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Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan urged to cancel Maldives visit

The opposition has launched a social media campaign urging Bollywood superstar Sir Amitabh Bachchan to cancel an upcoming trip to the Maldives.

The legendary actor is scheduled to speak at the annual session of the World Health Organisation’s regional committee for Southeast Asia due to begin on September 6 at the Paradise Island Resort near Malé.

Bachchan was appointed as the Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis in South-East Asia Region in May.

MP Ahmed Mahloof, the spokesman for the four-party opposition coalition, told the Maldives Independent that most Maldivians would not want to see a beloved icon tacitly supporting a dictatorial regime.

“I think the deteriorating situation in the Maldives, the lack of democratic principles and obstructions to human rights are bigger issues to us than hepatitis. It would be a disappointment to those Maldivians who grew up watching Bachan’s movies to see him side by side supporting President [Abdulla] Yameen,” he said.

Mahloof suggested that the campaign is likely to have an impact, contending that similar efforts from the opposition led to the cancellation of an official visit from the Saudi King in mid-March.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also dropped the Maldives from his Indian Ocean tour after the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed in March 2015.

The Maldives is the only South Asian neighbour that Modi has yet to visit since assuming office in 2014.

But in contrast to Western countries that have expressed concern with the political situation, India has remained silent in the wake of renewed political turmoil after the opposition secured a majority of the parliament in early July.

The Maldives and India also signed a defence action plan and several bilateral agreements during Yameen’s second official visit in April last year, which came amidst a lobbying effort to avoid “punitive action” from the Commonwealth over the widely condemned jailing of opposition leaders.

More recently, Indian Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar made a two-day official visit to the Maldives in April this year for consultations with his counterpart.

The visit came amidst an intensified crackdown on opposition leaders after a failed bid to impeach the speaker of parliament and challenge Yameen’s parliamentary majority.

Government supporters meanwhile tried to counter the opposition campaign with tweets encouraging Bachchan not to cancel his visit.

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