Thousands attend MUO rally despite obstacles and uncertainty fostered by the government’s refusal to permit a public venue

Male’ 20 July 2016- The Maldives United Opposition’s first rally in Male’ was held  last night (20th July) with thousands attending despite obstacles and uncertainty fostered by the government’s refusal to permit a public venue.

Speakers addressed the gathering from a podium erected at the MDP Haruge Activity Centre, across the Marine Drive opposite the artificial beach, so that attendees could stand across the road, allowing traffic to pass through. Senior leaders of the Maldives United Opposition and thousands of people filled out the pavement and artificial beach areas to capacity. Speeches over video-link were broadcast on a screen behind the podium from MUO leaders in exile in London, Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Deputy Leader Ali Waheed and Advisor former President Mohamed Nasheed.

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The first of the rally’s 13 speakers was the MDPs Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih MP. The minority leader in parliament reiterated the MUOs objective for an interim arrangement or transitional government to ensure free and fair elections. Stating the government of President Yaameen Abdul Gayoom had failed, he said that the future generation had been saddled with debt. He likened the present regime to a wooden hut with decaying pillars.

Deputy Leader of the Adhaalath Party Ali Zahir in his speech said that the rally signified the beginning of the end for the present government. He said that an interim government would repeal all unlawful transactions being made by the government and would reinstate security personnel who may get expelled for refusing to obey unlawful orders. Former Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party and former State Minister Imad Solih and MUOs Shadow Minister for Judicial Reform Hisaan Hussain spoke on the themes of individual accountability for security personnel who act unlawfully. Former Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari in his speech said that Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed admitted in 2009 that he was forced to rule unfairly against the MDP government, and that others in the judiciary had complained of compelling circumstances being advanced against them by the government.

The elected Vice President of the PPM government and MUO Leader Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, in his teleconferenced speech said that islands being awarded illegally will be reclaimed, local councils will be empowered, and mid-market tourism will be promoted under an interim government. Saying that President Yameen had jailed rivals because he fears a competitive election, Dr. Jameel said that President Yaameen must take responsibility for the unprecedented theft of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company.

The MUOs Shadow Minister of Health Social Welfare and Gender Sidhaatha Shareef spoke on the breakdown of health services and social security and highlighted broken pledges of the ruling regime.

Former Speaker of parliament and Chair of the MDPs Foreign Relations Committee Abdulla Shahid MP likened the government to a mystery plague that had beguiled the public and looted them of their wealth. Abdulla Shahid highlighted that the whole world was behind the opposition, noting that some of the major countries and international bodies were issuing statements in Dhivehi to avoid government spin.

Advisor of the MUO former President Mohamed Nasheed said that recent history and experiences show the necessity for an interim arrangement. He said that all parties and politicians must work together to realize the hopes of the Maldivian people. Stating that all opposition parties are working together to this end he said the lives of the Maldivian people have always been tied to the sincerity of the country’s rulers. He called upon Opposition supporters to move beyond fear and draw courage from each other, adding that this government needed to be changed and an interim government established in its place. Quoting a verse referring to all colors becoming as one for the good of the nation, he said the transitional government will comprise of diverse political groupings in the country and will reform independent institutions and the judiciary.

Former managing director of the State Trading Organization and brother of the jailed ex-Defense Minister Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim, the MUOs Shadow Minister of Transport & Trade Adam Azim,  urged the Police and security personnel not to inflict violence on the Maldivian people on the orders of superiors. He also claimed that his brother was framed by the Police naming the Policeman alleged to have planted evidence adding that the discovery of former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s DNA on the pistol found in Nazim’s home conclusively proves that he was framed.

Azim said the current regime’s mega-projects, including the Malé-Hulhulé bridge, a 25-storey hospital tower, and airport expansion, involve massive corruption, contending that the actual cost of each project is much lower and that the bridge was being built on a budget that could build two such bridges and 3 buildings were being done on an inflated budget that could finance six such buildings.

Deputy Leader of MDPs Parliamentary Group Rozaina Adam MP, before beginning her speech, took a selfie with the crowd in the background, celebrating the large attendance. She expressed gratitude to the crowd for turning out in large numbers despite the government’s repeated obstructions and denials of political space to the opposition.

The night’s surprise was the screening of a pre-recorded speech by MUO Spokesperson Ahmed Mahloof MP, sentenced recently to a prison term of 4 months and 24 days on the ridiculous charge of attempting to jump bail by fleeing Police custody. MP Mahloof said that the night’s rally was a beginning for MUO street activities and urged all supporters to join street protests to end President Yaameen’s government. He expressed the hope that he would see the downfall of this government and be free much before his prison sentence was over.

The night’s last speaker was the MDPs Chairperson and Maldives United Opposition’s Deputy Leader Ali Waheed, who began his speech by calling  on the Police and military to change the government and usher in an interim government.

He deplored stalled Police investigations into the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwaan, the increase in violent incidents and murders, and the machete killing of Dr Afraasheem Ali, stating that the government was hastening to execute the death penalty on the only witness who could lead investigations on to others alleged to have funded and ordered the killing. Ali Waheed referred to “powerful sources” claiming that the opposition was in possession of a 50-page report on the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali that cannot be made public yet for fear that evidence could be destroyed. Saying that the current regime only had three platoons of 4o from the security services and six judges behind them and propping them up, he  reiterated calls for the country’s security personnel to rise up to challenges facing the country and to come forward and facilitate the establishment of an interim administration.

To end the rally the large gathering joined in a special prayer against tyranny read out by MDP youth wing member Mohamed Waheed.