Parliament approves ambassador for Sri Lanka as president withdraws nominee for EU post

The Majlis today unanimously approved Zahiya Zareer as the Malidves’ ambassador to Sri Lanka with 49 votes.

Zareer previously served as the Minister of Education in President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration and ran for parliament.

President Abulla Yameen’s nomination for the ambassador for Pakistan, Major General (Rt) Moosa Ali Jaleel was also sent for review by the National Security Committee as per parliament regulations.

Jaleel was the Chief of Defence Force under President Mohamed Nasheed and is revered as a national hero for his services during the attempted coup by Tamil mercenaries in 1988.

However , president Yameen today withdrew the name of Hassan Sobir whom he earlier nominated as the new ambassador to Belgium and the European Union. No official reason was given for the withdrawal.

Sobir served as the tourism minister and fisheries minister in President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s administration. He also served as the ambassador for Singapore and the UK.


Tourism Ministry searching for ‘celebrity ambassador’ to promote the Maldives

The Ministry of Tourism has announced it is seeking the appointment of a celebrity ambassador for the Maldives, through a company based in Singapore.

Deputy Tourism Minister and head of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, told local media the government was in the process of selecting the most suitable celebrity on offer.

“We are currently holding discussions, the most suitable celebrities for Maldives and the prices they offer, we are discussing such things now,” Maleeh told Sun Online.

Maleeh and Adheeb were not responding to calls at time of press to speculate on the qualities the Maldives would look for in its celebrity ambassador, or the potential cost of such an endorsement.

Former Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim, told Minivan News the proposal was a good idea – “it will generate sound bites, column inches and other publicity” – but suggested the government seek a “goodwill ambassador” rather than a paid celebrity.

“I don’t know how much the government has in their marketing budget, but I’ve heard there is an issue with low funds. If they have the money, then why not [go ahead]? But if they don’t, there’s other basic marketing to spend the limited resources on,” he said.

“[The ambassador] should not be financially-motivated; it should be someone who has a warmth for the country. Someone like Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, or Bill Gates,” he suggested.

Following a reported £250,000 visit in December to the One and Only resort by football star David Beckham, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told Minivan News the Maldives was prized by celebrities because of the seclusion and privacy of the country’s ‘one island, one resort’ model.

“Right now we are formulating policies to encourage more VVIPs to the Maldives. They can add a lot of value to a destination solely on the grounds that so many people follow them,” Adheeb said.

”We want to let the world know how unique a destination it is. How safe it is. How can we then give mores exclusivity to VVIPs? We offer privacy, the islands are free of paparazzi, that’s how we have made the Maldives unique. It is a celebrity destination,” he added.

The tourism budget for 2013 was increased from MVR 20 million (US$1.2 million) to MVR 80 million (US$5.1 million) at the start of the year, following criticism from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) that the amount was too low.

The initial sum of money allocated was the lowest in eight years, according to a statement from MATI at the time.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told local media at the time that the ministry had initially requested a budget of MVR 200 million (US$12.9 million) to carry out tourism promotion for the year, however parliament had “erased a zero” from the figure when finalising the budget.

Adheeb noted that while tourism promotion is expensive, the revenue generated from the industry “drives the entire engine”.


President Waheed proposes ambassadorial appointments for EU, United Arab Emirates

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has forwarded two ambassadorial appointments to the People’s Majlis for approval.

According to the President’s Office, Dr Mohamed Asim as been put forward as Ambassador of Maldives to European Union, while Dr Aishath Shehenaz Adam was proposed as the Maldives Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

Dr Asim had previously held positions as the Maldives High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, as well as to the United Kingdom.

Dr Shehenaz is presently the Maldives High Commissioner to Pakistan, the President’s Office website has stated.


Maldives’ Ambassador to the UAE resigns

The Maldives’ first Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Rasheed, has resigned for what the President’s Office has said are “personal reasons”.

President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza explained that Rasheed had been appointed to the mission at the start of the year under the Nasheed government, after having previously been Chief of Protocol for the Foreign Ministry.

