No threat to Maldivians in Srilanka, assures Sri Lankan foreign minister

Sri Lankan minister for External Affairs G.L. Peiris has assured that there is no threat to Maldivians residing in his country from ongoing conflicts between Muslims and Buddhists.

Speaking during the official state visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Peiris said that the “happy and contented” Maldivian community living in Sri Lanka mostly reside in the southern parts of the country, far away from the zone of conflict.

“There is absolutely no problem in that area,” he said, adding that the conflict was going on in a very narrow area of Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa’s two-day state visit is the first official visit of a foreign leader since President Yameen’s election, and has seen agreements signed related to health, investment, and search and rescue services.

Maldivian Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon – speaking at today’s press conference in Kurumba resort – said that the Maldivian government appreciated the steps taken by the Sri Lankan government to ensure the safety of the the 9,400 citizens in the Maldives.

“Not that there are no serious issues,” she said. “But the media sometimes sensationalise these issues.”

On June 16, 2014, reports emerged that hard-line Buddhists hurled gasoline bombs and looted homes and businesses during attacks in several Muslim towns in southwestern Sri Lanka, killing three Muslims and seriously wounding more than 50 people.

Dunya said that the Maldivian embassy in Sri Lanka was closely monitoring the situation on a daily basis. She also revealed that land in the Maldivian capital had been granted for Sri Lanka to set up a new diplomatic premises.

Following Rajapaksa’s arrival yesterday, official bilateral talks were held between the two governments as well as a private meeting between the two heads of state. A special banquet in honour of the Sri Lankan president and first lady was held at Kurumba yesterday evening.

Dunya today noted the close personal links between the two nations with Sri Lankan expatriate workers greatly assisting the Maldivian economy while more than 80,000 Maldivians visited Sri Lanka in 2012.

“We recognise and applaud the tremendous post-conflict reconstruction efforts of the Sri Lankan Government. We believe that the Sri Lankan Government and its people can address and overcome the challenges of post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation,” said the foreign minister.

Details of the health MoU were also revealed yesterday, with three specialists per year travelling to the Maldives as well as places for five Maldivian students to study medicine in Sri Lanka.

“Maldivians have been long standing consumers of the excellent education and health services in Sri Lanka. Under the agreement signed yesterday, the Maldives looks forward to further enhancing cooperation in the health sector, including in investing in human resources, recruitment of medical doctors and health professionals, and procurement of pharmaceuticals,” she added.

External Affairs Minister Peiris told press today that the agreements reached would have positive practical results for both nations, in particular new agreements on investment.

Trade between the two states grew by 40 percent last year, said Peiris, currently amounting to US$76 million – a figure he described as “satisfactory” with room for improvement.

“Major Sri Lankan investors are investing in the Maldives in a big way, particularly in tourism infrastructure,” he continued.

As part of today’s trip, a networking session was held in Malé for Sri Lanka’s business delegation, with Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed revealing details of investment opportunities in the Maldives.

Asked about discussions on Sri Lankan fishermen’s access to the travel through the Maldives’ territorial waters, Peiris said that such close allies had no need to hold official discussions “formally” about the right of innocent passage.

President Yameen had promised to explore during his corresponding trip to Sri Lanka in January, during which MoUs were signed regarding combating transnational crime , vocational training, and sports cooperation.


Maldivians called to pray for Palestine following conflict

Adhaalath Party (AP) President Sheikh Imran Abdulla called for Maldivians to pray for a Palestinian victory in the current conflict with Israel.

During the “Maldivians with Gaza” gathering held last night (November 20), Imran told how the Palestinians needed Maldivians to pray for them following the air strikes on Gaza.

“Today we are consulting with various people. Discussions are underway to open a fund to help Gaza, based on the way the events might unfold in the next few days,” Imran said.

During a recent visit to Palestine, Sheikh Mohamed Didi relayed the grim scenes he had witnessed, also adding that Palestinians love the Maldivian people and were grateful for the relations displayed by the country.

“Water tanks were on every roof. When we asked they said it were there to combat the water shortage caused due to the water cuts by Israel. A mosque was torched while we were there,” Didi detailed.

A special prayer was conducted for the Palestinian people at last night’s gathering.


Comment: Is peace merely the absence of violent conflict?

Hundreds of peals of islands, azure lagoons, and white sandy beaches scattered over 90,000 square kilometres in the middle of Indian Ocean, making up the Muslim nation the Maldives. This tropical archipelago is isolated from the rest of the world, attracting thousands of high-class honeymooners, holiday makers and celebrities.

