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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 September, 2003, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Maldives leader set for new term
Burnt out building in Male after Saturday's riot
Riots last weekend were the first in living memory
Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has won parliament's backing to run for an unprecedented sixth term in office.

All 50 members of the national assembly backed Mr Gayoom, 64, ahead of three other candidates in a secret ballot.

He will now seek public support at a referendum likely to be held in October in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Thursday's vote came amid renewed criticism of the islands' human rights record after anti-government protests in the capital, Male, last weekend.

The police and the security forces appear to be arresting anyone who was seen during the riots and anyone who was caught on camera
'Rosa', Maldives

The London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, said the rioting had been provoked by the government's systematic political repression and called for reform of the judicial system.

The Maldives Government has denounced the Amnesty report as a "deliberate attempt" to misrepresent its human rights practices which it says are exemplary.

In a letter to the human rights group, the Maldives Government said Amnesty had a "regrettable habit of reporting without verifying facts and its sources and with questionable intent".


President Gayoom, in power for 25 years, is one of the world's longest-serving leaders.

1,200 islands in archipelago
Population is over 300,000
Majority is Sunni Muslim
One-party rule since 1978
Low-lying islands vulnerable to rise in sea-levels
But he seems to be facing increasing opposition from a younger generation which wants more political freedom to match their economic prosperity, the BBC's Frances Harrison in nearby Sri Lanka says.

In a country with no party political system, there was no doubt about which candidate would be nominated for president, she adds.

Before Thursday's vote a well-known independent MP, Mohammed Nasheed, was detained by plainclothes policemen without charge, but then released again after the results were announced.


Opposition sources say hundreds of people have been detained this week in the Maldives in connection with Saturday's protests in the capital, but there has been no independent verification of the figures.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Gayoom says limited democracy has helped the economy
Our correspondent says there is a climate of fear with few people wanting to voice their political opinions to the media for fear that telephone lines are tapped.

Photographs sent out of the country by email suggest Saturday's protests involved hundreds of young people.

The protests were triggered by the deaths in custody of three inmates in a jail riot, but the violence targeted only government vehicles and buildings, including the Election Commission.

Relatives and protesters say the security forces killed the prisoners.

Eleven members of the jail security forces have been arrested on the orders of the president in an attempt to quell public dissatisfaction.

Did you witness any of the disturbances in the Maldives? Send us your comments using the form below. If you have any photos send them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk

I am glad Amnesty is helping the Maldivians to voice our fear and concern and calling the Gayoom administration for reforms. We as Maldivians have no right to question our leaders. I commend BBC for continuing the follow up of these events as we are getting more information from BBC than our local media. I wish you could assign a reporter to cover our election process and tell the world how our leaders remain in power for so long. In 44 yrs of my life, I have seen only two presidents.
Luthfee, Maldives

hi! I am one of the people who saw most of the events that took place in the riot because I was on my way back from hospital when the riot broke out. I never expected such a scene in Maldives and from Maldivians. because we are known for a peace and security and for our kind-heartedness towards each other. but we are also humans so it is not surprising that there could be some black sheep among us. I really praise for our government for the way they handled the situation of not for their excellent decision making in such a circumstance, the situation could have gone worst than we could ever imagined. I would like to say to BBC that you people are using this just for exploitation. and its not right. BBC and Amnesty International kind of groups are in no better position or rather don't have any reasonable right in writing down things that you people do. We here in Maldives do not violate human rights and I don't really know based on what grounds are you people criticising about our so called 'limited democracy' and our criminal justice systems. I think it would be better for you to wash up your radical western democratic systems than to write about things you don't have an idea about. the events that took place here cannot be justified or even slightly accepted in any manner. you people are saying that Maldivian legal and judicial system is too harsh, but I would say that our system is too lenient when it should be harsh. if this event have had happened in another country in your so called western countries the degree would not have been this much. I cannot even predict how many bodies would have been seen lying on the roads. And don't forget that we are peace loving people not like you people who go on to other people's land and carry out terrorism and still talk of abolishing terrorism. That is one thing that cannot be done with you western kafirs on this planet.
Spirit, Maldives

