Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has requested the parliament to endorse a resolution forbidding the government to establish ties with Israel.
The Islamic Minister made his request during discussions with the parliament’s national security committee, which is currently debating whether to permit Israeli airlines to land in Maldives.
Expressing his views on the issue, Dr. Bari told the MPs he “personally does not support the Israel airline to operate in the Maldives”.
Speaking to Minivan News, Dr. Bari said that he made the request because he believes “Israel has committed several human rights violations”.
Dr. Bari noted that Maldives should not stand with Israel as it commits atrocities against the Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine.
“Maldives cut off ties with Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi’s government when he was killing, violating fundamental rights of his people. Similarly, Maldives should follow the same standard by isolating Israel for the atrocities committed against Muslims,” Dr.Bari said.
He also alleged that Israel is attempting to “gain sympathy” because the country is geographically isolated from non-Muslim countries.
Israel’s relationship with Palestine has raised concern in the Maldives, however the government has tried to maintain diplomatic relations.
Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson and former State Islamic Minister Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said “we are afraid that the security level in the Maldives is too low.” He noted that the Indian army was asked to intervene during a 1983 coup attempt by Sri Lankan terrorist groups.
Shaheem said allowing Israelis into the country would raise the threat level to themselves as well as to Maldivians.
“I don’t want to bring harm to Israelis or Maldivians. There are terrorist groups in other countries, like Afghanistan, and these people might come to the Maldives when they see the security level is weak in order to attack locals or the Israelis,” he explained.
The Transport Ministry granted a license to Israeli flag carrier El Al to begin operations to Maldives in September, following a formal application to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to begin flying to the Maldives starting in December.
Shortly after the license was granted, Adhaalath party severed its coalition agreement with the government. The party subsequently requested that the airline license be reviewed by the National Security Committee (NSC).
NSC has been holding discussions on the topic since last week.
“The committee deals with facts, not rumors,” said NSC President Ali Waheed. “As of now, there is no such thing as the Maldivian government giving permission to an Israeli airline.”
NSC today consulted Transport Ministry officials, and will tomorrow meet with the Fisheries Minister over allegations that the government leased land to an Israeli party. Cabinet ministers, Adhaalath Party Vice President Dr Mauroof Hussein and Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel have also been consulted.
NSC President Ali Waheed said Dr. Bari’s concerns were duly heard by the committee, and will be discussed tomorrow.
Although Parliament is due for recess after December 31, Waheed was unable to say when the committee’s investigation would conclude. “I will make the contacts and be available for the discussions as long as the committee requests it. I will put in my time,” he said.
According to opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf, all opposition parties and religious NGOs agree that permission should not be given to Israeli airlines.
Mahlouf said the main concern was the threat of direct flights to national security.
“Being a small Muslim country, it is unacceptable for us to see Israelis attacking Muslims in Palestine and then allow them to fly to our country. This is why the former government did not allow Israeli flights, or even flights that transferred in Israel, to come to Maldives,” he said.
He point out that Maldives is not the only country to refuse direct flights from Israel, and suggested that the government was transferring the blame of the decision to the Parliament.
“The government can say ‘no.’ I know they think we need the money from tourism, but we are already doing well without these direct flights,” he said.
Mahlouf agreed with Shaheem’s concern that direct flights would open the door for terrorists in neighboring countries to begin operations in the Maldives. However, he disagreed with Dr. Bari’s request that diplomatic relations be cut off.
MDP MPs had not responded to phone calls at time of press.