DRP welcomes electricity subsidies but will continue protests

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has announced it will continue its ‘red notice’ protests, despite welcoming changes the government’s new subsidies for electricity charges.

National Social Protection Agency (NSPA) today said that it changed the per unit rate for subsidies for electricity charges, a move intended to people who cannot afford the electricity bill.

According to the changes, charges for 0-100 meter units would be Rf1.50, 101-200 meter units Rf1.70, 201-300 meter units Rf2.15 and 301-400 units Rf2.50, for people receiving subsidies.

Charges for those not identified as eligible for a subsidy will remain at Rf2.25 for 0-100 units, Rf2.50 for 101-300 units, Rf 2.95 for 301-500 units, Rf3.55 for 501-600 units and Rf3.85 above 601.

NSPA Chairperson Ibrahim Waheed said that the subsidied charges were cheaper than 2008 prices.

”No changes were brought to the [normal] charges, but the subsidised rates have changed,” he said.

No changes were made to unsubsidised electricity charges because the government wished to run the State Electric Company (STELCO) without a loss, he said.

He said that the changes in the subsidised rates had no connection with the DRP-led protests.

DRP MP Ahmed Mahloof meanwhile said the protest would begin tonight at 8:45pm, and would start near the tsunami monument.

”Maldivian Democratic Party MDP’s protest outside the Vice President’s house has proved us that climbing gates was not prohibited,” Mahloof said. ”We will climb the gates of Muleeage [the President’s official residence] tonight.”

Mahloof said he had information that the police has planned to use rubber bullets to disperse tonight’s gathering.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said that DRP welcomed the changes brought to the electricity charges, but ”will continue the protest as we have planned.”

Nihan said that 80 percent of the people ought to receive subsidies for electricity charges.

”The procedure NSPA follows is not very comprehensive,” he said, ”but we welcome the changes they brought.”


MNJA condemns threats against two journalists covering Addu protest

The newly-formed Maldives National Journalist Association (MNJA) has claimed that two journalists were threatened and attacked while covering a Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-led protest in Addu Atoll on Friday night.

The MNJA claimed a journalist from Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) and a journalist from daily newspaper Haveeru were attacked and threatened, and that pictures taken by the journalists were deleted by the protesters.

MNJA expressed regret that DRP Vice President Ibrahim Shareef was leading the protest and took no action against the incident.

However, Vice president of DRP Ibrahim Shareef said he was “not surprised” by the reports.

”MNJA is a organisation containing a majority of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters,” Shareef said, ”so they will say stuff like that about us.”

He condemned the MNJA for “misleading people.”

The Haveeru journalist allegedly attacked that night, Ahmed Arsham, said that the protesters became angry at them because they were taking pictures of the protesters damaging the name board of the Addu province office.

Arsham said that he and a TVM reporter were forced away from the incident.

”They grabbed the camera lense and broke it,” he said.

On March 8 a DhiTv Journalist and cameramen was forced out from a Maldivian Democratic Party rally.


DRP ‘gate shaking’ case sent to Prosecutor General

Police have sent a case concerning the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-led protest outside MNDF headquarters in January to the Prosecutor General’s office, following investigation.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the case involved “some DRP members.” DRP Vice Presidents Umar Naseer and Ali Waheed have previously been summoned by police for questioning over the issue.

”It’s unauthorized to gather near the Maldives National Defense Force headquarters,” Shiyam said. “[The protesters] split police forces and shook the main gatesof MNDF,” he explained.

He said the case sent to the PG included “everyone in connection with the case.”

The PG’s office confirmed the case had been received but PG Ahmed Muiz would not give further details to Minivan News.

DRP leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said the purpose of trying to prosecute DRP protesters was that they “had been trying to make the government responsible and remind them of their pledges”, and that the prosecution was an attempt “to escape from the unfulfilled pledges made to the people.”

Thasmeen noted that it was also unauthorized to gather and protest near the parliament.

”I have seen people with loudspeakers and microphones near the parliament,” Thasmeen said, ”Why isn’t the government investigating and prosecuting them?”

He said he was surprised that the senior officials of the government had told the people the government was a democracy, but were now trying to arrest protesters.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Shifaz said that he would describe the riot as an act of ”terrorism”

Shifaz said trying to enter a country’s defense force base was “a very serious case”, and that the people involved in it should be prosecuted.

