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Arson and death threats ahead of UN visit

Ruling party and opposition supporters blamed each other for the fire.



A ruling party meeting hall was set alight Sunday and an opposition MP was the subject of violent death threats at a public rally, as a United Nations team arrived in the Maldives to try and defuse tension after weeks of political turmoil.

Ibrahim Yoosuf, from the Progressive Party of the Maldives, said two men on a motorbike arrived at the Rumaalu 2 meeting hall in the capital at around 4:20 am. One threatened a security guard and went inside the venue, where he set the stage on fire.

“At first he tried to go up to the office, but couldn’t because there was a locked gate,” he told the Maldives Independent. “So he started a fire on the stage in our meeting area on the ground floor.”

The fire burned down the stage, a table, a podium and lights, Yoosuf said. It was put out by the security guard after the man left.

Police were not responding to calls at the time of going to press, but local media reported that the fire was being investigated. Ruling party and opposition supporters blamed each other for the attack. Former president Mohamed Nasheed condemned the fire.

“Those with “destructive” thinking are trying to make arson a political activity. Such thinking will not move forward. Can’t succeed. Condemn the arson attack on Rumaalu 2,” PPM lawmaker Ahmed Nihan tweeted.

A spokesman from the opposition Jumhooree Party, Ali Solih, told Mihaaru it was “likely” that the PPM was behind the incident in order to blame it on the opposition while a foreign delegation was visiting the Maldives.

There have been weeks of unrest in the country since February 1, when the Supreme Court ordered the release and retrial of nine prisoners.

President Abdulla Yameen cited the ruling as part of a plot to overthrow his government and imposed a state of emergency lasting 45 days.

Scores of people were rounded up and thrown into prison during that period. While many have been released from detention, some high-profile individuals remain behind bars or in exile including two former presidents and two top judges.

The acrimony between the opposition and the ruling party also surfaced at a public rally on Saturday night, with threats made against a lawmaker who defected from the PPM.

“Remember, even if you look at (us) in a wrong way, you’ll be torn to pieces,” said PPM activist Ibrahim Rasheed, referring to Saud Hussain.

Photo: Mihaaru