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Police crack down as Faafu protesters demand answers over Saudi-funded project

[Image: Islanders of Biledhdhoo in Faafu Atoll call for more information on the alleged sale of Faafu Atoll to a foreign buyer.]

3 February, 2017

The police cracked down on a protest Friday afternoon by the islanders of Biledhdhoo in Faafu atoll, confiscating banners and briefly detaining some protesters.

The protesters were calling on the government to reveal details of a Saudi-funded project that has sparked fears that the atoll or parts of it could be sold.

“What we are saying is we are worried. Half or two-third of our atoll may be sold and people don’t know what’s happening,” Ibrahim Sobeeh, a 35-year-old fishing boat captain who was involved in organising the protest told the Maldives Independent.

“Is it being sold, is it already sold, is it being leased? Give us that information.”

Ministers and ruling party lawmakers have previously sought to assure the public that Faafu atoll will not be sold or depopulated.

Dismissing concerns over corruption and sovereignty, President Abdulla Yameen said Wednesday that details of the unprecedented US$10 billion project will be revealed when the negotiations are complete and the deal is signed.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz is due to arrive in the Maldives in mid-March.

On Wednesday night, the police raided the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s haruge (meeting hall) in Malé over alleged plans to stage protests during the Saudi monarch’s visit.

A large contingent of police was meanwhile deployed to Faafu atoll ahead of Friday’s protest. According to witnesses, the police have been searching any vessel leaving from or arriving on Biledhdhoo, which has a population of about 860 people according to the last census.

Specialist Operations officers also noted down names and ID card number when journalists from Raajje TV and the Maldives Independent arrived on Biledhdhoo. Police officers also took their information when the journalists left on a dinghy from the nearby island of Magoodhoo.

About 100 people gathered near the harbour area for the protest but were surrounded by some 20 police officers, most of whom were in SO uniforms with riot gear.

“I am against selling my atoll,” “Let us stay on our land,” and “Power is not a right #SaveFaafu,” read some of the slogans.

Faafu atoll, located to the south-west of the capital, has the second smallest population of atolls in the Maldives with just over 4,000 inhabitants. It has 19 islands, of which five are inhabited and one is a tourist resort.

Full details are available from the link below:

Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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