MDP and Sangu TV in row over live broadcast of rallies

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suspended its rally on Thursday night after privately-owned Sangu TV broadcast the event live without permission.

MP Ahmed Mahloof told Minivan News an opposition supporter had removed Sangu TV’s microphone from the podium at the opposition’s campaign office or Haruge, resulting in a confrontation between “gangsters” who supported the TV channel and opposition supporters.

Sangu TV however said the group were its staff.

The rally was suspended for 40 minutes and restarted at 11:45pm.

“This is very disappointing coming from a party that supposedly works for press freedom,” Miuvan Mohamed, head of news at Sangu TV, said.

The nightly rallies are part of the opposition’s campaign against tyranny to free ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defense minister Mohamed Nazim, who were respectively sentenced to 13 years and 11 years in jail in trials criticized for lack of due process.

In a letter to Sangu TV on June 30, MDP said privately-owned Raajje TV owned exclusive rights to broadcast rallies at the Haruge. Sangu TV should respect the decision and come to an agreement with Raajje TV on broadcasting Haruge events, the party said.

“They cannot live broadcast from a private location after somebody else has been given exclusive right. It’s similar to how specific channels are given rights to live broadcasts to a football match,” Mahloof said.

That same night, the front doors at the MDP’s headquarters were vandalized. The party said it is uncertain if the two events were related, while the station denies any connection.

Miuvan said he believed Haruge activities are public events and said the recently launched channel was trying to “bring all sides of the story in a balanced manner without taking sides.”

Sangu TV was launched on April 30 with several former staff at Raajje TV.

The station is owned by MP Abdulla Yameen, who defected from the MDP to the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) this year.

Miuvan said opposition supporters may be calling the station’s staff gangsters because some of them had long hair. “All of them would have had Sangu TV’s press card with them.”

Translation: “The scales have tipped to one side. We hope the MDP will not bar other media from its activities.”

MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said all media are welcome to report on events at the Haruge. “The MDP-Raajje TV agreement does not mean other media cannot record the events and report on it. But if they want to live broadcast it they have to get prior permission from Raajje TV.”

Raajje TV said it has invited advertisers to sponsor coverage of the Haruge events. “Some TV stations’ attempts to forcefully provide live coverage of the Haruge activities is aimed at damaging Raajje TV.”

Some opposition supporters have called for a boycott of Sangu TV after the row.

Sangu is the Dhivehi word for the conch shell. It was the name of a dissident magazine produced in the early 90s by former president Nasheed.


Opposition alliance opens meeting hall in Malé

The opposition alliance says its new haruge (meeting hall) opened in Malé last night will give renewed impetus to the ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ campaign.

Addressing opposition supporters gathered for the opening, Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim said the opposition resume its activities with more passion and resolve with the meeting hall.

The “song and melody” of the opposition alliance has not changed, Ameen said, and the parties were united through a common purpose.

Ameen said forthcoming talks between the government and opposition could be fruitful if President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation for dialogue is sincere.

The opposition parties will accept the invitation in the interest of peace and for the sake of detained opposition leaders and supporters, he said.

While the three opposition parties will respond separately to the official invitations, Ameen said the “agenda” and stance of the allied parties are the same.

President Yameen’s proposed agenda focuses on three aspects; political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and legal system and political party participation in economic and social development.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali, however, ruled out negotiations over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The pair’s arrest in February and subsequent imprisonment triggered the ongoing political crisis. The opposition alliance has staged mass demonstrations on February 27 and May 1 calling for their release.

Some 30 protesters arrested from the May Day anti-government demonstration meanwhile cut ribbons at last night’s opening ceremony. The meeting hall is located in front of the artificial beach stage.

A donation box has also been placed at the meeting hall to raise funds for the opposition cause.

The wives of detained main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed and Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla also attended last night’s rally.

The opposition leaders were arrested in the wake of the May Day protest and accused of inciting violence against the government.

