PPM to file no-confidence motion in vice-president

MPs of the ruling coalition have officially endorsed a petition seeking a no-confidence vote in vice-president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

The motion has already gained 47 signatures and will be submitted to the People’s Majlis today, said the parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Ahmed Nihan.

The motion will require a two-third majority or 57 votes to pass.

The PPM and its ally the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) control 48 seats in the 85-member house, and will need the backing of the opposition.

Jameel was not responding to calls at the time of going to press. He is reportedly abroad. The President’s Office on Thursday said President Abdulla Yameen had authorized a medical leave for his deputy.

Ruling coalition MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty.

Some opposition politicians have claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery. The PPM is seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

But Nihan dismissed rumors over the president’s health. “He is very fit. There is no truth to these rumors.”

He said MPs are unhappy with Jameel over his alleged failure to defend the government during an opposition demonstration in Malé on May 1. Nearly 200 people were arrested from the historic 20,000-strong march.

“The opposition was making gross accusations against the government. But Jameel did not make any move to defend President Yameen, he did not say a word, but instead left Malé on that day,” Nihan alleged.

Opposition supporters had been protesting against the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and other politicians.

Nihan said that he had attempted to reach Jameel by telephone on Thursday night, when a ruling party MP first started collecting signatures for the no-confidence petition. But the vice-president had not responded by the next day, he said.

MPs of the ruling coalition held a meeting at 10:30pm on Friday to officially endorse the petition. Some 33 MPs had unanimously voted in favor, he said.

Translation: “PPM and MDA members vote unanimously to submit a no-confidence motion in VP Jameel.”

For the parliament to consider the removal of the president or the vice-president, a resolution with the signatures of one-third of MPs is required.

The parliament can then set up a committee to investigate the claims laid out in the motion. The Constitution states that at least 14 days notice must be given to the president or vice-president before the debate.

He or she is also granted the right to defend themselves, both orally or in writing.

Jameel has been silent on the accusations made against him.

According to Nihan, the 47 signatures on the no-confidence petition include that of MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Jumhooree Party.

The opposition’s backing appears to signal a move towards reconciliation. Former president Nasheed was transferred to house arrest last week.

Two days later, the opposition voted to back the first constitutional amendment, setting new age limits of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and the vice-presidency.

Tourism minister Adeeb, who turned 33 in April, was ineligible for the position as the constitution previously stated that presidential candidates and their deputies must be 35 years of age.

The government then extended Nasheed’s house arrest for eight weeks, but said it was because doctors are concerned over the opposition leader’s health.

The MDP has meanwhile agreed to the government’s demand to exclude Nasheed as a representative in talks. But a party spokesperson said MDP hopes Nasheed will be able to join at a later stage.


Government rejects ex-president as MDP representative in talks

The government has rejected ex-president Mohamed Nasheed as a representative for talks with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

In a tweet today, president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said the government had rejected Nasheed’s name because he is serving a jail sentence.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail in March on terrorism charges relating to the detention of a judge during his tenure.

Foreign governments and international bodies including the UN have criticised the trial for apparent lack of due process, while the European Union parliament has called for the ex-president’s immediate release.

Nasheed’s arrest and jailing triggered daily protests and a historic anti-government protest on May 1. Nearly 20,000 people took to the streets and some 193 people were arrested.

The government subsequently called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties – the MDP, the Jumhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party.

The MDP’s national council yesterday proposed Nasheed, chairperson Ali Waheed and parliamentary group leader MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih to represent the party in talks with the government.

MDP vice-president Mohamed Shifaz said the party will hold a meeting to decide on a response to the president’s office’s statement.

“But I personally believed that we should be able to determine who should represent us. Not the government,” Shifaz said.

“When they say he is serving a jail term, we need to look at the circumstances in which he was sentenced. The Maldivian public and the world do not accept the trial and its verdict. Nasheed is a former president, and a man loved by a large majority of the public. Maldivians do not see him as a convict.”

In late April, the pro-government majority voted through amendments to the Prison and Parole Act that prohibited inmates from holding high-level posts in political parties. The revised law effectively stripped Nasheed of the MDP presidency.

Some ruling party MPs have also threatened to cut financial payouts to Nasheed by amending the law on privileges and immunities of former presidents to exclude individuals serving a jail sentence.

Speaking to Minivan News, Muaz said the government will proceed with the talks as soon as representatives are decided.

