MDP alleges “covert police action” against protesters

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has alleged intimidation, harassment, and “covert police action” against participants of a gathering in the capital Malé last Thursday (June 26).

The party explained in a press release yesterday that Thursday night’s rally was held “as the first of a planned series of gatherings dubbed ‘Barricade Meetings’, to protest the current regime’s mismanagement of state resources, rising costs of essential goods, deterioration of health services resulting in preventable loss of lives, and sustained influences on the judiciary to incriminate political rivals.”

The rally went ahead in spite of a warning by the Home Ministry against the planned gathering, which was the first time the main opposition party took to the streets since last year’s presidential election.

The MDP afterwards alleged that several police officers “infiltrated the rally and attempted to incite grassroots members” of the party.

“Leaders of the party urged participants to avoid confrontations and were exercising maximum restraint while reminding attendees that we were exercising our constitutional rights of assembly, of disseminating and acquiring awareness, and of freedom of expression,” the statement continued.

“Intimidation and harassment of participants of rallies and political gatherings have been the practice of [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom regime in the past. It is a matter of serious concern for the MDP that police are being directed to infiltrate and incite participants of political rallies by the administration of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

“Their orders include identification of the party’s youth leaders and top activists and the MDP believes that several young participants of the rally will be arrested on some trumped up unrelated charges in the next few days.”

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali was unavailable for comment at the time of press.

Peaceful assembly

The MDP statement meanwhile added that threats and “targeted incrimination” against youth participating in political activities was a common practice under the Gayoom regime.

“The MDP appeals to well-wishers to prevail over the current administration to cease and desist from attempts to intimidate and incriminate participants of political gatherings,” the press release concluded.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) meanwhile are reported to have sent a letter to former President Mohamed Nasheed – acting president of the MDP – asking the party not to hold demonstrations at the Chandanee Magu-Fareedhee Magu junction.

Although Nasheed had declared that the party would continue its gatherings “every night,” the MDP did not organise a gathering last night.

Police stated in the letter – obtained by local media – that a number of complaints were made by members of the public regarding the MDP’s gathering on Thursday night.

While pedestrians, Ramadan shoppers, and drivers were inconvenienced, the letter stated that residents of the area also complained of infringement of their rights.

Some complainants alleged that participants of the gathering used foul language and violated societal norms, police said.

Moreover, the letter added, businesses and shops in the commercial district would also be adversely affected if the gatherings continued in the area.

The letter further referred to provisions in the Freedom of Assembly Act passed in December 2012, which authorises police to prevent gatherings.

Police also urged the opposition party to provide a 36-hour notice prior to holding public gatherings.