Ameen said the pair were being held in solitary confinement in small cells at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre. Ali Waheed was suffering back pains because his concrete bunk was too small for his size, Ameen said.

The former transport minister called on the president to cease the government’s alleged efforts to foster “a culture of brutality,” warning that President Yameen could be remembered as the “most brutal ruler” in the country’s history.

MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz said the opposition alliance will continue its activities until imprisoned politicians are released.

Adhaalath Party council member Shidhatha Shareef questioned the sincerity of President Yameen’s call for talks as he had not accepted the opposition’s repeated appeals during the past three months.

“President Yameen is not part of the delegation he assigned after calls for talks. We are calling for talks to resolve the serious political turmoil in the country. If the president of the Maldives does not have the capability to do it, I don’t believe he has the capability to be the president,” she said.

The president’s office sent official invitations to the three opposition parties yesterday. So far, only the JP has officially accepted the invitation and assigned representatives for the talks.


MDP resumes political activities with reopening of haruge

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has resumed political activities with the reopening of a new haruge (meeting hall) in the capital Malé last night (June 11) after a hiatus in the wake of successive electoral defeats.

The main opposition party announced that weekly gatherings will take place on Sunday and Thursday nights at the new haruge in Galolhu Aaras, located near the Television Maldives (TVM) studios.

The meeting hall was officially opened by founding member and artist, Ahmed Abbas, at a ceremony attended by former President Mohamed Nasheed, MDP MPs and city councillors.

Speakers at last night’s rally – the party’s first public gathering since the March 22 parliamentary polls – severely criticised the current administration over alleged failure to fulfil campaign pledges as well as the state of healthcare in the Maldives.

The meeting hall would become an outlet for public opinion and grievances, said MP Ibrahim Shareef, vowing that the party would ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are protected.

Shareef also contended that the government has not undertaken any significant development projects in the atolls since assuming office in November last year.

In her remarks, Malé City Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed referred to the ransacking of the MDP’s previous meeting hall on February 7, 2012, by mutinying riot police, soldiers, and opposition protesters prior to the controversial resignation of President Nasheed.

Shifa said the party had remained quiet in order to see what President Yameen could accomplish with a parliamentary majority and control over other state institutions.

The former education minister contended that the current administration has not introduced new services or launched new social security programmes, noting that universal health insurance and other benefits were introduced by the MDP government.

Shifa also claimed that single parents were not receiving their monthly allowance.

President Yameen’s administration was “top heavy” with an excessive number of political appointees, she argued, while no progress had been made in fulfilling the campaign pledge of creating 94,000 jobs.

The government was holding ceremonies and functions – in lieu of carrying out development projects – to create false headlines and mislead the public, she said.

Meeting halls in the atolls would also be opened in the near future, Shifa continued, inviting members to a maahefun (traditional celebratory feast on the eve of Ramadan) on the night of June 19.

The MDP’s inactivity in recent weeks does not mean that the party accepted defeat in the presidential election, Shifa said, referring to the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of the presidential polls last year based on a secret police forensic report.

“Don’t think that we have forgotten all of that,” she said.

The MDP “single handedly” winning over 105,000 votes in the presidential election was testament to the party’s strength, said MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’, noting that all other political parties were forced to form an alliance to compete against the party.

The MDP’s main task was overcoming the effects of a 30-year dictatorship, Inthi suggested, contending that the MDP was the only hope the Maldivian people had for democracy and good governance.

Former MP Ali Waheed meanwhile advised members to raise awareness and educate and inform their friends, relatives, and associates with renewed resolve to return to power.

He observed that the country has come full circle ten years after former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom launched a democratic reform agenda as the president was once again “an Abdul Gayoom”.

“God willing, the work we are beginning here today will end with the election of the MDP’s presidential candidate as the president of the Maldives,” he said.

The former MDP parliamentary group deputy leader announced his intention to contest for the party’s chairperson post today.

Former President Nasheed also announced his candidacy for the post of party president earlier this month.

Elections for the party’s leadership posts are due to take place on August 29.