Foreign investments worth MVR9.8 billion expected in five years, says President Yameen

A total of MVR9.8 billion (US$635.5 million) has been pledged to the Maldives by 24 foreign investments registered so far, President Abdulla Yameen said in his presidential address today.

In the address delivered at the opening of the People’s Majlis’ first session of 2015, Yameen said the 24 foreign investments registered under his administration were not tourism-related.

“Under these investments, a total of MVR9.8 billion has been proposed to be invested in the Maldives during the next five years,” Yameen said over loud protests from opposition MPs calling for the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The pledged foreign investments represent a 70 percent increase on the previous year, Yameen added.

President Yameen’s second presidential address was delivered amidst an ongoing political crisis sparked by the arrests and prosecution of former Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim and former President Mohamed Nasheed on charges of terrorism.

The newly formed Maldivian Democratic Party-Jumhooree Party (MDP-JP) alliance held a massive protest march in the capital last Friday (February 27) demanding the pair’s immediate release.

During last year’s budget debate, opposition MPs expressed skepticism of the government’s forecast of US$100 million expected as acquisition fees for Special Economic Zones (SEZ) by August 2015. The opposition has also criticised the lack of significant foreign investments despite assurances by President Yameen’s administration with the passage of the SEZ Act last year.


Yameen began the address by assuring MPs that the current government would protect and uphold the constitution, adding that significant efforts were made during 2014 to “strengthen the civil justice justice and criminal justice system of the Maldives”.

Legislation on civil trial procedures would be submitted to parliament this year, Yameen said.

A ‘risk management framework’ to combat drug smuggling and abuse would also implemented during 2015, he continued, and privately operated rehabilitation centres would be opened with modern facilities.

While a bill on establishing an Islamic University has been submitted to parliament, Yameen said eight new government-funded mosques would be built during the year in addition to 10 new mosques funded by Saudi Arabia.

“Seven island harbours were constructed last year. And work is underway on constructing harbours on 32 islands. Additionally, land reclamation has been completed on four islands. And while land reclamation is ongoing in three islands, coastal protection work is ongoing in three islands,” he said.

Moreover, road construction projects have been contracted for 10 islands, Yameen said.

A project awarded to the Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) to resolve flooding in the capital was nearly complete, he continued, whilst US$100 million worth of foreign loans have been secured to provide safe drinking water and establish sewerage systems in inhabited islands.

Construction of 1,089 flats in Hulhumalé have now been completed, Yameen said, and work on a further 5,000 flats would begin this year.

Reclamation of 227 hectares of land in Hulhumalé would also be completed in March, he said.

A waste management project targeting four northern atolls is meanwhile expected to be completed during the year, Yameen added.

While a fishermen’s marina was established in Felivaru last year, Yameen said three more marinas would be set up in Kooddoo, Hulhumalé, and Addu City Feydhoo.

On the education sector, Yameen said a diploma certificate has been set as the minimum qualification for teachers and a new salary structure has been put in place.

The government’s health insurance scheme ‘Aasandha’ has been expanded to cover chronic illnesses and kidney transplants, he continued, whilst a programme was launched in November to provide “super-specialist” doctor’s service to the atolls.

Legislation is currently before parliament to protect women’s rights in divorce cases, Yameen said, which would provide temporary shelter to divorced women and establish rules for equitable division of property.

Moreover, the government is formulating rules to provide easy access to healthcare and prioritise employment for persons with special needs, he said.

Loans worth MVR200 million (US$12.9 million) would be issued in the near future under the ‘Get Set’ programme for youth entrepreneurs, he continued, and a bill on youth rights would be submitted to parliament this year.

Work was underway on building 36 sports pitches in islands with populations exceeding 2,000 people, he noted.


Yameen noted that the forecast for economic growth in 2015 was 10.5 percent, up from 8.5 percent last year, adding that in 2014 inflation was kept on average at 2.4 percent and the budget deficit brought down to MVR1.6 billion (US$103.7 million).

