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Protestors fill the streets of the Malé city calling for the removal of Indian military presence in the Maldives.

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The public has once again taken it to the streets to protest against the Indian military presence in the Maldives. This is the second such large-scale protest to take place this year against Indian military presence in the Maldives.

This protest was also marked by the sheer number of people who gathered in thousands on the streets of the capital Malé city. The protest was organized by the Opposition Coalition and it’s “Defend Maldives” movement.

Todays protest was attended by the entire leadership of the opposition coalition, members of the Maldives Revolutionary Movement along with retired senior military and police officials.

Protestors called for the immediate and unconditional removal of Indian military presence in the Maldives. They also called for the resignation of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Defence Minister Mariya Didi and Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid ac

The growing hegemonic practices of India combined with the Indian imperialism and subsequent military in the Indian ocean has created public resentment against India. The once warm relations enjoyed by the people of Maldives and India has deteriorated to the point where some in the public now call to end all diplomatic ties with India.

India’s military presence in the Maldives which has been confirmed by Defence Minister Mariya Didi is a source of discomfort for the public who are adamantly against any foreign boots in the Maldives.

Another source of discomfort for the public is many allegations against the Indian High Commissioner in the Maldives. Journalists and politicians have accused the Indian High Commissioner of meddling in domestic affairs of the country and of offering bribes and inducements to various state officials.

Indian dominance since 2018.

The 2018 Presidential Election was met with mixed reactions from before and after the election. Senior officials of the current administration appealed to India to take military action against the Maldives citing rigged elections. This sentiment was shared by many senior officials of the Indian Foreign Service and independent think tanks as they also reiterated that armed action may be the only solution. However, when incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the election, the allegations of rigging and unfair campaigning practices disappeared.

Public discomfort due to the relations between the senior officials of the current administration and India was first sparked when current ruling party President and Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed alleged that India had meddled with the 2018 Presidential Election.

Speaking to India Today, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed stated “First of all, no one thought we would win the election. Everyone thought it would be heavily rigged, and we had no chance. But India didn’t think that. Indian officials and Indian diplomats were at it. They knew that they can create a small window, and you know, if we even get a millimeter, we knew we could go ahead and we could win the elections. So to start with, I think Indian diplomats were very clever. This is not something I usually say but they were very very clever in, in, you know there were many many unreasonable demands from us. On what India should be doing because of lack of democracy there and because everything was suppressed. But they didn’t do what we asked them to do but all sorts of other things which brought us the election.”.

 

While this clearly indicates that India had influenced the 2018 Presidential election, the current administration and independent state authorities continue to ignore what might be a serious breach of security and a threat to the democratic system in the Maldives.

Many have compared the situation to the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

Some argue that India’s plans to assert its influence in the Maldives dates back to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration when he welcomed the Indian conglomerate GMR to take over the nation’s main airport worth over $ 1 billion for an alleged $78 million. GMR was known to have actively played a role in local politics.

The unwelcome Indian Military Presence in the Maldives.

Although the Government of Maldives initially rejected the accusations of having signed security agreements with India under which Indian military personnel would be allowed to station themselves in the Maldives, Defence Minister Mariya Didi has recently confirmed as to otherwise. Defence Minister Mariya Didi acknowledged that Indian Military personnel were indeed stationed in the Maldives, proving that the top brass of the military and the government had lied to the public on the subject.

While the government continues to reject any application to publicize the security agreements under the RTI Act, even the Parliament has been left in the dark on the exact nature of the agreement. According to the constitution of the Maldives, no foreign boots may be stationed in the Maldives without full approval of the agreement by the Parliament, posing question on the validity of the agreements.

Indian Radar Network System.

In June 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the opening of the Indian Radar Network system in the Maldives. A series of 10 radar systems located at strategic points to provide “eyes for the big brother”. While it was initially stated that the radars would be used to safeguard the Special Economic Zone of the Maldives, Indian think tanks and media have alluded to other strategic uses.

According to reports from the media, the Radar Systems would be a strategic asset for India to keep an eye on the waters surrounding the Maldives. It was stated that the radars would allow India to spot Chinese military vessels and submarines travelling in the region.

Stationing and operating military assets in the Maldives would mean that it has become a point of military operation. This fact is one of the major driving forces behind the anti-Indian military sentiments in the Maldives. Some netizens have stated that were India to clash with another regional power, Maldivians would have to face collateral damages for stationing Indian military personnel and hardware in the Maldives.

Moreover, Maldives which has long remained neutral and non-aligned would be taking a side on the growing escalation between the western forces, its allies and Russia and China.

Indian military presence in the Maldives

To the ire of the public, India has also taken control of multiple strategic military locations citing development projects such as the northern most Hanimaadhoo International Airport, the capital city area military base UTF and the South most city of Addu.

UTF- a strategic naval base.

The Uthuru ThilhaFalhu or UTF is one of the most strategic military naval bases in the most due to its close proximity to the capital city area and the fact that it’s surrounded by the waters of Maldives.

On 21st February 2021 Indian foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar signed an agreement to develop and maintain the harbor of the UTF, a site which has been described as the last line of defense for the capital city. Months later the agreement was leaked to local newspapers which revealed that Indian military personnel at the UTF would be allowed to carry arms and live rounds. Moreover, the armed Indian soldiers would be allowed to carry out their own surveillance of the maritime boundaries of the Maldives using the facilities at UTF.

The agreement also allows for the Indian military to maintain their presence at UTF for a total of 60 years.

