Security services threaten legal action against protesters converging on Male’

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) have threatened legal action against protesters converging on Malé from the atolls today for a mass rally organised by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-Jumhooree Party (MDP-JP) alliance.

“Even if people come from the atolls, creating turmoil in Malé and participating in disrupting the peace would infringe on the rights of people who reside in Malé,” reads a joint statement released by the security services last night.

“We notify that we will find those who come to participate in the protest to disrupt the peace of Malé and take legal action against them. Therefore, the security services appeal to those coming to Malé from the atolls to act in accordance with the Freedom of Assembly Act, Anti-Social Behaviour Act and in a way that does not infringe on the rights of people who reside in Malé.”

Earlier this month, the MDP and former government coalition partner JP signed an agreement to “defend the constitution” against alleged breaches by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration and announced a mass rally for February 27.

At an MDP-JP march on February 20, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed suggested the demonstration would usher in “a second February 7,” referring to the day when former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned in the wake of a police and army mutiny.

The opposition alliance predicts 20,000 people would participate in the demonstration today. Boatloads of supporters began arriving in Malé this morning. While police reportedly boarded some boats for inspection, there have been no reports so far of the security services obstructing vessels en route to the capital.

Police and MNDF meanwhile warned that protests would be broken up if any criminal or unlawful activity occurs.

“If police believe that tomorrow’s protest is not peaceful, we notify that the gathering will be disbanded in accordance with legal norms,” the statement added.

The security services appealed to the media to take national interest and security into consideration while reporting the mass rally.

The joint statement also alleged that politicians were inviting police and army officers to join anti-government activities and calling on the security services to interfere in politics.

Moreover, the statement alleged, individual police and army officers were offered bribes and other inducements in “acts of corruption”.

“We believe these are efforts intended to divide the ranks of police and the military,” it added.

The statement also warned against involving foreigners in the demonstration and assured protection for expatriates.

While the security services would not allow either unrest or damage to private and public property, the statement noted that the security services would not obstruct peaceful assembly or free expression within the bounds of the law.

Police meanwhile conducted an ‘operational and tactical exercise’ yesterday in preparation for the mass rally with instructions provided to officers from the Specialist Operations (SO) department and Malé city police.

“And the extent to which weapons would be needed by the police officers involved in the operation was determined and [the weapons] were brought to a state of readiness,” stated police media.

Non-lethal weapons such as stun guns and grenades brought for use in the police operation were tested at Feydhoo Finolhu, police revealed.

A representative from the JP meanwhile met Chief Superintendent of Police Ismail Naveen at the Iskandharu Koshi barracks last night for a discussion regarding the mass rally.

According to police media, Naveen, head of the Central Operations Command, assured cooperation from police to ensure that the protest remains peaceful.

The JP representative also assured cooperation from the party and pledged to keep police informed of the activities.

Police also revealed that Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed met Chief of Defence Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam at the military headquarters yesterday to discuss efforts to maintain peace and security in the capital.

“At the meeting, the chief of defence forces said weapons requested by police for use in operations have been provided in full,” police media stated.

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