A panel of the Maldives’ ministers held a special press conference targeting international media Tuesday at the President’s Office, in which they responded to talks of the archipelago’s allegedly deteriorating ties with neighbouring India, the ongoing state of emergency and its effects on tourism.
Replying to reporters’ inquiries regarding the Maldives’ current relations with India, economic minister Mohamed Saeed declared that India remains the Maldives’ “best friend” and hit back at allegations of souring diplomatic ties between the two.
Lauding the policies of President Abdulla Yameen’s government and the Maldives’ exponential progress in the South Asian region, the minister slammed former President Mohamed Nasheed for negatively portraying and exaggerating the current situation of the Maldives, including its relationship with India.
Slating Nasheed for attempting to disrupt regional peace, Saeed accused Nasheed of being willing to go to any lengths to seek media attention. He highlighted that the former president had initially fought to secure land for Maldivians over rising sea levels, before changing his tune and inviting the world to invest in the Maldives.
Saeed also countered Nasheed’s allegations of the Maldives giving priority to China over India, stating that the Maldives also boasts several Indian investments. His claim was backed by tourism minister Moosa Zameer, who highlighted that a number of major Indian firms have ongoing investments in the nation, including resorts of which certain Bollywood stars are shareholders.
Fisheries minister Mohamed Shainee echoed Saeed’s statements regarding the strong Maldives-India ties. He noted that the Indian government had not indulged Nasheed’s recent call for India to send military troops to the Maldives, which Shainee declared was proof of the neighbours’ strong bonds. He expressed confidence that India would never take any actions that would go against the interests of the Maldives.
The President’s Office’s legal affairs minister Aishath Azima Shakoor further elaborated on the situation with India. She proclaimed that the Maldivian government had held sit-downs with Indian diplomats to explain why President Yameen had ordered the arrests of two Supreme Court justices last month, and that India had recognized the government’s reasoning.
In response to the reporters’ questions as to the lawfulness of the government’s recent decisions amidst the state of emergency, Azima detailed the events leading up to the judges’ arrests. The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on February 1 to release political prisoners, several of whom were convicted of major crimes, came as a shock to the government as the verdict was both unconstitutional and put the functioning of the state in danger, she said.
Azima elaborated that the state had subsequently inquired into how the ruling came about, and made shocking discoveries entailing major allegations against the top court judges.
Hence the government had announced the state of emergency, Azima said though she reiterated the government’s stance that the emergency does not pose any danger to civilians, expatriates and tourists in the Maldives.
In the conference, tourism minister Moosa Zameer also countered talks of tourism suffering under the state of emergency. He declared that the Maldives remains open to tourism and foreign investments, including India, and that the government would ensure their security.