Opposition-aligned local broadcaster Raajje Television has claimed that the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture forced it to cancel an art exhibition ‘Dhe Fiyavalhu Fahathah’ (Two steps back) organised by the station, after the Ministry refused to issue access to National Art Gallery over “security concerns”.
The theme of the exhibition of both local and international artists was the controversial ousting of former President Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012.
According to the events official Facebook page, it was to display a “collection of artwork where the artists express their opinion and ‘bigger picture’ of democracy in the Maldives”.
The station had opened the opportunity for artists aged over 18 to submit their work from June 20 to July 26.
Speaking to local media, Deputy CEO of the station Abdulla Yameen claimed it had sought all necessary permissions and had even entered into an agreement with the National Center for Arts (NCA) to hold the exhibition.
He also said that in order to address any possible security concerns, the station had notified the police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
“However, until even to the last minute none of the authorities informed us of any security concerns. We had everything arranged for the exhibition and it was expected to kick off later on Friday evening. All our equipment was already inside the art gallery,” said the Deputy CEO.
According to Yameen, when the technical crew returned to the Art Gallery after breaking their fast, they were not allowed inside and were informed that access to the gallery had been restricted on the order of Toursim Minister Ahmed Adheeb.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of the NCA Ali Waheed – President Mohamed Waheed’s brother – told local media that the keys to the gallery had been withheld on the orders of the Tourism Ministry over security concerns as the government’s Independence Day activities were to take place not far from the art gallery.
“Since it would be difficult to inform [the organisers of the exhibition] in writing, we verbally informed them that the art gallery would only be available after July 27. We even got the instruction from the Ministry on Friday. They said it was for security reasons,” Waheed said.
Meanwhile Defence Minister Ahmed Nazim was quoted in local media as saying it was not advisable to hold such an exhibition in a venue near the Independence Day activities, and said he had notified the Tourism Minister.
Nazim however denied giving any orders to restrict access to the art gallery, claiming the decision to block access to the art gallery was made solely by the Tourism Ministry.