Televised allegations by President spokeperson against Indian High Commissioner spark diplomatic incident

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii and Mariyath Mohamed.

The government has distanced itself from comments made at a rally on Friday by President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, after his attacks against Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay were picked up and widely reported in Indian media.

During a rally organised by parties of the ruling coalition, calling for the seizure and nationalisation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) from Indian infrastructure giant GMR, Riza described Mulay as a “traitor and enemy of the Maldives and the Maldivian people”, accusing him of taking bribes and threatening the government.

“Trade between the Maldives and India reaches billions. Indian tycoons have the biggest share in Maldives tourism.  Indian people are deepest in Maldivian business.  We have to protect the businesses of those who import and sell potatoes and onions from India. We also have to protect the businesses of those who import gravel and sand from India. It should not be GMR that [Mulay] should take into account,” Riza declared.

Riza alleged that Mulay had been using his influence as the High Commissioner to threaten the Maldivian government, following the calls against GMR.

“Today, like someone who has chilli smoke on his eyes, like someone who has ants at his feet who is threatening us Maldivians, the Indian ambassador here has forgotten what his job here in Maldives is. We are not in the mood to allow him to commit the crimes he is committing in our country,” he told to crowd.

“I saw two folks who work in the Indian embassy go out of [this gathering] talking to a Bangladeshi. They asked him to take photos of the gathering. When this Bangladeshi was here taking photos, I confronted him and asked who are you to take photos? He then said his name was Aboobakr. I told him to leave immediately, just the way I am saying GMR must also leave immediately,” Riza said.

Riza added that the Maldives and India will always remain “good friends” and that the people of Maldives are so interconnected with Indians, but the “problem is that there are a few Indian traitors who take bribes”.

“A diplomat’s job is to work for his country and people and not to protect the interests of one private company… He is a traitor and enemy of Maldives and Maldivian people. We don’t want these kind of diplomats on our soil,” Riza said.

“Today we are also calling on for something else. On the day when we get GMR out of the Maldives, Mulay must also get out of here!”

Following several nights of poorly-attended rallies at the artificial beach, Minivan News observed more than a thousand present on Friday.

Noticing an expatriate in attendance reading a copy of local Dhivehi newspaper Haveeru, Minivan News asked what he was doing: “Boss asked me to look Maldivian,” the expatriate replied.

Riza’s comments were widely reported in Indian media.

Television channel Times Now described the “vicious targeting of the Indian envoy as leaving “a bitter taste”, and sparking a “huge diplomatic row”.

At time of press the story had also been picked up by the Hindu and the Indian Express.

Indian response

The remarks were quickly met with concern and condemnation by the Indian High Commission, which issued a statement dismissing the Presidential spokesperson’s allegations as being “against the diplomatic protocol”.

“We have told the government of Maldives that settling issues of huge mutual interest cannot be done on public space or on stage. This has to be done through discussion,” the High Commission said in a statement.

The Indian High Commission also made it clear that India would safeguard its interests including the investments of Indian companies.

“Similarly, all agreements signed by the previous governments will also be safeguarded and as such we have expressed our concern in very strong words to the government of Maldives. And we have also conveyed that India would safeguard the country’s interest, including these related to our investment,” it added.

The statement noted that the government’s issues with GMR were now the subject of arbitration in Singapore.

“If arbitration fails they (GMR and the government of Maldives) could find mutually accepted recourse either by going to the court of law or may be finding other mechanism available,” the High Commission stated, noting that President Waheed had personally given assurances to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that all the Indian investments, including GMR, would be protected and safeguarded.

“Our relations have been very strong and lot of goodwill have been invested in it. India is the Maldives’ largest investment partner, India is the largest technical and capacity building partner. India’s trade, aid and development partnership is also the biggest one,” the statement concluded.

Maldivian government retreats

Following complaints from the Indian government, the Maldivian government issued a statement on Saturday dissociating itself from comments made by Riza “and some other government officials, at a gathering held last evening against the involvement of GMR in the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.”

“The gathering was organised by certain political parties including some members of the public. The views expressed at the gathering by Mr Abbas Adil Riza, though his own views, are regrettable, and do not reflect the views of the Government of Maldives, particularly those made against the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Mr D. M. Mulay,” the statement added.