Abbas said that Rasheed’s family were strong supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), adding that Rasheed was related by marriage to former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Dr Farahanaz Faisal.

Dr Faisal resigned from her post shortly after the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed in February, as did the Maldives’ Ambassador to the United Nations Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed – then the country’s most senior diplomat.


Belgian ambassador presents credentials to President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has today received the credentials of Belgium’s new ambassador to the Maldives, Pierre Vaesen.

The ambassador, who is based in the Embassy of Belgium in New Delhi , took part in a ceremony at the President’s Office this morning.

Vaesen discussed measures to increase bilateral ties between the two countries, whose diplomatic relations were established in 1977. The Maldives joint embassy to Belgium and Mission to the European Union was established in Brussels in 2010.

Belgium, which has sent around 3,500 tourists to the Maldives this year, provided over $1.3million to the country in financial assistance following the 2004 tsunami.


President Waheed meets with EU, Thai Ambassadors

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan yesterday met with Bernard Savage, the European Union’s Ambassador to the Maldives, in Male’.

The current political and economic status of the Maldives, along with measures taken to try and relieve the national fiscal deficit, were among the main topics of discussions during the meeting at the President’s Office.

Savage stressed that the EU would continue to provide “assistance and support” to the country, according to the President’s Office website.

President Waheed was also yesterday presented with the credentials of the new Ambassador of Thailand for the Maldives, Poldej Worachat.


Dutch ambassador departs, Italian ambassador arrives

Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Maldives Leoni Cuelenaere is departing the Maldives while the new Ambassador of Italy accredited to the Maldives Fabrizio Pio Arpen Am presented his credentials to the President yesterday.

In a farewell meeting with Cuelenaere President Mohamed Nasheed expressed his gratitude for the work done by the Dutch Ambassador and highlighted major joint ventures between the government and the Maldives, including Royal Boskalis Westminster and Dutch Docklands. Cuelenaere in response praised Nasheed’s initiative to open up the Maldivian economy and strengthen democratic institutions.

Meanwhile, the new Italian Ambassador Fabrizio Pio Arpea presented his credentials to the President, and spoke about the proposed trip of 20 Italian students to the outpost of the University of Milano-Bicocca in the Maldives.

Arpea reiterated the importance of the ongoing business engagements between the two countries, especially in tourism – Italy is historically one of the Maldives’ strongest European markets.


New UK High Commissioner, Vietnamese Ambassador present credentials

The new British High Commissioner to the Maldives, John Rankin, has presented his credentials to President Mohamed Nasheed.

During the ceremony, Nasheed thanked the High Commissioner for the UK’s assistance in introducing and consolidating democracy in the Maldives, and discussed the political and economic situation in the country.

Nasheed also raised the struggle for democracy in Egypt, and called on Western countries to support rather than fear the forces of democracy in Muslim countries.

Rankin succeeds Dr Peter Hayes at the UK’s High Commission in Colombo. He has served as Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Dublin, working on the Northern Ireland peace process, and was Her Majesty’s Consul General in Boston between 2003 and 2007.

The new Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Thanh Tan also presented his credentials to President Nasheed.

The pair discussed the potential to increase cooperation between the Maldives and Vietnam, such as expanding the local aquaculture industry.


New Maldivian ambassadors appointed

President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday appointed a number of new ambassadors to represent the country’s interests in Belgium, Saudi Arabia and Spain as well as a High Commissioner for Sri Lanka.

During an appointment ceremony held yesterday at the President’s Office, Ali Hussain Didi and Adam Hassan were installed as the Maldivian Ambassadors to Belgium and Saudi Arabia respectively. Hussain Shihab also received an appointment letter at the ceremony to serve as the Maldives High Commissioner for Sri Lanka.

Dr Farahanaz Faizal was also yesterday appointed as the Ambassador of the Maldives to Spain in a non-resident capacity.

According to Nasheed, the appointments reflect the need for the Maldives to co-exist with other nations and people of different opinions with “respect and integrity”.