Maldives police, thugs clash with pro-democracy protesters

Riot police, protesters and thugs brutally clashed during demonstrations last night, after President Mohamed Waheed declared he would stay in power beyond the conclusion of his presidential term.

Waheed’s decision half an hour before the expiry of his term prompted people to take to the streets in Male’.

While the majority of protesters were Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters, other political parties were also demonstrating to demand the constitution be upheld and Shahid be sworn in as president, a protest participant told Minivan News.

The Supreme Court on November 9 upheld its earlier ruling from October 7 stating that Waheed could remain in power past the conclusion of his term on November 11, dismissing a parliament resolution passed last week demanding the installment of the speaker after the expiry of the term.

Waheed, who received just 5.13 percent in the annulled first round vote on September 7, had previously declared that he had no intention of remaining in power “even a day after November 11”.

Prior to Waheed’s announcement, Minivan News observed large numbers of riot police assembling in Republic Square. Following Waheed’s declaration to remain in power protests immediately erupted in Male’.

About 100 protesters on foot and motorcycles had gathered in front of police barricades near Majeedia School on Sosun Magu by 11:45pm (November 10), continuously blasting vehicle horns and shouting at the Maldives Police Service (MPS), calling for Shahid to assume the presidency.

After the protesters moved the police barricades and began walking toward the People’s Majlis (Parliament), Special Operations (SO) police responded forcibly, hauling individuals from the crowd into custody, while aggressively forcing protesters back toward Sosun Magu.

Minivan News witnessed SO police pushing two young Maldivian women as well as a female Chinese photographer to clear the intersection.

Meanwhile a group of at least six police officers surrounded a male protester who was retreating back toward Sosun Magu, brutally beat him with their batons and pepper-sprayed his face at point blank range, before taking the man into custody. Another male protester on a motorcycle – who was in the process of turning to head back toward Sosun Magu – was hauled off his bike and beaten by multiple police officers.

Multiple protesters warned Minivan News to be cautious of “drunken thugs” dispersed among the crowd in a bid to incite violence.

A number of protesters alleged that the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had hired gang members to act aggressive and violent, to prompt police to crackdown on the demonstrators.

“Everyone says this will continue until [former 30-year autocratic ruler] Maumoon Gayoom dies. He has too much money, power and influence. He does not want to let go,” 28 year-old Ahmed lamented. “And his corrupted family web have tentacles in everything.”

“The mafia keeps holding on to power. Today is a black day because we are going to crush down our own constitution,” said 27 year-old Saeed.

Shortly after being forced from the intersection, demonstrators surrounded and temporarily hijacked two city buses, pushed them toward the intersection and attempted to tip them over. Large stones were then hurled toward the riot police before they charged the crowd and arrested more people.

By approximately 2:00am the crowd had swelled to around 1000, who were primarily gathered near the intersection as well as scattered down the length of Sosun Magu.

Over 250 SO riot police were present and made multiple incursions into the crowd, charging demonstrators before dragging them away into custody. Some protesters near the police line were throwing stones, making a blockade with bicycles, and removing police barricades. However the vast majority were demonstrating peacefully, with a few sitting down in front of the barricades.

During one particularly violent ‘snatch and grab’ operation around 2:30am, Minivan News heard a small explosion before riot police stormed into the demonstration.

SO officers proceeded to rip the clothes off of a middle-aged man while arresting him. The protester had to hold his ‘mundu’ (traditional sarong) with one hand while being led away to prevent being undressed..

Minivan News also witnessed police hitting and trying to drag into custody a former Province Minister who was peaceably protesting; ultimately he was not arrested.

A group of riot police then began shoving photographers and journalists down the sidewalk, in addition to forcing protesters further south down Sosun Magu. The police line moved aggressively and a group of about 20 people were forced to seek refuge in an alley to prevent being trampled or injured.

Minivan News was repeatedly told by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to stay behind police lines or be treated as a protester and risk injury. A photographer for local media outlet Haveeru sustained a head injury while reporting on the demonstration.

Additionally local media outlet Raajje TV claimed to have witnessed police leading away man by the groin.

“They are arresting him so they can go rape him,” two female protesters shouted at the SO as the man was being led away.

Police also grabbed a female protester’s buttocks and were beating old ladies on the side of the road, a protester alleged to Minivan News.

As the police crackdown grew more violent, the protesters’ response escalated, with more individuals throwing stones, while a few set fire to a barricade.

The demonstrators began chanting “money money SO”, and yelling insults at the riot police.

“What is the point in peacefully protesting? That’s what we’ve been doing since the February [2012] coup and nothing has changed,” said a 26 year-old protester.

“Every time [we protest] it’s like a flash of light which enlightens the whole country and then the light goes off for another week or more. It’s been like that since last February. People are feeling hopeless,” he continued.