“If there is no legal, medical, physical or administrative obstructions regarding the representatives proposed by the three parties, we will proceed with the talks,” he said in a tweet today.

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

The government has ruled out negotiations over the release Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, insisting the president does not have the constitutional authority to release convicts before the appeal process is exhausted.

The opposition has previously questioned the government’s sincerity, pointing out that several opposition leaders had been arrested from the May 1 protest.

While the Jumhooree Party (JP) has accepted the invitation for talks, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party proposed its detained president, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, among the party’s representatives.

Imran was arrested on May 1 and remains in police custody.

The JP’s representative for talks, deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim was also arrested, but released by the High Court. The police are appealing the court’s ruling at the Supreme Court, a move the opposition says is aimed at barring Ameen from representing the JP.

During the national council debate yesterday, MP Eva Abdulla stressed the importance of talks involving all political parties, including the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

“MDP is the first party that called to solve the political crisis. So we are happy the government took the initiative to hold talks and we accept it. But we want to hold the discussions together, not separately as the government has suggested,” she said.

“We are not going to discussions to talk only about what the government wants. The discussions will include what the government wants, but also what we want. The agenda of the talks also should be set at the discussions.”

The opposition coalition has called for a third mass protest on June 12.


Police barred May Day detainee from his father’s funeral prayers

The police prevented a man arrested from the opposition’s anti-government protest on May 1 from going to his father’s funeral prayers.

Abdulla Fahmy, a 48-year-old fisherman, said he had traveled from Gaaf Alif Kolamaafushi to Malé in March to get medical care for his elderly father, who was suffering from heart, kidney and lung issues.

Fahmy’s father was hospitalised at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in March.

Although Fahmy is a member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, he said he had not participated in the protest. He had gone to the Bandaara mosque near the Supreme Court for dusk prayers when he saw hundreds of protesters marching towards the restricted Republic Square.

“I only come to Malé once in six years or three years. How can I participate in a protest?” he said.

A police vehicle arrived and set up barricades at the corner of the mosque, and dozens of protesters entered the mosque. Police ordered the protesters to leave the area and pepper sprayed many outside the mosque.

Fahmy was arrested along with several others.

“I showed them the hospital pass I use to enter my father’s ward at the IGMH. But they refused to listen to me,” he told Minivan News.

He was handcuffed and taken to the detention centre on Dhoonidhoo Island. Some 193 protesters were arrested on May Day. Nearly 20,000 people participated in the rally and called for the release of jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Violent clashes broke out between protesters and police soon afterwards.

The next day, the criminal court granted a blanket remand 15-days for 173 of the 193 protesters.

On May 4, Fahmy was brought to Malé around noon and taken to the cemetery in handcuffs and police officers told him his father had passed away.

“I was only allowed to see my father’s face for ten minutes. They removed my cuffs, but I was flanked by police officers when I went inside the cemetery and was told I could not talk to my family members. I begged the police to let me participate in the funeral prayers, but they refused,” he said.

Fahmy was then taken to the Atholhuvehi station in Malé, “For one hour I begged them to allow me to go to the prayers.” But he was taken back to Dhoonidhoo.

In Dhoonidhoo, his 25 cellmates held a prayer for Fahmy’s father.

One cellmate told Minivan News that Fahmy “was broken into pieces,” when he came back to Dhoonidhoo.

On the seventh day, Fahmy was released and is now back in Kolamafushi.

He had been arrested on charges of disobedience to order, but he said police later accused him of throwing rocks. He has denied the charges.

The Prosecutor General’s office said police had asked for charges to be filed against Fahmy, but the case has been sent back to the police for further clarification.

A police spokesperson initially said no arrests had taken place at the Bandaara Mosque, and asked for more time to check on the details of Fahmy’s case.

The police were not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

All of the May Day detainees have now been released. However, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla and 14 people arrested on charges of assaulting police officers remain in custody.


Police accused of false testimony against May Day detainees

First came a deafening shot. Then, police in riot gear charged into the crowd, shoving and pushing protesters back. But Hamid Shafeeu and his friends did not run. They were arrested in front of Minivan News journalists. Now a police officer has sworn Hamid threw bottles and stones at the riot police.

Some 193 protesters were arrested on May 1 when violent clashes broke out after a historic antigovernment protest. Scores were injured.