In a bid to encourage lending, Yameen said the minimum reserve requirement for banks would be reduced this year from 20 percent at present.

The forecast for the current account deficit in 2015 is US$214.7 million or 6 percent of GDP, he added, down from US$290 million or 10% of GDP last year.

“As a result of the increase in foreign currency the Maldives earned in 2014, serious difficulties faced by the public in obtaining dollars have been resolved, and with God’s will, the dollar shortage has been alleviated,” he said.

Referring to a decline in tourist arrivals from Russia and China in December and January, Yameen said the government has launched efforts to increase arrivals from both source markets.

“Despite the Maldives being seen as a high-end tourist destination, efforts are now underway to advertise the Maldives as an affordable luxury destination, expand the Maldivian guesthouse business, and expand the tourism industry to target mid-market [tourists] as well,” he added.

Yameen also said the government was taking back uninhabited islands leased for resort development due to contractual violations.

In the wake of former coalition partner JP’s alliance with the opposition MDP, the government seized several properties leased to JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group for alleged agreement violations. Last week, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) gave a 30-day notice to Villa Group to pay US$100 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines.

In 2015, Yameen said 22 islands would be leased for resort development both under normal bidding processes and as joint ventures.

Yameen added that development in the SEZs would create new jobs and spur economic growth as the minimum threshold for investments was US$150 million.

The government was in the process of formulating a master plan for the ‘iHavan’ project, Yameen said, which was among the mega projects envisioned in the SEZs.

A basic design for a new terminal at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) has been completed, he continued, and the government was seeking interested parties to repair and resurface the airport’s runway.

Foreign policy

Yameen said the Maldives achieved significant successes during 2014. The “Maldives’ name shined in the outside world” last year, he said.

The Maldives assumed the chairs of both the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) and World Health Organisation’s (WHO) executive board, Yameen noted.

Relationships with regional neighbours and Arab-Islamic nations were “brought back to its previous heights,” he continued.

In addition to state visits to friendly nations, Yameen said various agreements that would prove beneficial to the Maldives have been signed with India, Sri Lanka, China, and Japan.

Yameen also appealed for the participation of all Maldivian citizens in celebrating the country’s 50th independence day in July.

“God willing, this year will see new progress made in fulfilling the government’s pledges to the people,” he said.

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Nasheed questions government’s legitimacy and record as one-year anniversary looms

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) President, Mohamed Nasheed has criticised the government for failing to keep promises made when it came to power almost one year ago.

Beginning by questioning the manner by which President Abdulla Yameen came to power, the former president suggested the election coalition had faltered and investor confidence had not been restored.

While giving an interview to Raaje TV last night (November 11), Nasheed also slammed the government for its failure to respond adequately to the abduction of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan 96 days ago.

“There is no doubt that Rilwan was abducted. All the information obtained by the police and other separate investigations point to an abduction,” said Nasheed.

Recalling the much-delayed, and once-annulled presidential elections last year, Nasheed reminded viewers that yesterday’s Republican Day has traditionally seen the start of a new presidential term.

“Republican Day has always been the day when the new presidential term begins and ends,” said Nasheed. “However, President Yameen’s gave oath after the assigned date. This raises legitimacy issues with how the Government came to power.”

Last year’s Republic Day saw former President Dr Mohamed Waheed inform the nation that he would stay in power for one week beyond the constitutional end of his term in order to avoid a power vaccum after repeated delays in the poll to find his successor.

The 2013 presidential elections eventually saw the MDP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidates contesting the second round, with the PPM’s Abdulla Yameen eventually winning the election after forming a coalition with the Jumhooree Party (JP).

“Recent events have made it clear the that the coalition has failed,” said Nasheed in reference to the government’s acquisition of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Kaadedhoo Airport after the MP spoke against the government’s flagship Special Economic Zones (SEZ) bill.

