In the anxiety to pitch the struggle for power in the Maldives as essentially an India-China story in some quarters, one key player is being ignored: England.
In the middle of what part of the British officialdom believes is a coup, a top British diplomats in the region – the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and The Maldives who is based in Colombo -- has been camping in Male for over three days. No other senior diplomat, accredited to the Maldives, is in town. The United States Mission in Colombo has sent one of its senior staffers, not a diplomat. The British Prime Minister David Cameroon commented on the issue in Parliament, and a few British MPs have voiced their concern.
“President Nasheed is very close to Britain,” said a diplomat, who did not wish to be named. “He was based there for many years and had developed friendships with people across the political spectrum,” he added. A few of his advisors too are British.
The British High Commissioner met both former President Mohamed Nasheed and the new President Waheed Hassan Manik on Wednesday. Both tried to tell him that they were fighting for democracy, establishing the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law in the country, one top official said.
A British diplomat sought to dispel the notion that they were supporting Mr.Nasheed. The United Kingdom has appealed for calm and has called on both sides to exercise restraint, the diplomat said.
In the House of Commons
David Amess, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group to the Maldives , speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, asked the Prime Minister if he shared his disappointment at the overthrow yesterday of the first democratically elected President of the Maldives in a coup d’état.
In his reply, the Prime Minister said: “This country does have strong links with the Maldives and a good relationship with President Nasheed, but we have to be clear. President Nasheed has resigned, and we have a strong interest in the well-being of several thousand British tourists and in a stable and democratic Government in the Maldives.”
The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, in a statement expressed her deeply concerned about developments in the Maldives. “She
has noted the reasons stated by President Nasheed for his decision to resign. She is willing to support this dialogue in any way that the Maldivian authorities consider useful, in close cooperation with the international community."
It seems that the British connection has influenced the decision of the Maldivian High Commissioner to the UK. Farah Faizal became the first Maldivian Foreign Service official to resign. In a letter to the Foreign Minister, a copy of which was forwarded to The Hindu, she said: “I hereby tender my resignation as High commissioner of Maldives to the UK and as Ambassador of Maldives to France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Palestine. I regret to let you know that I cannot serve in a government that has toppled the democratically elected government of Maldives, in a coup d'etat.”
Keywords: Maldives crisis