China snaps at Nasheed over ‘smears and irresponsible remarks’
Former president Mohamed Nasheed was criticised Wednesday for saying that China’s projects in the Maldives were commercially unfeasible and that they would be audited.
The attack, from Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman, came days after President Abdulla Yameen conceded defeat to his opposition rival and Nasheed ally Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Yameen has courted investment from China, which Nasheed has repeatedly accused of land-grabbing and dragging the Maldives into a debt trap.
Nasheed, in an interview with The Hindu newspaper published Monday, said countries with a single-party culture could not appreciate the complexities of multi-party elections and multi-party democracy.
“Had money spoken in the Maldives, and by that I mean money as bribery or through mega infrastructure projects, we would have had a very different election outcome,” he said.
None of the projects made business sense and the Maldives could not engage with countries that lacked transparency and democracy, he added.
“It is the people of our two countries that have the final say on whether the China-Maldives cooperation is feasible and can deliver benefits to our two countries,” said Geng Shuang.
“It can by no means (be) smeared by certain people,” he told a regular press briefing without naming Nasheed. “It baffles me why certain people always make such irresponsible remarks and I deeply regret that.
“I would like to reiterate that the China-Maldives cooperation is based on equality, voluntarism and mutual benefit and strictly follows the market rules and observes laws and regulations.”
The spokesman then appeared to threaten anyone or anything that might jeopardise China’s interests and investments.
“If certain forces wantonly harm China’s interests out of political purposes, the Chinese side will firmly oppose it and resolutely protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises.”
There is no mention of China-backed projects in either the opposition coalition manifesto or in the manifesto from the Maldivian Democratic Party, which Nasheed leads.
But they do pledge to review all projects and contracts that are found to be unlawful, do more harm than good or do not follow procedures.
Solih has made no public remarks on Chinese investment.
According to Mumbai-based foreign policy think-tank, Gateway House, the three largest Chinese projects in the country are worth more than US$1.5 billion – or 40 percent of the country’s GDP.
“This will inevitably cause repayment problems, as visible in Sri Lanka, another country deep in debt to China,” Gateway House said in a report published February.
Days after the election, which saw Yameen lose by more than 38,000 votes, China welcomed Solih as the victor and said it respected the outcome of the poll.