Nasheed noted that the people in charge of the government right now received a very small percentage of the total votes once the votes from JP supporters were discounted.

Promises broken

Nasheed pointed out that the government made a lot of promises towards the betterment of fishermen – including a pension of MVR10,000 (US$650) which was not included in next year’s proposed budget. But the price per kilo of tuna has dropped from a healthy MVR18 during Nasheed’s government to a mere MVR6 today, he continued.

President Yameen recently announced a foreign policy shift from west to east, partly as a result of the Maldives’ failure to qualify for extended duty-free status for fish exports after non-compliance with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

Nasheed also attacked the government’s SEZ Act, suggesting that there has been little interest shown by foreign investors even after all the necessary laws and regulations have come to place.

The SEZ act – which offers relaxed regulations and tax concessions – described by President Yameen as a landmark law that will “transform” the economy through diversification and mitigate the reliance on the tourism industry.

While speaking about the proposed 2015 annual budget, Nasheed said that like during Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s 30-year regime, the current government has included a large sum as expected earnings which would eventually lead to higher budget deficit.

“For example, expected earnings from SEZ investments is valued at MVR1.5 billion (US$ 100 million). This is ambitious and unrealistic,” explained Nasheed.

The 2015 annual budget includes MVR3.4 billion (US$220 million) as expected revenue from brand new income generating measures including acquisition fees from SEZ investments and the introduction of a green tax on tourism.

A recent MDP budget review concluded that such expectations were unrealistic after stating that even if the government were to obtain MVR1.5 billion (US$100 million) as acquisitions fees at a rate of 10 percent of the investment it suggests an investment of US$1 billion.

The single biggest investment in the country to date was the ill-fated MVR7.6 billion (US$ 500 million) deal with India’s GMR group for the development Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in 2010. A Singapore court of arbitration is currently evaluating the amount owed by the government for the wrongful termination of the deal in November 2012.

The former president described the government’ abrupt terminations of foreign investments as saddening, suggesting that it would decrease investor confidence in the nation.


MDP says government should decrease foreign relations budget to fit “policy of exclusion”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called on the government to decrease its budget allocation for foreign relations, saying current policy made such expenditure unnecessary.

“Such an increase in funds will not be needed as the incumbent government has revealed that its foreign policy is one of exclusion,” said former Speaker Abdulla Shahid.

Speaking at a press conference given by the International Relations Committee of the MDP today (November 12), Shahid said that the current budget allocation was too great for such a policy.

“From the president’s speech on Republic Day, as well as various other statements by himself and foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, it has become apparent that this government’s key foreign policy strategy is to exclude itself and cut ties with the rest of the world”.

Speaking on the occasion of the Maldives’ Republic Day, President Yameen yesterday criticised “Western colonial powers” for anti-Islamic policies, suggesting that the Maldives was turning east toward China as a partner which does not involve such challenges.

Meanwhile, Yameen’s enthusiasm to participate in China’s silk road project has prompted opposition fears of strained regional relationships. The government maintains, however, that it is watchful of regional security issues.

The Yameen administration has pledged an improved foreign investor environment in order to restore confidence in local investment. Despite the introduction of the Special Economic Zone Act in August, the only najor interest shown in the government’s proposed ‘mega projects’ has come from China.

Shahid stated today that the budget allocations for foreign relations had risen by 22.7 percent from 2013 to 2014, and that the estimated MVR533 million (US$34.5 million) in the 2015 budget amounted to an increase of another 20 percent.

“An increase in this budget should only come in a government which is aiming to build ties with the international community, not break them. The MDP maintains that the budget should be reflective of the government’s policies,” he added.

Shahid highlighted that in 2014, the government shut down or downgraded a number of international missions.

He also took the closure and reopening of the missions in Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates as examples of the government’s weak foreign policies.

“Such indesicive action in matters like this affects relations with these countries. Additionally, the government has also downgraded the mission in London, which indicates that the government has no interest in maintaing strong ties with UK or the Commonwealth,” Shahid said.

