17 arrested in opposition protest

Police arresting a female protester from “Where’s my flat?” protest carried out in Malé City by the opposition PPM and PNC coalition on March 5, 2021 | Photo: Dhiyares

Malé, Maldives – Maldives Police Service has informed that they had arrested 17 individuals from todays protest in the capital, Malé City by the opposition.

Progress Party of Maldives (PPM) and People’s National Congress (PNC) coalition had announced on March 1, 2021 that they will hold a ‘mega’ protest in Malé City today.

While Maldives Police Service had barricaded all the routes to and from the oppositions main office in Malé, the protesters continued to protest in two locations of the capital.

Speaking at a press conference by PPM/ PNC coalition, former parliamentarian of Hoarafushi constituency, Mohamed Ismail had previously told that they were despaired by how the police treated the protesters during their previous protest and that a bigger one than the previous one would be carried out. 

He also stated that the government cannot restrict the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech even though the country is in a State of Medical Emergency and that government leaders need to accept this as a fact. 

Maldives Police Service (MPS) had previously arrested 30 protesters during the protest on February 26, 2021 stating that they were breaking the guidelines set by HPA. All the protesters except three were released the following day with a fine of MVR 1,000 per person for violating HPA regulations set out to curb the spread of Covid-19. Police revealed that three people from the arrested were not fined because they were arrested before the protest began. 

Maldives Police Service also cordoned off the main office used by the opposition coalition and arrested many of the leadership members amidst last Fridays protest. 

Among the arrested included 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 were also arrested. 

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 paid no attention to the warnings.

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 5 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 daily cases are expected 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. 

These protests comes after a series of rallies 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.