsewhere, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure wrote to the MDP on April 1 saying that the ministry would not be able to provide any plot of land for political activity because of the political situation in the country.

However, Minivan News understands that ruling Progressive Party of Maldives will be holding a rally at the artificial beach tonight (April 9).

MDP MP Eva Abdulla described the government actions as an attempt to “harass the opposition by attempting to obstruct peaceful assembly.”

“This is a coordinated attack by the government on our constitutionally stipulated rights to freedom of assembly and yet another example of how far this regime is willing to go in its harassment and persecution of the opposition,” Eva said.

“There is no longer any pretence of the government upholding our laws and our constitution,” she continued.

Minivan News was unable to obtain any comment from the Housing Ministry about the letter at the time of going to press.