The MDP alleged that such actions demonstrate to the world that the incumbent Maldives government does not have a long term foreign relations plan or objectives.

The MDP also expressed concerns that the number of political positions in foreign missions are on the increase.

“I don’t see why taxpayers should continue to pay for PPM activists to fill positions at foreign missions, when they don’t do any constructive work and do not even possess the skills necessary to do the required work,” Mariya Ahmed Didi stated.

Shahid added that the increase in political positions posed a disadvantage for better trained senior professionals at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose opportunities to work at foreign missions have decreased by half within the year.

He also emphasised the failure to provide incentives which allow female professionals to take up jobs in foreign missions, including allowances for child care and education.

Shahid went on to say that , while the next session of the SAARC Summit is scheduled for 2015, he feels that the government should exclude budget allocations for the event as past actions show the government “has no interest or intention to maintain ties or hold discussions” with neighbouring countries.

“The MDP maintains that its foreign policy will always remain non-discriminatory and open to all countries. We will continue to build ties with any interested countries as much as we can without compromising our country’s sovereignty or independence”.

The Maldives currently has 13 overseas diplomatic missions in China, Saudi Arabia, and Japan, with high commissions in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

The Chinese mission in Malé is the latest addition to the Maldives’ small diplomatic circuit which otherwise includes only the SAARC countries of Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.


President Yameen slams “Western colonial powers,” declares foreign policy shift to East

The European Union (EU) imposed restrictions on Maldivian export of canned tuna for refusing to change or abandon Islamic principles, President Abdulla Yameen claimed today, declaring a foreign policy shift to the East.

In his address to the nation on the occasion of Republic Day, President Yameen said economic cooperation with China does not involve the same challenges to remaining an Islamic state posed by “Western colonial powers”.

“Participating in business with China does not involve any such compulsion for us,” Yameen said at a ceremony at the Dharubaaruge convention centre this morning.

Yameen referred to the EU’s refusal to extend the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives following the country’s failure to comply with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

Until January 2014, fish exports to the EU – the single largest export partner by value – were duty-free under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme, a non-reciprocal trade agreement extended to developing countries.

Last year, the government’s application for a year’s extension under the ‘GSP Plus’ program was declined as it had not ratified all 27 required international conventions. The Maldives holds reservations concerning the freedom of religion component of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Former Fisheries Minister Shafeeu told Minivan News in November 2013 that the Maldives would lose its competitive advantage over the larger fishing fleets of nearby Sri Lanka and Thailand with a 14-20 tariff on fish imports, and reduce profits to “a marginal value”.

President Yameen said there was “no way forward” for the country regarding the issue.

“The government’s thinking is changing towards the East,” he said.

Under the Maldivian Constitution, all citizens are required to be Sunni Muslim and the practice of other religions as well as places of worship are prohibited. Customs authorities forbid the import of religious items and scan the baggage of tourists arriving at the airport.

Former Minister Shafeeu explained last year that the EU’s move was not unexpected as Maldivian fisheries had been given a three year extension of its duty-free status after graduating from the UN’s definition of a ‘least developed’ country to ‘middle income’ in 2011.

Silk Route

The government decided to participate in the Chinese 21st Century Maritime Silk Route initiative because China is currently the strongest and fastest growing economy in the world, President Yameen said.

As a result, Yameen continued, the government believes that the “multi-million dollar infrastructure investment” needed for economic development would “arrive through this door.”

Participation in the Silk Road initiative would not adversely affect either the Maldives independence and sovereignty or the Islamic identity of the nation, he insisted.

Ahead of his maiden state visit in September, Chinese President Xi Jingping called on the Maldives “to get actively involved” in the creation of a maritime trade route linking China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed has criticised the decision to join the Silk Route initiative, contending that it would threaten Indian Ocean security and risk putting the Maldives in the middle of war or disputes between Asian powers.

