European diplomats said Thursday they were “disappointed” that President Abdulla Yameen had refused to meet them.
Ambassadors from the European Union, Germany and the UK were in the Maldives days after a state of emergency was declared.
Yameen ignored a Supreme Court verdict ordering the release of nine prisoners. Instead he cracked down on his opponents, throwing a former president and two top judges into prison and suspending around 20 constitutional rights.
EU Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue said the high-level delegation had travelled to Malé in good faith to seek answers about the circumstances leading to the current crisis.
“Unfortunately despite our requests for a number of meetings with members of the government, including President Yameen, none of these requests were honoured,” he said.
“We are first of all disappointed…We came also because there was an announcement made by the government that the international community was welcome to visit the country and speak to officials. Well, we came and we couldn’t meet anybody.”
His German counterpart, Jorn Rohde, said he had travelled to the Maldives four times in the last year and had yet to meet Yameen. The German embassy in Colombo said refusing dialogue was “not the way forward.”
The president’s spokesman Ibrahim Shahib gave a different version of Thursday’s events.
“The #ForeignSecretary had a fruitful meeting with the #Visiting EU/UK #Delegation which requested immediate meetings with #Cabinet Ministers. Meetings where (sic) scheduled for 3PM today once Cabinet Consultations would end; however the delegation had, by then, chosen to leave.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hit back at media reports of the snub, also giving short shrift to the delegation.
“It is worrisome that, despite the Foreign Secretary meeting the Ambassadors this morning at a very short notice, and briefing them on the situation at hand, there are media reports that the Government refused to meet the delegation.
“In addition, the Government had a team of State Ministers and Foreign Service Officials, whom the delegation refused to meet. Further, the Ambassadors were aptly informed that The President and all Cabinet Ministers were in a Cabinet session, in addition to having high level back to back meetings.
“The Government expresses regret that the delegation had already departed when the Ministers became available to meet them, regardless of the short notice given by the delegation to the Government.”
A source with the EU delegation told the Maldives Independent the foreign ministry had prior knowledge of the ambassadors’ flight time when the meetings were scheduled.
The foreign minister is travelling to Pakistan to brief Islamabad on the state of emergency, the president’s website said. Ministers have also been dispatched to Saudi Arabia and China.
The statement repeated its invitation to “all development partners and organisations to assess the current situation in the Maldives and to observe and independently verify for themselves that life remains unaffected with peace and calm prevailing across the nation.
“Economic activity remains unaffected with no restrictions on travel in and out, and within, the country.”