Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed
Former members of President Mohamed Nasheed’s press team have denied charges of ‘excessive’ spending on PR during his term, arguing the Maldives had enjoyed an enviable international reputation on democracy, human rights, and the environment.
Yesterday (January 14), Haveeru published an article titled ‘Excessive state expenditure on President Nasheed’s film and press team’, claiming the President’s Office had spent MVR2.86 million (US$185,000) on three British employees.
According to Haveeru, the President’s Office spent MVR1.16 million on Communications Advisor Paul Roberts, MVR1.05 million on lawyer Jude Laing and MVR650,000 on Climate Change Advisor Mark Lynas.
Sun Online also reported having obtained the same documents this week (January 13).
Responding to questions regarding President Abdulla Yameen’s frequent trips abroad, President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz told Minivan News the day before (January 12) that he would gladly comply with the spirit of the Information Act: “even if president Nasheed’s travel expenses and information on how many foreigners he employed, paid by the state, was requested”.
The President’s Office was not responding to calls at the time of publication.
Roberts has today said he had been employed with the press team under former Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair for a monthly salary of MVR29,000 in 2009 and MVR34,000 from 2010 onwards.
“During President Nasheed’s tenure, the Maldives achieved an enviable international reputation, and was widely hailed internationally as a beacon of democracy and human rights. The country and its president also became leading global voices in the fight against climate change,” he said in an email.
Roberts noted that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had employed PR firm Hill and Knowlton at a total cost of MVR26 million (US$1.6 million) while Nasheed’s successor Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan hired Ruder Finn for a reported MVR2.3 million (US$150,000) per month.
Lynas – author of prize winning book ‘Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet’ – said he had worked pro bono for Nasheed during the first few months of his appointment as Climate Change Advisor in 2009 before later being paid a small stipend of US$950.
In an email to Minivan News, he said his responsibilities included providing scientific advice on the latest evidence and projections for climate change impacts, and suggestions on how the Maldives could further its international climate advocacy work on plans to become carbon neutral by 2020.
For the duration of his posting, Lynas was based in Oxford, UK. However, he attended various climate meetings as a Maldives climate advisor – including UN negotiations in South Africa, Mexico, Chile, Malawi, and Samoa.
“During the period of my employment, under President Nasheed’s administration, the Maldives was one of the most visible nations in the world in terms of diplomacy and influence in climate change,” Lynas said.
“Unfortunately, events since then have shown that other political leaders and forces do not share basic values of human rights, democracy and freedom of the press – sadly this has undermined the country’s reputation on the international stage, on climate change as well as other issues.”
Haveeru also said it had obtained documents that show the President’s Office bore the expenses of the San Francisco based Actual Film crew during the filming of the ‘Island President’.
The award winning documentary was produced at a cost of US$1.5 million with funds from the Ford Foundation, the Sundance Institute, American Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Atlantic Foundation.
The paper did not reveal the amount spent on the crew of Actual Films, but said leaked documents did not reveal details of the expenses born by the state.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party suggested responses to this week’s media coverage should be obtained from the individuals concerned. Minivan News is awaiting a reply from Actual Films and Jude Laing.
Related to this story