Councils banned from meeting foreign diplomats

Local councils have been banned from meeting foreign diplomats without written permission from authorities including the home affairs ministry.

The Local Government Authority, in a circular sent out Monday evening, said it had seen an increase in councillors meeting foreign diplomats and officials from international organizations.

The circular noted all powers relating to foreign policy were vested in the presidency by the constitution and ordered councillors to seek written permission for such meetings from the home ministry through the LGA.

On Monday the British High Commissioner to the Maldives James Dauris visited Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, while his Indian counterpart Akhilesh Mishra toured the islands of Gaafu Alifu Atoll.

Mishra has also been hosting members of different island councils for meetings at the Indian Embassy in Malé.

“According to article 115 of the constitution, the power to determine, conduct and oversee the foreign policy of the Maldives and conduct political relations with foreign nations and international organizations is vested within the responsibilities of the president,” said the circular.

“However, we have noticed that some councils are communicating with and meeting with representatives from other states and other organizations in disregard to this.

“If councils [are allowed to] continue such meetings, Maldives risks losing the look of a unitary state as stipulated in the constitution and this would negatively effect Maldives foreign and domestic policy with implications on international treaties signed by the Maldives.”

The circular warned of punitive action if councils violated the order.

An Indian embassy official refused to comment. But those at the meetings welcomed the presence of the diplomats.

“Met UK Ambassador @JamesDauris today,” tweeted former ruling party lawmaker Mohamed Ameeth. “Informed Ambassador about political harassments, prosecutions & P.Yameen’s attempts to deprive MPs of their rights protected by the Constitution & laws. Discussed ways to ensure free & fair #Election2018. @SaudVillingili@yumna_maumoon.”

Gaafu Alifu atoll council president was also enthusiastic about his foreign visitor, calling it a “great pleasure” to meet Mishra.

Hours later opposition lawmaker Abdulla Shahid tweeted a copy of the LGA circular with the accompanying warning: “Diplomats get ready for ‘MINDERS’ to accompany you!”

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