05 May 2011, Male',The Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Ahmed Naseem, today reaffirmed the Government's steadfast and uncompromising commitment to the right to peaceful assembly; but drew a clear distinction between the peaceful and responsible exercise of that right and the political-motivated violence, rioting and destruction of property currently being witnessed in Male. The Minister was speaking following five nights of violence orchestrated by a small group of supporters of former President Gayoom, a man accused by international human rights groups of using his thirty year-long rule to perpetrate widespread human rights violations.

"It is remarkable that the former President and his supporters, the so-called Z-DRP faction which has broken away from the mainstream Opposition, people who over the course of thirty years in government banned any form of public protest and routinely violated all basic human rights and freedoms - including gross violations such as torture and extra-judicial killings, are today using the right to freedom of assembly as a cover to pursue a violent political agenda. No-one in the Maldives is fooled by this ploy, and nor are our friends in the international community".

The Minister went on to reaffirm the Government's steadfast commitment to all human rights including the right to freedom of assembly and of association. "These rights are guaranteed by our Constitution and, because the Maldives is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also by international law. Hundreds if not thousands of peaceful protests and gatherings now take place annually across Male and the rest of the Maldives, and people in the country are allowed to speak and think freely for the first time in our history. Notwithstanding, in the Maldives, as in all liberal democracies, the right to peaceful assembly must be exercised peacefully and responsibly, and should not be used as a screen for a violent minority to attack people and property for political purposes".

"The Government understands that many people are concerned about the economy and recent price rises, and is committed to working to address these concerns through a process of dialogue. For example, yesterday the Cabinet decided to halve the import duty on diesel fuel. However, the current economic difficulties reflect, at their heart, deep-seated structural problems inherited from the former Government, including a budget deficit which stood at 31% of GDP and a public sector wage bill which had increased by almost 400% between 2004 and 2009. The Government is working closely with the IMF to address these problems. This has already resulted in the deficit being reduced from 31% to 16%".

"However, there are indications that the current violence taking place in Male has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with a political struggle for who should lead the main opposition party, the DRP, into the next Presidential elections. It is unfortunate that that struggle is being played out on the streets of Male rather than, as should be the case, by holding an open and transparent primary".

"It is also clear that, through their actions, they actually risk harming the economy, an economy that they claim to wish to protect, by dissuading tourists from visiting the country. I wish to take this opportunity to reassure all tourists planning to visit the Maldives that the current events in Male will not in any way affect our world-class resorts and service".