“Slide to dictatorship now complete”: opposition reacts to new terror charges

New terrorism charges against three opposition leaders have prompted concern over prolonged instability in the Maldives and raised fears that the government is out to silence the opposition.

The Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and its council member Sobah Rasheed’s terrorism trials on charges of inciting fear are set to begin tonight.

If convicted, they face between ten and 15 years in jail. Imran was arrested from his home last night. Ameen and Sobah are out of the country at present.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the charges in a statement today: “The government’s use of terrorism charges against opposition leaders at a time when the opposition have expressed their ongoing willingness to engage in talks to end the political crisis is worrying.”

But the president’s office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali today blamed lack of progress in talks on the opposition parties.

“The problem here is the main opposition party MDP and Adhaalath Party are not sincere. The government has set the rules. No prisoner or a person will legal or administrative barrier can participate in the talks,” he said.

The Adhaalath Party and the JP had proposed Imran and Ameen as representatives with the government in separate talks. The new charges mean the government will not accept the pair as representatives.

The ongoing crisis was triggered by the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. The government has ruled out discussions over the pair’s release.

The MDP’s spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said: “The Maldives’ slide to dictatorship is now complete. There isn’t an opposition leader in the country who isn’t either in jail or facing charges.”

The Adhaalath Party said the charges against the oppositions leaders are “cowardly” and “proof the government is unfaithful to the people and lack the ability to fulfil pledges.”

The JP was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Imran and Ameen were arrested after a 20,000-strong protest on May 1 and accused of encouraging violence in their speeches, which police contends led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

The May Day protest was the largest anti-government demonstration in Maldivian history.

Sobah was arrested from an opposition street protest on May 3.

The MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested on May 1, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.

The charges against the opposition leaders have sparked outrage on social media.

The former Attorney General Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed said she is “in shock.”

Others questioned the government’s sincerity in resolving the political crisis.

Many members of the public Minivan News spoke to previously have also said they are skeptical of a positive outcome from the talks with the government having ruled out Nasheed and Nazim’s release.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said: “The Maldivian state has all the characteristics of a criminal organisation.”

JP MP Ali Hussein said the government will not enact the new penal code until it has jailed all the opposition leaders.

The new penal code, which would repeal the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, was set to come into force in April. But ruling MPs delayed its enactment until July.

Meanwhile, the government has drafted a new Terrorism Act. MP Hussein in a separate tweet said: “Under the terrorism law even a tweet of mine could be an act of terrorism.”

The only MP of the Adhaalath Party, Anara Naeem, said she does not want “a culture where criticism of the government leads to jail sentences.”

Referring to Imran’s arrest, former MP Visam Ali asked: “How long will the police carry out atrocities like this?”

Before his arrest, Sheikh Imran tweeted: “It is not a crime not to follow unlawful orders even if the orders come from the police.”

Other opposition politicians remained defiant. Former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof said: “Do what you can do now. God willing, tyrants will be answerable before the law and will face justice soon enough.”

The opposition has called for a third mass protest on June 12. The mayor of southern Addu City on Sunday said he will be in Malé for the protest.


Funds for political parties delayed

The Elections Commission has delayed disbursing funds allocated for political parties in the 2015 state budget due to a delay in verifying the exact number of members in each political party.

A former MP for the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, has alleged the commission is delaying funds to obstruct political party activities.

The MDP, the Adhaalath Party and members of the Jumhooree Party have launched an antigovernment campaign over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Some MVR19million (US$1.2million) has been allocated for political parties in the 2015 budget.

The 2013 Political Party Act states the state must allocate 0.1 – 0.2 percent of the budget for political parties. Funds must be disbursed within the first three months of the year according to the number of members in each party.

The parties must submit an annual report and an audit report before funds can be disbursed.

A spokesperson for the Elections Commission denied Thasmeen’s allegations and said the deadline for disbursing funds and the deadline for submitting the required documents to the commission fall on the same date.

