Police arrest six protesters from Kudahuvadhoo during President’s visit

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the arrest of six protesters from Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaal Atoll during President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s visit to the island on Sunday.

In a press release last night, the former ruling party condemned “in the harshest terms” the arrest of “participants of a peaceful protest” against Dr Waheed’s government and called for their “immediate release”.

Police made the arrests “brutally and with no prior warning,” the MDP statement alleged.

The party also expressed concern over the alleged use of pepper spray and “disproportionate force” to take the protesters into custody as well as the use of obscene language towards demonstrators.

The MDP statement concluded by calling on the Human Rights Commission, Police Integrity Commission and the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate and take legal action concerning the “illegal arrest of peaceful protesters and efforts by the police to restrict freedom of expression.”

Speaking to Minivan News, a police media official confirmed that six people were arrested from the island on Sunday but noted that only one person was arrested during Dr Waheed’s visit.

Three men were arrested around 11:00am for “obstructing police duty” during security preparations for the President’s visit.

One of the men allegedly assaulted a police officer while the other two were arrested for “obstructing police duty,” the media official explained.

A police officer sustained minor injuries during the confrontation, the official said, but the injuries were “not too serious.”

A woman was arrested at the time when President Waheed alighted on the island but has since been released.

Two men arrested during a protest outside the Kudahuvadhoo police station after President Waheed left the island have also been released, the media official said.

Of the six arrested during the day, only the three men arrested before noon were still in custody, the official said.

On the allegations concerning excessive use of force, the police media official insisted that no force was used when President Waheed alighted on the island.

However, he added that police used force earlier in the day to control a disturbance that followed the arrest of the individual who allegedly assaulted a police officer.

Banners taken down

Meanwhile, Shathir Abdul Rahman, head of the MDP Kudahuvadhoo branch, told private broadcaster Raajje TV yesterday that a large number of police from other stations in the atoll arrived ahead of the President and took down anti-government banners.

The police media official confirmed that police took down banners put up at the harbour area.

Dhaal Meedhoo
Protest preparation in Dhaal Meedhoo

The banners were put up at a cordoned off area “closed for security reasons” and were taken down as they were put up by islanders who “broke through the police lines”, the media official said.

Meanwhile, a protest also took place at Dhaal Meedhoo on Saturday to coincide with the former vice president’s visit.

President Waheed left Male’ on Friday for Faafu Nilandhoo and some islands of Dhaalu atoll.

Private broadcaster Villa Television – owned by Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and business magnate MP Gasim Ibrahim – reported Dr Waheed as saying in his speech at Kudahuvadhoo yesterday that his government would be “harsh” towards those who attack senior government officials and create unrest.

A bottle was reportedly thrown at Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz at Dhaal Meedhoo during the President’s visit.

Referring to the incident during his speech at Kudahuvadhoo yesterday, Dr Waheed reportedly characterised it as “an act of terrorism” and promised “harsh action” against those responsible.

Meanwhile, according to MDP officials on social media, two men were arrested today from Dhaal Hulhudheli during a protest greeting President Waheed’s arrival on the island. Both men have however been released after the President’s departure.

Since the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, visits by President Waheed to islands have been marked by protests calling him a “traitor” and demonstrators clashing with police.

Following reports released by Amnesty International alleging police brutality since February’s transfer of power, police in June this year denied “use of excessive force” against demonstrators.