India can play much bigger role in Maldives, according to Maldives United Opposition’s shadow foreign minister Ahmed Naseem.
Participating in an interaction at Observer Research Foundation here today, Mr Naseem, who was a foreign minister in the Nasheed government, sought more active Indian role in bringing back Maldives’ democracy on track.
“India should not allow fatigue to set in,” Mr Naseem said when asked about what they expected from India.
Mr Naseem is in India, heading a delegation of shadow ministers of the United Opposition which has brought together political leaders and parties from across the spectrum in the Maldives. Besides the former President Nasheed’s MDP, Mr Naseem said the coalition also includes many leaders who were once allied with President Yameen, including his two former Vice Presidents and Defence Minister.
Accusing President Yameen of intending to make the Maldives an authoritarian state, Mr Naseem said “the only way for the Maldives to return to constitutional government, for freedom to be respected and democracy to be upheld, is through the removal of President Yameen from office”.
Mr Naseem accused President Yameen of selling his foreign policy for money. “I am reminded of a Maldivian saying: Whoever provides sugar is an uncle. Our foreign policy is being aligned with countries that give money to President Yameen in an underhand, often illegal way, without regard to the interests of the Maldivian people, our neighbours, or countries with long standing relations with Maldives,” he said.
Mr Naseem said at a time when the Indian Ocean is rapidly emerging as a key focus of international politics and trade, “it is highly deplorable that the Maldives has become dangerous, untrustworthy and failing state in the midst of it”.
He criticised President Yameen’s “haphazard” policy of attempting to balance priorities between India and China, saying it is “undesirable, untenable and unwarranted”.
Shadow minister of defence and national security Abdullah Ameen said “if India and the members of international community neglects us on this critical time, the results could be dangerous beyond imagination. The Indian Ocean might fall under unforeseen perils.”
“Today the friends of the Maldivian government are not its neighbours. Neither are they the close friends of India. For the safety and security of the region, we look for the support of India to rectify the course of Maldives,” Mr Ameen said.
Without mincing words, he said “we ask India to support the hard work of the Maldivians to bring back democracy to the Maldives”.
Shadow education minister Ms Sifa Mohamed described how the situation in the education sector has become worrisome. “The education sector is becoming increasingly centralised, conservative, intolerant and anti-democratic.”
She said in recent years, “religious extremism has also emerged as a serious threat and sadly it has brought about radical changes in the direction of our curriculum.”
Shadow minister of health, social protection and gender, Ms Shidhatha Shareef, said the Maldivian economy has become the “second worst in the South Asia region, next to Afghanistan, with only 1.9 percent growth”. She said while 40 percent of the population is youth, 12percent youth are unemployed, according to a World Bank report.