The Maldives Police Service has issued a statement saying it will investigate “serious crimes” committed during the protest outside the president’s residence, Muleeage, and MNDF headquarters late on Thursday night.
The police statement also condemned comments made by opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Waheed that police supported the protest, and accused him of “trying to take away the people’s trust in the police. Police will always be faithful to the government and fulfil their duty.”
The president’s press secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, said he believed Ali Waheed “may be right”.
“I believe the police force is largely composed of law abiding officers, but there is still a rogue element and this may be the element Ali Waheed is referring to,” Zuhair said.
“The [protest] coincided with the firing of several police including assistant commissioner Abdulla Riyaz,” he said.
“Not 24 hours after [the protest], police raided a premises (Marble apartments) where three state ministers were staying, after claims of a girl crying. They went through the apartments saying they were searching for forensic evidence that a girl had been raped. Three times they raided and the fourth time they came in plain clothes and were denied entry – I’m sure some of them were not comfortable with the recent changes in the Maldives and the fact that their former hero lost the election.”
Zuhair also claimed it “was within the resources of Riyaz to find out certain facts about the man who [allegedly] died in police custody, to try and rile up the crowd.”
“I suspect this was instigated [from within] the police. They were trying to make a similar situation to Evan Naseem.”
Riyaz was not responding to calls at time of press. Sub-inspector Ahmed Shiyam said police could not comment on the case during the investigation, but noted that the police operation to control the crowd had ultimately been successful “and police did not fail in any way.”
“People gathered at the artificial beach and proceeded to police headquarters,” Shiyam said. “Police tried to stop them but they broke police lines twice, before police reorganised and dispersed the crowd outside the president’s house.”
He noted that “senior parliament members broke police lines after police ordered them not to”, while in addition, “some people tried to enter the gate of MNDF headquarters, and MNDF has sent the case to the police. This is really serious to national security.”
DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf, who acknowledged himself as one of the protest’s leaders, questioned police support for the government.
“We are sure that 90 per cent of the police and MNDF do not support the government’s policy or the president,” he said, adding that the police statement sounded “very pressured”.
“Statements on DhiFM that the protest was trying to overthrow the government were just not true,” he said. “We try to control our protests and ask people to not attack the police and be nice. I’ve watched MDP’s protests for almost five years, and they are very violent and they attack police.”
Despite accusations to the contrary, the protesters outside Muleeage did not throw stones into the compound, Mahlouf said, “as there were no rocks in the area”.
He acknowledged that some protesters had thrown sand in the faces of police officers – Zuhair accused “opposition” parties of “employing Indian and Bangladeshi expatriates” to throw the sand.
“I also saw that on the video,” Mahlouf said. “I do not support that, it was not something nice. But I believe that happened after police fired tear gas, while the crowd was very angry.”
He said claims that the protesters had tried to gain entry to the MNDF base and the president’s residence were “a joke”.
“Nobody would have gone inside, for sure. I was one of the people leading the protest and there was no plan to go inside the MNDF headquarters or the president’s residence,” he said.
“Saying that the DRP was trying to enter the MNDF headquarters is a joke. I am still mentally fit and would not walk into the MNDF base with guns [pointed at me].”
Mahlouf insisted that the protest “wasn’t organised by us” and it “never got out of hand. I was very happy with the way the police and MNDF treated us. We didn’t do anything against the law; we can protest where we want without informing the government. They can’t override the constitution.
“It is sad that Mohamed Nasheed’s government is investigating a protest when he is the president who gave Maldivians the right to protest,” he added.