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Maldives: Rocked by Protests Over Economy

For seven consecutive days, thousands of residents of Male, the capital of Maldives, have protested on busy streets and public spaces, expressing their dissatisfaction over soaring prices of consumer goods and economic mismanagement of the government. The protests are being organized by the opposition parties, even though they have labeled it as a youth-led protest.

While there is a genuine dissatisfaction over the government’s mismanagement of the economy, not all residents are joining the protests, because of the highly political nature of the protests and the extent of violence involved. A number of people, including police and journalists, have been hurt during the protests. According to reports more than 300 people have been arrested so far, a figure, which has been disputed by the government.

Protesting increase of commodity prices in Maldives. Image from Twitpic by Ahmed Nazim (@GraveBone).

The government has tried to play down the significance of the protests, blaming the opposition for trying to destabilize the first democratically elected government of the Maldives and trying to topple the government before the next presidential election scheduled for 2013. The government has not acknowledged that there has been a considerable increase of prices of goods following a recent devaluation of the local currency against US dollar.

The following video of the day 3 of the protests was uploaded to YouTube by sunmvlive. See more videos by the user.

Bloggers and tweeps react to the crisis in the Maldives:

Nina Ali reacts to a statement by the President that prices have not soared and one tin of powder milk is sufficient for two children for one month:

how big do they think one tin of powder milk is.. : ONE BARREL????

Sofwath tweets about the rising cost of living:

Those who don't have to pay everything they earn for rent would never understand. They can joke and laugh but the reality is very different.

Tweeps find it ironic the government is trying to restrict the protests while the current leaders staged a number of protests when they were in the opposition. Rizwee tweets:

Current Maldivian regime doesn’t have heart to see anti-government protests. They forgot how they protested in the past regime.

Epicloser makes fun of a pro-government protest held on Friday against the other protests:

Pro gov protests ended and prices went down instantly. Everythings solved. People are happy. xD

Epicloser also tweets about the violence involved in the protests:

The capital city of Maldives is on its way to fall into total anarchy. Now gangsters are mixed with protesters and setting fire on places.

Masood Ali tweets about the instability:

Happy to be a Maldivian, but happily cant walk in my country

Badruddeen believes violence is not the solution:

@sujauu totally agree with you on this. Everyone should avoid violence at any cost. Violence is not the way forward.

Not everyone is willing to take part in the protests even though they are not happy with how the government is handling the economy. Sofwath tweets:

@p3st yeap in Male'. Won't join any of these stupid protests this time. These people gone totally crazy. No one talking abt solutions.

Haifa Imad tweets:

@nunthu nope will NOT join the protest too many agendas. Turned into a political affair since day 1.Jus concerned abt our nation flag.

Gaanagaa pokes fun about the protests which has been labeled as youth-led but organized by opposition:

Elders protesting for youth's right for cheaper iPads and Thai food. Meanwhile, youth busy watching soccer on elder's TVs.

Badruddeen feels the protests are staged by the opposition to overthrow the government:

@epicloser lol revolution to reduce the price of bread or violent revolution to overthrow a legitimate government?

As the price increase began after the government devalued the local currency against the dollar, P3est tweets:

Dear Mr. Obama, Please send a shipment of Dollars to the Maldives before all hell breaks loose. Thanks. Your sincerely, @p3st

The protests have been going on mainly during the night and some residents are feeling the toll of sleepless nights. profEuLOGist tweets:

A request from a youth| can u politicians plan the protest sometime arnd mornin & finish it off arnd 4-5pm? PLEASE? I can donate suncream.

A pro-government protest organized by the ruling party. Image from Twitpic by I. M. Saeed (@epicloser).

Hassan Ziyau reacts to profEuLOGist’s tweet and elaborates the downside of the protests:

Freedom to protest through peaceful means is without question a given right by the constitution to its people. However in practicing one’s rights, the rights of the others should not be violated. Referring to the above mentioned tweet, I am in full agreement with its idea, that the protest if need to be held should be held during daylight and in a place which can accompany large amounts of people, such as the republic square rather than the small crowded streets and lanes of the capital.

Some mainstream media outlets and even some protesters have drawn parallels between the Arab revolutions and the current protests in the Maldives. However, the government officials point out that the government is democratically elected while the opposition’s roots are with the 30-year-old dictatorship that ended with the election of 2008.

Blogger Thakurubey summarizes the different perspectives on the protest:

the protest that has been going in the street of Male for 5 consecutive nights is viewed in differently. supporters of the government view it as a plot organized by the opposition to overthrow the government by means of protest. taking a model of recent protest that led to government change in most of the middle east nations. The ruling party vows to defend the government by all means. the opposition and its supporters say it is protest by the youth to highlight the impact the country is facing due to the dollar reference change made by the government to stabilize the economy.

Hassan Abdullah writes about the need for both the government and the opposition to act responsibly and put the nation first:

So I request those who are not happy with the current regime to criticize the government make them held accountable and voice out against them or even protest against them, but save your own account in-terms of truth and justice. And I request the government, especially president Nasheed, not to make false promises and to STOP showing illusion and to do whatever you can to save the nation from crisis.

My final request to my dear brothers and sisters as someone who do not have any knowledge like the rest; “please do not set your focus on today or tomorrow, set it far beyond that.”

  • Abdul

    Many are forgetting that Maldives now is a democracy with an independent judiciary, legislature and the executive. Unlike before now we do have a Police Integrity Commission and a strong Supreme Court.
    During the last year alone, students / parents and NGO’s have marched up to the president’s office and delivered petitions directly to the president. Youth have marched to his official residence and demanded that they be allowed to organize a ‘ baibalaa ‘ tournament. But all this took place during normal working hours. NOT at midnight with violence.
    And we now have the most free media in the region!…….few change, and even out of those who change, most take a very long time to understand change.

  • Pingback: Maldives: Rocked by Protests Over Economy | Hilath Online

  • Aslam

    Since January 2011 onwards Maldivian Economy facing many troubles.it lead to around 20% cost of living increased these months suppose in April month one person total expense for living 1000 rf but this month 1200 rf needed.so in this time role government is very impotent in controlling the economy also very difficult.my suggestion for for health full Maldivian economy these are,
    first reduce the money supply it led to appreciation of rufiyaa.(through lending dollar from rest of the world then reducing the volume of printing currency)
    remove the banking restriction it leads to reduce black market activity.

    Otherwise Maldives waiting a superb problems Economically,socially and politically…….

  • ahmed

    A man who did not know democracy but afraid of democracy cannot tolarate democracy.A dictator who dictated over the innocent people of this country for three long decades feels that he still is the sole properitor of the presidency of Maldives. He could not accept defeat. He still comes up on public forums and say that, when he was elected and re elected, he scores 90% of votes.But he fails to understand that he was thrown away by the people as soon as they got an opportunity to cast a free and fair ballot.
    The former regeme is still here, moving freely to play all dirty games with the country’s economy. They are the people who arrange all these unhealty events to destabilise the peace and harmony of the hardly earned democracy of the country. Prtaise to the president if he could put these people who took away the wealth of this country on trial and get justice to the people of this country.

  • Pingback: Sydasien i 2011: Et år fyldt med kontroverser og protester · Global Voices på dansk

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