The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has vowed to continue protests until the opposition’s demands to release “political prisoners” are met after police cracked down on last night’s sit-in protest.
Some 12 protesters, including former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof and Adhaalath Party deputy secretary general Ahmed Shareef, were arrested from the protest. The MDP had said the sit-in on Malé main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu could last three days.
MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz told Minivan News today that the party organised the protest because President Abdulla Yameen’s administration was not heeding the opposition’s demands despite two previous mass protests.
“We will continue protesting till our demands are heard by the government. The purpose of our protest was to call to end to government tyranny. So we will protest till our purpose has been achieved,” he said.
Riot police dispersed the crowd of around 2,000 protesters after 12:00am last night. The police had declared the protest was not peaceful after organisers refused to stop using loudspeakers after 11:00pm.
Specialist Operations (SO) police officers chased protesters into side streets and cleared Majeedhee Magu, but protesters regrouped and continued protesting after 3:00am.
The protest ended after MP Mahloof and several others were arrested.
Meanwhile, home minister Umar Naseer said last night that the low turnout was a “clear indication that people prefer peace and stability.”
“Official estimates of less than 2000 [people] took part in the latest [demonstration]. A clear message to the opposition that their lies have failed them,” tweeted housing Dr Mohamed Muiz.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed announced that a fireworks display will take place tonight to celebrate the “MDP’s weakening” and the opening of two futsal pitches in Thaa atoll.
The government also held a fireworks display to celebrate the “failure” of the May Day mass anti-government demonstration.
PPM MP Nihan meanwhile suggested that opposition supporters from other islands had accepted Riyaz’s advice and decided not to travel to the capital for the June 12 protest. Riyaz’s tweets about not allowing “islanders” to come and protest in Malé stirred controversy last month.
MDP Hulivamun dhaathee, adhi PPM sarukaarun Th.Atoll ha 2 Futsal Dhandu hulhuvunuge Ufaluga mirey Havaa Aruvaanan pic.twitter.com/6Hs88J7Usq
— Riyaz Rasheed (@riyaz_rasheed) June 13, 2015
— Ahmed Nihan (@ahmed_nihan) June 13, 2015
“Assault on democracy”
The June 12 demonstration was the third mass protest calling for the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests in February triggered the ongoing political crisis.
The turnout at last night’s protest was significantly lower than the mass protests on February 27 and May 1. Some 20,000 people took to the streets on May Day and nearly 200 protesters were arrested in a police crackdown after protesters attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square.
The opposition is also demanding the withdrawal of terrorism charges against Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy Ameen Ibrahim, and JP council member Sobah Rasheed. All three were arrested after the May Day protest and accused of inciting violence.
Meanwhile, despite JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s tweets last night distancing the party from the sit-in protest, Shifaz said that the JP’s level of support and cooperation for the opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ campaign remains unchanged.
JP MP Ali Hussain and some senior members participated in last night’s protest.
Gasim has been out of the country since late April while Ameen and Sobah left shortly after their release from remand detention. In a video message this week, Sobah said he is seeking political asylum.
President Yameen had called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties after the May Day protest, but ruled out negotiations over the release of Nasheed and Nazim.
Talks with the JP began last week while the government rejected Nasheed and Imran, respectively, as the MDP and AP’s representatives.
The MDP meanwhile said in statement today that the jailing and prosecution of opposition leaders represented a “continuing and sustained assault on the Maldives’ democracy.”
“Many opposition politicians, including most of the JP leadership, have fled abroad to avoid arrest and the likelihood of a biased and politically-motived trial,” the statement added.
Ameen posted a video message on YouTube last night declaring solidarity with the opposition protesters.
“Rule of law has been abandoned in Maldives and we are now governed by rule by law,” MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said in the statement.