“There was a delay in the verification of members of political parties as per the numbers stated in their annual reports. But we are now in the process of handing out the funds,” media officer, Fazla Ahmed said.

Commission member Ahmed Akram told CNM: “We are supposed to complete these two procedures within the first three months. So we need some time to check the reports. The commission doesn’t want to withhold the funds.”

There are 15 parties registered in the Maldives. Many are dysfunctional.

The commission in March fined the MDP and the opposition Adhaalath Party by MVR47,000 and MVR33,000 respectively on the charge of inciting violence in their then-daily protests.

The two parties have refused to pay the fines and asked the commission to review its decision. Fazla said today it has not made a decision on the appeal yet. The commission is authorized to deduct the sums from the annual payouts.

The commission has ruled a second mass protest by the opposition on May Day unlawful.


Ex president transferred to high security prison

Former president Mohamed Nasheed was transferred from a low security prison to a maximum security jail located close to the capital Malé last night.

The opposition leader’s lawyers have raised concern over what they say is an arbitrary transfer from one jail to another which is located on two different islands, and say his family was not given notice before the transfer.

Lawyers said they had visited Nasheed in Asseyri jail on Himmafushi Island on Monday afternoon but the corrections department had not informed them of an impending transfer.

Nasheed’s family and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party have repeatedly expressed concern over alleged plots by the government to assassinate the opposition leader. But the government has dismissed the allegations as slanderous and baseless.

The opposition is meanwhile planning a 25,000 strong march in the capital Malé on Friday demanding the government free Nasheed and other politicians.

The former president is serving a 13-year jail term on terrorism charges relating to the detention of a judge during his tenure. He was convicted on March 13, but was held under police custody at the Dhoonidhoo Island remand centre until his transfer to Asseyri Jail on April 21.

Home minister Umar Naseer announced Nasheed’s transfer to Maafushi Jail at 10:30pm last night in a tweet.

The home ministry has previously said the special apartment constructed for Nasheed measures 264-square foot, with a sitting room and is furnished with air-conditioning, a television and VCD player.

The special apartment will also have a 1,087 square foot garden and Nasheed would be able to “live with other inmate friends.”

Nasheed’s lawyers have also raised concern over the identity of the “inmate friends” Nasheed is to be incarcerated with, and say the prison apartment is located adjacent to the prison garbage dump and is “highly unsanitary.”

The human rights commission of the Maldives had previously said old cells at the location were unfit for human habitation.

Lawyers said family visits and phone calls to the family have been restricted since his transfer to jail.

However, the home ministry says the former president’s family and supporters have no reason for concern stating: “Nasheed is fully under the security and protection of Maldives Correctional Services. He will get the security and protection from the correctional services. Plus he is a VIP prisoner, so he will be offered comforts including TV and so on”.

“This is not a sudden transfer,” home ministry spokesperson Thazmeel Abdul Samad said, adding Nasheed was transferred to Maafushi as soon as the prison apartment was completed.

Nasheed’s trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, international human rights organisations and the UN for its lack of due process.


PPM by-election campaign underway

The ruling coalition’s campaign for the upcoming parliamentary by-election for the Dhiggaru constituency is underway while the opposition alliance is yet to decide on fielding a single candidate.

A primary of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) among four candidates seeking the ruling party’s ticket is due to take place on Friday. Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s eldest son, Ahmed Faris Maumoon, is among the contenders.

The by-election, triggered by the 25-year jail sentence handed down to former ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim, is scheduled to take place on June 6.

All candidates must inform the Elections Commission of their intent to contest the by-elections by the end of April.

The by-election is expected to be hotly contested amid heightened political tension following the jailing of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim as well as the alleged unfair targeting of Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s business interests.

Faris is meanwhile in Dhiggaru on a campaign trip at present.

Other contenders in the PPM primary include Meemu atoll council president Moosa Naseer, deputy environment minister Mohamed Hanim and Dhiggaru island council president Imran Ismail.

