Protesters adopt new tactics during fifth night of calls for elections

Additional reporting by Leah Malone

Multiple arrests and pepper spraying marked the fifth consecutive night of protests on Tuesday evening, as supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) demonstrated near the Supreme Court in Male’.

Both regular police officers and Special Operations branches of the Maldives Police Service (MPS) were present at yesterday’s demonstrations, as well as Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers who were manning barricades.

The Supreme Court has been the focus of protests after its order to indefinitely delay the second round of the presidential elections forced the Elections Commission (EC) to concede that the September 28 run-off could not go ahead.

Thirty female protesters gathered near the Supreme Court in the early evening and were met by Special Operations police in riot gear and MNDF officers. MDP MP Eva Abdulla and former Education Minister Shifa Mohamed were among those detained by police during the demonstration.

By 11:00pm approximately a thousand protesters had gathered near the FDI Station on Fareedhee Magu – the closest protesters can go to the Supreme Court building, as the area remains cordoned off by police and military forces.

Following a series of speeches by MDP MPs – including Eva Abdulla who was released from police custody in time to address the crowd – the demonstrators altered their strategy. Instead of remaining in a single location, the protesters divided their numbers between multiple locations on the north side of the capital.

Hundreds peacefully walked the back roads behind the Supreme Court calling for elections, and were met by MNDF officers in riot gear guarding the alleys leading to government buildings. A group of protesters were met by approximately 30 Special Operations police in riot gear near Republic Square, which prompted the crowd to continue their march.

After regrouping near the FDI building the protesters staged another march down Chandanee Magu, to Majeedhee Magu, and back up Orchid Magu – all main thoroughfares in the capital city. Groups of onlookers were seen gathered in front of private businesses and homes, some of whom joined the protest.

The seemingly spontaneous marches were to intended to disorient the smaller numbers of Special Operations police, an MDP activist and former government official told Minivan News during the demonstration.

Minivan News observed MNDF in riot gear blocking protesters from approaching government buildings, however they deferred to police once fresh squads arrived at the various intersections.

Standard police officer’s – ‘blues’ – were observers using pepper spray on protesters, while Special Operations officers sent in snatch teams to pluck people from the crowd once numbers had dwindled to around 400.

Although the police website reported 10 people arrested, Minivan News witnessed up to 20 people taken into police custody before the protest ended around 2:30am.

Picture by Ranreendhoo Maldives

Following criticism of police arrest procedures at the Parliamentary Privileges Subcommittee yesterday, the police today released a series of statements stating that strip-searching, testing for drugs and handcuffing were legal, and “not inhumane.”

The MDP has alleged arbitrary and frequent use of pepper spray, beating, strip-searching, frisking, handcuffing and drug tests of their supporters arrested at protests.

Arrests “not inhumane”

In a statement today, the police said they were authorised to frisk and strip-searches under Articles 32-36 of the the Police Powers Act. The articles state that police are authorised to frisk and carry out strip searches if the police have reasonable grounds to believe the detainee may hold an object to harm themselves or another, or an object for intoxication, or an object to commit an illegal object.

In a separate statement today, the police said that handcuffing is not an “inhumane act” saying the police are authorised under Article 57 of the police powers act to handcuff detainees while they are being transported.

The police said they are also authorised to ask for urine samples to do drug tests if there were reasonable grounds to suspect the detainee was intoxicated, even if the individual was not detained on suspicion of drug use.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz meanwhile told the Parliamentary Privileges Committee that police could only carry out drug tests if the detainee was arrested for suspected drug abuse, or if police had reasonable grounds to suspect detainees arrested on different charges have used drugs.

Police carried out a drug test on Haveeru journalist during one of this week’s earlier protests, and requested a urine sample from MP Ali Azim.

Police also expressed concern about media taking photographs of the operations.

“Who is taking these photos? She’s snapping pictures of everything we do,” one SO officer objected to a colleague.

