Bhutan responds to removal of ‘four friends’ monument in The Maldives

Then and Now

Last December, the Maldivian government ordered the city counsel of Addu to dismantle the monument presented as a gift from Bhutan by the prime minister, Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley. The monument, unveiled by the prime minister there last November, was a wooden carving on which the mythical four friends (Thuen Pa Puen Zhi) were carved. The four friends were especially chosen since it reflected the cooperative spirit of the regional organization.

Asked about the removal of the monument, including destruction of monuments from Pakistan and Sri Lanka,  the director general for the Department of SAARC and Regional Organization (DSRO,) Sonam Tshong, said, the vandalization of the monuments was  not directed against any of the SAARC member states.

Buddhist monuments destroyed in Maldives (Al Jazeera video)

“But for some reasons  (we) had become a victim of the current  domestic  political unrest in the Maldives, he said.

The monuments were dismantled following a series of protests by certain quarters of the Maldivian society, claiming it were ‘idolatrous’ and was against Islam. The monument gifted by Pakistan was removed while the Sri Lankan monument (statue of a lion) was decapitated and that gifted by Nepal was stolen.

However, the Bhutanese monument was not vandalized and the local city officials have removed the monument for safekeeping. But reportedly, the monuments would not be reinstated soon if ever. The Sri Lankan high commission to Maldives asked the Maldivian government to return their monument if the latter is  unable to take care of it.

Besides, the Mayor of Addu city, Abdullah Sidig, has claimed to send a letter to the Maldivian foreign ministry to inform all the SAARC members on this issue. But the Bhutanese foreign ministry said it has not received any such notification.

The Director General of DSRO said that the then government of President Nasheed had requested the SAARC member states to send a monument each at the time of the summit to highlight and celebrate the cultural richness of the region.

He said Bhutan was satisfied with the action taken by The Maldivian government.   “We are monitoring the situation in the Maldives,” he said.

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