The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives staged rallies across the country Saturday in a show of support for the administration of embattled President Abdulla Yameen.
Hundreds came out for marches and vehicles rallies, dubbed ‘The People Are With Development,’ on some 50 islands, according to the PPM. Government supporters carried banners and boards highlighting infrastructure projects and praising Yameen’s leadership.
Teams of ministers and lawmakers led the gatherings in all 19 atolls.
The opposition coalition, however, accused the government of misusing state resources and compelling civil servants and employees of state-owned companies to attend with the threat of dismissal.
The PPM was also criticised over the involvement of children on several islands.
Hassan Latheef, chairman of the Maldivian Democratic Party, said the main opposition party receives scores of complaints from civil servants about forced attendance.
“Many who show up in these events are scared into taking part. The government is not even trying to hide the fact that they are forcing civil servants. MDP condemns this and calls on relevant authorities to take action,” he said.
Mass messages sent to government employees were also widely shared on social media.
An employee of the state utility company Fenaka on the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll told the Maldives Independent that he joined the event to save his job.
“Everyone was texted saying they absolutely have to participate. I had no interest whatsoever in going to the rally. However, I have a family who depends on my salary. I did what I had to do,” said the Fenaka staff, who wanted to remain anonymous.
Photos of the events from the northern population hub of Kulhuduhfushi and the southernmost Addu City show many civil servants wearing their uniforms and holding the national flag.
But PPM MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the party’s deputy leader, dismissed the allegations as “fabrications by the opposition to defame the government”.
“We do not have to listen to what the MDP says. They have proven themselves to be liars from the very start. The public, the people who came out yesterday, they prove our case,” he said.
“The amount of support was overwhelming. A modest rally consisting of 25 islands was expanded across some 50 islands in the end. This is the truth and the opposition should accept the facts.”
Raheem told the press ahead of the simultaneous events on Saturday evening that it was aimed at marking nine years after the ratification of the constitution, showing appreciation for the president’s services to the nation, and rebuffing the opposition’s alleged attempts to destabilise the country.
The party is also organising children’s evenings and music shows in the capital as part of Yameen’s re-election campaign.
The PPM previously faced accusations of bribery, coercion and threats of salary reductions and dismissals over the alleged forced attendance at major rallies in Malé and the atolls.
Attendance was reportedly marked during a PPM rally in November last year where employees of state-owned enterprises were given a sticker with a serial number upon entry.