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Former Westminster Student and Prominent Political Activist Arrested Again At Peace Demonstration in Maldives

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Shauna Aminath arrested again in the MaldivesFormer Westminster College student, Shauna Aminath, whose arrest and detention at a peaceful demonstration in her home country The Maldives last July made international news, was arrested once again Friday at another demonstration there against the current government.

Aminath, President of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) Youth Wing, was Deputy Undersecretary in the administration of President Mohamed Nasheed, whose government was removed in a coup d'etat by the present regime last February.

Over a thousand Maldivian Democratic Party activists had taken to the streets and fifteen of them, including Shauna, were arrested on charges of "breaking the police barricade" and "obstructing police duty."

Members of the protest group dispute the allegations.

One protester reported to Minivan News: "We were just standing behind the barricades when they came in, we didn't even move or run. We just stayed there, we didn't even call them 'baaghee' (traitor) but we kept on telling them they should give a proper reason for arresting a person, they just can't take people for no reason. We kept on asking what they [the arrested protesters] had done. After taking in a few protesters, they came towards us and took Shauna. They came towards her and said she had to come with them whether she liked it or not. Two to three of us were holding her when they took her."

Former President Nasheed has led these new protests against the present government, which began January 22, calling on the Maldives parliament to create an interim, caretaker administration "which can lead the country toward a genuinely free and fair presidential election in which all candidates are able to freely compete."

MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy suggests the arrests were the result of the lack of any means to hold police accountable for arbitrary arrests.

While reports coming out of the country agree that the fifteen protesters, including Shauna, appeared in court on Saturday, the outcome of that appearance differs. One report says the protesters will be detained another fifteen days. Another places the detention time at five days.

Current Westminster student from the Maldives, Gaim Yoosuf Adam, a senior majoring in economics, says: "What people tend to forget is the government that got thrown away was the only government that the general public elected. I had things I disliked and disagreed about Mohamed Nasheed Anni's presidency, but how he had to resign is not something I agree with. I honestly believe he should still be the president. After all, it was the majority of the Maldivians who elected him. And Maldives does need another democratic election as soon as possible. We cannot underestimate the influence people like Shauna had on Maldivian politics. If it wasn't for people like her, we would have never been able to stop Maumoon's 30-year-long presidency."

President Mamoon Abdul Gayoom, who held office for 30 years, was defeated in an October 2008 Maldivian election following a 2007 referendum that voters approved for the direct election of the president, rather than the parliamentary system of the past.

Adam met Aminath as a member of the selection committee when he applied to the United World College.

"Once again, the Westminster community is greatly concerned about one of our own," says Westminster President Dr. Barney Forsythe. "The political situation in The Maldives continues to be highly volatile and as a political leader, Shauna is embroiled in the midst of it. Her involvement in peaceful demonstrations has once again placed her in harm's way and we pray for her safe release."

Westminster College is nationally known for its international student population, which comprises 16 percent of the student body. In a recent national report, Open Doors 2012, Westminster ranked fifth nationally for percentage of international students on campus among all liberal arts colleges in the nation.

A 2008 graduate of Westminster College, Aminath is one example of the strong commitment of Westminster to fulfilling its mission to develop leaders with a global perspective. She demonstrated great leadership skills during her college years, as President of the Environmentally Concerned Student Council and leader of the College's International Club. She was among the first students to participate in Westminster's innovative "Take a Friend Home" program where the College pays for a domestic student to spend several weeks in the home of a Westminster international student. Aminath hosted a Missouri student in her Maldives home as a participant in the program.

After being arrested last year, Aminath was freed upon agreeing not to participate in more demonstrations for the next 21 days.

She is well known in the international community for her pro-democracy work and efforts to stop climate change and was featured in the documentary, "The Island President," which details the first year in office of former President Nasheed and his cabinet.

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