Maldives Police Service, on Sunday, released all individuals except one, arrested from the protest held by the opposition faction on Saturday.
Police had previously warned that measures will be taken against participants of gatherings held in violation of the Health Protection Agency (HPA)’s guidelines, under the Public Health Emergency announced due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 41 individuals attempting to hold a motorcycle rally on the streets of capital Male’ were taken under police custody, of which 40 have now been released.
According to the police, they were all fined MVR 1,000 each for violating HPA’s guidelines. This means the state collected MVR 41,000 as revenue from protest participants alone.
In addition to those arrested and fined, authorities also towed multiple vehicles at the motorcycle rally. However, the police did not withhold the licenses of any individuals arrested from the protest.
Leaders of the opposition alliance of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and People’s National Congress (PNC) touted the move as politically motivated and later claimed that the protest was organized independently of the coalition.
However, the coalition stated it was their civic responsibility to extend support to such causes, and senior coalition members were seen on motorcycles before protesters took off near Rasfannu Artificial Beach, on the western end of the capital city Male’.
Opposition protesters voiced concerns over the incumbent administration “selling off the Maldives” and called for the released of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who is currently serving a five-year jail sentence on money laundering charges.
Despite the opposition alliance formerly affirming that protests will not be held in the Greater Male’ Region, a large number of participants joined the motorcycle rally that took place on the capital’s street on Saturday, as well as on August 28.
Unlike this protest, the police did not attempt to disrupt the previously held rally on August 28, even amid reports of prominent members of the opposition parties refusing to don mandatory face masks during the demonstrations.
As the COVID-19 risk level for the island nation is currently at an alarming level, authorities are constantly requesting the public to adhere to safety guidelines and prevent further spread of the virus.
Speaking at a press briefing held by the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) in August, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Shareef asserted that holding protests and demonstrations are prohibited under the current circumstances, further noting that police personnel need to be quarantined and isolated due to attending such matters.
As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Maldives’ capital Malé continues to record a significant number of COVID-19 cases, similar to the first weeks following the first confirmed local transmission on April 15.
The Maldives currently records a total of 9,052 virus cases of which 1,965 are active cases, in addition to 7,055 recoveries and 32 deaths.
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