The police have declared a hunt for a man who local media claim defaced a giant billboard of President Abdulla Yameen at the artificial beach in Malé.
The man, who was caught on CCTV, is wanted in “connection to an investigation by the general investigation department,” the police said in a statement on Tuesday.
A spokesman declined to reveal details, but local media report that the suspect is wanted for throwing used engine oil at a photo of the president on a campaign billboard.
The billboard was defaced a day after the parliament, dominated by the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, approved a bill re-criminalizing defamation. The law has been condemned as an attack on free speech and press freedom.
The three-minute video clip posted by the police shows two men on motorcycles approaching the artificial beach area. The passenger, who wears a light-coloured t-shirt and dark-coloured shorts, is seen crossing the road to a truck underneath the billboard.
He walks around the truck for a few minutes, and the video cuts to him walking briskly to the waiting motorcycle. The video does not show him throwing oil at the billboard.
Government officials and the police reportedly cleaned up the billboard the next day.
The housing ministry has put up massive billboards with pictures of Yameen’s smiling face and ongoing development projects.
They began appearing after the housing ministry seized the authority to regulate public spaces from the opposition-dominated city council. The ministry has since imposed rules requiring its permission to hang up banners or posters in the city.