Leaders of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have vowed to continue mass protests until demands to free political prisoners, including Opposition Leader former President Mohamed Nasheed, are met. “We will continue protesting till our demands are heard by the government. The objective of our protests was to call an end to government tyranny. We shall continue protests till our purpose has been achieved,” MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz said speaking at the MDP Haruge’ in Male’ on Saturday (13 June). “We regard our protests to be rehearsals for a mass anti-government Freedom Rally to coincide with Independence Day”, he said.
Preparations are underway to stage a fourth mass anti-government demonstration to coincide with Independence Day on July 26, MDP Deputy Chairperson Ali Shiyam told supporters in a public speech on Sunday (14 June).
The MDP’s planned prolonged sit-in protest on June 12, for which attendance was fluid and at times increasing from between 2000 to 5000, was cut short following a Police crackdown after midnight, dispersing protesters. Specialist Operations (SO) Police chased protesters into side streets and cleared Majeedhee Magu, but protesters regrouped and continued protesting until 3:00am. 09 persons were arrested and later released after being cautioned of possible prosecution.
It is noteworthy that protestors kept their activities within laws and regulations. The Police were given 3 days prior notice of the demonstration. There are no laws that specify a time when demonstrations should be concluded. Nor does the law specify a time to cut off sound systems used to address demonstrators. The demonstrators also did not enter any green zones (restricted areas) and there was absolutely no violence from demonstrators even when being inflicted baton bashings and assaults by Police in riot gear at people participating in what was clearly a peaceful demonstration.
Despite the exercise of maximum restraint and patience on the part of rally leaders and demonstrators, it is seriously feared that such excessive brutality against peaceful demonstrators by the Police may initiate incidents of violence in the next rally. It is imperative that the constitutionally enshrined rights of the people be upheld and MDP leaders have reiterated their determination to facilitate the exercise of the rights to peaceful assembly and expression.
Meanwhile, the government’s blatant intimidation tactics continue with the deliberate continuation of the combined effects of derogatory threats from pro-government MPs to stop whom they call “island people” travelling to Male’. All vessels have had to take great care to ensure safety requirements are observed fearing Police searches, which at times culminate in the (newly flaunted) fearful ordeal of Police dogs being let loose on the decks.
Government Offices and independent institutions are continuing sackings of people who participate at opposition rallies. The Maldivian Democracy Network reports that scores of cases of unfair dismissal are currently lodged with the Employment Tribunal, with reasons cited for dismissal including “protesting against the lawfully elected government” and “untrustworthiness based on intelligence information.”. The so called intelligence refers to the morbid practice of Police units persecuting people after following and monitoring their Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts.
Opposition party leaders arrested in the hours following the May Day clashes, including MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed, Adhaalath leader Sheikh Imran and Jumhooree Party senior officials Ameen Ibrahim and Sobah Rasheed now face terror charges similar to those that saw Opposition Leader,President Mohamed Nasheed jailed for 13 years last March.
Despite the Jumhooree Party JP’s official opposition to the government becoming increasingly muted, many senior members continue expressing solidarity in their private capacities, while hundreds of JP members participate at opposition mass rallies. Tax authorities influenced by the government continue to target the businesses of Jumhooree Party leader Hon. Gasim Ibrahim. With the accounts of his Villa Group frozen, thousands of employees have been left without pay, while the group’s airline Flyme has pared back services to the atolls.
The Maldivian Democratic Party appeals to well-wishers, the international community and all concerned authorities to prevail over the Maldives government to; unconditionally release all political leaders in prison, including Opposition Leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed; to cease and desist from enacting and executing politically motivated charges and stop abusing the judiciary for political vendetta; to cease and desist from the initiation of unfair dismissals of participants of demonstrations and cease targeting and causing losses to businesses and to immediately commence talks with respective and stated leaders of the main political parties. //