Police announce curfew for political gatherings

Riot police on the streets of Male after President Yameen declared a state of emergency on February 5, 2018. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

Riot police on the streets of Male after President Yameen declared a state of emergency on February 5, 2018. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

Police on Sunday announced that a 10:30 p.m. curfew would be enforced on all political gatherings henceforth.

Speaking at a press conference, Superintendent of Police Ahmed Shifan declared that the police would break up any political gatherings on the roads or inside parties’ hubs after 10:30 p.m.

He assured that the police would act indiscriminately and no political party would be exempted from the new rule.

According to Shifan, the police have been receiving continuous complaints of disturbed public peace due to the recent string of opposition protests. He claimed that protesters have been blatantly aggressive towards security forces or purposefully incited such violence.

The Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act was curtailed since President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency on February 5, following a shock ruling by the Supreme Court to release prominent political prisoners. Despite the development, members and supporters of the opposition have been holding protests every night in front of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s main hub in capital Male, with the police always intervening to break up the gatherings at some point. The disruptions have also sparked complaints over the opposition as the police have not obstructed any rallies of the ruling coalition.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) responded to the opposition in a news conference Sunday, declaring that none of the ruling rallies were held on the streets or with the intention of causing public disruptions. The party’s parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan stated that all of PPM’s gatherings were held with permission from authorities, and in accordance with policies and fairness.

Prior to the police’s announcement of the new curfew, PPM’s deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla had also stated that all of its rallies end before 10:30 p.m.

Opposition defiant

The opposition coalition expressed defiance to the police’s new curfew, declaring that their rallies would continue well past 10:30 p.m.

In a press conference after the police’s announcement, lawyer and Kendhoo MP Ali Hussain declared that freedom of assembly was stated in the Constitution, and thus the police could not limit a right granted to citizens.

Maduvvari MP Mohamed Ameeth followed up with the stout pronouncement that the opposition would not halt activities despite the curfew. He urged the public to join the opposition protests every night to call on the government to end the state of emergency and comply with the Supreme Court’s initial verdict to release political prisoners.

Ameeth also expressed concerns over PPM stating that their rallies ended before 10:30 p.m. prior to the police’s announcement of the new curfew. He alleged that it implied PPM’s deputy leader Abdul Raheem was currently “commanding” the police force, and demanded to know why security forces were obeying his instructions.

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