“Indian Ocean stability depends on a firm Indian hand. President Yameen must reverse his decision on Maldives being a party to the Silk Route,” the opposition leader tweeted on November 8.


Maldives not obliged to consult neighbours before joining China’s Silk Route, says foreign minister

The Maldives, as an independent and sovereign nation, is not obliged to consult other countries before making foreign policy decisions, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon told the People’s Majlis today.

The foreign minister appeared in parliament to respond to a question tabled by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Nashid concerning the Maldives’ participation in the Chinese ’21st Century Maritime Silk Route’ initiative.

President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jingping has called on the Maldives “to get actively involved” in the creation of a maritime trade route linking China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.

Nashid, MP for Shaviyani Komandoo, asked whether neighbouring countries in the Indian Ocean were consulted before the decision was made.

“If we join this project, is it likely that the longstanding close relations we have with neighbouring countries could be adversely affected?” he asked.

In response, Dunya noted that the agreement signed with the British in 1965 to secure independence “states in clear language that the Maldives is not obliged to consult or seek consent or approval from any other nation to implement Maldivian foreign policy.”

Former Presidents Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom did not join any “military or political alliance” during the Cold War, she added, out of fear of losing the independence gained in 1965 as the Maldives would be obliged to consult major powers before making foreign policy decisions.

“We should all know that the interest of any foreign country should not take precedence over Maldivian national interest,” she said.

MDP MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi – a retired brigadier general – asked whether relations with India could deteriorate if Chinese naval activity is conducted in a Maldivian port, which would threaten Indian “geopolitical interests”.

Dunya declined to answer citing national security concerns and advised raising the issue through parliamentary committees.

Asked if India has expressed concern with the decision, Dunya said the Indian government also welcomed the Silk Route initiative during Chinese President Xi’s visit to New Delhi in September.

Foreign policy

Dunya said President Abdulla Yameen’s foreign policy was based on Article 115(d) of the Constitution, which states that the president has a duty “to guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of the Maldives, and to promote respect for national sovereignty in the international community.”

The government decided to participate in the Silk Route initiative as it would promote national interest and benefit the Maldivian people through trade and commerce, she said.

Dunya referred to a joint communique issued during President Xi’s state visit in the Maldives in September, which declared that the Maldives “welcomes and supports the proposal put forward by China to build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and is prepared to actively participate in relevant cooperation”.

Fostering ties with South Asian countries and ensuring national security was one of the most important aims of the government’s foreign policy, she continued, noting that Maldivian security was intertwined with Indian Ocean regional security.

The Maldives would consult all nations and work together to ensure regional security and stability, she assured.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has criticised the decision to join the Silk Route initiative, contending that it would threaten Indian Ocean security and risk putting the Maldives in the middle of war or disputes between Asian powers.

China’s rising economic presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that China is creating a “string of pearls” to encircle India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Asked if closer ties with China would adversely impact relations with India or Japan, President Yameen told reporters upon returning from a visit to China in August that Sino-Maldives economic cooperation would not affect “the very friendly, close relations with India”.

“All these projects are also open to India and we are doing a lot of diplomatic work with India,” he said, referring to his administration’s decision not to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States as an example of cooperation.


Government reveals foreign policy for next five years

President Abdulla Yameen has revealed his government’s foreign policy today, stating that the most important objective was to increase economic self-sufficiency, describing this as a requirement of independent foreign policy.

“The foreign policy of my government will be based, just as those firm policies of President Maumoon, on the principle of mutual respect between countries, respect for the sovereignty of countries,” Yameen said.

He said that a well-thought foreign policy is necessary “for a small Maldives to travel safely amidst the turbulent political currents”.

“The foreign policy of Maldives will protect and sustain Maldives’ selfhood and Islam. [It is] a policy that will sustain the independence, security and sovereignty of the the Maldives. A policy that will open opportunities abroad for Maldivians to benefit from,” Yameen said.

