Maldives opposition has lambasted police for allowing police officers to remove name tags when deployed to break up opposition rallies and protests.
A ban on street protests in the capital Male has been in force since a police crackdown on a three-day protest staged by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last November. The police have since blocked the opposition’s anti-corruption walks as well as marches by the media and civil society.
The newly formed Maldives United Opposition (MUO) has been holding nightly protests a united front to remove president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom from office.
MUO brings together the MDP, the Adhaalath Party, two of Yameen’s former deputies and his former defence minister.
Adhaalath Party deputy leader Ali Zahir told reporters that the opposition has been unable to identify any police officers sent to break up anti-government protests.
"We don't even know if they are actual police officers. This is a serious isse," Zahir lamented.
Zahir said the police officers who stormed the MDP camp to stop the opposition rally on Monday had removed their name-tags.
Just before midnight on Monday, around a dozen Specialist Operations police officer barged into the camp while the rally was ongoing.
Police spokesperson in response said despite the removed name-tags, the police service had records of individual officers deployed for various operations.
The necessary mechanism is also in place to penalise individual police officers if needed, spokesperson added.
Several top police officers told Mihaaru that the name tags of police officers deployed for protests and following gang violence are removed for the safety of individual policemen.
"We've had to deal with targeted attacks against police officers and even their families," a top police officer said.
However, former deputy prosecutor general and MUO's shadow constitutional reform minister Hussain Shameem said police officers, under law are obligated to disclose his or her identity during raids and searching an individual.
Shameem said removing name-tags was a crime under the new penal code.
"Under the new penal code that can be constituted as impersonation. Its like pretending to be someone other than yourself. It's a criminal offence," Shameem said.