‘Huge smiles and strong handshakes’: Police criticised for manhandling Maldivians

‘Huge smiles and strong handshakes’: Police criticised for manhandling Maldivians
March 04 15:40 2018

Police celebrations for winning a community award were short-lived as they came under fire for manhandling people at protests over the weekend.

The Maldives Police Service was recognised for its outstanding contribution to the Regional Alliance for Fostering Youth (RAFY), a local NGO headed by the deputy leader of the government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance.

Police said they were “chuffed” to receive the award, as they embarked on a new social media campaign that showed police engagement with the community.

However social media users were quick to depict a different version of the police’s community engagement, as well mocking them for their spelling mistakes and for their use of the distinctly un-Maldivian word “chuffed”.

“You’re not a seventy year old Englishman in tweeds with a monocle and a pipe,” said Afshan Latheef from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.

Images on Twitter showed a journalist being dragged on the ground and officers outnumbering a pensioner and roughing up the mother of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

During a Saturday rally a Raajje TV reporter was handcuffed after being tackled to the ground and dragged around by four policemen. Police later released him and denied he had been arrested.

Police confronted Nasheed’s mother, 71-year-old Abidha Ahmed, who had been holding a placard calling for the release of Faris Maumoon, son of ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. She was pushed around and pepper sprayed while standing on the pavement, footage shows. Her niece, Eva Abdulla MP, said the police targeted Abidha three times in an hour.

Faris and his father are currently detained under a state of emergency. Nasheed is also in exile while serving a prison term.

Police were also criticised for facing off with a pensioner on crutches, Abdul Rasheed, who had been waving the national flag on a main road on the capital.

The MPS posted photos of officers smiling and shaking hands with protestors, including Abdul Rasheed, to show their community engagement.

“Our super confident @PoliceMv officers on the roads…controlling the recent demonstrations in #Male with huge smiles & strong handshakes…” read a tweet posted Saturday.

On Sunday the Human Rights Commission said it had been briefed by the MPS on the “scope and discretion” of using force.

Police say they took 48 people into custody between February 1 and March 2 and released 47 of them, although the opposition alliance disputes these figures.

Photos: Mihaaru and Vnews

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