Media Secretary of President’s Office, Masood Imad, told local newspaper Haveeru that Riza could have made the statements in a more “diplomatic way” and added that the Ministry of Foreign affairs has begun looking into Riza’s statements.

Political parties on both sides of the political divide, including the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and even Riza’s own Jumhoree Party (JP), condemned his remarks.

The DRP in a statement claimed that party was of the view that the government and President Waheed should both apologise to Mulay and that such concerns should be raised in a more “ethical” and “diplomatic” manner.

JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim stated that Riza’s comments “go against the international standards of diplomacy, we are saddened by it and condemn it.”

The MDP also released a statement condemning Riza’s remarks, adding that the “baseless criminal accusations” were “highly concerning”.

“These undiplomatic, irresponsible, vulgar statements made towards a high-ranking diplomat of a neighbouring nation were initiated by the President’s spokesperson at a public gathering that was televised nationwide. MDP further condemns in the strongest terms, the similar public statements made by the president of a political party and by other political leaders at the gathering,” the party said.

However the MDP also has a track record of making accusations against Mulay.

MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and former Former National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal in May alleged that Mulay had played down the tumultuous political turmoil and change of government on February 7 as an “internal matter”, despite being able to “see what was happening from his window. The whole coup was being telecast live. As a diplomat, he should’ve known that the whole country was in chaos.”

“[Mulay] became so powerful that he started behaving like the prime minister and not a high commissioner,” said Manik.

“In early 2011, we felt that Mulay was drifting away from the MDP. He wanted to meet leaders of opposition parties. He wanted to be invited to all official functions that took place in Maldives. He was invited to many government functions, but not all. We found that a lot of companies were coming [to the country] for business through Mulay. We were floating tenders for big projects. He would act like a middleman,” Manik alleged to Open magazine.

“Mulay would visit various [Maldivian] islands with his Indian friends, many of them businessmen. The government did not know who they were. Mulay has good connections with opposition parties, particularly Gayoom’s party,” he further claimed.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs responded at the time: “We do not think it is appropriate to bring our High Commissioner into the discourse. He enjoys our full confidence,” while Mulay himself at dismissed the allegations as “completely baseless, a flight of fancy.”

Cash-strapped Maldives turns to India

Friday’s diplomatic incident follows urgent warnings from Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad in late October that the Maldives would be unable to pay state salaries for the rest of the year without a further US$25 million loan from the Indian government.

The US$25 million was agreed upon in September as part of the $US100 million standby credit facility signed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2011.

Jihad told local media at the time that he believed the loan was being delayed due to the ongoing controversy over GMR’s development of INIA.

Since coming to power Waheed’s government has committed to reimbursing civil servants for wage reductions made during the austerity measures of the previous government, amounting to Rf443.7 million (US$28.8 million), to be disbursed in monthly instalments over 12 months from July.

The overall deficit for government expenditure has already reached over MVR 2billion (US$129 million). Jihad told the Majlis’ Finance Committee that he expected this figure to rise to MVR 6 billion (US$387million) by year’s end – 28 percent of GDP – alleging that the previous government left unpaid bills equal to over one third of this anticipated deficit.

Former Minister of Economic Development Mahmood Razee told Minivan News that this increased expenditure in the face of a pre-existing deficit represented the government “ignoring reality.”

Foreign investment concern

GMR is not the only Indian company to have expressed concern over political interference derailing their substantial investments in the country, according to a recent report in India’s Business Standard publication.

Officials involved in the Apex Realty housing development project – a joint venture between developers SG18 and Indian super-conglomerate TATA – told the Standard that the government was attempting to take over the site in Male’ given to the company, with the intention of building a new Supreme Court.

“A recent meeting held with the Maldivian Housing Minister is said to have ended abruptly with officials from the firm and the Indian High Commission being asked to leave,” the Standard reported.

GMR has meanwhile been forced to halt construction of the new terminal by the new government. Assorted parties now in the ruling coalition had opposed the handling of its concession agreement to manage and develop INIA while in opposition.

The company has previously sought to downplay its issues with the government in the media, however “public statements and press conferences of some government ministers and coalition party leaders are clearly aimed at arousing public sentiments against GMR and creating undue challenges for us,” the company told the Standard.

“To gain political advantage, some elements of the government itself have started hampering the smooth functioning and development of the airport,” the company added.

