Opposition MPs questioned the government’s sincerity in tackling jihadi recruitment in the Maldives during a debate today on the first state counter-terrorism policy.
MPs accused the current administration of ignoring the threat of extremism since the first reports of Maldivians joining militant groups emerged two years ago.
Some implied the government’s involvement in recruitment and radicalisation.
Ruling coalition MPs, however, accused the opposition of exaggerating the problem in order to seek international backing.
“Just because about 50 Maldivians have participated in this, we should not allow [the opposition to say] that it is encouraged by the Maldivian people, the Maldivian government, or the entire country,” said Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan.
“Opposition parties should not choose this as a path to come to power.”
The opposition claims the Maldives now has the highest per capita rate of jihadis with more than 250 men and women fighting in Syria and Iraq.
President Abdulla Yameen submitted the seven-page policy paper on combating terrorism and violent extremism to the People’s Majlis last week.
The paper broadly outlined plans to take “a central and active role” internationally, strengthen national security, and conduct de-radicalisation and rehabilitation programmes.
Minority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, however, pledged the support of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party if the government is sincere in its counter-terrorism efforts.
“If the government truly wants to stop this, we are ready to put aside political differences and do everything we can,” he said.
Others criticised the lack of detail in the policy paper.
MP Abdulla Riyaz, a former police commissioner, meanwhile said the government’s decision to keep a list of terror groups secret defeats the purpose of the new anti-terror law passed last October.
The law criminalises travelling abroad with the intent of joining an extremist group or fighting in a foreign war.
The first charges under the law were raised last month against three Maldivians arrested from the Turkey-Syria border
Several opposition MPs, however, accused the government of abusing the law to target political opponents.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed, Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb have all been convicted of terrorism.
MP Riyaz Rasheed, deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party Maldives, meanwhile said that the United Kingdom “systematically carries out acts of terrorism.”
He also called the new opposition coalition launched in the UK earlier this month “a terrorist organisation that needs to be eradicated.”