‘Junk’ councillor takes part in SLOW LIFE Symposia

Baa atoll Maalhos Councilor Abdul Matheen Solih has said the authority has been labeled the ‘Gondu’ – or junk – council after they started actively participating in improving the island’s waste management.

“The islanders have started calling us the ‘Gondu’ after we have physically started going to the junkyard and working on the waste management,” said Matheen.

Matheen and his fellow councillors have been the labelled with the derogatory term after they set out to do what the majority of the country has failed to by recycling materials rather than burning them or dumping them in a landfill.

Public disregard for work done towards the betterment of the environment was one of the main issues raised at the recent SLOW LIFE symposia which brought local environmental NGOs, councillors, and government officials together to discuss responsible waste management and sustainability.

The symposia – held on November 17- was a sister event to the annual SLOW LIFE Symposium which has previously seen the participation of philanthropists and celebrities such as UK entrepreneur Richard Branson and actor Ed Norton.

Maalhos council also complained of the lack of response from the government to the opposition majority council, with Matheen recalling the failure to be provided with the MVR45 (US$3) needed for gloves for safety reasons while working at the junkyard.

He provided assurance, however, that the council would not succumb to the challenges, revealing plans to implement a sustainable waste management system by adopting the recycling based model currently implemented in Baa Atoll Ukulhas.

NGOS making a difference

Meanwhile, Environmental NGO Save the Beach highlighted the plight of Villingili beach – filled with garbage every weekend by visitors from the capital Malé, where there is no natural beach.

Save the Beach – which started as a youth movement in 2008 aiming to conserve the natural beauty of the Villingili beaches – now conducts clean up and awareness programs not only in Villingili but also in many other inhabited islands.

Speaking of the busy Villingili beach, co–founder Hassan Ahmed ‘Beybe’ said that the NGO has no other option but conducting daily clean-ups alongside major clean up events to keep the beach garbage free.

A recent Save the Beach organised beach clean-up saw the participation of officers and crew from the USS Rodney M Davis – the US Navy’s 7th fleet missile frigate on its last tour of duty.

When asked about the reception of the work done by the NGO, ‘Beybe’ said that they have received positive support from the Villingili community and that it now “understands the importance of preserving the beach”.

Other active NGOs present at the Symposia included his manta ray awareness and conservation organisation Manta Trust, Maldives Lifeguard Association, Dhi Youth Movement and Maldives Body Boarding Association.

Environmental Activism

Environmentalist, Aishath Niyaz who has been involved in environmental activism for over 12 years shared her experiences as an activist and highlighted some of the broader issues with the current environmental situation in the country.

“The biggest constraint is definitely managing finances. I am very lucky as I do not have huge expenses but sometimes I wonder how long I will be able to keep on going like this,” said Aishath.

Aishath’s concerns of financial difficulty were not unique to her but were echoed throughout the Symposia by many of the younger participants.

Having reviously worked at various related institutions, Aishath now provides technical support for local NGOs and small authorities after completing her education in sustainable development by making a decision to not work in institutions which “lack integrity”.

Proving that activism can be done in various forms and arts was local photographer Asad Nazeer ‘Funko’ who, while specialising in fashion and portrait photography, also creates thought provoking art pieces about pressing environmental and social issues.


The event was organised by the award-winning Soneva Fushi resort whose founders Sonu and Eva Shivdasani initiated the SLOW LIFE foundation based on the resort’s philosophies of low impact and sustainable luxury tourism with SLOW LIFE being an acronym for Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness and Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences.

While speaking at the event, Shivdasani said that the SLOW LIFE initiative reflects Soneva group’s core beliefs such as ‘intelligent luxury’ and that he believes that dedicated businesses, not governments will bring change to the world.

The participants at the Symposia were given a platform to voice their concerns over environmental sustainability in the Maldives, resulting in an action plan for the upcoming year to address these environmental challenges.

The day long symposia, which included a tour of Soneva Fush’s gardens and waste management programme, ended with discussions on ‘real’ actions that can be done in the next 12 months to contribute to the cause.

During the discussions, the individuals and NGOs chose to commit to different initiatives which will come under the banner ‘Clean Maldives’.

