Parts of the Maldivian capital Male were paralysed yet again on Friday due to protests and counter-protests, from around the time the prayers concluded to close to midnight.

Demonstrations are being held against the soaring prices after the government allowed the currency, the Rufiya, to float in a 20 per cent band. The protests have led to at least some travel agents advising their clients to re-consider their Maldivian holidays. With the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) claiming that it had nothing to do with the protests, the government is left with no one to talk to.

The government has maintained that a faction of the DRP led by the former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was behind the protests.

It said Mr. Gayoom was inspired by the Tahrir Square and that he was hoping to overthrow the government after crippling the functioning of the government.

According to Reuters news agency, more than 300 people have been arrested so far; a figure that was disputed by Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem. On Friday he said only 16 had been held.

The independent Maldivian news website, Minivan News, said opposition protest near the artificial beach was dispersed by police after the group tried to make its way towards the intersection of Majeedhee Magu and Chandanee Magu, the focal point of last week's violent demonstrations. Aljazeera said that the protesters moved briefly to another location.

The counter-protest organised by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and addressed by Mr. Nasheed set out a robust defence of the government's economic policies. Mr. Nasheed noted that economic fundamentals such as the budget deficit and the disparity between government income and expenditure had dramatically improved since his administration came into power in the first democratic elections in late 2008. Haveeru news, a local online newspaper, reported that the President said there would be no budget deficit by 2012