The Maldivian government on Friday promised to accelerate democratic reforms in the Indian Ocean archipelago, where President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has governed his 300,000 people with tight controls since 1978. Gayoom, the longest running head of state in South Asia, promised political reforms last year following international pressure sparked by allegations of torture of political prisoners, and a series of anti-government riots in 2003.
Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Shaheed told reporters in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo that despite some progress, more work needed to be done.
"The government decided to fast-track a number of key reforms" by issuing a presidential decree, Shaheed said in a prepared statement. Four political parties were now functioning in the Maldives, made up of 1,192 coral islands. Earlier political parties were not allowed to function and political dissent of any type was not tolerated, reports the AP. I.L.