A Maldives politician was arrested Sunday during an opposition rally in the capital, as the European Union prepared to adopt sanctions over rights violations.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held the last-minute event in an apparent move to put pressure on the government ahead of the EU’s decision.
The rally was the MDP’s first in recent months and saw parliamentarian Mohamed Ameeth being dragged away, in broad daylight and in the full glare of the Maldives media, by five policemen from outside the party’s office. It was unclear why he was arrested.
The rally started from MDP headquarters in Sosun Magu but was blocked by Special Ops, who prevented protesters from marching to Majeedhee Magu.
The MDP had earlier dismissed a statement from the Attorney General’s Office calling for equal election campaign opportunities, saying it was a sham.
“Perfunctory statements by the government appear as an attempt to hoodwink the international community and specifically the European Union from on the ground realities, where state power is misused on a daily basis to prevent the opposition from engaging in peaceful political activity,” said the MDP.
“The MDP understands President (Abdulla) Yameen’s administration is now concerned about international views with regard to the government’s refusal to allow an environment conducive for free and fair elections.
“The MDP hopes that such concern will translate to concrete actions including the release of political prisoners, restoration of civil and political rights and the reformation of shamelessly politicised regulatory bodies such as the Election Commission.”
– ‘Losses for the EU’ –
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee said he was still hoping the EU would decide against sanctions.
Shainee, who is in Brussels on a lobbying mission, told SunOnline he was sad the opposition was providing the EU with false information.
“I’m saying there are no embassies of any EU country in the Maldives. So, come to the Maldives to check the situation. Our doors are open. You can get all the information from us.
“And they’re saying the opposition is not allowed to contest the election. We’ve been saying show us an eligible candidate. They have now confirmed Ibrahim Ibu Solih and they’re going forward, aren’t they? Is there any hindrance now?”
Jameel Usman, from the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, was more defiant and told pro-government website Vaguthu the EU would face consequences if sanctions were imposed.
“If they take steps against the Maldivian people and the country, the losses they will have to endure will not be small either. There are European investors in the Maldives, there will be losses for them too,” he was quoted as saying.
He also claimed the EU wanted its preferred candidate to be able to run for office, and for there to be religious freedom in the Maldives.