Members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have taken to the streets in Malé for a third consecutive day as they vow to continue demonstrating until President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration is overthrown.
A few hundred protesters continue to gather at the junction of Orchid Magu and Chaandhanee Magu despite overcast skies and frequent rain showers. Police have set up barricades to block access to the Republican Square, the area encompassing the President’s Office, and police and military headquarters.
The MDP alleges President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in a “coup d’état” on February 7, and has held regular marches throughout the Maldives calling for early elections.
Meanwhile, the final report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) set up to probe the circumstances of the controversial transfer of power is not expected to be complete until the end of August. The composition of the CNI was recently revised over international concerns about the impartiality of the body.
The MDP protests today remained so far peaceful at the time of press, but Minivan News again observed protesters heckling police, in some instances mobbing law enforcement officers as they travelled on their motorcycles.
Police clashed violently with protesters on Monday night. Photos posted on social media shows police using pepper spray and batons as they attempted to disperse the protests. According to Sun Online, police attacked protesters without warning after former President Nasheed arrived at the area.
Police Spokesperson Hassan Haneef said 27 people continue to remain in police custody. The detainees are charged with obstruction of police duty and breaking through police barricades. Two journalists were arrested, but released after a few hours in detention.
Haneef also said that a policeman was injured in last night’s clashes after a protester threw a pavement brick at the officer’s face. Local tourist souvenir shops in the area have also filed complaints regarding the protests, Haneef added.
Speaking to local media yesterday (July 10), MDP Spokesperson and Malé MP Imthiaz Fahmy said the MDP will end street protests only when President Waheed’s administration is overthrown or when the government announces a date for an early election.
The EU and Commonwealth have called for early elections in 2012. However, President Waheed has said the earliest date allowed for elections under the constitution is July 2013. The MDP, have previously claimed that early elections could be held within two months of the president resigning.
The MDP also today called for the immediate release of protesters, claiming arrests illustrated President Waheed’s “flagrant disregard for the constitutionally given rights to freedom of assembly and expression.” MDP MP Fahmy appealed to the public “to participate in MDP’s direct action to protest against and bring an end to this unelected government.”
Over 650 people have been arrested since President Waheed took office, the MDP claims.
“Five months on from the coup d’etat that overthrew the Maldives’ first democratic government, Dr. Waheed continues to violate the fundamental rights of his citizens through illegitimate means. Maldivian citizens have and will continue to exercise their constitutional rights to express their disapproval of the regime and call for immediate elections to restore democracy in the Maldives,” Malé MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor said in the MDP statement.
Amnesty International has issued multiple statements since the transfer of power condemning police’s use of excessive force against protesters. Police have denied Amnesty’s allegations.