Thousands of people from Maldives’ remote atolls are traveling to Malé this week for a mass antigovernment protest on Friday, but the police have threatened a crack down claiming opposition supporters are planning to attack the security officers and the residences of government officials.
The Maldivians against tyranny coalition has vowed to bring out 25,000 people on to the streets of Malé after the government turned down calls for negotiation over the imprisonment of ex president Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
Ilyas Labeeb, a former MP with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said over 2000 people have arrived in Malé by noon today and said an additional three thousand islanders are expected to arrive by boat over the next 48 hours.
The coalition says at least 15,000 people from Malé, where one-third of the Maldives’ 350,000 population live, will join the historic march.
Speaking to Minivan News, 47-year-old Mohamed Arif from southern Thaa Kimbidhoo said: “I came from my island today to bring an end to the tyranny the Maldivian people are facing. I want the current disobedient ruler, who does not seem to hear us, to listen to what we have to say.”
Arif was accompanied by 95 people from Kimbidhoo island.
— Shauna Aminath (@anuahsa) April 29, 2015
— MDP_Thilafaiy (@MDP_Thilafaiy) April 29, 2015
The coalition is bearing the cost of travel and food for supporters from the atolls. Many have made their own arrangements for accommodation with family members, while others will be sleeping on the boats, the coalition has said.
Opposition leaders had been traveling across the country in recent weeks canvassing for support.
The coalition has meanwhile launched a website for the May Day protest and introduced a hashtag for social media – #EkehFaheh15 – referring to the date of the protest.
— Maji (@abdulmaajid) April 29, 2015
MDP supporter Mariyam Zulfa, 42, who lives in Malé says she will attend the protests with her family, “but our leaders must make sure we end the government’s tyranny this time.”
The police held separate meetings with members of the coalition, the MDP, the Jumhooree Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party on Tuesday and Wednesday to raise concerns over the threat of violence.
Opposition leaders including Adhaalath’s president Sheikh Imran Abdulla have told the police that the demonstration will remain peaceful.
But the Maldives Police Services at press conference this evening said intelligence reports indicate opposition supporters are planning to attack the residences of government officials and are sharpening iron rods and pipes and gathering lead balls to attack security forces.
The police say they will allow peaceful protests to proceed, but said the army and the police are ready to crack down on any violence.
The police’s riot control exercises continued in Malé today with officers carrying guns practicing arrest procedures. Hundreds of officers also ran through Malé’s streets at noon.
Minivan News journalists observed several police officers tearing up May Day posters from the walls of Malé residences today.
Meanwhile, president Abdulla Yameen said he had appointed the tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb as his representative to speak with Adhaalath Party’s Sheikh Imran to jeers and laughter at a government function last night.
“I find Imran’s work to be obsolete,” he said and called on Adhaalath Party members to join the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Imran has called on the president to dismiss Adeeb who he accuses of corruption and illicit connections with gangs.
Referring to Imran, Adeeb said last night: “hypocritical scholars will be exposed at the end of the times.”
The PPM also issued a statement today dismissing rumors that PPM leader and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is involved in the May Day protest. Gayoom is president Yameen’s half-brother.