“Let her take photos, what can she do with them, right?” the second officer remarked.

“We should just take her in,” said a third.

The Supreme Court has yet to make a decision on Gasim Ibrahim’s bid to annul the first round of results after he placed third, despite the court concluding the hearings last week.

Earlier this week, court media officials offered assurances that the case was being worked on “around the clock”.

Speaking at a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) event on the island of Maafushi yesterday, presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen suggested that street protests would not influence the outcome.

“The Maldives will obey the rulings of the judicial courts. Street rulings will not work in the Maldives,” local media reported Yameen as saying.


16 thoughts on “Protesters adopt new tactics during fifth night of calls for elections”

  1. I think protests - sometimes those bordering on riots - are a useful tactic for human rights activists or NGOs protesting against real or perceived injustice due to actions by a government or corporation. Unruly behavior to push through a message is also sometimes a wonderful tool to attract media attention.

    However such behavior on the part of a political party and especially its MPs or nominees for Cabinet just display immaturity and denigrates them in the eyes of the public. Although a lot of us love such figures for their daring and boldness, the public will not have confidence in nor respect for such persons if they are appointed to high-ranking posts.

  2. @tsk tsk on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 9:51 PM

    "Although a lot of us love such figures for their daring and boldness, the public will not have confidence in nor respect for such persons if they are appointed to high-ranking posts."

    What? Now you're calling us idiots! Who are those sitting in "high-ranking posts" in the current regime? How did they get there? You've conveniently forgotten the violent clashes and demonstrations that brought them there, with many of them actively involved in them.

    I salute MDP for continuing their peaceful protests to ensure that we regain democracy in this country. Peaceful protests usually turn violent with the confrontational policing tactics of the Maldives Police Service. They have yet to learn how to keep order in peaceful protests and demonstrations.

    Young men suited and booted up in the latest riot gear as well as assorted chemical agents, with testosterone pumping through their veins can hardly contain themselves, but launch themselves into confrontation. This style of policing has gone out of fashion throughout the learned world, as confrontation always leads to violence.

  3. @Addu:

    Let me be clearer. Because of their behavior in riots/confrontations/protests a lot of people have found it hard to accept people from various parties in key posts not just members of MDP. I think you need to address the issue itself.

    The public has never accepted Naif Shaukath, Ali Solih, TVM Mua, Abdulla Mohamed, Sandhaanu Ahmed Didi as suitable candidates for the posts they fill. In this same vein no neutral person would appreciate it if Hoara, Ziyattey, Maamigili Ibbe, Mahirbe, Kube', Ali Waheed, Ukulhas Naeem, Dhihdhoo Naseer are appointed to high-ranking posts within an elected government. I do not think the public elected either Nasheed/Qayyoom or Waheed so that the aforementioned persons could parade around in ties and trousers pretending to be what they are not.

    I was just pointing out that Eva and Shifa do themselves injustice by doing what they did. It is of course their freedom to take part in whatever protests they like. It would be the public's right at the same time to label them as trouble-makers and anti-social elements and refuse to accept them as Cabinet Ministers or MPs. Do you catch my drift?

  4. It is not surprising to see this behavior from MDP as they favor scorched earth tactics.

    During 2008, we saw that majority of Maldivians voted NO for a 30 year old regime that failed to deliver. And MDP was the prime vehicle that helped to change the status quo. However as Tsk Tsk pointed out, the very people who helped bring about the change in regime failed to adapt to the transition. MDP is still by far the best political party in Maldives but they need to revise certain policies and place unity above everything else. It is time to lead by example and the conservatives are too divided and disgruntled to do that for our society.

  5. Dear tsk tsk. This is a war we're fighting. There is no immaturity or lines in war; only winners and losers.

    And there are no true neutrals in war either. Theres us, them, and their fence-sitting accomplices.

    The winners write history, and the losers perish.