The ‘Maldivians against brutality’ alliance, made up of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Adhaalath Party (AP) and senior members of the Jumhooree Party (JP), announced last week that discussions were underway on fielding a single candidate.

AP spokesperson Ali Zahir has since announced his intention of contesting in the by-election.

Meanwhile, former MDP chairperson MP Moosa Manik has criticised his old party for not holding a primary to select a candidate.

MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz told Minivan News today that the party has not yet decided whether to field a candidate.

But the MDP “will definitely hold primaries” if it chooses to contest the by-election.

“As a party we have to consider many factors including the independence of the independent institution and so on. The MDP has not yet decided to compete for the seat but if we do a candidate would be selected through primaries,” he said.

MP Moosa Manik, who was expelled from the MDP last year after repeatedly voting against the party’s whip-line, said the party must hold a primary if it is to respect its rules and founding principles.

“In the local council elections I decided not to hold primaries but the decision was opposed by a lot of members. So in the end we had to hold primaries,” he said.

“So if the MDP is not competing, not holding primaries in order to make way for the Adhaalath Party, it would be going against the party’s own norms as well as democratic values. Even though I have been removed from the party’s registry I have sacrificed a lot for MDP. I can’t let MDP drift away from democracy.”

In last year’s parliamentary polls, Nazim was elected with 60 percent of the vote from the Dhiggaru constituency after competing against an MDP candidate. The PPM also won a majority of the Meemu atoll council, which has four PPM members, one MDP member and one independent member.


Calls grow for President Yameen to intervene, resolve political crisis

Following imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed’s decision not to seek an appeal, the Maldivian Democracy Network has called on President Abdulla Yameen to intervene and resolve Maldives’ deepening political crisis.

Nasheed, convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in jail, said he desired a political solution, claiming the judiciary is under executive control and could not assure a fair appeal process.

Hence, “the only state power with the capacity to act equitably on the matter is the President,” MDN said in a statement today.

“We believe President Yameen must take immediate action in light of the manner in which the criminal proceedings were held, with a view to bring an end to the continued civil unrest in the country,” the human rights advocacy group said.

Hundreds have been arrested in opposition protests and police have threatened a crackdown claiming protesters were disrupting local businesses and inciting violence against the police.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission has fined Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and its ally Adhaalath Party (AP) with MVR 47,000 and MVR 33,000, respectively.

The MDP and former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) first began daily protests on February 10, against President Yameen’s alleged constitutional breaches. Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Nasheed were subsequently arrested and brought swiftly to trial over weapons smuggling and terrorism, respectively.

Over 10,000 protesters took to the streets on February 27 calling for President Yameen’s resignation.

The government meanwhile ordered JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group to pay US$100 million in unpaid rents and fines by March 30 on properties leased for resort development.

On March 17, AP withdrew support for Yameen’s administration and joined the MDP in an alliance against brutality. Opposition protests are now entering a seventh consecutive week.

Nasheed was sentenced on March 13 and Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on March 26.

Explaining Nasheed’s decision not to seek an appeal, lawyer Hisaan Hussein on March 26 said: “As a former President, he is certain the judiciary is not independent, that President Yameen has full control over the judiciary. He is certain he will not gain a fair appeal.”

The Criminal Court’s decision to deny Nasheed legal representation, refusal to call defence witnesses, and refusal to provide adequate time to prepare defence demonstrates the former president would not be assured a fair appeal at the High Court, lawyers said.

High Court judges are “under pressure,” Hisaan said, noting the judiciary had not yet decided which judges were to be relocated to the regional courts in the north and south.

According to a December 2014 amendment to the Judicature Act, pushed through by the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), the nine-judge High Court bench is to be divided into three branches. Only the central branch in Malé could hear matters relating to the interpretation of laws or elections. The regional branches are to only hear appeals.

