China offers Maldives US$8.2 million in grant aid: President’s Office

The President’s Office (PO) has announced China will give the Maldives 50 million yuan (US$8.2 million) in grant aid “for the implementation of developmental projects and the advancement of public services.”

The announcement was made following a meeting between Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and President Abdulla Yameen with the Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives, Yu Hongyao.

The grant aid comes at a time the Maldives is facing dire economic circumstances, with the government unable to afford its huge recurrent expenditure on a bloated civil service and failing to pay millions of dollars owed to state-owned companies for services such as oil and electricity.

The State Trading Organisation (STO), the country’s main importer and wholesaler which brings in most of the Maldives’ basic commodities such as food and oil, warned of oil shortages in November after it was unable to pay a US$20 million debt to suppliers.

The central bank eventually bailed out the STO by drawing on the Maldives’ dwindling foreign currency reserves, but warned the country was on the verge of needing to print money, while state debt reached MVR 30 billion (US$1.9 billion).

The US$100 million fishing industry is about to be hit in 2014 by the decision of the country’s top export partner – Europe – refusing to extend the Maldives’ duty-free status due to its failure to ratify international conventions on freedom of religion and women’s rights.

The government this week said it would look to sell fish to the Arab and Malaysian markets by certifying Maldivian fish as ‘halal’.

The Maldives’ other major industry, tourism, meanwhile flat-lined in 2012 with the number of tourist bed nights falling 0.1 percent, even as annual arrivals continued to increase, this week topping one million.

The Tourism Ministry revealed that Chinese tourists now represented 30.8 percent of the total arrivals to the Maldives, the highest arrival from a single source market, however the Finance Ministry observed that this had not been matched with new revenue.

“As the most number of tourists to the country now come from China, we note that the low number of nights on average that a Chinese tourist spends in the Maldives has an adverse effect on the tourism sector’s GDP,” read the Finance Ministry’s ‘Fiscal and Economic Outlook: 2012 to 2016’ report.

The enthusiasm of the Maldives’ usual aid partners dwindled over two years of democratic uncertainty following President Mohamed Nasheed’s ousting by mutinying police in February 2012, while others – particularly Scandinavian countries lost interest once the Maldives graduated from ‘least developed’ to ‘middle income’ in 2011.

This was to some extent offset by extensive funding for climate change adaption and mitigation efforts across the country, ranging from waste management to desalination projects, that followed the Maldives’ grandstanding at international climate events.

President Yameen has pledged to tackle the Maldives’ economic woes by exploring and drilling for oil, as part of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) campaign pledges.


MDP MP Ghafoor jailed as Supreme Court annuls parliamentary immunities

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has deplored the sudden jailing of its MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, despite promises of “leniency” from the government.

Ghafoor was sentenced in absentia to six months in prison for contempt of court, after failing to comply with police summons and evading authorities for almost a month by hiding in the parliament building.

Ghafoor contended that the court was deliberately scheduling hearings during critical votes and debates, violating the Parliamentary Privileges Act which requires MPs be allowed to be present during voting.

The Supreme Court on Thursday annulled several articles of the Privileges Act, declaring that this requirement was unconstitutional.

The Home Ministry then told local media that Ghafoor had been taken to Maafushi prison to serve his six month sentence, and would not be returned to Male for parliament sittings.

The Supreme Court in October stripped MDP-aligned MPs Ali Azim and Mohamed Nashiz of their seats, delivering the verdict in absentia in what the opposition labelled a “purge” of its majority. Azim was eventually arrested after the military stormed the parliament building and took him into custody.

The campaign of dismissals and imprisonment of opposition MPs reduces their lead in parliament ahead of critical votes on approval of President Yameen’s new cabinet ministers, as well as the passing of the government’s revised budget.

In a statement, the MDP condemned the jailing of its MP and spokesperson, noting that this came despite assurances from new Home Minister Umar Naseer that the government would treat the case with “leniency”.

“He was [initially] arrested in clear violation of the Parliamentary Privileges Act, which states that MPs cannot be arrested while a no-confidence motion against a government minister is pending,” the party stated.

“On Thursday the Maldives Supreme Court – an institution widely discredited as partisan in recent months – annulled the Parliamentary Privileges Act, in an apparent attempt to target MDP MPs such as Hamid,” it added.

