Maldives FM sheds light on current situation

Saturday, 7 May 2011 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shezna Shums

The Foreign Affairs Minister of the Maldives Ahmed Naseem briefing the press on the recent developments in his country yesterday said, his country was currently going through a period of reform and that it was facing many challenges in the process.

The Foreign Minister’s statement in Colombo comes at a time when there are reports of demonstrations being staged in the Maldives against the present regime.

Naseem said the present administration took over power in the Maldives after 30 years of rule by Mohammed Gayoom’s regime, and that the current demonstrations were being staged by the opposition party in mainland Maldives with the intent of causing problems to the Maldivian people and their property. The demonstrations were being held in the mainland only and there were no problems whatsoever in the other islands and resort islands. “We are a member for the UN Human Rights council and abide by all international agreements,” he stressed.

Foreign Minister Naseem speaking about the demonstrations against the current regime said, “Given the fact that Maldives is a densely populated place there are only certain areas where demonstrations could be held. The area around the island is too crowded and not suitable to hold demonstrations.

We can have discussions with the protestors but there is no one leadership we can identify as we find drug users, convicted people and others in the streets, protesting.”

According to the Minister, there is a leadership battle within the opposition party in the Maldives, i.e. the party President Mohammed Gayoom belongs to, and there is reluctance on their part to hold an election for the leadership position.

Speaking on Sri Lanka Ahmed Naseem said his country was deeply concerned about the UN report as it was not productive for Sri Lanka or to the Sri Lankan people.

“We feel Sri Lanka is being condemned for ending the war in the country rather than being congratulated,” he emphasised.

The foreign Minister had spent four years in Sri Lanka when he was in exile during former President Mohammed Gayoom’s term of office. He had also completed his school education in Sri Lanka at Wesley College.

The Foreign Minister went on to explain that small island nations faced unique problems and issues when it came to livelihoods and development of the island. “Development work in an island is four to five times more than on a continent because of the high transportation cost,” he opined.

One of the main problems facing the people in the Maldives is the high cost of living and this is mainly affecting the Civil Servants in the country which consists of about 30 percent of the population, “We are now looking into this matter and trying to do something to help them.  40 percent of the people are fishermen and about 20 percent are working in the resorts,” he added.

The Foreign Minister is currently in Sri Lanka to hold discussions with the International Community regarding Maldives’ foreign affairs which is annually held here.

Regarding development in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, the Foreign Minister said that either country developing will be complimentary to the other, as tourist packages for Sri Lanka and the Maldives were popular at one time.

“If Sri Lanka does well we will do well, and if the Maldives does well we hope Sri Lanka will do well,” he emphasised.

Speaking about the agreements signed between Sri Lanka and the Maldives Naseem said, “At the current time Sri Lanka and the Maldives have several Agreements in force. Therefore there is no need for new Agreements except for the full implementation of the current Agreements. The Agreements cover exchange of prisoners, cultural, industrial, sports, education and research & development.

According to the World Bank the present President of Maldives inherited the worst economic situation in any country undergoing democratic transition since the 1950s. The budget deficit stood at 31 percent of the GDP, inflation stood at 12 percent and the economy was reeling from a massive fiscal expansion which saw the government wage bill increase by almost 400 percent between 2004 and 2009.

The Maldives Police Service had recently reported that  smaller demonstrations by approximately 200-300 people, led by MPs and politicians belonging to former President Gayoom’s faction of the opposition were held at the artificial beach area of Malé last Tuesday (3) evening.”

“The government understands that many people are concerned about the economy and recent price rises and we are doing everything possible to ease the situation. The government decided to halve the import duty on diesel fuel to help combat the rising fuel prices associated with global oil price rises and float the Ruffiya, Male’s currency,” stated the Maldives Presidents office.