Protesters threw glass and plastic bottles, lead balls and rocks. Police used tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades and made indiscriminate arrests.

The next day, the criminal court granted a blanket 15-day remand for 173 of the 193 detainees.

Hamid was held in police custody for 15 days in cramped conditions, and then transferred to house arrest for five days. He was released only today.

The high court, relying on police statements, previously rejected an appeal contesting the detention.

The 39-year-old businessman says he believes police are providing false testimony to jail him because of his vocal criticism of the government on Twitter.

Many others who were arrested at random or arrested for simply going to the protest now say police officers have accused them of assault.

The initial charges of disobedience to order carries a MVR3000 fine or six months in jail or house arrest or banishment, but attacking a police officer carries a MVR12, 000 fine and six months in jail.

It is not yet clear if the prosecutor general will file charges.

A police spokesperson has denied allegations of false testimony, but lawyers who have represented individuals arrested from past protests say the police routinely lie to keep dissidents in custody. Others have supported the claim, with the former chair of the police integrity watchdog saying several officers lied in the investigation into the transfer of power in February 7, 2012, and the brutal crackdown on protesters the next day.

A former policeman, meanwhile, said false testimony is indicative of the politicization of the force and the impunity riot police hold as very few are penalized for unlawful activities.


Testifying before a Commonwealth backed inquiry into the 2012 transfer of power, ex-police chief Ahmed Faseeh described the riot police’s tactics in controlling protests: “Their language was filthy, their vocabulary was obscene. If they got hold of someone, they hit them.”

The riot police, known as Specialist Operations or SO officers, were created by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to quell pro-democracy protests in the mid 2000s. The hostility between SO officers and protesters continues to this day.

May Day detainees have reported verbal and physical abuse, while several individuals arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer on May Day said police cheered on as others beat them at the headquarters and threatened to kill them.

The police, however, have denied brutality and urged any victims to file complaints with oversight bodies.

Blogger Yameen Rasheed’s arrest was caught on camera. He was picked up on Chaandhanee Magu with several others at about 9pm, but the police are now accused him of throwing rocks and have placed him under house arrest. Yameen says he was walking to the Somerset Hotel in the area to meet a foreign journalist at the time of his arrest. The Indian reporter corroborates Yameen’s account.

Ahmed Naeem, a 25-year-old political science student, was arrested when he reportedly stepped in front of a police van. Of the 193 detainees, he is the only one remaining in police custody.

Lawyers say the police are now accusing him of breaking the van’s windows. According to his cellmates, police beat Ahmed severely at the time of his arrest, and his face was bruised and swollen for days.

Judges can only hold people in custody if further interrogation is needed, or if they are a danger to society, or if they may influence witnesses.

But lawyers claims judges remand dissidents for long periods of time to intimidate and harass them. The criminal court often holds protesters in custody for lengthier periods than those arrested for violent crimes, including murder, they said.

Lawyer Abdulla Haseen, who represented a close aide of ex-president Nasheed following her arrest from a protest in July 2012, said the police claimed in court that they had witnessed her throwing rocks. But Shauna Aminath’s arrest, which was broadcast live on television, showed the police drag her away without any provocation.

“An individual can be held in remand for a month, two months. Judges must verify and check police’s claims before approving long remands. Who will bear responsibility for all those lost weeks?” Haseen said.


The ex chair of the police integrity commission (PIC), Shahindha Ismail, said police officers had provided strikingly similar statements to the commission’s investigation into the February 8, 2012 crackdown “with the same phrases and words as if they were reading from a pre-prepared document.”

Although four of the five members of the then-PIC ruled police actions on February 8 as lawful, Shahindha said officers had “targeted attacks to cause immense harm to specific individuals.”

She said the squad must be disbanded and punished for unlawful behavior. She urged judges to verify police claims with photos and videos or statements by unbiased witnesses before approving requests for lengthy detentions.

In October, SO officers were accused of cutting down all of Malé City’s Areca palms. In January, they were accused of planting weapons at the ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s apartment. The retired colonel was sentenced to 11 years in prison based on anonymized witness statements, which Nazim’s lawyers argue, were fabricated.

The prosecutor general’s office said it has not received complaints of false testimony by police or noticed any attempts at framing individuals.

Meanwhile, noting the role SO officers played in ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster, a former senior police officer said the squad was politically biased and “enjoy complete impunity, now to the point they feel they can do whatever they want.”

