A group of 500 young men gathered Wednesday afternoon in support of President Abdulla Yameen amid heightened political unrest after the collapse of the pro-government parliament majority.
Speaking at the gathering in Malé’s eastern waterfront, Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee urged the youth supporters to think about the political developments as it would affect their future.
“Sadly some people think that we don’t have guts because we appear to be staying calm and quiet. We have guts,” he declared, adding that the government wants to maintain peace and order.
Shainee assured that President Yameen will deliver the pledges made for youth development, govern with respect for Islam and Maldivian traditions and steer the country to a “safe harbour”.
“No one should think that any secular person can come to power. That won’t happen,” he said, echoing the increasing use of religious campaign rhetoric against the opposition.
The gathering was televised live by the state broadcaster Television Maldives and pro-government Channel 13 and touted as a sign of youth support for the government.
The fisheries minister was the only senior government official present at the event, which also featured brief remarks from participants and a group photo shoot with the exclusively male crowd.
Opposition lawmakers called Wednesday’s gathering an attempt to incite fear.
Shainee’s remarks were reminiscent of a warning from former Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb for the opposition to stop a planned anti-government protest in early 2015.
After leading a motorbike rally with youth supporters, Adeeb had said: “Don’t make us take to the streets. These are Malé City’s youth. This is a very strong crowd. If these young men get angry it would not be good. That’s why we are with these young men in their homes. We are people who love peace, so don’t make us come out to the street.”
The opposition at the time alleged hundreds of Malé’s gangsters attended the pro-government rallies, a claim the Progressive Party of Maldives denied.
Yameen meanwhile stirred controversy after saying that alternative arrangements would have to be made to organise funds and resources for “youth groups” after Adeeb’s arrest on charges of masterminding a plot to assassinate the president.
Thank U for more than 500 Youths who came out in support of HEP Yameen n conveyed ur positive feelings towards President of the Youths, PY. pic.twitter.com/Kpye7Q8fHh
— Mohamed Shainee (@mshainee) July 5, 2017
— Eva Abdulla 🎈❓ (@evattey) July 5, 2017