The Maldivian government has clarified that three deputy ministers—Mariyam Shiuna, Mahzoom Majid, and Malsha Shareef—involved in a social media controversy mocking Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will remain suspended indefinitely pending investigation.

Despite the suspension, the President’s Office confirmed that all three will continue to receive their salaries.

This diplomatic incident has triggered a significant backlash in India, with a campaign against Maldives tourism gaining traction, supported by Bollywood celebrities. Indian media reports a notable number of flight and hotel booking cancellations as a result of this campaign.

The situation escalated on Monday, prompting diplomatic actions. The Maldivian High Commissioner to India was summoned to the External Affairs Ministry in the morning, while the Indian High Commissioner in the Maldives visited the Foreign Ministry in Malé for an official briefing on the government’s position.

Communications Minister of the President’s Office, Ibrahim Khaleel, speaking from China, explained that the suspensions are a procedural step to investigate the matter, adding that the deputies are barred from their official duties but will retain their salaries as per past practices. He declined to comment on social media posts made by the deputies post-suspension.

Further complicating matters, Fathmath Thaufeeq, Managing Director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), deactivated her social media account following the circulation of an old tweet, allegedly anti-India, dating back to 23 September 2023. Thaufeeq claimed the post was fake prior to deactivating her account.

The controversy initially stemmed from responses by the three deputy ministers to a social media post featuring a video of Modi’s visit to the Indian archipelago of Lakshadweep. The ensuing row intensified as India launched a coordinated boycott campaign of the Maldives, promoting Lakshadweep with the support of film stars.

Local tourism industry stakeholders have collectively expressed concern over the impact on the tourism industry, a vital sector for the Maldives economy. The Maldives Foreign Ministry has distanced the government from these incidents, stating, “These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the government of Maldives.”