No support for any movement against India – Mohamed Nasheed
Sri Lanka has been having a number of high profile foreign visits over the past few weeks. Among those visiting Sri Lanka was Maldives Speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed gave a brief interview to Daily Mirror during his stay in Colombo. Excerpts of the interview
Q: You were the target of a bomb attack less than a year ago and suffered serious injuries. How has your recovery been?
Insha Allah, I’m much better. All the injuries and all the wounds have healed. And fortunately my health is now fine. I am good.
Q: This attack was blamed on Islamist extremists. There have been concerns that Maldives is becoming a haven for islamist extremists. How do you see this concern?
Throughout the world there are extremist views. Especially extremist religious views. Yes, our young people are being indoctrinated to these extreme views. And it is happening in many places. We have to be very careful about it. We have to have programmes that would educate our people, that would enlighten our people on how things should work. And I think this is a very serious issue for all our governments, including the Maldives Government and other regions, the Sri Lankan Government and everyone. We must join our hands and fight against extremism and terrorism.
Q: Do you see the current Maldives administration doing enough to fight against extremism?
Yes, they are. The President has formulated a counter terrorism unit in the President’s office. It is now co-ordinated. The Police and military are both engaged in the work and I believe that we are addressing the issue and we will be able to root out the violent elements within.
Q: I also wanted to ask you about the current Maldives Government led by President Solih. You supported Solih at the Presidential election. He was seen as someone bringing much needed change to the Maldives. Human rights groups have now accused President Solih of falling short of delivering on his promises. What is your take on the President’s term in office so far?
First, it is a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Government. The President is fulfilling the pledges that we made to the people. I believe that the Government is successful in doing much of what we have promised. But, of course there are shortcomings and we have a lot of work to do. But I do believe that we have delivered on much of the pledges that we promised to the people when we came to Government this time.
Q: The current Maldives Government has seemingly distanced itself from China and has aligned itself more towards India. We now see an “India Out” campaign being launched by former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen. Why is there opposition to India’s presence in your country?
I think its very misguided. Very unpopular. For whatever reason President Yameen feels that he can whip-up anti-Indian sentiment in the Maldives, a xenophobic, nationalistic tendency. But I don’t think the people are buying it. I don’t think there will be popular support for any movement against India or for that matter any country. I think its very misguided. President Yameen must stop it.
Q: Do you see a bigger role for China in the Maldives?
I don’t see a bigger role for China. I think our “India First” policy must remain the foreign policy of the Maldives. And it is.
Q: And that will be the policy that the MDP will continue to take?
Yes, that will be the policy that the MDP will always pursue and for the last 3-4 years we have done that. And I am sure we will continue doing that.
Q: Finally, let me ask you about your visit to Sri Lanka? What brings you here? And how do you see Maldives-Sri Lanka relations?
The Youth Minister, Namal Rajapaksa, invited me for the Youth Parliament session in Maharagama. He has also been visiting the Maldives very frequently and he has become a familiar face in the Maldives.
As for Maldives and Sri Lanka, you know our tourism industry, our imports, our exports, our trade relations, our cultural relations. Colombo is the second largest Maldives town with Maldivians. After Male there is no other town in the Maldives that has more people than we have in Colombo.
We go back a long way for many, many centuries and we share the same ethnic stock. We are the same people. So we have very good relations. I am sure any Government, whoever is in Government will continue that relationship.
Source: Daily Mirror