”MNDF have the authority to use weapons when that happens,” he said. ”They did not do it.”

He said whether or not someone was an MP, nobody was above the law.

”A penalty should be given for the people who were involved in the incident,” he said.


Senior DRP leaders taken into police custody

Police used tear gas grenades to disperse a large crowd, after political demonstrators from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) clashed during an MDP rally at the artificial beach last night.

Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam reported that both protesters and police were injured in the skirmishes, although none seriously.

At around 10:30pm a large crowd of DRP supporters were still gathered outside the party’s headquarters opposite and were not responding to police instructions to disperse.

Police dressed in riot gear then entered the premises and escorted a number of the DRP’s senior leadership to a waiting pick-up truck, including Vice President Umar Naseer, Vice President Ali Waheed, and DRP spokesperson Ali Solih.

Shiyam confirmed that police had taken the DRP leaders into custody, but said police were not yet revealing the number of people arrested or the location to which they were being taken. At 11:00pm he said the situation was under control and police would be releasing further details over the weekend.

In a live interview with SunFM last night, Naseer and Waheed claimed they were on a police launch being taken to Dhoonidhoo prison.

Roads in Male’ around parliament and the president’s palace have been closed by police in an apparent effort to avoid demonstrations such as the one that took place outside Muleaage and the MNDF headquarters in late January, which could interfere with the donor conference on 28-29 March.

Speaking to Minivan News earlier today, DRP member Mohamed ‘Mundhu’ Hussain Shareef observed that “while [President] Nasheed has good PR outside the country, this time the audience is in town. He is not going to be able to fool a foreign audience – half the donor community is in town.”


Former island chief arrested for attacking island councillor in DRP meeting

A fight between the former Island Chief of Miladhu in Noonu Atoll Abdul Sattar Mohamed and Island Councillor Hassan Moosa escalated into a brawl on Saturday night.

Moosa told Minivan News that Sattar, also the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) President for the island, “defamed my character” during a speech he gave to a DRP meeting that evening

“So I went and asked him about it,” Moosa said, claiming DRP supporters broke the windows of the island office and damaged some of its property in the subsequent scuffle.

”He claimed that I am in debt,” Moosa said, ”and that I built my house using his money, so I went there and asked him why he was spreading untrue information.”

Moosa alleged that Sattar hit him in the face in full view of the police when he asked him “why he was misleading the people.”

Senior member of DRP at Miladhu, Ahmed Hassan, said the councilor broke into the DRP meeting with the intention of disrupting it.

”Moosa could not digest what Sattar said,” Hassan claimed, explaining that the island councillor and four others had appeared at the meeting to scold Sattar.

”Our supporters started shouting at him, so we told him to leave the place immediately.”

Hassan claimed Moosa kicked Sattar in the stomach, and described him as “a person who used to fight very often.”

Moosa claimed he did not hit anybody.

Head of Noonu Atoll police station Ibrahim Fayaz said Sattar was under arrest for hitting the island councillor, and that one other man was under arrest in connection with vandalism of the island office.

He said the police were currently investigating the case.


Jail officers helping inmates bring in “drugs, phones”

Several jail officers are being investigated on suspicion of helping inmates to bring mobile phones and drugs into cells in Male’ prison, according to State Minister for Home Affairs Ahmed Adil.

“Three inmates and several jail officers we suspect [to be involved] have been moved to Dhoonidhu [prison] for investigation,” Adil said.

Inmates in Male’ Prison last week damaged their cells after jail officers seized mobile phones and other contraband. Adil said the trouble started after inmates refused to hand over a mobile phone.

”Jail officers found a mobile phone inside a cell, and they checked other cells,” Adil said. ”Officers then discovered drugs in another cell.”

Adil said that after the officers took the mobile phone inmates started to protest.

”They broke the flush tanks in the toilet and damaged other jail property,” he said, adding that the inmates were eventually controlled with the help of police.

He refuted a report published in Haveeru that claimed the protest was started after a “delay in financial transactions between a family and the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service (DPRS)”.

Police sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the DPRS requested help from police to control the inmates during the incident.

Nobody was injured during the riot, he noted.

Director of the DRPS Saudh Abdul Kareem meanwhile refused to comment on the incident, claiming that Minivan News “causes me trouble by always disturbing me to clarify cases.”


Police launch investigation of Muleeage-MNDF protest

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.