Related to this story

Climate experts and celebrities converge on Maldives for Slow Life Symposium


Councils ordered to seek president’s permission before leasing state lands

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has sent a letter to all local councils ordering them to refrain from making any decisions regarding state owned land without seeking prior permission from the president.

In a circular sent to the councils, the ministry stated that in accordance with the Land Act, it is the President who will decide on all matters concerning state owned land with the advice of his ministerial cabinet.

It was stated that the need to send a circular reminding councils of this had come after the president became aware of some councils continually failing to comply by the law.


Innamaadhoo island council asks Islamic Ministry to take action against Sheikh Shameem

Innamaadhoo island council, in Raa Atoll, has filed a complaint with the Islamic Ministry against Sheikh Ibrahim Shameem Adam after he allegedly preached inside the island’s Friday Mosque without first obtaining permission.

Speaking to Minivan News today Council President Ibrahim Fayaz said that Sheikh Shameem went to the island last Saturday and requested the council’s permission.

Before receiving a response from authorities, however, Shameem held a sermon on the island, said Fayaz.

“They announced that there will be a sermon that night on the topic of sports and entertainment and held the sermon without our permission and we did not do anything about it because then they say Innamaadhoo council had obstructed religious activities and that we are anti-Islamic,’’ he said.

He said that the first 50 minutes of the speech was very good before beginning to resemble a political campaign meeting.

“He started talking about politics and the upcoming parliament elections and people inside the mosque came out, only a few were waiting inside,’’ Fayaz said.

“More than 200 people gathered outside the mosque in protest to the speech he was giving because it was supposed to be a religious sermon and not a political rally.’’

Fayaz said that islanders came and complained to the council, warning that if the council was not able to stop him the islanders might have to do it.

“So I then went inside and turned the loudspeaker and microphone off, but he did not stop,’’ he said.

“I asked him who gave him the permission to conduct a sermon inside the mosque and he replied by saying that the ‘Higher Authorities’ gave him permission. I do not know who higher authorities were.’’

Political sermons

Fayaz said that Shameem indirectly criticised both Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives’ parliamentary candidates.

“He criticised them in a way that everyone knew who he was talking about, but did not mention the names,’’ he said. “We even called the police that night because there might have been unrest on the island – and five councilors will not be able to stop the islanders.’’

He said that police asked the council to take a statement from Sheikh Shameem, but that Shameem refused to come to answer questions.

Furthermore, Fayaz alleged that the Islamic Ministry would not take any action against him because he was sent by the Adhaalath Party.

Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed today told Minivan News that he had not received any information of the incident.

In December last year Omadhoo island council stopped Sheikh Shameem from delivering a religious lecture at the local mosque, fearing it might “disrupt the stability and social harmony of the island”.

At the time, Haveeru reported that when the council asked for a formal request for permission, the organisers sent a text message to the council president saying the lecture would go on with or without the council’s permission.

In May 2013 Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Sheikh Ilyas Hussein were obstructed from preaching in Vaikaradhoo, in Haa Dhaalu atoll, whilst Kamadhoo island council in Baa atoll prevented Sheikh Nasrulla Ali from preaching.

In Vaikaradhoo the sheikhs continued with police protection in the presence of local opposition activists.

In September 2013, Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik told a parliamentary sub-committee that the commission had stopped religious sermon ‘Andhalus’ conducted by Sheikh Shameem for violating the state broadcaster’s guidelines.

The MBC chairman,along with members of the commission, were summoned before the independent institutions committee following complaints by MDP MPs that the sermon by Sheikh Shameem infringed the rights of the party’s presidential candidate.

“We definitely do not consider [televising the sermon] as anti-campaigning against a particular candidate using religion. [But] around 11:35pm, because his talk was changing a little, we stopped the live [broadcasting],” Manik told the parliament committee at the time.

Current laws and regulations require religious preachers to obtain permission from local councils in order to preach at mosques in their administrative areas.


Emergency water supplied to Alifushi bacteria infested, says council

The emergency water supplied to Alifushi island contains bacteria and dust, the island’s council has said.

Vice President of the council Ibrahim Shuaib said that, following a water shortage,  the island requested 185 tonnes of drinking water from the government – the capacity of the council’s water tanks.

After the island was  presented with 40 tonnes of water, it was subsequently found to be bacteria infested.

