President Mohamed Nasheed addressed a large crowd - approximately 3,000-4,000 strong - at the Tsunami monument area of Male' this afternoon at 5 pm.
The crowd consisted of supporters of the government and members of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, many of whom wore yellow bandanas, t-shirts and headscarves. Yellow is the MDP party colour.
President Nasheed set out a robust defense of the government's economic policies, noting that economic fundamentals such as the budget deficit and the disparity between government income and expenditure has dramatically improved since his administration came into power in the country's first democratic elections in late 2008. The President also noted that, for the first time in the country's history, Maldivians now enjoyed a state pension for over 65 year-olds, one third of the population had joined the government's health insurance scheme, and the disabled and single parents enjoyed income benefits.
Commenting on the Z-DRP - an opposition faction led by former president Gayoom, which has called for the overthrow of the government and led a series of often violent protests in the past week - President Nasheed said: "If you want power, face me in the 2013 presidential elections."
Many in the assembled crowd chanted for the arrest of former president Gayoom, on charges of alleged corruption and human rights abuses during his 30-years in power.
People in the crowd held up a variety of banners and placards, some reading: 'Don't devalue the youth through cheap political protest"; "Do we want 30 year old dictatorship or 2 year old democracy?".
According to Maldives Police Service, approximately 150 supporters of the Z-DRP faction of the opposition gathered in Republican Square after Friday prayers, at 1:15pm this afternoon.
Republican Square is adjacent to the Headquarters of the Maldives Police Service and the Integrated Headquarters of the Maldives National Defense Force and has been publicly declared by police as a high security zone, off limits to demonstrations.
The protesters shouted anti-government slogans. The police repeated asked protestors to leave the area. When the protestors tried to move towards the police headquarters, riot police holding shields slowly dispersed the crowd but no tear gas was used nor were there any baton charges.
Opposition figures Umar Naseer, Ali Arif and Ahmed Mahlouf were detained after they pushed police officers. They were released without charge after approximately 1 hour.
Photography by Mauroof Kaleel.