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.
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.