MDP deputy chairperson Ali Shiyam observed that President Yameen, “who won the presidency in contested circumstances with 52% of the vote, said he would rule as a president for ‘all Maldivians’.”

“Sadly, within days of his presidency, the courts – which are de facto controlled by the executive – have started a witch-hunt against MDP MPs. This does not bode well for co-operation or compromise between the opposition and the ruling administration,” he said.


Half the population under 25, statistics reveal

Half the 330,652-strong population of the Maldives are below the age of 25, according to the 2013 yearbook published by the Department of National Planning.

However despite the huge youth demographic, the statistics suggest the education system is failing young people, with just 19 percent of students going on to higher secondary education.

Moreover while just 7 percent of the country’s 408 schools are located in Male, a third of all students in the Maldives attend these institutions. Of their teachers, 32 percent are foreigners, while 14 percent have had no training.

The civil service meanwhile remains the country’s largest employer at 17,657 staff (5.34 percent of the population), but also highlights the country’s considerable wealth disparity. 47 percent of civil servants are paid less that MVR 5000 (US$330) a month, while just one percent are paid more than MVR 10,000 (US$660).

Statistics meanwhile show that while the government received MVR 9.8 billion (US$635.5 million) in revenue and grants, total expenditure was MVR 14.2 billion (US$921 million) – 74 percent of this on recurrent expenditure, and representing a total shortfall of US$285.5 million.

Approximately MVR 970 million (US$62.9 million) was spent on social protection programs such as pensions. Of this money, 782 million (US$50.7 million) was spent on the Aasandha universal healthcare scheme.

While the country’s exports were valued at MVR 2.5 billion (US$155.6 million), imports were MVR 23.9 billion (US$1.54 billion). Meanwhile, almost all of the MVR 14.5 billion (US$940 million) worth of loans and advances issued by banks to the private sector were for tourism and resort development. Annual inflation sat at 10.9 percent,

Tourism capacity at the end of 2012 was 25,571 beds, with an average occupancy rate of 70.6 percent and average tourist stay of 6.7 nights.


Disgraced CSC chief appointed Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia

President Abdulla Yameen has appointed disgraced Civil Service Commission head Mohamed Fahmy Hassan as the Maldives’ deputy high commissioner to Malaysia.

Fahmy was dismissed from his post by parliament last year, after he was found to have sexually harassed a female staff member at the Commission.

However Fahmy’s dismissal was blocked as “unconstitutional” in a sudden injunction issued by the Supreme Court, preventing President Mohamed Waheed from appointing Fahmy’s replacement, Fathimath Reeni Abdu Sattar.

The stand-off led to both CSC heads arriving for work, and the CSC eventually blocking Fahmy from accessing its offices in September 2013. Minivan News was told by a CSC source at the time that Fahmy’s fingerprint access was rescinded after the former commissioner continued to come to the office for a few minutes every day.

The head of the CSC sits on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the judicial watchdog body mired in controversy and accused of wanton politicisation and gross misconduct, and thus has influence over the judiciary.

Fahmy was alleged to have called a female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”it won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

According to local media, the woman told her family about the incident, who then called Fahmy. Fahmy then sent her a text message apologising for the incident, reportedly stating, ”I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations, Fahmy told Minivan News previously that the female staff member had made up the allegation after she learned she had not won a scholarship to Singapore offered by the CSC.


State Trading Organisation bankrupt: President Yameen

The State Trading Organisation (STO) is bankrupt, President Abdulla Yameen revealed at a rally in Hulhumale on Friday night, according to local media reports.

The state-owned STO is the country’s primary wholesaler, responsible for bringing in the vast majority of basic foodstuffs such as rice and flour, as well as other imported commodities such as electrical goods.

It also imports the vast majority of the Maldives’ oil, used to fuel fishing and transport vessels, diesel generators, air-conditioners and water desalination plants.

The STO sparked fears of an impending oil shortage crisis in early November, after then Managing Director Shahid Ali warned the company would run out of oil as early as November 10 if it did not pay some of its US$20 million debt to suppliers.

Shahid told an emergency meeting of parliament that government-owned companies had failed to pay the STO the almost US$40 million it was owed, and appealed to the central bank to use the foreign currency reserves to bail it out of its debt.

