Legal Politics

Court orders removal of opposition banners ahead of Yameen visit

In a predawn operation Tuesday, riot police removed banners put up by opposition supporters on the island of Maduvvari in Raa atoll ahead of a visit by President Abdulla Yameen.

A warrant issued by the Raa Inguraidhoo magistrate court authorised the police to confiscate “banners, loudspeakers and sound systems” on suspicion that people were planning to “gather and create discord” during the official visit.

Citing the police request, the order stated that the banners, posters and flags contained “foul language” and claimed that certain people were planning activities against the public interest.

“We planned to protest peacefully and even obtained permits from the council to put up the banners. None of our banners had any foul language,” opposition activist Moosa Ali Manik told the Maldives Independent.

Slogans such as ‘We don’t want a tyrant for a leader’, ‘What’s the truth behind the murders?’,’Where are the flats promised to us?’ and ‘Civil servants are not slaves’ were painted on the banners.

“The police came in three or four speedboats. Around 70 policemen were on this small island. Police closed off [the roads] so much that it was hard for people to move from one ward of the island to the other,” he said.

Two people were briefly detained when opposition supporters staged a small demonstration to coincide with Yameen’s arrival Tuesday morning. Armed soldiers were also active on the island and riot police pushed back the protesters some distance from the jetty.

The police also cracked down on opposition protesters in Gaaf Alif Villigili by removing banners and placards ahead of a visit by Yameen in late September.

Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate a sewerage system and mark the conclusion of a shore protection project, Yameen meanwhile urged Maduvvari constituents to vote for a pro-government candidate in an upcoming parliamentary by-election.

“The government will find it easy if you show an MP who will work in line with the people’s hopes and with the ideology of development,” he said.

In a speech heavily focused on development metrics, Yameen said opposition supporters were “ungrateful for blessings”.

The Maduvvari constituency MP Mohamed Ameeth is among seven former ruling party lawmakers who were stripped of their seats for crossing the floor and backing the impeachment of the parliament’s speaker.

The contentious disqualification of the defectors from the ruling party was used to quash a majority-backed no-confidence motion.

The MPs challenged the Elections Commission’s decision to call by-elections but the Supreme Court delivered an ambiguous ruling that saw both sides claim victory with opposing interpretations.

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