Opposition condemns police obstruction of protests

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused the police of disrupting demonstrations and obstructing freedom of assembly by asking for prior notice for protests.

The opposition has continued nightly gatherings despite a crackdown on a mass antigovernment protest on May Day. Nearly 200 were arrested and scores were injured in violent clashes on Friday.

The police have now ordered the MDP to give prior notice despite a constitutional provision guaranteeing freedom of assembly without prior notice.

In a statement today, MDP said: “On May 2, the police barged into the opposition gathering and attempted to confiscate the sound system and asked to stop the gathering without giving any legal reasoning. The activity continued despite the warning.

“On May 3, the police’s special operations team again disrupted the gathering and arrested Jumhooree Party Council member Sobah Rasheed. On May 4 and 5, police disrupted peaceful gatherings. When the protest spilled onto the streets, the police arrested people indiscriminately.”

Former president Mohamed Nasheed’s running mate in the 2013 presidential polls was arrested, but was released, the party noted.

The opposition is protesting over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.


Since the May Day protest, the police have stopped and confiscated the sound system used in a lorry to announce daily gatherings, the statement read. The individuals on the lorry were arrested.

The police, however, have said the MDP has rejected repeated calls for dialogue over the protests.

In a statement on Tuesday, the police insisted the opposition’s protests must not obstruct others’ rights or daily life in the capital. The MDP had provided prior notice, but had failed to act as indicated in the notices, the police said.

The MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said they had asked police to provide discussion points in writing prior to the meeting, but had not received a reply.

The police statement was “very irresponsible,” he said, insisting that the party has always accepted invitations to hold discussions.

“It is also very hard to attend such discussions when the party’s chairperson and president have been jailed. What discussions can we have without our leadership?” he said.

The party’s chairperson Ali Waheed, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla and JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim were arrested on May 2 for “intimidation.”

The MDP has now written to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) urging the oversight bodies to ensure the constitutional right of freedom of assembly.

Freedom of expression and right to assemble are constitutional rights, the MDP said, calling on the independent commissions to investigate violations.


MP Mahloof, Raajje TV journalists among nine arrested at opposition protest

MP Ahmed Mahloof and opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV journalist Mohamed Wisam and cameraman Adam Zareer are among nine arrested from last night’s opposition protest march.

A police media official told Minivan News today that the former ruling party MP, two journalists and six others were arrested for “obstructing police duties and disobeying police orders.”

The Criminal Court this morning extended the remand detention of the Galolhu South MP and the two journalists to five days.

While one protester was released from police custody, the court extended the remand detention of two protesters to seven days and three protesters to five days.

Photos of Specialist Operations (SO) police officers manhandling the Mahloof have been widely circulated on social media. Journalists at the scene reported that the MP’s shirt was ripped open during the arrest near the fish market.

Photo from Ranreendhoo Maldives
Photo from Ranreendhoo Maldives

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile condemned Mahloof’s arrest, claiming he was “targeted” by the police and due to his outspoken criticism of the government following his expulsion from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The ruling party’s disciplinary committee expelled Mahloof on February 25 for allegedly defaming President Yameen and bringing the government into disrepute with false statements in the media.

In a statement released today, the MDP claimed Mahloof was arrested “brutally” and condemned police for “obstructing the protest in violation of the Constitution”.

Police used obscene language while arresting the MP, the statement alleged.

The opposition party said riot police officers pepper MDP MP Ali Nizar as well as other protesters in the eye and confiscated the protest’s “sound pickup” and loudspeakers.

Raajje TV has meanwhile condemned the arrests of the two journalists, describing the arrests as an “obstruction of rights guaranteed under the constitution, including the rights to freedom of information and freedom of press.”

A Channel One journalist was also arrested the previous night for allegedly obstructing police duties. The Criminal Court extended his remand detention to 10 days.

Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of its staff, Raajje TV noted that it was “yet to receive any justice with regards to previous attacks targeted to our station and journalists.”

Raajje TV journalist Wisam interviewing MP Mahloof
Raajje TV journalist Wisam interviewing MP Mahloof

The Maldives Police Service also released a statement alleging that protesters assaulted several police officers last night after breaking through barricades near the Republic Square.

Protests are banned in the ‘green zone’ area encompassing the Republic Square as well as police and military headquarters.

Protesters also smashed the windows of a police vehicle last night, the statement added. Police officers on the vehicle were attempting to stop protesters from using loudspeakers after 11:00pm.

Invoking powers granted by Article 41 of the Freedom of Assembly Act, police issued a statement earlier this week ordering protest organisers not to use loudspeakers or megaphones after 11:00pm and to end the protest at 12:00am.

Moreover, police warned protesters against repeatedly gathering in one location or street.



Opposition rallies encourage terrorism, says PPM

Opposition protesters called for the overthrow of President Abdulla Yameen’s government through a suicide attack, the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has alleged.

In a statement on Wednesday, the PPM called on the Elections Commission, the Maldives Police Services and the Prosecutor General to take the call “encouraging terrorism” as a serious matter.

Since February 12, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former PPM ally Jumhooree Party (JP) have been protesting nightly against alleged unconstitutional acts by the PPM, including the controversial dismissal of the Auditor General and two Supreme Court judges.

However, the PPM said opposition parties had failed to demonstrate how the government had breached the constitution and were only attempting to disrupt public order.

“This party believes these protests are aimed at obstructing President Yameen’s administration’s successful work at establishing peace and security. [The opposition] is disrupting the economic, social and political order in the country,” the statement read.

PPM Spokesman Ali Arif told Minivan News that the PPM “does not have any problem with protests held within the boundaries of law” and that “the leaders who organize the protests are ultimately responsible for what is being said on the mic.”

In response to the opposition’s claim that the government had lost legitimacy with the JP’s split from the PPM, Arif said the Maldivian people had voted for President Yameen and Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel, and not the PPM, JP coalition.

“The people marked a ballot paper that had the name of President Yameen and Dr Jameel as his Vice President. Neither the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives nor Maldivian laws include any mention of the word ‘coalition.’ In constitutional and legal terms the word does not exist,” he said.

When asked if the PPM would initiate talks with the opposition, Arif said: “street action is not the way to pave way for discussions and dialogue”.

Yameen, who gained 29 percent of the vote in the first round of 2013 presidential polls, was elected as president after JP’s Gasim Ibrahim backed him at the eleventh hour. Yameen won the election against MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed with 51.4 percent of the vote.

The PPM and JP coalition first fractured in May 2014 following the ruling party’s refusal to back Gasim for the Majlis Speakership.

Speaking to supporters last night, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy denied that the opposition had called for a suicide attack, but said: “everyone gathered here  is willing to sacrifice not only their lives, but their goods as well, in order to bring good governance to the Maldives.”

“We are a coalition of MDP and JP, the majority of the Maldivian people. This is why President Yameen should listen to our demands and stop repeatedly violating the constitution.”

The Maldives Police Services arrested two protesters from the rally last night. In response to media reports that police had used pepper spray at the rally, a spokesperson told Minivan News that officers had used “adequate and necessary force.”

Government supporters are to march today calling for an end to anti-government protests. The march will begin at 4 pm from the Artificial Beach in Malé.

Tourism Minister and PPM’s vice president Ahmed Adeeb tweeted in support of the rally and called on “All Youth who Support President Yameen” to attend the rally “against Nasheed & Gasim, destroying our future”

The Broadcasting Commission of Maldives today released a statement reminding all media outlets to follow broadcasting code of ethics, stating that “some content broadcasted in relation to the ongoing protests are in violation of the broadcasting code of ethics”.

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