Pres Muizzu unhappy with deployment of SO police to stop PNF gathering, promises action

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu speaks to reporters at Mulee'aage on April 10, 2024. (Photo/President's Office)

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has expressed displeasure over the deployment of Special Operations (SO) officers or riot police to stop People’s National Congress (PNF)’s inaugural congress which was initially scheduled to be held at the Ghiyasuddin International School in the capital on Tuesday night, promising that he will take action.

SO police had closed the school’s gates when members of PNF – former Maldivian leader Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s new party - went to attend the congress, citing that it was an unauthorized gathering. However, PNF members claimed the school had authorized the gathering, and tried to force their way in, resulting in clashes with the police.

Speaking to reporters after the exchange of Eid greetings at the Mulee’aage on Wednesday morning, President Muizzu said that the course of action taken by the police is not one that he condones.

He said that the SO police were deployed on Tuesday despite his explicit instructions not to send them to police political events.

“We have seen in the past how SO police went and beat up people, and arrested them without just cause. We have seen how they load and take everyone away in pickups in response to the slightest exercise of the right to freedom of expression or street action. I do not condone this,” said President Muizzu, in response to a question asked by Sun.

“I told the police and the CP himself that there will not come any instructions from me to harm a political dissident. No such instructions will be issued from any level within the administration. If one is issued, I will personally initiate action.”

 President Muizzu said that SO police should only be deployed to police major disturbances where there is risk of serious damage to property. He expressed confidence that such a situation will not befall the country.

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu speaks to reporters at Mulee'aage on April 10, 2024. (Photo/President's Office)

He added that he only learnt about the deployment of SO police to stop the PNF congress through news reports, stressing that it happened in violation of his prior instructions.

“I find this regrettable that such an incident took place despite my clear instructions. I immediately attended to it,” he said.

President Muizzu said that he questioned both Home Minister Ali Ihusan and Commissioner of Police Ali Shujau on Tuesday night, to clarify why the police responded in violation of his instructions.

He has asked them to send an incident report by sunset on Wednesday, after which he said he will take action.

“This is not something I will tolerate. This is about our policy and what we promised to the people. I do not want a repeat of past actions,” he said.

President Muizzu said that after he found out that PNF could not find any other school to host its congress, he called Sports Minister Abdulla Rafiu and instructed him to allow the party to hold the gathering at the Social Center free of charge. He said that he had Rafiu call Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, a close aide to Yameen, and inform him of the availability of the venue.

President Muizzu said that the PNF held the gathering at the Raalhugandu area after the call, adding that he instructed Ihusan not to deploy police to the area.

“I want there to be public confidence in the police institution. For the previous label to be erased. I do not want the police to be people who harm the public or hinder freedom of expression. I had therefore given clear instructions on this matter. I do not want SO police deployed,” he said.

“But this happened last night. I find this very regrettable.”

President Muizzu said he would not hesitate to take all necessary action for the violation of his instructions.

President Muizzu stressed that the creation of political parties and freedom of political expression are fundamental rights, and that he will not infringe on it.

He also congratulated PNF for successfully holding the congress despite the challenges – which was the final step towards the party’s official registration.

During the congress, which was held at the Raalhugandu with the flashlight from phones as the only source of light, the PNF elected Zane Abdulla Yameen, the former Maldivian leader’s son, as the party’s interim leader. The party also appointed an interim senate, and approved its logo and color. Yameen had visited the Raalhugandu area after the congress ended to meet his supporters.