The foreign policy revealed today has six main targets: protecting national independence and increasing national security, protecting the Islamic unity of the country and promoting Islamic characteristics internationally, increasing economic self-sufficiency, increasing South Asian regional cooperation, providing quality services for Maldivians living abroad, and the strengthening and development of foreign services.

In terms of protecting national independence and increasing national security, the government plans to increase cooperation with Indian ocean states in combating terrorism, piracy, and other non-traditional security threats, and get more involved in keeping world peace.

In addition to this, the government aims to improve relations with international civil society organisations and think tanks, and to improve the reporting for conventions to which the Maldives is a party.

Speaking at the ceremony held to reveal the policy, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon said the Maldives’ role in achieving regional and international stability will increase in the coming five years and that Maldives will especially speak out on challenges faced by small states and on climate change.

Economic self-sufficiency

On increasing economic self-sufficiency, Dunya said the ministry will work towards finding more markets for Maldivian products and increase the number of tourists and investors that visit the country. She particularly highlighted finding new markets for fish exports within the year.

Such new markets was something the government announced last year when the European Union declined to extend the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives for non-compliance with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

“We should think about who gives [foreign] aid and what their intentions are. We should accept that [they] will not give without expecting something in return” Dunya said.

The foreign policy published today states “finding funding for development projects” and to “invest more in renewable energy” as strategies for increasing economic self-reliance.

Speaking at the ceremony Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef also highlighted the importance given to commercial diplomacy in the government’s foreign policy, and the need for creating a name internationally as a safe destination for investors and businesses.

Foreign service restructured

The government revealed that many steps have already been taken to strengthen the foreign service, including the establishment of Foreign Service Institute of Maldives (FOSIM) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week.

This institution is mandated with providing training for foreign service employees and youth who wish to pursue a career in the foreign service. It is also to conduct academic research required for the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.

A Foreign Relations Advisory Council (FRAC) – composed of experienced persons who have previously served in the foreign service – was also created to advise the institute and a policy department.

In addition to this, President Yameen announced that a Foreign Service Bill will be sent to the People’s Majlis within the first hundred days of his government.

In the Foreign Minister’s speech she noted that foreign policy is much more than “getting as much aid from as many countries” and highlighted some achievements of Maldives foreign service.

“In 1965 many countries were against the UN recognizing Maldives as an independent sovereign state, however today those countries have accepted Maldives as a country that can work alongside at the same level,” Dunya said.

Lauding this as a great achievement, she said the Maldives was currently an active partner and a leader in many global issues such challenges faced by small states, protection of human rights, democratisation and climate change.


“Nothing precedes ties with India” although ties with China also “very close”: President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen has stated that while the Maldives has “close ties” with China, “nothing will precede ties with India, which are far more precious”.

Yameen told Indian media during his recent official trip to the country, that he had assured its leaders that the bond between the two neighbouring countries is “heartfelt” and “based on sentiments”.

“India’s primary concern has been security in the region, particularly in the Indian Ocean and our views on the issues are exactly similar to India’s views. So it was not a difficult proposition at all.”

“We have agreed and we have exchanged views on areas of concern such as security, fighting against terrorism and fighting against piracy in the Indian Ocean. So we are largely to gain from these matters that are a concern to India while we share the Indian sentiments and we have totally endorsed them,” he continued.

“While we have had a slight rough patch with India, the time of good relations far outweigh the rough patches we had. I suppose it is easy for us to be on the right track again,” Yameen said, referring to the issues between the countries following the cancellation of the airport development contract with Indian infrastructure giant GMR.

“My trip here is the testimony to that fact. This is my first visit after I assumed office and India has been a gracious host to me. The Prime Minister of India has been very generous and kind. The talks were absolutely satisfying,” Yameen opined about the outcome of the visit.

The two countries agreed on numerous plans to strengthen bilateral defence and security cooperation, to increase and protect businesses and investments, as well as assistance in multiple development projects.