Hisaan said Nasheed believed the allocation of judges depended on the outcome of his appeal.

“There will be no justice in any of the appeal processes,” she said.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed on Thursday called on Yameen to show leadership as head of state and pardon Nasheed.

“I call on you, President Abdulla Yameen to use your presidential powers and pardon the opposition leader, pardon him and end this political turmoil,” he said.

Article 29(c) of the Clemency Act states that the President has the discretion, on his own initiative, to commute a sentence of a person convicted on a criminal offence, with regards to their age, health, their status or circumstances or based on a humanitarian perspective.

The President’s Office spokesperson, the Attorney General and the PPM parliamentary group leader were not responding to calls.

President Yameen has previously said the government could neither interfere nor influence the decisions of the judiciary.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul said the trial made a “mockery” of the Maldives Constitution and said: “The speed of proceedings combined with the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the trial was “hasty and apparently unfair” and urged Nasheed be given adequate time to prepare and present his defence during the appeal process.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has since invited the United Nations Secretary General, the Commonwealth, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the EU to send experts to observe Nasheed’s appeal process.


Government should initiate discussions or face consequences, warns opposition

The government should initiate dialogue with the opposition or face the consequences, leaders of the “Maldivians against brutality” opposition alliance have warned.

The alliance – which was formed after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) accepted an invitation from religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) to form a united front against the government – officially launched activities last night with a 1,000-strong protest march in the capital Malé.

“It is the government that has to come to the discussion table now. When we previously showed a good example, the government did not accept it,” said MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed.

President Abdulla Yameen had previously denied requests by the MDP and Jumhooree Party (JP) alliance to hold discussions over 13 demands issued at a mass rally on February 27.

Last night’s march began near the artificial beach and ended shortly before midnight with protesters gathered at the Chandhanee Magu-Majeedhee Magu junction.

“If [President Yameen] does not come to the [negotation] table, I would say he won’t have any other choice but to go home,” said JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim.

The JP has not officially joined the new alliance, but its senior leaders are represented at the alliance’s steering committee and took part in last night’s protest march.

Ameen contended that the Maldives’ reputation has been tarnished and credibility lost after President Yameen gathered all powers of the state to himself.

Moreover, the public has lost confidence in both the judiciary and the security services following the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and the ongoing trial of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of weapons possession.

AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla meanwhile insisted that Nazim was framed by “high ranking officials by the government.”

“Even though it could not be proven at court, we told Yameen that we have enough evidence to prove that Nazim was being framed and that the president knew about this. However, he denied any knowledge of the case,” Imran said.

He further claimed that the pen drive found at Nazim’s house contained the names of 26 political opponents of President Yameen, whom the government was planning to prosecute and jail.

Former State Trading Organisation (STO) Managing Director Adam Azim – brother of the former defence minister – and former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof also took part in the protest march, with the latter acting as the flag bearer at the front.


Photo from social media
Photo from social media

Imran also declared that the opposition would no longer tolerate President Yameen’s “brutality,” Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb’s alleged rampant corruption, unfair prosecution of political rivals, and “destruction of public property”.

The opposition would endure and overcome the government’s “brutality,” he said, adding that the opposition alliance would “not step back once inch” before reaching its goal.



33 protesters barred from protests for 60 days

The Criminal Court has conditioned the release of 33 opposition protesters arrested last week on their staying home from further protests for 60 days.

Human Rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has described the move as unconstitutional, arguing the condition violated the right to freedom of assembly and expression.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Fayyaz Ismail was remanded for additional 15 days when he refused the Criminal Court’s condition on Saturday.

Supporters have commended Fayyaz’s “bravery,” and called on protesters to follow his example.

MDN Executive Director Shahindha Ismail said a fundamental right could only be limited by a law passed through the People’s Majlis.

“This is not a limitation of rights, but a violation of [the detainee’s] rights to assembly, expression, and free will,” she said.