“After we received complaints about the water, we tested a sample from the health center here. They found that there were bacteria and dust in it. So we have asked not to use that water,” Shuaib said.

He said that complaints have officially been filed with the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

“The EPA asked to send an official letter – we sent that too. But we still haven’t got an answer. Some people are now using that water after boiling,” revealed Shuaib.

Speaking to Vnews NDMC denied the claims, saying that the water was produced at Dhuvaafaru water plant and that no complaints had been received from other islands that had received water from the same plant. Both the EPA and the NDMC are investigating the matter.

With a population of 2700, the council estimates there are approximately 1600 people currently residing on the island. According to the council, the island faces water shortages every year around this time.

Traditionally, Maldivians have depended on groundwater, supplemented by rainwater, for drinking and cleaning. However, the contamination of ground water following the tsunami, and the failure to harvest rainwater, means that water shortages during dry periods are increasingly common.

While every house in capital Malé city is supplied with desalinated water, there are no sustainable systems to supply water on most islands. Water shortages all around the country have become a regular occurrence in the past few years during the dry period – which falls between February and April.

According to the NDMC, during the dry seasons of 2009 and 2010, the Maldivian government supplied desalinated water to over 90 islands at a cost of Rf10 million (US$640,000).

Last year between 3 February and 25 April 2013, some 53 islands reported water shortages to the NDMC. Plans have been underway to find more sustainable solutions to the issue in the past few years.

Minister of State for Environment and Energy Abdul Matheen Mohamed has said that the government was emphasising integrated water management systems in order to make the best use of the resources currently available.

“Our policy is to use the available resources as much as possible,” said Matheen. “Just basically to reduce the water costs.”

Earlier this week he island of Gulhi, in Kaafu atoll, became the first place in the world to produce desalinated drinking water using waste heat from electricity generation.

The project – a joint venture between state electricity supplier STELCO and UK registered charity the Aquiva Foundation – can produce around 8000 litres of water for local consumption.

In January, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development chose the Maldives from amongst 80 applicants to receive concessionary loans worth US$6 million (MVR92 million) for a clean energy project which could produce up to 62 million litres of desalinated water per year.


LGA Vice President Ahmed Faisal resigns

Local Government Authority (LGA) Vice President Ahmed Faisal has resigned from his post at the local councils’ oversight body.

Faisal told local media that he resigned to make way for new members to work with newly-elected councils.

The LGA is tasked with monitoring local councils and coordinating with the government. Its board is comprised of a cabinet minister appointed by the president, a member from Malé City Council, four members elected from atoll councils, a member appointed by parliament to represent civil society, a member of the general public by parliament and a member of a city council elected from the Malé and Addu city councils.

Faisal was the civil society member on the LGA. Following the swearing-in of newly-elected councillors on February 26, the LGA’s board will be reconstituted.

Faisal had been outspoken about reforms to the current model of decentralisation followed in the country. He had recently suggested lengthening council terms from three to five years to allow the Elections Commission to conduct the parliamentary and local council elections simultaneously.

At a press conference last week, current LGA chair, Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim, criticised Faisal’s recommendation and dismissed it as his “personal opinion”. The defence minister also alleged that Faisal had been pursuing a personal agenda in deciding matters related to local councils.


Comment: Anatomy of a manufactured crisis

“The mass do not take their opinions from dignitaries in Church or State, from ostensible leaders or from books. Their thinking is done for them by men much like themselves, addressing or speaking in their name, on the spur of the moment… ” – John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

As I’m writing this (13th March 2013) negotiations are underway between Male City Council, Environment Ministry and Tatva Global, with the help of Clinton Global Initiative towards a final resolution that will hopefully put Male’s waste management issue behind us. Though it would seem that the issue is simply, writing a fair and favourable contract for all stakeholders involved, the picture that emerges from media is entirely different.

The media narrative (especially in the broadcast media belonging to rich resort owning businessmen) is a simple one. Male City Council with the sole interest of obstructing proper functioning of government had deliberately halted its waste management program. At times, this story shifts towards a negligent or inefficient Male City Council.

Nevertheless, the basic premise is indubitably clear: the responsibility lies with Male City Council. While the waste management crisis is a real, concrete issue that affects many lives, this simplified story of good and evil that we are sold supports a political goal – that of constructing a people antagonistic to Male City Council, and by extension MDP, who dominates the City Council seats.