My parents live in the Maldives in the capital. Therefore, due to all the riot news we've been hearing lately I tried to get in touch with them on the phone. For some reason, however, I'm not able to get through. I have this strange feeling that the Government has barred at-least incoming international calls (Because I actually tried calling a good few numbers, to no avail) I really don't know what they're trying to hide??? It's very frustrating for relatives outside the Maldives.
Adam A, UK

I was in a public building that was ransacked by the mob on the said day. We were in the building, what we saw was a group of youngsters who were out of control on a senseless spree. The debris from their stone throwing injured them too. I understand that mistakes were made, which led to the riots and the trouble. However, as a Maldivian I feel that outsiders like the Amnesty should appreciate the fact that they have no right to determine what we should want. What we want is stability. Our daily bread depends on it. Whether we forego a western style democracy to do that is our business. I think the Amnesty should first clean up the backyards of the so called "Western Democracies" - where the rights of certain citizens only matter. But I thank BBC for reporting the incident in a democratic manner. Just don't judge for us. We will do it ourselves.
Mohamed, Maldives

Our company is just opposite to the parliament house, almost all of my office mates left since the management decided to close business till peace is regained. Just as I got out, I saw a huge crowd marching towards the parliament house with large pieces of timber and iron rods...they came and smashed the lights, doors, and were doing all the damage they could to the building, but I could not believe my eyes when they lowered the national flag and set it on fire. This action did not communicate the actual message they thought they were displaying and I don't see any reason why they should protest against the government in such a manner. There is always a better way.
'Disappointed Civilian', Maldives

I was watching the mob on the streets from my house on Saturday night. The crowd was huge, armed with butchers' knives and iron rods... basically anything they could find. Suddenly the police arrived in armoured vehicles, and dropped a smoke bomb right in front of my house. Within minutes the crowds dispersed. A curfew was set for the night and my brother [who lives on a nearby island] was stopped by the police on his way to the ferry terminal and was asked to stay in Male and to stay indoors. Since then the police have been everywhere, questioning everyone on the streets, schools have been closed and even some businesses. Everyone is stopped on the road and asked for their identification and details of where they are going.
Violet, Maldives

For the first time in the modern history of Maldives there was such unrest and mayhem. I saw youngsters burning the High Court building. All the sub-police stations, Office of the Commissioner of elections and the National Conference Centre (Dharubaaruge) were also attacked by mobs. Unfortunately no news of the incident appeared in any of the newspapers. The radio and TV didn't broadcast any.
Ismail Abdulla, Maldives

I saw the riot in progress and have witnessed much of the police's activities that have been going on today [Tuesday]. My friends and I have seen many people being hauled in off the streets in Male by the police and the government's security forces - being dragged out of shops and homes. We have heard that people have been taken away by the police and security forces in the middle of the night, nobody knows where to or under what charge. The police and the security forces appear to be arresting anyone who was seen during the riots and anyone who was caught on camera when the buildings were attacked. The police had cameras during the riots and there were cameras in the buildings that were attacked. My friends last night saw two men being hauled out of their shops and thrown into police vans, just before curfew started. I have also seen many young people being arrested, not hardened criminals as the government claims. Everyone here is very scared of possible government reprisals.
'Rosa', Maldives

Here in the capital Male everything was calm and stable as usual until the afternoon at about 2:00 AM on Saturday [20 September 2003]. It was only a few crowd running around burning and destroying some of the government buildings. No private property was damaged or affected. It is very first time in the current history of Maldives that this kind of a thing happened. People obeyed the request from the president and most had returned home instead, enjoying the scenery.
Rasheed, Maldives

People here have no right to throw stones and fire government buildings. It was almost crazy but the government is doing its best and I am sure they will do it. It's all rumours in here.
Pink, Maldives

The violence first erupted near the hospital when the police refused to let the friends and family of the injured inmates access to the hospital. In a tense situation the police tried to show its macho muscles and this sparked further agitation and unrest. Now three inmates have died due to police brutality.
Ibn Hazm, Maldives

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Profile: President Maumoon Gayoom
25 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Amnesty attacks Maldives 'abuse'
24 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Maldives 'had second jail riot'
23 Sep 03  |  South Asia
'Arrests' after Maldives riots
22 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Maldives capital tense after riot
21 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Maldives defends prison terms
26 Feb 03  |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
05 Sep 03  |  Country profiles

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