A recent headline reads “Opposition members visit Pakistan, what is their purpose?”. The article published in a local news has been highly circulated albeit with negatively reaction by the public. The article alleges that opposition Vice-President MP Ghassan Maumoon along with the Maldivian former Chief of Defense Force Major General Shiyam had visited Pakistan together and discussed various issues with senior officials of the Pakistani government.
The article alleges that the two of them discussed on the bilateral relations between both states and discussed trade relations. The only cited source in the article “Business Record”, stated that the duo had negotiated with Pakistani officials on initiating a cargo ferry between Pakistan and Maldives.
These allegations were met with contradictory hyper-nationalistic, pro-Indian sentiments by senior officials of the ruling party. While some senior officials of the government dubbed the alleged Pakistani cargo ferry service as “Ludicrous”, others viewed the allegations as a threat to national security, sovereignty and ties with India. A senior official within the government was also cited to have said that the visit was against the norms of foreign relations, and that only the ruling party may conduct dialogue with foreign nations.
According to the article, an unnamed member of the parliament accused Vice-President MP Ghassan Maumoon along with the Maldivian former Chief of Defense Force Major General Shiyam of sharing intelligence documents with Pakistani government. At this point, we need to take a step back and consider the fact that all this accusations and allegations from the government against a serving MP and one of the most distinguished serviceman in our defense force’s history, is based on an article based on hearsay.
However, what is more interesting is that the notion that “only the ruling party may conduct dialogue with a foreign nation.”, which needs to be re-examined. Current ruling party MDP, known for its close ties with the western states, calling to cease an alleged dialogue between an opposition member, a retired serviceman and our neighboring state of Pakistan is just hypocrisy. If we’re to look back at the days when the current ruling party MDP was the opposition, it is riddled with constant trips to western states and dialogue with politicians and donors.
In an interview with Agence France-Press (AFP) in 2013, MDP’s International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor called out to boycott Maldives tourism sector. Three years later in 2016, former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem met with the leader of Germany’s green party a day before that ITB fair was to launch and passed false information that a grossly overrated 500 Maldivians had joined the ISIS in Syria, and urged to boycott Maldives tourism. This led to a sharp decline in tourist arrival, resulting in millions of dollars’ worth damages to the economy.
The previous administration’s attempts to gain the right to decide the price of Maldivian seafood products exported to the European Union was also blocked by then opposition MDP when again, the former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem intervened and urged the EU not to grant it.
In more recent times, on 7th February 2018 current Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid participated in a panel discussion on NDTV and was heard saying on live television that he is “concerned” that India had to take any action against Maldives and urged the Indian government to send its armed forces to Maldives.
The tables turned, the current ruling party MDP seems eager to make the economic losses incurred by their reckless dialogue with foreign nations, into a distant memory. Moreover, any allegation of dialogue with a foreign nation and current opposition seems to conjure up their own the memories and intensions, sparking hysteria. The double standard aside, in a democratic environment, an opposition should have the right to dialogue with international stakeholders, without the threats of prosecution by the ruling party.