Former President Nasheed calls on MDP to vacate ‘Usfasgandu’ in favour of meeting halls

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called on Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters to vacate the ‘Usfasgandu’ protest area in favour of the various ‘jagaha’ (meeting halls) established across the capital ahead of September’s election.

Nasheed was quoted in local media as requesting that the opposition party’s supporters make use of the official meeting areas being set up by the MDP across Male’, rather than the protest site that has been the basis for many of the party’s activities since the controversial transfer of power last year.

“I will ask members of the MDP’s executive committee very sincerely to clear Usfasgandu. We are a party that wisely takes whatever steps are needed at the time,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

Usfasgandu, which is presently being leased to the party, has been at the centre of an ongoing legal dispute over the last 12 months between the MDP-dominated Male City Council (MCC) and the government’s Housing Ministry, which is seeking to claim ownership of the site.

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muiz told Sun Online last week that a notice had been sent to the MCC requesting they clear and vacate the area by June 27 – or else police would be requested to assist in clearing the site.

Dr Muiz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press, while Deputy Housing Ministers Abdulla Muththalib and Mohamed Faiz today declined to comment on the matter.

A police media official, who declined to be named, said it had also received no communications from the ministry requesting assistance to clear Usfasgandu by tomorrow’s supposed deadline.

Despite reports of the Housing Ministry’s intent to reclaim the Usfasgandu area, Mayor Ali Manik said no order had been received by the MCC requesting the land be returned. He added that any decision on whether to clear the are could only be made by the MDP.

The MDP told Minivan News today that while it has also not received any notice of attempts by the state to clear the site, the importance of the area to the party had “waned” as its campaigning spread across the capital and country ahead September’s election.

The opposition party said it intended to focus on local campaigning through the establishment of various jagaha across the Maldives.

Nasheed today opened the latest MDP jagaha adjacent to the country’s justice building – despite authorities contesting the legality of its location. The MDP contends that the jagaha was further than a distance of 50 feet from the building as demanded by law, and was therefore legally situated.


Addressing the future of Usfasgandu, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said there was a “general feeling” within the party that Usfasgandu was believed to have served its purpose.

He added that the party had been considering vacating the area over the last week in order to limit the possibility of confrontations with authorities.

Ghafoor added that an official parade to commemorate eight years since the founding of the MDP would begin at Usfasgandu this evening, but its relevance as an area for campaigning was already waning with the establishment of jagaha areas.

“The general view of the party is that the area is not really useful anymore and is slightly irrelevant to our campaigning, though I understand there is nostalgia among many people for the area,” he said. “In time, I think we would have seen the site slowly die out.”

Intimidation allegations

Ghafoor alleged that reports of the Housing Ministry seeking to reclaim Usfasgandu reflected an attempt by the state to intimidate political rivals such as the MDP and its supporters ahead of an election.

He claimed that this intimidation was part of attempts by the state to destabilise the country ahead of September’s presidential election in order to cast doubt on whether the country was capable of holding a national vote.

Ghafoor said as a result the MDP was wary of any potential clashes with authorities, such as those seen during attempts to evict the party from Usfadsgandu in May last year. He said that many in the party believed that keeping the area was “not worth” the potential for unrest should police intervene.

Land dispute

Although Usfasgandu was later returned to the MDP after the clashes in May 2012, police once again moved to cordon off the area by January 2013 at the request of the High Court.

The court at the time ordered that Usfasgandu not be occupied by any party until it delivered a verdict over a dispute between the Housing Ministry and the MCC over ownership of the site.

In early February, the Civil Court ordered the MCC to clear the land plot and hand it over to the Housing Ministry, though the order was later overturned by the High Court. The High Court ruled that the Civil Court order had failed to follow legal procedures in its hearing of the case and was therefore unlawful.

Usfasgandu was handed back to the MDP by the MCC in March of this year, with the council claiming at the time that no other party had requested use of the land at the time.

A spokesperson for the High Court today said that no further rulings had been made concerning the legal ownership at present, with its previous order overturning the Civil Court still said to stand.

Despite now opting to vacate the site, Ghafoor claimed that the lack of notification from the Housing Ministry over its attempt to reclaim the Usfasgandu reflected a further breakdown in communication between state departments.

“The Housing Ministry had been completely isolated on this matter and no one seems to be taking it seriously,” he said.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad was not responding to calls at time of press from Minivan News.

‘Paint war’

The MDP’s political rivals have continued to criticise the MCC for providing a plot of land to the opposition party, expressing concern that their supporters had not been given similar opportunities in the capital.

Government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan alleged last week that it was this sense of disparity among political rivals that had led to a so-called ‘paint war’ across the capital resulting in private property and even plant-life painted in political colours.

Supporters of the PPM were accused of covering state property and government buildings, such as walls outside the new Supreme Court compound in Male’, in the party’s official colour of pink.

PPM MP Nihan meanwhile accused MDP supporters of instigating the painting throughout Male’ by covering entire areas of the capital such as Usfasdgandu in yellow, leading to reprisals from rival supporters.


Group disrupts MDP rally in Henveiru

Additional reporting by Ahmed Naish

A group of about a dozen young men with placards and a megaphone disrupted a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) gathering in the Henveiru ward of Male’ last night (June 24) and “actively tried to incite violence”, the MDP has claimed.