He, too, supported disbanding the SO, saying they regard routine police work as outside their duties. Faseeh had said the same in his statement.

The ex-officer said maintaining public order or riot control must be integrated into regular policing: “That way officers get to work together with people every day and will be more sensitive towards rights,” he said.

Photo by Shaari


Opposition announces mass protest for June 12

The allied opposition parties have called for a third mass demonstration for June 12 as President Abdulla Yameen reiterated appeals for negotiations over continuing political turmoil.

The call for a new protest comes weeks after police arrested nearly 200 people, including opposition leaders, from a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

The “large-scale peaceful rally” will be lawful, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said today. He appealed for support from the security forces.

“We call upon all institutions, especially the security forces, to cooperate with us for the rally, and not to obstruct the citizen’s from fulfilling their constitutional responsibility,” he said.

The ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance is protesting against alleged government authoritarianism and demanding the release of jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Nearly 20,000 people took to the streets on May 1 in what is thought to be the largest anti-government protest in Maldivian history.

The coalition’s activities had slowed down following the May Day crackdown. Police had declared the protest unlawful, arrested the leaders of the three allied parties and used tear gas, stun grenades, pepper spray and baton charges to disperse protesters.

Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla and MDP chairperson Ali Waheed remain in police custody. Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim was released by an appellate court.

President Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile called for negotiations, but has ruled out discussions over Nasheed and Nazim’s imprisonment, saying he has no authority over their release.

The opposition has questioned the president’s “sincerity,” but JP has accepted the invitation, while the Adhaalath says it will sit down with the government once Sheikh Imran is released. The MDP is yet to make a statement on the invitation.

“There is no room to question our sincerity. We will find out whether the government is sincere or if the opposition is sincere when we reach the negotiating table,” president Yameen said at a press conference today.

He insisted that all-party talks must prioritise national interest: “The biggest issues in the country do not include the conviction of criminals or their next steps.”

He urged Nasheed to appeal, saying the president can only help when the appeal process is completed.

Nasheed’s lawyers said the criminal court prevented them from lodging an appeal by refusing to hand over the required court transcripts within the shortened ten-day time frame. The government insists Nasheed can still appeal, but his lawyers say the law, amended by the Supreme Court, is silent on late appeals.

“If the opposition claims to protects the people’s rights, then come negotiate with us. The government is ready to accept the issues raised by the opposition with cooperation, so come to negotiate,” he said.

Journalists were barred from carrying phones during the press conference, but recorders and cameras were allowed.

Responding to the president’s comments, Ibu today said the MDP will answer the government in writing on Thursday. The MDP is holding a national council meeting tonight.

“Even at the beginning of our activities we have called upon the government for dialogue, to find solutions through discussions. We see this as President Yameen’s answer to our calls,” he said.

The MDP will take the lead in organising the June 12 demonstration, Ibu said. The JP had led the protest on Februray 27 and Adhaalath Party had claimed responsibility for the May 1 rally.

The coalition says it will visit various islands in the coming weeks to canvass for support. Nearly 7000 islanders joined the protest in Malé on May Day.


Prosecutor general to charge 30 May Day protesters

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin says he will press charges against 30 of the 193 protesters arrested from a mass antigovernment protest on May 1.

“Out of the 128 cases we accepted from the police, we’ve forwarded around 98 cases to the committee on reviewing first time offenders. That means we will press charges against only about 30 people. That includes repeated offenders and the people suspected of attacking police officers at the protest,” he said.

Over 20,000 opposition supporters took to the streets on May 1 over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. Police cracked down on protesters at dusk when they attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square.

Nearly 200 were arrested and scores were injured, including two police officers.

Muhsin at a press briefing today said his office will uphold the rights of the accused, but said he had noticed protesters were committing serious crimes at the opposition’s demonstrations.

“Article 32 of the constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. The law does not allow attacking and inciting violence against law enforcement agencies, and causing terror in society. This is terrorism under Maldivian law,” he said.

Muhsin warned of harsh penalties for individuals who commit such acts and advised political parties to refrain from encouraging terrorism.

Charges against protesters at present range from disobedience to order to assaulting police officers.

Muhsin also said public prosecutors are looking at charging individuals over libel and slander following allegations by recent defectors from the ruling coalition accusing President Abdulla Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb of links with the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.