However, Yameen dismissed questions regarding rising religious radicalism in the Maldives, stating that “there is nothing to worry about at this time”.

“There are people with different thoughts. Very orthodox views. But that has not escalated into an issue of concern. It has not been a source of concern. But yes, India and Maldives, we have both agreed on our position against terrorism, on piracy in the Indian Ocean,” he continued.

“Islamic sentiments are a thing that people hold privately. I would not like to categorize that. This is however not an issue to worry about at this point in time,” he said.

As recently as May 2013, however, both the Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam and then Attorney General Aishath Bisham warned of increased risks of terror attacks and of Maldivian youth enrolling in terror training camps.

In the same month, Reporters Without Borders labelled Maldives’ extremist groups as “predators of press freedom”.

Development project agreements

India and the Maldives have agreed to begin implementation of an agreement on cooperation in development projects signed in 2011 titled the “Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development”.

The Agreement, signed during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, mandates the establishment of a joint commission to oversee projects implemented under the programme, and a minimum of one annual meeting of the said commission.

A joint statement released by the two governments announced that the commission’s inaugural meeting will be held in 2014.

President Yameen stated on Monday that the ties between Maldives and India has been at their closest in the past 50 years during the time when his half brother and leader of ruling Party Progressive Party of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was in power.

Yameen stated that the close ties are a direct result of Gayoom’s foreign policy, and the maintenance of mutual respect between the two countries since that time. He asserted that the current government will be re-implementing the foreign policy that Gayoom had made during his administration.

He stated that dignitaries from among India’s leadership had stated the same during the meetings held in his official visit.

Following Yameen’s return to the country on January 4, Gayoom made an official visit to the President’s Office on Monday to assure the government of unwavering cooperation and assistance from the ruling party.


Authorities unwilling to see me contest election, Nasheed tells Foreign Policy

Until last year, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed was best known for his high-profile advocacy on behalf of small island nations in climate change talks, which included high-profile stunts like holding a cabinet meeting underwater and starring in an acclaimed documentary, writes Joshua Keating for Foreign Policy magazine.

But political reality got in the way in March of last year when he was, he claims, forced from power in a coup.

With all this going on, FP spoke with Nasheed on Wednesday by phone from his office in Male.

FP: Do you believe that you will be able to contest this year’s presidential elections?

Mohamed Nasheed: I don’t think it is certain yet at all. I don’t see the authorities here being willing to accept that. They know they cannot win if we contest. I am unfinished business, because they have to finish me off for their coup to be successful. So there may not let me contest at all.

FP: So what will happen in Maldives if you can’t run?

MN: There’s been a lot of hope among the younger generation that this country can change, that we can change our government though peaceful political activity and through the ballot and not through brute force. A fair amount of people have invested a lot of their life on trying to bring these changes. When they see it vanishing into thin air, there’s bound to be a backlash.

FP: In another recent interview you said, “Usually in a coup you kill the other man, but in this instance I remain an irritant to them.” Does that imply that you fear for your safety?

MN: There are always so many rumors going on in Male. Recently we’ve heard the that the Artur brothers from Armenia, who have a history in Kenya, have been in the Maldives. [The Artur brothers are alleged drug smugglers and hitmen from Armenia who have been implicated in a number of crimes in Kenya. Prime Minister Raila Odinga has accused them of a plot to assassinate him.] The police have commented on it and there’s a very big scheme. There are all sorts of reports coming out related to these too people. There are always reports of murder attempts. Always reports of threats.

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Palestinian President to visit Maldives

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit the Maldives on April 17, the foreign Ministry has said.

Abbas’ one day visit will be the first visit to the Maldives by a Palestinian president.

The Maldives had previously co-sponsored a resolution to grant Palestine full membership to UNESCO, but the delegation returned before voting.

The resolution was adopted with 107 countries voting in favour, 14 voting against and 52 abstaining, signaling a significant symbolic victory for Palestine’s bid for statehood ahead of a similar vote at the UN General Assembly in New York.