Maldivian crisis: Lankans safe but uncertainty continues

By Chandani Kirinde

More than 8,000 Sri Lankans working in the Maldives have not been affected by the political turmoil there, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner Dixon Dela said yesterday. “There is nothing to fear. Sri Lankans are safe,” Mr. Dela who is in Colombo told the Sunday Times.

He said he had briefed Government authorities on the crisis in the Maldives and claimed there was no reason for any panic. Most Sri Lankans in the Maldives are working in the hospitality and garment sectors.

Meanwhile Maldivian High Commissioner Hussain Shihab also said there was not threat or disruption to the lives of people in the Maldives despite several days of turmoil and demonstrations. Mr. Shihab said new President Mohamed Waheed Hassen was holding talks to set up a national unity government. Members of ousted President Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also had been invited to join.

He said that as Friday and yesterday were holidays in the Maldives, a decision was likely today or tomorrow. The envoy quoted President Waheed as saying the next Vice President would be a non-party intellectual who could command the respect of civil society.

Under the Maldivian Constitution, if the President leaves office, it is the Vice President who succeeds him. Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake who is in charge of South Asian affairs, flew to Male yesterday to study the situation. Special envoys of the United Nations, the Commonwealth and India were also in Male as the political uncertainty continues.

India's special envoy and Assistant Foreign Secretary M. Ganapathi met both President Waheed and former President Nasheed.At a news conference in Male yesterday, Mr. Ganpathi when asked about Mr. Nasheed’s statement that he had requested India’s intervention to quell a mutiny by the police and the defence forces, said the situation was an internal matter and an internal solution should be found.

The Indian envoy also said the new Maldivian President had assured him that all foreign investments including those of India would be protected. This came amidst critcism that the ousted president had sold the Male international airport to India’s GMR for a paltry sum.

The Sri Lankan Government maintains the crisis in the Maldives is an internal matter for the country. The Maldivian High Commissioner said no request had been made for any Sri Lanka officials to visit Male.

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