SAARC to dark: Violent social divide in Addu as uncertainty grips southern-most atoll

One of society’s biggest fear factors is uncertainty, and in Addu it appears to be fueling a violent social divide in the isolated MDP stronghold – the second most heavily populated area in the Maldives after Male’ and the scene of the SAARC Summit in November 2011.

On Saturday several members of the international press flew to the southern-most atoll to investigate claims of firey protests, beatings and unjustified arrests. While the torched remains of every police building and most courts between Gan and hithadhoo are proof that destruction of public property – and many legal records – has taken place, the back-and-forth ‘whodunnit’ accusations color fears of revolution with a strong shade of small-town politics.

“The police’s personal property, their computers, was burned inside the stations,” observed Alif Fahumy Ahmed. “This isn’t necessarily political.”

On Wednesday night police stations and court houses in six southern atolls were torched after police violently cracked down on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) march in the capital Male, in which thousands marched in support of ousted president Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed’s decision to order the detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court on January 16, in an attempt to push forward judicial reform, prompted three weeks of opposition-led protests with a nightly attendance of 200-400 people, culminating on Tuesday in what many have called a military coup.

While the southern protests were said to be the work of MDP supporters, in Addu, which claims a majority MDP population, people have begun slicing and dicing the duty.

“Maldivians are a very innocent people, but this violence was brought by MDP,” said Ani Luthfy, who yesterday organised a ‘protest for safety’ in Addu, with the rapidly-formed and ‘non-political’ Addu Alliance.

The placards that greeted journalists included “Ex-President was not coerced into stepping down” and “Violence and conflicts won’t help resolve our ecomonic problems”.

“Addu MDP [Councillor] Hussein Shahid gave 30 young people alcohol and when they were drunk he led them out to do the burning,” he alleged, adding that MDP activists have acted like “hooligans”.

Police meanwhile yesterday reported the arrest of MP Moosa Rasheed, Addu City Hithadhoo Medhu Dhaairaa. His arrest reportedly followed an investigation into a spate of attacks in Addu City that occurred on February 8, following a brutal police crackdown on protesters in Male’. Police say that he was arrested lawfully, under a warrant issued by the court and in consideration of various evidence including video footage and eyewitness accounts that connected him to that night’s incidents.

According to police yesterday, tensions escalated in the islands after rumours of serious injury and the death of former President Mohamed Nasheed at the hands of security forces on Wednesday reached the islands.

Luthfy said, “we have a motto: live and let others live.” He said the alliance would continue to protest until Addu was “100 percent safe”, a point in time he defined as “When the police have taken all MDP who are in hiding.”

Meanwhile Muaz Saleem, a prominent MDP supporter on Hithadhoo, said the group “was just going in front of Gan police station to express our concerns” on Wednesday.

“Who knows if police may have started [the fire]? They left before people went in, where was the tear gas? We strongly believe the opposition encouraged people to start the violence, it was a plan. ”

A former member of Hithadhoo council, who requested anonymity and did not wish to discuss his resignation last year, suggested the opposite. “The funniest thing is that the mayor [MDP member abdullah sodig] hasn’t issued a statement about this,” he said, estimating the damage at Rf200-300 million (US$13-20 million).

Sodig has been in hiding since he was attacked Wednesday evening.

The former council member confirmed that many have followed Sodig’s lead. “Because of this protest most people are on a wanted list, ” he explained, suggesting that to some extent the list was justified: “There are CCTV camera tapes with evidence.”

Amid speculation, police have taken action. MDP supporters said they have been targeted by police and military forces, who were deployed to Addu after Wednesday. They claim the “hit list” has been drawn up by members of opposition parties Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Prty (DRP), and that those individuals are assisting security forces to beat and arrest MDP members – often without evidence.

One 22 yr old man, who claims not to have participated in any recent gathering, said he was handcuffed and pepper sprayed in his eyes and genital area along with 40 other people. ” because of the violence, they said, I was a terrorist. They said we had dstroyed everything.” he added that some members of the detained group were told to take off their shirts and were taken to a separate area of the burned Gan police station “to be beaten. I could hear the shouting, and cries.”

Minivan News received unconfirmed reports that the Elections Commission’s SMS service – which allows people to send their national ID number and find out what party they are registered to – was being abused by groups of police aided by opposition supporters, to ‘hunt down’ MDP members.

While sources claim the attacks are directed at MDP, their stories suggest that the security forces are not operating with a political-or evidence-based motive.

Two young men interviewed, one of whom sported a bruised right eye, denied being part of any political party. Another said he wasn’t even part of the protest. Yet none would give names “because it might not be good, they said if I talked about what I saw they would come back.”

Muaz Haleem’s wife said the violation of her right to privacy at home, and the lack of an explanation, are her biggest concerns.

She reports seeing several policemen run into her home with raised batons yelling an unfamiliar name. “I said it was the wrong house, wrong name. But they pushed me down and said, ‘now we want Muaz ‘ and began beating him and dragging him out of the house.”

“I asked about the court order, and they said, ‘What court order? You guys burned down the court house. What rights do you want?'”

She explained that her neighbors have been far from helpful – in fact, they were part of the problem.

