Solih sworn in as Maldives president, replacing pro-China leader

Maldives Chief Justice Dr. Ahmed Abdulla Didi administers the oath of office to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. (AP)
Updated 17 November 2018

Solih sworn in as Maldives president, replacing pro-China leader

  • Solih was sworn in with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi among those in attendance
  • The US and the EU had threatened sanctions if the vote had not been free and fair

COLOMBO: Ibrahim Mohammed Solih was inaugurated Saturday as the new president of the Maldives after the opposition united to dislodge pro-China strongman leader Abdulla Yameen in September elections.

Solih, 54, emerged as common opposition candidate as all key dissidents were either jailed or forced into exile by Yameen who took power following a controversial run-off in 2013.

At a special session of Parliament held at the National Football Stadium in the capital Male, Solih was sworn in with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi among those in attendance.

The Maldives Foreign Ministry said China’s Culture Minister Luo Shugang was also an invitee.

Modi’s presence was a reflection of the relief felt in India, which has long held sway in the archipelago, and in the West that Yameen was voted out.

The US and the EU had threatened sanctions if the vote had not been free and fair.

Both India and Western nations watched with concern as Yameen moved closer to Beijing which loaned the strategically placed archipelago millions of dollars for infrastructure.

“I am confident that my visit will herald a new era of even closer exchanges and cooperation between our two countries,” Modi said on Facebook, especially in “infrastructure, health care, connectivity and human resource development.”

Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has pledged to end what it called “China’s colonialism” and to resist a “land grab” in the country which straddles key East-West shipping routes.

MDP leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed has vowed his party would reduce reliance on China and renegotiate millions of dollars in loans taken from Beijing.

More than 80 percent of the Maldives foreign debt is owed to China, he said.

China has also loaned other countries around the Indian Ocean and beyond large amounts of money for infrastructure projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, alarming the West.

During a recent visit to Colombo in the middle of his election campaign, Solih said that he wanted to repair ties with Sri Lanka and India.

Yameen awarded major infrastructure projects to China while taking away a major airport development from India. 

He also relied on Beijing for diplomatic support as the Maldives faced international isolation over his dismal rights record.

Modi had canceled his first visit to the country in 2015 after Yameen detained Nasheed and eventually had him convicted on a terrorism charge and jailed for 13 years.

Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

Updated 7 min 25 sec ago

Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

THE HAGUE: Dutch police on Tuesday arrested a Syrian asylum seeker suspected of committing war crimes as a commander of the Al-Nusra Front militant group, prosecutors said.
The 47-year-old man, identified only by his nom de guerre Abu Khuder, was detained in Kapelle in the southwestern Netherlands, the Dutch federal prosecutor said.
“The man is accused of participating in the armed struggle as a commander or a terrorist Jabhat Al-Nusra battalion,” the prosecutor said in a statement, using another name for the Al-Nusra front.
It said he was held “on suspicion of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria,” adding that he had fought in a battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan).
The arrested Syrian has lived in the Netherlands since 2014 and was granted a temporary asylum permit, the statement said.
Police searched the suspect’s house and recovered documents, a computer and a smartphone, it said, adding that he was due to appear in court on Friday.
He was arrested based on information provided by German police, where six homes belonging to suspected members of the same battalion were raided, it added.
German police “provided witness testimonies against the suspect,” the Dutch prosecutor said.
The Al-Nusra Front was allied to Al-Qaeda but renounced ties to the group. Under a new name, it now dominates the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which holds administrative control of the Syrian city of Idlib.
The arrest of the Syrian comes as the Netherlands grapples with the problem of what to do with home-grown radicals who went to fight in Syria.
At least 315 people left the Netherlands since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 to join militant groups, according to Dutch media reports quoting official figures.
Around 85 have been killed in the fighting and 55 have returned.
The issue was highlighted in March when the Dutch husband of a British-born teenager who fled to join Daesh said he wanted her to live with him in the Netherlands along with their child.