The government has denied media reports suggesting that the passports of Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and MP Faris Maumoon were confiscated by Sri Lankan authorities.
Newspaper Haveeru reported today that the pair were also held for more than an hour at the airport before being told they were blacklisted “by mistake.” Dunya and Faris – children of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – reportedly traveled to Colombo on an unofficial visit in late December.
“Names of Minister Dunya & MP Faris never blacklisted, and their passports never confiscated,” the foreign ministry said in a tweet shortly after the Haveeru story was published.
The foreign ministry issued a statement later noting that the pair have “have travelled frequently between Malé and Colombo in recent days,” adding that the government is unaware that they were blacklisted by any country.
“Whatever the source of Haveeru’s article, its facts are wrong,” the ministry said.
“Several Maldivian nationals, including high level dignitaries, who travel overseas do face questions, sometimes prolonged series of questions, at Immigration counters at various airports since September 11, 2001. Such questioning has become more frequent following the Paris attack on 13 November 2015. Maldivians nationals are known for their patience at such instances, and readiness to answer any questions that the authorities of the visiting countries may have.”
Faris – an MP of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives – also denied being blacklisted.
@haveerueng your article is factually incorrect. I have not been blacklisted nor has my passport ever been confiscated by any authority.
— Ahmed Faris Maumoon (@afarismaumoon) January 3, 2016
Dunya and Faris reportedly traveled to visit a relative undergoing treatment at a Sri Lankan hospital. During her trip, Dunya met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe.
Former President Gayoom meanwhile met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.
The visits followed a strain in diplomatic relations between the Maldives and Sri Lanka following the arrest of two Sri Lankan nationals in the Maldives, one of whom the government labeled a sniper hired to kill President Abdulla Yameen.
In an unprecedented move, Sri Lanka had criticised the declaration of a state of emergency in the Maldives in early November and warned against “regional instability.”
The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said in a statement that the country “finds it deeply concerning that Sri Lanka, a country which has always maintained the closest friendly relations with the Maldives is being used to initiate questionable action against political and social media activists.”
The statement noted the expulsion of an 18-year-old Maldivian social media activist from Sri Lanka despite possessing a valid visa.
Maldivian authorities had claimed Ahmed Ashraf, known as Shumba Gong on Twitter, lacked travel documents.
The statement also noted the killing of a Maldivian national, Hussain Razeen, in Sri Lanka. He was found dead in a paddy field with stab wounds. Colombo based Daily Mirror said Razeen, who had set off a vicious cycle of revenge killings in Malé in 2007, was killed on a contract of RS140 million (US$1 million) due to the rivalry of two Maldivian gangs.
A Sri Lankan and a Maldivian have been arrested over Razeen’s death.
This article was updated at midday on January 4 to include a press statement by the foreign ministry.