The Maldives delegation to the 36th UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) General Conference was forced to return without participating in yesterday’s vote to grant full membership to Palestine, Press Secretary to the President Mohamed Zuhair has said.
Zuhair said the delegation, which included Education Minister Mariyam Shifa and Deputy Education Minister Dr Abdulla Nazeer, were unaware of a vote when they attended the bi-annual meeting of the UN cultural agency.
“They were travelling on a UNESCO ticket and they had difficulties in extending their stay, besides Education Minister had to attend a [parliamentary] committee meeting the next day,” Zuhair explained. “Due to those reasons they were forced to return but that does not mean that the Maldives worked against the Palestine resolution. It was co-sponsored by the Maldives and we did a lot of campaigning for it.”
The resolution was adopted with 107 countries voting in favour, 14 voting against and 52 abstaining. The vote signaled a significant symbolic victory for Palestine’s bid for statehood ahead of a similar vote at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Zuhair said the Ambassador to France, Dr Farhanaz Faisal, was in the Maldives at the time and Ambassador to Geneva, Ibthisham Adam, was unable to attend on short notice.
Opposition parties, including Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party, has meanwhile condemned the non-participation and dismissed the reasons provided as “unacceptable.”
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Media Coordinator MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that the government’s stated reasons for the non-participation was very irresponsible.
“What they are saying to defend themselves is a big joke to me and does not make much sense,” said Nihan. “The campaign they did and the co-sponsoring the resolution is a big drama the government played.”
The Vili-Maafanu MP claimed the last time he sent a notice to the Education Minister to attend a parliament committee, she appared one and half month later.
“So the cabinet ministers in this government does not give that much attention to attend committee meetings and saying that they returned without taking part in the vote does not make any sense at all,”
He alleged the absence of the Maldives delegation was the result of conversations between former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal and Israeli intelligence agency MOSSAD revealed by the Wikileaks US State Department cables
Nihan claimed the current government had “secret relations with Israel” and suggested hidden reasons behind the non-participation.
Press Secretary Zuhair however dismissed the insinuations as attempts by the opposition to “politicise the matter and mislead the public.”
“The Maldives will be one country that worked most to make the Palestine resolution get passed,” he said.