This is helped by the fact that Male Kunikoshi (waste disposal area) is subject to arson attacks whenever MDP protests flare up in the city, and media consumers are often led on to believe that such arson attacks have a relation to MDP. While it is unclear who is actually responsible for these arson attacks, the general nuisance such incidents create helps to foster sentiments that support the above narrative of an inefficient/negligent Male City Council.

When we unpack this whole series of events beginning with the budgetary issues of Male City Council, waste handling issues, and how these issues are portrayed in the media, a pattern emerges. I believe this pattern is reflected in other similar issues of the past three years, and can be used to explain the mobilisation of thousands of anti-government supporters (together with police and MNDF), which finally resulted in Waheed taking control of the executive. The significance of this pattern is the populist approach media takes, pitting the interests of a ‘people’ against a system of corruption, negligence, inefficient bureaucracy, where this system is often institutions controlled by MDP.

The result of such narrative is key voting blocs are won over to the camp who represents the interests of the said ‘people’. Understanding this pattern is key to understanding how politics is conducted today in the Maldives.

Roots of the waste management crisis

An agreement between Tatva Global, an Indian company with experience in environmentally friendly waste management, and Male City Council was signed in May 2012. Very little or no budget was allocated for waste management for the following year 2012 by Male City Council, which seems to have been on the understanding that Tatva Global would take over waste management within six months of signing.

Yet by early 2012, nine months into the contract, Tatva Global had little to show and was requesting for more time. Following the February coup, Male City Council issued a statement refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of Waheed’s government and presenting a stand of non-cooperation with Waheed’s government.

By May 2012 the conflict between Male City Council and Waheed’s government was intensifying, primarily over land and other assets controlled by Male City Council. At that time, Thilafushi was considered part of Male and under the jurisdiction of Male City Council. All waste ends up on Thilafushi either for processing or burial and is key to the waste management project.

Waheed’s reaction to the crisis was to change Thilafushi Corporation’s Board of Directors and refuse cooperation with the waste management project. Meanwhile, Tatva Global’s project itself was running into their own problems, with Tatva requesting yet more time from Male City Council, with the project already a year late.

May 2012 was also the time at which the media onslaught against Male City Council ratcheted up. Media coverage of Male City Council during May and in the following months was primarily focused on creating a narrative that attempted to portray Male City Council as extremely politicised and unable to provide basic services for the public, because of their non-cooperation stand. As part of this campaign against Male City Council, a petition with fifty odd signatures was submitted to LGA requesting to take action against Male City Council for their negligence.

By June 2012, a month into the targeted media campaign against Male City Council, Male City Council was reported as saying that they did not have the necessary funds to pursue various projects such as roadworks and waste management. Members of the City Council kept repeating that there was no budget for such projects, and they were capable of conducting only minimal ‘patch’ works, and that previously held assets for such work had already being transferred to Road Development Corporation. It would seem that the government and media were in sync, pulling the levers of finance and media against Male City Council – by transferring responsibility of roadworks from Road Development Corporation to Male City Council without giving them the necessary resources, by blocking finance, and creating a media frenzy around this issue portraying Male City Council as inefficient and negligent.

By July 2011, Waheed had issued an executive order for the takeover of Thilafushi and handed over complete control of Thilafushi and all related assets to Thilafushi Corporation. At the same time, Waheed’s Environment Minister went to press expressing the government’s intention to start their own waste management project. This completely sidelines Male City Council and Tatva Global, bringing their project to a halt.

Just a week later, Male City Council would announce that Male Kunikoshi (the waste disposal area) was full ahead of Ramadan, a peak time of the year, and they do not have the budget for the cleanup as finance was completely blocked.

From this point forth, the same pattern kept repeating – either the garbage disposal would be full and Male City Council would be forced to close the site, or an arson attack burned the garbage dump – and this continued for a full nine months.

All the while, the media unquestioningly follows the official line – Male City Council is at fault, and it is their sole responsibility. The result: public opinion, vital ahead of the election, is turned against Male City Council and MDP.