Central bank governor Fazeel Najeeb meanwhile warned that currency reserves were dwindling, and the state was on the verge of having to print money.

Speaking during Friday’s rally, President Yameen said “not only does STO not have dollars, it does not have Maldivian Rufiyaa either. Funding the oil import through STO is now a burden for the state.”

“I checked today where STO is now. By the time I left STO, the company had developed many commercial projects and STO was making MVR 154 million in profit. Today, STO is bankrupt. I am telling you, it is bankrupt. STO does not have money,” said Yameen, who chaired the organisation during the rule of his half-brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.


The tourism industry is generally insulated from Maldives’ financial woes by virtue of operating a separate dollar economy – a practice technically illegal under the country’s monetary regulations, but which reduces the industry’s exposure to the rufiya as well as rendering it unexchangable and creating a foreign currency shortage for local people.

However the tourism industry – indirectly responsible for up to 70 percent of the country’s GDP and up to 90 percent of its foreign exchange – is unable to import oil and other commodities independently and therefore is exposed to any supply shortages experienced by local suppliers of commodities such as oil.

In June 2013 resort operators and businesses across the country were forced to dramatically alter menus and even temporarily close entire restaurants after weeks of disruptions to the supply of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

The general manager of one property told Minivan News at the time that the LPG shortage had created a “food and beverage nightmare” that lasted three weeks, while some restaurants in Male were forced to temporarily close.

One of President Yameen’s early acts in office was to replace Shahid Ali as head of the STO with Adam Azim, brother of Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.


Tourism decline due to negligence in promoting destination: ‘Sun’ Shiyam

The decline in tourism arrivals from the Maldives’ traditional European markets is a result of the state’s failure to adequately promote the destination, resort tycoon and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam has declared.

The MDA allied with the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) for the recent election, in which PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen was declared President.

“Tourist arrivals from European markets have gone down more than ever before. Maldivians are not able to enjoy the real benefits, because of negligence in promoting tourism,” Shiyam alleged in local media.

Tourism marketing is overseen by the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) and Tourism Ministry, the minister of which, Ahmed Adheeb, was last week reappointed to the same post in Yameen’s government. The MMPRC’s former head, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports.

Shiyam warned of a deteriorating economic situation that could leave the government no other option than cost cutting.

According to a recent report by the Finance Ministry, tourism growth flat-lined in 2012 as a result of two years of political turmoil.

The tourism industry’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2012 declined by 0.1 percent following 15.8 percent growth in 2010 and 9.2 percent in 2011, the Finance Ministry revealed in a “Fiscal and Economic Outlook: 2012 to 2016″ statement included in the 2014 budget (Dhivehi) submitted to parliament.

“The main reason for this was the political turmoil the country faced in February 2012 and the decline in the number of days tourists spent in the country,” the report explained.

Tourism growth is measured in bed nights, as arrival figures – predicted to top one million in 2013 – do not necessarily give a clear picture of the industry’s performance.

“As the most number of tourists to the country now come from China, we note that the low number of nights on average that a Chinese tourist spends in the Maldives has an adverse effect on the tourism sector’s GDP,” noted the Finance Ministry’s report.

The Maldivian economy is largely dependent on tourism, which accounted for 28 percent of GDP on average in the past five years, and generated 38 percent of government revenue in 2012. Indirectly the industry is thought to contribute up to 70 percent of GDP, and 90 percent of all foreign exchange.

Much of that revenue is generated through the tourism GST, introduced during the Nasheed government amid resistance from many of the country’s resort tycoons. It is currently set at 8 percent, however the new government has warned it may increase it to 12 percent in an attempt to match its high levels of expenditure.


President Yameen urges ACC to investigate alleged Burma oil fraud: “We won’t try to cover up anything”

President Abdulla Yameen has asked the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate the alleged US$800 million oil fraud conducted by the State Trading Organisation (STO) during his chairmanship.

Speaking at a celebratory function held by the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) on Wednesday night, local media reported Yameen as stating “Why not investigate the case? I want the allegations against me investigated while I’m president. We won’t try to cover up anything.”

The allegations first surfaced in an Indian magazine article, which alleged Yameen was “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through the State Trading Organisation’s branch in Singapore and sell it on at a premium through an entity called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta.

