MALE: Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu suspended three deputy ministers for making “derogatory remarks” against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government said.
Muizzu, who won September elections on promises that included removing a small contingent of Indian troops operating maritime aircraft from his archipelago, banned the deputy ministers — Malsha Shareef, Abdulla Mahzoon and Mariyam Shiuna — from work pending an investigation.
Shiuna had called Modi a “clown” following the prime minister’s visit to the Indian territory of Lakshadweep, a cluster of atolls just north of the Maldives.
The three suspended ministers — all from the youth ministry — criticised Modi on social media, officials said.
“The Maldives government is aware of derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high ranking individuals,” the official statement added.
“These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the government of Maldives.”
A senior administrative official claimed that Muizzu had suspended the trio and ordered an investigation. He said Male was concerned about repercussions, as Indians were the largest group of foreign visitors to the Maldives, where tourism accounts for almost one-third of the economy.
On Jan 4, Modi posted on social media praising the “pristine beaches” of India’s Lakshadweep islands, which lie about 130km north of the Maldives at their closest point. He also posted photos of himself snorkelling, and suggested the islands should be on the must-visit list of any adventure-seeking tourist.
Known as an expensive holiday destination with secluded resorts, the Maldives has also become a geopolitical hotspot.
Global east-west shipping lanes pass the nation’s chain of 1,192 tiny coral islands, stretching around 800km across the equator.
Muizzu, who was seen in elections as a proxy of the pro-China former leader Abdulla Yameen, toned down his anti-Indian rhetoric after coming to power though he said he would not upend the regional balance by replacing Indian forces with Chinese troops.
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