A group of protesters on Wednesday night knocked over the SAARC monument designed by Pakistan, during a demonstration over that “idolatrous” carvings engraved on the monument.
The monument, which was erected at Hithadhoo in Addu City ahead of the SAARC Summit and features pagan symbols of ancient civilisation of Pakistan and a bust of the country’s founder Mohamed Ali Jinah, was removed by the Addu City Council on Tuesday night but placed back with a cover the next day ahead of today’s unveiling ceremony.
An eyewitness to Wednesday night’s incident told Minivan News that two men from the protesting group ran up to the monument near the Power Park in Hithadhoo and knocked it over.
The eyewitness claimed the group was led by an opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) member, who tried to restrain the protesters.
The group was protesting the engravings of pagan symbols, he explained, which they contended could be considered objects of worship and demanded its immediate removal.
He added that there were two police officers stationed at the monument when it was knocked over, who were later reinforced by riot police. The monument was placed back and covered shortly after the incident.
Opposition parties, including the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, have condemned the government for over the incident and accused the current administration of pursuing an agenda to introduce freedom of religion in the Maldives.
Meanwhile, two opposition MPs were arrested last night at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport while attempting to take down SAARC banners featuring allegedly Christian imagery.
The monument, designed and approved by the Pakistani government, was officially unveiled by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at 6pm today. A sizable crowd of Hithadhoo residents gathered at the area with Maldivians and Pakistani flags and took photographs after the event.
Monuments representing the culture and religion of the eight SAARC nations have been placed across Addu City for the summit, which were unveiled by the heads of state and government over the past two days.