The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) resumed its street rallies in Malé with a gathering in front of Nalahiya Hotel last night.
Dozens of Specialist Operations (SO) police officers along with traffic policemen made several attempts to obstruct the rally, claiming the protesters were blocking the road and causing traffic jams.
However, the police officers backed away after moving the protesters to the pavement.
The party’s first street rally in three months attracted a crowd of about 200 people. MDP senior members made speeches criticising the the current administration while opposition supporters chanted anti-government slogans and called for the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.
The MDP had resumed its anti-government campaign with a protest march on September 11 after a three-month hiatus.
A moratorium on street protests was part of a deal made with the government in exchange for the release of Nasheed and other jailed politicians as well as withdrawal of charges against 1,700 opposition supporters and reforms to the judiciary and independent institutions.
Two days after Nasheed was taken back to Maafushi jail on August 23, the party’s national council voted unanimously to withdraw from official talks with the government and reorganise protests and “direct action.”
MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told The Maldives Independent today that protests and rallies will continue as the party looks to pick up its activities both in the capital and other islands across the country.
A major rally is due to take place in Addu City on October 2, he said.
Opposition MPs, Vice President Mohamed Shifaz, Deputy Chairperson Ali Shiyam, and former vice presidential candidate Dr Musthafa Luthfy were among the speakers at last night’s rally.
Ali Shiyam described Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Maseeh as a “puppet” of President Abdulla Yameen, accusing him of undermining the constitution.
Referring to Yameen previously saying that “detention in solitary confinement is unacceptable in the 21st century,” Shiyam questioned why Sheikh Imran has remained in custody for 148 days without trial.
Shidhatha Shareef, a council member of the Adhaalath Party, accused the government of attempting to wreak havoc and destabilise the country by violating fundamental rights and freedoms.
Shidhatha highlighted the disappearance of The Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, calling on the government to “fully reveal the truth” of the unresolved cases.
Shidhatha had resigned as deputy gender minister after the Adhaalath Party formed an alliance with the MDP in March.
The arrest and imprisonment of Nasheed and Nazim had triggered daily street protests and mass anti-government rallies in Malé on February 27 and May 1.
Nearly 200 people were arrested in a heavy-handed police crackdown on the 20,000-strong May Day rally after protesters attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square. Scores of protesters and two police officers were injured in violent clashes.
Imran is accused of inciting violence at the May Day rally. His trial on terrorism charges has remained stalled since June.
Last night’s rally concluded around 11:00pm with an announcement that a second street rally will be held in Malé on Thursday night (October 1).