“The Court can enforce conditions on detainees to ensure a person’s attendance in court. For example, having to obtain a permit from the court when travelling. However, they cannot place a condition asking them to not go to a protest,” she said.

According to the Maldives Police Services, a total of 77 individuals have been arrested from opposition protests since February 27. If individuals released with conditions are seen at protests, the police will take action, a spokesperson said.

The opposition continues to hold nightly protests demanding the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, imprisoned ahead of a trial on terrorism charges over the military detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The opposition leader has denied ordering the judge’s arrest. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

The MDP in February allied with former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) against what they call President Abdulla Yameen’s repeated breaches of the Constitution.

Nasheed was arrested on Februrary 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin alleged he may abscond from the unannounced terrorism trial scheduled for the next day.

Police arrested 26 individuals on March 6 alone. In addition to Fayyaz, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz and former MP Ilyas Labeeb were arrested.

Two journalists from Villa TV and CNM were also briefly detained for allegedly obstructing police duties.

Of the 26 arrested, 21 were brought for remand hearings the next day. The Criminal Court released 18 on the condition they do not participate in further protests.

Shahindha, who also served as the President of the Police Integrity Commission from 2009 to 2012, accused police of using disproportionate force in making arrests, using pepper spray at close range and verbal abuse.

“This is not humane treatment at all, and should not be allowed. The police are reverting back to old times by being brutal and forceful,” she said.

The former police integrity commissioner also expressed concern at reports of police officers refusing to use any identification at protests.

“The alleged reasoning behind this is to prevent personal attacks against individual officers,” said Shahindha. “But there should be some sort of identity on the individuals so independent commissions will be able to hold them accountable, even if it’s a number code.”

She also claimed police were setting up barricades and closing down streets at random. Barricades had been set up outside of green zones in which protests are prohibited.

The police have banned protests near the Malé City Hall until March 15, claiming businesses in the area had been complaining over protesters allegedly disrupting business.

The PIC and Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) must investigate alleged violations, Shahindha said.

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President Yameen should apologise for thumbs down gesture, says MDP chairperson

President Abdulla Yameen should formally apologise for his thumbs down gesture at opposition MPs during today’s opening of the People’s Majlis, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Ali Waheed has said.

At a press conference this afternoon, Waheed contended that the gesture was intended to “mock” the opposition alliance, adding that it would not be acceptable to the public.

Waheed said the gesture showed Yameen’s loss of control over his emotions and that the government was “upside down.”

“I do not believe what we saw today should have been the message given to the people after delivering an address by a head of state,” said MDP parliamentary group leader, Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih.

After delivering his presidential address today amidst chants from opposition MPs calling for the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, President Yameen gave two thumbs up to pro-government MPs and made a thumbs down gesture towards MDP and Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has since defended the gesture, tweeting that it was “an advisory gesture” against obstructing constitutionally mandated duties.

“Today we saw [opposition MPs] attempting to obstruct the president’s from fulfilling his responsibility under Article 84 of [the constitution],”he tweeted.

Opposition MPs gathered in front of the secretariat desk carrying posters depicting police manhandling and dragging the opposition leader into court and called for Yameen’s resignation.

Nasheed was arrested last week and remains in police custody pending the outcome of a trial on charges of terrorism.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs responded to the opposition MPs’ protest by chanting “Ganjabo” and Theyobidbo,” epithets referring to the former president’s alleged encouragement of drug use, and held up placards that read: “You cant hide from the law Nasheed” and “Nasheed deserves to be in prison.”

Several PPM MPs also snatched posters from MDP MPs and ripped some posters to pieces.

Opposition’s demands

Last night, the MDP and JP coalition revealed that the two parties have agreed to request a meeting with President Yameen to discuss 13 demands issued at last Friday’s mass demonstration.

At a joint press conference, Ali Waheed said the parties would request an appointment today, adding that the 13 demands would be formally submitted in writing.

