The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has accused Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs of interfering in police handling of MDP activists during a protest outside parliament on 30 December.
DRP and MDP protesters squared off outside parliament in response to the contentious decentralisation bill, debate over which had stalled four times.
The DRP claims MDP MPs Eva Abdullah, Mariya Didi and Mohamed Mustafa approached riot police and asked them to release an MDP activist who was being manhandled.
DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf said he was close to the gate when Mariya and Mustafa allegedly asked police to release the activist.
“I’m not somebody who spouts rubbish. I saw this with my own eyes along with my colleagues,” he said.
“Police said [the activist] had attacked them and that is why he was handcuffed. The police are an independent body and should only be given orders by the police commissioner, not the president or the chairperson of the MDP,” Mahlouf said, adding that he would be filing a case with the police integrity commission.
Asked for her version of events, Eva replied that the MDP MPs “were just trying to find out what was going on.”
“A group of MDP activists outside brought a megaphone with them,” she said. “Police tried to disperse them and there was some kind of skirmish. I was looking on when police tried to get a bit physically tough on them and one of my constituents was hit and fell.”
The police did not respond to her, she said.
“If you look at the police records he was detained for several hours, so reports he was released are not true.
“We were not involved, we were just standing there during the Majlis break. We know what police brutality is like and went to see what was happening before it could get out of hand.”
The Maldives Police Service (MPS) released a statement claiming that rumours of police releasing protesters on the request of MDP MPs were incorrect, adding that such claims “undermine the trust people have in the police” and “should not be made for political gain”.
Videos aired on DhiTV appeared to show the three MDP MPs communicating with the police officers.
Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed claimed that MDP had astroturfed the protest and that furthermore, MP interference with police work was nothing new.
“This is the third time the MDP have engineered a protest outside parliament,” he said. “The first was the bill over benefits to previous presidents, the second was the no confidence vote against the foreign minister and the third was this decentralisation bill. They are very organised and bring loudspeakers and umbrellas. The modus operadi is for MDP MPs to meet the protesters and brief them on what to say and how to do it. It’s a very normal thing for MDP; I’ve seen senior MDP members making calls to the police at the station asking for the removal of barriers. On occasions when the barriers have been removed, [MPs] haven’t even been enable to leave to go to lunch – it’s not a good idea to walk through a mob.”
Eva claimed there was no need for MDP MPs to engineer protests “as protesting is grassroots MDP and the activism in the party is still quite strong.”
“The MDP created space for peaceful protests in this country – we put the concept in the Maldivian vocabulary,” she said.
Nasheed said he did not personally witness the MDP MPs interaction with police during the latest protest, “all the MPs were talking about how Mariya had intervened with a protester being taken away. I don’t think it is becoming of MDP to interefere with police discharging their duties.”
The DRP had exploited the situation very effectively, he noted.
“I think they already had the video. Mahlouf spoke about it to the media and the following day, probably on instructions from higher ups under intense pressure, the police issued a statement denying [they had released the activist on MP request). The video was not released initially because [the intention] was to trap police. They fell into it and now it’s obvious to everyone – I think it’s sad it happened.”