February/March 2013 would bring a slightly new twist to the whole narrative. This recent episode begins with Nasheed taking refuge in the Indian High Commission, and once again there’s an arson attack on Kunikoshi. This time however, Imaadhudheen School shuts down because of the smoke and parents protest outside Male City Council.

Waheed, seeing the opportunity to grab a few more votes, swept in with the MNDF to clean up the garbage dump.

The following video report produced by DhiTV on the day Waheed visited Male Kunikoshi is exemplary of the kind of biased, one sided, vote-seeking reports produced in our media landscape, and worth seeing just to see how an issue can be manipulated in the media:


Unpacking the Media Narrative

The first point to note is that underneath all the political rhetoric and maneuvering lies a real issue that affects many lives – the public health hazard, teachers and students being hospitalised, closing of schools, the smoke, the stench etc.

The public has a right to feel disaffected by this crisis, and is indignant and up in arms with good cause.

The second point to note is though this is a manufactured crisis; there is no inherent direction to which this raw emotional energy of the public may flow. That is to say, that it is entirely contingent, and depends on how Male City Council responds as much as to how Waheed is able to captivate and charm his way around it.

But clearly, Male City Council is at a disadvantage here, when the media gives little attention to their press conferences.

The MDP, which is ultimately implicated in all these battles, rarely seems concerned by how these issues unfold in the public imagination, and are mostly focused on other battles that they consider more significant.

It is in these circumstances that Waheed is presented as savior coming to save the public from an impending health hazard with his sleeves rolled up, literally. His words focus entirely on creating the impression that Male City Council has been unable to fulfill their duty, and that he had to ‘save’ the public from a health crisis by marching in to Male Kunikoshi with the MTCC and MNDF.

In what little facts that are in the report, we are still able to glean a few and be amazed at their glaring contradictions. For example, Waheed claims that he will clean up Male Kunikoshi by allocating a MVR 21 million budget for the immediate one time clean up, yet for all their complaints, Male City Council were given only MVR 8 million for the same job in the months before.

Had he allocated the budget earlier, could he have prevented this crisis, entirely? Yet, such doubts are easily glossed over when we are bombarded with such repeated rhetoric as “the past three years”, “irresponsible, politicised City Council” and so on. The public in its turn can only breathe a sigh of relief, a moment of catharsis, after weeks of burning stench.

From Disaffected Public to Political Subjects

This is also the same public who protested in front of Male City Council demanding a rapid solution to the waste management issue, after being tormented by weeks of smoke.

It’s important to note the changes that occur when a disaffected public (in this case Imaadhudheen parents) goes in to political action. Before engaging in political action, one has to accept certain notions, and give meaning to certain symbols in that particular situation.

To simply have a demand – stop the smoke and stench – is not enough for one to be constituted as a political subject. In this case, the choice of location (in front of Male City Council) already shows who they chose to blame in this particular crisis.

The choice to protest there shows they had already accepted the basic contours of the narrative presented by Waheed and DhiTV, which in one sense means that even before Waheed marched in to Male Kunikoshi, he had succeeded in creating a possible voting bloc. This last gesture of providing MVR 21 million in relief for the clean up was mere icing on the cake; Waheed’s chance for a souvenir victory portrait atop a garbage hill.

When we have examined this crisis closely we see how a disaffected public is created in a crisis, captured within a particular discourse, and within this system of signification how different elements cohere together and give articulation to political subjects.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Election Commission to establish units in Maldives atolls

Election Commission (EC) units manned by permanent staff are to be established in every atoll in the Maldives, local media has reported.

EC member Ali Mohamed Manik told local media that the units are to be established in 20 Atolls and that three members of staff will be employed at 13 of the 20 units.

While one assistant director and two other staff members will be employed at each of the 13 units, the remaining seven will only have an admin officer and an office assistant due to a lack of funds.

According to local media, the units are to be located at the atoll capital’s council offices, with five Atoll offices having confirmed availability of space for establishing the units.

EC President Fuad Thaufeeg told local media that the main task of the employees at the units would be to maintain the Atoll registries as efficiently as possible.

“We have difficulties in obtaining information, especially related to deaths. They would remove those people from the list. They would also work with preparing and holding by-elections,” Thaufeeq was quoted as saying by Sun Online.


Councils to receive more empowerment: President Waheed

The government has planned more work in cooperation with the Local Government Authority (LGA) to ensure further empowerment of councils, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has said.

