Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz yesterda walked out of a meeting with several young people claiming to represent the ‘concerned youth’ behind the recent week of violent protests in the capital Male’.
Governor of Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) Fazeel Najeeb also attended the meeting.
The faction of the opposition party loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom have maintained that the protests over rising commodity prices were “youth-led”.
‘’I waited in the meeting until we could address the real issues, but they kept on criticising the government policy and some of the government projects,’’ Inaz told Minivan News. ‘’I did not want to have a heated political debate – we went there to negotiate with the youth regarding the dollar issues, not for a political debate.’’
Inaz claimed that the youth delegation included leader of the opposition-allied People’s Alliance (PA) sports wing, and two others he claimed were ‘’new political figures’’ created by senior party officials.
Inaz explained that government needs to find ways to increase its revenue.
‘’Currently 75 percent of the government’s revenue is spent on salaries. The government did try to decrease the salaries but other state institutions did not support the decision,’’ he said. ‘’There are other necessary things to do such as providing electricity, fix sewerage systems and supply water to those in need.’’
Spokesperson from the youth delegation, Mohamed Ahsan, said the delegation was unable to clarify information from the Finance Ministry as the minister left the meeting.
‘’However, the MMA officials were very cooperative,” he said. “We found out that the government have not been implementing the MMA’s suggestions to its full extent,’’ said Ahsan. ‘’The MMA clarified almost all the information we required.’’
He also said the finance minister “took it politically” because a PA member was present at the meeting.
‘’We have decided to recommence the protests, but due to exams we have temporarily delayed it,’’ he said. ‘’Once the examinations are over we will restart the protests.’’
A first round of negotiations held last week were described as “very upsetting” by the opposition’s Gayoom faction after the delegation accused President’s Office represenative Shauna Aminath of stating that the “political solution” to the country’s economic woes was the arrest for the former President.
Shauna did not comment on whether she had suggested Gayoom be arrested, and said the government was unable to officially respond to the delegation because it was unclear who they officially represented.
“We met with four people who claimed to represent youth,” she said. “They presented a piece of paper they said was a youth proposal, but there was almost no discussion of what was on it.
“They talked a little about youth unemployment, and the rising price of milk, cooking oil and petrol. They said that young people did not have enough money to pay for coffees or petrol for their motorbikes.”