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Police close opposition meeting halls before president’s visit

Opposition flags were also removed from the jetty area.



The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s meeting hall on Kurendhoo island was shut down Saturday ahead of an official visit by President Abdulla Yameen.

According to the MDP, police officers also removed opposition banners and flags from the harbour area. Before the president arrived and until he left, policemen stood guard outside both the MDP and coalition partner Jumhooree Party’s meeting halls on the island.

MDP offices and meeting halls have been shut down on several islands ahead of the president’s visits in recent weeks. Megaphones and loudspeakers were confiscated on Velidhoo island last week as police officers took down anti-government banners and arrested three people.

Dozens of police officers and armed soldiers descend on islands ahead of the president’s visits.

Yameen visited Kurendhoo to mark the completion of the island’s shore protection project, after which he spoke at a campaign event and launched attacks against his opponent in the September 23 election.

Aishath Vishama, the Kurendhoo council president and a member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, told Mihaaru that police took down flags of all parties at the harbour Friday night. They were put up within a security cordon, she said.

“The flags were removed to make a walkway and for security reasons because the president was coming. PPM flags were among them as well,” she was quoted as saying.

The police say banners and flags are removed with court orders to prevent unrest.

In early August, the Kolamaafushi magistrate court issued a warrant authorising police to confiscate flags, posters or banners, citing police intelligence information about plans to use megaphones to disrupt functions with the president.

The flags were draped outside the MDP office with the intention of drawing a crowd and creating a disturbance while the president’s entourage eats at the nearby PPM office, the warrant stated.

A painting of former president Mohamed Nasheed at the MDP office was also blotted out in the early hours of the morning before the president’s visit.

Two opposition lawmakers who were campaigning on the island were briefly detained.

Several campaign venues have meanwhile been vandalised over the past month, most recently the MDP’s office on Hoarafushi island in Haa Alif atoll.

Ahmed Imdhah, an island councillor, told the Maldives Independent that the glass windows were smashed with a brick early Saturday morning.

“We went home after working in the office at around 3 pm. It was done around 4 am and 4 30 am,” he said.

The opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, is due to visit Hoarafushi next week.

The family home of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s wife Aishath Nahula was also vandalised last week, Imdhah said. Used diesel oil was thrown on the door of the house.

Nahula is campaigning with the opposition candidate in the southern atolls.

In early August, the Shaviyani Feydhoo MDP meeting hall was vandalised with used oil while a similar attack was reported at the campaign hall in Thaa Thimarafushi.

Earlier that month, used engine oil was also thrown into PPM campaign halls on Fonadhoo in Laamu atoll and Maamigili in Alif Dhaal atoll. During the same weekend, a group of masked men attacked MDP supporters at the party’s office on the Maradhoo island of Addu City and caused damages worth MVR200,000 (US$12,970).