“Most people on the other side of the road are PPM (Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives). Mr Hamid was out there directing the whole thing, pointing at the house and everything.”

The family of Mohamed Saeed, whose detention has been extended by 15 days, said they too had not been informed of Saeed’s arrest, and that their neighbors are only cautiously supportive.

“They ask for news, but they are afraid to help because they could also be taken,” his wife explained.

Saeed is one of approximately 80 men who are still being held in the remains of Gan police station, reportedly in terrible conditions.

“He has asked to go to the hospital but they say they have no vehicle,” his brother in law said.

Others, such as Haleem, appear to have been detained on an aggressive whim, in retaliation for the destruction of police property.

“They gave me a cup for tea and then struck it down. They just dumped people in the courtyard of the station amid the broken glass and burnt debris, and pushed me down to the ground for sleeping,” he said. Haleem currently has a swollen left wrist and cuts where he claims the handcuffs were squeezed closed.

While Haleem believes the security forces are targeting MDP members, he suggests that their motive is more personal than political.

“It looks like there is a massive financial factor,” he said. “We have had the trust of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) for ages in this country, but under Nasheed individual police have shown they are motivated by something. I don’t have proof, but that’s what I strongly believe.”

He further explained that “The opposition has fewer numbers, but now that they have the security forces with them, they can act.”

Meanwhile most who claim to support the current government are consistently saying “It’s not the opposition, and they’re not beating people. The police have just asked the public for assistance,” explained a former councillor.

No members of opposition parties have been reported beaten, arrested, or detained.

Meanwhile, the arrival of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has triggered some over-excitement. One MDP member yesterday informed the author that the police had lied to HRCM about the whereabouts of a detainee, and that HRCM was arguing with police over the matter.

HRCM’s delegation in Addu later stated that the detainee had been released from the hospital by the time HRCM had gone to look for him, and that he is now at home.

As high level delegations hold conference with President Dr Waheed and former president Nasheed, and HRCM surveys police operations in Addu along with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), police and military appear only watchful. Still, the tense mood is palpable.

“We are not safe because we don’t know when again it will start,” said one man outside Feydhoo’s smoldering court house.

Ahmed said he had no confidence that the political issues in Male will be quickly resolved: “Things in Addu have calmed at the moment, but they may continue once HRCM and the reporters leave.”

It remain to be seen whether similar violence and revenge attacks will grip Male’, once the international community departs and visiting foreign journalists run out of stories.

The 'Addu Alliance' greeted foreign journalists, in support of Dr Waheed's government.

29 thoughts on “SAARC to dark: Violent social divide in Addu as uncertainty grips southern-most atoll”

  1. I have one comment to make on these protestors. Ask them if all of them know the meaning of what is written on the placards they are holding?
    To them it could be that it says " Allah is Great".

  2. Pity the group of women in the photo...most of them probably have no what they their boards are saying!! This is typical Maumoon showcases!

  3. Hussain Shahid is not an MP and the MP arrested is Mohamed Rasheed. Get the facts right....

  4. The above picture represents MDP at its best....MDP is best at using poor uneducated islanders as its foot solders and puppets.I wonder how much these poor women are paid to hold those cards..its amazing how these buruga wearing god fearing women can ever support MDP if they knew how corrupt and irreligious it really is.....All the terror in Addu was created by a small group of former criminals and MDP criminal activists.

  5. Few readers outside Maldives and even imagine what the damage caused by arson means to the people of Addu. Imagine all the court houses, police posts of wherever you are being burnt down in a single night. That is the case here. Almost all court records and a lot of police records have been burnt down.

    I cannot understand why anyone who is in his senses would do something like this. President Nasheed having just resigned, why would they want to burn down any public building? As for MDP supporters who are the majority in Addu, the only place with the council controlled 100% by MDP, why should they do it, as they would be the first suspect.

    In addition to any evidence available, the Police will naturally look for suspects who are capable of such an act. In 2005/2006 there was a lot of violence, attempted arson of a public building and incidents of attacks on the Police. Most who were suspected were either released or never charged after reconciliations between parties after the Tsunami. They happen to be MDP members.

    If the purpose of the destruction was to show the media the level of public outrage due to the President's resignation, whoever who came up with that idea is one self centered and evil person. What is clear is that the incidents were planned and not spontaneous as the ferocity of the fires indicate accelerators were used.

    If the case is proved beyond reasonable doubt and the culprits happen to be from MDP, the biggest strong hold of Addu will likely turn out to be their smallest.

    That is a motive which the Police should keep in mind when they investigate this. I can understand that having all their personal effects burnt down, being humans the police officers will will have a sense of revenge, but for this nation's sake please keep in mind that there is a chance that this may be exactly what the criminals wanted.

  6. I bet a $1000 if any one of those old ladies holding those placards knew even to read what is written on them, let alone its meaning. What a joke on MDP activists in Addu. The police are doing a great job and I salute them. We shouldn't let all those thugs who put public places on fire escape. Its time MDP know that they cannot get away with violence, vandalism and terrorism.

  7. our country is being torn apart now. The people do not want this new so called government. That is real democracy. We see through you and so does the world! Good article El.

