Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has requested government authorities remove SAARC monuments that contradict Islam, placed in different areas around Addu City.
Dr Bari did not give further information about the matter to Minivan News, but confirmed that the media reports about the request he made were correct.
Local media have reported that Dr Bari has asked the President’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and Addu City Council to take down the offending SAARC monuments, although he did not specify which.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the government will respect Dr Bari’s decision.
‘’All concerned authorities will respect the word of Dr Bari,” Zuhair said, but added that it was “very difficult for the government to return a monument gifted to the government, especially when it is handed to us by another Islamic country,’’ he said.‘’If you think of it diplomatically, it is very difficult.’’
Zuhair said the Islamic Minister’s request will be forwarded to the President, who will decide whether or not to remove the monuments as soon as he comes back to office after his post-SAARC vacation.
Former President of Adhaalath Party and current State Islamic Minister, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, today told Minivan News that he was not informed of the decision of the Islamic Minister.
‘’I do not know anything about it, nor did the Minister discuss anything like that with me,’’ Sheikh Rasheed said.
He said that the monuments “do not contradict the religion of Islam.”
‘’They were all given to us by member countries of SAARC, and represent their countries. The Pakistan monument showed how Pakistan became an Islamic country from its Buddhist origins,’’ he said. ‘’Although the monument does not contradict Islam, it should not be kept there if Maldivian citizens do not want it to be there.’’
The Pakistani monument was toppled during the SAARC Summit and subsequently set ablaze, and eventually stolen outright. The Sri Lankan monument, a statue of lion, was reported yesterday to have been coated in crude oil.
However Deputy Sri Lankan High Commissioner Shaanthi Sudusinghe told Minivan News today that she had been informed by the Addu City Mayor that the reports were a domestic political issue, and that the Sri Lankan monument had not been vandalised.
“He said the monument was made of carved stone and had black characteristics,” Sudusinghe said, “and that the monuments were being afforded full protection.”
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s political party, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), this week hailed the vandals of the Pakistani monument to be “national heroes”, and vowed to fight for their release from police custody in court.
Yesterday, PPM filed a case with police against the Maldives Customs Department for allowing the monuments to be imported to the Maldives.