Maldives police warns opposition alliance against holding protest

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Male, July 23 (IANS) Police in Maldives have warned that the opposition alliance will not be allowed to stage an anti-government demonstration in Malé on Monday, days after the opposition parties launched a bid to seize control of Parliament through an attempt to impeach the Speaker.

“Everyone come to Malé on July 24 to assure a system of government with separation of powers,” tweeted former President Mohamed Nasheed, who has been living in exile in the United Kingdom since he was authorised medical leave from prison in January last year.

Briefing the press late Sunday afternoon, Superintendent Ahmed Shifan said opposition leaders from the four-party coalition would have to bear responsibility for any unlawful gathering, the Maldives Independent reported.

Since its bid to wrest control of the Parliament was foiled after four lawmakers were contentiously stripped of their seats, the opposition alliance has been urging supporters from across the country to converge on the capital and gather outside the Maldivian Democratic Party office at 9 a.m.

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A no-confidence vote against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed was due to take place on July 24, but the motion was thrown out after the disqualification of four ex-ruling party lawmakers deemed to have fallen foul of a new anti-defection rule imposed by the Supreme Court.

The Speaker has meanwhile decided that the next Majlis sitting will take place on July 31, citing security arrangements ahead of activities planned to mark Independence Day on July 26,

Parliament sittings have been suspended since the opposition submitted the second motion with 45 signatures from the 85-member house, prompting the Attorney General to seek the anti-defection ruling after the dramatic collapse of the pro-government majority.

The police have meanwhile cracked down on most opposition activities in Malé during the past two years, including a weekly prayer congregations and gatherings in the opposition’s meeting hall.

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The last major gathering was a three-day protest by the MDP in November 2015.

On Friday, MP Ali Azim, Adhaalath Party spokesman Ali Zahir and two others were arrested after the police used pepper spray to disperse opposition supporters outside the MDP meeting hall.

Voting was taking place inside the premises for the MDP’s youth wing leadership posts when police officers barged in and forced several people out. The riot police officers also cordoned off the area and blocked voters from entering the meeting hall.

The police later told local media that it was unaware of the internal election, the daily reported.

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission, which has imposed hefty fines on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV, has meanwhile warned that action will be taken against TV stations that telecast unlawful gatherings.

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