Male: The Maldivian government on Sunday suspended three ministers who posted “derogatory remarks” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it distanced itself from their comments on social media and said these opinions are “personal and do not represent the views of the Government”.
The development came after opposition leaders slammed the “appalling language” used by the officials against the Indian leader.
“Government officials who posted derogatory remarks about neighbouring India have been suspended,” state broadcaster PSM News reported, citing the President’s Office.
The Maldives government has affirmed its commitment to taking swift action against individuals on social media whose conduct undermines international relations, it added.
The Sun Online identified the officials who were suspended over the posts as three deputy ministers from the Youth Ministry; Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid.
Earlier on Sunday, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry said they were aware of the “derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals”.
“These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the Government of Maldives,” it said in a statement, amidst uneasy relations between the Maldives and India after Mohamed Muizzu assumed charge as the new president in November.
A row erupted on social media last week when a minister and some other leaders in the Maldives used derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Modi after he posted a video of him on a pristine beach in Lakshadweep.
The Maldivian government said it believes that the freedom of expression should be exercised in a democratic and responsible manner, and in ways that do not spread hatred, and negativity, and hinder close relationships between the Maldives and its international partners.
It warned that relevant authorities of the Government will not hesitate to take action against those who make such derogatory remarks.
Former president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih condemned the use of “hateful language” against India by the Maldivian government officials on social media.
“I condemn the use of hateful language against #India by Maldivian government officials on social media. India has always been a good friend to Maldives and we must not allow such callous remarks to negatively impact the age old friendship between our two countries,” he said in a post on X.
Earlier on Sunday, former president Mohamed Nasheed described the remarks as “appalling” and asked President Muizzu’s government to distance itself from these comments.
“What appalling language by Maldives Government official @shiuna_m towards the leader of a key ally, that is instrumental for Maldives’ security and prosperity. @MMuizzu gov must distance itself from these comments and give clear assurance to India they do not reflect gov policy,” he posted on X.
Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb “strongly condemned” the derogatory and racist comments made by a group of Maldivian politicians towards prime minister Modi.
“We established the Maldives tourism industry based on the principles of hospitality, tolerance, peace, and harmony. Through strategic positioning and collaborations with global brands and investments, including those from India, we have successfully positioned Maldives as a premier luxury resort destination,” Adeeb said.
“I strongly condemn any derogatory and racist comments made by a group of Maldivian politicians towards His Excellency PM Modi @PMOIndia and beloved citizens of India,” he added.
He commended the Maldives Government for distancing itself from the views expressed by these officials and emphasizing that they do not reflect the government’s position.
“Considering the global economic challenges and the vulnerability of the Maldives tourism industry and economy, it is crucial for us to maintain a friendly and humble approach while fostering positive relations, with all nations,” he posted on X.
Maldives National Party in a post on X wrote that it “condemns racist and derogatory comments made by a government official” against a foreign leader.
“This is unacceptable. We urge the government to take necessary action against those involved,” it added.
The Maldives is India’s key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in its initiatives like ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ of the Modi government.
The recent controversy erupted ahead of Muizzu’s first state visit to China on Monday at the invitation of President Xi Jinping.
Muizzu, who is seen as a pro-China politician, has asked India to withdraw 77 Indian military personnel from the Maldives and his government has also decided to review more than 100 bilateral agreements between the two countries.