Hundreds of police and soldiers descended on the island of Villingili in Gaafu Alif atoll ahead of a visit from President Abdulla Yameen, cracking down on opposition protesters by removing banners and placards.
Around 300 security officers, some armed, were sent to Villingili two days prior to Yameen’s arrival according to atoll council president Ahmed Fuad.
“We have never seen anything like that.They were conducting military training exercises here in the evenings when children were out in the street.Our kids were scared. They (security officers) were marching and bellowing at the top of their voices,” he said.
Yameen arrived in Villingili Tuesday evening and inaugurated a Saudi Arabia-donated mosque. He also spoke at the atoll’s party headquarters and gave a speech at an official party function.
Banners and placards hung at the harbour protesting the arrest and criminal charges of lawmakers, imprisonment of political leaders and concerns with the judiciary were taken down before the president’s arrival, Fuad also said.
“The president did not want to see or hear our concerns. Lots of banners and placards were taken down the night we hung them. Even a fishing boat which hung a few banners was taken out of the harbour by the police,” he said.
He also alleged that members of the ruling party “intervened and blocked the opposition” from protesting.
“They weren’t protesters. They were there to stop us and the police let them run all over us,” said Fuad, who took part in the protest.
The Maldives Police Service was not available to comment at the time of publishing.
MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz condemned the actions of the security forces.
“Yameen does not possess the ability to run a democracy. He is proving again and again that the people will be punished for raising their voice. However I applaud the bravery of the people of Villingili and call on all the citizens to protest Yameen’s tyranny,” he said.