Politics overshadowed Fishermen’s Day celebrations Saturday on the island of Ihavandhoo in the northernmost atoll, putting the fisheries ministry at loggerheads with the opposition island council.
Ahead of Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee’s arrival for the 37th annual event, the opposition-controlled island council claimed it was ordered to take down ornamental arches deemed insulting towards the government.
Shainee criticised the council, comprised of five Maldivian Democratic Party councillors, for reneging on assurances of cooperation. But they denied politicising the preparations, blaming government supporters for spurring rivalry by decorating with party colours and making separate arrangements to greet the government delegation.
Opposition supporters and fishermen staged a demonstration as the official ceremony got underway, accusing the government of failing to address their concerns and raising fears over Chinese competitors in the fisheries industry.
Their grievances included a stalled project to deepen the island’s harbour, the ice plant’s state of disrepair, and complaints about the fish purchasing price.
According to RaajjeTV, riot police officers dispatched from Malé pushed back protesters to ensure they could not be heard at the ceremony hall before moving to disperse the crowd.
Ihavandhoo MP Mohamed Abdulla – who counts among a dozen former ruling party lawmakers unseated for crossing the floor – told the opposition-aligned station that the government should be ashamed to celebrate fishermen’s day on the island after silencing local fishermen.
Speaking at the ceremony, Shainee announced a loan scheme to help fishermen install ice storage machines on their boats. The current administration’s main success has been to strengthen the industry’s resilience to low global prices, he said.
Thanks for the warm welcome by Ihavandhoo people. pic.twitter.com/dNYyVUma87
— Mohamed Shainee (@mshainee) December 15, 2017
— Mohamed Shainee (@mshainee) December 16, 2017
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