    If we do not stand together, you know who will get back into power don't you?

  8. "Nars on Sun, 12th Feb 2012 3:31 PM

    The above picture represents MDP at its best….MDP is best at using poor uneducated islanders as its foot solders and puppets.I wonder how much these poor women are paid to hold those cards..its amazing how these buruga wearing god fearing women can ever support MDP if they knew how corrupt and irreligious it really is…..All the terror in Addu was created by a small group of former criminals and MDP criminal activists."

    Your comments and the pictures do not correlate at all.
    Why should the MDP get people to hold placards saying that Nasheed was not coerced to step down? Nasheed and the MDP is saying that he was coerced to resign. It is time you get your head out of Gayoom's arse and see the daylight.

  9. Nothing people say justifies the coup.

    What I'm most scared is not knowing the extent of the role Maldivians and other countries in this.

    Yameen has said (on Haveeru) that he was with the Indian High Commissioner at the time. Indian has always been best friends with Gayoom. I wonder if India kept silent for exchange of a promise to keep GMR even if the government changes.

    The other is the involvement of Burma in this. Yameen's oil scandal involves high profile people in Burmese government. Did they pay off the police and MNDF in order to save them from the scandal. Umar Naseer was in Singapore before he came and joined the demonstrations. Who knows if he didn't returned from Singapore with the money.

    These are serious and scary issues that needs investigative journalism.

  10. This is a small country of 300,000 thousand people but we still have the same rights. A democratically elected government has been oust by a coup and nothing has been done so far.

    I honestly don't know why mission after mission come to Maldives to find facts when they cannot act. This coup happened right before everyone's eyes and none did anything to help. Maybe because we don't have any oil to give in return for their help.

    Very very sad

  11. I disagree with the burning of computers. They should have been seized and searched for evidence.

  12. After all that has happened. All that we have seen. How could any one support the current government and the police brutality.
    It is all planned. the burning of police stations, the courts ... all planned to carry out this mass torture on poor innocent civilians.
    For those who are inflicting pain on fellow muslims, remember that death is inevitable. and you have to face god Almighty Allah. No matter how good you are at justifying things and making up stories will have to answer for what you are doing today.
    Stop all this now. Think for a while. Surely Allah is most forgiving and merciful. Save these innocent people.

  13. Nars and Yasir,

    Can you read the below sign?


    Now read the signs the women are holding again.

  14. It was a coup there is no doubt about it. Mr. Nasheed created the perfect opportunity for a coup and the clever opposition took the risk and succeeded.

  15. i wonder do these ladies know what is written on that they are holding..hehe

  16. @peasant on Sun, 12th Feb 2012 6:00 PM

    That was class, dude hehe!

    Anyway, what happened in our beloved Addu is despicable. The perpetrators of these hienous crimes should be brought to justice and face the full consequences of their actions. This was just violence pure and simple.

    Why would you do that to your own Addu? This is a historically proud place and we like to think of ourselves as above this sort of non-sense.

    This doesn't damange Waheed, Maumoon, Yamin, Gasim, or anyone else for that matter sitting comfortably in Male, Singapore, Malaysia or wherever else. It only damanges us, the people of Addu! Seriously, Addu has being taken back decades, i.e. decades of progress has been undone in one night of violence by a tiny minority.

    I don't agree with what happened on 6th February in Male and there are plenty of others who don't either. But we want to use the laws of the land, and where they are inadequate, international and Islamic law to bring about justice.

    I'm also hoping that the Police officers in Addu are not like the murderous thugs in the Maldives Terrorist Services in Male. There was a minority involved in Addu, and bring them to justice, but do not use your anger. Revenge will only lead to cycles of violence. Leave the Male rules and businessmen to destroy themselves. Let's not get involved with that.

  17. After all the looting there has been reports that civilians in Police uniform were going door to door to arrest protesters, what was that all about, people who did the damage and looting must not be from a single party then.

    Majaa kameh veema kohlanee

  18. So called innocent muaz haleem was leading the hooligans to burn hithadhoo court,and announcing if any DRP personel comes in their way they are going to cut them into atleadt get ur info correct and ask from the civilians not from these criminals..

  19. A simple scriptologic study tells me that signs 1,2,3 and 4 are written by one same person using one same pen. They all look pretty convinced though...

  20. "What does mine say?"
    "Allah is great and Waheed will show us the path to heaven". Insha Allah.

  21. 200 Mrf once against 2000 every month. these women really don't understand mathematics and accounting. Too greedy! And too cheap for those who have wacked 800 M USD selling drugs in the country.

  22. Come on all of you stop all this politics nonsense and unite we showed our strenth in happiness and sorrow pssst remember tsunami and when our team won championship we showed out strenth then we all are here to live and die.if nasheed loves us the people of this so much why is he planing desaster on Friday wait and watch

  23. guess what! I'm back ! My motivation as an MDP activist is thousand times stronger. I challenge all the oppositions to win an election against MDP. specially in addu city. Forget it u hooligans ! We will win the next term. Insha allah.

  24. Nice one peasant 🙂 ....Now i know who is really drunk hahahahahaaa


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