The article drew on an investigation report by international accountancy firm Grant Thorton, commissioned by Nasheed’s government in March 2010 to investigate the oil sales after it obtained three hard drives full of financial information detailing transactions from 2002 to 2008. No digital data was available before 2002, and the paper trail was described as hazy”.

Yameen has previously acknowledged the trade but has disputed its illegality, describing the allegations as attempts at “political blackmail.”

“Myanmar, Vietnam, the STO is an entrepreneurial trade organisation. It trades [commodities like] oil, cement, sugar, rice to places in need. It’s perfectly legitimate. I was a perfectly clean minister while in Gayoom’s cabinet. They have nothing on me,” he told Minivan News following the publication of the Indian article.

“The truth is, towards the end of Nasheed’s government, the company that investigated the case had filed it to Singapore Appeal Court,” he told the PPM gathering last night.

“The case had been withdrawn from the court during Nasheed’s presidency, as requested by Nasheed, because there was nothing more to be investigated, no way forward. But until now, the government has not received any document that belongs to the company, that carries the company’s stamp. I went to Singapore twice and met with the lawyers,” the new president said.

Government pays penalty fees to halt investigation

In September this year the Finance Ministry confirmed the government had paid millions of dollars in contractual penalty fees to Grant Thornton, after last year terminating its contract to recover assets allegedly stolen during the 30 year regime of Yameen’s half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Under the terms of the contract, signed by the former Nasheed administration in July 2010, Grant Thornton would charge no fee for the investigation beyond costs such as flights and accommodation, instead taking a percentage of the assets recovered.

At the same time, Grant Thornton was entitled to charge a penalty fee of up to US$10 million should the government terminate the investigation, such as in the event it arrived at a political deal.

One of the first acts of President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government after 7 February 2012’s controversial transfer of power was to dissolve the Presidential Commission which had been overseeing Grant Thornton’s investigation, and terminate the agreement with the forensic accountants.

In August 2012, Attorney General Azima Shakoor issued a statement announcing that her office had received two invoices totalling US$358,000 and GBP£4.6 million from Grant Thorton, charges she claimed were for legal advice provided to Nasheed’s government.

The government paid an initial GBP£1.5 million (US$2.4 million) on 24 April 2013, with the remaining amounts to be paid in monthly installments of GBP£300,000 (US$476,000) each on May 22, June 27 and July 17.


Q&A: UK’s FCO State Minister Hugo Swire

Hugo Swire is Minister of State for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Swire was previously Minister of State in the Northern Ireland office 2010-2012, before moving to the FCO with responsibility for Latin America, Cuba, Australasia, Commonwealth countries and now Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

JJ Robinson: Following the recent election are there any concerns about a potential authoritarian reversal in the Maldives, given that many of the same cabinet have been reappointed, including senior figures during Gayoom’s regime, and that the new Foreign Minister is the daughter of the former 30 year autocrat?

Hugo Swire: They’ve only made five appointments so it’s early days. In a small community you have the political class is a small pool to choose from, so you would expect to continuity to some extent.

Regarding the new government, we’ve issued our congratulations. It’s clear how we felt about the delayed elections – we felt that was wrong and we made our views very clear. But at the end of the day what we wanted were clear, transparent and fair elections. I’ve spoken to a number of people and election observers, and they say unanimously these elections may have been delayed, but they were transparent and fair.

It’s not for us to tell a sovereign government how to put together their cabinet. I had lunch with the new foreign minister and I find her very agreeable and very positive, and I’m sure she’s someone we will work together with very closely. I also met the acting Foreign Secretary; we are getting to know them and talked about areas of mutual concern. A good start – I’m the first minister to be in the Maldives following the recent general election, and I’m proud the UK was here first.

JJ: Some observers, while praising the conduct of the polls, have also privately questioned their fairness given the high level of Supreme Court involvement in deciding when they went ahead, the veto that was exercised over the polls on multiple occasions by candidates due to the Supreme Court’s judgement, obstruction on one occasion by the police, and finally the delay by a week which saw the winning coalition negotiation reached. Given that the polls were credible, to what extent to you consider them to have been fair?

