Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed outrage over Saudi Arabia's statement defending the First Lady distributing the dates gifted by the Saudi government in her own name.
In a statement today, the embassy said it was “saddened” to see the controversy over the dates, and said it was “proud” to see the dates being distributed by Fathimath Ibrahim’s NGO, the Sadagat Foundation.
The kingdom donates around 50 tonnes of dates to the people of the Maldives every Ramadan.
However, the First Lady had directed around 10 tonnes to her NGO, according to local media reports.
MDP in a statement insisted that the actions of the First Lady are an affront to the years of generosity by Saudi Arabia and expressed disappointment that Saudi Embassy would defend the First Lady’s "corrupt actions."
“This reeks of misuse of power and privilege. Saudi Government should be outraged rather than trying to cover up these shameful actions. Corruption, whether it is siphoning of state funds for personal use, money laundering, or seemingly as petty as stealing dates, should not be condoned,” said MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.
The statement also warned that such actions could taint the high regard the Maldivian people have always had for the Saudi Kingdom.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom since assuming power has looked to deepen ties with the Saudi Kingdom. The Saudis are funding several key projects including a significant airport development project.
Maldives recently severed diplomatic ties with Iran, in a move widely believed to have been made to please the Saudis. The archipelago is also a member of the Saudi led military coalition.