The monument, which protesters contend is idolatrous, was first knocked off its plinth during the SAARC Summit on the evening prior to its unveiling by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani.
It was subsequently set ablaze and on Monday night, stolen. Two men have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The religious Adhaalath Party and the party of former President of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), have declared those responsible for destroying the monument to be “national heroes”, and vowed to fight for their release in court.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the incident had “affected the Maldives’ long time relationship with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.
The attacks on the monument were “undemocratic” and the type of behaviour that would damage the image of the Maldives to the outside world, the Foreign Ministry said.
Following the first attempt to damage the monument during the SAARC Summit, a member of the Pakistani delegation told Minivan News that it had approached the Foreign Ministry over the incident and was told by an official that it was a rumour spread by the opposition.
In today’s statement, the Ministry said that the monument represented the culture and traditions of the Indus Valley Civilisation, and was not intended to be idolatrous. However because of public concerns the Pakistani government had already agreed to redesign the monument prior to its destruction and theft, the Ministry said.
“There are ways that people can citizens can solve these issues within the principles of democracy and religion,” the Ministry statement read.
Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla this week told Minivan News that the monument “should not be kept on Maldivian soil for a single day” and “should be removed immediately.”
“We believe it conflicts with the constitution of the Maldives, the Religious Unity Act of 1994 and the regulations under the Act,” he said, because it depicted “objects of worship” that “denied the oneness of God.”
Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ claimed that the arrest of those who toppled and vandalised the monument were “unlawful,” as they were opposing “something the government did in violation of the constitution.”