Following instructions from New Delhi, the Maldivian government has decided to put a stop to the opposition-lead "India Out" movement.
The Chief of Staff, Ali Zahir, arrived at Public Service Media (PSM); the operator of the national media; last night to announce the government's decision to put a stop to the movement.
Hassan Ismail, the former Communications Director at the President's Office prior to his dismissal following allegations sexual harassment, had accompanied Zahir. Since his dismissal, Hassan Ismail has been conducting President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s public relations work as a private citizen.
After they had arrived, they both entered into a meeting room to discuss what Zahir would talk about with a certain official at PSM.
Ali Zahir had officially, on behalf of the government, announced that the “India Out” movement would not be allowed to go on. Zahir’s announcement came within hours of Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s remarks made earlier that day. Speaker Nasheed had said that the opposition leader, former President Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, should absolutely not be wearing an “India Out” T-shirt, and that it should be stopped.
Zahir said that former presidents would not be given any opportunity to settle personal grudges with “our neighbour, India”, and he said that there was nothing to be discussed with the opposition regarding the removal of the Indian military and its assets from the country.
An official of the President’s Office told The Maldives Journal that the Solih administration was planning a massive media campaign to counter the “India Out” movement. The source said that the national television channel and the ruling party’s RaajjeTV would feature MDP officials and parliamentarians taking charge of the counter-campaign, online news-outlets that were sympathetic to the government would also be used for the campaign.
The source had mentioned that the primary objective of the counter-campaign would be to claim that the bilateral agreements made between the Solih administration and India had originally been agreed-upon by former President Yameen. The source had also mentioned that Hassan Ismail would be the key figure who would prepare and finalise the articles to be written and instruct the reporters on what to publish.
Since his acquittal from a five-year prison sentence, of which he had served more than 500 days, the former President Yameen had officially adopted the grassroots “India Out” movement that began on social media, and has taken every opportunity he has had to address the public to re-iterate his demand that Indian troops and assets leave the Maldives. His decision to intensify the “India Out” campaign has drawn much criticism from the Solih government. Ruling-MDP parliamentarians have also initiated a tweeting campaign against him, following orders from India.