Nepal’s monument, a gift to the Maldives in commemoration of the 2011 SAARC summit, was stolen today around 1:00pm during a police shift change, authorities have confirmed.
Police were to guard the monument until 6:00pm, and it was confirmed present at noon today. It has not been seen since.
“The police were on duty until 12:00pm today,” said Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam. “The monument was taken when the police shift changed.”
Shiyam said police have launched an investigation, but could not provide detail at the present time.
Addu City Mayor Abdullah Sodig confirmed the theft and said the remaining monuments would be placed under 24-hour surveillance.
“We regret what has happened,” he told Minivan News. Sodig described the Nepalese monument as a coat of arms that resembles the country’s national symbol. “It was not a religious monument. There is some political motive behind this theft,” he emphasised, citing “opposition party members” as likely suspects.
“Whoever has done this is very clever because they knew we were monitoring the monuments of Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh 24 hours, but the others were only being monitored until 6:00pm. The thief has clearly been monitoring police movements,” he observed.
The monument had been nailed to the pedestal. Approximately three feet square in size, Sodig believed that one person could carry it.
“I think we need to re-think our strategy”, Sodig concluded. “We may need to move them to another location in Addu with greater security.”
Member nations who attended the SAARC summit in Addu City in November gave monuments representing some aspect of their country or culture to the Maldives. Since then, the monuments from Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been vandalised, drawing international disdain. Pakistan’s monument was also stolen, and a mosque door damaged.
The Islamic Ministry has called for removal of the Pakistani monument, claiming that engravings of pagan symbols on the Pakistani monument are unlawful under the Contraband Act, Religious Unity Act and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, and should not be displayed publicly in the Maldives.
Pakistan’s monument allegedly portrayed its history, which includes a series of religious conversions over centuries.
Meanwhile, opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has hailed the vandals as “national heroes.” It subsequently filed a case accusing Customs for permitting the monuments to be brought into the Maldives.
On his personal website, Islamic Minister Dr Bari claimed that the attack on the mosque was in retaliation for the vandalism of the Sri Lankan statue, which protesters in Addu have criticised as idolatrous.
“All concerned authorities will respect the word of Dr Bari,” President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said at the time, 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.”
Responding earlier to reports of vandalism done to Sri Lanka’s national lion monument, Deputy Sri Lankan High Commissioner Shaanthi Sudusinghe told Minivan News that the Maldivian government had said it would repair and relocate the monuments from Addu City to the convention centre, where they could be given security.
No further conclusions regarding the monuments have been made.