The Maldives has been branded internationally as a luxury tourist destination by selling the three products gifted by nature: sun, sand and sea. The Maldives is reputed internationally for its peace, tranquillity and harmony, unlike the killings, attacks and explosions seen in some of the conflicted areas like Jammu, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Maldives is formed of 1,190 islands, with a 100 percent Muslim population of 300,000. Around 200 islands are inhabited, and nearly 100 islands are developed as luxury tourist resorts.

Political instability

The concealed dark side of the Maldives was exposed to the world in 2003, when a prisoner in Maafushi Jail – the largest prison in the Maldives – was beaten to death.

For the first time in the recent history, public unrest rocked the country, and the headlines of the Maldive politics printed in the international media. The incident triggered a prison riot, killing three more inmates and injuring many more. Further, multiple protests erupted in the capital city Male’, and blazing fires in several state-owned buildings and properties.

The protests and demonstrations gave an impression to the world that although the tourists were invited to rest on the beaches in the Maldives, there was no real peace for the citizens during Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s regime, had ruled since November 11, 1978. During his dictatorial regime, political opponents’ movements were suppressed and there was no free media. The citizens were controlled by the state, the same way we see in communist regimes like Libya and North Korea. The executive, legislative and judiciary were under direct control of the president.

Journey for a democracy

On 12 August 2004, thousands of frustrated Maldivians gathered in the Republic Square of the capital Male’ demanding freedom, the same manner in which we have recently witnessed gatherings in Egypt’s Tahrir Square to oust the dictator Hosni Mubarak.

To disperse the crowd, a state of emergency was declared by the Gayoom’s government and mass arrests were made. This led to heavy criticism internationally, forcing Gayoom to launch a reform agenda.

During the reform process, the new changes introduced by Gayoom included appointing young intellectuals to the cabinet, establishing independent institutions (like the Human Rights Commission, Elections Commission, Judicial Services Commission, Civil Service Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and Police Integrity Commission), drafting a new penal code and giving the authority to form political parties through the parliament (Peoples Majlis). The first registered political party is the current ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The new reforms improved human rights, governance and press freedom. The ratification of the new constitution on August 7, 2008, which was drafted by the constitutional assembly, guaranteed greater rights for citizens like freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and right to information.

Mainly, the new constitution had separated the state into three powers, executive, legislative and judiciary.

The voting results of the first multi-party elections in October 2008 proved that the people had really wanted a change. The ruler of 30 years was ousted by his political opponent, MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed, the current president.


Today, some people make the justification that the countries which are not experiencing violent conflict, like Saudi Arabia, are peaceful nations. But this is a false assumption. This is the peace which is portrayed by the media; giving the readers, listeners and viewers a feeling that violent conflict only obstructs peace.

But realistically, the situation cannot be understood by just a shallow exploration. But it should be analysed much deeper and more broadly to know the real situation. This is what Maldives history has taught us.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Palestinian Authority under fire as Al-Jazeera leaks details of peace negotiations with Israel

News agency Al-Jazeera has published thousands of confidential documents concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, providing an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at peace negotiations between US, Israel and Palestine.

The leak includes nearly 1700 files including thousands of pages of diplomatic correspence, as well as memos, emails, maps and minutes of closed meetings between 1999-2010.

According to Al-Jazeera, the revelations include the surprising willingness of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to concede settlements to Israel in East Jerusalem, compromises made by the PA regarding the return of refugees, and details of security co-operation with Israel.

The leaks have already led to widespread condemnation of the PA across Palestine, after it was revealed that its negotiators privately conceded Israel’s definition of itself as a Jewish state while refusing to recognise Israel’s existence in public, and offering Israel “the biggest Jerusalem in history” – an offer which was rejected.

The leaks further reveal that Palestinian negotiators had agreed to Israeli demands that only 10,000 refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, out of a total refugee population of 5 million.

Al-Jazeera and the UK’s Guardian newspaper, which was also granted access to the leaked documents, described the overall impression of the decade of leaks as revealing “the weakness and growing desperation of PA leaders as failure to reach agreement or even halt all settlement temporarily undermines their credibility in relation to their Hamas rivals.”

The Guardian contends that the leak also reveals “the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators and the often dismissive attitude of US politicians towards Palestinian representatives” – at one stage former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice suggests that Palestinians could live in Latin America, and in the minutes of a meeting with Palestinian negotiators in 2009, Rice’s successor Hillary Clinton is heard to ponder why Palestinians were “always in a chapter of a Greek tragedy”.

Palestinian authorities have responded to the leaks by attacking al-Jazeera for “distorting the truth” and playing “a propaganda game through the media in order to brainwash Palestinian citizens”.

Chief negotiator Saeb Muhammad Salih Erekat has dismissed the minutes were “a bunch of lies and half truths”, while angry protesters stormed al-Jazeera’s offices in Ramallah before being stopped by police.