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Defence minister apologises for Indian occupation remarks

The minister slammed the opposition’s anti-India campaign.



Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi on Monday apologised for saying that the Maldives could not stop India from occupying the country.

The former lawmaker – who resigned in November to become the country’s first female defence minister – was summoned for questioning at Monday’s sitting of parliament over remarks made during an interview with Strategic News International in late January.

“Some people are disturbed by my words in five seconds out of the 22 minutes. If there is any confusion or upset, I humbly apologise for that,” she said.

The remarks were misreported and taken out of context, she insisted.

“If the Indians really wanted to occupy Maldives, they never had the intention, I’m sure, but if they do, I don’t know how we can stop it. You see, your airforce, your navy, your infantry, literally there is nothing we can do… this is just being practical,” Mariya had said.

Last week, opposition lawmakers filed a motion of no-confidence against the defence minister, contending the interview provided grounds for dismissal. 

Her apology was met with applause in the parliament floor.

The question for the defence minister was tabled by opposition Progressive Party of Maldives MP Ahmed Thoriq.

Aside from one other PPM MP, most of the followup questions were posed by Mariya’s former colleagues in the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, who offered opportunities for her to criticise the former administration.  

Asked if there was concern within the military, she said: “No one within the military has raised questions about any of my actions.”

But officers and soldiers were distressed over “imprudent” comments made in the social media and political meetings.

“Some of these comments are about sending away ‘foreign military’ parties within out country. This is said to imply that our country is under foreign occupation. There is no need to talk about sending anyone away,” she said.

She was referring to a campaign launched by former home minister Umar Naseer against the presence of Indian military personnel who operate two helicopters gifted to the Maldivian military

Last month, Naseer started planning demonstrations and sought volunteers and financial contributions. It came amid rising anti-India sentiment among opposition supporters over alleged secret military deals.

The ‘Indian Soldiers Leave!’ campaign will seek to “increase awareness among the people before the Maldives is enslaved,” he said, accusing India of plotting a “slow invasion.”

Flanked by the chief and vice chief of defence forces, Mariya accused the opposition of manufacturing a “baseless” issue to create discord and incite fear and hatred among the public.

She condemned the campaign as a cynical attempt to appeal to nationalist sentiment for “short-term political gain.”