The comments follow a US$2.2 million bill handed to the government’s side of the airport contract – the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) – following a third quarter in which the airport developer deducted the airport development charge (ADC) stipulated in its contract from concession fees due the state – the consequence of a Civil Court ruling in September won by the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) while in opposition.

In the first quarter of 2012 the government received US$525,355 of an expected US$8.7 million, after the deduction of the ADC. That was followed by a US$1.5 million bill for the second quarter, after the ADC payable eclipsed the revenue due the government.

Combined with the third quarter payment due, the government now owes the airport developer US$3.7 million.


28 thoughts on “Televised allegations by President spokeperson against Indian High Commissioner spark diplomatic incident”

  1. The cow people can't be allow to take hard earned Muslim money through corrupt crony gmr,

  2. some politicians are playing against Waheed. Waheed is playing against Gayyoom. MDP is watching. DRP as well. The truth of the matter is that INDIA is a wise country which takes actions after detailed consideration and INDIA will nto react. But some Indians as individuals may react. I hope that will not happen. Like wise some Maldivians in Bangalore are being harrased. This is the SAD side of the story. Dr. Waheed and Political Coalition including Gayyoom and Gasim is responsible for this mess. They cant unfortunately UNFOLD it. I hope this will end positively as Maldives is dependent on her Big Brother INDIA a lot. Its not Mulley. Its the State of India and State of Maldives including the peoples. We should not disturb our friendship and economic cooperation becuase of some irresponsible politions and some ignorant activists like abbas adil riza, so called govt spokes person. Waheed should immediately dismiss him...

  3. You cannot beg with one hand and point fingers with the other.All politicians need to understand that the way forward is diplomacy and biting the hand that feeds us can only make us appear proud but ridiculous!!!

  4. Let me try to get this right. The December 23rd coalition is the very same coalition that took power on February 7th, after weeks of violent street demonstrations that culminated in the resignation of Mohammed Nasheed.

    The organisers of this anti-GMR rally is the aforementioned coalition. The speakers at this rally are holders of key posts in the current regime. After returning home from their rally, they hastily do press releases denying that their rally had anything to do with the "government"!

    So, can anyone explain the "duality" of these individuals? This is as exciting as quantum mechanics, since we are all familiar with phenomena such as wave-particle duality. The phenomenon of government employee by day, and rally speaker who openly goes against the policies of his employer by night is certainly a new one as far as I know.

  5. The opposition is having a field day as well they should.

    Politics sometimes requires governments to make decisions that lose them popularity and credibility. The current government has shot themselves thrice in the foot with;

    - The Abbas fiasco.

    - The appointment of disgraced former TCL MD Latheef to a government post.

    - The granting of a 69-year lease extension to Qasim's airport.

    These slip-ups will dominate the media for sometime. The government must be racking their brains or perhaps prepared to offer an effective distraction to once again regain lost confidence.

  6. Maldivians are yet to understand that the world is run by large corporations. National interest, wherever it raises its head, is destined to fall prey to the movement of capital. Maldives is a poor nation with a people who are unable to govern themselves and who do not possess the financial capital to progress even among the poorest countries. While I may not agree with GMR, the fact is that Maldives cannot develop an airport or, indeed, any infrastructure without outside help. While Maldivians may have an issue with GMR, they would be wise to use whatever political and intellectual skills they now have to work out an arrangement that gives them some future benefit. Harassing the Indian High Commissioner is not productive.

  7. on the one hand we have crazy anni accusing mulley of being the coup leader, and on the other we have waheed's crazy spokesperson abbas adil riza calling him a corrupt agent of gmr.what a crazy wonder we got in this mess

  8. Abbas Adil does not know what he is doing ? He better go to school to study politics before accepting a post like " Government Spokes person".

    Dr. Waheed need to fire him immediately. We can not have people like Abbas in key position .

