HC Deb 05 December 1963 vol 685 cc1340-1
9. Mr. R. Edwards

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will make a statement on the exile of Mr. Abdullah Afif Didi, elected head of the Council of Theydu in the Maldive Group of Islands, to the Seychelles in September, 1963.

Mr. Sandys

There is no question of Mr. Afif Didi having been exiled. The facts are as follows:

Mr. Afif was the leader of the revolt against the Maldivian Government in Addu Atoll in 1959. As part of the arrangements which I made last September for the re-establishment of the Maldivian Government's authority in Addu Atoll they granted an unqualified pardon and indemnity to all concerned.

After the announcement of the pardon Mr. Afif declared his loyalty to the Maldivian Government. At the same time he expressed a wish to leave Addu Atoll since he considered that his continued presence might be an embarrassment to all concerned. At his request the British Government conveyed him to the Seychelles which was the destination of his own choice. The British Government neither pressed him to leave, neither would they seek to prevent him from returning if he so wishes.

Mr. Edwards

While I do not doubt the integrity of the Secretary of State and do not question the information which he submits to us, may I ask whether he would agree that it is very unusual for an elected leader to accept exile to desolate islands like the Seychelles? [Interruption.] Is he aware—[Interruption.]this is the "Voice and Vision" lobby again. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the mother—[Interruption.]—this is not a frivolous matter if one is interested in human freedom. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the mother of Afif Didi died a week after his exile and that he was not allowed to attend her funeral? Is he aware that this man was the natural leader of the people of these islands and that there is serious doubt whether he volunteered to go to the Seychelles? I say this with all due respect to the Secretary of State. This is a matter which should be investigated further.

Mr. Sandys

I must say that I do not value the hon. Member's respect very much when he questions the truth. I have given the hon. Member the facts truthfully, correctly and fully, and I expect him to accept them. I am afraid that I did not know about the death of Mr. Afif's mother, but I absolutely repudiate the suggestion that he was not allowed to attend her funeral. The fact that he was many thousands of miles away at the time would be an explanation of his absence.

Mr. Bottomley

It may give Mr. Afif some consolation to know that a person who was sent to the Seychelles previously is now the Prime Minister of a Commonwealth country.

Mr. Edwards

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall take the first opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment.