Opposition office cordoned off and leadership members arrested

Police cordoned off PPM’s main office in Malé City, confining most of their leadership inside | Photo: PPM

Malé, Maldives – Maldives Police Service has cordoned off the main office used by the opposition coalition and arrested many of the leadership members amidst todays protest.

Among the arrested include the President of PNC and current opposition leader Abdul Raheem Abdullah (Adhurey), Vice President of PPM and sitting MP of Guraidhoo constituency Mohamed Ghassaan Maumoon, as well as former MP of Hoarafushi constituency Mohamed Ismail and sitting MP of Nolhivaram constituency Mohamed Nasheed (Mosta).

In addition to this, PPM council member Soodha (Sootie), PNC council member Ahmed Nareesh, Former parliament member of Hulhudhoo constituency Mohamed Shahid, Vice President of PNC Mohamed Nimal, PPM youth leader Faisal Ibrahim and PNC registrar Mohamed Afoo Hamid has also been arrested.

After the arrests, PPM said that the actions by Maldives Police was curtailing their freedom of assembly, speech and expression and condemned their actions.

Maldives Police Service had previously revealed that a total of 28 individuals were arrested during the todays protests by the opposition coalition which includes people from both Progressive Part of Maldives (PPM) and the People’s National Congress (PNC).

Maldives Police Service broke up the protest, citing that such gatherings are against the guidelines put forth by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) during the pandemic. Prior to the demonstrations, the Home Ministry and Police warned that legal action would be taken against those who violate the regulations, however, the opposition seem to have paid no need to it.

While arrests were being made during the protests being held on the streets of Male’ demanding justice for those who lost their flats in the government housing projects, many point out that no such repercussions were faced by the ruling party for holding a campaign launching event in Male’, despite the gathering having had comprised of more than 10 individuals.

Parliament member of Faresmathoda constituency, Hussain Mohamed Latheef (Sembe) had previously said that the oppositions protest will be held in Malé City’s even if a lockdown in announced after Health Minister Ahmed Naseem (Kerafa Naseem) has said that Malé City was in a situation where a lockdown might be inevitable.

While speaking at a workshop held to formulate a law for tour operators and tour agencies in Maldives, Minister Naseem said that the level of Covid-19 spread in Malé City was unclear. 

Minister Naseem also said that the spread of the virus in Malé City was ‘out of control’ and that more than 200 cases are expected by today from Malé City alone. He further added that if conditions does not allow for a lockdown, stricter measures will be imposed in the capital to control the spread of the virus. 

The opposition had announced todays protest in a press conference held on February 21, 2021 in which the People’s National Congress (PNC) Vice President Mohamed Nimaal stated that supporters in numerous atolls have requested to join the rally planned for today, with many ready to complete 14 days of quarantine after attending the protest.

Opposition leaders had also urged all supporters in Malé to show up this Friday. Nimaal said that he is sure this will be a large event, one that will be attended by numerous people that want their voices heard by the government.

Todays protest comes after a series of protests led by the opposition by taking to the streets of Male’ of which, the latest was in protest of the recently published list of “Hiyaa” flat winners.

The protests were initiated with the aim to bring justice to people who have lost or did not receive their apartments after ‘Hiyaa’ Public Housing Scheme was released on the 10th of February. Many protesters and police officers have suffered several injuries during clashes which have occurred during these demonstrations.

The PPM and PNC coalition decided to keep protesting and take action following a recent decision of the High Court, to uphold an earlier sentence by the Criminal Court’s which has led to Former President Yameen continue his 5 year money laundering sentence in Maafushi Prison.

Head of Malé City Police, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdullah Shareef has previously stated at a Health Emergency Operations Center (HEOC) press conference, that legal action would be taken against any further protests in the capital city. He added that the opposition has been advised against these protests multiple times and that further protests would be considered as an obstruction to justice.

However, Former Chief Justice of the Maldives Dr. Ahmed Abdullah Didi has said that legal action cannot be taken against the opposition for protesting, replying to statements from Maldives Police Service saying that protests are not allowed.

The opposition has continued to protest in Male’ by violating several guidelines released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While most protesters do wear masks, social distancing is not followed, which is very alarming as Covid cases in Maldives are at an all time high.