Slamming the former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, for the recent spate of protests in Male that has alarmed in-bound tourists and tour operators, Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said that the protests were the result of a struggle within the main opposition party.
“There are indications that the current violence taking place in Male has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with a political struggle for who should lead the main opposition party, the DRP, into the next Presidential elections. It is unfortunate that that struggle is being played out on the streets of Male rather than, as should be the case, by holding an open and transparent primary,” he told presspersons here on Friday.
Admitting that there were some clashes between the protestors and locals, he claimed that this was because the locals in the area were “fed up” with the daily night protests and decided to take on the protestors.
Groups of people have been gathering each evening for the past five days and have been protesting the government's handling of the financial crisis. There has been violence and baton charge. The government insists that the violence was orchestrated by a small group of supporters of Mr. former President Gayoom and has denied that the protestors were baton charged. It also refuted the allegation that many of the injured were hospitalised. “You have come and see for yourselves. Most of feigning injuries,” the Minister said.
He admitted that there was a problem in the economy and that the government was trying its best to fix it. “The government understands that many people are concerned about the economy and recent price rises, and is committed to working to address these concerns through a process of dialogue. For example, yesterday [Thursday] the Cabinet decided to halve the import duty on diesel fuel. However, the current economic difficulties reflect, at their heart, deep-seated structural problems inherited from the former government, including a budget deficit which stood at 31 per cent of the GDP and a public sector wage bill which had increased by almost 400 per cent between 2004 and 2009. The Government is working closely with the IMF to address these problems. This has already resulted in the deficit being reduced from 31 per cent to 16 per cent,” he said.
Airlines operating out of Maldives, multilateral missions and other organisations have reported difficulty in operations caused by the current precarious financial situation, said representatives of a few of the organisations.