HS: At the end of the day we saw a very high turnout – one which many countries such as the UK would be very proud to achieve, which shows that this is a maturing democracy where people engaged in the system. They’ve come up with a solution, there have been no complaints to us or the international community about the transparency or fairness of the elections, and there were a huge number of observers here.

We thought the elections should not have been delayed and we made our position very clear as I’ve said. At the end of the day I like to look forward, and we’re got these local council elections that have just been announced today that are now going to be in January, and also the Majlis elections in May.

Of course I think there are some issues with the Supreme Court’s decision requiring every candidate to sign every bit of paper, and I think that becomes very difficult with local council elections. There are issues like that which should probably be looked at

The Elections Commission has its work cut out for in over the next six months. They did a great job, incidentally.

JJ: You yourself speaking recently in the UK parliament on this topic referred to the conduct of the Supreme Court, in particular the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s statement on the behaviour of the Supreme Court and the judiciary.

What is the prospect now for judicial reform in the Maldives? Is there a need for that reform, and lastly how do you think the international community would react if, for example, the Nasheed trial was now reopened?

HS: In terms of judicial reform there is an issue with the training of judges here, of which there are about 170 around the country. Then you have the Supreme Court itself, and I know this has been an issue during the elections as to the power of the Supreme Court versus Parliament. This is something I’ve discussed with parliamentarians and others, and something that clearly needs to be resolved. I think the Commonwealth, and the UK independently, are in a good position to bring some of our expertise if asked to do so.

But at the end of the day you are dealing with a sovereign country so we’re not going to insist on anything.

In terms of your remarks about Nasheed, we’ve made it very clear that we think this is a government that has a mandate to govern in coalition and should be a government that reaches out to all. After all, an awful lot of people voted for Nasheed, and if they want to have a harmonious government going forward in the spirit they all signed up to in their speeches over the last 24 hours, we think it would be most unwise to start dividing society again by pursuing any kind of retribution or recrimination as a result of these elections. So we’re pretty clear on that front.

JJ: You mention the Commonwealth’s engagement. When the Maldives was placed on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)’s agenda (it has since been taken off), the outgoing President Mohamed Waheed declared this was something “of no concern”. Former President Gayoom has also publicly called for the Maldives to leave the Commonwealth. Do you think this is something that would damage the Maldives, or do you think the Maldives should make up its mind as to whether [being in the Commonwealth] is in its sovereign interest?

HS: I think both. I think it is absolutely the up to the Maldives to make up its mind on the subject, after all it is as you say a sovereign government and the Commonwealth is a coalition of the willing, a club of like-minded people who share common approaches and ideals; it’s not a compulsory club. But is it in the Maldives’ best interests to be in the Commonwealth? Most certainly it is.

The Commonwealth stretches across the world, it is 53 countries, trade is anything up to 50 percent cheaper to conduct inside the Commonwealth. It is a good family of nations and we’ve all signed up to the Commonwealth charter which is very strong on universal human rights. It’s a great club to be a member of and I think the Maldives should be proud of being a Commonwealth member, and I think they have a part to play.

JJ: The Maldives’ economic situation is pretty dire, and one of the ongoing challenges has been because of the democratic uncertainty up until the election, a lot of the donor aid was reticent. Do you see the Maldives receiving more bilateral aid now it has a clear democratic mandate, and what kind of aid do you think the UK might be in a position to provide?

HS: Putting together a coalition government when you’ve inherited a difficult economic legacy is something which is pretty familiar to us, because it’s something we did in May 2010. So I can empathise.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) came up with five major things some time ago, and I’m not sure if they’ve been enacted in the way they might have been, such as cutting the size of the state and finding other ways to get more taxation.

I think the government has done a lot in terms of taxation and there is a wider tax base than there was before, but I think there are clearly other things they could do. The two main industries are fishing and tourism – there are up to 1500 British tourists in the Maldives at any one time so we’re a major player here. I was talking today about it – they are looking at other ways of expanding on the tourism theme, and other ways of doing it.

Clearly the economy here is dependent on just a few things. One of things [the new government] is going to look at is whether there are hydrocarbons here – drilling. I understand there was some offshore exploration some years ago. That would be a game-changer if they found oil.

In terms of international aid that is something that would be looked at by my colleagues, if the Maldives meets the criteria. But I think there are huge opportunities here that are unexploited, and the government needs to show some determination to get the budget under control and grow the economy: reducing the public sector, growing the private sector and increasing the tax take, and attracting inward investment.

