The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the Maldives government for lying over the hiring of a US-based lobbying firm for US$ 50,000 per month.
On Sunday morning, the Attorney-General’s office flatly denied hiring the Podesta Group, a notorious Washington DC-based lobbyist renowned for working for authoritarian regimes.
Ismail Wisham, the assistant Attorney-General, told journalists: “I can assure you that such reports are completely false. We have not hired a new firm.”
But the Government was forced to backtrack after being presented with evidence obtained from the US Department of Justice that shows details of the Maldives’ contract with Podesta.
The Government’s rush to hire a US-based lobbyist comes amidst mounting international criticism over the jailing of former President Nasheed and other political leaders, and the increasingly dictatorial tactics of President Yameen.
— Blair out? —
The government also announced on Sunday that the Government’s other lobbyist, Cherie Blair’s Omnia Strategies, would have their contract terminated imminently.
The assistant Attorney-General stated that Omnia’s contract would end when the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issues its ruling on whether or not President Nasheed is being held in violation of international law.
The Working Group is due to issue its ruling in the next few weeks.
The government has refused to reveal the amount of money they paid to Cherie Blair’s Omnia Strategy. The government previously stated the contract was to advise the government on strengthening the Maldives legal framework, democracy and human rights in the Maldives. While the contract was “a short term assignment”, Foreign Minister stated that the government will “extend [the contract] based on the quality of their work.”
Commenting on the issue, MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said:
“Government officials are clearly rattled at the prospect of facing targeted sanctions. But rather than doing the right thing and freeing the political prisoners, they are spending obscene amounts of public money on foreign lobbyists, who will try to whitewash their crimes.
“Cherie Blair’s Omnia Strategies has proved to be as incompetent as it is unethical. It has done nothing for the Government other than attract awful newspaper headlines. I call on the Government to reveal how much money they paid Blair.”