    It is good to see that the MDP is adapting as force is escalated; I hope they further improve their protests to disrupt the enemy's supply lines while causing absolute minimal collateral damage and disturbance.

    I hope the enemy has no plans to sleep anytime soon. Such is the price for their oppression against the people.

  6. Heh hee heee

    What are the Peaceful Protesters Protesting?

    When does a peaceful protest turn out to be violent?

    Who is trying to fool whom?

    This IS A JOKE!

  7. MDP is not only the part in this country and over 55% of the people is saying no to MDP.

    Don't think that what ever MDP want in this country can be done and there are others who also have guts to reject Nasheed too.

  8. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki urged

    "all political parties to work together peacefully and ensure that the democratic process can continue in a way that respects the rule of law and that represents the will of the Maldivian people".

  9. Here are the facts that some morons do not understand:

    (1) 75% of the people said NO to Yameen.
    (2) 75% of the people said NO to Gasim.
    (3) 95% of the people said NO to Waheed.

    Get it?

  10. Protesters should give urine to the Police and MNDF, especially if that's what they want.

  11. Here are the facts that some morons do not understand:

    {1)95,000 of the people voted Yes to Anni
    (2)100,000+ of the people voted NO to Anni
    (3)10,000 of the people voted Yes to Prez

    Get it?

    95,000 Vs 105,000

  12. To all statistically challenged:

    (1) 145,000 said NO to Yameen
    (2) 145,000 said NO to Gasim
    (3) 185,000 said NO to Waheed

    And 95,000 said YES to Nasheed. Crystal clear.

  13. Regarding democracy at the Maldives Island
    My name is Willy Rasta, I live in Thailand at the moment. I have followed different local newspapers in the local Asia region.
    From what I gadder was your country running smooth under the role of Gayoom (authoritarian regime) it should have stayed with him. You have to realize it’s a very small place (less population then a suburb to a medium city) after what I gather it’s ruled as a banana republic and its long time before its ready for a fair free democratic election, probably 50 years ore so. Democratic elections in a banana republic so infested in corruption and bribery makes only split unrest in the population as well as in the families. Look at history
    Yugoslavia was running well under general Josip Broz Tito. When he died it all collapsed all because to early democratic ideas, a full war broke out.
    Iraq was running well under Saddam Hussein, outside interest wanted to remove him and apply democratic elections; it’s never been more unrest in the country. Democracy would automatic got into the system in later date. It was 50 years to early.
    In Libya Kaddafi was running authoritarian regime, but was able to keep order. What you got now is total chaos.
    Same happening in many African countries, they are infested with corruption bribery and other problems; it’s so bad that trying to apply any democracy is making it worst.
    What I really want to say it’s better to leave the authoritarian regime and when the time is right and the country is ready have a democratic election.
    It’s obvious that Maldives is not ready for democratic election at the moment, they have to minimize corruption and briberies so they can have a fair election. Then they hopefully are out of the banana republic category.
    What is banana republic? Define banana republic
    The term "Banana Republic" is loosely used and no single definite meaning can be given. Popularly, the terms is referred to small African countries which are politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture and ruled by a small, self-elected wealthy and corrupt clique. The 'banana republic' thus refers to 'politically unstable country that economically depends upon the exports of limited resources. Which is dominated by rich businessmen or other elites and has a impoverished working class. It a derogatory term and is also used to refer to the countries which are commercially exploited for private profits by the State itself for the benefit of small elite class.

  14. if u all want peace to this country do one thing

  15. Yes let’s hope you can have peaceful normal election, where the one winning the majority is the winner and that the loser can take it as a man and cooperate with the winner.
    And leave scribbling on coconuts, hanging underpants on the line as well as scribbled election notes to the kids. Not make big news out of it; it’s only child’s play. Also accusations that non born and dead has been able to vote sounds ridiculous. You have only 200 000 eligible voters, I presume they all are on a database. It will show up if someone is not in the data base trying to cast vote ore cast vote for others


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