Male City Council Mayor Ali Manik has said the council will respect its sister-city agreement with Kaosiung City in Taiwan, despite the government’s denouncement of the move.
Following the signing of the agreement in Male’ on June 9 with a delegation from Kaosiung, the Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement reaffirming its “commitment and support to China’s national unity and to the one-China Policy.”
“The Maldives’ firm conviction of one-China policy is guided by the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of states and considers Taiwan as an integral part of the People’s Republic of China,” the government stated.
“This is an agreement between cities, not countries,” said Mayor Manik. “Our constitution does not say anything about not being able to make such agreements.”
“The attorney general has said we need to get permission from the president. This is not true. We don’t have to get permission. That is not in the constitution,” he added.
Following the signing of the sister-city agreement and the delegations inspection of Male, Manik said Kaosiung would report on the kind of assistance the city would be able to provide, such as technical assistance with waste management, roads, infrastructure, education and training.
“We ask the government not to obstruct us from doing something that is for the benefit of Male. [The agreement] is not illegal,” Manik said.
The agreement came about after the council met Kaosiung officials, including the Deputy Mayor, during a local councils conference held in Hyderabad in India last year.
That led to an invitation for a delegation from Male’ City Council to visit Kaosiung in November 2012, for which the host city provided tickets and accommodation, Manik said.
Male City Council is dominated by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the leader of which contends he was ousted in a coup on February 7 2012 by current President Mohamed Waheed. The bitter political polarisation has put the council at loggerheads with the Maldivian government for more than a year.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has meanwhile disputed allegations that the Maldivian government’s decision to reject the agreement was made under Chinese pressure.
During a MOFA press conference reported by the China Post, spokesperson Anna Kao noted that Taiwanese cities had established sister-city ties with cities around the world without incident, and suggested that politics should not interfere with such exchanges.
“We urge the Maldivian government to respect its cities’ efforts to advance ties and business and people-to-people exchanges with Taiwanese cities,” said Kao.