Kolamaafushi voting venue painted yellow reports Sun Online, “orange” says Island Council President

A ballot box on the island of Kolamaafushi in Gaafu Alifu Atoll is to be placed in a building that has been painted yellow, reports Sun Online.

Citing an island council source, Sun reported that the island’s number two ballot box was to be placed in the building used by the island’s women’s committee.

Yellow is the party colour of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), members of which make up four of the island’s five council members responsible for designating the voting venues.

The island’s other ballot box is to be hosted in the island’s school, however the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has reportedly lobbied the Elections Commission requesting the box instead be placed in the campaign hall of President Mohamed Waheed’s ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition.

According to Sun, President of Kolamaafushi Council Ahmed Jameel contended that the fence of the offending building was in fact orange.

The PPM in June called for a cease-fire in the so-called ‘paint war’ between rival political supporters, with buildings, walls and even plant-life being painted in party colours.


Political parties condemn escalation of ‘paint war’ as capital temporarily turned pink and yellow

The government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has warned of an escalation in the so-called ‘paint war’ between rival political supporters in the capital unless authorities can address the practice of painting buildings, walls and even plant-life in party colours.

Supporters of the PPM have been accused this week of covering state property and government buildings, such as walls outside the new Supreme Court compound in Male’, in the party’s official colour of pink.

However, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan today condemned the practice, requesting that any supporters or “sympathisers” of political parties in the country refrain from painting public property in any political colour.

Unless the Male’ City Council (MCC), the police and the Elections Commission (EC) did more to prevent the painting of public property in pink, yellow and other political colours, the issue could become increasingly problematic ahead of September’s presidential election, Nihan told Minivan News.

The ‘paint war’ has seen “sympathisers” and supporters of both the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the PPM accused of daubing walls and buildings in their respective party colours of yellow and pink in the Henveiru ward of Male’.

In recent days, the painting has expanded to other areas of the capital, although authorities have in some cases worked to restore affected structures, specifically government buildings, to their original colour.

A group of women recently painted the walls of the Henveiru stadium in the MDP’s yellow after PPM supporters painted a large section of the low walls dark pink, according to local media.

The PPM’s official colour was also painted on the walls of a compound in Sosun Magu designated for a new Supreme Court building, as well as on the walls at the artificial beach area of Male’.

However, on Saturday (June 15), a group of MDP supporters painted over the pink and turned a section of the artificial beach wall in front of the State Bank of India back to yellow.

Following the incident, the MDP urged its members, well-wishers and supporters, as well as members of rival parties to “immediately cease” painting party colours on public property.

PPM MP Nihan however has accused the opposition party’s supporters of instigating the painting throughout Male’ by covering entire areas of the capital such as its Usfasdgandu protest camp in yellow, leading to reprisals from rival supporters.

He said that with MCC having provided the MDP with its own campaign ground and protest camp in the form of Usfasgandu, rival parties had grown concerned they had not been provided with the same opportunities from the council.

Nihan alleged that it was a sense of disparity that had seen a surge in the painting of political party colours.

He also criticized the MDP for further exacerbating the situation in recent weeks, taking the example of an incident outside PPM Presidential candidate Abdullah Yameen’s campaign office in Male’. After the office was established, MDP supporters were accused of painting an area of land opposite in yellow and decorating it in flags.

PPM “sympathisers” soon retaliated by painting the surrounding area in the party’s own pink colour, according to Nihan.

Rather than being just a matter of graffiti, he expressed concern that attempts to cover walls and property throughout the country in different political colours could escalate political tensions into violence between rival supporters if unchecked.

Despite these concerns, Nihan added that covering buildings and structures in party colours was nothing new for the Maldives, with similar activities being conducted across the country’s inhabited islands ahead of the 2008 presidential election.

While pink and yellow are the predominant colours presently seen in Male’, he said that five years ago “every corner” in the country was painted yellow or blue to reflect support either for the MDP or the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – then headed by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Despite having previously founded the DRP, Gayoom later left the party, taking a faction of its supporters with him to form the PPM back in 2011 following a war of words with current Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

On the back of current concerns about the capital being painted in political colours, Nihan ultimately accused the MCC of turning a “blind eye” to the escalation of the so-called ‘paint wars’ between his party and the opposition.

