Thousands of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters, led by former president Mohamed Nasheed, have taken to the streets this evening to oppose what they claimed was an illegitimate government established yesterday in a bloodless military coup.
The protests have spread across the country including the southern Atoll of Addu, where Mayor Abdulla Sodig has been beaten by protesters and taken to the Addu regional hospital. Hithadhoo police academy has also been set on fire, along with approximately 18 vehicles used for training purposes.
Minivan News has received rumours that 250 inmates at Maafushi jail have broken out of their cells and are rioting against the guards. Sources report that police are being deployed to the jail compound.
In Sri Lanka, demonstrations are being held outside of the Maldives Embassy.
In the United Kingdom, Maldives High Commissioner Dr Farahanaz Faizal has resigned. Earlier today, British High Commissioner in Colombo John Rankin discussed ways to further strengthen close relations between the UK and the Maldives with President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan. Rankin assured the President that the island nation had the UK’s full support.
The political chaos was triggered this afternoon after Nasheed rallied MDP supporters, declaring that his resignation had been under duress and called for the freshly-appointed Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to step down and call for elections.
“Yes, I was forced to resign at gunpoint,” Mohamed Nasheed told foreign reporters after the rally. “There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I didn’t resign.”
Nasheed’s supporters then clashed with police and military forces near Republic Square, and were repeatedly tear gassed by the police. Dramatic footage of the crackdown has been shared on social media.
Amid the clashes, a group of opposition demonstrators infiltrated the crowds, attacking MDP supporters, according to witnesses.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed was reported among the injured, and received head injuries during the clashes. He was briefly taken under police custody before being released back into the crowd.
MDP’s former Chairperson Maria Ahmed Didi was also seen “dragged away by by her hair” – her whereabouts remain unknown – while MDP’s Chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik is reportedly in critical condition at ADK Hospital.
A Minivan News reporter was injured following what he described as a baton charge by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s ‘starforce’ officers.
“They were beating old women with batons,” he said. “It was just like the old days.”
Photos circulated on social media show heavily bloodstained protesters. There were unconfirmed reports that a woman had died, but so far no hospitals have confirmed this.
Protests have meanwhile spread nationwide across the Maldives, including Addu City, with reports of islanders seizing police stations across the country.
A police spokesperson confirmed that protesters had been injured. He could not confirm the number of people arrested.
Several youth with head injuries were queued up for x-rays in the waiting area outside the reception area at IGMH.
One young woman who had gone to IGMH with her sister was being treated for a head wound. A gauze wrapped around her head was spotted with blood, and she claimed the wound was still bleeding as she went in for an X-ray.
“The police were just standing there and suddenly we were being beaten with batons and pepper spray was thrown in our face. They threw us to the ground and kept beating us,” she said.
Explaining that she, her sister and most women had joined the party’s “walk around Male” because they understood it was not a violent protest, the young woman said she had never seen indiscriminate beating of men and women on Male’ under Mohamed Nasheed’.
“It was just supposed to be a peaceful walk. That’s why we went, and why more women than usual went. But there was no warning of the attack, no announcements, we were all beaten even after we began retreating. My sister was almost trampled,” she said. “I just think it’s disgusting that the police could beat so many unarmed women.”
Meanwhile, MDP MP and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih believed approximately 35 individuals had been admitted to IGMH, with one in the ICU. Hospital staff said several were in serious conditions.
Describing the confrontation, Solih said the group was 20 feet away from the police line, which was not blocked the road, when the police began spraying tear gas, pepper spray, and throwing stones. He believes there may have been individuals behind the police who were launching some of the projectiles, but could not say whether they were affiliated with any political party.
“We are now just trying to collect everyone and see who has been injured,” Solih said, adding “I think [they police] were using more force than was necessary today.”
Solih claimed ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik was in serious condition with injuries to his stomach and back, while MP Mariya Didi was also seriously injured. Nasheed had been injured as well, but is being kept “in a secret location.” MPs Alhan Fahmy and Imthiyaz Fahmy, the party spokesperson, have been taken to jail, he added.
“I didn’t think Dr Waheed would do anything against civilians, I felt he would do something to protect them. But today I saw a totally different situation, and I am not so sure. I don’t think he has any control over the police and MNDF. They’re the ones running the government, Dr Waheed is just a puppet,” he elaborated.
MDP Party Member Omar Razak, Chairman of Works Corporation Limited, observed that the numbers of MDP supporters who turned out today to walk around Male’ trumped those who demonstrated on February 7 during the military coup.
“If we had the numbers yesterday that we had today we wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said, adding that the party members had been up all night with the protests on February 6. He said the party would continue to demonstrate. “They can’t keep doing this, beating people and sending them to the hospital every day.”
Riot squads arrived at IGMH around 6:15, but were replaced by MNDF forces at approximately 6:30. The situation was calm at 7:00pm, however the public was still gathered outside.
No deaths had been confirmed as of 8:00pm.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) was investigating the situation at IGMH at 6:45 pm.