The ex police chief Abdulla Riyaz was summoned to the police last week over comments he had made in an interview with opposition aligned Raajje TV on Afrasheem’s death and the torching of the station in 2013.

“People are acting however they want. They are trying very hard to defame state institutions in front of the public. The constitution does not give us the right to commit crimes hiding behind a political party,” he said.

“People in responsible posts are publicly accusing others of murder. We are researching on pressing charges against individuals who accuses some one of a crime and which the punishment is had.”

Muhsin said the PG office will appeal cases where the criminal court releases protesters from remand on the condition they avoid further protests: “My stand is the court cannot release a detained person imposing conditions barring him from attending protests. If I know of such a case and the subjected person do not have the ability to appeal, the PG office will appeal the case.”

The criminal court in March imposed such conditions on dozens of protesters. MP Ahmed Mahloof spent weeks in police custody and house arrest when he refused the criminal court’s conditions to stay away from protests. The high court brought the practice to an end when Mahloof appealed the criminal court’s ruling.

Muhsin also dismissed the opposition’s claim that the police is now imposing restrictions on freedom of assembly, by requiring prior permission for protests and banning the use of four wheeled vehicles in protests without prior notice.

“I don’t believe the right to protest has been narrowed in Maldives. I believe the right to protest and freedom of assembly is much wider in Maldives compared to other countries, to the extent that we eventually end up violating rights of others,” he said.

The opposition has criticized Muhsin over the rushed trial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and for accepting a discounted luxury flat by the government. The flats were also given to the five Supreme Court judges, and several heads of independent institutions.


LGA suspends seven councilors over May Day protest

The Local Government Authority (LGA) has suspended seven councilors who took part in an anti-government demonstration on May 1.

All seven had been arrested in a police crackdown after protesters attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square. They were suspended for two months, local media reports.

Councilors are elected for island and atoll councils for three years. There are over 1000 councilors in the Maldives.

According to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), some 300 of its 450 island and atoll council members had taken part in the protest. Some 7000 people had traveled to Malé from Maldives’ remote islands for May Day, the opposition has claimed.

Nearly 20,000 protesters took part in the May Day march and demanded the release of imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Home minister and president of the LGA, Umar Naseer, has also asked the anti-corruption watchdog to penalize any councilors who had traveled to the capital on state funds.

According to the opposition coalition, 12 employees of the state were dismissed for participating in the protest.


“Our prayers are as powerful as swords”: Malé is calm, but anger simmers

On a rainy Sunday night, dozens of families gathered in Malé to meet with lawyers over the detention of their loved ones, arrested from a mass anti-government protest on May 1. The vast majority of the 193 detainees had never been arrested before.

Some families had travelled rough seas and weathered strong winds to come to Malé to find out the news. Lawyers passed on messages from those in custody—where keys had been left, progress on monthly rent, extent of injuries—and advised families on how they could seek redress for police brutality.

The May 1 arrests were the largest numbers detained from a single protest in a decade. Some 20,000 protesters took to the streets on May Day against authoritarianism, and called for the release of jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. When protesters attempted to enter Malé’s main square at dusk, the police cracked down with tear gas, pepper spray, baton charges, stun grenades and indiscriminate arrests. Malé’s streets were empty by 1:00am, and three leaders of the allied parties were arrested.

The government declared ‘victory’ with a fireworks display and said that President Abdulla Yameen will not negotiate over Nasheed’s imprisonment.

With opposition leaders and scores of supporters still in jail, the opposition coalition’s activities have slowed. Police have prohibited gatherings beyond 12:00am, and dispersed any attempts at street protests by arresting key figures. Malé City is calm for now, but anger is simmering.

Opposition supporters remain determined to continue protests, with many saying the police brutality they witnessed on May Day only strengthened their resolve. Growing international pressure over Nasheed’s imprisonment and scrutiny of the judiciary is giving many further hopes.

Anger in Dhoonidhoo

Businessman Mujthaba ‘Muju’ Saeed, 40, was among the first 50 detainees released last Thursday. The protesters in Dhoonidhoo detention centre are angry, but remain strong, he said. “As soon as I was released, I went to the opposition rally. We are not afraid, we are angry.”

According to Muju, two ruling party supporters were also arrested; one was on his way to open a shop while the other was on his way to a safari boat where he works.

