First couple returns to Malé after stopover in Sri Lanka

First couple returns to Malé after stopover in Sri Lanka
June 02 14:45 2016

President Abdulla Yameen and First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim arrived in Malé this afternoon after concluding an official visit to Malaysia.

The first couple left for Kuala Lumpur on Sunday night  and departed on Tuesday, according to the president’s office.

Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror reported that Yameen arrived in Colombo Wednesday afternoon with a seven-member delegation.

A spokesman for the Sri Lankan foreign ministry told the newspaper that Yameen was “on transit and that it was a private visit.”

The first couple had traveled to Malaysia to participate in a three-day conference for youth empowerment organised by the NGO Permata International.

The first lady was invited to speak at the conference by Malaysian Prime Minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who leads the private NGO.

Fathimath delivered a speech titled “Children Beyond Tomorrow” at the high-level forum of the conference.

Yameen meanwhile met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and “deliberated extensively on matters of mutual interest,” the president’s office said in a brief statement.

According to the foreign ministry, the Malaysian government has decided to grant a 90-day on-arrival visa to Maldivians effective June 1.

Maldivians were previously granted a 30-day tourist visa.

“A large number of Maldivians visit Malaysia every year. President Yameen, during his official visit to Malaysia in March this year, discussed with Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib Tun Haji Abdul Razak, and requested for an easy visa arrangement for Maldivians visiting and residing in Malaysia,” the foreign ministry said.

“The Government of Maldives highly appreciates the gesture of friendship by the Government of Malaysia based on the close and cordial relations between the two countries and the ongoing bilateral discussions on a more relaxed visa arrangement between the two countries.”

The president had visited Malaysia in late March on his first official overseas trip since the September 28 blast on the presidential speedboat.

During the previous visit, Yameen had sought Malaysia’s help for the Maldives to avoid “unfair punishment” by the Commonwealth over widely condemned human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition leaders.

Malaysia sits on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, a watchdog body comprised of foreign ministers that monitor member states’ observance of democracy and human rights.

Following a review of the Maldives’ progress in resolving a year-long political crisis sparked by the jailing of opposition politicians, the CMAG called for “clear, measurable progress” by September, when it will “assess progress, take stock, and take decisions accordingly.”

Yameen’s maiden official visit to Malaysia also came at a time when both leaders were embroiled in massive corruption scandals.

The Malaysian prime minister is accused of embezzling more than a billion dollars from a struggling state fund. Yameen’s former deputy is meanwhile on trial in connection with the theft of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company – a corruption scandal of unprecedented scale in Maldivian history.

Both men have dismissed allegations of wrongdoing.

The first couple was greeted today at the official jetty by senior government officials, ruling party lawmakers, and supporters.