The 13 demands are:

  1. Stop restricting fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms through amendments to either the constitution or laws.
  2. Release former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, MDP MP Ali Azim and others arrested during anti-government protests.
  3. Repeal amendments brought to the Auditor General’s Act that saw the removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim
  4. Withdraw political charges pressed against opposition politicians.
  5. Investigate alleged large scale corruption within the government.
  6. Continue providing the electricity subsidy and make electricity cheaper in Malé and other islands.
  7. Fulfil campaign pledges to provide subsidies to fishermen and farmers.
  8. Give back powers taken from local council, empower the councils, and enforce the Decentralisation Act.
  9. Enforce the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
  10. Increase wages for teachers, health workers and civil servants, ensuring equal pay to state employees.
  11. Reverse decision to impose import duty on fuel.
  12. Legally empowering independent institutions.
  13. Fulfil government pledges of providing unlimited health insurance.

Ali Waheed added that the alliance would meet relevant state institutions to discuss specific demands.

“Some of the demands are not just made to the President’s Office,” Waheed said.

“Some of the demands are made to specific institutions. We have agreed to hold meetings with all related institutions.”

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Gasim denies claims he owed government US$100 million

Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and prominent businessman Gasim Ibrahim has rejected claims made by the tourism minister that he owes the government US$100 million (MVR 1.5 billion).

“Gasim Ibrahim does not owe them any money at all,” said the Maamigili MP while speaking at a street protest held last night. “So the Tourism Minister is clearly lying.”

Earlier this week, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb had alleged that Gasim’s Villa Group owes the government the money as rent and fines for islands leased to his businesses.

The Civil Court last week ordered the Ministry of Tourism to halt all proceedings regarding the seizure of uninhabited islands and lagoons granted to Villa Hotels and Resorts Private Limited.

According to the order, though the government has said Villa can be compensated for the seizure of the islands and lagoons, the areas had been handed over due to the government’s previous inability to bear the burden of financial or monetary compensation.

“It saddens me to see that the government has forgotten that it is not child’s play to seize and take away someone’s land and property,” said Gasim at the rally held alongside opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last night (February 16) .

In addition, Gasim called for the minister’s immediate resignation as well as questioning Adeeb’s sudden rise to power.

“When a man who, three years ago, didn’t have enough money to even settle the bill for a cup of coffee with a friend suddenly becomes a millionaire, a billionaire, we know very well what is behind this change,” remarked Gasim.

The government had previously taken Villa Group-owned Kaadedhoo airport and other inhabited islands from Gasim, after he attempted to block its flagship special economic zone (SEZ) bill in the Majlis last year.

After boycotting the committee reviewing the legislation, Gasim warned that SEZs would facilitate massive corruption, threaten independence, and authorise a board formed by the president – and now chaired by Adeeb – “to sell off the entire country in the name of economic zones”.

Gasim’s Villa Group is one of the largest companies in the Maldives with the holding company Villa Shipping and Trading Pvt Ltd conglomerate operating businesses in shipping, import and export, retail, tourism, fishing, media, communications, transport, and education.

Police cordoned off a large section of Malé for the protests last night – the sixth consecutive evening of protests by the MDP – JP coalition, which was formed last month in order to “defend the constitution” against alleged breaches by the government.

Leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said the opposition alliance is a “waste of time”, and that the JP’s exit from the Progressive Coalition is no loss to the government.

Protesters last night again called for the immediate resignation of President Abdulla Yameen and several prominent ministers in his cabinet, claiming that the government had failed its election pledges, such as providing fishermen with MVR10,000 regardless of catch, and promising incentives for agricultural workers.

Also speaking at the rally, Malé City Councilor Mohamed Rasheed called upon islanders to flock to the capital Malé on February 27 for mass protests which are planned to last over 48 hours.

MDP leaders have suggested that the opposition rally to be held at the end of the month will see prominent defectors from government aligned parties join its coalition.

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