Conditions at Dhoonidhoo island detention centre are cramped, with 40 people packed into cells designed to hold just 20. Some are sleeping upright, or sleeping by the entrance to the bathrooms. Many are still nursing injuries from beatings and pepper spray. Several people who were recently released said detainees are calling for the resignation of president Yameen, police chief Hussein Waheed and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb from their cells.

Some 116 people have now been released, and the police have asked the prosecutor general to press charges against 129. If prosecuted, many face a MVR3,000 fine or a six-month jail term. Charges range from disobedience to order to assaulting police officers.

Zahiya Abdulla, 47, and two of her sisters were also arrested from the protest. In the women’s cell, those arrested from the protest held yoga classes, and bonded with others held on charges of drug abuse and sexual offences. “No one was crying despite the physical and verbal abuse they suffered. I will always be on the front lines of the protests,” she said.

An even bigger rally

The opposition has vowed to continue protests, with Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih pledging to hold “an even bigger rally” by the end of the month.

“We have re-formed our ranks, and we’ve are out to go forward once again. Our resolve remains strong,” he told a thousand supporters at a rally this weekend.

At the rally, some voiced concerns over the how disorganised the May Day protest was, yet they described it as a success. A 23-year-old student marvelled at the sheer number of people at the rally: “People are aware now, they know what is going on.” A housewife said: “We came out by the thousands, we were unarmed, but they pushed us back because they had shields, batons, tear gas and pepper spray.”

Some were scared, but angry. A 62-year-old boat owner said he will march and protest as long as the police do not crack down.“But I do believe we will prevail. Our prayers are as powerful as any sword,” he said.

“We’ve been here before”

A 46-year-old, who had played a key role in organising the pro-democracy “August 12/13 protests” of 2004, told Minivan News he, too, was amazed by the numbers on May Day. He believes approximately 8,000 people had participated in the August12/13 protests a decade ago. “Now, we are seeing thousands more, women, young people, elderly, who’ve never participated in political rallies before,” he said.

The August 12/13 protests had forced then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to bring in liberal reforms, a democratic constitution and hold multi-party elections in 2008.

“We’ve been here before,” MDP MP Eva Abdulla said. “The exact same situation—large numbers of people on the street, president Nasheed in jail, the same heavy-handed tactics by the government, defiance to the international community, jailing hundreds, including parliamentarians – until the point the government just couldn’t continue.”

For Eva, there is no choice for the opposition but to continue with protests. “Public opinion does not matter to this government. But we must show all observers, we, the Maldivian public are not OK with what is happening.”

The international spotlight is once again on Maldives. Calls for Nasheed’s release are growing, with several countries, including the US, UK and India slamming the Maldives’ politicised judiciary at a recent human rights council session. The EU parliament last month urged member states to warn tourists over Maldives’ human rights record, and Nasheed’s family has asked the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention to rule his imprisonment as illegal.

But the government maintains the international community cannot dictate what the Maldives must do, and the home minister Umar Naseer has vowed to keep Nasheed in jail.

Eva said President Abdulla Yameen will relent as international pressure grows: “We are absolutely and entirely dependent on international goodwill.”

Back at the meeting between lawyers and families of detainees, one woman said she will now join the opposition protests because of her resort worker husband’s arrest on May Day. She had gone by the criminal court to see if she could catch a glimpse of him at his remand hearing the next day, but instead, she was verbally abused, pepper sprayed and pushed back by police in riot gear. She said she saw police officers pepper-spraying a pregnant woman.

“I’ve never seen such brutality before. It is almost as if the police view us as their enemies. But we are the real power here,” she said.

Photo by Shaari


12 dismissed for participating in anti-government rally

State-owned companies and the government have dismissed a dozen employees for participating in the May Day anti-government demonstration.

The opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance revealed today that the utility company Fenaka Corporation has fired six employees and the aviation command has fired four employees. The State Electricity Company has also sacked some employees.

Approximately 20,000 protesters took to the streets of the capital on May 1 in the largest anti-government rally in over a decade.

Adhaalath Party council member Shidhatha Shareef told the press that the opposition alliance has launched a hotline (9111388) to assist unfairly dismissed staff.

Former State Trading Organisation managing director Adam Azim said the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the right to participate in political activities and called on independent institutions to fulfil their responsibilities.

Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party council member Hussain Amr said the opposition parties will arrange employment for the sacked staff.

The dismissals follow ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan urging the government to track down civil servants and employees of state-owned companies who had participated in the protest and dismiss them immediately.