Thousands gather for opposition coalition’s first rally – as it happened

Thousands gather for opposition coalition’s first rally – as it happened
July 21 21:30 2016

After a hiatus for Ramadan following its launching on June 1, the Maldives United Opposition kicks off its activities with a first rally in Malé tonight.

The rally is taking place outside the Maldivian Democratic Party’s haruge (meeting hall), despite the government’s refusal to grant permission to use a public venue.   

A podium has been set up in the meeting hall, located on the outer ring road of the capital. Hundreds of opposition supporters have gathered on the opposite side of the road, filling up the artificial beach and allowing traffic to pass through.

Opposition leaders in exile, including former President Mohamed Nasheed, are expected to address supporters via teleconference. 

12:15am: Riot police officers blocked Majeedhee Magu as the participants of the rally streamed out of the artificial beach and made their way east on the capital’s main thoroughfare.

Opposition supporters chanted for the resignation of President Yameen, prompting a police appeal for them to quietly make their way home.

The police threatened to use force as riot police officers blocked the road near Janavaree Magu. But the police have since left the area.

About 50 opposition protesters are still calling for Yameen’s resignation near the prosecutor general’s office.

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11:47pm: The rally ends with the large crowd joining in a special prayer.

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In his recorded speech, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed called on the police and military to change the government and usher in an interim government.

The opposition has a 50-page report on the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali that cannot be made public yet for fear that evidence could be destroyed, he claimed.

11:30pm: Mahloof concludes with an appeal for opposition supporters to join nightly street protests to “bring an end to President Abdulla Yameen’s government.”

The MUO will organise street protests soon, he said.

A few police officers are still waiting on Majeedhee Magu.

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11:13pm: A recorded speech by MP Ahmed Mahloof, the spokesperson of the MUO, is playing now. The MP for Galolhu South was sentenced to four months and 24 days in prison last on Monday.

Mahloof

11:07pm: MDP MP Rozaina Adam takes a selfie with the crowd before beginning her speech. She expressed gratitude to the crowd for turning out despite the government’s repeated obstruction and denial of political space to the opposition.

11:05pm: Adam Azim, the former managing director of the State Trading Organisation and brother of the jailed ex-defence minister, urges the police not to inflict violence on the Maldivian people on the orders of superiors.

The discovery of former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s DNA on the pistol found in Nazim’s home conclusively proves that he was framed, says Azim.

The current government’s mega-projects, including the Malé-Hulhulé bridge, a 25-storey hospital tower, and airport expansion, involve massive corruption, Azim alleged, contending that the actual cost of each project is much lower than the government claims.

10:56pm: Crowd greets former President Nasheed’s address with the biggest cheer of the night.

Nasheed speech at MUO rally

Nasheed: The lives of the Maldivian people have always been tied to the sincerity of the country’s rulers. This government needs to change and an interim government needs to be established. All opposition parties are working together to this end.

All parties must work together to realise the hopes of the Maldivian people.

Opposition supporters must move beyond fear and draw courage from each other.

The transitional government will comprise of all political parties in the Maldives. That government will reform independent institutions and the judiciary.

Recent history shows the necessity of an interim arrangement.

MUORally2

10:45pm: Former Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid follows Shidhatha Shareef, who highlighted “broken pledges” of President Yameen.

MP Shahid: The world is behind the opposition coalition.

MUORally

10:30pm: Jameel: Yameen must take responsibility for the unprecedented theft of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company.

Yameen has jailed rivals because he fears a competitive election.

Under a transitional government, islands awarded illegally will be reclaimed, local councils will be empowered, and mid-market tourism will be promoted.

10:20pm: Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, the leader of the MUO and Yameen’s first vice president, is addressing the crowd via teleconference.

Speaking before him, former Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari said Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed admitted in 2009 that he was forced to rule unfairly against the MDP government.

The artificial beach is almost completely packed now. The turnout is estimated to be more than 5,000.

MUO rally4

Many have set up chairs.

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10:04pm: About 15 riot police officers are attempting to push people on Majeedhee Magu onto the pavement or the artificial beach. The police officers have warned opposition supporters on the road a few times before withdrawing.

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10:00pm: From a vehicle parked on Majeedhee Magu, the police are urging the crowd not to block the road. The crowd is still growing as hundreds of people continue to gather on Malé’s eastern end.

Former President Nasheed’s legal secretary Hisaan Hussain is now addressing the crowd.

9:56pm: Imad Solih, a former state minister and senior member of the Jumhooree Party, appeals for opposition supporters to put aside past differences and “wounds”.

An interim government will repeal all laws passed by the ruling party-dominated parliament and cancel all contracts signed by this government, he vows.

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9:43pm: Adhaalath Party Spokesman Ali Zahir: This is the beginning of the end for this government.

90 percent of the Maldives public are opposed to this government. Only political appointees and immature politicians are behind Yameen.

9:36pm: President Abdulla Yameen’s economic policy has failed. Future generations have been saddled with debt, says the minority leader.

An interim arrangement or a transitional government is necessary to ensure a free and fair election in 2018, says Solih.

Solih concludes his speech with an appeal for opposition supporters to draw courage from jailed opposition politicians, including Nasheed, former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and MP Ahmed Mahloof.

9:30pm: Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the parliamentary group leader of the MDP, is the first of tonight’s 13 speakers. “This government is the most corrupt in the history of the Maldives,” he says.