The youths, who appeared to be in their 20s, entered the MDP rally held in Henveiru Park shortly after it began at 9:45pm, carrying placards with anti-MDP phrases and shouting.

The group was “actively trying to incite violence”, claimed MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor. “We suspect the [rival parties] paid the children.”

“It exposes them as thuggish. They are probably thinking ‘We lost [the elections] so we might as well disrupt [the MDP],” said Ghafoor.

“The young men were aggressive and wanted to scare people off,” Gahfoor continued. “They were kicking the shins of the MDP supporters in attendance and issuing thinly veiled threats. That’s what was most disturbing.”

Ghafoor explained that the young men kept moving through the crowd of MDP supporters and crowding the front of the podium.

“To show their impunity, one young man came up to the podium while [former MDP Chairperson and MP] Mariya Didi was speaking, picked up and drank her bottle of water,” said Ghafoor.

“He then hit the mic with a flourish and one of the young men declared ‘no one can hold a meeting without Bosnia City’s consent’,” he continued.

Some of the MDP supporters in attendance came to stop the youth from causing further disturbances at the podium and pushed him away, explained Ghafoor.

“The crowd of a couple hundred did not leave, but they were not happy with the disruptions and ‘boo-ed’ the youths, which caused them to back off a bit,” he said.

“The young men actively wanted to incite violence. That didn’t happen, but the crowd did shout [political slogans] at them saying things like ‘ehburun’ (one round),” he noted.

Ghafoor explained that the MDP speakers at the rally patiently appealed to the young men to let the meeting continue and told the youths they could protest peacefully without disrupting the rally.

“Two of the protesters’ placards claimed MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Vilma Rasheed swindled money, which is not true,” said Gahfoor. “They also claimed to not have been treated well by Nasheed’s government.”

Ghafoor referred to their efforts as “amateurish” and “rather silly”.

“They were not savvy about what they had to say,” he added.

Ghafoor said he suspected the youth group consisted of displaced children – since large numbers from the islands relocated to the capital after the tsunami – rather than Male’ residents.

While being heckled during her speech “Mariya Didi said ‘This is why MDP is campaigning, we don’t want displaced children to be used by people’,” explained Ghafoor.

Some of the speakers planned for last night’s MDP rally were unable to participate because “there was so much commotion” and ultimately the meeting ended earlier than planned, he added.

While Ghafoor was not aware if anyone called the police he was surprised at their lack of presence because “they are usually all over the place” during political events.

“[It shows] the police are supportive of such acts headed by the [government] mutineers and that this is how they are getting ready for the elections,” he alleged.

“Instead, the police should do everything to ensure elections are free and fair,” he added.

Given the disturbances at last night’s MDP Henveiru rally and the property damage done to a MDP meeting hall in the Manchangoalhi ward of Male’ on Sunday night (June 23), Ghafoor believes more disturbing incidents “are likely to happen again”.

“In which case we will contact MDP members to combat these types of disturbances with sheer numbers, rather than have a confrontation,” said Ghafoor.

Rocks and eggs

Meanwhile, a rock and some eggs were thrown at a party meeting hall in the Manchangoalhi ward of Male’ on Sunday night (June 23) and “late last night (the early morning hours of June 25)  the door was smashed at the same jagaha (meeting hall),” said Ghafoor.

In his speech after opening the hall later Sunday night, former President Mohamed Nasheed – who is currently campaigning in the southern atolls – asserted that MDP members would not retaliate with violence.

Two men on a motorbike reportedly threw the rock at a glass window of the meeting hall at about 7:45pm on Sunday night.

According to internet news outlet CNM, MDP activists were inside the hall finalising preparations for the opening ceremony scheduled for later that night. The rock however did not completely shatter the glass.

MDP presidential candidate Nasheed was due to open the meeting hall designated for supporters from the atolls of Shaviyani, Raa and Laamu at 10:15pm.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Nasheed said MDP’s opponents were resorting to violence as it was becoming clear to pro-government parties that they lacked support from the public.

As long as “traitor” Abdulla Riyaz remained Commissioner of Police, the country could not be at peace, Nasheed said, alleging that the police chief was one of the “main architects” of the “coup d’etat” on February 7, 2012.

Abdulla Riyaz, a former Assistant Commissioner of Police dismissed in the early days of the MDP government, was among three ex-servicemen that entered military barracks on the morning of February 7 to negotiate on behalf of mutinying police and soldiers at the Republic Square demanding Nasheed’s resignation.

Upon emerging from the military headquarters in front of the Republic Square, current Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim – flanked by Riyaz and current State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA’ – declared that Nasheed had been told to resign within the hour “without any conditions.”

The demand was “non-negotiable” and “not up for further discussion,” he added, before declaring that he was now in charge of the military and would soon appoint senior officers.

The three ex-servicemen then accompanied President Nasheed to the President’s Office under heavy military guard, where he announced his resignation at a televised press conference with the three former National Security Service (NSS) officers looking on.

Speaking at the jagaha opening on Sunday night, Nasheed said that the collective “hope and passion” of the Maldivian people were “more powerful than all their batons, pepper spray, iron armour and rubber bullets.”

“God willing, not a single MDP member will lift even the little finger in anger,” he said, adding that the party hoped to open eight meeting halls in Male’ in the near future.

As “every other house” in the capital would become a MDP jagaha before September, Nasheed claimed, “there are not enough rocks in Male'” to target all the meeting halls.