K. Male' | Aishath Shaany | 12-February-2019 | Tuesday 14:31 | Shaaknee | Local | 812
Sri Lanka has always provided a safe haven for Maldivians, says former President Mohamed.
Nasheed, who is also the leader of the main ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), spoke at a function held at the Champa Central Hotel in Malé City on Monday night, to mark the 71st Independence Day of the neighboring country.
At the event, the former president noted that Sri Lanka has also provided a safe haven for Maldivians during "experiments in democracy," adding that "this has been true all the time."
While Nasheed's MDP was formed in exile in Sri Lanka, he highlighted that the country had provided assistance in a similar situation when Maldives' first constitutional government was overthrown and banished in the 1930s.
"Sri Lanka has given a safe haven every time any Maldivian has wanted it, they have allowed us to engage in peaceful political activity. In fact, MDP was first registered in the Colombo post office [in 2003] and we had operated our party in Sri Lanka well over two to three years before it became legal in Maldives," said Nasheed.
The former president, who returned to Maldives last November after nearly two years in self-exile, also emphasized that he would not be back in the country "if not for the assistance of the Sri Lankan people and government."
"You have again provided us a safe haven and again assisted us to be able to come back to get the country back on a more democratic track. I can never thank you enough for what Sri Lanka has done for us, and continues to do so," he added.
A number of high-profile political figures had sought asylum in Sri Lanka during former President Abdulla Yameen's five-year tenure.
While Nasheed was granted political asylum by the United Kingdom in January 2016, after being sentence to 13 years in prison over terror charges in March 2015, he had spent most of his time in Colombo working with other opposition figures living in exile there.
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