Three deputy ministers were disciplined over social media posts about India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The government of the Maldives has suspended three deputy ministers after they made derogatory remarks about India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media.
Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid who all worked for the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Information and Arts were disciplined for their comments against Modi on social media, a senior government official told Reuters on Sunday.
The three had variously described Modi as a “clown”, “terrorist” and “puppet of Israel” on social media platform X, in response to a video of promoting tourism in Lakshadweep, an Indian Union territory in the Arabian Sea.
In the Maldives, some viewed Modi’s visit as trying to draw tourists away from the globally popular Maldives, whose 1,192 islands in the Indian Ocean are dotted with luxury resorts.
Recently, I had the opportunity to be among the people of Lakshadweep. I am still in awe of the stunning beauty of its islands and the incredible warmth of its people. I had the opportunity to interact with people in Agatti, Bangaram and Kavaratti. I thank the people of the… pic.twitter.com/tYW5Cvgi8N
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 4, 2024
According to Indian media reports, the Indian High Commission in the Maldives raised the issue with the Maldives’ government.
Some Indian celebrities including Bollywood actors and sports stars expressed their discontent over the Maldives officials’ remarks.
“Came across comments from prominent public figures from Maldives passing hateful and racist comments on Indians. Surprised that they are doing this to a country that sends them the maximum number of tourists,” Akshay Kumar, a popular Indian actor said on X.
In a statement on Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Maldives acknowledged it was aware of derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals.
“These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the Government of Maldives,” the statement said.
Former Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih condemned the use of “hateful language” against India.
“India has always been a good friend to Maldives and we must not allow such callous remarks to negatively impact the age old friendship between our two countries,” Solih said in a post on X.
I condemn the use of hateful language against #India by Maldivian government officials on social media. India has always been a good friend to Maldives and we must not allow such callous remarks to negatively impact the age old friendship between our two countries.
— Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (@ibusolih) January 7, 2024
A senior administrative official told AFP that Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu ordered an investigation.
The official said Muizzu is concerned about repercussions since Indians are the largest group of foreign visitors to the Maldives, where tourism accounts for almost one-third of the economy.
The row comes days after an announcement that President Muizzu will visit China. On Friday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Muizzu will pay a state visit to the country from January 8 to 12. Both India and China have been vying for influence in the region.
But after coming to power, Muizzu has toned down his anti-Indian rhetoric and said he would not upend the regional balance by replacing Indian forces with Chinese troops.