The social media attacks and sharp criticism drawn from cabinet ministers and government officials to a video statement by Abdulla Shahid, President of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), have been described by the MDP as an indication of the government’s defensive posture in the face of its duplicity.

The video statement, delivered on Raiymandhoo Island, Meemu Atoll, featured Shahid castigating the current administration for discontinuing development projects across islands of all sizes. In a swift counter, senior administration officials traced the setback to decisions made during the MDP-led administration, where Shahid held the office of Foreign Minister.

As the nation braces for the forthcoming parliamentary elections, this defensive manoeuvre by government ministers and senior officials is perceived by the MDP as a desperate bid to shield the alleged falsehoods and deceit of the incumbent People’s National Congress (PNC)-led coalition in the lead-up to the 2023 presidential election. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the senior advisor of the MDP and former President, characterised these attempts to undermine Shahid’s statement as “further falsehoods and deceit” to mask the PNC government’s initial duplicity.

“He [President Muizzu] communicated two days prior, after assembling them [cabinet ministers], that the public now perceives that he [President Muizzu] disseminates falsehoods and has been characterised as such. You have not taken any measures [to safeguard him],” Solih said in reference to the alleged meeting. Government officials have neither confirmed nor refuted the former president’s claim.

Several cabinet ministers, including Dr Abdulla Muththalib, Dr Abdulla Khaleel, and Adam Shareef Umar, launched social media campaigns to assail Shahid and defend the government. They were joined by Islamic Affairs Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed and Homeland Security Minister Ali Ihusaan. President Muizzu reposted the comments made by Muththalib and Saeed.

The chorus defending President Muizzu’s decisions and administration also included managing directors of state-owned companies and deputy ministers.

Solih also criticised President Muizzu’s flagship project, the Ras Malé development project, which involves the land reclamation of Fushidhiggaru Falhu. It would have been a more sustainable decision to continue already underway projects in Gulhifalhu and Giraavarufalhu to completion, he argued. These projects were initiated by the Solih administration to address the housing crisis in the Malé region. He expressed disapproval of President Muizzu’s proposal for an underwater tunnel to connect Malé and Ras Malé, asserting that completing land reclamation projects in various areas would be more beneficial for Malé residents.

The former president further voiced concerns over the suspension of land reclamation work in Hulhumalé and the government’s continued withholding of land plots from the public in the already reclaimed areas.