It comes back to the same argument. In order to attract inward investment, you have to have a certainty and clarity for people investing, and that means judicial independence, transparency of government and lack of corruption. That’s how you attract inward investment, that’s how the UK does it, that’s the road any country seeking to attract serious investment needs to go down.

JJ: Final questioned – you mentioned oil drilling, which is one of the things the new President and his coalition partner have suggested. That would seem to move the Maldives away from this eco-friendly, carbon-neutral image that the Nasheed government sought to promote. How do you think a move towards drilling would affect the Maldives, and would it impact things like climate change donors?

HS: We do this in the UK – we consider ourselves quite a green government. We have green taxes and we promote renewable energy, biomass, offshore and onshore wind, and yet we have drilling in the North Sea. So I dont think the two are confused or conflated.

Obviously in terms of the economy, as I said, if they find oil here that is a game-changer. We did have a long discussion at lunch about alternative energy, offshore windfarms and solar, and other such ways the Maldives could meet its targets. It’s enormously important – rising sea levels represent a real threat, and after the tsunami’s various populations were relocated. Of course if you’re living here climate change is a real problem for you. But I don’t think oil drilling necessarily can be anything other than beneficial, if done in a sensitive way.


International community welcomes end of democratic uncertainty, notes high voter turnout

The international community has welcomed the conclusion of the Maldivian electoral process, after two months and six attempts at polls that suffered delays, annulments and obstruction.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen was sworn in as President yesterday, after a last-minute coalition with resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim netted him 51.39 percent in Saturday’s run-off vote against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) recalled its earlier decision to place the Maldives on its agenda due to concerns about democratic progress in the country.

“Ministers welcomed the successful conclusion of the presidential election and noted the interim statement of the Commonwealth Observer Group, which stated that the election had been “credible and peaceful”. They congratulated the people of Maldives for showing their firm commitment to democracy, and for exercising their franchise in record numbers,” read a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also observed in a statement that people in the Maldives “turned out to vote in impressive numbers, showing their determination to choose their next president, despite the many obstacles and delays.”

“The close contest highlights the need for the new administration to engage the opposition in a constructive manner and to lead the country in the interest of all Maldivians,” the UN statement read.

“The Secretary-General strongly urges all political leaders, state institutions and the Maldivian people to work urgently toward genuine reconciliation and to advance the country’s democratic process through long-term institutional reforms, in particular strengthening the judiciary and accountability mechanisms, and promoting a national dialogue.”

The UK’s State Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, said he “congratulates the people of the Maldives for showing their commitment to democracy, as evidenced by the very high turnout in the presidential election.”

“I urge the new government and the opposition to work together constructively in the interests of all Maldivians and to avoid any acts of recrimination or retribution,” said Swire, who is currently visiting the Maldives,

“It is important that the forthcoming local and parliamentary elections go ahead in line with work of the Elections Commission and are not subject to the delay and legal interventions that marred the presidential elections. The UK looks forward to working with the new government,” he added.

The US Embassy in Colombo congratulated Yameen on his election as president, noting that “extraordinarily high turnout on November 16 was a tribute to the Maldivian people’s commitment to the democratic process and democratic values. The United States Government reiterates its friendship with the Maldivian people as they work to build a peaceful and prosperous future.”

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird declared: “After a turbulent period in the Maldives’ young democracy, a new government has finally been elected. Canada congratulates the people of the Maldives for once again exercising their fundamental democratic right to vote in a peaceful manner, under the capable stewardship of the Elections Commission.”

“Confidence in the democratic process has been seriously undermined since the events of last year, particularly by the Supreme Court’s repeated delays to this election,” Baird noted.

“After such a close result, it is now incumbent upon President Abdulla Yameen to begin the process of reconciliation and govern for the whole country. Former President Mohamed Nasheed, the nation’s first democratically elected President, has shown magnanimity in defeat, and hopes for the future will be raised if all parties come together to establish positive working relations,” he stated.

“Democracy is not just about the counting of ballot papers – it is about principled voting, a strong civil society, a trusted judiciary, free media, effective opposition and responsible governance. It is a journey, not a destination. Canada and the international community will remain watchful for progress in this journey.”