Maldives celebrates independence amidst political tensions

The Maldives on Thursday celebrated 47 years since it attained independence from the British rule amidst political tensions with the opposition claiming the country is sliding back from democracy.

In a message to mark the Independence Day, President Mohamed Waheed said that peace will prevail in the troubled country and the Maldives will regain its good image, the president’s office said.

Waheed also said that the people in the Maldives have accepted change, a change which the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) however said was forced on the country.

The MDP said that since the transfer of power on February 7, 2012 when former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned from office, the current government has detained or charged 19 MDP legislators.

Nasheed had said at the time that he was forced to resign and has called for an independent investigation into the transfer of power and early presidential elections.

“We urgently need to point out to the international community that the regime is intent on consolidating its position and skewing the playing field into such a shape that we will not be able to have a free and fair election at all, now or in 2013,” leader of the MDP Parliamentary Group, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, said in a statement emailed to Xinhua on Thursday.

He also said that the MDP is disappointed with the lack of response from the international community on the situation in the Maldives which is witnessing the democratic gains achieved over the past three years slip away.

On Wednesday the British minister for South Asia Alistair Burt said that efforts to restore calm and stability in the Maldives are being hampered by increasing political tension and escalating violence.

“I hope that high level talks between political parties can start soon, and that these can identify peaceful ways through current difficulties,” he said.

However despite the political tensions the Maldives Tourism Ministry on Thursday said that the country registered a 6.1 percent tourist arrival growth during June 2012 with 59,379 arrivals.

A total of 458,068 tourist arrivals were registered from January to June 2012. This is an increase of 2.3 percent compared to the same period in 2011. (Xinhua)