Addu city military base- Indian eyes on global trade routes.

The Southernmost Addu city has also become the target of the growing Indian military presence in the Maldives. The development of the training academy in Addu city has been the subject of concern for the public as India continues to expand the boundaries of the military training facility.

Sources close to the project have hinted that local military and police have little to no control over the site and what goes there. Many have accused India of developing its own military base in the strategic Addu city which sits near the equator and close to a major maritime trade route.

Public outrage also poured out against the military base in Addu city after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet unilaterally decided to open a Consular General’s office in Addu city. This violation of the Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations have meant that public resentment against these breaches of sovereignty continue to grow.

Future of Indo-Maldives relations.

Maldives has enjoyed warm relations with India dating back to centuries. However, the Maldivians are a hardy and patriotic people who value their independence and religion above all other. And India’s growing military presence and interference in the domestic affairs of Maldives has undeniably provoked the ire of the Maldivian people, as evident by the thousands of people who took the streets in protest against India.

While the current administration and the New Delhi friendly President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih continue to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the public concerns, resentment against India will continue to grow and ultimately prove itself to be a major obstacle for diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries in the coming years.

Regardless of the weak foreign policy adopted by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration, Indo-Maldives relations will continue to worsen if India does not remove their military personnel and hardware and if the current administration does not adopt a more transparent approach to the exact nature of relations between the current administration and India. It is imperative that India adopt a non-aggressive foreign policy for the continued harmony and relations between India and Maldives.

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MNP to decide on going to court over Villimale’ WDC by-election

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Maldives National Party (MNP) has stated a decision will be made soon on going to court over concerns related to the Women’s Development Committee (WDC) by-election held for Villimale’ constituency in Male’ City.

The by-election, which was held on May 14, was contested by candidates from MNP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The election was won by PPM’s Fathimath Nazima with 359 votes, just one vote ahead of MNP’s candidate Aminath Sheeza who received 358 votes.

Speaking at a press conference, Vice President of MNP Ahmed Usham said the party has some valid concerns over the way ballots were counted in some polling stations. Usham stated there were inconsistencies in declaring null or invalid votes at different stations, noting ballots at some stations were counted out due to an additional line on the ballot paper while ballots with the same issue were counted as valid in other stations. He said the party is thinking of going to court over the case, and would be making a decision after the case is fully analysed.

Following the by-election, MNP requested a recount of the ballots to confirm the result. After reviewing MNP’s request, ECM decided to recount two ballots which received complaints during the vote. However, after recounting the two ballots, ECM stated there is no issue that would lead to a change of results.

 

Source: psmnews

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Dr. Ahmed Shaheed: Solih administration joins ranks of most repressive governments, time to CMAG Maldives?

Hamdhan Shakeel

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Former Maldivian Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr. Ahmed Shaheed has stated that the Solih administration has joined the most repressive governments.

Following yesterday’s arrest of key activists associated with the India Out campaign which seeks to expel the Indian military forces in the Maldives and the ensuing protest and arrests last night, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed took to Twitter to express his disapproval of the Solih administration’s suppression of people’s right to freedom of expression.

In his Tweet, the former Foreign Minister state that “if the news reports of arrests to suppress dissent against Indian military presence in Maldives is true, this government has joined the ranks of the most repressive governments in Maldives”.

He also questioned whether it is time to add the Government of Maldives to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s agenda.

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Police attacks on Media contributes to decline in accountability and democratic backsliding.

Hamdhan Shakeel

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Staff Sergeant Solih is alleged to have threatened local media on the night of 18 May 2022.

The recent rallies and protest calling for the removal of Indian military forces in the Maldives has one undeniable fact, that the Maldives Police Service has become highly critical of local media outlets.

The advent of democracy marked the ushering in of a new era where unlike the yesteryears of Maumoon and his predecessors, the public were free to criticize and call for reform within the government and military forces. No longer were the police able to arrest people in the middle of the night and hold them in solitary confinement till a verdict is passed against them in a highly politicized judiciary.

Just as with every other sate institution, the police were held accountable, senior officers were prosecuted for their actions. Massive reform was made within the institution to hold them accountable and to develop a modern police force.

However, following the appointment of the former officer Mohamed Hameed who had been dismissed for leaking intelligence documents, as the Commissioner of Police, the whole institution has undergone a dramatic backsliding in its reform and development.

As a member of the press, we deal with the Police on a daily basis, submitting queries on a wide range of cases. Maldives Police Service has always not been on much good terms with the media thanks to their apparent prejudice that the media is the antithesis to the police in executing their duties during protest and rallies. However, under Commissioner Mohamed Hameed, the Maldives Police Service has adopted an unprecedented stand against media, actively barring media from covering domestic events.

Echoing the Maumoon era police brutality, the Solih administration has also utilized the Police to cover the brutality towards protestors and the media. Several high-profile attacks on the media has been brought to the attention of international media organizations such as RSF. However, this does not even remotely do justice for the countless attacks against the press, as they too perform their duty.

Their alienation and refusal to cooperate with the fourth estate is evident from their official police media group where the police repeatedly decline to even comment on any query by the press, only releasing statements and other messages they see fit.

Unforeseen to he general public, this poses a serious threat to the fundamental checks and balances in the democratic system where state institutions with overwhelming powers are kept in balance by independent state institutions and the fourth estate. In this case, the police’s refusal to cooperate nor allow the media to freely operate and cover political and other protests pose a direct threat to and contribute to the democratic backsliding in the Maldives, by removing the element of accountability from the equation.

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