“We just have a new dictator baghee [‘traitor’] Waheed; he’s Maumoon’s puppet,” he added.

Meanwhile a young boy, who appeared to be about eight years-old, showed Minivan News two stones that he indicated he was going to throw at the riot police. Shortly after, Minivan News learned the boy had been punched in the face and his bloody nose was being tended to by a half-dozen female protesters.

“This is nothing new. The security services have been acting this violent since Maumoon’s time. At least now you can talk about him without being jailed and tortured,” a former political prisoner and torture victim told Minivan News on condition of anonymity.

By 3:30am the crowd had thinned to around 200 protesters, at which point Minivan News witnessed a group of around six men that appeared to be in their 20’s arrived on motorcycles. The group proceeded to surround an MDP protester, forced him against the wall of a building, violently beat and attempted to stab the man with a large kitchen knife.

Police did not respond to the situation for several minutes – despite observing the attack – and eventually proceeded to take the victim into custody.

“Earlier the victim had been throwing stones at police,” an eyewitness told Minivan News. “I saw a police officer pick up the knife [after the attack], but they did not go after the thugs.”

“These gangsters were probably told who to target by the SO,” he alleged.

It is unclear whether the suspected attacker was taken into police custody or led away and then released, as there were conflicting eyewitness accounts.

SO police then proceeded to form a line and forced the remaining protesters and journalists to clear the area.

“There’s no law here according to the Supreme Court, President and police,” said a 27 year-old protester. “It’s a mafia state run by Maumoon and [PPM Presidential Candidate Abdulla] Yameen.”

Minivan News witnessed police arrest more than 25 individuals throughout the course of the protest.

As of 5:00am, one individual had been admitted for a minor head injury sustained in a fight, an Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) official told Minivan News.

While ADK Hospital told Minivan News that one person was in the emergency room, but could not specify the type of injury.

Police report

Minivan News called Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef today (November 11), who requested he be contacted via the police media line instead of his personal number.

Upon doing so, the officer who answered stated the call had been misdirected to the wrong line and requested Minivan News redial the police media line. After repeatedly redialing the police media line there was no response.

The MPS ran a live blog throughout last night’s protest that stated 24 individuals had been arrested.

23:58: A protester has thrown a stone at and injured a police officer.
00:38: A protester threw a rock that hit and injured a journalist. We have received information that he is being treated at ADK hospital.
00:49: Protesters on Sosun Magu are from time to time throwing rocks at police.
00:49: Police have detained an individual for breaking through police barricades.
00:58: Police have detained 6 individuals, including a woman, for breaking through police barricades.
01:05: Some individuals among the protesters on Sosun Magu have vandalized the traffic lights at Sosun Magu/Majeedhiyya School junction.
01:55: A device that appears to be a molotov cocktail exploded in front of the Naadhee Building on Sosun Magu.
01:59: Police have arrested 6 people for obstructing police duty.
02:05: Police have arrested four individuals for crossing police barricades and obstructing police duty.
02:08: Individuals among the protesters on Sosun Magu have kicked down some bicycles on Sosun Magu.
02:18: Police barricades have been torched.
02:19: We have received reports that protesters are from time to time throw rocks and bottles at the media personnel.
02:20: Police have doused the torched police barricades.
02:24: Police are trying to set back the protesters at Roashanee Building on Sosun Magu.
03:21: Police have detained three women who broke through police barricades.
03:31: Police have started to push back the protesters in front of Majeedhiyya School on Sosun Magu.
03:38: Police have arrested four individuals for disobedience to order as they push back protesters.
04:00: Protesters have voluntarily left the area.


State Minister for Finance Abbas Adil Riza labels parliament as “terrorist organization”

State Minister for Finance and steering committee member of the self-titled “National Movement” Abbas Adil Riza has labelled parliament as a “terrorist organization”, claiming the Maldives’ legislature has failed to work in the best interest of country.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Riza claimed that parliament was continuously failing to respect the sentiments of the public and that the “National Movement” sought to hold a referendum on the institution.

“The Maldives constitution clearly states that the power of the state is derived from the people and would remain with the people, so the National Movement representing the people are using our right to express our concerns over the parliament,” he said.

The National Movement announced earlier this week that a planned public referendum on parliament would be used to assess the public view towards the country’s legislature. During a press conference held Tuesday (December 25), senior figures of the movement claimed that they planned to hold the public ballot on January 25, 2013.

Riza clarified today that the vote would be carried out by the members of the National Movement, confirming that it would not be a public referendum taken by the government or any other state institution.

“Our members will conduct the ballot. We are formulating committees that would coordinate the vote in the islands. This referendum has no connection with the government or any other state institution,” he explained.

Riza added that the National Movement, led by the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) and senior government officials, did not wish to dissolve parliament, but instead try to show the world a true reflection of the public’s attitude towards parliament.

