Opposition parties and dissidents in Maldives have protested a planned visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz following reports that he plans to buy an entire atoll in the South Asian island country.
"We will make it very clear to the Saudi royals that we are against the sale of our land,” the former Maldivian foreign minister, Ahmed Naseem, from the Colombo-based Maldives United Opposition (MUO), told reporters in Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, on Friday.
Naseem also warned that mass protest rallies would be held in the capital Malé against the reportedly planned controversial multi-billion-dollar deal.
He reiterated that there were persistent reports in his country that either Riyadh or a Saudi business entity was purchasing Faafu atoll, consisting of 28 small coral islands, for $10 billion, twice as much as the economy of the island nation.
On Wednesday, Shifa Mohamed, the MUO deputy leader, also said that the coalition had decided "to do everything" on domestic and international levels "against the sale of Faafu atoll or any part of it.”
Her comments came a day after the government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom denied reports about the deal.
The president’s office said in a statement that it "categorically rebuts allegations that the atoll has been ‘sold off’ to a foreign entity.” However, it added that it was working with a range of "investors” to carry out development plans for Faafu, which will focus on "delivering positive outcomes” for the country.
The MUO leaders and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have accused the government of ordering a crackdown on opposition activists ahead of the royal visit. The Saudi king started his rare tour of six Asian countries, which began in Malaysia and has taken him to Indonesia.
He is due to travel to Brunei, China and Japan before ending his luxurious tour in the Maldives.
MDP members had earlier warned that the controversial decision by the government of selling the islands would aggravate Wahhabism in the country.
Maldives is reportedly one of the highest per capita contributors of foreign militants to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, which has been wreaking havoc mainly in Syria and Iraq, Presstv reported.
Wahhabism is the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia, freely preached by government-backed clerics there, and inspiring terrorists worldwide. Daesh and other Takfiri terror groups use the ideology to declare people of other faiths as "infidels” and then kill them.