New Delhi, January 7, 2024 : In a diplomatic uproar, the Maldives government has suspended three ministers following their derogatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of India. The move comes amidst a social media spat over PM Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep, with the Maldivian ministers facing swift backlash at home and abroad.
The suspended ministers, Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha Shareef, and Mahzoom Majid, faced immediate suspension as the government distanced itself from their comments. The controversy erupted after PM Modi’s photographs from Lakshadweep went viral, triggering a comparison between the Indian islands and the Maldives as tourist destinations.
The Indian High Commission in Male raised concerns with the Maldivian Foreign Office, emphasizing the inappropriate comments made by certain ministers. President Mohamed Muizzu’s government, on a State Visit to China, released a statement clarifying that such remarks on social media were personal and did not represent the official stance of the Maldives government.
The Maldives government highlighted the importance of exercising freedom of expression responsibly and vowed to take action against those making derogatory remarks. Later in the day, the three ministers were suspended, adding a new dimension to the diplomatic tension.
The controversy began when Maldivian MP Zahid Rameez expressed skepticism about India’s ability to compete with the Maldives, particularly in terms of cleanliness and services. Minister Shiuna called PM Modi a “clown” and a “puppet,” while Shareef’s comments were also derogatory. Minister Majid emphasized the challenges India faced in competing with the Maldives in beach tourism.
The comments sparked outrage not only in India but also within the Maldives, with former Presidents condemning the remarks. Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih stressed the need to preserve the age-old friendship between the two nations, while Mohamed Nasheed called for distancing the government from such language.
Former Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid termed the ministers’ remarks as odious, urging the government to reprimand them. The Maldives National Party also criticized the “racist and derogatory comments,” urging necessary action against those involved.
Indian celebrities joined the chorus of criticism on social media, with actors Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, John Abraham, and Sachin Tendulkar expressing their disappointment. The hashtag “Boycott Maldives” gained traction as users contemplated canceling their bookings over the insult to PM Modi.
It is so cool to see our Hon PM Narendrabhai Modi at the beautiful clean n stunning beaches of Lakshadweep, and the best part is that yeh hamare India mein hain.— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) January 7, 2024
Came across comments from prominent public figures from Maldives passing hateful and racist comments on Indians. Surprised that they are doing this to a country that sends them the maximum number of tourists.— Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar) January 7, 2024
We are good to our neighbors but
why should we tolerate such… pic.twitter.com/DXRqkQFguN
India holds the top position as the primary source of tourists for the Maldives, according to the Tourism Ministry’s statistics, with Russians constituting the second-largest group. Former Maldivian sports minister Ahmed Maloof expressed concern over the potential economic impact of Indians boycotting the Maldives.
As the diplomatic row unfolds, it remains to be seen how both nations navigate the fallout from this controversy.