San Francisco based Actual Films has rubbished suggestions that its travel and accommodation expenses were paid for by the President’s Office when filming ‘The Island President’ in 2009.
Producer Richard Berge said the claims were “completely and categorically untrue”, describing them as “a thinly-veiled attempt to discredit the Island President”.
“Actual Films demands that President Yameen’s office makes a full and public apology for misleading the Maldivian and wider public,” he continued, in press statement from the film company.
The award-winning film was based around Nasheed’s presidency and his efforts to garner diplomatic support to combat climate change during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen.
In an article titled ‘Excessive government spending on President Nasheed’s film and media crew!’ published on January 14, Haveeru said it had obtained documents showing that the President’s Office had borne some expenses of the Actual Film crew during filming.
The paper claimed that the crew was included in the presidential delegation for three of Nasheed’s trips: a UN meeting at New York in February 2009, a high level climate change conference at New Dehli in October 2009, and the Copenhagen conference itself in December 2009.
The paper noted that the documents obtained did not reveal the amount spent on the crew.
The claims, in numerous media outlets, emerged shortly after Nasheed had demanded details regarding the expenses of President Abdulla Yameen’s frequent visits to Singapore, stating that the details were a public right under the Information Act.
Speaking to Minivan News last week, President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that he would gladly comply with the spirit of the Information Act: “even if President Nasheed’s travel expenses and information on how many foreigners he employed, by the state, was requested.”
The President’s Office was not responding to calls at the time of publication.
Revealing details of the New York trip in February 2009, the company said that it had not entered into an understanding with Nasheed at the time of the New York trip in February 2009, and that the company did not meet Nasheed until late June that year.
Regarding the New Delhi trip in October 2009, Actual Films said that the plane was provided and paid for by the Indian Prime Minister’s Office, and that two Actual Film employees accompanied the delegation in seats that were otherwise empty, saying: “there was no cost to the Maldives government”.
Turning to the Copenhagen trip, the film company said its records showed it had paid approximately US$12,000 for all crew to travel to and from Copenhagen.
Furthermore, the film company said it had spent close to US$18,000 for hotel expenses during the trips. It also dismissed claims that Nasheed had travelled to the US on the Maldivian state’s budget to check and edit the documentary, adding that Nasheed first saw the film at its premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011.
Haveeru also reported that Nasheed’s government had spent excessively on PR during his term, claiming the President’s Office had spent MVR2.86 million (US$185,000) on three British employees.
However, members of the team defended the expenses, saying that during Nasheed’s term the Maldives had enjoyed an enviable international reputation on democracy, human rights and the environment.
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