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Opposition-led protest over housing flats ends in conflict and criticism

Shahudha Mohamed
13 February 2021, MVT 12:33
Protesters clashing against police officers in the demonstration held on February 12. PHOTO: MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
13 February 2021, MVT 12:33

The opposition’s protest titled “Where is my flat?” held on Friday evening in capital Male’ resulted in clashes between civilians and authorities that led to injuries on both sides.

The protest, organised by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and People’s National Congress (PNC), was led by the leaders of both parties, and joined by several demonstrators demanding to nullify the state’s distribution of the Hiyaa Flats built in Hulhumale’ Phase Two.

Participants of the protest claimed that the government had given away the flats unjustly, depriving well-deserving candidates of the social housing project.

Maldives Police Service intercepted the protest near the Parliament building and ordered the participants to disperse, due to the situation of COVID-19 in the country, currently experiencing its third wave of the pandemic with alarmingly high numbers of daily cases.

Police sprayed pepper spray into the crowd and protesters clashed with officers, breaking through the police line and advancing forward. Several civilians and officers sustained injuries during the conflict.

In a statement released by the PPM-PNC coalition following the protest, the opposition parties claimed that police dispersed the crowd against the constitution while protestants were exercising a right granted by the law.

Describing the authorities’ intervention as “inhuman”, the parties stated that police reacted brutally, pepper spraying the participants and beating them with boots.

The coalition further threatened the government, stating that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s presidency may see a “shameful end” similar to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s time in office.

The protest, held at a time when authorities are constantly urging the public to adhere to safety guidelines to minimise the spread of virus, drew criticism from concerned parties on social media.

Some stated that the protest infringed on the safety of high-risk individuals such as senior citizens, and called for the arrest of those who organise and hold such gatherings at this time.

Some leaders of PPM and PNC were formerly arrested for arranging demonstrations amidst the pandemic, and police are currently conducting investigations into the matter.

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