He therefore requested that the MCC, in which the MDP has a majority, take proper action to prevent any further state buildings like the country’s courts from being painted.

“Male’ is only a small place, yet the MCC use their hall as a campaign post for the MDP,” he said. “The Decentralisation Act requires the council to keep the entire city clean.  The police have to stop [property being painted in political colours] from happening and the MCC must assist them.  In America, you wouldn’t see people painting over the White House in different colours.”

While the majority of political painting in the capital over the last week had been in the colours of the PPM and MDP, Nihan also accused President Mohamed Waheed of purposefully using white to cover buildings and pubic property painted by rival parties as part of his own campaign efforts ahead of the election.

The official colour of President Waheed’s party is registered as green.

MCC Mayor Ali Manik told Minivan News today that he had issued a warning to all political parties that it was illegal for them to post promotional material or paint on government property.  He added that ahead of the election, all political stakeholders wishing to win over the public should also be wary of breaking such laws.

However, Manik said that it was not the council’s responsibility to clean the affected areas, adding that the political parties would be required to take responsibility for areas that had been re-coloured against the law.

A spokesperson for the Maldives Police Service (MPS) said that while officers had begun a clean-up program targeting graffiti suspected of being created by gangs, the painting of public property in party colours was not within its mandate.

Responding to Nihan’s allegations that the country’s only opposition party had an unfair campaign advantage in Male’, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that the MDP had been leased Usfasgandu by the MCC after requesting land for political purposes.

He therefore questioned why other parties had not in turn requested similar arrangements from the council, adding that he could see no justification for what he alleged had been PPM supporters painting the walls of government buildings pink in response to the MDP’s campaigning.

The party meanwhile said in a statement on Sunday (June 16) that the Male’ City Council had shared concerns of party colours being painted on walls of government-owned buildings and facilities.

“We note that painting party colours on the walls of buildings of the government and other institutions is prohibited by the Elections Commission’s regulations and that painting party colours, sticking posters, logos and banners as well as any expression involving a political party on public property has been prohibited,” the MDP press release stated.

The party advised supporters to paint walls or put up banners and posters on the walls of their own residences as part of the re-election campaign of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Government concerns

Despite clean up efforts going on across the capital, the government of President Mohamed Waheed today also expressed concern over public property and state buildings being painted.

While the public and political parties were free to decorate their own property how they liked, the government requested that people refrain from painting public areas in political colours, said President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad.

“People are free to do this in their homes or on party property, but we wish for government institutions and buildings to be kept free of these colours,” he said. “I do not really think this is politically helpful to any party and simply alienates people not interested in politics.”

Masood added that from the perspective of President Waheed’s own Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP), there was no intention to begin painting walls and state property in its official colour of green.

Masood argued that the main concern about a rise in painting of political colours was the eventual cost to public finances, adding that the Supreme Court has decided to yesterday paint walls outside the compound designated for a new Supreme Court building public grey.

“Yesterday, independent of the government, the Supreme court decided it waned to change the colours of the walls outside the complex which I believe had been recently painted pink or purple,” he said.

“The cost incurred to do this as a result of the misjudgment by some member of the public will have to be paid from state funds.”


Nasheed vows to continue protests for early elections

Ousted President Mohamed Nasheed has vowed to step up demonstrations for early elections after the government agreed to a Commonwealth demand to revise a commission set up to investigate the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) youth wing offices on Tuesday night, Nasheed said new President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan had been forced to revise the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) due to popular demonstrations for early elections and called on the public to step up protests.

Nasheed alleges he was deposed in a coup d’état carried out by mutinous elements of the police and military on February 7. Thousands of MDP supporters have since held regular protests since the change of government calling for fresh elections.

“The Commonwealth is with the Maldives. Commonwealth officials can see the vast number of yellow scarves when they step out on to their balconies. Don McKinnon is astonished by the number of people who have come out in support for this in this tiny place,” Nasheed said.