  9. The master mind is Dictator Gayoom
    cause Gayoom is plaining to be the predident of Maldives. Now is the time Dr.Waheed should come out with truth of coup, n call people of Maldive to help him to get rid of coup master minded
    People. Be faithful to people of Maldives(No Gayoom)

  10. This is a dirty game played by DhiTV, Champa Family and the 23 December Ittihard suspecting terrorist group. The purpose it to polarize the situation regarding GMR and create political tension with India. So that, Champaa Afeefs Kaasaa holdings who owns Gan Airports company sells its majority share to a Chinese Army front company for hundreds of million dollars. It’s the common Maldivian who goes to India for medicals, holiday, and education.
    India is a religiously zealous country, the whole fiasco of associating GMR to Islamic jihaad can have a very damaging impacts to ordinary maldivians.
    Champa Afeef can go anywhere in the world with his dollar bundles, but ordinary Maldivians has to rely on India for education, health and food imports.

    Baadhee Waheed and Champaa Afeef is playing with fire. Destroying the year old friendship with India so that they get some money from the Chinese.

  11. @ tsk tsk on Mon, 12th Nov 2012 2:46 AM

    - The appointment of disgraced former TCL MD Latheef to a government post.

    See how quickly tsk tsk brought up the Latheef's case.

    Corruption or any other thing, the money should always stay with Gayooms gang.

  12. These claims what Riza has told were invented by President Nasheed and his party, when they lost power. They were the people who blame it to be Mulay who brought their government. But everyone knows, Nasheed's incompetency has brought his government. He got emotional to handle a small crisis and resign. Now they want make every small word and issue and trying hard to instigate issues between Maldives and other governments. Indian goverment iw well aware who is who in Maldives.

  13. It is not possible to think that Abbas Adil Riza can do this just on his own!

    Being the skunk and fool he is, it is rather possible to believe he is being prodded to do the dirty work for his dirty traitor bosses who now are hypocritically are distancing themselves from the incident to make it look they do not have a hand in this cowardly act.

    If Waheed's government was not in line with the idea and thinking of the organizers, they would have disbursed the crowd and put an end to it like they did to stop a non violent march by MDP on 8th February this year by yielding the baton and teargas to disburse this crowd and brought the organizeres to justice for their criminal act.

    If Gasim was not alined to the idea, his party personnel cannot bray like this donkey Adil!

    The fact is Waheed and Gasim yet again fallen into another trap of the many modules of an old mind!

  14. @Ekaloa

    So Nasheed is so powerful that he can even make the Spokesperson for the President's Office say what Nasheed wants him to say? Lol. Well then I guess Waheed better make sure that he has people loyal to him working for him eh...but then again, he may not even be able to come up with a Cabinet then.

  15. Abbas Adil Riza

    Busted on a drug smuggling case during case during Maumoons era, saved by AG Munnawar caz Adil is married to Munnawars sister.

    He is connected to Chinese. Adil leased out his house to Chinese Embassy officials.

  16. I wonder y Dr Coup doesn't hire another loose crew Doc....

    In my opinion I do not blame Riza but Dr Coup...

  17. Abbas Adil Riza stated there will be no election in 2013 if GMR stays.

    Abbas Adil Riza stated there will be no election in 2013 if GMR stays.

    Abbas Adil Riza stated there will be no election in 2013 if GMR stays.

    It looks like no body heard that statement. Everyone is talking about what Abbas said about Muley.
    Thakandhoo Boy - go home
    Kurikeela clan go home.
    Abbas's brother swindled off a resort from noonu atoll from his former employer AAA Co. Hamza will be witness to his theft.
    Kurikeela Riza ... go home

  18. India should delay the "loan" that the Maldives wont repay, make Maldivians think twice about treating other people like crap. Maldivians treat SriLanakans, Indians, & Bangladeshis like garbage, yet need to get free money form them to pay the Gov wages.

    Shame on THE MALDIVES.

  19. What you can be assured of is if the GMR contract is torn up, the Maldives will be on its own.
    Get over worrying about the religion of trading partners, the world is a much bigger place. Abusing the Indian High Commisioner is totally stupid. Diplomacy is the only way forward, if you keep abusing everyone then no one will help you. Maldives if you think you can survive without the financial help of the rest of the world, then keep up the abuse, it will be something that you can be successful in achieving!

  20. One should note the stark contrast of the Maldivian politicians and their Indian counterparts. Given the nature of the incident, Abbas's position as the President's spokesboy is totally untenable. India is the single most important ally and friend of the Maldives, bar none!

    The Indians responded with calm and consideration, without overreacting. I wonder if any of the locals can learn anything from that. Behind the scenes, I'm quite sure there are very tense faces amongst the Indian diplomats. The Maldives will face the consequences when it approaches India for help, the next time. That's the difference between civilised society and er... medieval minds...