“After voting, if the vote shows that people do not have confidence in the parliament someone may take the issue to the Supreme Court. But we are not planning to do that. We only want the world to know the truth,” he said.

According to fellow “National Movement” member Sobah Rasheed, a decision was yet to be taken on how the proposed referendum would be conducted, with further announcements expected at a later date.

The vote would help reveal whether the public had the confidence in their parliamentarians or not, Sobah claimed at the time.

“We are trying to conduct the vote in the most cost efficient, but yet transparent manner that would increase the public confidence on the fairness of the vote,” he told the press.

“National Movement” Vice President and State Minister for Home Affairs Abdulla Mohamed has previously claimed that its campaign to “reform Majlis (Parliament)” was not targeted at the entire 77 sitting MPs.  He also dismissed accusations that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was behind the movement.

According to Abdulla, the campaign was carried out to urge the authorities to take actions against MPs found not to pay tax, as well as those who have committed several criminal offences.

“The movement is run for the benefit of this country. While this movement is in the best interest of the nation, it may perhaps be detrimental to the president. But if the damage incurred by the president is lesser than the benefit that the country gets, then our purpose is served. Similarly if this movement benefits the whole nation more than the damage to parliament, our purpose is served,” Abdulla said.


The “National Movement” has continued of late to criticise parliament, claiming it was not working in the best interest of the people.

Earlier in November, Abbas Adil Riza – then serving as a President’s Office spokesperson – warned that the “National Movement” would “break up” the parliament, should it go forward with no-confidence motion against President Waheed and his Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim.  The Supreme Court had at the time issued an injunction against parliament holding such votes.

Riza also directed harsh criticism towards Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid, dismissing his decision to “challenge” the Supreme Court’s ruling as a “cowardly act”.

“Unless Shahid immediately ceases his efforts to violate the constitution while holding the post of Speaker of Parliament, the National Movement will ensure that this comes to a stop,” he said at the time.

Parliament officials had earlier stated that Defence Minister Nazim had been given the required 14-day notice by Speaker Abdulla Shahid.

Responding to Riza’s comments at the time, Majlis Deputy Speaker and People’s Alliance (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim rejected claims parliament had challenged the Supreme Court’s injunction.  Nazim noted that parliament had given all those facing no confidence votes a full 14 days notice as stated by the law.

“We believe there is still time for Supreme Court to lift the temporary injunction, and I believe they will not see this as the parliament challenging the court. After 14 days, the motion will be put up on the agenda for discussion by party leaders. If the injunction remains then there is a possibility for party leaders to challenge the court,” Nazim told Minivan News at the time.

“A rather irrelevant group” – MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor

Responding to Riza’s remarks, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that he did not believe that the “National Movement” was a force of the people, but rather an irrelevant group craving media attention.

“I don’t think any MP would wish to even comment on the remarks made by these people. We are ashamed of them. These people do not represent the people. Look at the number of people attending their rallies,” he said.

Ghafoor claimed that even though parliament did not generally take into account the remarks made during the rallies held by the movement, they may consider action at a later date on the grounds of national security.

“If they are planning to attack the parliament or threaten the national security, then perhaps the parliament may look into it, but other than that they are not much of a force. I believe if there happens to be a time where they attempt to attack parliament, then the police and military would obviously not let that happen,” he added.

Ghafoor also accused the “National Movement” of not being a registered organization, alleging a possible conflict of interest in the Registrar of Clubs and Societies Abdulla Mohamed speaking as one of its members..

“The whole outfit is void ab initio,” he said

PPM discontinues its support

Meanwhile, the government-aligned former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), a key supporter of the movement, has decided to part ways with the National Movement claiming that it was “moving in another direction”.

“I question today whether this campaign under the name of national movement is sincere or not,” PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof said in parliament.

“I’m saying this because during the GMR issue, we said repeatedly that after that we should raise the issue of Nexbis [border control project]. But after that we saw them raise the issue of the People’s Majlis.”

Mahloof added that a speaker at a national movement rally on Sunday night “used obscene language” to attack PPM Parliamentary Group Leader MP Abdulla Yameen.

The speaker in question accused MP Yameen of “threatening” the Adhaalath Party, during a rally held Sunday (December 23) to celebrate the first anniversary of the December 23 “mega-protest.”

Local media reported that the remarks led to heated exchanges between the speaker and PPM supporters, a number of whom left the area in protest.

In his speech following the incident, Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, a senior leader of the Adhaalath Party, spoke in defence of MP Yameen and urged speakers to respect political leaders.

The National Movement was formed by several government aligned political parties and a coalition of NGOs to oppose the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) development being run by GMR.

The movement initially began as 23 December alliance, which held an enmasse demonstration to oppose certain policies of the President Mohamed Nasheed.  The protest was held just months before Nasheed resigned from office, later alleging he had been made to do so under “duress”.

The movement is headed by the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP). AP Leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla is portrayed as the figure head of the movement.