Dozens of riot police officers have set up barricades on all roads leading to Malé’s Artificial Beach today in an attempt to block a walk organized by the opposition in protest over what watchdog bodies have called the Maldives’ biggest ever corruption scandal.
Hundreds of opposition supporters are scattered behind police lines and barricades in the area. Opposition leaders are now delivering speeches in front of lines of riot police carrying shields near the Maldivian Democratic Party campaign offices at the Artificial Beach
Imthiyaz Fahmy, an MDP MP said: “The government wants to silence those who speak out against theft. He wants to hit those who come out against theft. He wants to jail all political leaders who speak about theft.”
Tension is high in Malé with the Auditor General’s Office promising to release a long-awaited audit report into the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation’s lease of islands and lagoons for tourism today.
The report was shared with President Abdulla Yameen and the People’s Majlis secretariat on Thursday.
As much as US$100million is rumored to be missing from state coffers.
Today’s walk is the first opposition walk since a crackdown on a three-day protest in November. At the time, Home Minister Umar Naseer said the government is banning all street protests and political activities can only take place in designated public spaces.
Naseer in a Twitter post on Thursday said police had blocked the MDP’s walk to protect the rights of “all those who use the streets.”
MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz labeled the order “unconstitutional” and called on the watchdog Human Rights Commission of the Maldives to stand up for freedom of assembly.
Addressing police officers, he said: “Your seniors have robbed us and now they are trying to use you to cover up their theft.”
Ahmed Tholal, the former vice president of the HRCM, has denounced Naseer’s protest ban in a Facebook post, saying: “The rights enshrined in the constitutions is entitled to everyone, regardless of their political affiliation amongst other things.”
Yameen in October publicly acknowledged public funds were siphoned to bribe the security forces. Only former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, and his associates, the former head of MMPRC Abdulla Ziyath and a businessman have been charged over the scandal so far.
The MDP has called on Yameen to face investigation, and claimed it has evidence of government involvement in terrorism financing, money laundering and bribery. The government has denied the allegations.
Yameen’s supporters are now accusing MDP leaders of corruption in vitriolic social media posts.
Naseer meanwhile said all MDP MPs, except three, took bribes from Adeeb to oust former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed. “A shame on democracy,” he said.
Maumoon Hameed, nephew to Yameen, in a Facebook post said the authorities must now “take immediate steps to ensure Dr Jameel re-assumes without delay the office to which he was elected by the Maldivian people.”
Criminal charges must be filed against MPs who accepted bribes. “The best interests of the Maldivian people demand nothing less,” he said.
Jameel, who was impeached with opposition help during a political crisis triggered by the jailing of opposition leaders, including former President Mohamed Nasheed, has now teamed up with MDP against Yameen.
An hour ago, in a Twitter post, the home ministry said newly appointed Minister of Legal Affairs at the President’s Office Azima Shakoor is now temporarily in charge of the home ministry.
In his address at the parliament’s inaugural session yesterday, Yamen said: “This year, the Attorney General will begin recovering state assets from those identified in reports by the Anti-corruption Commission and the Auditor General’s Office, as having carried out acts of corruption, embezzlement or being negligent towards state finances and property.”