  21. I agree with you Mohamad... GOI should no ook at bailing out this government - that looks at biting the hand that is being stretched out to help it...
    Without the Bangladeshi's, Sri Lankas & Indians this beautiful country will come to a standstill... Tourists will stop coming as the service levels needed for a luxury destination is provided by these expats & not by locals...locals only jump from one job to another job...they do not want careers , only want to make a quick buck....hard work is what they shun from...they love to talk behind peoples back never in front of them & when cornered they start writing anonymous mails...

  22. I wish Umar Naseer would take off on 70 bokkuras, take over the airport & smash an IC flight on to the runway .... then we can peacefully pray and wait for the consequences ... and fret when the holy cows start raining down from the sky. Perhaps the new Indian state of Nasreenabad will evolve.

  23. @Ahmed bin Addu bin Suvadheeb

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Spot on.

    Either you are with the government or you are not with the government.

    High Commissioner Mulay is representing India in the Maldives. And so his duty is to protect the interests of India first and India -Maldives relations second.

    That Abbas should find this unacceptable shows how immature and ignorant this man is of international relations. How can such a person be allowed to speak for the Maldivian Government?

    Abbas cannot be allowed to be in government after insulting India the way he has. Abbas must resign from his position or be sacked. Distancing yourself from Abbas is not good enough, Dr Waheed. He is your official spokesman for goodness sake!!

    As High Commissioner Mulay has said, the issue with GMR is in a Singapore Court for arbitration. So why the need for political parties of your “National Unity Government” to show muscle, hysteria and whip up hatred towards High Commissioner Mulay and India?

    Dr Waheed. President Nasheed is right. The chaos we have comes from having a President who is running this government not on the MDP Ithihaadh Manifesto you signed with President Nasheed , but the policies and whims and fancies of the politicians you have rallied around you for your “National Unity Government”

    The people did not elect you, Dr Waheed as Vice President to allow Gasim and Gayoom and Goanibekudaali to run the country. Your “National Unity Government” is not working. The nation is up in flames. You have run out of money. Our people are getting sick, and our old people are dying from the anxiety and fear and stress of war. For no doubt about it. We have civil war. We are just not using gunpowder, but war it is.

    This is madness.

    Dr Waheed, you have the power in your hands to turn our country around. Restore integrity. Do what needs to be done to have a presidential election NOW. Bring the changes necessary in the constitution and call for elections now and give us the people of the Maldives the opportunity to elect a President and Vice President we want. Be it yourself, Gayoom , Gasim, Hassan Saeed, Nasheed, or any other wannabe Presidents out there.

    I call on our MPS to stand up for the people who elected you and do whatever it takes to bring the constitutional changes necessary to hold fresh elections.

    Sometimes it is in the abdication of what we most cherish that the finest moments of our lives arise. The finest moment of my great grandfather, Sultan Shamsudheen was when he stepped down as Sultan. He was smart enough to see all the games and traps created by his Prime Minister Abdul Majeed to undermine him and the chaos and unrest the Maldives would havehad should he confront the leadership challenge from the man he trusted most. His thought was for his people, not for himself when he stepped down.

    Its time, I believe Dr Waheed, that you did that. It is the right thing to do.

  24. Shafiyya,

    Just an interesting side note.

    It's interesting how some of us can romanticize political decisions taken by our relatives and paint Qayyoom as a villain when he did almost the same thing as Shamsuddin III. Hope I do not offend. Just an observation about the nature of politics. After the political is the personal is it not?

    Too bad members of the Western media listen to simplistic characterizations of good and evil as if we were in some Hollywood movie.

  25. You can't give a gun to a child, like wise such a responsible position should not be given to an idiot. Waheed once said he is the most experienced person to lead this country for the period but it seems otherwise. He can't manage the economy, he chasing the investors away & now a disaster in foreign relations. Does he really think we will give him another chance under these circumstances.

  26. @tsk tsk

    I was not romantisising something my relative did. I was stating facts from our history.

    As for your assertion that President Gayoom did what Sultan Shamsuddin III did, may I point out that Maumoon Abdul Gayoom did not step down. He did not get enough votes in the second round and did not therefore get elected in 2008.


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