Maldivian High Commission sets the record straight

A newspaper article appeared last year following a debate that I had in the House of Commons concerning relations between the UK government and the Maldives. I am now in a position to correct the impression that was given. I did not raise the issues following a recent visit to the Maldives – the trip that I went on in fact took place in 2008 and before a change of government in the country. Sadly this story was repeated and libellous comments made without full knowledge of the facts.

The following is a letter from the Maldivian High Commission in respect of the article:

Dear Editor,

I am writing to you about the article in your paper on October 18th 2009, p.4,'Free flights and second jobs that pay £7,400 a day', which we believe portrays the Hon. David Amess MP Chair of the All Party Parliamentary group on the Maldives and his support for our country in a very misleading manner.

The Maldives may be a land of 'white sands and tropical waters', but living under a thirty year old autocratic regime was far from paradise for most of us. The previous government survived for decades through its ability to hide from the gaze of the international community while continuing to violate our rights and freedoms.

Thus the Maldives has the international community to thank, in particular the people of the United Kingdom, as it was their attention that put the regime under pressure, forcing it towards reform, and enabled the smooth and peaceful transition from autocracy to democracy in 2008 when the first multi-party elections were held in October that year.

Therefore, the government of Maldives wishes to thankfully acknowledge the kind assistance of the government, the parliamentarians and the people of the United Kingdom and hopes that the country can continue to rely on their support in our attempts to institutionalize democracy in the Maldives.

In particular, the government of Maldives would like to reiterate its gratitude towards Mr. David Amess MP Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Maldives, and all the members of the Parliamentary Group, for the contributions they have made towards the democratisation of the Maldives. During the days of the autocratic regime the support of such members of the parliamentary group was vital in the attempt to bring change to the country in order to create a modem liberal democracy and to establish fundamental rights and freedoms.

While there may have been controversy over certain expenses-related issues in the British parliament the government of Maldives would like to emphatically note the valid contributions made by Mr. Amess' visit, and hopes that future visits, focused upon the development of democracy, will be conducted by fellow British parliamentarians. We also appreciate the continuing work by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Maldives to highlight the difficulties that the Maldives face due to climate change as well as their assistance in seeking closer co-operation between educational institutions in the UK and the Maldives.

We are also extremely grateful to the work of the British press in highlighting the abuses and violations of human rights in the Maldives, and for their role in encouraging dramatic political change. On that note we appreciate the various articles published in British papers over the years, such as 'Struggle for democracy exposes the dark side of paradise islands' (17/06/2006) and 'Maldives dictator tries a touch of New Labour spin' by Peter Foster, the Daily Telegraph (77 /06/2006').

Dr. Farahanaz Faizal
High Commissioner