Speaking to the people of Meedhoo in Raa Atoll last night, Waheed said that the main aim of decentralisation is to empower islands, and facilitate authority to councils to carry out their work.

According to Waheed, the authority for councils was withheld when several island council elections were won by parties other than the ruling party.

Instead of empowering councils, national offices were established, resulting in little progress being made in the process of the decentralisation of governance.

Waheed admitted that since he assumed the post of president he had not been able to assist with decentralisation issues to acceptable levels.

He did note however, that he had abolished national offices and empowered Atoll councils with the responsibilities of national offices.


Condoms and black magic: police raid Usfasgandu

Additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

Police raided the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest camp at Usfasgandu this morning, after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court and cordoning off the area from MDP demonstrators.

MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi was inside the cordon showing the warrant to a group of media representatives shortly after 8:00am, as dozens of police began to gather in the area.

Reasons for the search as stated on the warrant included: “suspected criminal activity”, “damage to public property”, and “suspected black magic performed in the area”.

Under evidence, the warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise of May 9, and on May 25 “MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers.”

As blue-gloved officers from the Drug Enforcement Department (DED) arrived, a group of largely female protesters began to gather at the barricades set up near the STELCO building. The barricade was itself lightly manned by police, however a group of police stationed further back near the Dharubaaruge convention centre were equipped with riot shields, gas masks and rubber bullet guns.

The crowd was noisy and upset, but non-violent. An altercation erupted at the front between a group of women and several young men, whom protesters claimed had been sent by a government-affiliated party to provoke the crowd. Minivan News later observed one of these men being arrested by police after trying to break through the barricade.

Meanwhile, DED officers fanned out at the Usfasgandu site and began poking through plants and debris around the padlocked container under the main stage. A large group of police on the other side were picking through rocks along the seawall, while a police boat waited outside the harbour.

Media raced over to photograph the first discovery, retrieved from a nearby bush: cigarette butts and a brown substance wrapped in an MDP membership form. Police near the stage had meanwhile lifted up a wooden board and found a small plastic baggie containing the remnants of a dried substance.

A major find occurred after police broke open the container, searching through old paint tins and debris before reaching into a ceiling cavity, triumphantly producing a packet of condoms (‘Moods’ ultrathin).

The Usfasgandu area had been given to the MDP by the (MDP-dominated) Male’ City Council, after it was evicted by police from its previous camp just metres down the road at the tsunami monument. Police at the time claimed the area was being used as a hub for criminal activity and assorted deviancy, and a similar raid uncovered beer and condoms. The camp was immediately dismantled by the police and MNDF, and walls were painted over grey to remove all trace of the MDP from the area.

The Usfasgandu raid this morning ends a stalemate between the Home Ministry – headed by former Justice Minister during Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s rule, Dr Mohamed Jameel – and Male’ City Council.

The Housing Ministry initially sought to repossess the area from the Council, which refused to cooperate. The Home Ministry then instructed police to retake the area, who approached the Criminal Court for a warrant. The court initially denied this warrant, stating that the repossession was a civil matter and not within its jurisdiction.

Eight days later and Home Minister Jameel yesterday announced that the Ministry had received complaints of criminal activity in the area: “No complaints of any criminal activities had been raised with us at the time [of the original court order request]. But now many complaints have been received including criminal offences,” he told local media.

Police Spokesperson Sub-inspector Hassan Haneef said that following a search of the area a decision would be taken on whether to shut down the site.

“If there is reasonable evidence of crimes being committed there, we would look to close the area,” he said.

Male City Mayor Ali ‘Maizaan’ Manik was standing next to a cage full of crows – kept on the site by the MDP demonstrators to mock President Mohamed Waheed, who is caricatured as a crow on the popular Maakanaa Show.

“I’m too angry to talk right now,” he told Minivan News, as police were left to pick through the area after media scurried to protect their cameras from the sudden downpour.

Back through the police barricades, one visibly upset protester expressed frustration at what he described as “a police state”.

“We just want somewhere to peacefully protest,” he said. “They are just going to plant something, like drugs or explosives, so they can blame us. What can we do? We are helpless.”

An older man came up, put his hand on his shoulder, and led him out of the rain.