Riot police switch off microphones at MUO rally

Riot police switch off microphones at MUO rally
August 02 19:02 2016

Riot police officers attempted to halt an opposition rally Monday night after forcibly entering the Maldives United Opposition’s meeting hall in Malé without a court order.

The coalition has been holding nightly rallies outside the meeting hall or haruge in front of the artificial beach. A podium is set up on a first-floor balcony and supporters gather on the opposite pavement, allowing traffic to pass through.

Shortly after 11pm last night, about 15 Specialist Operations police officer barged into the meeting hall while the rally was ongoing. One policeman then walked up to the balcony and turned off the microphone while Hisaan Hussain was addressing the crowd.

The rally was telecast live on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV. Hisaan is heard asking the policeman to produce a court warrant authorising entry into a private residence.

When the microphone was turned back on and the speeches resumed, the SO officers returned and several climbed onto the balcony.

“After instructing us to switch off the sound system, dozens of police officers marched up, disconnected the microphone again and forced everyone on the balcony, including myself, to go down,” Hisaan told The Maldives Independent today.

A police media official refused to comment on the incident, asking The Maldives Independent to contact Spokesman Ismail Ali, who was not responding to calls.

MP Rozaina Adam, who was on the balcony with Hisaan when the SO officers entered, said they also refused to produce identification or justify the forced entry.

“Their reply was that the ‘institution will be answerable, we are following orders,'” she said.

“They could not justify why we had to switch off the sound system before midnight. We notice that day in day out, a handful of SO police are being used by this government to carry out unconstitutional orders to stifle the opposition.”

The rally ended close to midnight with an announcement that the nightly rallies will continue.

Both Hisaan and Rozaina said last night’s incident will be taken up with the police leadership, the integrity commission, and the parliamentary oversight committee for the security services.

The opposition has previously warned that individual police officers will be held accountable under future governments. The MDP has filed several complaints with the National Integrity Commission, the watchdog body for law enforcement agencies.

After its first rally in late July, the MUO has been scaling up its activities with nightly rallies and other activities in Malé.

Thousands attended the first rally despite uncertainty prompted by the government’s refusal to grant permission to use a public venue in the capital.

The police had blocked all opposition activities on the streets of Malé since the government banned protests in the capital last November, citing disruptions to traffic and inconvenience to businesses and pedestrians.

However, the first MUO’s first rally was allowed to proceed near the meeting hall after supporters gathered on the opposite side of the road, filling up the artificial beach and allowing traffic to pass through.

The MUO was launched in London on June 3 by opposition leaders in exile and is comprised of the Maldivian Democratic Party, the Adhaalath Party, and supporters of jailed former government officials. The coalition is working towards establishing an interim government before the 2018 presidential election.