Sir Don McKinnon is the Commonwealth’s Special Envoy to the Maldives. The Commonwealth has called for early elections in the Maldives within 2012.

Nasheed reiterated his belief that Maldives may never see elections again if early elections are not held in 2012. Moreover, he claimed President Waheed’s administration was attempting to influence the Elections Commission by offering ambassadorships and other benefits to the Elections Commission President Fuad Thawfeeq.

The two offices opened on Tuesday night were the Orchard Office on Keneree Magu and the offices of youth activist group “Yellow Force.”


MDP protesters gather in thousands against Dr Waheed’s government

Thousands of protesters gathered in the open area near the tsunami monument in Male’ this afternoon, demonstrating against what they contend is the illegitimate government of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Numbers were difficult to ascertain as demonstrators spilled out of the open area into side streets and along Boduthakurufaanu Magu in both directions, but may have approached 10,000 at the height of the demonstrations this afternoon.

The afternoon protest had a decidedly carnival atmosphere to it. Maldivians of all ages waved yellow flags and banners, the colour of Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), while MDP supporters handed out biscuits and water to the crowd.

Many protesters had come from the islands. Fishing boats bedecked in yellow flags moored off shore, while the occupant of a canoe paddled out and waved a banner. A surfer could be seen wearing a yellow rash vest.

All the former ministers were at the front of the crowd near the stage, including Nasheed, who did not speak this afternoon but was wildly received by the crowd on raising his hand.

The visible police presence was minimal, with uniformed officers only stationed in side streets away from the square. Officers present were taunted by demonstrators yelling “Laari laari yes sir”, in reference to allegations that some officers accepted money to side with the opposition on February 7.

After prayers, the protests continued into the evening from 8:00pm, with the tone of the speakers rising in anger and frustration.

Nasheed’s MDP have refused to recognise a government with Dr Mohamed Waheed at the helm, and have called for an interim government under the Speaker of Parliament with elections to be held in two months.

There were mixed reports about whether calls for early elections had been accepted on Thursday, following mediation. Rumours trickled out of the MDP all day that elections had been agreed during mediation sessions conducted by India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.

Mathai claimed that the MDP had “reconsidered” its need to rally on Friday after suggestions that elections would be held, and put forward Dr Waheed’s ‘roadmap’ requesting the MDP’s cooperation in a National Unity Government, which would “work towards the conditions that will permit such elections to take place including the necessary constitutional amendments.”

Dr Waheed appeared less committal towards early elections in a press conference held yesterday for foreign media: “I believe the conditions have to be right. We have to have a calm atmoshpere, we have to address some of the deep rifts that we have in the political situation in the country, and then move towards free and fair election,” he claimed.

Halting street clashes, he said, was “not the only factor”.

“There is an economic factor here – our financial situation is not great and it hasn’t been for the last couple of years. We need to have guarantees that we are going to respect the rule of law, that we are going to uphold the Constitution and our judiciary is going to be independent – that it is going to be in such a way that anyone who fears justice deserves justice. If you don’t have justice, how can you go ahead?” Dr Waheed said.

Nasheed resigned on Tuesday February 7 under what he later claimed was duress. Earlier that morning, opposition protesters, aided by elements of the police and military, assaulted the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) headquarters and took over the state broadcaster.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rallied its supporters the following afternoon. A police crackdown on the protesters followed, leading to other protests across the country, and subsequent retaliations for the destruction of police property.


Yellow paint at ICU prompts complaints from Hithadhoo citizens

Citizens of Hithadhoo in Addu City have “heavily criticised” the decision to paint the walls of the newly-built four-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Hithadhoo Regional Hospital yellow, the color of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), according to Sun Online.

The ICU was constructed under the budget for the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Addu City.

Unnamed residents of Hithadhoo told Sun Online that “the hospital should not cater to people of a certain color” and that yellow paint was not suited to an ICU.

Southern Health Corporation Managing Director Noorullah Saeed however denied that the decision was political.

Saeed revealed that the yellow was going to be painted over and a new color will be chosen after consulting with the hospital’s doctors and nurses.